Why Organic Cotton is Awesome for the Earth

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Why Organic Cotton is Awesome for the Earth

You would be hard-pressed to go a day without coming into contact with something made of cotton – from your clothes, bed sheets, diapers, or even some of the food you eat – the fiber is all around us. In fact, cotton makes up 50 percent of the world’s fiber needs, but the majority of it is grown with toxic chemicals. Growing conventional cotton requires the use of pesticides, which is not only bad for the environment, but also poses huge health risks to those working with the crops.

Organic cotton is grown without using toxic pesticides or fertilizers, according to the Organic Trade Association. Farmers who grow organic cotton can use only approved methods for producing the crop including: beneficial insect releases, strip cutting of alfalfa and new weeding machinery, all of which reduce the impact on the environment.

Popularity Is Growing

As we learn more about the negative impacts toxic chemicals can have on our environment, there’s a strong response to be responsible and minimize the damage for future generations. The production of organic cotton speaks to that awareness. In 2004, the Organic Trade Association reports 6,814 bales of organic cotton were harvested in the United States, which is about 3.2 million pounds. Fast forward a decade, and approximately 18,030 bales of organic cotton fiber were harvested in 2015.

In the U.S., the organic cotton industry reached $43.3 billion in 2015, an increase of 11 percent from the previous year’s record level.

Why buy organic?

Buying organic cotton is different than organic fruits and veggies – we can all recognize that buying organic produce keeps pesticide chemicals out of our bodies, but what’s the significance in buying organic cotton?

Non-organic cotton is one of the most chemical dependent crops worldwide. OneGreenPlanet.org says non-organic cotton uses up nearly 10% of all agricultural chemicals period, especially insecticide, of which it uses 25% for all crops worldwide. The workers harvesting these crops can experience detrimental health conditions as a result of the chemicals.

What companies support organic cotton?

You may actually be shopping from stores and brands that already support the organic cotton market, but if not, it’s time to jump on the bandwagon. The Top 10 users of organic cotton in 2015 were C&A, H&M, Tchibo, Inditex, Nike, Decathlon, Carrefour, Lindex, Williams-Sonoma, and Stanley & Stella, reports OTA.

Protect the planet

Producing and growing cotton organically help protect the health of people and the planet through less use of toxic chemicals, reducing the risk in the air, ground, water, and food supply. When comparing organic cotton production to conventional, a Textile Exchange life cycle analysis shows:

  • Organic cotton produced in 2013-14 saved the equivalent of nearly 95,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools of fresh water compared to non-organic production.
  • The energy saved in that period could have kept a 60-watt light bulb going for over 57,000 years.
  • The reduction in greenhouse gas emissions was the equivalent of driving a car around the world over 14,000 times.

Most of the demand for organic cotton comes from manufacturers and brands that value environmental and social responsibility goals. These companies are also listening to customers who want sustainable, chemical-free fiber, clothing, and home goods.