Single-Use Plastic bags are terrible for the environment, not only on land but in our oceans too. About 34% of dead leatherback sea turtles have ingested plastic. Plastic bags floating in the ocean resemble jellyfish, a large portion of the leatherback turtles’ diet. When the sea turtle goes in for a bite of what it thinks is a jellyfish it ends up with a belly full of plastic. To solve our plastic bag problem one suggestion is to buy and use reusable bags. They can be used multiple times and do not pollute our oceans.
Recently, I have seen a lot of people at my local farmers’ market using trendy mesh tote bags to carry produce and I wanted to find a potentially sustainable brand. Organic Cotton Mart’s Mesh tote bag claims to use 100% organic cotton and it is also conveniently sold to customers for approximately 10 dollars on Amazon, Etsy, and its official website. After reviewing this product I would only recommend this product to consumers that care about whether or not a product is made from sustainable materials because the bag is certified organic cotton by Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). However, if you want the entire supply chain to be sustainable, look for another product. The company is not transparent on its website. There is no company “about me” section or information about how the product is made or who makes it.
Organic Cotton Mart’s mesh bag is made from 100% organic cotton, and that's it. Let me explain why organic cotton is better than non-organic cotton. Organic cotton material is higher quality, farmed with fewer pesticides, and processed with safer chemical dyes and whiteners. Organic cotton is of higher quality because it is handpicked instead of machine-picked. Handpicking ensures that the cotton fibers do not get weakened or broken, resulting in softer and more durable products. Also, cotton farming uses natural seeds compared to non-organic cotton farming’s genetically modified seeds (GMO). The GMO seeds are modified to build resistance to bugs, but as the bugs adapt, more pesticides are required. Also, the use of toxic pesticides and insecticides can lead to serious diseases in farmers and affect the neighboring environment. Instead of pesticides, organic cotton farming uses other harmless insects to eat their cotton pests. The processing of non-organic cotton uses a large number of toxic chemicals to bleach or dye the product. Even after washing the finished product, a residue remains, potentially causing serious skin allergies. Organic cotton uses safer alternatives to whiten and dye the cotton. These alternatives include natural or water-based dyes and peroxide for whitening.
Now that you know organic cotton is way better than non-organic, how do you as a consumer make sure Organic Cotton Mart is actually using organic cotton? The company is certified organic by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). GOTS is composed of four well-known member organizations: Organic Trade Association (USA), Internationaler Verband der Naturtextilwirtschaft (Germany), Soil Association (UK), and Japan Overseas Cooperative Association. The GOTS certification uses worldwide recognized requirements to ensure the organic status of textiles, from harvesting of the raw materials, through environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing up to labeling. The use of hazardous chemicals is prohibited and all wastewater is treated, protecting workers and their water supplies. Additionally, all chemicals used to treat cotton must meet strict toxicity and biodegradability rules standardized by GOTS.
Organic Cotton Mart needs to publish a more transparent supply chain. The company’s website offers limited information in regards to how their product is made or distributed. The only information I could find about their supply chain is that the raw cotton material is harvested in India and the mesh tote bag is manufactured in India as well. After the bags are assembled, I assume they are shipped to the United States where they are then distributed to customers. The website states tote bags are “...shipped from Virginia, with a delivery time of 2-3 business days”. Additionally, there is no information about how the products are packaged, and whether that packaging is sustainable or not.
What’s interesting to me is that even though the company is GOTS certified, it does not publicly disclose information about its supply chain. If Organic Cotton Mart passed the GOTS certification and it really does use organic raw materials and environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing, why wouldn’t the company want to thoroughly advertise its supply chain to customers? I believe Organic Cotton Mart’s GOTS certification is a greenwashing business tactic because the company does not publish any other information about its product life cycle.
There is barely any information about the company or its manufacturers. Organic Cotton Mart’s website does not provide any information about the history of the company, its mission, or who created the brand. According to the Parick County, VA website, Organic Cotton Mart is a registered online retailer owned and operated by Norman Stockton. Although I was able to obtain the owner's name, my extensive googling did not provide me with any further information.
In regards to sustainable and ethical manufacturers, I could not find any information about who the manufacturers were or the labor laws that they followed. All that I could find was that the manufacturer was located somewhere in India. Organic Cotton Mart should publicly publish its supply chain, thus demonstrating to its consumers that it only partners with producers, manufacturers, and distributors that enforce ethical labor laws.