Economic Benefits of Sustainable Production

Production is the combination of many different raw materials that have been altered in one way or another to create a final product.  Often times, the raw materials used in the production of a product are from many different places in the world.  One of the hardest aspects of tracing the footprint of a product is the many different raw materials that are utilized to create any given product.  The product that was purchased by the Point Loma Nazarene University “Spiritual Life” department was a Patagonia jacket.  While the particular product was not specified by those that were contacted form “spiritual life”, it is likely that cotton was used in the production of the jacket.  Since cotton is a primary material typically used in clothing and most jackets, the production of and process in which the cotton is grown for Patagonia became the focus of the production aspect for this project.  Instead of attempting to track all of the materials that could have possibly been used for any and/or all of the Patagonia jackets, cotton was selected as the most reasonable raw material to track.

While not all of the cotton that Patagonia uses is from the Texas Organic Cotton Marketing Cooperative, the company and this particular cooperative do have a long lasting relationship.  The cotton farmers of the high plains of Texas, became frustrated around 1993.  The chemicals that were poured on their crops as pesticides and herbicides were not performing as they had been promised.  Poor results from the use of the se chemicals led a handful of farmers to rethink the effects of these chemicals, and reevaluate what was not only environmentally positive but also economically strategic.  Farmers met and some of them who were serious about making change began the Texas Organic Cotton Marketing Cooperative,  (TOCMC) who Patagonia has been working with since the mid 1990s.  THese farmers decided that they would revert back to the old farming techniques and focus on taking care of the land so that it could continue to produce cotton for them in years to come.  They figured that avoiding the intense usage of chemicals would be good for the soil, and would allow them to produce cotton for many years.  The environment in the high plains of Texas are ideal for organic cotton farming.  There is low insect pressure and  there is just enough rain to dryland farm a solid amount of the cotton.  The combination of an ideal environment and the movement of the TOCMC has made the high plains of Texas the majority producer of organic cotton in the United States with the production of at least 95% of American Organic Cotton.

This cotton does not come without a cost however.  Organic cotton above all else is much more labor intensive than conventionally farmed cotton.  On a 3500 acre farm that would typically only require one full time employee for conventional farming, would require at least 4 for organic farming.  This does not however make organic farming less economic.  Instead of pouring money into the technology of the chemicals and giving money to these large corporations, organic farming pays the local workers.  These field workers then spend their money in the community and support one another.   While the cost in labor increases, the personal aspect, and growth of the community for a superior raw material is well worth it.   The organic cotton that is used in the production of Patagonia’s jackets will allow farmers to keep their cotton farms soil healthy for many years, while their employees pour into the community and continue to support one another.

– Taylor Langstaff




Economic Benefits of Sustainable Production

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