Cotton Sense: not just a load of fluff
Common sense? Most of us have it.
Cotton Sense? More of us need it.
Working more closely with India's cotton farming communities has been in our vision for a long time. We want to continue raising awareness of farmer suicides, both nationally and globally – people need to know what's going on, and what they can do about it! Enter the Cotton Sense project. A hot mix of No Nasties, Pearson College, Pave and Chetana Vikas. A shared desire to do zero nasties. Bring it on.
We want to create a recognisable symbol that helps raise awareness of the agrarian crisis. To give consumers, corporates and brands an easy way to be part of a movement to change the dangerous status quo. And through this, to establish a project that provides economic empowerment to women from the cotton farming community, and inspires development in the wider region.
Well, you already know who No Nasties is. (Need a refresher? Super awesome 100% organic and fairtrade cotton tees!)
Pearson College is a shiny new college in London, UK, where students learn in live business environments. Our Cotton Sense partners study a module on social enterprise and are bursting with ideas, practical solutions and a handy mix of perspectives.
Pave provide tailored internships for students in the sustainability sector, while founders James and Apoorva also lead the Pearson course on social enterprise.
And Chetana Vikas? We are so inspired by this non-profit organisation working in more than 450 rural villages in India to achieve the Gandhian principle of 'sarvodaya' (universal uplift). Chetana Vikas has built a remarkable community of farmer women who are strong leaders in their own right. We are working with these women who run self-help groups in the several districts located in and around Wardha, Maharashtra.
Yup. We've been keen partners with Tsunamika for a long time – you know, those cute little dolls that would come with your No Nasties tee? The Tsunamika project was fantastic for raising awareness of tsunami relief work in South India, and we believe it's time the cotton crisis was championed in the same way. As a team, we've chosen the cloud symbol. As Calvin explains, clouds “share a name with raw cotton in Hindi, and bring the moisture that brings prosperity to the farmers. Every cloud has a silver lining – we feel this really gets across the impact we’re trying to achieve”. The idea is to upcycle 'chindi', leftover fabric waste, into small cloud shapes; women from farming communities will make these in their free time earning an additional income, while the clouds are then shared through a gift economy model.
Our trips to Wardha so far have blown us away! To be frank, many of us had limited expectations of the farmer women we'd be working with, unsure of their exposure and skills. And boy were we shown – these ladies are phenomenal in their courage, forward-thinking, entrepreneurial abilities and skills. In the first couple of days that we were there, we got to know the women and explained the concept of the symbol. We showed them reference images of different cloud symbols we had gathered from the internet and asked them to come up with their own versions of the symbol. The result was overwhelming! Overnight, and with limited supplies they made amazing interpretations of the cloud that followed our brief to the T.
Following this first visit to develop samples, Shweta returned to Wardha to finalise the cloud prototypes and set up guidelines for quality standards, training and production, as well as playing around with natural dyes made from tree bark, leaves, flowers and spices. A fantastic part of our time with Chetana Vikas is always getting the chance to make field trips out to a number of districts to meet community leaders and women's self-help groups. Sharing stories and accomplishments over delicious home-cooked thalis? Yes, please!
Right now our first batch of clouds are in production, and there’s a lot to be doing in the meantime. As a team we’re working on our branding and logistics, as well as reaching out to form the partnerships that will take our project to the next level. We want to get in touch with factories and mills about using their waste fabric. We want to collaborate with courier companies on getting our raw materials moved around. There are so many way to get involved! Wanna be our silver lining today? Give us a holla at email@example.com and let’s inspire a bit more Cotton Sense in the world together!
(We nicked some photos from the Pearson team (thanks guys!) cos we're all good friends like that. Go check out the whole album!)