Conventional VS Organic Cotton

 

Conventional Cotton

Organic Cotton

Environment 

Agrochemicals 

Uses 25% of the world’s insecticides and 10% of the world’s pesticides.  

No insecticides or pesticides, utilizes natural solutions such as organic foliar sprays. 

Water 

Uses over 250 billion tons of water every year. 

Uses 90% less water. 

Habitat 

Pollutes waterways, soil, and air poisoning a wide range of wildlife. Depletes soil. Releases 220 million tons of CO2 a year. 

Does not pollute habitat. Uses growing systems that replenish soil. Has 46% lower CO2 emissions. 

Health 

Toxins 

Grown with GMOs. Majority of pesticides and insecticides used are known carcinogens or endocrine disruptors. Bleached with chlorine, dyed with heavy metals, and finished with formaldehyde. 

Not genetically modified. Grown using natural remedies such as beneficial predatory insects and neem oil. Cleaned,dyed, and finished with natural alternatives. 

Effects 

Can negatively affect sleep, concentration, and memory. Can lead to asthma, allergies, and skin diseases. 

No toxins. Completely safe and trustworthy on your skin.  

Community 

Safety 

Third world countries have a lack of equipment and knowledge about pesticide poisoning. Many children can be found applying pesticides. 

Organic cotton is hand picked without the use of defoliants, machinery, or chemicals. Farmers receive a high price for their cotton, which can elevate entire communities out of poverty. 

Effects 

250,000 deaths a year are caused by pesticide poisoning in developing countries. Farmers and their communities suffer a wide range of problems including respiratory illnesses, neurological disorders, and endocrine system disruptions. 

No pesticides used. No negative effects on farmers or their communities. 

 
 
Why Organic Cotton?
 
Do you need to be buying organic cotton? With the onset of so many different environmental, health, and social issues, you may be wondering if organic cotton is one you can bypass. However, with cotton as an essential part of our daily lives and half of our textile industry, it is something we need to pay attention to. Conventional cotton’s use of GMOs. agrochemicals, and toxic finishes are harmful to our environment, health, and communities. Due to a highly chemical process, a fiber we think of as “natural” is actually considered the world’s dirtiest crop. Organic cotton is the solution, because it is grown without any toxic chemicals. It benefits the environment, and keeps you and the communities involved in it’s production healthy and safe. The quality is better than conventional cotton, and it is priced slightly higher due to its many advantages. This means investing in a piece you love and the many values it upholds. The first step to making these conscious decisions is obtaining the knowledge. 
Conventional cotton is not a small problem. It pollutes the water, soil, and air contributing to a lack of freshwater and damaging natural habitats. Conventional cotton’s global consumption of water is a shocking 250 billion tons a year. Majority of the pesticides and insecticides used are known carcinogens or endocrine disruptors. It is bleached, dyed, and finished with toxins such as chlorine, heavy metals, and formaldehyde. These chemicals can be absorbed through our skin and cause a wide range of issues, such as memory loss, asthma, allergies, and skin diseases. All these chemicals do not just impact our health, but severely affect those involved in its production. In third world countries, where there is a lack of proper safety equipment and knowledge there are 250,000 deaths a year from pesticide poisoning. 
Organic cotton is grown with zero pesticides or insecticides, and utilizes natural solutions such as beneficial predatory insects and crop rotation. It’s growing systems not only have a low impact on the environment, but replenish the soil and contribute to biodiversity. These methods of production use 90% less water than regular cotton. It is cleaned, dyed, and finished with natural alternatives, such as potato starch and low impact dyes. Organic cotton is completely safe and trustworthy on your skin. The absence of chemicals also makes the fiber stronger, helping your clothes last longer. Farmers and their communities suffer no negative effects when growing organic cotton and receive a higher price for the crop. This can elevate entire communities out of poverty. 
 
Environment 
 
Conventional cotton’s most notable environmental impacts result from the extensive use of agrochemicals (especially pesticides). Cotton is sprayed with more chemicals than any crop in the world. It is estimated that conventional cotton uses 25% of the world’s insecticides and 10% of the world’s pesticides. Over 2.6 billion is spent on cotton pesticides every year. When you purchase one conventional cotton T-shirt, you are using one-quarter of a pound of chemicals. If you switch to organic, there are no toxic pesticides or insecticides. Instead organic cotton utilizes natural solutions like sulfur dust and organic acid-based foliar sprays. 
Due to the large amounts of chemicals in conventional cotton, the majority of the water involved in its production is non-reusable. This leads to enormous amounts of water consumption. Global cotton production uses over 250 billion tons of water in a single year. It is considered the second biggest polluter in the world of clean water. A shocking, twenty percent of global freshwater pollution comes from textile treatment and dyeing. By 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population will struggle with shortages of freshwater, and be exposed to hazardous chemicals caused by textile production. Organic cotton uses only 10% of the amount of water compared to conventional cotton. Another benefit is it is 80% rain-fed, which decreases pressure on local water sources.
Conventional cotton does not just pollute waterways, but also soil and air, causing destruction to natural habitats. Rivers, lakes, and wetlands are polluted, poisoning many fish, water dwelling creatures, and animals dependent on these water sources. In the United States alone, biologists estimate millions of birds die every year due to agrochemicals sprayed on cotton and other crops. Growing cotton depletes and degrades the soil, making it essential to consistently damage new areas. With every new patch of land, chemicals from production seep into the ground, harming organisms in the soil. It also is estimated that globally cotton releases an alarming 220 million tons of CO2 a year, and this number is only going to keep increasing. Organic cotton uses growing systems that replenish soil fertility and help create biologically diverse agriculture. This results in 26% lower soil erosion and 46% lower CO2 emissions.
 
Health 
 
Cotton also has a direct impact on our health. We think about what we put in our bodies, but what about what we put on our skin? The skin is actually the largest organ in our bodies, and the main organ for absorption. We wear clothing all day long, and most people are wearing cotton in some part of their day. It is commonly used in athletic clothing, underwear, and socks. This increases absorption, because sweat opens your pores. You may think, “why don’t I just wash the chemicals out before wearing?” However, getting these hazardous toxins out of cotton is nearly impossible. This makes it all the more important to choose organically. 
From the initial cotton seed to the finished garment, toxins are added at each step. To start, it is often grown with genetically modified seeds. The crop is then sprayed with Roundup (where the primary ingredient is glyphosate, a known carcinogen), along with many other dangerous pesticides and insecticides. Five out of the top nine pesticides used on cotton, are known cancer-causing chemicals. While all nine of them are classified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as Category One and Two dangerous chemicals.  Along with this, hundreds of ingredients in insecticides used on cotton, have been classified by the EPA and other scientific authorities as carcinogenic and/or endocrine disruptors. Once picked, the cotton is bleached with chlorine, washed with sodium hydroxide and nonylphenol ethoxylates (an endocrine disruptor), and dyed with heavy metals. Finally, it is finished with ammonia and formaldehyde (a known carcinogen). Organic cotton is not genetically modified. It is grown using natural remedies against pests and insects such as crop rotations, beneficial predatory insects, and neem oil. It is cleaned, dyed, and finished with natural alternatives including natural spinning oils, potato starch, and low-impact dyes. 
The chemicals from conventional cotton being absorbed through the skin can cause chronic and serious conditions. They can negatively affect sleep, concentration, and memory. It can also lead to asthma, allergies, and skin diseases. Lambda Cyhalothrin, is an example of an insecticide that has been“classified as an endocrine disruptor, [which] can present reproductive toxicity,” according to a recent study from the Pesticide Action Network UK. Many of the chemicals used in the conventional cotton process are known cancer-causing chemicals. Organic cotton’s absence of toxins, makes it completely safe, comfortable, and trustworthy on your skin.
The degree of danger and amount of toxic chemicals is out of control. Only the most highly toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde are regulated in the United States. In third world countries, regulations are more than lacking. With the majority of brands still manufacturing cotton overseas, there is no real control over what chemicals are used. In order to ensure that you are buying cotton that protects your health, look for a GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) tag. This certifies that the cotton contains at least 95% organic fibers and does not contain any toxic substances. 
   
Community  
 
With these lack of regulations in third world countries, cotton production is extremely dangerous for farmers and their communities. Cotton production supports approximately 100 million rural families around the globe. It is the mainstay of the economies of some of the poorest countries in the world. The top five producers of cotton are India, the United States, China, Brazil, and Pakistan. More than 90% of pesticide fatalities are believed to occur in developing countries. This is due to a lack of adequate equipment and access to knowledge about pesticide poisoning. For example, most growers do not have access to gas masks while they are spraying cotton with chemicals. Most safety labels on the pesticides and insecticides are written in different languages, making it impossible for farmers to read. In less regulated countries, many children can be found applying pesticides. Organic cotton farmers do not have to handle any toxics. The cotton is hand picked, especially in developing countries without the use of defoliants, machinery, or chemicals. They also receive a high price for their cotton, which can elevate entire communities out of poverty.
The World Health Organization estimated that a staggering 250,000 deaths a year are caused by pesticide poisoning in developing countries, along with farmers suffering a range of problems due to misuse of chemicals. This includes respiratory illnesses, reproductive effects, neurological disorders, learning disabilities, and endocrine system disruptions. Children are especially vulnerable to toxic exposure, because their organ systems are still forming. The children living in poverty are the hardest hit with poor nutrition, weakened respiratory and immune systems, and inadequate health care. Several studies are tracking impairment and behavior problems in children exposed to pesticides. These pesticides do not damage just those involved in production, but affect the entire community, through the contamination of their air and water.
The reasons to switch to organic cotton are endless, and the range of effects from chemicals in conventional cotton is staggering. After reading this you will be shocked to hear that less than one percent of cotton is grown organically. We can and must do better. The majority of us recognize the multitude of environmental issues, but are often too overwhelmed to know where to make a difference. It starts with companies such as ours who invest in our planet, our health, and the wellbeing of others. All you have to do is choose to buy organically. You will not only be decreasing your environmental and social footprint, but making a step forward to a much needed change.
   
 
 By Briana Goewert

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