Organic cotton. How is it different? What are its benefits?

Photo by Seven Seven on Unsplash

The oth­er week we talked about how nature-based solu­tions are great­ly ben­e­fi­cial for bio­di­ver­si­ty and for reduc­ing pol­lu­tion and haz­ards on the envi­ron­ment.

Because we like to talk about sus­tain­able mate­ri­als on fash­ion, we are going to apply this terms to the agri­cul­ture of organ­ic cot­ton. Cot­ton has been his­tor­i­cal­ly fash­ion’s most used fiber. When you see a tag in a fash­ion store telling you that your gar­ment is made of organ­ic cot­ton, how is it dif­fer­ent from the tra­di­tion­al one? What ben­e­fits does it hold?

Benefits of organic cotton
Pho­to by Trisha Down­ing

Organic cotton production

Organ­ic cot­ton is more eco­log­i­cal than reg­u­lar cot­ton in a num­ber of ways. The main dif­fer­ence is that organ­ic cot­ton is pro­duced using meth­ods that are envi­ron­men­tal­ly-friend­ly, while reg­u­lar cot­ton is pro­duced using syn­thet­ic pes­ti­cides, fer­til­iz­ers, and oth­er harm­ful chem­i­cals.

These chem­i­cals can con­t­a­m­i­nate the soil, water, and air. By con­trast, organ­ic cot­ton is made using nat­ur­al meth­ods, such as com­post and oth­er organ­ic mat­ter, to sup­port healthy plant growth and pest con­trol. This means that organ­ic cot­ton is not only bet­ter for the envi­ron­ment, but it is also safer for the peo­ple who pro­duce it.

Anoth­er ben­e­fit of organ­ic cot­ton is that it is typ­i­cal­ly pro­duced using more sus­tain­able farm­ing meth­ods. For exam­ple, organ­ic cot­ton farm­ers often use cov­er crops to improve soil health and reduce ero­sion. This can help to sup­port healthy and pro­duc­tive cot­ton plants, while also pro­tect­ing the envi­ron­ment and pre­serv­ing nat­ur­al habi­tats.

Benefits of organic cotton
Pho­to by Svit­lana Rusak


Besides to these ben­e­fits, organ­ic cot­ton is also pro­duced using more eth­i­cal and fair labor prac­tices. The social impact is a big part of sus­tain­abil­i­ty along with the envi­ron­men­tal one. Many organ­ic cot­ton farm­ers are small-scale and use sus­tain­able farm­ing meth­ods, pro­vid­ing bet­ter work­ing con­di­tions and high­er incomes for the peo­ple who pro­duce the cot­ton. Putting the prof­its in the hands of every per­son who worked among the way is the eth­i­cal way of doing.

By choos­ing organ­ic cot­ton, con­sumers can sup­port these val­ues and help to pro­tect the envi­ron­ment and the peo­ple who pro­duce our cloth­ing.

Water use

Anoth­er impor­tant issue of agri­cul­ture is the use of water. As it becomes more rare and valu­able, it is impor­tant to mea­sure the impact that its use has in the pro­duc­tion of our gar­ments.

Accord­ing to some esti­mates, the pro­duc­tion of reg­u­lar cot­ton can require up to 20,000 liters of water per kilo­gram of cot­ton, while the pro­duc­tion of organ­ic cot­ton takes as lit­tle as 3,000 to 5,000 liters of water per kilo­gram. This means that, on aver­age, organ­ic cot­ton pro­duc­tion uses approx­i­mate­ly one fifth the amount of water as reg­u­lar cot­ton pro­duc­tion.

Benefits of organic cotton
Pho­to by dan carl­son

How­ev­er, it is impor­tant to note that these num­bers can vary depend­ing on many fac­tors, such as:

  • The spe­cif­ic farm­ing prac­tices used,
  • The cli­mate and weath­er con­di­tions, and
  • The type of cot­ton being grown.

For exam­ple, organ­ic cot­ton farm­ers who use drip irri­ga­tion and oth­er water-effi­cient tech­niques may be able to grow their cot­ton using even less water than the aver­age of 3,000 liters per kilo­gram.

Final­ly, to ensure that the cot­ton gar­ment you buy it’s organ­ic, you should look for cer­tifi­cates. The most known is Glob­al Organ­ic Tex­tile Stan­dard (GOTS), ensur­ing that the cot­ton fiber has been har­vest­ed and man­u­fac­tured in an organ­ic an eth­i­cal process, from start to end.

In-Depth Resources

Written by David Ferrero
January 23, 2023

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