The journey to create Earth First Fabrics all started with a question. My daughter, who had been evacuated from her Peace Corps service due to COVID, had returned home. Linnea had been serving in Senegal as an Urban Agriculture Extension Agent. A graduate from UC Berkeley in Molecular Environmental Biology with a minor in Food Systems, she was now working locally as a Biological Resource Analyst for an environmental firm. Suffice to say, when it comes to agriculture and the environment, she knows her stuff.

Linnea had never been enthusiastic about me purchasing the quilt shop that had been in our neighborhood since the ’80s. It had always seemed to be a point of contention, so I decided to discuss it with her. During our conversation, she posed the question, “Do you know the IMPACT cotton has on the environment?” The conversation started. Linnea forwarded articles to me, including this short article from The Organic Center that sums up the difference between organic cotton, which supports a healthy ecosystem, and conventional cotton which relies on toxic, synthetic chemicals.

Was I aware that the fabric I carried on my shelves had such a detrimental effect on the environment? Did I know that conventionally grown cotton was the third dirtiest crop next to corn and soy? Did I know 70% of cotton was grown with GMO seeds, when I avoid GMO food products like the plague?

As I delved further into the subject, I found that organic cotton was the redeeming opportunity against this bleak backdrop.

I’ve been buying organic produce since the early ’90s. I’ve supported organic farmers, have subscribed to organic community-supported agriculture (CSAs) and even grow our own organic vegetables in our backyard. After Linnea was born, I even made my own organic baby food.

And, when I purchased a shop nearly 5 years ago, I started carrying a small, curated section of organic cotton fabric. When we started selling and making masks during the pandemic, I only used GOTS* certified 180 thread count organic poplin. But I looked around my shop and realized that the majority of fabric on my shelves was manufactured with conventionally grown cotton. I knew that change was necessary.

Part II coming soon!

*GOTS stands for the Global Organic Textile Standard. Learn more about this important standard here.