organic cotton vs conventionally grown cotton

Cotton! The good, the bad, and the ugly. Why organic cotton is the only way to go!

Living in the inner city suburbs of Sydney, I’m spoilt for choice when it comes to options for organic produce. Organic fruit and vegetables, organic meat, organic dairy products, organic breads; the list goes on. We as a society put a lot of thought into what we put into our bodies, and rightly so.

However, have you ever thought about “organic” in relation to the clothes you wear? Have you considered that what you wear may also have an impact on your health?

Skin is your body's largest organ and the primary organ for absorption, therefore the clothes you wear, your favourite underwear, those soft sheets you sleep on every night, the fluffy towels you use on a daily basis, do impact your health & should be considered carefully.

Stop for a minute & think about the clothes you are wearing right now.

  • Do you know what fabric your clothes are made from?
  • Do you know what chemicals were used in the manufacturing of this fabric?
  • Are your clothes made from synthetic or natural fibres? If natural, how were the natural fibres grown & by whom?

You may falsely believe that if your clothing is made from a natural fibre such as cotton, then it is automatically healthy for you & the environment in which it is grown. This is not necessarily true, and certainly not the case for conventionally grown cotton.

Conventionally grown cotton (the bad news)

Conventionally grown cotton (i.e. non-organic cotton) accounts for 2.5% of farmland worldwide, yet it is responsible for 10% of the world’s entire pesticide use and a huge 25% of the world’s insecticide use. It is in fact considered the world’s most environmentally unfriendly crop.

Pesticides (including insecticides, herbicides & fungicides) have a devastating effect on the health of cotton farmers & workers, and on the environment.

Impact on cotton farmers

The World Health Organisation estimates that each year, in the developing world, 3 million workers in agriculture experience severe poisoning from pesticides.

Acute health problems that can occur in workers that handle pesticides include abdominal pain, dizziness, headaches, nausea, skin and eye problems. Longer term, studies have shown that there are significantly increased rates of varying types of cancer among farm workers that handle these pesticides.

Impact on the environment

The use of pesticides on conventionally grown cotton also has a devastating impact on the environment. Pesticides negatively impact the quality of the air, water, and soil and have a severe impact on ecosystems, causing harm to plants and animals. Pesticides seep into run-off water and end up in lakes, rivers and waterways, making it unsafe for humans and animals to drink. Pesticide residue has been increasingly discovered in plant foods and farm animals.

Impact on the quality of the fibre

What impact do pesticides have on the quality of natural fibres? Soaking a natural fibre in a poisonous chemical causes the natural fibre to break down, making it weaker and therefore reducing the quality of the end garment significantly. After a few wears the garment will look old, the fabric will be thinning and a new replacement product will need to be purchased – keeping this unhealthy cycle going. Moreover, traces of these harmful chemicals remain in the fabric of the pieces of clothing you are wearing. Over time these nasty chemicals may be absorbed into the body via our skin. YOU deserve better!

Organic cotton (the good news)

Organic cotton is grown without the use of pesticides, chemical fertilisers or genetically modified organisms, making it safer for cotton farmers, factory workers, the environment and for the end user, YOU.

Organic cotton is grown using methods that intentionally lessen the impact on our environment and the health of cotton farmers and workers. Crop rotation, manure fertiliser and other earth friendly farming techniques are used instead of harmful chemicals.

Organically grown cotton also uses significantly less water than conventionally grown cotton.

Yes, these methods are a little more labour intensive and do take some time to learn, but all good things take time, and at the end of the day slow and steady wins the race.

By choosing organic cotton you are choosing to support the health and wellbeing of cotton farmers & workers, the environment and yourself! There is simply no reason not to go organic.

You as the consumer can support and encourage organic cotton farming practices by being selective about where you choose to spend your hard earned money. By choosing to buy quality clothing that is manufactured responsibly with minimal environmental impact, you are essentially voting for a healthier environment, healthier conditions for farmers & factory workers and for a healthier you!

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