Are organic cotton clothing more sustainable than conventional cotton?

best organic cotton

The importance of sustainable clothing to reduce the impact on the environment is increasingly growing. This makes people think about themselves Clothing made with organic cotton is more sustainable than conventional cotton.

In this article we are going to tell you why clothing made with organic cotton is more sustainable than conventional cotton fabric.

Organic cotton

organic cotton

The production of a single T-shirt requires a staggering 2.700 liters of water, according to WWF. However, using organic cotton presents a completely different scenario. Organic cotton, which is grown Without the use of synthetic chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides, it only requires just 243 liters, according to the Soil Association. This stark contrast has led an increasing number of brands, including Stella McCartney and H&M, to advocate the use of natural fibres.

Is an organic cotton t-shirt really sustainable? This seemingly simple question lacks a definitive answer. While water consumption is a crucial factor, we must also consider carbon emissions, transportation methods and packaging throughout the entire distribution chain. Equally important is the fate of the garment once it is no longer worn.

Liesl Truscott, European strategy and materials director at Textile Exchange, acknowledges that organic cotton production is not perfect, saying: “It is not perfect, nothing is perfect in this life.” She emphasizes the issue of scale, since less than one percent of the cotton produced today is organic, which leaves ample room for improvement in the manufacturing process. To learn more about the true sustainability of organic cotton and ways to adopt greener consumer habits, we consulted environmental experts.

What are the environmental implications of organic cotton production?

conventional cotton

While organic cotton uses less water compared to conventional cotton, the situation is more complex. According to a 2017 report from Textiles Exchange, organic cotton consumes 9% less “blue” water (from aquifers and surface water sources) than its conventional counterpart. Truscott explains that most organic cotton is grown on small farms that rely on rainwater rather than irrigation systems. Furthermore, the absence of pesticides and fertilizers reduces the need for water. In particular, Organic cotton is not genetically modified, which typically requires more water. By working in pesticide-free soil, water is conserved.

In fact, 95% of the water used in growing organic cotton is ecological water from rain or stored in the ground. On the other hand, Some argue that, due to organic cotton's lower yield compared to conventional crops, it actually requires more water. According to Christine Altenbuchner, a professor at the University of Vienna specializing in Natural Resources and Biology, the commonly referenced Cotton Inc. report suggests that organic farming is less efficient in terms of yield per hectare. However, it is important to note that organic cotton farmers also grow other crops alongside their cotton fields.

Growing organic cotton, unlike conventional cotton, significantly reduces water pollution. A 2011 report by Water Footprint revealed that the use of synthetic chemicals such as pesticides and fertilizers is completely eliminated, resulting in a notable 98% reduction in water pollution levels.

Growing organic cotton results in reduced greenhouse gas emissions. According to Textile Exchange, Organic cotton production generates 46% less greenhouse gases compared to traditional cotton crops. This significant reduction is achieved by avoiding the use of fertilizers and pesticides, which emit nitrogen dioxide, as well as by using fewer mechanized agricultural practices. Additionally, organic cotton acts as “carbon storage” as it contains no fertilizers or pesticides, allowing the soil to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere.

However, it is important to note that large-scale cultivation of organic cotton can present challenges. A 2015 report found that, on a larger scale, growing organic cotton can produce more greenhouse gases than traditional cotton. In addition, emissions are also generated during the spinning, weaving and dyeing processes involved in transforming pure cotton into the final garment.

How organic cotton garments are recycled

cotton garments

Although cotton has the potential to be recycled and is biodegradable in its untreated state, current technology has not yet advanced to facilitate this process. According to Truscott, mechanical recycling of cotton tends to result in shorter fibers and a decrease in quality. However, there is an alternative method known as 'chemical recycling', which involves breaking down cotton into cellulose to create a viscose-like product. Unfortunately, This practice is not yet widely adopted.

There are three methods to adopt more responsible purchasing practices:

To ensure the cotton you buy meets approved standards at every stage of production and distribution, look for accredited organizations like OCS (the Organic Content Standard) and GOTS (the Global Organic Textile Standard). The Fairtrade Foundation emblem is another indicator that producers have received fair compensation for their labor. Although consumers may pay a higher price for organic cotton, Farmers often do not see the economic benefits of their efforts, as Subindu Garkhel, director of cotton and textiles at Fairtrade, points out.

Truscott explains that she stays away from cotton blends that incorporate synthetic fibers such as recycled polyester. The reason behind this preference is the challenge of effectively separating and decomposing such mixed materials during the waste management process.

It is necessary to show our support for the brands that They have made a firm commitment to the adoption of organic practices. Truscott emphasizes the importance of large corporations investing in the production and distribution of organic materials, thus creating a demand for these products.

I hope that with this information you can learn more about why organic cotton clothing is more sustainable than conventional cotton clothing.


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