What is OEKO-TEX Certification?
Because we live in a web of interbeing, making sustainable choices gets complicated. It's a matter of knowing one's values, recognizing that limited choices can mean compromising on those values, choosing the best out of no good options, and being aware of how one choice can affect much more than one thing. It's tricky and overwhelming. While we can't always make the perfect choice that results in perfect sustainability, there are guidelines we can use to make better choices. One of those guidelines that can help is checking for is OEKO-TEX certification.
OEKO-TEX is a group of research and test institutes that focus on sustainable development by providing guidelines for safety in textiles and leather. Their tests are designed to measure the amount of harmful substances present in these products. OEKO-TEX offers 6 standards; some are specific to the material being measured, some have to do with in which part of the manufacturing process chemicals are used.
The most common certification given by OEKO-TEX is the Standard 100 label. This label means that every part of a garment (fabric, zippers, thread, etc) has been tested for harmful materials and considered harmless to humans. OEKO-TEX measures both regulated and non-regulated substances, which means it is often more strict than national or international guidelines. The standard is reviewed and updated yearly to keep pace with emerging scientific research.
Basically, OEKO-TEX certification means that a product has undergone rigorous testing and been found safe for humans. While we'd expect this sort of thing for the food and drink we consume, it is equally important for the clothing that touches our skin. The Standard 100 label means that no harmful chemicals will be transferred to your body from your clothing. A quick google search of a clothing brand and "OEKO-TEX" will bring up information showing whether that brand is certified or not.
OEKO-TEX certification is an important step towards sustainability. Not only is it healthier for humans, but it helps ensure that harmful substances are not used in the process of manufacturing, which helps keep these substances out of our land and water as well. Because this is an important value of mine, the yarn that I purchase comes with the Standard 100 label. (And, if harmful substances don't go into the product, it means that the workers making those products are not exposed to them either. Now that's sustainability!)
"Wait, not everything meets the Standard 100? I thought this shop was sustainable!" If you find yourself with this objection--and it is a fair one--let me first refer you to my first paragraph. It's complicated. I do my best with what I have and am committed to learning to do better. Secondly, I've written about my choice to occasionally use synthethic yarns. It's worth noting that while these fibers are not naturally occurring, that does not mean that they cannot meet OEKO-TEX standards. In some cases they may. Sometimes donated yarn comes without a label, so I could not tell you whether or not it meets the Standard 100 requirements.