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Green By Design Episode 210: GOTS Certification with Lori Wyman

Lori Wyman, Global Organic Textile Standard Representative in North America
Lori Wyman, Global Organic Textile Standard Representative in North America

Erica Reiner (00:06):

Hello, and thank you for tuning into green by design. I am your host, Erica Reiner from Eco method interiors. And today I have Lori Wyman here with me and she is a representative of the global organic textile standard, which shortens to GOTS. And thank you, Lori so much for being here with me.

Lori Wyman (00:30):

Thank you so much for having me. I really,

Erica Reiner (00:34):

Absolutely. Now let me tell you a little bit about Lori. She represents GOTS as our role refer to it for north America, which is the worldwide leading textile processing standard for organic fibers, including ecological and social criteria. She has conducted organic, sustainable and social compliance audits on both farms and factories nationally and internationally for every step of the organic food and textile supply chain from the farm level to finished product. So as you can imagine for all of the designers and home professionals where this podcast is for, this is a very interesting subject and I was so happy to have someone here to talk to me about it, because this is a great certification and something, I talk about a lot, and we so appreciate having you and your expertise here. So maybe you could tell us a little bit about before we dig into what GOTS stays and the kind of work you do. Maybe you could tell us a little bit about you personally, and your journey into the position that you have now and your interest in it.

Lori Wyman (01:55):

As a child, I used to help my grandmother with her garden, and she was very much a proponent of working with nature, not against nature. And we would never step on a lady bug, that kind of thing. And by the time I was a teenager in the mid seventies I used to subscribe to organic gardening magazine. And over time I became an organic inspector for food and, you know, on farm level, but also processing. I took trainings with, I O I a that's the international organic inspection association. I took trainings to become an inspector. And I was in that field for many years and then along came this new standard called guts. And I took a training in 2005. It took place in Texas. We visited organic cotton farms and part of it took place at the university there at Texas tech, where we went and learned more about fibers.

Lori Wyman (02:56):

And once I got into conducting dots, I just never wanted to go back. I still did conduct for many years, some food inspections, but also some textile inspections. And there were some other standards to global recycled standard, et cetera. I worked for a certification body that had a wide variety of third party verifications, but GOTS has always been my favorite. So I did that for over a decade many years. And then, yeah, it became the GOTS rep in 2016. So it's almost five years for me now. And when we started, there were 38 companies in the United States and now there's well over 150, that's a huge

Erica Reiner (03:40):

Job, five years. That's great. Great news. Yeah. maybe tell us a little bit about what you think that jump has has come from. You know, we do tend to talk about the developments we've seen in this industry going green recently. And I feel like five years has been a good, like turning point so to speak, but where do you think that super-duper increases come from? Yeah,

Lori Wyman (04:10):

Well, I think it started with the USDA seal for food. As soon as the organic food production act went into effect and people in the United States started realizing that they could trust a symbol, a third party verification that their food was indeed verified. It, wasn't just some guy at the farmer's market saying, oh, I don't spray anything, you know, and who knows what's really, and believe me having been an inspector, you know, you say you're walking along the field and say, what's in that shed over there. Oh, nothing, my grandfather's tools. Oh, I think I'm going to go look there, you find the Roundup, you know, so, you know you really do want to have third-party verification and educated consumers are tired of greenwashing. And, and that's why I think that's what people want to see in their homes is products that they, that have been verified to be the least toxic available, and still not just be beige.

Lori Wyman (05:10):

But you want to have dyes, dyes and finishes. You want beautiful goods. You want something with a good hand, but you also want something that's least toxic as possible. And that's where GOTS steps in. So the crop, the organic cotton, the organic wool at the farm level had to have been raised or grown to the United States department of agriculture's national organic program crop or livestock standard, but then starting for cotton, starting at the gin level that gets certified to GOTS. And then we'd go along the whole supply chain, the spinner, the Weaver, or knitter or manufacturing. So we have inspections at every step and we do include a complete social compliance program, which is as strong as any fair trade standard. And we include water treatment water, effluence, energy usage so where we're very comprehensive. We, we have a allowable and non allowable list similar to what's in food.

Lori Wyman (06:16):

You know, some people don't realize if they, if they go buy a can of organic soup and it's they think, oh, these carrots were grown organically. This chicken was raised or game of clue. They, they know that, but they also don't realize that along the whole processing chain, there's no MSG allowed in that. So there's no caking agents allowed in the salt, et cetera. So there's, there's a whole processing formula as well along the supply chain. So that end product is verified for the consumer. And that's, that's what you're getting with GOTS product. It's been verified along the whole supply chain. Absolutely.

Erica Reiner (06:50):

And I think you just articulated so well, why, so I referred to an other designers who are doing this green thing to refer to like our sort of structure as good, better best. And for me, the third party certification is, excuse me, usually the best sometimes in tangent with other criteria that we might be looking for. But I think you've just explained why that certification, we hold to such a high degree, because there is a lot of greenwashing. There is a lot of other things in the process. So I think that was really clarifying for people. I had so many questions going through my mind and I'm thinking it's just sounds really interesting fun fact. I actually used to do, I was set on a couple auditing trips myself. I used to work for actually back when I lived in New York, I think in 2011 to 12 I was working for an sustainability consulting company who had roots in some environmental engineering and auditing and things like that.

Erica Reiner (08:02):

And so sent me on a couple. And that was really interesting, just, it was like more like factory things that were getting audited for CO2 emissions limits and certifications when reporting to carb and whatnot. So I have a little bit of an idea, but this sounds really interesting in that where you said, you said you, it certified through every part of the supply chain where you personally sent along every part of that supply chain, meaning it took you to where things were woven in India or wherever, or did they have different people doing the different parts of the supply chain?

Lori Wyman (08:45):

Both. Actually, I had worked sometimes with a client a major client, this, this one or that one where they wanted their whole supply chain certified by the same certification agencies. So they'd have a better view of traceability. But it's all right to have the Weaver certified by one certification agency and then have the manufacturer be another one, et cetera. That's okay too, because they do honor each other's transaction certificates. Those certificates are issued by the certifier and go with the goods. So for example, a spinning facility will have their certifier issued the shipment. That's going to go to the waiver. And so when the Weaver receives that yarn, they know that this wasn't just a claim from their customer. They're purchasing it from that spinner, but also from the certifier, who's verified that via their inspection process and their systems that they have in place to show that there's no fraud going on to show that there's actually the amount of product that makes sense based on the input that went into it.

Erica Reiner (09:57):

Now, have you seen the cost from the client point of view? Let's say like Joe blow throw blanket company wants to get gap certified and promote that before he sells to me or something like that. How, what have you seen in terms of the certification process costs? Has it decreased in the past five years?

Lori Wyman (10:25):

Well, if you're talking about the cost of certification, I doubt if that has decreased, but it's actually not even that expensive for a small company, but the amount of money that a certification agency is going to charge us based on how complex the facility is. For example, Williams-Sonoma has got certified with clearly they have lots of warehouses, they've got lots of, you know whereas one little companies, a woman who's sewing bibs and selling them on, on Etsy or something. You know, her, her inspection is going to cost a lot less because it's maybe one person or two and, you know, they're, the warehouses is in her basement. And, and I used, and I used to do inspections that were in people's basements and ones that were, you know incredible like complexes with massive I've w you know, bend field facilities in Turkey turkeys, just so much fun because you see the sheep, you see the cotton it's all organic with, within a few miles.

Lori Wyman (11:31):

There's the gin, there's the spinner, there's the waver, there's the finished product. And it's got a really low carbon footprint because it's all like right there. It's pretty incredible. I've seen some similar things in Mexico. Whereas a lot of products go back and forth on ships. They go to something that's grown in Poland, like hamper say, and then it shipped to to get spun and India, and then it's sent to China and it gets sewn. And then it goes on a ship to the U S and it's, it's really amazing. So there's, it's really all over the map. Sorry to answer your question in that way. But the other thing I wanted to say about cost is obviously it's going to be more expensive because workers are getting paid a decent wage, which is part of our program.

Lori Wyman (12:20):

A lot of the what, you know, cheap clothes. I just recently, I forget who wrote it, but this there was a magazine article that said can you afford to buy that little black dress for 9 95? And I posted it in my LinkedIn about, you know, what are you paying for really? What are you supporting when you think go, I'm getting this great bargain. And when you, you know, who sewed it, what were the conditions where where's this black dye going out the pipe and into the river? You know, what country has that may not have any EPA regulations or something similar? So I think what we're seeing now is educated consumers and COVID has actually helped and not hurt GOTS. We in 2020, we just got our fingers in. We had 20, 20 new companies in the United States in 2020, and Canada's really increasing as well.

Lori Wyman (13:20):

And, and those are my territories in Mexico. I'm the north American rep here. And I, and a lot of the increase was in home goods and home design goods. Cause people they wanted, they wanted to have nesting instincts. You know, you're home, you're stuck in your apartment, in the city, or you're in your home wherever you are. And you want to have a it's time for an organic mattress. You know, I, once I, my sheets are getting holes. I'm not going to buy the cheap sheets. I'm going to buy GOTS certified sheets. I want to know that the, the whole supply chain was healthy. The world is, is a healthier place because of the, starting with the fields where the cotton was grown, the workers that were involved in all that, the dye house, less toxic dyes, everything in the whole supply chain. I can feel good about it. I can get into it and feel like, and it's not just in your imagination, that cotton sheets that are organic are so soft and it gets softer and softer over time. It's really kind of amazing. I have, I have organic, I've got certified sheets that I've had over 10 years and they're still there. They're durable and they're, and they're fabulous. Do you remember what brand those are? I too? I don't know if I should say the name of any brand. Okay.

Erica Reiner (14:39):

You don't have to because you can remain impartial. Yeah.

Lori Wyman (14:44):

You know, I do have, obviously a lot of I've got an organic mattress. I've got organic products to me. The best thing you could do is to buy, I don't mean a mattress obviously, but used, I mean, the best thing you can do for the planet is to reuse fabric, to, to, to you know, go to the thrift shop and buy your Wicker chairs that are at the Goodwill for $10. And you can sow some cushions for them or, you know, the best thing you can do. I know in better homes and gardens, you know, you'll see articles where the best find the best flea market find and they'll have. And, you know, and I think to buy non-toxic paint that doesn't off gas is really important, obviously in your home. And, and the second best thing, if you have to buy new is to buy sustainable, to buy third-party verified products. Absolutely.

Erica Reiner (15:37):

Yeah. Yeah. You, you hit on maybe the trifecta of things we often recommend. So when I've been talking to people on this, I, I always ask, like, what are for designers specifically? Like, what are your top three ways to go green, move the mic a little closer. Yeah. That's better. What are your top three ways that you would recommend for people who are looking to get into this and time and time again, reusing gently used or I call it pre-law or what, however you want to call it. Products comes up over and over again, and I've described why, and that's because there's a, there's a lot going on here. One you're not creating demand for new Virgin resources. Two, you're not, you're extending the life span or something. That's not going to a landfill, which is a land use problem in a methane gas problem.

Erica Reiner (16:33):

And on and on. So yes, that's absolutely something that we talk about here and now that there are so many cool ways to find, you know, awesome products that is formerly loved. Like it's not just, you know, Craigslist anymore. It's not just the flea market or that's shut down during Cobra. And there's so many cool apps and Facebook marketplace and the whole thing. So you're absolutely right with that. And then we do talk about offgassing of product. A lot of the time here toxicity in home goods products is, is the gateway for people into more sustainable living in their home or sustainable actual products and home goods. So it's really interesting to see that evolution. And I think that you're right about COVID in this regard, like it kind of helped reinforce even though the virus has not necessarily like anything to do with home toxicities it, for some reason had some sort of overlap that we've seen in just awareness and willingness and maybe like helping them get over that perceived barrier to entry to some better products or healthier choices or voting with their money and that kind of way.

Erica Reiner (18:01):

So it's not totally clear, like why that's happening to me, but I'll, I'll take it. I think if there's a silver lining and that's part of it that that's great. And I think it's kind of just speaking to an atmosphere.

Lori Wyman (18:14):

Yeah. I mean, obviously I do receive testimonials, you know, from people with environmental illness, about how, how much guts products, especially bedding, et cetera, has helped them. We're not allowed to make health claims. We can't say your allergies are going away, but I will tell you, I do receive testimonials from people who tell me that, you know, so it's what people say. And I think during the COVID, when a lot of people in parts of the world aware they had a lot of pollution from all the cars and then people weren't driving anywhere and they, they could see mountains that they didn't use to be able to see, or they look in the water and they could see fish where they used to not be able to see through because there was so much pollution and that helped people realize that if we keep going on the way we are with all the polluting that we're doing we're making ourselves sick, we're making our planets sick.

Lori Wyman (19:09):

And so yeah, people have to be conscious consumers and you can still enjoy your shopping. The in fact, you can make a little project out of finding the best place. I should mention our directory on the GOTS website, which is That's the GOTS website and we have a directory where you can look in and find companies. You can go to United States, you can go to Canada, you can put in, if you want socks, you can put that in free text and then you can go to your country and then you can find, and if you're, if you're a designer in new, you can get upholstery fabric that's got certified. GOTS is not designed to be a furniture standard per se. We do have a I combined product logo, which means this is a product that was, it means the whole thing could not be got certified.

Lori Wyman (20:10):

For example, a car seat say a car seat is made out of some kind of molded metal or plastic, but then the pad is GOTS certified. So it was call from consumers that they wanted to know. And, and the industry to say, we want to label that this part of, of a product, even a handbag or a shoe, you know, if it's this part of the product is got certified because it's organic cotton, the fill is organic cotton or organic wool. And then also the wood that is used in this product has to be either like forest stewardship council, or PEFC the other one. That's also the good forestry management or the metals have to be nontoxic metals, no cadmium, et cetera. So we do have criteria for a combined product, but on our website, that's where you can find got certified fabric and got certified a towel for your bathroom floor a potholder you know yeah, you can find those things. Yeah. Perfect.

Erica Reiner (21:20):

That's so helpful. We're always looking for the right places to make our jobs a little bit easier. Let's quickly go back to basics and see if you could tell us a little bit about why, why aren't we, why should we even care about this? Like you mentioned some things at the beginning through the whole supply chain, for instance, that output of something that's being made, for instance, like the the wastewater that comes out of production from dye stuffs or when a fabric is being dyed and what have you, and the social criteria, which is really, really important for people who are actually making products or partially making through the different process. And then let's quickly revisit the actual growing of organic, no, the word organic in terms of agriculture and growing cotton and food, and what have you is very well known and it's a household word. And I think that people understand it's a better in some way, but I want to get a little bit more nitty and gritty as to what that better is. And in relation in this case to cotton or hemp or whatever.

Lori Wyman (22:36):

Yeah. So, well, cotton has the highest percentage of all pesticides and herbicides and fumigants and diff defoliants broad dentist. I mean, you, you got it. It's the most toxic because it's not even though cotton seeds are a food crop, the cotton seeds are considered a by-product to make cotton seed oil. Also cotton seed is used for animal feed it's ground and used after the gin that the seeds are pulled out and it's used in that way, but because cotton is not grown as, as a food crop, as it's main reason, it's, it doesn't fall under the same regulations as other food crops. So organic cotton has to be grown to the USDA national organic programs, crop standard. So that means it, it has cover cropping. It has beneficial insects or, you know integrated pest management, very limited amount of sprays.

Lori Wyman (23:43):

That would be the least toxic to the environment like vinegars and, you know things that are the least toxic BT, you know just like with food, very clean farm, and that farm, those farmers are also growing organic crops. They're growing sorghum, they're growing peanuts, they're growing, you know, so they're also in the organic food industry. Those farmers crop, you know, cotton is just one of their crops, even if they're mainly a cotton farmer, because once they see if they're growing a chemically intensive crop, they're using chemical fertilizers, GMOs seeds they're just growing cotton and cotton and cotton almost every year. Maybe they'll put some wheat in between, on occasion or they'll just have all this bare ground. And so carbon sequestration is not happening but but a healthy, organic farm is great for the environment and we have a carbon sink, you know, so we're, we're actually taking care of the planet by not making climate change worse. And so organic cotton farms are, are are really good for the environment because they're reducing all, there's all this Roundup that's used glyphosate that's used. It's, it's a very chemically intensive crop. Yeah.

Erica Reiner (25:01):

Have you heard, or do you have any thing you can speak to about a non organic versus organic cotton, something for the house? Say, like you mentioned your bedsheets now, the idea of that kind of cotton being in our bed, even after a wash or two was gross, but do you have any data or information about I, and you mentioned the anecdotal information about people contacting you and say, oh, I can breed so much better stuff like that, but do you have any insights on how it is scientifically better for us in our home and like maybe,

Lori Wyman (25:42):

Well, first of all, everyone should visit the organic center. The organic center is actually a science science-based organic industry organization that just published a new study about organic cotton. It was just published last month in a, in a scientific journal. So if you go to I think it's, I think it is, but you can look up the organic center and they just published a new study. I remember inspecting facilities, in addition to organic, I used to have to do some good ag practices inspections, which are not organic. And I remember the field workers who were involved in spraying had to basically strip down at the facility and put their clothing into industrial washing machines that were there because if they were take, if they were to go home and take off their clothes at home and put those clothes into a washing machine with their families clothes, they would all be all the people would get sick and their family. Oh, that's rough. Yeah. So, so people that are involved in spraying in, in the whole dirty side of, of industrial agriculture conventional agriculture don't realize how toxic this, these, I mean, the, the whole, the word side means to kill genocide, you know, side, hands to kill. So you're killing insects, you're killing illogical organisms.

Speaker 3 (27:26):

Yeah. You're,

Lori Wyman (27:28):

You're, you're destroying their nervous systems. You're destroying their indoctrine systems it's to kill and that's, and that's why, you know, the bird comes down and eats and then the bird dies, you know, so you're, you're, you're, you're, you're involved in a, in a killing cycle. And when I started by talking about my grandmother, I remember her teaching me that that can't be the way we, we want to be growing our food. You know, we need to work with nature. And, and how can we, the way it

Erica Reiner (27:57):

Was done before world war II for yes. 65,000 years we've been right. Whatever the number is.

Speaker 3 (28:05):

Yeah. Yeah. And of course, I know there

Lori Wyman (28:08):

Are environments in climates where it's very, very difficult. We grow apples here at my home where we live, and it's really difficult in Massachusetts to grow apples organically. If there's other parts of the country where it's easier. It's very, very difficult to grow apples here, but we do better with pairs. So our pairs, we don't have so much of a problem with, and, you know, and I know in the Carolinas, it's very difficult to grow cotton organically. And in the Upland parts of Texas, it's much easier to grow cotton organic. So, you know, you could choose what crop you want to grow. I mean, I think with hemp getting more popular and, and the regulation

Erica Reiner (28:49):

Is getting looser here in the states, throwing him, which was a really antiquated and random rule for those of you listening about not being able to grow hemp because of its relation to marijuana, but sort of has nothing on the, to do with it on the agricultural side and its use. So yeah, beautiful linens and things like that from hemp. But before zoom cuts us off, I want to thank you. Thank you again for all of your time and sharing all of your knowledge and being such a great representative for this certification. I was so thrilled to get someone in to explain all of this to us. So I can't say thank you enough. We appreciate it. And tell us one place where people can reach out to you or learn more about GOTS

Lori Wyman (29:39):

Will please come to our website, which is There are some video clips because of COVID and all the seven reps around the world we're home and not, we normally would be traveling to shows each one of us had to put together a video clips. So we each have one on a different area about guts. And we also have some good videos on there that are fun. And we have the short four minute video clip. That's a quick way for people to just to learn what dots is and how in our traceability systems. Perfect.

Erica Reiner (30:12):

That's a great resource again, I can't thank you enough. And hopefully we will talk again soon.

Lori Wyman (30:19):

It was my pleasure. Thank you so much.

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