are you wearing cotton?

Submitted by Susan Miller on Mon, 11/05/2007 - 07:27.

Shortly after the screening of Black Gold last year at Cleveland Cinematheque, I turned to purchasing only fairly traded coffee from Phoenix Coffee in my neighborhood. There are increasing choices there perhaps driven by the awareness raised by the film.

I also found this video called White Gold: the true cost of cotton. Though much of what I wear is found in secondhand stores and I can't remember the last time I purchased something "new", I found it informative and apparently asked to be kept in the loop.

So this morning, here's what the loop sent to me:

West African organic cotton farmer to visit fashion schools

PAN will visit next month several schools of fashion and textile design across Europe, and inform students about the benefits of organic cotton, and how they can adopt sustainable practices when sourcing raw materials. Barnabas Paul, an organic cotton farmer from Benin, West Africa, will join our panel of experts in the UK and France and explain, in his own words, to the designers of tomorrow how organic cotton has transformed the lives of his family and community. Check out all the dates here.

In the UK and France, the event will include: Screening of Moral Fibre: Organic Cotton: A documentary film about the impact of cotton production in West Africa, including interviews from cotton farmers, designer Katharine Hamnett, and local doctors. (you can watch it online at the link)

Talks from our panel of experts

  • Barnabas Paul, organic cotton farmer in Kandi, a small rural town North of Benin
  • Dr Davo Vodouhê, coordinator of pioneering organic cotton project in Benin
  • Abigail Garner Petit, Founder and Director or organic and fair trade cotton company Gossypium
  • Mo Tomaney, MA ethical fashion at Epsom and research fellow in fashion and ethics at Central St Martins
  • Damien Sanfilippo, cotton project coordinator at PAN UK

Q&A session with our panel

And more...

·         PAN UK will launch and present its mini-grant programme for students of fashion design (see next article)

·         Students will receive PAN UK's new booklet Organic by Design, a 48-page guide packed with useful information and tips from pioneer organic cotton designers.

·         Several organic cotton fabric sample books will be on display, with over 90 styles available to purchase by the meter.

Learn more ...

Sponsorship for students of fashion design

PAN UK launches its mini-grant programme Organic by Design. We are offering to support selected final year fashion design students who wish to use organic cotton as part of their graduate collection. The aim is to encourage and support students to showcase the creative potential for organic cotton products in the fashion world - both in the academic arena and beyond it into the industry.

Up to 10 grants of up to £250 each are available.

Are you a student of fashion design in your final year, or do you know someone who is? Click here to learn how to apply.

Friendly bugs at the rescue of organic cotton

Organic cotton farmers need all the help their can get from their natural environment in order grow their cotton efficiently, and without the use of expensive and toxic pesticides. Farmers rely to a great extent on the activity of beneficial insects: they are farmer's best friends. These insects are either predatory (they feed on pests), or parasitic (they destroy pests "from the inside"). In conventional agriculture, the use of insecticides unfortunately disrupts the activity of these natural enemies of pests.

PAN UK and its partner OBEPAB in West Africa are looking for ways to better utilize these friendly bugs. With financial assistance from British organic cotton company Cut4Cloth, and the JA Clark Charitable Trust, PAN UK is working with organic cotton farmers in Benin, and Dr Mensah, an award winning entomologist, to investigate an innovative pest management method: the use of a food spray to attract beneficial insects onto cotton fields.


Participating farmers and field support staff were trained to identify pests and beneficial insects, and learned how to scientifically sample them. The first stage of this 3 years project is showing promising results: when using the food spray, farmers observe more beneficial insects, and fewer pests. Preliminary results also show that despite a slightly lower yield than on neighbouring conventional fields, farmers obtained a much better gross margin. This year, farmers are experimenting with several food sprays made from locally sourced products, and assessing their effectiveness in combination with various refuge crops. Next year, more farmers will be trained in insect identification, and a wider scientific evaluation of the method's impacts on productivity and income will be carried out.


Cut4Cloth sponsors PAN UK's work in Africa through the scheme One Percent for the Planet, an alliance of companies that recognize the true cost of doing business and donate 1% of their sales to environmental charities. You can learn more here, and support PAN's work in Africa.


"There is no business to be done on a dead planet"

David Brower, Environmental Visionary 1912-2000

What cost that T-shirt, those pants?

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