Whilst no fabric can claim to be perfectly sustainable and organic cotton is not necessarily the most ‘sustainable’ option out there, it’s definitely a great eco-friendly alternative to other fabrics.
We unpick 5 important reasons why…
1. It uses up to 90% less water to produce than regular cotton.
Despite a lack of consensus on the exact amount, according to WWF, it can take up to 2,700 litres to produce one cotton t-shirt. Pretty shocking ay? Organic cotton on the other hand, uses up to 91% less water to produce! Organic cotton is also 80% rain-fed, which reduces pressure on local water sources and the absence of chemicals also means that water is cleaner and safer.
By 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population may face water shortages so it’s more important than ever that we switch to organic cotton alternatives.
2. No harmful pesticides are used to produce organic cotton.
One of the most common arguments as to why organic cotton is better for the environment than conventional cotton is linked to the use of chemical pesticides and insecticides. Conventional cotton uses approximately 16 percent of the world’s insecticides and 7 percent of pesticides. A number of the pesticides used for cotton farming are strong chemical agents which are subsequently released into the environment and pollute ecosystems.
This is not the case for organic cotton because hazardous synthetic pesticides are banned in organic farming.
3. It doesn’t contain microplastics.
You may not be aware that one of the major sources of plastic pollution in oceans is our clothes. Polyester, nylon, acrylic, and other synthetic fibres — all of which are forms of plastic — are now about 60 percent of the material that makes up our clothes worldwide. Washing clothes made from synthetic fibres can release hundreds of thousands of micro plastics (less than 5 millimeters in length) into the water supply in only one wash. These fibres then can end up in the ocean and add to the microplastic pollution that’s accumulating in the food chain and being ingested by marine wildlife.
Organic cotton garments are made up of natural fibres which contain no harmful microplastics. By making the switch to organic cotton you can help to reduce the amount of harmful microplastics polluting our oceans.
4. Growing organic cotton creates fewer greenhouse gas emissions.
According to the Textile Exchange, organic cotton creates 46 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than conventional cotton simply by not using nitrous dioxide-releasing fertilisers and pesticides, and using fewer mechanised farming practices. By being fertiliser- and pesticide-free, the soil also acts as a ‘carbon sink’, absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere.
5. It’s better for workers.
An important aspect of sustainability that is often overlooked, is workers and local communities. Organic cotton is not only pesticide and GM-free, it also has social criteria based on the International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions guaranteeing workers’ rights and working conditions. These cover minimum wages, working hours, child labour, freedom of association, discrimination, harsh or inhumane treatment and more.
In addition, organic cotton does not use the harmful chemicals used to produce conventional cotton which are said to have detrimental effects on farmers’ health and surrounding communities.