Could the type of T-shirt you buy really make a huge impact on people and the whole planet? We say definitely so, and you’re about to find out why.
But... what is organic cotton, and why is it better for the environment?
Organic cotton is cotton that’s been grown on fields without toxic chemicals, GMOs, fertilisers, or pesticides. Only natural processes are used for its whole production process, instead of artificial ones.
It’s reported that 25% of the world’s insecticide use and more than 10% of the world’s pesticide goes to traditional cotton farming.
In 2003, that amounted to about 55 million pounds of pesticides being sprayed on 12.8 million acres of cotton, according to the Organic Trade Association.
Sadly, only 1% of cotton production in the world right now is organic.
It’s estimated that cotton accounts for around 50% of the world’s textile demand, but if 99% of it is currently grown using toxic chemicals, something needs to change - that’s why we choose to offer the majority of our range in organic cotton - letting our customers band together, voting with their wallet investments to change the cotton world.
1) Save water
Wearing and farming organic cotton saves water. Organic cotton cultivation requires 91% less water than conventional cotton. In fact, the beautiful thing is, organic cotton is 80% rain-fed (yep, you heard right - just good old Mother Nature’s natural rainwater, baby!), which reduces a huge amount of pressure on local water sources.
Some experts have even claimed that of all the agricultural commodities, cotton crops are the most intensive water users among all agricultural crops; we believe it - conventional cotton farming uses around 20,000 litres of water to produce 1kg of cotton, which is essentially just enough water for one pair of jeans or a single t-shirt. The lack of need in organic farming for synthetics fertilisers or pesticides, however, means water becomes far less necessary.
Cotton also contaminates the very water it needs so much of in the first place. Fertilisers and pesticides are needed for cotton production, and without proper water management, this frequently runs off into lakes, rivers, and wetlands. Organic cotton farming reduces these levels of water pollution by 98%, as cited by a 2011 report by the Water Footprint.
2) Better for your skin and the planet
Pesticides, Chemicals, Fertilisers... Regular cotton needs all of the above to sustain. It’s estimated that one conventional cotton T-shirt actually contains around 165g of both pesticides and fertilisers. Yep, that means our organic cotton T-shirts are totally substance-free, yay! The chemicals used in conventional cotton farming pollute nearby bodies of water, the soil, and destroy habitats. The health risks of pesticide exposure have also been reported to include birth defects, reproductive disorders and weakened immune systems
But just as importantly - consumers benefit too, as it’s suggested that organic cotton products are softer and easier on your skin.
Organically cultivated cotton does not use any synthetic agricultural chemicals — e.g., fertilisers or pesticides — making it great for you, farmers, and Mother Earth! To be considered organic cotton, it must only use compost and/or animal manure as fertiliser and be grown in a field without the use of any chemicals, including:
- Chemical fertilisers
Organic cotton is also free of synthetic bleaches and dyes!
3) Less CO₂
We all know about global warming and that dreaded thing called climate change. Today, humans are responsible for dumping more than 30 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year.
Growing organic cotton creates fewer greenhouse gas emissions - organic cotton emits around 1/2 the level of CO₂ compared to regular cotton. Because it is natural as opposed to synthetic, wearing organic cotton will help you make your carbon footprint even smaller!
Sadly, we are responsible for dumping more than 30 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year. By wearing organic cotton, you are potentially cutting carbon emissions in half!
4) Promotes healthier, safer working conditions
We’ve already covered why organic cotton is better for the planet, but what about people working with it? Organic cotton farming protects these workers by promoting healthier, safer working conditions. In a lot of countries, cotton is still picked by hand, thus exposing those to all the toxic chemicals, fertilisers, and pesticides used in traditional cotton farming.
These toxins can seep into the water supply, affecting the wider community, too. By choosing organic cotton instead, you’re supporting safer working environments and livelihoods for all those involved in the production line.
5) Investing in the demand
The more you buy organic, the cheaper organic products become. Often, people avoid purchasing organic products because these generally come with a steeper price tag. For those of us on a budget, we sometimes see this word as a clear indicator to find its non-organic and cheaper alternative. The more people that support organic, however, the cheaper it will become and the more options will become available - and this is undoubtedly true of organic cotton. By purchasing organic cotton products, you are investing in:
- Water conservation
- Cleaner air
- Better soil
- Farmer livelihoods
- Ethical and greener businesses - like Plant Faced Clothing!
But… Why is organic cotton clothing more expensive?
You might’ve noticed organic cotton products always seem to be a lot more expensive (sad face). That’s not without reason or because anyone’s trying to rip you off - put simply, growing organic cotton just costs more, much more, as organic cotton fields yield around 40% less than conventional cotton. To get a better harvest or yield rate, cotton farmers need to invest more on soil fertility, protecting biodiversity and preserving the environment. The risk factor for the farms being ruined by pests is much higher, due to the lack of chemicals, which also makes this type of farming a higher financial risk.
Due to its nature, organic cotton farming requires a much higher level of skill compared to traditional cotton farming - the farms need to be rotated throughout the year with other organic crops (eg food) to keep the soil in optimal health.
Additionally, to get an official organic certification (which the majority of our range holds - such as the GOTS and OEKO-TEX certifications) to prove with 100% confidence that the product truly meets all organic farming standards, is a strict and expensive process for manufacturers. Eg. one criteria is that the farm must be chemical-free for a minimum of 3 years before it can be officially certified. It can take years before the soil of an organic farm can be nutrient-dense enough to sustain enough yield.
One mishap in the supply chain journey can also erase the manufacturer's eligibility to the certification - all steps along the way right down from the mill to the garment factory need to follow the organic-certified requirements in order to keep the organic certification.
On top of all this, 99% of the demand in the world is for conventional cotton - meaning consumers are paying for non-organic far more frequently than organic, meaning the supply can’t economically sustain itself until the demand increases. This starts with every consumer’s choice to buy organic vs. non-organic, and support the growth of the organic cotton industry.
Ready to make the switch?
If you're as convinced as we are that organic cotton is the best cotton for ourselves and the planet, make sure to support brands that have committed to switching to organic in their products, like Plant Faced Clothing! ;)
We as consumers need to keep investing in the supply and building the demand for suppliers, to make this type of farming the status quo in the textile industry.
If you’re ready to add some sick street-wear inspired garments made with 100% organic cotton to your new nature-friendly wardrobe, we’ve got good news for you - ALL of our T-Shirts (short sleeved & long sleeved) are made with the finest 100% certified organic cotton, with a majority of the rest of our range following suit.
Curious to keep on reading?
To find out more about organic cotton, the benefits of purchasing and wearing it, and everything in-between, be sure to check out these additional informative articles...
- What is Organic Cotton? For About Organic Cotton
- Just How Sustainable is Organic Cotton? By Polly Michelle Cunanan for Eco Warrior Princess
- All Your Questions About Eco-Friendly Cotton Answered for Eco Cult
- Protecting Our Planet and Protecting Ourselves: The Importance of Organic Cotton by David Dietz for The Huffington Post