WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN STANDARD & ORGANIC COTTON?
We often get asked about why we use and believe in Organic Cotton rather than the usual Standard Cotton. What is wrong with Standard Cotton? Is Organic Cotton really better for us and the planet?
Cotton is the most popular fabric in the world and accounts for more than half of all fibre needs across the globe. To keep up with this demand cotton farmers often resort to an intensive artificial means of production, using excessive amounts of pesticides and incredibly heavy water consumption. The products manufactured with this type of cotton tend to be full of chemicals, can be damaging to the skin, cause allergic reactions and damaging to the environment. The pesticides used affect the soil, leech into the water tables, damage the local natural resources and disturb the ecological balance of the surrounding area. The process of cotton production causes damage through out the chain from seed to harvest and all this unnecessary harm to the environment to produce only a single T-shirt on account of profit over the planet!
Due to recent global events and media coverage people around the globe are finally waking up to the realisation that the textiles industry is one of the biggest polluters of the environment. People are realising that we need to be more environmentally conscious when it comes to purchasing garments, people are doing this by selecting what they are made of, finding out who and how they’re made and making sure to reuse or donate the clothes once they no longer fit or want them. Thankfully with more attention focused on these environmental issues it has opened the door for better production methods and an increased demand for responsibly farmed organic cotton.
Purity of the Cotton
The purity of cotton fibres is judged from the way the cotton is picked; cotton is either handpicked or machine picked. Organic cotton is completely handpicked, which is more labour intensive but it ensures the preservation and purity of every fibre. Where as regular cotton has an unnecessarily high demand created by the fast fashion industry and therefore it is usually machine-picked to cope with this. Machine picking doesn’t maintain the purity of the fibres, damages them in the picking process, which leads to clothes being weaker and having a much shorter life span than that of organic.
Organic cotton products are softer than regular cotton because of the longer fibres resulting from the hand picked process. Being handpicked ensures these fibres don’t get weakened or broken, resulting in softer and more durable products.
What if the regular cotton was picked by hand meaning that it would last longer and therefore negate some of its environmental impact? True, this would mean that the products would last longer but it would not help reduce the other negative elements involved in the farming process.
lntensive cotton farming starts with genetically modified seeds (GMO). They are modified to build a resistance towards bugs, but over time more pesticides are required. Organic cotton is produced using 100% natural seeds so there is no use of pesticides or other harmful chemicals. The bugs are controlled by the use of other insects that kill the pests. As a result, organic cotton products are safer for the skin and the process is much safer for the workers involved in both production and harvesting.
Intensive cotton is grown on the same soil repeatedly which deteriorates the quality of the soil, removes the variation of natural nutrients found in the soil and leads to an unhealthy crop harvest. The crops require more water as they are forced and irrigated heavily. This leads to immense amounts of water wastage which takes the pesticides with it into the water tables, the surrounding rivers, streams and eventually the ocean.
Organic cotton benefits from crop rotation from one soil to another so the natural nutrients are retained and the water is held for longer, this in turn means that the land requires less irrigation and produces much healthier crops. Following this process allows farmers to grow food on the same land and allows them to diversify their income. Growing food or other crops helps to ensure organic farmers against crop failure, climate variability, price volatility and changes in market demand.
It takes 2,700 litres of water to make one T-shirt using intensive cotton farming methods.
The weeding process of intensive cotton farming uses herbicide chemicals to kill off the weeds. The use of such toxic chemicals affects the quality of crops and harms the farmers working on the land. Out of the total amount of pesticides used in farming, more than 25% is used for cotton production. This constant use of insecticides and carcinogens can lead to life threatening illnesses for farmers and can dramatically affect the neighbouring environment. In organic cotton manufacturing, weeding is done only by hand, with no harmful substances used in the process, this causes no harm to the people who are cultivating the crop.
Up to 77 million cotton workers suffer poisoning from pesticides each year.(http://cottonedon.org/)
Processing intensively farmed cotton uses a large amount of chemicals. Even after washing the finished product, the residue of these harmful chemicals remains and can cause irritations on the skin and allergies.
Organic cotton can still be dyed using traditional toxic chemicals but that voids the whole idea and concept of Organic Cotton. The best is to use natural, water based dyes which are in a closed loop system which ensures the water isn’t dumped into the natural environment and can be used and dealt with as needed. At Charmio we ensure that our T-Shirts are dyed using safe water based alternatives to chemical dyes and whitening agents. Natural or water-based dyes are used to ensure that the balance and benefits gained by the organic cotton are not lost in this stage of the process. Organic cotton is softer, hypo-allergic and lasts for a long time due to the picking process. The most important benefit of this natural fibre is protecting the ecosystem, reducing water wastage and ensuring a safer working environment for the farmers and manufacturers. Organic cotton is therefore a sustainable and Eco-friendly alternative to regular cotton. The future must be sustainable or there will be no future at all!
This is why at Charmio we only use organic cotton and any polyester that is necessary in our clothing is recycled. All the Organic Cotton we use has GOTS certification which is incredibly important to maintain the high standards the industry needs.
The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is the international standard for textile processing for organic fibres. The GOTS certification isn’t only about the cotton growing process but it also includes social and ecological criteria, backed and certified independently throughout the supply chain. The link to GOTS is here.
Charmio Organic Wear is committed to ethical, sustainable fashion, being socially responsible, favourable to the environment, and the health of everyone involved from field to customer. All of this is within the reach of an eco-conscious company putting the planet before profit.
You can read more on the adverse affects of cotton farming here: https://web.archive.org/web/20141013211441/http://www.cottonedon.org:80/Portals/1/Briefing.pdf