Understanding the High Cost of Organic Clothing

Many people interested in “going organic” and purchasing only organic clothing become dismayed when they see that the price

is generally somewhat higher than other types of clothing. Some even wonder if it’s some sort of conspiracy and believe

that those who produce this type of clothing must be raking in the money.

The truth is that there are many factors that go into the making of organic clothing that automatically runs up the price.

The first of these is that many makers of organic clothing don’t make the millions of copies of an outfit that manufacturers

of conventional clothing often do. Many organic companies are small family-run stores that struggle to have enough

inventory for customers.

Another factor involves organic cotton. This type of cotton is more expensive to grow and yields less cotton per hectare

than conventional cotton. Organic crops must still deal with weeds and pests, often using more expensive natural herbicides

and pesticides. This makes fabrics made from organic cotton overall more expensive.

Organic cotton is more expensive to harvest than regular cotton. The conventional cotton companies use chemical additives

in order to facilitate harvesting by the harvester machines. While chemical defoliation improves harvesting, it adds to

the chemicals left in the cotton garments people wear. Organic cotton harvesting relies on no chemicals resulting in a

somewhat lower yield.

Finally, many organic fabrics are more expensive to manufacture. The lower harvest yields increases the costs of cleaning

and preparing the raw cotton. In addition, because organic cotton processing is done in factories that produce regular

cotton, all of the machines, cotton gins, weaving and knitting machines must be thoroughly cleaned before the organic

cotton can be processed. This adds to the cost.

Sadly, labor costs are less in conventional clothing manufacturing, which often relies on cheap labor or, in some instances,

child labor, to manufacture. This type of practice would generally be considered unacceptable for manufacturers of organic

clothing. One exception is the silk industry, which relies on millions of hand loom operators in India to make the organic

silk products.

An example of how conventional fabric manufacturers have a leg up on organic clothing manufacturers is a company, which

makes cotton tank tops for Wal-Mart that pays a total of thirteen cents per hour in sweatshops in Nicaragua and other

developing companies. Organic clothing manufacturers would consider this unethical and can’t keep up with those kinds of

labor costs.

Organic clothing is more expensive to ship, distribute and provide to retailers and customers. This is because the market

size is so much smaller than the big retail stores and the per garment cost to ship is greater. In addition, organic

clothing stores must pay more for advertising and marketing of their products. The customer base is less dense and more

advertising must be done to reach an appropriate audience.

The economics of organic clothing sales are such that growers, manufacturers and retailers lack the buying power of the

bigger superstores and retailers. The production of organic clothing is still a very small part of clothing manufacturing

so that everything from harvesting to packaging becomes a bigger process.

For those who love organic clothing, however, the cost may be worth it. The environment is helped by the purchase of

organic clothing and the clothing itself carries less of a health risk than conventional garments.

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