When we picture cotton, we think of something pure and natural. It’s a virtuous fabric with nothing but good to say about itself. Sadly, this isn’t actually the case at all. Cotton is one of the most polluting crops on the planet with 25% of the world’s insecticides and 10% of the world’s pesticides used on it. The amount of chemicals pumped onto the crop has some major downsides which include birth defects and high rates of cancer for farmers and their families. There is a huge knock on effect from these chemicals washing into the land and water, creating an ecological disaster and moving into everyone’s food chain. The effect of these chemicals isn’t just felt by the land and those who farm it but also the workers who handle it throughout the manufacturing process, turning it from a crop into an object of desire. It even creates irritants when used by the end consumer, often causing skin flare up.
With the fashion industry consuming the majority of fabric globally, it has been the first to start questioning if there is perhaps something we should be doing about this. However, in interior design we are also consumers of large quantities of fabrics from curtains to upholstery and the humble scatter cushion. With interior design adopting a more “fast fashion” attitude, we are consuming more than ever before.
So what is the answer?
When we began to ask about the chemicals used on our food, Organic became the answer. The same is true for fabrics, with Organic cotton being farmed the chemical-free way. Some say this still doesn’t provide the definitive answer as Organic cotton has a few issues of its own; cotton can be a thirsty crop. With tricky environmental issues the problems can sometimes feel unresolvable. However, for me it’s about picking which issue matters to you most and resolving that. In other words, pick your battles and mine is the harmful effects of pesticides. I believe selecting Organic over regular cotton is a massive step in the right direction.
When the word “ethical” starts being mentioned we all live in fear that to be a better citizen of the world we need to compromise on style and stump up large sums of money. To the first of these, I don’t think that’s the case. We just need to be a little savvier about where we find our products. For the second, yes there is a slightly bigger price ticket attached to Organic because there is a higher cost to production. However, I ask you to consider this: the small step up in price makes a life changing difference to the workers who tend the Organic field and will live longer lives with their families. For me, that’s worth the investment every time.
But making the change isn’t always easy
The best way to make a change is to start with achievable goals. I can’t change the whole world but if I can break down one household place where cotton textiles are adored, I’ve made a start. So here are my picks for “Making an Ethical Bed with Organic Cotton”.
Duvet and Sheet Set
America seems to be a few steps ahead of us as far as adopting Organic cotton is concerned, with most high street brands carrying 50-75% of their bedding in Organic cotton or linen ranges. Luckily, West Elm has brought this tradition with them to the UK and appear to carry lots of gorgeous bedding sets in Organic cotton. For this post I have used their Organic Washed Cotton Duvet Cover + Pillowcases in Pink Blush for the duvet and pillow case and mixed it up with the Organic Washed Cotton Euro Pillowcases in Grey.
Dressing the Bed
As a Designer I’m all about dressing the bed to make it the focus of the bedroom. After all, hanging out in bed is the point of a bedroom. I also wanted to highlight some independent brands who are sourcing stunning stuff which not only gives to the purchaser but also gives back to the maker.
Let’s Chat Cushions
Okay, I may have had quite a lot of fun layering these up, but both sets of cushions have a tale to tell. The two-tone cushion in pink is made with a mix of Organic cotton and linen and comes from Aerende. However, it is so much more than that. Aerende is an online Interior Boutique set up by Emily Mathieson in 2016 which works with various Social Enterprises (I counted 13 on their website) to bring us, as their tag lines says ‘life-improving homewares’. And she is not just talking about our lives being improved here.
Sometimes to be ethical you don’t need to go to a store, sometimes you need to look at what you have. Second hand and recycling cuts out the need to produce something new while something discarded heads to landfill. I had these patterned cushions made up by my very talented curtain maker with some remnant fabric which my mother had been holding onto from the ‘70s. This not only means I haven’t created a demand for a manufactured product, but it also means I have something one of a kind which no one else does. Win win!
This throw is the “Perfect Grey Throw” from The Future Kept. It is made of 100% Eco wool which is guaranteed completely pesticide free, which means the land and the lamb are all chemical free. The Future Kept is an independent online store run by husband and wife team Jeska & Dean Hearne where they seek out independent designers and makers who create quality goods which they hope will help us buyers to make better ethical purchasing choices.
What’s inside counts too!
It’s all well and good looking at what you dress the bed with, but don’t forget that pillows, mattresses, duvets and mattress protectors are all part of the textile equation. Luckily Abaca Organic have that covered, even producing a 100% wool mattress, so no synthetics at all.
This is just a taste of some of the amazing products and companies out there helping us to make better consumer choices that answer the issues created by cotton. The more we ask the question “is it Organic?” while standing in bedding departments throughout the country, the more retailers will realise we want to buy Organic cotton and that we want to be part of the change not the problem. Now excuse me while I snuggle down for what is truly a “GOOD” night’s sleep!
Blogger Small Print
Special thanks to West Elm for gifting Smartstyle Interiors the bedding set shown in these photos and to Aerende and The Future Kept for the loans of the cushions and the throw. It is our honour to support all three of these enterprises.