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Taking organic upstairs

The organic revolution is well underway in the food sector – and now it’s racing upstairs to the bedroom
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Taking organic upstairs

This article first appeared in our spring ’19 issue of MyGreenPod Magazine, The Organic Revolution, distributed with the Guardian on 31 May 2019. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox

Philip and Lisa Ingram were well on their way to an organic lifestyle before turning their attention to cotton. When the husband and wife co-founders of LittleLeaf Organic detected ‘a noticeable chemical smell’ from some new, good-quality bed linen, they dug a bit deeper into what they had bought. ‘We were shocked to discover the cocktail of hazardous chemicals used on conventional cotton’, Lisa tells us.

16% of the world’s pesticides are concentrated on cotton, which the Soil Association calls ‘the world’s dirtiest crop’. Skin, your largest organ, can absorb toxins – and the harsh chemicals used on cotton have been linked to infertility, respiratory and skin diseases and cancer.

Irritants in cotton

Since we spend a third of our lives in bed, it makes sense to opt for bedding that’s as chemical free as possible. Philip and Lisa were ‘overjoyed’ to learn about the many benefits of organic cotton – not least because one of their daughters suffers from eczema. When fewer chemicals are used it’s less likely there’ll be any irritants in the end fabric.

The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) bans a long list of chemicals of concern, including toxic heavy metals, GMOs and their enzymes, formaldehyde, functional nanoparticles, azo dyes that release carcinogenic amine compounds, chlorine bleaching, discharge printing methods using aromatic solvents and plastisol printing methods that use phthalates and PVC.

Improving quality

Harsh chemicals also break cotton down; the quality of cotton is determined by the length and integrity of the fibres, so cutting the chemicals improves the quality of the bedding.

Certified organic cotton is made from long-staple unbroken fibres, and you can really feel the difference. LittleLeaf Organic bedding has a silky softness that retains its feel-good factor wash after wash. ‘When people feel it they are amazed by how soft and luxurious it feels’, Philip tells us. ‘It also lasts longer and is kinder on your skin.’


  • Organic cotton is simply cotton without the hazardous chemicals – you can wash it as you would normally wash cotton.
  • A higher thread count doesn’t necessarily mean better quality. A 300 thread count provides the best
    balance in this respect, with lower thread counts compromising on quality and higher thread counts not necessarily delivering an improvement.
  • Going organic with your bedding means stepping up in quality rather than compromising.
  • Organic bedding doesn’t have to be white. The GOTS standard strictly controls the dyes that can be used within the production of organic cotton, and the list of prohibited hazardous chemicals also applies to the dyeing process.

Organic cotton for babies

The durability of sustainably made organic cotton bedding makes it a long-term investment that ultimately reaps rewards for you, for the people who grow and sew the cotton and for the environment. It also presents a classic opportunity for reuse, as you can hand the bedding down through generations – just as our grandparents did.

In this spirit, LittleLeaf Organic has created a range of colourful, unisex baby clothes that are built to last and reusable by design. They can be passed on to brothers, sisters, cousins or friends – whatever the gender. All the benefits of organic cotton apply to the baby clothes: they’re high quality, soft, kind on skin, ethically made and better for the environment.

Go for GOTS

Switching to organic cotton brings immediate benefits to the environment. It reduces CO2 emissions, slashes water consumption, keeps hazardous chemicals out of our living space and helps to maintain healthy soils and our precious ecosystem.

As well as ensuring cotton has been grown organically, working with nature instead of against it, GOTS certification helps to improve the lives of the people who grow and sew the cotton. They no longer need to come into contact with hazardous chemicals, and can grow food alongside the cotton crop because the land hasn’t been decimated by insecticides and pesticides. They can also drink and use cleaner water that hasn’t been polluted by the chemicals associated with conventional, non-organic cotton.

GOTS-certified organic cotton bedding provides the best organic certification available and producers are regularly checked to ensure the cotton truly is organic – even the buttons and threads have to meet strict residue criteria. The standard also goes well beyond the organic requirements, setting high social and ethical standards to ensure fair wages and good working conditions across the entire supply chain.

‘It’s not always the case that you can make a change that is both ethically and environmentally positive’, Philip tells us, ‘and at the same time get a better product. When you switch to GOTS-certified organic cotton bedding, everybody wins.’

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