Organic Cotton – Does it really help the environment?

Imagine the scene, you walk into a shop and in front of you are two t-shirts. You like them both, however one is £2.00 more expensive than the other. You then notice the more expensive T-shirt is made from 100% organic cotton the other from standard cotton. Which do you buy?

Personally, I would buy the 100% organic cotton T-shirt but why, what really are the benefits?

Standard cotton farming starts with genetically modified seeds. These seeds have been modified to improve resistance to damage caused by pests, however as the bugs evolve, pesticides are still required to remove these bugs. Herbicides, insecticides and fossil fuel-based fertilisers are used in the growing of standard cotton. These harmful chemicals and the constant reuse of soil, causes degradation of soil quality, removing essential nutrients. The chemicals used contain toxic insecticides and carcinogens, which are not only damaging the soil and local environment they are causing serious diseases in the farmers and their workers. This poor soil requires more water, which is often diverted from water required in populated areas, to keep the plants healthy. On average 20,000 litres of water is required to produce a 1kg of cotton*.

Organic cotton is grown from natural seeds, which don’t require the use of pesticides or harmful chemicals. Instead plants are grown around the bottom of the cotton plant, encouraging insects who eat the pests. Weeding is done by hand or by hoeing removing the use of herbicides. No chemicals are used in the production of organic cotton, making it safer for the farmers, better for the environment and safer for the end users’ skin. No chemicals, crop rotation and composting mean the nutrients are not removed from the soil. These healthy soils emit 46% less greenhouse gases** than non-organic and less water is required in the growth of the cotton, as the ground can retain the water. Organic cotton uses 91% less water than conventional cotton**.

Organic cotton is grown using less water, it emits less greenhouse gases into the environment, and grown without the use of harmful chemicals. Is that worth an extra couple of quid?

*https://www.worldwildlife.org/industries/cotton

**https://www.soilassociation.org/


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