There is a lot of buzz around sustainable fashion. It is something that everyone is talking about at the moment. Organic cotton is also something you think about when you hear about sustainable fashion. There is no doubt that organic materials, including organic cotton, are more environmentally friendly and sustainable than conventional materials.
Organic cotton is seeing a huge increase in popularity in recent years, which is no wonder. With the rise of fast fashion, sustainable fabric has become more important. But, does organic cotton make a better choice for you than cotton products that do not bear a label of organic content? Would it be better for the environment or the skin of your family?
As a biodegradable natural fabric, conventional cotton is more eco-friendly than synthetic fibers, but organic cotton fabric takes sustainability one step further. By growing and processing cotton organically, less landfill waste is generated and reduced pollution. The global consumption of organic cotton is just less than 1%, but it has become increasingly fashionable as a bedding, clothing, and bathroom material.
Our article will provide you with the information you need to decide whether to purchase bedding, clothing, and home decor items made from this eco-friendly fiber.
Cotton that has been grown without pesticides or toxic chemicals can be defined as organic cotton. The term organic is a way to describe an operation where all the inputs are taken from nature, and no synthetic chemicals are used.
Cotton grown organically uses cover crops, organic fertilizers, compost, beneficial insects, or human labor instead of chemicals. One of the best aspects of these growing methods is that they do not only reduce our environmental impact, but most of them benefit it as well.
So, organic farming methods create crops with no persistent chemical residues (for us and the environment) from pesticides and fertilizers. These systems are also known to enhance soil fertility and biodiversity by reducing fertilizers and pesticides.
Moreover, the fabric is treated with organic or biological processes (such as using azo-free earth-safe dyes and chlorine-free bleach) that are non-toxic and non-harmful.
Organic Cotton vs Regular Cotton
To better understand organic cotton, let’s start by understanding what it is not. When compared with its inorganic sibling, the distinction becomes abundantly clear. Those who have been saying “OMG” about genetically modified crops may be surprised to learn that one of the most prevalent GMO crops isn’t necessarily something we eat … in fact, it might be something you wear right now. Cotton is among the top four genetically modified crops in the world.
A whopping 95% of global cotton production comes from GMO cotton and conventional cotton, making its way into bedding, nonorganic towels, clothing, and even processed foods. The cotton crop is known as the “dirtiest crop in the world.” This crop requires heavy amounts of pesticides — 80% of which are classified as moderate to highly hazardous by the World Health Organization. Furthermore, some of the world’s most dangerous insecticides are also being used there. The U.S. agricultural industry accounts for only 2.5% of gross cultivable land area, but it accounts for 24% of all insecticides sold worldwide.
The amount of synthetic fertilizer needed to grow just one t-shirt with conventional cotton can be described as three-quarters of a pound.
Organic Cotton: How is it Made?
Natural farming and production processes are used to produce organic cotton, made differently from conventional cotton. Farmers use organic fertilizers and rotate their crops to prepare their soil for organic cotton. According to conventional farming, each harvest is planted on the same soil as the previous one. Therefore, the soil becomes depleted of nutrients over time—farmers who work with organic cotton plant only non-genetically modified (non-GMO) seeds, another difference.
Rather than using heavy-duty herbicides and pesticides to control weeds and pests, they use natural methods like trapping crops and beneficial insects. There are no chemicals used in any organic crops, and while many organic crops are irrigated, most sustainably-produced crops are very dependent on rainwater.
Natural methods are used to harvest organic cotton, unlike conventional cotton, as it does not rely on chemicals for its growth. Several organic cotton textiles can be created once the fibers are processed into yarn (for example, canvas for a sturdier sustainable textile or chambray for a lighter one). In processing, warp fibers undergo a process called double-plying, or cornstarch can be used to stabilize the fibers.
Why is Organic Cotton Better?
You might still be interested in knowing why you should purchase organic cotton. To find out whether organic cotton is chemically clean, you only need to look at the following list:
● Insecticides: copper sulfate, insecticide soap
● Natural pesticides: neem spray, pyrethrum, and castor oil are all-natural pesticides, as are crop rotation, natural predators, and mixed cultivation.
● For scouring and washing: natural oils, potato starch
Organic pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides are used rather than chemical pesticides and fertilizers (which are less harmful to the environment). The purpose is to improve working conditions for cotton farmers. In the manufacturing process, the cotton itself is free of the most toxic chemicals (formaldehyde, heavy metals, flame retardants, softeners, ammonia, etc.) commonly found in conventional cotton.
Organic cotton is more durable than conventional cotton since it hasn’t been subjected to harsh chemical processes. It’s also a better option for people with sensitive skin and for everyone who doesn’t want to absorb small amounts of chemicals every time they put it on.
Organic Cotton Compares to Other Textiles?
● Organic Cotton vs. Hemp
Its high sustainability rating (pun intended) makes hemp one of the best materials for sustainability. Its development is very similar to that of organic cotton in that it needs approximately 300 to 500 liters per 1 kg. It doesn’t need pesticides or fertilizers to grow.
The fabric is lighter than cotton, breathable, and a little less soft, yet it’s also summery in appearance. However, that’s okay because the fabric dries quickly and provides more UV protection.
The life of hemp is considerably longer and more durable than that of cotton (20-30 years compared to 10 years). From a plant viewpoint, hemp is more sustainable than organic cotton. Growing fast, having a smaller land-to-product yield ratio, regenerating soil naturally, and absorbing more carbon dioxide than forests is a carbon-negative raw material as it absorbs more carbon dioxide than forests do.
A downside of hemp is that there is no organic certification yet, meaning that there will be a lot more greenwashing when it comes to the practices used for growing and processing hemp.
● Organic Cotton vs. Linen
The linen plant is the roots of the flax plant, and like hemp and organic cotton, linen does not require a lot of water to grow and grows without any chemicals.
Cotton and hemp fibers are longer than linen fibers, making linen lighter and even more breathable but less durable. The linen category includes summary ethical dresses and linen clothing, but organic cotton will last longer.
● Organic Cotton vs. Semi-Synthetic Fibers
The term semi-synthetic refers to plant cellulose fibers dissolved and plasticized into the soft fabric. Many vegan fabrics are available, such as bamboo, modal, and lyocell.
These trending “green” fabrics indeed have their merits (if converted correctly). Still, organic cotton remains the champ for softness (in a silky way, as opposed to cotton’s plush, tactile quality) and stretches.
Growing and processing this plant requires very little water. Bamboo and eucalyptus (the raw materials for lyocell) both require a relatively small amount of water to grow, but some water is needed for processing. Despite the best semi-synthetic fabrics being made with closed-loop water recycling systems, a reduced quantity of water is wasted even by the best of them.
Secondly, some chemicals are required to break down the plant pulp in these fabrics. Even though these are ecologically friendly solvents, they’re still less eco-friendly than organic cotton, which does not require any.
● Organic Cotton vs. Polyester
You can look at polyester from several different angles to be an attractive material. You need to know that polyester is very durable and can withstand a lot of wear and tear (but perhaps not as much wear and tear as the ’90s windbreaker you just bought from a thrift store). It is also an indicator of how harmful it is to the environment due to its durability. There is no way it breaks down in the soil; it is made from petroleum (usually virgin petroleum). Instead of breaking down in the soil, it releases dangerous microplastics into the environment.
Costs are another factor to consider. It is more economical to use polyester than cotton, but the cost of the chemicals needed to process cotton is picked up by the planet and the people involved with processing the fabric.
This kind of fabric wicks moisture and is an excellent alternative to cotton for activewear, but its cost is too high. Generally speaking, the best bet here is to find activewear that is mostly cotton with just a little bit of polyester (ideally recycled) to give it that stretchy, moisture-wicking quality that is needed in workout clothing.
Why You Should Choose Organic Cotton
● Organic Cotton’s Environmental Benefits
The first thing that may come to mind when picturing the so-called “white gold” fields is that it will inherently benefit growers and the environment. However, approximately 25 million tons of cotton are produced globally every year.
- Cotton – A Thirsty Crop
Although cotton is well known for its cooling properties, it is considered one of the world’s thirstiest crops due to the amount of water it takes to produce one t-shirt. Pesticides and inefficient water usage contribute to this colossal water consumption, not just irrigation.
On the other hand, organic cotton doesn’t take a huge swig of water, consuming 88% less water than its conventional counterpart (and causing much less water pollution).
- The Role of Organic Cotton in Regenerative Agriculture
Due to traditional farming methods, cotton production emits large amounts of earth-damaging chemical runoff. This vicious cycle of pesticides and fertilizers is one of the most damaging planetary boundaries that we can’t afford to cross because they contribute to global biodiversity loss.
Several insect species are being impacted by this, such as butterflies and moths, which have seen a 58% decline in areas of mass agriculture over the past decade. The relevance of organic cotton goes beyond just do-no-harm. Organic cotton fits well within the emerging field of regenerative agriculture because of its capacity to sequester carbon from the atmosphere and boost biodiversity.
It promotes the infiltration of organic matter into the soil and the development of resilient ecosystems and agricultural communities.
- Organic Production Saves Energy
Organic cotton also consumes significantly less energy than conventional cotton (remember, fertilizers are derived from fossil fuels). The energy demands of organic cotton are 62% lower than those of conventional cotton after conducting a life cycle analysis.
● Social Benefits of Organic Cotton
While we previously spoke about the potential link between GMO cotton and farmer suicides, there’s also an additional shocking fact. When farmers kill themselves, they commonly swallow the very pesticides they can’t afford to pay off. There are a lot of things to unpack here. This is a very tragic and telling fact that the tool that was supposed to support the farmers ended their lives.
The fact that these toxic pesticides are used daily on a farm also causes us concern about all the farmers who are exposed to them daily, even if they are not consuming them.
- Organic Cotton – A Farmer Friendly Cotton
Conventional cotton uses pesticides and herbicides that are harmful to human health and detrimental to flora and fauna.
In addition to toxic effects like chronic coughing, skin irritation, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, some pesticides have been associated with loss of consciousness and seizures. Long-term exposure to this gas can lead to depression and anxiety. It also has been linked to several types of cancers.
It is not only the physical health of farmers that is compromised by agrochemicals, but also their mental health if these chemicals end up causing harm to the soil and the ecosystem in its entirety.
As an added benefit, organic cotton provides more than 350,033 hectares of land with a better working environment, as it keeps GMOs, pesticides, and chemicals off the land.
- Farmers Receive Assistance to Grow Organic Cotton
There are several things to consider when it comes to a farmer’s health and livelihood. There are ethical lending and microfinance options that sustainable agriculture has associated with, enabling organic cotton farmers to escape the debt cycle brought about by buying new seeds and chemicals every year.
A further benefit of organic cotton is the support of traditional agricultural techniques and locally-sourced biological inputs and seeds. By keeping the skills and knowledge transfer within the local communities, farming families will be able to pass on their knowledge to the next generation, which is instrumental in resisting climate change.
The Reason Why Organic Cotton is More Expensive than Regular Cotton
Suppose you compare the prices of organic cotton undies to conventional cotton ones or those made with a polyester-cotton blend. In that case, you’ll see there may be a price discrepancy when comparing higher quality and ethically sound products.
Organic cotton is much more expensive than conventional cotton since it requires more effort and time. This method requires careful planning (and perhaps manual weeding) rather than spraying chemicals x, y, and z across everything (including waterways, neighboring houses, etc.).
Despite this, you should consider wearing organic cotton because its benefits are greater than those of conventional cotton. Although organic cotton is light, breathable, and has a longer shelf life (so your dollar goes a long way), it is also softer and more durable.
Additionally, the fibers are free of toxins, making them better for sensitive skin (or any skin).
Be sure this is a legitimate organic product before you pay a premium price for organic baby clothes, organic blankets, or thermal ethical pajamas.
Mother Earth has perfected a sustainable fabric that keeps us cool, dry, and happily wiggle our toes in comfy socks so that we never have to worry about ruining them. It’s not hard to tell why organic cotton is substantial and how it can contribute to a healthier world. It contributes to healthier people, farmers, communities, ecosystems, and the landscape.
When you next find yourself in need of a new eco-friendly t-shirt, make sure you pause and examine the label. Organic cotton is now commonly available and easy to identify, making it an obvious choice.
Beyond Bridges USA, a leading supplier & distributor of hospitality & housekeeping products, supplies products purely made from high-quality organic cotton. So let’s place your order NOW!