The clothes we wear, the sheets on our bed, and the blankets that keep us warm at night are all made from different types of textiles and fabrics. One hundred years ago, the vast majority of fibers that were used for our textiles came from organically produced and grown cotton or sheep wool that were raised on a backyard farm. Today, synthetic fibers, most of which are sourced from the petrochemical industry, dominate the market. While these synthetic fibers might be cheaper to produce, they also cause a number of health and environmental-related problems, which we will explore below. GOTS certification is one way that consumers can make sure that they are only purchasing healthy, non-toxic, and socially just textile fabrics for their homes.
What is GOTS?
GOTS stands for Global Organic Textile Standard. This worldwide certification system functions as a textile production certification that aims to limit or prohibit the use of toxic bleaches, dyes and other chemical inputs and products that is used during the production process of textiles GOTS certification. Products that receive GOTS Certification offer both health, environmental and social benefits for organic fibers that go into the production of a wide range of clothing and textile products.
According to the GOTS website, the most recent version of the certification was launched in March of 2017. These revisions were meant to “define world-wide recognized requirements that ensure organic status of textiles, from harvesting of the raw materials, through environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing up to labeling in order to provide a credible assurance to the end consumer.”
By searching for GOTS-certified products, consumers can make sure that their textile products meet the highest set of criteria (explained below) along the entire supply chain. From the perspective of the manufacturer, GOTS certification is a worldwide-recognized certification that can be used to market their products the world over.
The criteria used for GOTS certification is founded upon three main pillars: fiber production, environmental considerations, and social issues. We briefly explain all three of these criteria below.
1. Fiber Production
The production of cotton, wool, or other organic fiber material must contain a minimum of 95% certified organic fibers.
2. Environmental Considerations
There are several environmental considerations that must be taken into consideration during the manufacturing process, including:
- Organic fibers separated from conventional fiber products,
- All chemical inputs must meet requirements regarding biodegradability,
- Complete ban on toxic heavy metals, formaldehyde, and GMOs,
- No chlorine bleaching,
- Prohibition on Azo dyes that have carcinogenic compounds,
- All factories must have policies aimed at reducing waste,
- Packaging material must not contain any sort of PVC and paper packaging must be either from recycled content or sustainably managed forest plantations.
3. Social Issues
Lastly, GOTS certified products also should contain several social considerations, including allowing employees to form unions, safe working conditions, and fair wage considerations.
GOTS certified textiles and products aren’t just for bed linens, but can also be an integral part of a strategy to maintain a healthy sleeping environment. We at Natural Cave have written several posts about Japanese furniture here, to assist you in your decision related to the best sleeping strategies for your particular tastes.
How to Find Out If A Product Is GOTS Certified? (+ Example)
Obviously, most products that achieve GOTS certification will want to let consumers know that they have gone the extra mile to ensure a healthy, responsible, and environmentally friendly product. Products that advertise themselves as GOTS certified is the best way to find out if that product is environmentally and socially responsible. For example, this organic cotton sheet set on Amazon.com uses GOTS certification in the description of their product. Similarly, this organic cotton blanket also proudly states in the product description that it is GOTS certified.
The Global Organic Textile Standard also maintains a public database that you can search. The database is a practical tool that enables its users to search for GOTS certified entities in the supply chain, their location, fields of operation and GOTS certified products according to individual parameters. However, it is important to understand that not all products manufactured or sold by a certain company will be GOTS certified.
Why Should You Prioritize GOTS Certification?
Inside our homes, the smells of a freshly painted kitchen or the recent installation of new carpeting might make our home feel fresh and new. Today, however, many people are beginning to realize that these “new-type” smells are actually volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are ruining the interior air quality of your home.
Studies have shown that VOCs are increasingly common in the homes we live in, from the formaldehyde in our plywood and MDF cabinets to the benzenes in our carpeting. Dangerously, VOCs have been linked to several serious health issues including respiratory disease and even cancer.
While cotton is a natural material, the production of this common crop is most often a chemical-intensive process that requires large amounts of pesticides that often contain heavy metals such as aluminum, nickel, and lead. The residues from these pesticides filter into local watersheds affecting both wildlife and the human communities that depend on them. The bleaching and dyeing process for cotton (and other types of textile fabrics) also requires a large number of toxins that subsequently end up in the environment and impregnated in the fibers of the textiles that we use to adorn our home.
Nylon and polyester fabrics are synthetics made from the petrochemical industry. Not only are these textiles non-biodegradable and dependent on the oil industry, but nylon production is also known to create and release large amounts of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas that is over 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide. The bleaching and dyeing process for synthetic fabrics produce salts, surfactants, and detergents that don’t decompose and tend to accumulate in natural environments.
Rayon, or viscose, is another common fiber utilized in a wide range of household textile products. While rayon is made mostly from wood pulp, it is unfortunately common for old-growth forest to be cut down for the plantation of fast-growing trees that are cherished by the wood pulp industry. Eucalyptus trees are one common species that are also responsible for draining local aquifers.
Besides there solemn environmental effects, almost all fibers (both natural and synthetic) that are used in the manufacturing of products by the textile industry could potentially be saturated with an enormous amount of chemicals and toxic substances that will then slowly release into our homes.
While homeowners can incorporate air purification technology into their homes to improve indoor air quality, choosing low VOC or zero VOC products should be a priority for every health-conscious homeowner. The fact that you are sleeping long hours every day on top of a material that could be negatively affecting your health should be enough reason for people to prioritize GOTS certified products for their bedding and other textiles used throughout the home.
If you are looking for the best organic cotton sheets, Natural Cave recently wrote this great review that offers information on several GOTS certified cotton sheet products. We also have a review related to the best organic cotton blanks, several of which also have GOTS certification.