What is organic cotton?
Many of us don’t realise that what we wear started life in the soil. Cotton is grown in a field, the fluffy fibre is picked and then spun into thread. Once woven into material it is light, breathable, easy to work with and easy to wear - this is why more than half the clothes sold in the UK are made from cotton.
There are various sustainable cottons available, but, if you want to be sure what you are buying is grown in a truly sustainable way, certified organic cotton is the best option. Organic is the only system which eliminates highly toxic substances from the environment and instead works holistically, for the long-term benefit of people and the planet.
Other fibres can be grown on organic farms, like hemp, flax (linen), jute, silk and wool, but cotton is one of the most commonly used materials in fashion and textiles. Non-organic cotton has been dubbed the ‘world’s dirtiest crop’, but the story is very different for organic cotton.
Why is organic cotton better for the planet?
There are many reasons why organic cotton is better for the planet. The World Economic Forum has identified water scarcity as one of the top ten global risks to society over the next ten years, and the majority of cotton is grown in countries facing water shortages. Organic cotton has significantly fewer negative impacts on water than non-organic…
Healthier soil - organic farmers use natural methods like composting to create healthy soil. Healthy soil acts like a sponge, soaking up water during floods and holding it for longer during droughts.
No polluting pesticides - hazardous synthetic pesticides need to be diluted to bring them to 'safe' levels when they enter waterways - over one fifth of water used to grow non-organic cotton is used for this purpose. This is not the case for organic cotton because hazardous synthetic pesticides are banned in organic farming.
The way cotton is watered - most organic cotton is grown in rain-fed areas, this mean farmers rely on rain to water their cotton, instead of having to extract water from the ground which can put pressure on water supplies in local communities.
See more reasons organic cotton is a sustainable choice below…
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39% of people say that whilst they care about the environment, it’s never occurred to them that their clothes might have an impact.
5 reasons organic cotton is a sustainable choice:
1. Combats climate change
Organic farmers use natural methods to grow cotton, not fossil-fuel based fertilisers. By working with nature, farmers build healthy soils which store carbon and help to combat climate change. Organic cotton emits up to 46% less greenhouse gas than non-organic.
2. Saves precious water
Organic cotton is better for water than conventionally produced cotton. Organic farming creates healthy soils, which act like a sponge, soaking up water during floods and holding it for longer in times of drought. Hazardous synthetic pesticides and fertilisers are banned in organic farming, so rivers, lakes and drinking water are kept cleaner too.
3. Helps farmers feed their families
Organic farmers always grow other crops alongside their cotton. These crops can provide farming families and their communities with a more stable, accessible, abundant and diverse food supply and another source of income.
4. Gives control to farmers not GM companies
Genetically modified (GM) seeds are banned in organic farming, so farmers are not reliant on a handful of GM companies. Instead, they save their seeds year after year, and work with the environment in a long-term, sustainable way.
5. Eliminates hazardous synthetic pesticides
Organic farmers use natural methods like crop rotation to control pests and diseases, not chemical cocktails. Hazardous synthetic pesticides used in non-organic farming can damage ecosystems, poison waterways and endanger workers who can’t always afford safety equipment needed to protect them. Conventional cotton alone is responsible for 16% of all insecticides sold worldwide.