Organic Cotton vs. Conventional Cotton

Here’s a horrific and attention-grabbing statistic to start you off. Did you know that according to the World Health Organization (WHO), twenty thousand people die of cancer or miscarriages a year in developing countries as a result of the chemicals sprayed on conventional cotton?

Did you know that farm workers frequently suffer from asthma, neurological damage, and cancer? And that these chemicals can cause serious problems for pregnant women, including miscarriage?

Did you know that when a piece of clothing advertises itself as 100% cotton, it’s actually around 27% chemicals, resins, and binders? That’s how saturated conventional cotton is.

25% of the world’s Insecticides and 10% of the world’s Pesticides are used on cotton crops alone.

This is entirely avoidable. Cotton can be farmed with zero chemical additives – and when it is, it is labeled Organic Cotton.

Organic cotton is increasing, especially in boutique and custom shops in the baby & kids clothes industries. Families are educating themselves more and understanding that there’s a genuine reason why Organic Cotton costs more than conventional cotton.

At the end of the day Organic Cotton does come with a price – the harvests are smaller and a lot more manual work is required, so obviously it costs more. Why is this pair of leggings double the cost of that pair? I asked myself. Why is Organic cotton worth it? What is Organic cotton? Is it just a label? The answer is no – it’s definitely not just a label and it really does make a difference. It’s only by knowing the differences that people can make an informed decision about their purchases.

So let’s take a quick look at the growing and harvest processing differences between organic and conventional cotton. Here are five ways in which organic cotton is better than cotton through the processing stages.

Harvesting and Processing Organic Cotton

  • Seeds are not treated or modified in any way.
  • Soil quality is increased through crop rotation, rather than chemicals.
  • Weeds are manually removed rather than being removed with chemical treatments.
  • Pests are handled naturally rather than removed with chemicals.
  • Harvest relies on seasonal freeze and natural cycles.

Harvesting and Processing Conventional Cotton

  • Seeds are treated with fungicides or insecticides.
  • Seeds may be genetically modified organisms (GMO).
  • Synthetic fertilizers are used to increase growth.
  • Herbicides are used to inhibit weed growth.
  • Insecticides and pesticides are used for pest control.
  • Aerial spraying may be used, which can affect large non-crop areas.
  • Chemicals are used during the harvest.

As you can see, conventional cotton relies heavily on chemicals at every step of the way. Cotton can be farmed without the use of any chemicals, but this is a slower and more expensive process. Every single one of the chemicals used can be harmful to the environment, and insecticides and pesticides contain some of the most toxic chemicals that can legally be used. This can cause problems with water supplies and with air quality (especially on farms that use aerial spraying, which is the quickest way to distribute pesticides) to neighbouring communities and towns.

So the number one benefit for Organic cotton is simply that it is environmentally and ecologically better – for the local community and for the entire world. But that’s not the only benefit. Here are five compelling reasons!

The Top 5 Benefits of Organic Cotton

  • Eco-friendly.
  • Environmentally friendly (drastically reduced air, soil and water pollution).
  • Softer than conventional cotton.
  • More absorbent than conventional cotton.
  • Hypoallergenic – far more suitable for those who have sensitive skin or allergies.

The last one is particularly important to me. I have very sensitive skin; even using a biological washing powder makes me come out in a rash. William too has inherited my sensitive skin, with his extremely fair complexion that he definitely gets from me. When you add up the benefits of using Organic Cotton it seems clear to me that this is something I want to try and support where ever possible.

That’s why I’m trying to shop with small producers, independent shops and hand-made workers on Etsy and Instagram, to support both Organic cotton and sustainable farming, and to have my money going directly back to the maker, cutting out the middleman at every step of the journey!

 

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7 thoughts on “Organic Cotton vs. Conventional Cotton

  1. Cheryl | Time To Craft says:

    It is shocking. I’ve always tried to buy organic cotton when I can, for the reason you give. Both for clothes and the fabric that I use to sew with, but it is not always possible. To get round this to a certain point, I try to buy secondhand. Ok the chemicls may still be there, but at least it is one less item’s worth of cotton being produced. #MMBC

  2. Tara C says:

    I didn’t know ANY of this. I always thought organic was a bit pretentious just meaning the soil didn’t have any additives but didn’t really understand what that meant other than it costing more. Great information. Would love more green posts to help us make informed choices.

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