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Decoding the Label: Organic Towels and Bedding on Goop

February 05, 2016

Earlier this week, Gwyneth Paltrow’s weekly lifestyle publication produced an incredible piece on the benefits of making (and sleeping on) organic cotton towels and bedding. We were highlighted as being the “crème de la crème of GOTS-certified bedding and bath,” which is an huge honor. Thank you goop! Let's take a closer look.

There’s no denying that cotton is in fact “the fabric of our lives,” and nowhere is that more apparent than in the bedroom, where the soft, breathable, highly durable, and natural fiber takes the lion’s share of the bedding and towel business. The problem is that conventional cotton farming is incredibly taxing on the environment, involving toxin-heavy insecticides (including aerial spraying of Round-Up, i.e., glyphosate), fungicides, and herbicides that not only deplete the soil of vital nutrients and potentially contaminate water supplies, but can also have long-term negative health effects on both wildlife and farmers.

The crazy thing is that while the organic growth method significantly diminishes the use of toxic chemicals, preserves the health of the soil (which allows it to retain more water and therefore, requires less of it in the long run, a particularly important factor for drought-prone states like California), and has an overall lower environmental impact, according to the Organic Trade Association, it accounts for less than one percent of the world’s cotton production. And it certainly doesn’t help matters that organic farming is expensive and extremely labor intensive. There’s good news, though, because the recent surge in demand for organic is actually exceeding supply, encouraging the textile industry to make moves in the right direction by investing in responsible production. Even more optimistic: manufacturers are beginning to band together to offer farmers forward contracts. By guaranteeing a market for their product, these forward contracts provide them with the security they need to convert to organic-only production processes. For smaller farmers, this reassurance is crucial in justifying both the effort it takes to get certified and the investment in extra hand labor since relying on herbicides is strictly forbidden.

What to Look for When Shopping for Organic Bedding

Much like the food industry, increase in demand has brought with it a wave of eco-washing, meaning that simply relying on an “organic” label (or “green” or “eco-friendly” or “all-natural”) is not enough to ensure that what you’re bringing into your home is in fact 100% organically produced.

In order for the USDA to recognize a product as organic, it has to meet their National Organic Program (NOP) standards or the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). Since the USDA deals primarily with food production, it offers few textile-specific stipulations for complying with the NOP, meaning that its regulations only cover the production of the cotton crop (e.g. forbidding the use of genetically modified seeds). The GOTS, which is a voluntary standard addressing all post-harvest stages of production, picks up where the NOP leaves off. Since the USDA formally recognizes GOTS as an acceptable standard, together the two close the loop on responsible cotton production.

Choosing GOTS-certified bedding and bath products—which are just as luxurious, if not more so, than the traditional stuff—doesn’t just ensure that the production process is accounted for every step of the way, it supports and encourages growth in organic cotton production, too. Luckily, in addition to smaller indie retailers, select big names in the bed and bath game—West Elm, Pottery Barn, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Target to name a few—are doing their part by offering house lines of certified organic options. Below are a few safe suggestions, but if in doubt, the GOTS free public database is a valuable resource.

Note: As of right now, Bed Bath & Beyond, Pottery Barn, Target, and West Elm do not display the GOTS-certified badge or license number on product pages in addition to descriptions mentions (a big GOTS no-no, but we’ll let it slide), so consider reaching out to customer service and asking for credentials. As a rule, companies are required to provide licensing information upon request.

Boll & Branch

Cable Knit Blanket on Sateen Bedsheets

These classic sheet sets (they easily rival the super high-count conventional luxury brands) and fluffy towels are the crème de la crème of GOTS-certified bedding and bath. Plus, their baby collection is achingly adorable.

Full article here on