Organic Cotton, Gentle Material for You and the Earth

Organic

Cotton is part of our everyday life, it can be seen in many of our clothing, in our bed sheets and pillowcases, and many other products we have at home. However, are you aware of the fact that there are many organic cotton options available? In fact, organic cotton is just like regular cotton but better! Let’s find out about the benefits and the differences between regular cotton and organic cotton. And then find out why you should definitely check out organic cotton more from now on.

Organic Cotton

As the name stated, organic cotton is cotton that is grown organically and often by organically certified farmers to ensure quality and maintain organic farming standards/regulations. When talking about organic cotton or any organically grown products, it usually stands for during the process of growing there was no synthetic pesticide, herbicides or pesticides, the crop is not genetically modified (GMO), it is all natural, so it is all natural organic cotton.

Organic Cotton vs. Cotton

Farmer picking organic cotton
The main difference between organic cotton and regular cotton is the way they are grown. However, other differences include the motivation and goal of growing organic cotton and how the cotton are harvested.

Organically Grown

As mentioned above, organic cotton is grown without using any chemical or synthetic fertilizer, pesticides, and herbicides. However, that does not mean there is no fertilizer, herbicides, or pesticides, just natural methods, like animal manure, beneficial insects and so on. While regular cotton is grown with the use of chemical and synthetic fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. Depending on the grower, the way regular cotton grows may vary. However, many of the methods to grow are similar such as using synthetic fertilizers in the soil to help the cotton grow faster and produce more. The cotton seeds were sprayed with pesticides to also help growing cotton, reduce pest and help produce cotton that are more appealing. In addition, when growing cotton, a lot of pesticides are used, in fact, cotton agriculture is 1% of the world’s agriculture, however, that 1% uses the 16% of herbicides of the total world’s pesticides. Pesticides and herbicides are harmful to the soil and can cause other harm to environmental issues.

Purpose of growing organically

Regular cotton is grown to meet the huge demand of cotton made products. With synthetic fertilizer and pesticides, regular cotton crops are ensured to grow successfully and produce the maximum amount possible for minimal cost. While organic cotton requires a lot more care and thus can be much more expensive. However, organic cotton is produced in hopes of reducing the damaging of the soil and other environmental, ecology issues.

Harvesting Cotton

While convention cotton is harvested with the leaves still green and uses a large machine to defoliate. However, when the leaves are harvested with the cotton, oftentimes the cotton could be stained and thus other machines are needed to extract only the pure white cotton, which could lead to wasting perfectly fine cotton just with some stain being disposed of. While organic cotton is usually harvested once the leaves naturally have dried themselves. Depending on farmers, some might use machines to harvest while others will hand pick cotton. With naturally dried leaves, and hand picking, less machine involvement is needed.
So these are three of the biggest differences between organic cotton and regular cotton, now you must be wondering what is so special about organic cotton. Keep on reading to find out.

Organic Cotton’s Benefits Overviews

Organic Cotton in the field
So now that we know some basic information about organic cotton, it is important why brands and people are pushing for more organic cotton. In fact, organic cotton has many beneficial factors. Let us take a closer look at each and every benefits of organic cotton.

Environmental Benefits:

In 2014, a research done by Textile Exchange (international NPO that promotes sustainable textile) compared the environmental impact between conventional and organic cotton.

The results were:
Organic cotton has 46% less of an impact on global warming.
Organic cotton reduces acid rain by 70%.
Organic cotton has 26% less soil degradation and erosion.
Organic cotton reduces the use of water for agriculture by 91%.
Organic cotton uses 62% less energy.
For more detail and information on the study above, please visit this link.

(Organic cotton environmental benefits – LCA data and savings)


Better for Growers

Not only is organic cotton good for the environment, it is also better for the farmers and cotton growers.
First it reduces the health risk for the farmers/growers. When using a lot of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, the farmers and growers are constantly exposed to harmful chemicals on a daily basis which can definitely take a toll on their health. By growing organically, farmers are no longer using harsh chemicals anymore, which is better for their help.

Second, better quality of life. Oftentimes organic cotton and fair trade go hand in hand. Organic cotton is often fair trade and thus, the farmers are paid much better for their hard work. Thus, improving the quality of life for the farmers and growers.

Organic Cotton Standards and Certification

Global Organic Textile Standards Logo
Now you know all the reasons why you should buy organic cotton, how do you be sure that the product is actually using organic cotton? Well, first of all, there are many organizations that are reliable and have strict regulations and certify if the product is truly using organic cotton. A big organic cotton certification body is the Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS).

Global Organic Textile Standard is an organization that evaluates products that claim they are using organic textile fabric, that includes organic cotton. GOTS has two certification marks, “Organic” and “Made with Organic”. The “Organic” mark means the product is made with at least 95% organic fiber, with less than 5% of non-organic, natural, synthetic fiber used. While “Made with Organic” means that the product is at least 70% made with organic fibers and less than 30% non-organic, synthetic or natural fibers.

In addition, GOTS also has a very strict process of recognizing if the product meets their standards (from raw material to final product).

Examples of GOTS’ Organic criteria:
Ingredients: over 95% organic
Organic accuracy: prevent confusion with non-organic material
Environmental considerations: Set Goals for water and energy usages
Chemical use restrictions: no use of highly toxic chemicals
Non-GMO: no use of GMO technology
Animal testing: no animal or biological testing
Employment ethics: prohibition of forced labor and child labor
Working environment: Hygienic and safe working environment etc.

(Global Organic Textile Standards)

Only if the product passes all criteria will they be labeled with their “Organic” mark. So next time you see the GOTS’ “Organic” or “Made with Organic” mark you can rest assured that the products have been vetted and you can trust them.

Our Job

I hope that after reading this article, you understand the benefits of organic cotton and would consider investing in some organic cotton products. By buying organic cotton, you are actively promoting organic cotton and helping the farmers and making a difference for the earth. As consumers, we are bound to buy things, and by buying products that make a difference and changes the market trend will force the brands and companies to adjust to our needs. At the end, if a brand realizes everyone is buying organic cotton products, they will make products with organic cotton too. That is what we want, and what Ethical Choice aims to do, by introducing amazing products for you and me and the earth. Make a difference and change the world bit by bit. I hope you enjoyed this reading and if you interested in learning more about Ethical Choice or the topic Organic, feel free look around!



Resources:
Organic Cotton Environmental Benefits – LCA Data and Savings. https://aboutorganiccotton.org/environmental-benefits/
Global Organic Textile Standards. https://www.global-standard.org/images/stories/gots_flyer_compare_JP.pdf
               
Author: Monica Chang
On my own ethical journey since 2010. Always happy to learn more!