A mere 1% of the world’s cotton is grown organically. The other 99% is produced conventionally, with a heavy reliance on pesticides, fertilizers, insecticides and other toxic chemicals (Textile Exchange, 2010).
OK, but why does this matter? Why should I choose organic? What are the negative implications of conventional cotton, and why is organic cotton SO much better?
Here’s what we know:
- STRONG CHEMICALS are used in cotton production, both to help the cotton grow and to keep pests away. The use of these chemicals has caused those exposed to them (animals and humans alike) to suffer from disturbing health consequences. These effects include pesticide poisoning as well as nervous system, and reproductive system impairments (Environmental Justice Foundation, 2007).
- On the other hand, organic cotton is produced using natural processes. This ensures both the health of the cotton and of those exposed to it. These methods include: using crop rotation, introducing beneficial insects to control pests, and using the technique of mixed cultivation (Environmental Justice Foundation, 2007). The use of natural processes over toxic chemicals means that those exposed to the crop in production (people, animals and the environment) are less much likely to experience negative side effects.
- The production of conventional cotton creates unnecessary amounts of CO2. In fact, conventionally grown cotton has been named the world’s most polluting agriculture commodity by the Environmental Justice Foundation (2007). It’s reported that 1 ton of this cotton produces more than 1,750 kilograms of CO2 (Cool Cotton: Organic cotton and climate change, 2015).
- THE BETTER OPTION: organic cotton, which produces 46% less CO2.
- Conventional cotton also has a tremendously negative effect on our water sources. For example, it takes two and a half thousand litres of water to produce a simple cotton shirt. In a world where clean and safe drinking water is a scarcity, this is mind blowing.
- Alternatively, organic cotton uses much less water during production. Organic farmers are also much more likely to use rain water over irrigation systems. It’s estimated that organic cotton is 80% rain-fed (Organic Cotton is Better For the Environment, 2014), which places less strain on the waterways of the growing regions.
Stray & Wander Team
Textile Exchange (2011). Cotton for the 21st Century: An Introduction to organic cotton. Retrieved from http://farmhub.textileexchange.org/upload/learning%20zone/Cotton%20Briefings%20separate/Organic%20Cotton_An%20Introduction.pdf
Environmental Justice Foundation. The Deadly Chemicals in Cotton. Retrieved from https://ejfoundation.org/resources/downloads/the_deadly_chemicals_in_cotton.pdf
Organic Cotton is Better For the Environment. (2014). Retrieved from http://aboutorganiccotton.org/environmental-benefits
Cool Cotton: Organic cotton and climate change. (2015). Retrieved from https://www.soilassociation.org/media/6491/cool-cotton-organic-cotton-and-climate-change-2015.pdf