10 Things You Should Know About Organic Cotton

Organic cotton is grown, processed, and finished in ways that focus on building healthy ecosystems and reducing the use of toxic pesticides, and chemicals.

Cotton is one of the most widely grown crops on our planet, and conventional cotton is one of the most chemically intense crops with serious consequences for our air, water, soil, and climate as well as the health of the workers involved.

Organic cotton is grown, processed, dyed, and finished with methods that have a focus on building ecosystem health and reducing the use of toxic pesticides, fertilizers, and dangerous processing chemicals.

1)  Let’s define exactly what organic cotton is.

  Source: Photo courtesy of Gallant International Inc.

What exactly makes it “organic?” How can one be sure it is 100% organic? Organic cotton means that it can’t be grown using chemical toxic pesticides, sewage sludge, man-made fertilizer, or genetically modified organisms (GMO) OR seeds.  Cotton grown organically also needs to comply to strict growing methods that build up soil health and land bio-diversity.

To be “organic”, the cotton crop has to follow strict guidelines that protect the health of all parts of the production chain, from the soil, the farmers, the environment  up until it is purchased by the end consumer.

Items with the “organic” label can’t be treated with formaldehyde, chlorine bleach, or any other poisonous substances and have to be dyed with natural, non-toxic dyes.  Manufacturers using organic cotton must have policies in place to police their factories to lessen the impact on the environment.  They also have to be cognizant of their packaging-materials like PVC can’t be used in packaging for “organic” labeled products.

The most sure-fire way to make sure what you are purchasing is truly organic is to look for the “GOTS” certification.  GOTS stands for The Global Organic Textile Standard. To be GOTS certified products have to prove that they are:

Processed without toxic chemicals, formaldehyde, or microscopic particles of these types of things.

Phosphate-based, chlorinated, and brominated flame retardants can’t be used

Chlorine bleach can’t be used on organic cotton

Any and all coloring dyes must be non-toxic

Production techniques must be safe for the workers

Substances like PVC  can’t be used in their packaging.

These are just a few of the many conditions that organic cotton must meet.

2) It is growing in popularity.

 Source:  Courtesy of Terra Thread

Organic cotton is showing up in a variety of products from apparel, to accessories to home goods. Globally, the production of organic cotton is up 56%, reaching 180,971 metric tons in the 2017-2018 harvest year. Organic cotton is grown in 19 countries worldwide, with production coming from locals such as India, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey, Tajikistan, United States and Tanzania.

In textiles, organic cotton  has been growing more popular with sales of over $2 billion in 2019, growth of over 12%.  In 2019, the amount of global GOTS certified manufacturing chains grew 35% from 5,700 to 7,765 across 70 counties.  Nearly 24,000 bales of organic cotton were harvested in the US alone in 2019.

3) It uses way fewer chemicals than conventional cotton growing.

Cotton grown by conventional processes is most likely one of the most toxic crops on the planet. Conventional cotton is GMO and takes up only around 2.5% of cropland but eats up about a quarter of the entire worlds' use of pesticides.  These pesticides use harmful chemicals such as aldicarb, paraquat, and glyphosate.  Glyphosate has been linked to type 2 diabetes, cancer, metabolic syndrome, obesity, and depression and is classified by the World Health Organization as “probably carcinogenic to humans”.

The chemicals used in conventional cotton farming can negatively affect entire ecosystems, from penetrating into the water supply to being consumed by the plants to ending up in the cotton itself.  The dyes that are used in the end product is not all environmentally safe either and may end up also being flushed into the water supply.

In contrast, only organic-approved herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers from animals, minerals, and plants can be used in organic farming to keep away disease and pests.

If all cotton was organically produced, it would cut the worlds' use of pesticides by 25%.  Think of that.  That is pretty significant.

4) Using organic methods to grow cotton can help make a positive impact in the fight against climate change.

The recent tragedy in Northern India throws this to a relevant, current affair light.

Due to rising global temperatures, a Himalayan glacier collapsed into a river, sending a surge of water, rocks, and debris down a mountain and crashing through a dam.  This terrible event has taken 26 lives, with more missing. This area is not alone in succumbing to the effects of climate change.  Researchers say recently glaciers have lost about 8 billion tons of water PER year, the equivalent of 3.2 million Olympic swimming pools. This water loss is a threat in waiting to millions of people.

Farming organically can make an impact by keeping the soil healthier.  Healthy soil can help mitigate extreme weather like droughts and floods. Growing cotton organically can potentially contribute to reducing global warming by 46% compared to conventional cotton. Because of the strict methods required to be certified organic, there is approximately 26% less water pollution, 62% less energy consumption, and 70% less potential for acid rain.

Organic cotton farming and manufacturing can be a key component to fighting climate change.

5) Organic cotton growing uses less water.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aral_Sea#/media/File:AralSea1989_2014.jpg

Conventional GMO cotton cultivation uses a lot of water. For example, about 1800 gallons of water are consumed to make 1 pair of jeans. According to National Geographic, the Aral Sea shrank to 10% of its original size due to a combination of natural incidents like drought and water deflection to cotton farms.  Compare that to organic cotton production which consumes 71-91% less water than conventional farming and approximately 62% less energy to produce it.

6) Organic cotton farming is good for bio-diversity.

 Source: Photo by Jason Ng on Unsplash

 An abundance of biodiversity is incredibly important to the well-being of our planet.  It takes a  variety of life forms to maintain an ecological balance with all organisms contributing and having a role to play.  An ecosystem with healthy biodiversity supports more vegetation and hence a greater variety of crops.  Rich biodiversity protects freshwater sources, helps break down pollution, promotes carbon sequestering.  Higher soil fertility means fewer weeds and pests. Healthy biodiversity helps to recycle and store nutrients in the soil, positively influence and help stabilize the climate. 

7) Research keeps coming in supporting its initiatives.

The United States has recently undertaking the surveying and documenting real-world impacts of organic cotton farming practices are having on the environment.

Iowa State University recently had a project that surveyed organic cotton producers and processors to better understand the exact approaches and methods used in organic cotton production and processing, and the environmental impacts of those techniques. Some of their findings were:

40% of survey farmers noticed an uptick in beneficial insects on their farms since going organic. 

Organic cotton farmers are using “cover” crops like rye and clover as rotational crops the manage soil nutrition, disease, and pests.

Many Organic cotton farmers use technology to reduce water usage such as drip irrigation or “dryland" production which is used to conserve soil moisture without any water.

8) A brief history of organic cotton.

The 1st certified organic cotton product was brought to market in the early 1990s with cotton grown as a rotational crop on certified organic farms.  These products were mostly marketed for their ecological qualities, instead of their aesthetics, or quality, and sold in health food or natural stores.

In the early ’90s, brands like H&M and Esprit bubbled organic cotton up to the mainstream, taking inspiration from environmental movements and spawned the “eco look”.  This exposed the concept of organic cotton to customers outside of the natural and health food shops.  Consumers became aware of the production of the fiber, textiles and how it was dyed. The colors were very muted or ecru. At the time, there was no governing of organic standards, and this caused confusion about the multiple marketing statements being made about the product.  The movement fizzled out around 1994 when the trend moved toward synthetics and bright colors.

The quality, color capacity, and design of organic cotton goods got better in the later 1990s.  As the available options grew, the offering of textiles and products using organic  cotton began to grow.  The Organic Exchange was formed as an organic cotton business network around that time.  The demand stabilized with organic cotton just being a random feature or selling point.

Between 2000-2005,  brought terms like “sweatshops” and child labor” into the common vernacular.  Some larger US companies became increasingly concerned about their brand images.  Companies became aware that being involved in the organic supply chain could be an asset to their images.  At the time, organic cotton cost significantly more than conventional cotton, and, rather than risk buying huge quantities of organic fiber and sitting on it, there was a compromise reached by using organic cotton as a percentage of their total fiber content, with the intent to increase it over time.  This proved successful for many brands, for example, Nike increased its organic cotton use so by 2005, it was a leader in organic cotton usage.  This encouraged other brands to do the same.

 Source: https://www.intracen.org/The-organic-cotton-market/

 By 2006,  more large and  medium sized brands and textile companies followed suit.  Per the Organic Exchange, at least 35 companies were running organic cotton by this time, plus another 2000 or so smaller brands using organic cotton worldwide.

The desire for organic cotton is still on the rise, with 100% organic cotton regularly on show at global fabric trade fairs such as Magic and Premiere Vision.  They have flowed into multiple distribution channels such as mail order, boutiques, e-commerce, supermarkets, natural and health food stores in an array of products from clothing, to footwear, bags, and home goods.

9) Cotton is used in a ton of things so consider the importance of organic cotton.

 Source: Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash

One heavy hitter is cottonseed oil.  This product comes from cotton, is made for human consumption and found in food processing and many common consumable products, for example and is the chief  ingredient in Crisco.

Vitamin E-comes from cottonseed oil.

Cotton cellulose fiber leftover bits are added to a variety of foods as a stabilizer and increase serving portions without adding calories.  Peoples bodies can’t digest cellulose so it helps meet the desire for low cal/high fiber food.

The cellulose itself is actually more or less plastic and is used in many edibles such as ice cream, cream, milk powder, cheese, whey products, canned beans, processed fruit, breakfast cereal, to name a few.  It’s even used combined with silicon to coat cheese to help it melt better on pizza.

Some brands of pizza cheese consist of cellulose coated cheese bits combined with silicon to help it melt better.

Knowing things like this makes organic cotton a no-brainer!

10) You can make an impact.

By choosing a consumer to purchase organic cotton, gain peace of mind knowing that your product is safe and non-toxic both to yourself and the environment.  Your purchase lends support to the organic cotton industry and supports the production chain that upholds human rights and our environmental.  As more and more people are buying organic cotton products and making conscious decisions to use their spending power for good, more and more brands are becoming influenced to switching to a more holistic, eco-friendly, and sustainable supply chain. As a result, there are a plethora of organic options available in apparel,  accessories, and home products.

We at Terra Thread Home are proud to be GOTS certified;  our parent company, Gallant International Inc. is B Corp certified, which means our supply chain, the people, and land our 100% organic cotton comes from is grown and manufactured according to the strictest environmental, ethical, and fair practices.  Additionally, Terra Thread Home is a proud participant in a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program where we support the FEEDING AMERICA initiative for helping those who are food insecure. We contribute to help end food insecurity in the U.S. through Feeding America. Through the Tony Robbins One Billion Meals Challenge, we can have double the impact.

We are proud to offer a selection of GOTS-certified 100% organic cotton high-quality, luxury feel items for your home.

 Source:  Terra thread Home

If you are looking for GOTS-certified organic sheets, 100% organic cotton sheets, ethically made and luxury quality bed sheets, Terra Thread Homes’ high-quality luxury bed sheets are the answer. Our sheets are 300TC, soft, durable with a luxury hand! 

 Source:  Terra thread Home

Further enhance your bedding with our cozy, soft, exquisitely, and ethically crafted 100% organic cotton blanket.  This all-season blanket is in a stylishly classic herringbone weave, perfect for topping your bed, and comes in a reusable muslin tote. 

If you are looking to add some organic cotton items to your bathroom, our super absorbent and luxurious 700GSM plush velour terry towel set is a perfect addition.  Woven from 2 ply low twist extra length cotton yarns these towels are deliciously soft and super absorbent. 

 Source:  Terra thread Home

Wrap yourself up after with our unisex 100% organic cotton bathrobe.  Our robe is super soft and plush, with side loops and tie front belt, and generous pockets. Made of 450 GSM woven plush terry, the yarn is a low twist for a soft bulk that lends to a cozy feel. 

Source:  Terra thread Home

We also offer options for the little ones in your life. Our versatile 100%  organic cotton muslin swaddles are a perfect addition to any nursery.  Breathable, super soft, and absorbent these organic cotton swaddles are perfect for swaddling, burping, layering your little dear one.  Made of 2 ply 100% organic cotton, they have a double-sided weave, making them a comfortable, premium item for your baby to nestle in. Additionally, because they are certified organic, you don’t have to worry about toxic dyes or any other substances that may irritate sensitive skin. 

With the availability and pricing of 100% organic cotton products becoming more and more accessible to all, the decision to purchase them becomes easier if not automatic.  By becoming more conscious consumers, we all can make an impact and lean towards positive change in the treatment of our planet and our fellow humans. 

 

https://www.organic-center.org/sites/default/files/publication_files/organiccottonenvironmentreport.pdf

https://www.organic-center.org/research/organic-farming-improves-disease-control-enhancing-soil-microbial-communities-soil-building

https://www.intracen.org/The-organic-cotton-market/

https://www.organicconsumers.org/blog/why-buy-organic-cotton

https://www.organicconsumers.org/blog/why-buy-organic-cotton

http://aboutorganiccotton.org/faq/

https://www.greenbiz.com/article/10-sustainability-and-social-impact-trends-were-watching

https://www.cnn.com/2019/06/19/world/himalayan-glaciers-melting-climate-change-scn-intl/index.html

https://www.greenmatters.com/p/is-cotton-sustainable

https://www.just-style.com/news/global-production-of-organic-cotton-surges-by-56_id137545.aspx

http://ete.cet.edu/gcc/?/biodiversity_importance/

https://goodonyou.eco/organic-for-the-planet-have-you-cottoned-on-yet/