• Marion Bazzoli

Conventional VS Organic Cotton


Cotton field

Cotton is the most widely spread textile in the world: 29 million tons are produced a year.


It is a plant seed fibre, mainly made of cellulose. One can say it is a vegan textile, since it doesn’t require to farm (and eventually kill) animals, which is a consequence of wool or silk harvesting. Yet, its culture is harmful to the environment and to wildlife.



Conventional crops and wildlife



Pesticides are used to grow conventional cotton and, as a consequence, poison water, soil and air.


The spraying of those pesticides was estimated to kill millions of birds every year, in the US only. It also leaves residues close to the crops, which can then poison animals. Pesticides also enter into the soil, thus polluting it and killing its insects. In case of runoffs going from the fields into nearby rivers, pesticides will contaminate the water and thus kill fish.




We need to take into account that the chemicals used for conventional cotton production are also harmful to people working in the cotton industry and to humans wearing the clothing items made with it, especially sensitive persons (children and people who tend to have allergic reactions).



What about organic cotton then?



In 2017, 117,525 tons of organic cotton fibres were produced, representing a 10-percent grow in comparison to 2016.


Compared to non-organic cotton, using organic cotton has many advantages:





Unlike conventional cotton, organic cotton doesn’t pollute water, soil and air. It is thus neither harmful to wildlife, nor to people working in this industry.



Increasing demand for organic cotton



People are overall more aware of the negative impacts of conventional cotton, and tend to opt more often for organic cotton rather than the conventional one. Proof is, a growing number of big brands now offer organic cotton items. The last few years saw a booming of new vegan and organic-oriented brands, more often than not offering organic cotton fashion clothing and accessories.



We can summarize the pros and cons of organic cotton:


Pros:

  • easy to find

  • like its non-organic counterpart, it can be used for all kinds of products

  • known from general public (thus easy to market and sell)

  • less expensive than other natural plant fibres

  • strong and sustainable


Cons:

  • still needs water to grow

  • still needs a cleaning process (using chemicals)

  • more expensive than conventional cotton



To sum up


Conventional cotton has had its time, but now people are aware of its negative impact and ask for more sustainable clothing items, so turning to organic cotton is a judicious choice. Moreover, people turning to vegan clothing are usually even more aware of the negative impacts of conventional cotton and will more easily choose organic cotton.


My advice would be to make sure the organic cotton you want to use is certified, for instance by GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard).


To go deeper on the subject, you can download for free the 2017 organic cotton market report.



References:


http://aboutorganiccotton.org/

https://www.theworldcounts.com/counters/cotton_environmental_impacts/world_cotton_production_statistics

https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/

https://www.organicfacts.net/organic-cotton.html

https://www.global-standard.org/fr/

https://www.nwf.org/en/Magazines/National-Wildlife/2006/Cotton-and-Pesticides

http://www.pan-uk.org/our-environment/