Harry Cotton is small, white and cuddly. He is an expert in cotton and knows quite a lot, for instance that the livelihoods of 160 million people in emerging countries depend on cotton. Or that 8,500 litres of water are needed to grow the cotton for just one t-shirt. He also knows that cotton only accounts for 3% of crop land globally but 15% of the world’s pesticides are sprayed on cotton fields. Because of the tremendous amount of water required and the heavy use of chemicals, cotton has a pretty bad ecological footprint.
It doesn’t sound like great news. And it isn’t. Which is precisely why Harry Cotton wants to let people know that it doesn’t have to be this way. That is to say: sustainable cotton is out there. People who buy clothing made of sustainable cotton ensure that cotton farmers are properly paid while also helping conserve the environment. The way we maintain our Facebook account and keep up our car is how we should treat the environment, Harry Cotton says. A lot of consumers may already be trying to do just that, by buying organic food, using recycled paper or taking the train or bus, for instance. Yet it never occurs to most people to think about something that is right under their noses: the textiles we wear. And for sure textiles we use to decorate our homes as well.
And who is this Harry fellow? The little white character is a comic figure brought to life by the Initiatives for Sustainable Cotton (ISC). The cute little guy is paving the way for a consumer campaign. In a short film at www.sustainable-cotton.net, consumers are urged to “put something sensible on” and use textiles made from sustainable cotton.
Cotton initiatives, including Aid by Trade Foundation and TransFair as well as other partners who are active in sustainably cultivated cotton, have banded together under ISC in order to raise public awareness about the issue of sustainable cotton. The initiative was introduced for the first time as part of the Change your Cotton event at the Ethical Fashion Show Berlin, the international trade fair for green fashion, organised by Messe Frankfurt, where future scenarios for sustainable cotton were discussed with different experts.