November 07 2021 – Diana Aldescu
Welcome back to our blog! Last week we talked about cotton and all its wonders. This week we have something even better for you, organic cotton! Let’s find out what this is.
What is organic cotton?
Like cotton, organic cotton is a natural and biodegradable fibre. But, the difference between the two is that organic cotton uses methods that have a low impact on the planet. It eliminates highly toxic substances and instead works holistically. Organic products production is the way to go! This is the only system that protects both the environment and workers.
If you’re looking for truly sustainable cotton, certified organic cotton is the one.
History of organic cotton
We began to see a rise in organic cotton consumption in the early 1990s. This came about when people in Turkey and the US opened up markets for organically grown cotton. At first, producers sold organic cotton textiles in a limited number. They were selling these textiles for their eco-friendly benefits to the environment. Fashionable clothes were not yet the primary reason.
Finally, people started noticing the low-impact of textiles such as organic cotton. Around 1992, the fashion industry started gaining environmental awareness about clothing production. So, the demand for organic cotton grew. This led to organic cotton manufacturers expanding their businesses.
In the 2000s people continued noticing more and more ethical and environmental issues in the fashion industry. Some of these issues were child labour, poor living wages and huge amounts of waste. Due to these concerns, companies were increasingly concerned about their brand image. So, brands started looking into more sustainable programs. At first, some brands tried a blending program. Their manufacturers would blend organic cotton with other conventional fibres. Although this reduced the amount of water and energy consumption, it was not enough.
By 2006 many clothing brands started launching a fully organic cotton conversion program. As of now, we can see the demand for 100% organic cotton is highly increasing. We can see 100% organic cotton in boutiques, online stores, fashion fairs and many other shops.
How is organic cotton made?
Organic cotton is grown using methods and materials that don't affect the environment and people.
Organic cotton is completely handpicked. This helps preserve the purity of every fibre. It also avoids damaging the cotton fibre in the process. So, every bit of cotton is used! After being picked, the raw organic cotton is about to be processed.
As the cotton is still dirty, this needs cleansing. But, no chemicals and little to no water is used in this process. The most popular method used is blowing out the dirt from the cotton. This process is quite similar to a tumble dryer. This method uses 91% less clean water and emits 94% less greenhouse gas compared to conventional cotton production.
Another method that can be used when cleaning raw cotton is called carding. This cleans out impurities, combing out the fibres and aligning them in parallel rows. This method is, of course, water-free and chemical-free.
After the cotton has been cleaned and combed the spinning process of the yarn can begin. The final yarn can be dyed and left out to dry. This can then be knitted or weaved into fabric.
Organic cotton properties
You guessed it, organic cotton is fantastic! Bet you are wondering what are the benefits of buying garments made from this fabric. Let’s find out.
Amazingly soft: 100% organic cotton clothing feels like linen, but without the weight. As organic cotton is not chemically produced, its natural, fluffy smoothness is kept.
Durable: Organic cotton is handpicked so the long fibres are preserved. These fibres help create a very strong fabric. Organic cotton garments are long-lasting for real.
Eco print: Organic cotton uses methods that have a low impact on the environment. Its production maintains soil fertility and reduces the use of toxic pesticides. It also uses way less water and energy.
Anti-allergenic: Many fabrics need chemicals in their production. These chemicals can irritate the skin. But, you’re safe with organic cotton. The only thing you may experience is the uncontrollable urge to fall asleep.
Moisture absorbent: Cotton is naturally absorbent, one of its best properties. So it’ll keep you cool, no sweat patches here.
Differences between organic cotton and conventional cotton
Now, let’s be clear. Cotton and organic cotton are two very different fabrics.
Let’s start with the beginning, farming. Organic cotton farming is rotated from one soil to another so water is retained for a longer period. The land requires less irrigation and produces healthier crops. In comparison, conventional cotton is grown on the same soil repeatedly. This removes all the land’s natural nutrients.
Traditional cotton farming uses genetically modified seeds (GMO). These seeds build resistance against bugs. So, insecticides and pesticides are used. These chemicals are poisonous for both the workers and the environment. In fact, 77 million agricultural workers suffer from poisoning every year. Organic cotton uses 100% natural seeds, so there is no need for harmful chemicals. Bugs are controlled with insects that kill the pests. Mother nature does the job here.
Overall, organic cotton farming uses less energy and water. It also produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions. Whereas, traditional cotton farming uses high energy and water use. It also releases high levels of CO2 into the atmosphere.
All organic cotton factories are regularly inspected and certified to strict criteria. Meaning, no forced and child labour. Unlike conventional cotton fabrics where few to no mandatory checks are in place.
In the production process of organic cotton, the use of hazardous chemicals is prohibited. All chemicals must meet strict toxicity and biodegradability rules. But, that is not the case for conventional cotton factories. In fact, one-fifth of water used in conventional cotton production is polluted by harmful chemicals.
Ethical vs unethical
Some parts of the world where conventional cotton is grown such as India and Mali face difficult challenges. Let’s start with the farmers. Over 60% of the world’s cotton is produced by smallholder cotton farmers in developing countries. They are among the poorest and most vulnerable in the world. Many of these farmers live below the poverty line and earn less for the sale of their cotton. They suffer earning enough for basic needs like food and healthcare. In fact, many farmers have high levels of debt due to high input costs like pesticides and fertilizers.
Thus, organic cotton production has the potential to help millions of farmers out of poverty. Organic cotton manufacturers provide a more stable income and improved working conditions. They also allow farmers to grow other crops alongside cotton. This is a real chance at better living conditions!
Another huge unethical issue tradition cotton faces is forced child labor. In 2016, the US Department of labor reported that forced child labor was found in over 18 countries. These countries included top producer nations such as China, India, Pakistan and Brazil. On the other side, you have organic cotton. As mentioned above, regular inspection and strict criteria are in place to avoid these kinds of issues.
Why you should buy it
If you’re not convinced yet, here are three further reasons to buy products made from organic cotton.
1. Help combat climate change
Organic cotton farmers use natural methods to grow their crops. So by working with nature and not against it, they build healthy soil. This stores carbon and thus helps with climate change.
2. Help farmers have a happy life
Organic cotton farmers are safer due to no usage of harmful chemicals, but they have more freedom. To maintain a balanced system, farmers always grow other crops alongside cotton. This is another source of income for farmers but also a great healthy food supply system. Support your local farmers!
3. Protect the ocean
Conventional cotton is usually combined with other synthetic fabrics such as polyester. During washing, these synthetic fibres are released into our waterways, in the form of microfibers. These threaten marine species and our sensitive coral reef ecosystems.
At blonde gone rogue, we are a huge fan of organic cotton fabric. We work with GOTS-certified organic cotton factories and create amazing, long-lasting garments. Check out our organic cotton clothing collection, we have an extensive collection of clothes ranging from turtlenecks to organic cotton t-shirts.
If you want to be more sustainable in your fashion choices, then you will not be disappointed!
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