Making Green with Green
Part of the reason dyeing is an ordeal when applied to organic apparel is the dyes must also meet special standards and have minimal negative ecological impact. Just getting the raw cotton is more complicated if it is to meet USDA organic standards. For a product to be certified organic, it must be grown in a certain manner. The plants must come from non-genetically-modified seeds. Weed control must be done through mechanical means (tilling or plowing undesirable plants under the soil to kill them) as the first line of defense instead of using herbicides. Pest control must be performed in a similar manner, by cultivating natural predators or plants that pests tend to avoid in conjunction with the desired crop. Different crops must also be grown on a field in rotation, which replenishes soil nutrients without resorting to chemical fertilizers. Crop rotation also helps control soil erosion which can lead to unhealthy conditions in local rivers and streams.
Obviously with this many controls, there are also more costs associated with organic lines. At first glance, one might think the price gap between organic and traditional apparel would be huge, but this is not the case. “The price ranges are very close in line,” said Asher. “You’re paying a little bit more, but you’re obviously paying for a particular reason and, generally speaking, those customers who are looking for organic have no problem paying that additional [cost] because they know what’s behind it.”
Supply and demand also play important rolls in the current price of organics. According to Mayeri, the amount of organic cotton and yarn available is limited and that inherently means higher prices. But Mayeri also said the additional cost hasn’t hindered orders at all. On the contrary: “I see the numbers growing every single week. Where we used to sell a few thousand pieces a week, now we’re selling tens of thousands of pieces a week,” he said.