Have you ever wondered about organic cotton and what the difference is? After all, why would you pay extra for a t-shirt that looks exactly the same as a cheaper alternative?
Organic cotton might look the same as regular cotton, but they couldn’t be more different. What you don’t see is the life that t-shirt has had from the cotton fields to the shop floor.
So, if you want to know more about organic cotton and why you should be buying it, we’ve got you covered.
By contrast, conventional cotton is grown from modified seeds supplied by multinational chemical companies (GMO-seeds) which use also fertilizers and pesticides. Conventional cotton can also be processed with a number of harmful and depleting chemicals and processes, further contributing to its environmental footprint.
How is organic cotton made?
To start with, organic cotton uses untreated GMO-free seeds. These are then grown in healthy soil that retains all of the good nutrients that plants love. Absolutely no hazardous chemicals are used to treat the plants – it’s au naturel.
When the crops are ready, they are harvested using natural defoliation by freezing temperatures. Organic cotton can also sometimes be harvested using water management. Since natural cotton isn’t perfectly white, organic cotton is treated and whitened using safe peroxides. This is then finished with a soft scour in warm water.
Advantages of organic cotton
There are so many advantages to choosing organic cotton over regular cotton. We’ve gone over a few of those advantages already but here are some you might not have thought about yet:
Hypoallergenic for sensitive skin
Conventional cotton is often treated and dyed with a variety of chemicals that are known to cause allergic reactions.
Certified organic cotton uses less harsh chemicals in its process, which result in a hypoallergenic end material – which is part of the reason why it is so very popular for baby and enfant clothing.
Even if you’ve never had an allergic reaction to conventional cotton items, it just makes sense to minimise use and exposure to nasty chemicals as this ultimately minimises pollution.
Cotton is a water intensive crop and the unavailability of water and healthy soil has led many farmers to opt for GMO seeds that have the potential to grow in poorer soil and dryer conditions. Unfortunately that leaves them at the mercy of companies who at any point can increase prices, which reduces their margins and leaves them struggling to make ends meet.
GMO seeds also require more pesticides as they can be more easily targeted by pests, which is an added expense for farmers. In addition, the chemicals in these pesticides cause further harm to the soil, surrounding animals and the farmers and pickers. Many of the pesticides still in use in major cotton growing markets (such as India and China) have been banned in Europe and the United States due to their negative health impacts.
Contributes to the slow fashion movement
The fashion industry is moving towards more sustainable practices and this includes being more responsible in how materials are sourced.
Organic cotton requires a little more effort and time, from how it is grown and processed to the dyes it uses. Due to that and its higher price, it can often be found in more conscious collections. Supporting Organic Cotton sends a message to all of the fashion industry that consumers are moving away from fast fashion and willing to support a more responsible way of making clothes.
Organic cotton uses less water
Organic cotton uses up to 86% less water than conventional cotton, according to Higg Material Sustainability Index.
Whilst organic cotton seeds require more water to grow, organic cotton plants are more resilient to draught and flooding. Growing organic cotton is also less depleting and can be done in biodynamic ways, which encourage the healthy maintenance of supporting ecosystems. Overall, it is better for people and planet, circling natural resources in a healthy cycle.
The largest difference in water use though is in how bales are processed, as the way in which organic cotton fibres are processed and dyed requires less water than conventional cotton.
Organic cotton has lower CO2 emissions
Organic cotton is responsible for 16% lower carbon emissions (according to Higg Material Sustainability Index), not withstanding the carbon the plants can store in the ground if the soil isn’t tilled.
Organic cotton grown with regenerative practices can help sequester carbon and contribute to healthy, carbon-storing ecosystems.
Is organic cotton worth it?
Yes, organic cotton is worth it. Naturally, organic cotton is more expensive upfront as more effort is needed to grow it and processing it is more costly. However, don’t let that put you off. By purchasing organic cotton clothing you’ll be supporting healthier farming practices, more resilient ecosystems, cleaner water and fashion with an overall smaller footprint!
And there you have it, everything you need to know about organic cotton. So, will you be making the switch?
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