Cotton: "The Fabric of Our Lives."
You can look through anyone's closet or drawers and find the breathable and versatile fabric of cotton in an array of colors and styles. But, did you know that cotton has been deemed the dirtiest crop on Earth? It is no wonder considering cotton farming uses 16% of the world's insecticides, 7% of the world's pesticides, and a staggering 20% of the world's fertilizer. Estimates of freshwater consumption for crop production alone is 3%. And as though that's not bad enough, 20% of freshwater pollution is contributed to textile treatment and dyeing.
Now, once those numbers have had a chance to sink in, let's take a step back and look at the big picture and why making choices to support organic fair trade cotton can make such a big difference. Grown primarily in the US, China, and India, cotton farming takes a toll on both the environment it is grown in and the farmers themselves.
First, as with all crops, it begins at the seed. Most of the seeds used by these leading cotton crop growers are GMO seeds designed to withstand Roundup's active ingredient glyphosate. The thing about modified seeds, regardless of your take on GMOs, is that they essentially become self-terminating because they do not produce their own viable seeds.
Seeds that were once a renewable resource have become non-renewable because the natural, open-pollinated cotton seeds have been replaced by patented hybrids and GMOs.
This creates a power dynamic that keeps farmers at the mercy of large agricultural corporations who eventually gain control over the markets. Additionally, GMO seeds inevitably create secondary pest surges as the threat from primary pest fades, thus the need for pesticides only increases, and farmer dependency and debt often increases along with it.
Cotton, which could previously be grown in harmony with other crops, has become a monocrop that is more vulnerable to pests, diseases, drought, and crop failure and more dependent on expensive pesticides and fertilizers. Organic cotton farms utilize non-GMO cotton seeds, which also allows for crop rotation and biodiversity. Crop rotation gives farmers the opportunity to grow their own food and maintains and protects surrounding wildlife. Additionally, organic farming keeps farmers and their families from toxic chemicals.
So, we know cotton farming is a dirty business, but unfortunately, it doesn't stop there. Have you ever considered the chemicals and processes that cotton must undergo to create clothing of such diversity? Toxins such as heavy metals, silicone, ammonia, harsh petroleum scours, formaldehyde, brighteners, and softeners are just a few. Ever wonder why flame-retardants seemed like a good idea on baby's clothing? We love that many of our crafters opt for vegetable dyes - sounds a bit nicer of a thing to put on a baby's skin, doesn't it?
Wanna guess at how many pesticides on the market have been linked to birth defects? 400. Yes, you read that right! Exposure to these chemicals truly impacts human lives. Some die of cancer, poisoning, miscarriages, and others are affected with birth defects and diseases such as asthma. Unfortunately, developing countries with limited healthcare are bearing the brunt of this collateral.
At All Cost
I think we can agree the cost of cotton is far more than many of us consider. I know for myself I was shocked by some of the numbers. Maybe most shocked that only about 1% of the cotton produced globally was organic. As I look around my home at the fabric of my life, I have to admit, I had not previously considered the faces behind my favorite sweatshirt or my new pair of jeans.
Whether choosing textiles with the Global Organic Textiles Standard (GOTS) or recycled cotton (check out some of our Raine & Humble products), you're making a choice to help change a the damaging process that impacts millions across the globe. Your conscious support of GOTS-certified products means that workplaces are protected from coercion, discrimination, excessive hours, child labor, and inhumane treatment. Lastly, putting real faces to the world of textiles means you're preserving artisan traditions handed down for generations.
One last thought to carry with you. With over a billion people who don't have access to clean fresh water (and 2.4 billion who do not have adequate sanitation) would you believe that it takes approximately 713 gallons of water to produce one t-shirt...
Organic cotton uses 88% less water and 62% less energy than conventional cotton.
We hope you agree, the residual cost of conventional cotton far outweighs the cost of organic cotton. We hope you will join us in support for cleaner cotton choices and work together toward a more beautiful and safe environment for generations to come.
We encourage you to learn more and to get involved. Here is additional reading to get you started: