Cotton may be a natural, vegetable product, it is also one of the most water-consuming crops in the world. Cotton has an enormous impact on the earth. The production of 1 pair of jeans requires 7,000 to 15,000 liters of water. This is as much as 40 years of drinking water for 1 person. Cotton is a thirsty crop. As a result, there is limited availability of good drinking water for the people.
Desiccation, salinization and erosion also occur in the area where cotton is grown. In addition, twenty percent of the worldwide use of pesticides is accounted for by cotton cultivation. All in all, a considerable attack on our planet, and also our health. What can we do to reduce the impact on humans, animals and the environment?
Organic cotton makes the difference
The fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries on earth, next to the oil industry. Not only the people who make the garments in bad conditions, but also the environment suffers enormously from (fast) fashion. A major culprit is the plain, regular cotton. Personally, I think it's important to know what I'm wearing, what it's made of and what its impact is. The more I went into it, the more I realized the importance of more sustainable materials. Now, of course, most people know what organic cotton means: it has been grown organically, so no pesticides have been used. But not everyone knows why that's such a big deal.
What is meant by organic?
For example, I used to have no idea that so many insecticides and pesticides are used in the cultivation of 'ordinary' cotton. Until I started to research it, just like you do now. By organic they mean the same as non-toxic. That in itself sounds good. But there is even more benefit. Cotton covers about 2.5% of available agricultural land, but uses 16% of all chemical pesticides. That is more than any other agricultural crop. Let that sink in for a moment. This is an awful lot. Day in day out. Year after year. This causes enormous damage to nature, flora and fauna. In addition to poisoning the soil, growing cotton also causes water scarcity and soil erosion. And for the farmers, working with toxic substances is no fun either.
Organic cotton is better
Let's start with the normal cotton, the regular cotton. In addition to all kinds of synthetic materials, the majority of the average wardrobe usually consists of cotton. Its production is not exactly a clean job; all kinds of chemical pesticides are used throughout the process. From heavy metals (often used in dyes) and ammonia to silicone wax and petroleum products, and from chemical plasticizers and brighteners to soil retarders. All the nasty stuff is in it. And these are large quantities, to give you an example: about 250 grams of cotton is used for one t-shirt, and 125 grams of chemicals and pesticides. In addition, 7 of the top 15 pesticides used herein are known to be "possibly, suspected, probable, or known to be carcinogenic to humans" (according to EPA - Environmental Protection Agency: they stand for protection of public health and protection of the environment). environment) That is not a pleasant idea. Plants, animals and people suffer enormously. Organic cotton is so much better, its safer for everyone, including you ;)
How cotton is produced?
You will therefore not be surprised that cotton cultivation has far-reaching consequences for the cultivation and production environment. Cotton is widely grown in India and China. One of the major problems is that local farmers do not know how to deal with pesticides the way European farmers do. They often work unprotected and do not wash themselves with hot water, so that the toxins penetrate the skin and become seriously ill after a number of years.
Enormous amounts of chemicals deplete the air, soil and groundwater enormously. When you consider that cotton plantations use ten times as many chemicals as other agriculture, you understand that the earth and everything that lives on it suffers serious damage. Say goodbye to healthy nature, animals and drinking water. The entire ecosystem suffers. All those pesticides are especially harmful to the local population.
You may think: “that won't be too bad?”, but many cotton villages, including in India, have already changed into Chernobyl-like scenes. Despite the global area devoted to cotton cultivation remaining constant for the past 70 years, cotton production has depleted and degraded the soil in many areas. Most cotton is grown on well-established fields, but their exhaustion leads to expansion into new areas and the attendant destruction of habitat.
Take a look behind the scenes
In the EO program 'GENAAID' (NPO 3) five starting fashion designers were given a confrontational journey through the clothing industry. Together with Jennifer Hoffman, they went to Myanmar, where they experienced first-hand what price is really paid for our clothing.
‘The True Cost’ en ‘Genaaid’
The documentary The True Cost shows how much clothing workers and the environment suffer from fast fashion, such as cheap shirts and other fashion for next to nothing and are thrown away again after a short time. Buying cheap stuff (aka: underpaid workers) and not paying attention to whether it's organic (aka: the huge chemical cocktail it contains) may seem like your advantage, but someone else's disadvantage. Here you can see how intense the influence of chemicals in the air and water is on the human body. From severe skin problems and brain damage to mutilations, cancer and children who are born spastic and severely (mentally and physically) disabled. Unfortunately, people cannot choose to leave and find other work. They are poor and unskilled, which forces them into this dangerous work and a hopeless existence, in which every day is survival.
Another tip to watch is the Dutch series 'Genaaid' with Jennifer Hoffman. Starting fashion designers make a confrontational journey through the clothing industry in Myanmar, where they themselves have to work in a 'sweat shop', textile factory, leather industry and cotton industry under the same conditions as the workers there, and for the same wages. It was all very confrontational and tears are shed. After this trip they can set up a fashion collection, and guess what they made…
In fact, everyone should see this. I bet that after seeing it you will think twice before you throw a cheap item of clothing into your shopping cart and then end up in the back of your closet after wearing it once? As long as 'we' Westerners continue to increase demand with more and more fashion collections every year, we will maintain this system.
The choice is up to the buyer. Your purchase is your vote for what future you want because clothing brands adapt to the buyer's demand.
Will more organic cotton be sold? Then more organic cotton is produced, because the buyer decides. Supply and demand.
Organic cotton is the solution
Organic cotton offers a more environmentally friendly and ethically sound alternative to cotton. It is the same kind of cotton as normal or conventional cotton. Only its processing takes place in a more environmentally friendly manner and under good working conditions. In 2016, it only covers 1% of the total global cotton production, so there is still room for improvement. Organic means that it has been obtained naturally: working with, and not against nature. The fields are fertilized naturally (so no artificial fertilizers), damage to crops is counteracted with pest-controlling insects, weeds are weeded with hoes, tractors and by hand. Organic cotton is grown without pesticides. To ensure that the crop is not eaten by bugs, other insects are used to combat these harmful insect populations. Pests are also controlled by applying botanical plant extracts. And a lot of crop rotation takes place to preserve the nutrients that are in the soil. In addition, no genetically modified plants may be used. In other words: nothing artificial. And that means that there is much less impact on nature and the local population.
Organic cotton production is also often accompanied by fairer policies and wages. And yes, that may be a bit more expensive, but then you wear something that really feels good. Also physically, by the way, because organic cotton breathes more and is better for the natural balance of your skin. Logical, because it is purer and more natural. It usually causes less irritation and eczema, especially if you have sensitive skin. Organic cotton feels remarkably softer.
GOTS - thé quality mark for organic cotton
To ensure that organic is really organic (unfortunately humans are quite good at cheating), there are various authorities and quality marks. The most famous and important quality mark is GOTS - Global Organic Textile Standard. Most organic cotton brands are certified by it.
GOTS has two guidelines: 'organic' (at least 95% of the ingredients must be organic) and 'made with organic ingredients' (at least 70% of the fibers are organic). Strict requirements apply to the max. 5% chemicals that may be used. For example, they must not be toxic to humans and must be biodegradable. Some substances are completely banned, such as the heavy metals, formaldehyde and genetically modified substances that regular cotton does contain. There are also rules for waste and packaging. And it may sound strange, but have you ever noticed that new clothes can smell? That nasty smell is caused by all those chemicals used. So you don't have this problem with organic cotton.
There are several quality marks for (organic) cotton, you will find all quality marks for clothing here. (in Dutch)
6 Reasons why organic cotton is better
The advantages of organic cotton at a glance:
* No poison used during cultivation and processing and provided with (GOTS) quality mark
* Better for nature, people and animals
* Less water consumption
* Better working conditions
* Feels softer and breathes better
* No skin irritation
With so many benefits, you only want organic cotton, don't you? Take a look at our page with sustainable clothing brands to see how many great clothing brands there are that work exclusively with organic cotton. It is so much more pleasant to wear organic clothing. For example, the dresses, shirts and sweaters below made of organic cotton with GOTS quality mark. Also check out our page with discount codes for a nice discount for all readers of this blog!
Lots of love,
Clothing made from organic cotton can be found here: