Cotton is being employed by mankind for over 7000 years, and is still used as a primary raw material in the fabric and fashion industries. In fact, cotton is the most used fabric in the world.
An industry that produces 25 million tons of cotton yearly, with India being the biggest cotton producer in the world, responsible for 25% of world production and a share amount of child labor.
Recently there’s a growing rather interesting discussion about replacing conventional
production of cotton to organic cotton.
Your’e probably wondering why should I care? Why buy organic cotton?
Why is it such a big deal. Eitherway cotton is a dirthy polluting crop, what is the difference if we change to organic production?
So, the million dollar question why buy organic cotton?
To begin with cotton is essentially a big rock environmentally, meaning to say, it should be a high priority since it’s the world’s largest and dirtiest fiber crop and causes various environmental issues, with such a huge influence that it even made the Aral sea dry up. That being said, there is a rather easy way to get rid of this big rock hanging over our health and planet. The alternative for the current situation of conventional cotton production is not even a substitute, it’s is simply cotton itself but grown organically.
Organic cotton is free of genetically modified seeds and synthetic insecticides, pesticides, or fertilizers. The cotton grown in an organic agriculture will improve and influence the health of soils, ecosystems, and people.
The impact of cotton crops on the environment is immense since it is used in almost every cloth we buy, from our clothes, bed sheets, approximately anything you can think of. It’s even used in the production of the Us dollar which is made of 75% cotton.
Moreover, organic farming helps promote biodiversity and even consumes less water. Growing organic cotton creates less greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional grown cotton, and it uses less energy.
In fact, organic cotton is chemical free, softer and hypoallergenic. However, somehow only 1% of the world’s cotton production is organic cotton.
So why are we still using conventional grown cotton?
Does organic cotton use more water?
Cotton is a water-intensive crop, so intensive that a single T-shirt requires 713 gallons of water to produce.
Apparently we use more water in the production of fabrics and consumption than we use for our food production in a world facing an imminent water crisis.
One drawback of conventional cotton is that it is grown on the same soil time after time, thus degrading the soil quality and removing nutrients, this in time leads to unhealthy crops. Mainly for this reason, these crops require more water, and since they are irrigated heavily, the result is inevitable water wastage.
The alternative of growing organic cotton, is destined to improve soil fertility, will lead to using less water and significantly reduce the environmental impact of this dirty crop.
What about yields?
On the one hand, conventional cotton farming starts with GMO, meaning genetically modified seeds. They are modified to create resistance to bugs, but when the bugs adapt to the modification than more pesticides are required.
On the other hand, some reports indicate organic cotton has lower yields per plant. With lower yield, organic cotton can be less efficient by simply using more land. This indeed is a major disadvantage since this lack of efficiency translates to less revenues produced per area of land.
Cotton prices affect the entire textile industry causing the main discourse about cotton to be about yields. It takes about 7 months to grow cotton, and conventional cotton industry uses insecticides and pesticides, these eventually end up in rivers and water systems, contributing to water pollution. But yields unfortunately are higher preference compared with environmental pollution. Today, with growing awarness we are all much aware of the high price we are paying environmentally.
How can you contribute to change?
Changing our consuming habits will lead to a change. You can accelerate that change by simply purchasing organic cotton products. When shopping just check if the clothes you’re buying is GOTS certified, Global Organic Textile Standard.
This means that it’s made of cotton grown from non-genetically modified plants, and without the use of any synthetic agricultural chemicals such as fertilizers or pesticides.
Organic cotton is sustainable and biodegradable, it’s better for the environment and also for our health. Moreover it is fairly traded meaning it will also improve working conditions for cotton farmers and ban child labor.
There are various initiatives in the cotton sector to change the current situation but those are not enough and by making consumers know that they can influence cotton production, with their choices, we can get an even better product, softer and hypoallergenic with minimal environmental impact.