10 Things everyone should know about Organic Cotton
These days it is fabulous to see that there are an increasing number of manufacturers using organic cotton as a fabric for their various products, whether that means tampons, bed sheets, a kimono dressing gown, a t-shirt, or even baby nappies...
But what exactly is organic cotton and why is it so much better than the everyday conventional cotton which you find on the high street?
When organic cotton is grown, it blossoms as a small delicate flower, with soft creamy yellow petals. These turn pink, then red, and then fall off just three days later - a short and sweet life. It is only afterwards that the tiny ovary left behind grows and forms a cotton boll over a period of a few months, which in turn produces the soft fluffy cotton which we know and love!
Organic cotton is farmed without using chemicals or any other nasty products which might harm the soil and the ecosystem dependant on it. This means that it is wonderfully sustainable and the environmental benefits of growing organic cotton are huge, extending much further than you might initially imagine. It has the potential to use up to 91% less water (!!), 62% less energy and have 46% less impact upon global warming than its non-organic alternative.
Organic cotton is grown in many countries across the world, such as Syria, China, Turkey, USA, Tanzania, and many more. However, India alone accounts for two thirds of the total annual organic cotton production - a remarkable amount!
Sadly, the organic cotton supply still only makes up less than 1% of global cotton production each year. Large cotton farms have to commit to making the change from being non-organic to organic and it requires a three year waiting period before they are able to meet the high standards necessary to make the switch to a certified organic cotton merchant.
The Research Institute of Organic Agriculture have carried out a study which suggests that organic cotton production costs in India are in fact 38 percent lower. This is because farmers do not have the higher cost of chemical fertilisers and GMO seeds which conventional cotton requires. So, despite the fact that organic cotton produces a slightly smaller yield than non-organic cotton, they can still get a good amount of produce from their cotton crop, making it economically possible to sustainably grow organic cotton.
It is much more difficult to harvest without the aid of chemicals and manufacturing costs are generally higher because organic cotton is tougher to clean and prepare. Since the organic cotton market is considerably smaller than its non-organic alternative, it means that shipping, advertising and marketing are all more labour intensive and less cost effective.
Due to the fact that organic cotton is created naturally it is typically longer lasting and more durable than its non organic alternative. The individual threads of cotton are thicker since they have not been infiltrated by chemicals and more comfortable - an added bonus! The oldest fragment of cotton is amazingly thought to be 5000 years old, found by archaeologists in an ancient town named Mohenjo Daro in the Indus River Valley, Pakistan.
Conventional cotton can still have residual toxins in it which are inevitably harmful for your skin, especially if it is sensitive or you are prone to allergies from synthetic fibres. In addition to this, organic cotton farmers aren’t at risk of diseases caused by pesticides and chemicals used when growing ordinary cotton. According to the organic rules and regulations these farmers have to grow a variety of different crops and produce to ensure that the soil remains fertile and rich in nutrients. This means that they are not reliant on one single crop for their sole income; a safer way for them to live as demand and the market is constantly changing.
Since it has not been treated with chemicals to reduce the damaging effects of heat, it is necessary to wash it in cold/lukewarm water or handwash it to avoid causing your beautiful organic cotton garment to shrink - anyone’s worst nightmare! For the same reasons it is important not to tumble dry it on high heat, your safest option is to leave it to drip dry instead - the natural way.
Emma Watson is just one of the many celebrities who is a strong advocate of organic cotton and sustainable clothing. As she says: ‘I don’t want to wear something on my body that hurts the environment or the people in it… It’s important to be conscious of what we’re buying and where it comes from. As consumers, we have so much power to change the world just by being careful in what we buy.”