Organic cotton is a natural fiber that is grown without the use of toxic pesticides, fertilizers or genetically modified organisms (GMOs). This approach to growing cotton is better for biodiversity and the environment.
The seeds of a cotton plant are surrounded by fluffy white fiber. The farmers take the seeds out and spin the fiber into a thread. When it gets woven into a fabric, it becomes light and breathable. Just like you know it.
This whole process, as said above, is done without any pesticides, toxic chemicals or GMOs. Also, organic cotton farming promotes healthier soil through practices such as crop rotation.
The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is a third-party certification for organic textiles. This includes garments made with organic cotton too. GOTS requires compliance with high environmental standards. But that's not all. It involves social standards for ethical production too.
Also, GOTS-certified garments are dyed with safe and eco-friendly dyes.
Unfortunately, the fashion industry is quite unregulated. This means that a brand can call its product 'organic' even if it is not. So, it's good to look for reliable ethical & sustainable fashion certifications.
Organic cotton is very soft and breathable. That is why it is also often recommended to people with sensitive skin.
Thanks to its softness and absence of toxic chemicals, it is often used for baby clothing too. It can also be found in homeware products such as bed sheets. Or even personal care products like reusable makeup remover pads or sanitary pads.
Organic cotton is more sustainable than conventional cotton. Yet, it is not considered to be the most sustainable material a person can wear.
As explained above, organic cotton is grown in harmony with nature. Crop rotation, which improves the health of the soil, is part of organic cotton farming practices. Also, no toxic chemicals, pesticides or GMOs are used to grow this material.
All of this cannot be said about conventional cotton. But the reality of (organic) cotton's sustainability is more complicated. Let's look into that, shall we?
The main difference between organic cotton and conventional cotton is that organic cotton is grown in a more sustainable way. This means that monoculture practices are not involved and no pesticides, fertilizers or GMOs are used.
So, organic cotton is not only better for the environment. It is also better and safer for the farmers, animals and even the wearer. And well, as cotton is the most commonly used fiber in the world, it is safe to say that organic cotton is simply better for everyone.
It's true that conventional cotton is often called “a thirsty crop”. But cotton is usually grown in water-stressed areas. This means that its production can be easily perceived as “thirsty” and damaging to the area.
The thing is, the big sustainability picture could look differently if it would be grown somewhere else. But with overproduction being so common in today's world, the possibilities are not endless. However, if the farmers receive enough support, cotton can be grown in a more sustainable way.
That being said, organic cotton is not perfect either. Its production is more land-intensive compared to conventional cotton. In other words: less organic cotton is produced per hectare compared to non-organic cotton. This is due to the fact that no pesticides or fertilizers are used in the process.
Are you asking yourself “but what now, can I buy clothes made with organic cotton?”. Don't worry – we've all been there, a bit confused and overwhelmed. The answer is simple.
If you can, choose clothing made from more sustainable materials. If cotton is your only option, opt for organic. But the best and most sustainable thing you can do is to buy as little as possible. And only what you need (or really want and use for a long period of time 😉).