Greener gear

Textiles are one of the most important product groups in the promotional products industry. However, hardly any other product area raises more ecological and ethical questions – one of them: the effects the cultivation and processing have on the environment.
Around 2 billion T-shirts are sold around the world every year. Cotton is the most important raw material for the clothes industry – around half of the garments produced every year are made out of the fibre, it is undisputedly the most important material in the promotion wear sector. At the same time, there is no other field crop, whose cultivation causes more damage to the worldwide ecosystem than cotton. The cultivation and further processing of the plant are a considerable burden on the environment in some cases to a catastrophic extent. In order to produce one kilogramme of cotton, depending on the cultivation method and region between 7,000 and 30,000 l of water are needed. The cultivation of the extremely thirsty plants consumes as much water worldwide as all private households around the globe put together – water that is pumped out of the groundwater, rivers or lakes. The Aral Sea, up until a few decades ago the fourth largest lake in the world, has almost dried out today due to the excessive water extraction – the cotton cultivation is to “blame” for the largest natural catastrophe caused by man. However, the revelry with the precious water in times of global water shortage is not only causing damage to mankind and nature, but also tangible political conflicts. And that is not all: Cotton is mostly cultivated as a single crop without the crop rotation that is necessary for the ecosystem and the regeneration of the soil. Instead the ground is heavily fertilised and thus really damaged. Not to forget the chemicals that are implemented for pest control, without which 80% of the harvest would perish in the densely planted monocultures. Because the cotton plant is especially attractive for pests and germs it is thus bombarded with chemicals more than any other agricultural plant. Cotton fields account for around 2.4% of the arable land worldwide, on which however 11% of all available insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and defoliants are used. In just one season a cotton field is treated with toxins between 14 and 30 times. In order to grow cotton for one single Tshirt around 150 g toxins are sprayed.
The ecological balance of organically cultivated cotton is a lot better: Organic farmers don’t use pesticides, artificial fertilisers, defoliants or genetically modified seeds. They carry out crop rotation and thus not only actively do something towards the soil quality and ecosystem, but also their own living standard, because they are selfsufficient regarding their own food supplies and don’t have to purchase them at expensive prices. According to the non-governmental organisation, Textile Exchange, 80% of the cultivated areas for cotton are irrigated using rainwater. “Organic cotton requires less irrigated water than conventionally grown cotton and is in some cases exclusively rain-fed, in Tanzania for instance,” stated Prama Bhardwaj, founder and CEO of Mantis World. The London-based company specialises in sustainably produced promotional fashion. According to own accounts, Mantis not only offers the largest collection of baby clothes in the European promotional products industry, but also a large selection of promotion wear that is made out of sustainable fibres such as 100% organic cotton and Tencel®. “When we founded our company in the year 2000, there was a big gap in the market that we wanted to close,” explained Bhardwaj. “At the time there were hardly any textile companies on the promotional market that were committed to fashionable, high quality clothing and ethical principles – and the few existing companies only offered a limited collection of items.”

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