The cotton industry is responsible for 24% of the world’s insecticide use and 11% of its pesticides. At the same time, it takes on average 10,000 litres of water to produce one kilogram of cotton. Another way of looking at it is: it takes around 2,700 litres of water to produce one cotton t-shirt.
The social effects beyond this are acute. The Aral Sea in Central Asia was once the world's fourth-largest lake. Heavy use of the lake for cotton irrigation caused it to dry up completely, releasing toxic chemicals from its bed into the air (43 million tons of pesticide-laden dust is blown into the air every year). The region around the Aral Sea has the highest rates of throat cancer in the world.
After a five-year journey, since late 2019 all of our products containing cotton have been made exclusively with sustainable cotton. We source a mix of organic, Fair Trade, recycled cotton and cotton sourced through the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) to make up our sustainable cotton mix.
Better Cotton Initiative: a better way
The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) makes up the largest part of our cotton portfolio. BCI is a global initiative that aims to find more sustainable solutions for farmers, for the environment and for the future of the sector.
In 2018, more than 1 million metric tonnes of Better Cotton went into the world’s supply chains. Better Cotton was grown by 2.2 million farmers in 21 countries and made up 19% of global cotton production.
Our use of recycled cotton
'Recycolor' cotton is now part of our range. To make Recycolor cotton, scraps are gathered up from factory cutting tables, sorted by colour, and then fed into huge stripping machines that break the fabric back down. These broken down fibres are usually too short to spin, so they are mixed with virgin cotton to create a stronger finished yarn. The resulting fabric has a distinctive marle-look that needs no dyeing while the recycled cotton portion of Recycolor fabric uses about 70% less water.
Water use is cotton’s biggest environmental impact, so water savings is the biggest win for recycled cotton.
Less waste, less water use, less pollution, and a lower carbon footprint – Recycolor cotton is a new string to our sustainable cotton bow.
What does this mean for you?
Those who invest in cotton from Kathmandu can be assured that they are helping move global farming away from water-intense and unsustainable practices. In 2019, Kathmandu became a Certified B Corp, which means customers can trust that we meet the highest standards of verified positive social and environmental impact. Our work to incorporate 100% sustainable cotton into all of our related products has been a large part in achieving this certification.