Cotton is a popular fabric for clothing because it is versatile, breathable, and soft on skin. Cotton is easy to wash, durable, and can be made into a variety of different items from T-shirts to dresses. It’s not surprising that half of the world’s clothing is made from cotton.
India, China and the United states are the largest cotton producers. In 2017, 120.86 million bales of cotton were produced worldwide and the numbers keep increasing.
How is Cotton Clothing Produced?
There are many different species of the cotton plant which are used in cotton production. Cotton grows in warm climates and is produced in the following countries: China, India, Turkey, Brazil, Pakistan, South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, and the US.
The cotton plant produces white fluffy fibres. These fibres are separated from the rest of the plant, straightened, and woven together to make cotton fabric. The cotton fabric is then processed with chemicals and dyed.
What are the Benefits of Organic Cotton?
Organic cotton uses natural methods throughout the harvesting and production process. There are many reasons why organic cotton is a healthy alternative to non-organic cotton.
Decreased Water Consumption
Non-organic cotton farming uses large amounts of water. It takes 10,000 litres of water to produce 1 kilo of cotton. This is not environmentally sustainable because it wastes a lot of water and contributes to global water shortages.
One of the reasons it takes so much water to produce non-organic cotton is the use of artificial watering methods and the regular spraying of crops with chemicals such as pesticides and herbicides. Organic cotton farming utilises natural methods of watering crops, such as the rain. Chemicals are not used in organic cotton farming, which means it takes much less water to produce the crop.
In the last decade, the popularity of GMO (genetically modified) seeds in non-organic cotton farming has become more widespread. Genetically modified seeds allow farmers to grow strains of the cotton plant that are resistant to certain pests and diseases.
Farmers who are reliant on buying GMO seeds are at the mercy of large scale seed producers and corporations who can inflate their prices whenever they like. This ultimately means the farmer ends up with a bad deal and crop control is centralised.
In traditional organic methods, farmers save their seeds from the previous crop and use them to grow new plants. This is a much more sustainable and low cost method of producing crops that does not harm the environment.
The effects of GMO seeds on the environment may have negative long-term implications. Changing the genetic material of crops can cause knock-on effects on local ecosystems including insects and animals. It can also cause GMO material to end up in the food chain. The long term effects of this on our environment as a whole are still to be realised.
No Child Labour
In Third World countries where non-organic cotton is produced, sometimes children have been involved in the harvesting and processing of cotton. The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), which regulates and certifies organic textiles, bans the use of child labour in the production of organic cotton.
GOTS stipulates that adult labour in the production of organic cotton must have been freely chosen and not forced. The working hours of employees must also not be excessive. Many workers on non-organic cotton farms work extremely long hours with no breaks. There are also measures in place to ensure organic cotton farmers are given a fair wage.
Safe for Farmers and Workers
Farmers and workers at all stages of the non-organic cotton production process can be negatively impacted by the use of strong chemicals. Adults and children can be harmed by exposure to various different chemicals, such as heavy metals, formaldehyde, azo dyes, benzidine, and chlorine bleach. Prolonged exposure to pesticides can cause infertility, cancers, endocrine system disruption, and foetal abnormalities.
In countries where safety standards are not enforced, workers often do not have proper protective clothing or equipment to help protect them from chemicals. This means they are constantly being exposed to harmful substances. Many chemicals involved in the non-organic cotton production process are carcinogenic. Chlorine bleach is also routinely used to dye non-organic cotton. Prolonged exposure can be harmful to the skin, eyes, and lungs.
Organic cotton is produced without the use of insecticides, herbicides, pesticides or harmful chemicals. All dyes used in the production process of organic cotton are evaluated to measure their safety to humans and their biodegradability. The use of chlorine bleach is banned.
Supporting the Environment
Non-organic cotton farming uses large amounts of chemicals which can pollute the air and local water systems. This contributes to contamination of the environment and is harmful to people, animals, and ecosystems.
Organic cotton farming does not pollute the environment because it utilises natural farming methods, such as crop rotation.
Organic cotton farming encourages biodiversity. Non-organic cotton farming methods involve the mass production of one crop over a huge area with no room for other plant species. Environmentally this is not good because it depletes the soil and does not support a varied ecosystem. Organic cotton can be grown alongside other plants and provide an extra source of income for farmers.
Kind on Skin
Organic cotton is not only safe for the planet, it’s safe for you. The chemicals and dyes used in the manufacturing process of regular cotton can cause irritation to sensitive skin. When buying organic cotton you can be sure that the item is super soft, skin friendly, and hypoallergenic. All our clothing is GOTS and Oeko Tex 100 certified to ensure it is free of harmful chemicals.