One of the most popular buzzwords sustainable clothing brands use is ‘organic cotton’. Moreover, organic cotton clothing is presented as a better alternative to conventional cotton, but is it really eco-friendly? Or are we being greenwashed? Let’s explore the environmental impact of conventional cotton and compare it to organic cotton production. You may be in for a surprise.
Environmental Impact of Conventional Cotton Production
Strap in for some pretty frightening stats. Conventional cotton production is notorious for being one of the most environmentally damaging crops. According to the WWF, cotton accounts for 2.4% of the global crop area but uses an incredible 6% of the world’s pesticides and 16% of insecticides. This heavy use of pesticides and fertilisers leads to soil degradation and water pollution and contributes to the decline in biodiversity. Moreover, conventional cotton is a thirsty crop. Consequently, it takes around 2,700 litres of water to produce a single cotton t-shirt. As you can imagine, in water-stressed areas, this exacerbates the water crisis. Finally, from a labour perspective, workers in developing countries that grow cotton get a raw deal. Poor wages and poor living conditions are the norms.
Is Organic Cotton Clothing the Solution?
While organic cotton has a lower environmental impact than conventional cotton, it’s not a perfect solution. For instance, according to a study by the Textile Exchange, organic cotton requires more land to produce the same amount of cotton as conventional methods. This is because organic cotton yields are lower due to the absence of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides. However, using natural methods in organic cotton farming has many benefits that far outweigh the negatives. For instance, organic farming improves soil health, retains more water, promotes biodiversity, and reduces CO2 output. Also, workers are treated with respect and earn a living wage. In addition, their community’s health is less at risk because of reduced exposure to toxic chemicals. Finally, look for certification on organic cotton clothing from GOTS (Global Organic Textiles Standard) and Fair Trade.
Let’s Go Organic!
As consumers, we have the power to make a difference by choosing sustainable options and supporting ethical brands. Here at Elves in the Wardrobe, we live and breathe organic and hope you enjoy browsing our range of carefully selected high-quality organic cotton clothes.