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Back to School: Organic & Sweat-Free College Sweatshirts

Green Guide 104 | September/October 2004
Sweat-Free College Sweatshirts
by Carolyn Banta

The Green Guide - New York,NY,USA

In what the New York Times called, "the biggest surge in campus activism in
nearly two decades," students at over 200 universities are urging their
administrations to switch from clothing bearing their college logos to
fair-trade organic cotton. Cornell, Duke and Georgetown are among the 100
colleges that have met the United Students Against Sweatshops' (USAS)
"Sweat-Free Campus Campaign" demand for fair-trade college apparel. "Through
setting collegiate codes of conduct, obtaining factory information and
affiliating schools with the Worker Rights Consortium (an independent
monitoring agency), we exert continuous pressure on administrations and
corporations," says Allie Robbins, USAS organizer.

Why Organic?

Worldwide cotton production annually uses 53 million pounds of pesticides
and 1.6 billion pounds of synthetic fertilizers. Despite claims of reducing
pesticides, genetically engineered cotton could increase pesticide
resistance and harm other species, according to the British Medical
Association. Fair-made organic cotton clothing replaces environmentally and
socially exploitive products with sustainable products, according to the
Organic Consumers Association (OCA). And the Sustainable Cotton Project
urges college bookstores to sell organic cotton apparel, with success in
California at Chico and Humboldt state colleges.

Three Steps You Can Take

*Educate your community: Speak with your student union, campus newspaper,
clubs and college administration about fair-trade organic cotton T-shirts.

*Learn about suppliers: See if your campus's clothing supplier has an
organic cotton line. If not, urge your administrators to change sources; for
a list of 100 percent organic cotton-garment manufacturers, see the Clothing
Product Report.

*Urge green, sweat-free apparel for student events: At least three months
ahead of time, urge organizers to use fair-trade, organic cotton T-shirts.
Patagonia will provide plain bulk organic T-shirts for school events.

For USAS's affiliate colleges, see
OCA (218-226-4164,
Worker Rights Consortium (202-387-4884,