Why Choose Organic Cotton?
We know why we should use organic produce and cleaning products. Reducing the chemical consumption and environmental impact in our home is important, right?
But why choose organic cotton, and why should we care?
I was shocked to discover that conventionally grown cotton is one of the world’s most environmentally destructive and pesticide-intensive crops grown on the planet. Ah, what?This is before you even consider the chemicals and pesticides used, and how that impacts the farmers, workers, and even the end-user. Most conventional cotton is grown using genetically modified seeds, which causes many issues for the environment, including soil and water pollution.
Farming production also accounts for 18% of pesticide and 25% of total insecticide use worldwide. While pesticides are not as concerning in our clothing as they are in food, our skin is our largest organ and these trace chemicals can be passed into the bloodstream of the end-user. Irritated skin, rashes, and even headaches and dizziness can be caused by the chemical residue trapped in the fibres. Babies' skin is especially delicate, and their eliminative organs are less able to break down and expel toxins.
Unfortunately, farmers and workers of conventional cotton become poisoned by the heavy pesticide use; more than 10,000 US farmers die each year from cancers related to such chemicals. Even people who drink from water supplies near cotton farms run the risk of ingesting pesticides that have seeped into the ground. Pesticides have been shown to not only harm the earth and its natural resources, but to also cause severe health problems like ADHD, weakened immune systems and birth defects.
Organic cotton farming uses natural techniques to ward off insects and pests, as opposed to chemical intervention. In order for cotton to be organic, at no stage in the growth of the plant are chemical fertilisers or pesticides used. Detrimental insects are hand-picked, and weeds physically removed, avoiding the need for harsh chemicals that pollute the air, soil, water and wildlife.
Any chemicals used in the supply chain must comply with the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). The GOTS Restricted Chemical List prohibit the use of chemicals such as flame retardants, GMO, heavy metals and azo dyes.
Organic cotton farming also retains water more efficiently; there being more organic matter in the soil and no genetically modified organisms. It is also much safer for workers on cotton plantations, avoiding exposure to harmful chemicals, and promoting a sustainable supply chain.
Fundamentally, organic cotton is grown using methods and materials that reduce the impact on our environment and can mean organic clothing is more expensive than conventional cotton items. Not everyone can afford organic clothing, but there are other options to try, for example:
- Buy second-hand; repeated washing and wearing removes chemical residues trapped in the fibres.
- Look out for the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) logo; these items may still use some conventional measures, but BCI works tirelessly to create an international standard of sustainable cotton farming.
- Shop sales; shop a season ahead and catch some great deals at the end of season sales.
We put so much time, energy, and thought into the way our clothing looks and fits. Yet the way the fabrics are farmed, sourced, and manufactured is often the last thing we consider.
As we come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, now is the time to consider a change, to be kinder to our planet.
What can we do to help promote a healthier environment for our family that doesn’t cost the earth?