A City to Sea interview with our co-founder Nancy Saddington in celebration of #OrganicSeptember
Organic September, a time to raise awareness about the positive impact of organic products and why we should go organic on our periods!
Jasmine of City to Sea: What better way to celebrate than to catch up with Organic Mondays, one of our brilliant Plastic Free Period partners. We’ve put Nancy from Organic Mondays to the test so we can find out everything about going organic and why it’s better for the planet and our health.
Jasmine: "Lets start with the basics - when a product is certified organic, what exactly does that mean?"
Nancy: "Simply put an organic product is one that has been grown without synthetic pesticides, fertilisers or genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Organic farming promotes an ecological balance through the conservation of resources and the protection of our fragile biodiversity.
Disposable period products can contain cotton (though many don't), but for both your health and that of the planet, make sure the cotton they contain is organic.
Jasmine: "What is it about organic cotton farming practices that make them better for the planet?"
Nancy: "There are 5 key ways organic cotton farming is better for the planet:
1. REDUCES GREEN HOUSE EMISSIONS;
therefore organic farming methods mean slowing climate change.
Non-organic cotton is one of the most pesticide and fertiliser intensive crops farmed today. The manufacture of pesticides themselves involves the burning of fossil fuels, which releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Likewise the excessive use of fertilisers cause nitrous oxide (a greenhouse gas) emissions into the atmosphere.
By not using pesticides and fertilisers, and using organic farming methods, instead, the greenhouse gas emissions are massively reduced.
Research suggests that if all farming was organic, pesticide use would drop by 98%.
2. REDUCES CARBON EMISSIONS;
organic farming helps maintain the Earth’s critical carbon pools.
Soil is the planet’s second largest active pool of carbon (after the oceans) and organic farming help not only maintain but also increase the amount of carbon held in the ground.
The biological diversity of organically farmed soil results in it being up to 25% more effective at storing carbon in the long-term.
On the other hand poor land management with the excessive use of pesticides and fertilisers, degrades the soil. This results in large amounts of carbon being released into the atmosphere.
3. REDUCES WATER CONSUMPTION;
water consumption in farming organic cotton is 90% lower than that of farming non-organic cotton.
Cotton is the thirstiest of the common agricultural crops. With water scarcity identified by the World Economic Forum as one of the top ten global risks to society over the next ten years, reducing the water consumption of cotton farming is vital to our future.
Being certified organic means that farmers must actively conserve resources.
Organic cotton farmers save water by;
- harvesting rainwater, to water their crops
- selecting crop varieties that are drought resistant and
- increasing the amount of organic matter in their soil.
Research shows that soil with high organic content can hold up to 30% more water.
Organic cotton farming
90% less water
4. REDUCES WATER POLLUTION;
organic farming protects the life of our waterways.
Nitrates and toxic chemicals are leached into our waterways when non-organic cotton is grown. This is because of the excessive use of man made fertilisers combined with the high volumes of water needed for irrigation. Nitrogen pollution can cause ocean dead zones, which kill fish and other aquatic life. The toxic chemicals poison our rivers, oceans and seas, killing plants and wildlife far from the crop fields.
5. REDUCES ENERGY CONSUMPTION;
organic farmers conserve energy and can thus help slow global warming.
Irrigation accounts for up to an incredible 75% of all direct energy consumption in non-organic cotton farming. When you farm organically, you need a lot less water and therefore you use a significantly less energy.
A huge amount of energy is used in the manufacture of the pesticides and fertilisers used in conventional cotton farming.
Organic farming does not allow the use of man made fertilisers, therefore growing organic cotton uses significantly less indirect energy when compared to non-organic cotton farming.
Jasmine: "So tell us more about the chemicals found in pesticides and man-made fertilisers..."Why are organic farming practices better for our health?"
Nancy: "Conventional cotton farming uses more pesticides than the farming of ANY other major crop, yet cotton covers less than 3% of the world’s cultivated land.
That equates to an excessive amount of pesticides being used in cotton cultivation.
Unless the cotton you are using is organic it has been grown using vast amounts of toxic chemicals.
Pesticides are chemicals designed to kill insects (insecticides), weeds (herbicides) and fungal diseases (fungicides). They are routinely and repeatedly sprayed on the crops causing huge collateral damage.
Jasmine: "So can you summarise why organic products are safer for our health and our bodies?"
Nancy: "Organic farming does not allow the use of synthetic pesticides which means farming without toxic chemicals.
Exposure to toxic chemicals pose:
1. A DIRECT DANGER TO THE FARMERS AND THEIR FAMILIES
Pesticides used in conventional cotton farming, poisons the farmers and their families; organic farming protects the health of an estimated 100 million rural cotton farming families across the globe.
Direct exposure to pesticides can cause acute pesticide poisoning. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimate there are 3,000,000 million cases of pesticide poisoning worldwide resulting in disability and death (more than 250,000 annually).THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION
Switching to organically farmed products (which bans the use of synthetic pesticides) will result in a reduction in the demand for pesticides, pesticide use and therefore pesticide poisonings.
2. A DANGER TO THE PEOPLE WHO RELY FOR FOOD ON WILDLIFE AND CROPS THAT HAVE BEEN EXPOSED TO THE CHEMICALS
Indirect exposure to pesticides (used in non-organic farming) can lead to the creation of cancer cells and disruption of the endocrine system; buying organic cotton protects your own health from the exposure to a cocktail of residual chemicals.
Pesticides are frequently sprayed on cotton crops, which means they get into the air, the land, the oceans and into our bodies.
The regulatory system focusses on assessing the risk posed to human health by individual pesticides. This does not record the potential harmful effects of chemicals when combined the so-called ‘cocktail effect’.
Research shows that exposure to pesticide cocktails can lead to the creation of cancer cells and disruption of the endocrine system. The endocrine systemproduces hormones that regulate your metabolism, growth and development, tissue function, sexual function, and reproduction, among other things.
Using organically grown and produced products you are using products that do not contain any allergenic, carcinogenic or toxic chemical residues.
3. AN UNREGULATED RISK TO US, USING THE END PRODUCTS.
Buying organic period products that are used in or close the body (period products) means means you know what you're exposing your body to.
The processing and manufacture of certified organic products is subject to strict controls. An organic certification from ICEA or Soil Association (GOTs or OCS) means that anything used or added during the processing and manufacturing of the end product, such as dyes and inks, comply with extremely strict biodegradability and toxicity requirements.
In the book ‘Invisible Women’ Caroline Criado Perez argues the case for more and better data about women’s exposure to chemicals, she highlights:
“When Always menstrual pads were tested in 2014 they were found to include ‘a number of chemicals - including styrene, chloroform and acetone - that have been identified as either carcinogens or reproductive and developmental toxins'.”Caroline Criado Perez
Jasmine: "Once you know that the cotton in period products can contain all these chemicals, in addition to plastic and bleach, it's quite shocking to hear that there isn't any legislation in place that requires manufacturers or brands to disclose the ingredients of their products. We expect food and cosmetics packaging to tell us what we're putting in our bodies, so why not period product packaging!"
Nancy: "A recent Mondays’ survey of over 2000 women revealed that more than 70% of us do not know what our period products are made of.
When you consider that 50% of the worlds population use period products for 50% of their lives for one of the most absorbent parts of the body, it really is about time we demand a change in legislation. Until we change the legislation we will continue to be in the dark as to what is in the big-brand period products.
In the meantime, if you want to know what's in your period products, opt for 100% organic cotton!
Jasmine: "So if someone wants to have a plastic free period, organic products sound like a good start. Tell us more..."
Nancy: It’s a good start; Look for period products that are both organic and 100% free from plastic. For the maximum environmental impact make sure ALL the packaging is plastic free too, plastic doesn’t belong in or around period products.
The majority of big brand period pads sold today do not contain any cotton at all, they are in fact up to 90% plastic. So by buying period pads made with organic cotton you are making a positive change, for your body and our planet. However, pads with a plastic backing (or a petroleum based “bioplastic backing”) or pads wrapped in plastic do not equal a plastic free period.
Similarly, the big brands of tampons are not cotton, but a cotton, rayon and polyester mix (polyester is a plastic). So buying organic cotton tampons means you are making the switch to plastic free tampons BUT take care if you want to have a plastic free period you need to make sure that the applicator is cardboard and the wrapping is paper, NOT plastic.
Organic Mondays products are organic AND 100% plastic free: That means that the products AND the packaging are plastic free. Organic Mondays tampons are wrapped in paper and our pads and panty liners are wrapped in Mater-Bi®. Mater-Bi® might look and feel a bit like a plastic but this innovative material is NOT fossil-fuel (petroleum) based but instead made of corn starch and vegetable oils. This means it is 100% biodegradable and 100% compostable. If littered on the beach (and please don't do this!) it will completely disappear within 9 months. A main-stream brand pad littered on the beach will take over 450+ years to bio-degrade if ever.
Jasmine: "How can you be sure that the products you are buying are organic?"
Nancy: "Look for the GOTS and OCS organic certification logos to be confident that you are buying organic.
Buying certified GOTs & OCS organic cotton period products means you can be sure about what is in your period products. Confident that the products are better for you, for the people that farmed the cotton and those that manufactured the products you use.
For a product to be certified 'The Global Organic Textile Standard' (GOTS) every step in the supply chain is considered, from the fibre source and processing through to all the other steps of production. Every process must meet organic standards and prove it on an annual basis to the ICEA audit certification body. It really is the gold standard for a truly sustainable textile, from the farm to the finished product.
Jasmine: "What final piece of advice would you give us about going organic and green with your flow?"
Nancy: By switching your big-brand disposable period products for certified organic cotton period products, that are 100% plastic free, you can personally have a direct impact:
- SLOWING CLIMATE CHANGE
- INCREASING BIODIVERSITY and
- REDUCING MICRO-PLASTICS
In addition, the increased demand for organic products will mean farmers wanting to shift to more sustainable farming methods. This will benefit their health, the health of their families, the health of our planet , it’s inhabitants and of course your health too.
City to sea are one of the 1% FOR THE PLANET non-profit partners for Mondays.
CHOOSE ORGANIC MONDAYS
SUSTAINABLE & HEALTHIER
"We feel so fortunate that Organic Mondays and our community can support a non-profit partner with such a good fit to our core beliefs and mission"Nancy Saddington & Elisabeth Dewey - Founders Mondays