Cotton accounts for nearly half of all textiles produced globally. It is one of the most profitable “non-food” crops, and employs an estimated 250 million people around the world.
However, less than 1% of the world’s cotton is considered organic. So what is Organic Cotton, and why do we need to make the switch from conventional cotton?
What is Organic Cotton?
Just like organic food, organic cotton differs from conventional cotton based on how it is produced and processed. The Global Organic Textiles Standard (GOTS) is considered the world’s leading organic certification, however there are a number of different independent certification bodies including the UK’s Soil Association.
In general, organic cotton is:
- Grown without the use of toxic chemicals including pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides.
- Grown without the use of GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) seeds.
- Grown using methods that replenish and maintain soil fertility & biodiversity.
- GOTS certification also requires commitments to limit water and energy consumption, as well as compliance with regulations set out by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) such as safe and fair working conditions, wages, and hours.
Organic Cotton is Better for the Environment
Cotton accounts for just 2.4% of the world’s crop-land, yet it represents 16% of insecticide use and 6% of pesticide use. This means conventional cotton agriculture is one of the most chemically intensive crops in the world.
This is important because the toxic chemicals used in conventional cotton production often seep into local waterways and endanger local ecosystems. Organic cotton production encourages biodiversity and animal welfare.
Furthermore, organic cotton is more water efficient than conventional cotton. Part of this is because organic agriculture promotes healthier soil that more effectively absorbs water.
Organic Cotton is Better for Farmers & Local Communities
In addition to polluting local ecosystems and waterways, the use of insecticides and pesticides endangers local communities and the farmers who are in constant contact with these poisonous chemicals. The World Health Organisation has documented that people who are repeatedly exposed to pesticides & insecticides (either through skin contact, consumption or inhalations) are at risk for serious short-term and long-term side effects including cancer.
Organic cotton is safer for farmers, and safer for our skin too. Toxic chemicals used in conventional production can linger on fabrics and cause skin irritations and allergic reactions. To keep harsh pollutants out of our eco-systems and wardrobe, choose organic.
Make the Switch to Organic Cotton
Despite being a much healthier and sustainable option, organic cotton only represents a tiny fraction of the cotton produced globally. If we want this to change, we have to drive consumer demand. This means making an effort to buy organic when we can, and supporting brands that care about the environment and worker’s health as much as we do.