When selecting your fitness and lifestyle apparel, you choose garments that meet your performance needs as well as your lifestyle needs. That is why many conscious consumers, looking to make a difference with their wallets, want to buy clothes made with a smaller environmental footprint. That sentiment is one of the factors driving prAna’s transition to using 100% organic cotton across its product lines.
“prAna is all about sustainability and quality is a sustainable feature,” explains Rachel Lincoln, prAna’s Director of Sustainability and PCT Operatons. “High quality fabrication that is thoughtfully made, from the farm to the factory, is the foundation of a long lasting garment. We want the public to be conscious consumers by selecting fabrics that will last in their wardrobe for years to come. Organic cotton satisfies that requirement.”
Lincoln brings up a good point. It is not just the wasteful nature of manufacturing garments, it’s the fact that the clothes we wear often prematurely end up in a landfill. According to a 2016 report by Greenpeace, the average European consumer now buys 60% more clothing items a year and keeps them for half as long as they did 15 years ago.
The Need for Sustainability in Fashion
Many people who lead active lifestyles may not pay much attention to the environmental issues associated with clothing production and what consumers and fashion brands can do about it.
Conventionally grown cotton consumes approximately 25% of the insecticides and more than 10% of the pesticides used by the world’s farmers. Lincoln emphasizes the benefits of organic production systems by counting with her fingers, “First, farmers, their families and consumers are no longer exposed to harmful chemicals. Second, it regenerates life and biodiversity in the soil to improve the health of our planet. And third, we can save 115 gallons of water when you switch one t-shirt to organic cotton.”
Facts like that should motivate consumers to learn more about the brands they prefer. Companies like prAna, make an effort to educate consumers through online resources, social media, as well as through statistics on the benefits of organic cotton. According to Lincoln, “We are able to use prAna.com as a great educational resource. We have detailed information about the benefits of organic cotton. We also are able to provide traceability to all of our content claims, linking all the way back to the farm of origin.”
Ensuring a Creditable Product
Indeed, prAna follows a very robust and thorough traceability program to verify the cotton they procure is actually organic. This includes following product every step along the way from farm to fiber to fabric. “Here at prAna,” Lincoln emphasizes, “any organic content claim we make can be certified to either the Organic Content Standard or Global Organic Textile Standard. Both of these standards define requirements to ensure the organic status of textiles, from harvesting of the raw materials, through environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing in order to assure consumers.”
Cotton is a Good Choice
prAna believes cotton is a wonderful fabric for active wear. Cotton is breathable, which means it won’t make you sweat more. It can emit less post-workout odor than polyester. It’s relatively easy to maintain, as cotton clothes can typically get thrown in the regular wash cycle. It’s also absorbent, so it can soak up some of the sweat you generate during a workout. But this absorbency can cause it to become dampened. That’s why many trainers suggest you only wear cotton while performing activities that won’t cause you to sweat excessively such as yoga and weight training.
To address this concern, the majority of prAna products made from organic cotton are blended with other fibers such as recycled polyester or hemp. “In doing this, we are able to add performance properties to the comfort and easy wear of our organic cotton garments, extending their life,” adds Lincoln.
The Cost of Organic
“Unfortunately, today, organic cotton does cost more,” explains Lincoln. “While farmers have been using these practices for years, it is definitely more time consuming and requires more experience and skill than conventional cotton farming.” But paying a bit more for an organic product is acceptable for conscious consumers. Lincoln believes that as part of their purchasing decisions, these label readers will seek out and support companies, like prAna, that embrace similar values to their own.
Add Your Voice to the Chorus of Sustainable Fashion
We don’t normally associate the fashion industry as being as harmful for the environment as other “dirty” industries. But how materials are extracted and manufactured into garments can have a huge environmental impact. The problem is worsened when manufacturing is shifted to developing countries where regulation is lax.
Fortunately, companies like prAna has always been willing to step up their game to protect our planet. Their new organic cotton supply chain program, designed to reduce waste and pollution, can serve as a model for the others.
Lincoln stresses that apparel companies want to deliver a product that consumers want. You can and should let them know that you care how they operate, and what materials they obtain. “We hope that as more consumers press their favorite brands to use more organic, we will all be able to reap the benefits.”