Why Organic Cotton Is Better

Organic cotton may cost more up front, but it has substantial benefits over the long term.
By Peyton Baldwin
June 3, 2008
Add to My MSN

Cotton makes up 50 percent of the world’s fiber needs, but the majority of it is grown with toxic chemicals.
PHOTO: ISTOCKPHOTO/DAVID SUCSY


Content Tools

Related Content

Seed Testing, Seed Planting

Two readers share their innovative approaches to seed testing and seed planting.

Keep Monsanto Out of Your Home: 4 Ways to Avoid GMOs

While it's almost impossible to completely avoid GMOs, you can minimize your exposure by eating orga...

States Take Lead on Toxic Chemical Safety

Public outcry and increasing scientific evidence of the health hazards associated with chemicals suc...

Green Threads at Target: Loomstate for Target Organic Clothing Line

Natural Home editor-in-chief Robyn Griggs Lawrence is ready to shop for eco-friendly, organic cotton...

Cotton is often referred to as “the fabric of our lives,” and for good reason. We come in contact with items made from cotton every day. The clothes you wear, the sheets you sleep on, the diapers you put on your baby and even some of the food you eat have been made with cotton. But growing conventional cotton requires the use of enormous amounts of pesticides, which has a huge environmental impact and presents health risks for those working around it. It may cost less to manufacture and buy conventional cotton, but it’s better for the land, the farm workers and your well-being to choose organic whenever possible.

What Is Organic Cotton?

According to the Organic Trade Association, organic cotton is grown without the use of toxic pesticides or fertilizers. Methods such as beneficial insect releases, strip cutting of alfalfa and new weeding machinery help reduce the environmental impact of cotton crops. Third-party organizations certify that organic cotton farms use only these approved methods and do not spray toxic chemicals on their crops. In 2004, 6,814 bales of organic cotton were harvested in the United States, which is about 3.2 million pounds. That is compared to this year’s estimate of total U.S. cotton production of 19.2 million bales — over 9 trillion pounds. Globally, it is estimated that 120.5 million bales of cotton will be harvested.

Cotton and the Environment

About 25 percent of the world’s insecticide use and more than 10 percent of the world’s pesticide goes to cotton crops. 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. Some of these chemicals are considered to be the most toxic chemicals in the world. The health risks of pesticide exposure include birth defects, reproductive disorders and weaker immune systems.

In many countries, cotton is still hand picked; therefore anyone working in those fields is exposed to extreme amounts of toxic chemicals. The chemicals can also affect others in the community once they have seeped into the water supply. With so many products made from cotton, we are all exposed to these chemicals at some point. Even some baked goods, cookies and salad dressing contain cottonseed.

Water use is another issue with conventional cotton production. Crops use intensive irrigation and some estimates say cotton crops are the largest water user among agricultural crops.

Go Organic

Besides helping the environment, there are other benefits from organic cotton products. Working environments are better for those on farms and small-scale farmers save money by not having to buy large amount of pesticides. Consumers benefit too, some suggest that organic cotton products are softer and easier on your skin. Recent awareness of these benefits has increased demand of organic cotton and thus, lowered its cost.

Many companies now have organic cotton products. The Gap has introduced a baby Gap organic collection and in 2007 released a new line of men’s shirts. Women can find a variety of jeans and skirts made with organic cotton from Levi’s Eco. For your home, see Bed Bath & Beyond’s organic products. The Organic Cotton Directory is a great resource for finding other organic products.

For more information, read these other articles about organic products in your home:

Better Basics for Bringing Up Baby
Renew Your Room
Test Your Cotton Pickin’ Knowledge
Good Night, Sleep Right 


Previous | 1 | 2 | Next






Post a comment below.

 

Ray
8/11/2014 9:10:28 AM
Thanks Peyton for writing this article. I wear 100% Organic cotton socks from www.onlyfootprints.us

mary
7/11/2013 3:41:09 PM

It's so important for people to get the facts about organic cotton. I try to make most of my daughter's clothing from organic cotton and thankfully there are many reputable organic retailers online now. My personal favorite is www.organicottonplus.com


nancy mims
1/21/2011 8:09:31 AM
Thanks for spreading the word about organic cotton. Mod Green Pod uses 100% certified US-grown organic cotton to produce our home textiles. We don't use harmful chemicals in any of our processes, so our fabrics are safe for the environment, farm and textile workers, and finally, for the people who live in the homes where our textiles are used on upholstered furnishings, drapes, shades, and accessories.

Peaceful Disorder
12/2/2008 2:47:37 PM
I know from first hand that organic cotton clothing is a great way to naturally alleviate some skin conditions. That is an easy call since conventional methods of cotton production use such harsh chemicals. I have heard some varying numbers on the amount, but everyone agrees the chemicals just are bad for the earth and us. "Traditional cotton production also attributes to 25% of worldwide insecticide use and 10% of worldwide pesticide use." www.peacefuldisorder.com








Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 66% Off the Cover Price

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
Country:
Email:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Lighten the Strain on the Earth and Your Budget

MOTHER EARTH NEWS is the guide to living — as one reader stated — “with little money and abundant happiness.” Every issue is an invaluable guide to leading a more sustainable life, covering ideas from fighting rising energy costs and protecting the environment to avoiding unnecessary spending on processed food. You’ll find tips for slashing heating bills; growing fresh, natural produce at home; and more. MOTHER EARTH NEWS helps you cut costs without sacrificing modern luxuries.

At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet’s natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. That’s why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.00 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.00 for 6 issues.