From environmental impact to health considerations, we unravel the distinctive qualities of organic cotton fabric that make it the superior choice for both people and the planet. Cotton is the second most used fiber in the clothing industry (30%), just after polyester (50%). In this article, we delve into the compelling reasons why organic cotton surpasses its conventional counterpart.
Join us as we explore the merits of organic cotton and its significant role in shaping a more sustainable future for the fashion industry. Also make sure to check out certified organic cotton fabrics on Satori.
Reason 1: less chemicals
Organic cotton farming reduces chemical pollution and soil degradation. According to the Textile Exchange's 2019 Organic Cotton Market Report, organic cotton cultivation avoids the use of synthetic pesticides and genetically modified organisms, which contribute to environmental pollution. Conventional cotton farming accounts for approximately 16% of global insecticide use and 7% of pesticide use, as reported by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
Reason 2: farmers’ health and safety
A study conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the United States found that individuals working in conventional cotton farming had higher rates of respiratory and neurological disorders compared to those working in organic cotton farming. The World Health Organization (WHO) highlights the health risks associated with pesticide exposure in conventional cotton farming, which can lead to acute and chronic health issues for farmers and field workers.
Reason 3 & 4: water conservation, biodiversity
The Textile Exchange's 2019 Organic Cotton Market Report states that organic cotton uses 91% less water compared to conventional cotton farming methods. Conventional cotton cultivation requires substantial amounts of water due to irrigation practices and the higher water demands of genetically modified cotton varieties.
A study published in the journal Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment found that organic cotton fields had higher biodiversity, including a greater abundance and diversity of beneficial insects, compared to conventional cotton fields. Conventional cotton farming often involves the use of pesticides and genetically modified seeds, which can negatively impact beneficial insect populations and disrupt ecosystem balance.
Reason 5 & 6: soil health, reduced water pollution
Research published in the journal Agronomy for Sustainable Development indicates that organic cotton farming improves soil quality by enhancing organic matter content, microbial activity, and nutrient cycling compared to conventional cotton farming. Conventional cotton farming practices, such as heavy chemical use and monocropping, can degrade soil health over time, leading to reduced fertility and increased reliance on synthetic inputs.
The avoidance of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides in organic cotton farming helps reduce water pollution caused by chemical runoff. This benefits water quality and protects aquatic ecosystems from contamination. Chemical runoff from conventional cotton farming can contaminate water sources and pose risks to aquatic life, as highlighted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Reason 7: climate change mitigation
Organic cotton farming often incorporates practices that promote carbon sequestration, such as the use of cover crops. This helps mitigate climate change by capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it in the soil. According to the Soil Association, organic farming systems, including organic cotton cultivation, have the potential to sequester more carbon in the soil compared to conventional farming systems.
Reason 8: enhanced rural livelihoods
Organic cotton farming provides economic opportunities for small-scale farmers in developing countries. By adopting organic practices, farmers can access niche markets, receive fair prices, and improve their income and livelihoods. The Fairtrade Foundation reports that organic and fair trade certified cotton provides small-scale farmers with better incomes and working conditions, contributing to poverty reduction and sustainable rural development.
Reason 9: consumers’ health benefits
Organic cotton is free from the residual traces of synthetic chemicals, making it a healthier choice for consumers. This is particularly true for those who already suffer from skin sensitivity or skin conditions like eczema.
Organic cotton fabric certificates
After covering the key reasons why organic cotton surpasses conventional, it is essential we look into what to look for when trying to find organic cotton fabric. Luckily there are plenty of certifications out there to help you out.
Below, we’ve outlined some established ones to look for.
- Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS): GOTS is recognized as the leading standard for organic textiles globally, including organic cotton. It ensures the entire supply chain meets strict environmental and social criteria, from farming to processing, manufacturing, and labeling.
- Organic Content Standard (OCS): OCS verifies the presence and amount of organic material in a product. It certifies that the final product contains a specified minimum percentage of organically grown materials, including organic cotton.
- USDA Organic: The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Organic certification ensures that organic cotton grown in the United States follows strict organic farming practices, prohibiting the use of synthetic pesticides and GMOs.
- Organic Exchange (OE) 100 and OE Blended: These certifications, now part of the Textile Exchange, ensure that products contain 100% organic fiber (OE 100) or a specified percentage of organic fiber in combination with other materials (OE Blended). You can find more information in the same Textile Exchange link above.
- Soil Association Organic Standard: The Soil Association certification is a widely recognized organic standard in the United Kingdom. It guarantees that organic cotton meets stringent criteria for organic farming practices and supply chain transparency.
- Global Recycled Standard (GRS): GRS verifies the use of recycled materials, including recycled organic cotton. It ensures the responsible sourcing and traceability of recycled inputs throughout the supply chain.
- Better Cotton Initiative (BCI): While not exclusively focused on organic cotton, BCI promotes the use of more sustainable cotton farming practices, including reduced pesticide use and water conservation, which align with organic principles.
- Fairtrade: Fairtrade certification guarantees fair prices and working conditions for cotton farmers, including those producing organic cotton. It promotes social and economic empowerment for small-scale farmers.
- Textile Exchange Organic Content Standard 100 (OCS 100): Similar to OCS, OCS 100 certifies the presence and amount of organic material in a product. It ensures that the final product contains 100% organic content. You can also find the information in the same Textile Exchange link above.
- KRAV: KRAV is an organic certification standard from Sweden, encompassing various agricultural products, including organic cotton. It sets strict requirements for organic farming practices, processing, and labeling.
These certifications provide assurance to consumers that products labeled as organic cotton meet specific standards for organic farming, environmental sustainability, and social responsibility.
All data as of Q3 2021
What are your thoughts on organic cotton fabric?
Share with us your thoughts on the benefits of organic cotton fabric and if you agree with the reasons articulated before why it’s superior to its conventional counterpart.