Organic Cotton ー Why Should We Make an Effort to Use It?
Cotton is one of the most common textile material in the world: we find it in our clothes and underwear, all the way to our bedding and towels. Yet, unfortunately, its production is not a fairy tale due to the quantity of pesticides, insecticides and artificial fertilizers that are used in its growing and harvesting. But this unsustainable business appears to have an eco-friendly alternative and that’s where organic cotton comes in.
What is organic cotton?
Organic cotton is a sustainable alternative for growing cotton. It’s an eco-friendly solution that avoids the use of toxic pesticides, chemicals and fertilizers, as well as genetically modified seeds.
What is the difference between cotton and organic cotton?
The difference between conventional and organic cotton is that the first one involves harmful practices in its production chain, such as mono-crop agriculture and unfair and unhealthy working conditions. Also, conventional cotton production involves using synthetic fertilizers, fungicides, insecticides and GMO seeds, which results in the loss of soil and in terminal diseases for field workers.
Organic cotton, on the other hand, promotes healthy practices for both the environment and production workers, including the use of natural and low impact processing materials, as well as fair working conditions.
Is organic cotton 100% cotton?
In order for a fabric to be advertised and sold as organic cotton, it must be certified as such. There are two types of organic cotton certifications, GOTS AND OCS, GOTS being the more well-known and stricter one.
Both certificates take into account the whole production chain, from the fertilizers being used in the fields to the fabric dyeing and finishing process.
So, such certificates ensure that the yarn or the fabric contains organic cotton. But it doesn't mean that it's 100% organic cotton. You can find organic cotton blended with elastane, polyester and many other fabrics. You can see our collection of GOTS certified organic cotton fabrics here.
Is organic cotton expensive?
Organic cotton fiber can be perceived as expensive if compared to conventional cotton fiber strictly in terms of price. However, by using it, you strengthen a production chain that takes its workers’ health and the environment into account in practical ways by not using toxic pesticides, artificial fertilizers or genetically modified seeds. Furthermore, fair treatment of the workers involved in all the production chain of organic cotton is one of the key items in the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certification. This is addressed in detail on GOTS’s website with some items showing how different the reality of workers in the organic cotton production chain can be. Some of these items are:
- Freedom of association and collective bargaining
- Child labour shall not be used
- No discrimination is practised
- Occupational health and safety (OHS)
- No harassment and violence
- Remuneration and assessment of living wage gap
Therefore, we believe that conventional cotton is the actual expensive alternative, as the people who produce it pay heavily by living in poor conditions, and the environment is polluted with synthetic fertilizers, fungicides, insecticides and GMO seeds.
Is organic cotton actually better for the environment?
Yes, it is, because organic cotton is grown without the use of artificial fertilizers and fungicides, therefore detoxifying the land. Also, the practice of crop rotation is adopted in organic cotton farming. Here is a list of the benefits of crop rotation according to Permaculture News:
- Improved soil fertility and structure
- Disease control
- Pest control
- Weed control
- Increased Soil Organic Matter
- Erosion control
- Improved biodiversity
- Increased yield
- Reduced commercial risk
What is good about organic cotton?
Organic cotton fabric releases about 46% percent less CO2 in its production chain than conventional cotton. Moreover, its production process uses 71% less water and 62% less energy than regular cotton.
Why do people buy organic cotton?
In the last couple of years, the fashion industry has come to a crossroad. Both brands and consumers have realized that just like our food related choices, what we wear has a major impact on the environment and, therefore, on our very own wellbeing. In an effort to better interact with Planet Earth and/or to captivate customers who care about the environment, an increasing number of fashion designers and brands have been adopting fabrics, such as organic cotton, that don’t have a negative impact on the environment or that, at least, require less resources to be produced.
Is organic cotton softer?
Organic cotton fabric is indeed softer than regular cotton. Because it is hand-harvested, fibers don’t get broken or weakened, and therefore they are longer than machine-picked fibers. This explains why sustainable cotton is softer and more durable than conventional cotton.
Where is organic cotton grown and who grows it?
The 2020 Organic Cotton Market Report by Textile Exchange confirmed that there are 19 countries growing organic cotton at the moment, and seven of them concentrate 97% of its production. That is India, China, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey, Tajikistan, Tanzania and the USA.
What percentage of the world's cotton is organic?
Non-organic cotton represents less than 3% of the world’s agriculture, yet it accounts for 25% of the most harmful insecticides and 10% of the most toxic pesticides used worldwide.
Currently, organic cotton stands for less than 1% of the world’s cotton production. According to the Organic Trade Association, although sustainable cotton only represents a small proportion of global cotton production, its sales increased 31% between 2017/18 and 2018/19.
Hopefully we will see an even higher increase in the use of organic cotton and other sustainable fabrics in the near future!