You might have often heard the word 'cotton' termed as ‘the fabric of our lives’ and it makes sense since it makes up around 50% of the world’s fibre requirements. The scary thing about cotton though, is that the majority of it is grown with toxic chemicals. And the even scarier thing? Is that we come into contact with it every day.
From our bed sheets, to our babies’ nappies and alas even our clothes, cotton is everywhere – and pretty unavoidable. But rather than shun it forever we thought we’d pop together a little 411 on organic cotton and what it really means.
You see, the term ‘organic’ refers to food and fibre farming and production methods that are managed in accordance with organic standards and grown using seeds that are not genetically modified.
However, in 2010 organic cotton produced worldwide amounted to a little over 1% of total cotton grown, so there still seems a long way to go.
But let’s talk organic cotton in clothes because there seem to be a few issues here.
You see, when choosing to go organic in the textiles world (and unlike food) products don’t need to be certified in order to be labelled ‘organic' (although the ones that are get the tick of approval). This basically means that a product claiming to be ‘organic cotton’ might only contain a small percentage of organic cotton and still be dyed using toxic chemicals.
(Tis’ sad, but true.)
SO with varying degrees of organic cotton in clothing how are we as consumers meant to know what products are best to choose?
Well, in all honesty, it seems to be pretty hard. However, in Australia more than half a dozen organisations manage organic cotton certification systems and when you’re really stuck looking for the ‘Australian Certified Organic’ (ACO) symbol might be able to help.
Australian Certified Organic (ACO) is Australia’s largest certifier for organic and biodynamic produce and has over 1500 operators within its certification system. They provide certification services to operators from all sectors of the organic industry and certification ensures compliance with national production standards and allows trace back of all products to their origin.
Plus, it can take more than three years for a farm to receive organic certification, so with that in the back of your mind it might help you make the right choice for you.
Cotton grown the conventional way has a bigger environmental impact than cotton grown organically and presents more health risks for those who work around it. It may cost less, but in the long run it might be doing the world more harm than good.
On the other hand, organic cotton may be more expensive, but it’s better for the world, farm workers and even for your well-being.
About 25 percent of the world’s insecticide use and more than 10 percent of the world’s pesticide goes to cotton crops and in 2003, that amounted to about 55 million pounds of pesticides being sprayed on 12.8 million acres of cotton.
And you know what? Even though we’ll all probably be exposed to these chemicals in some way or another, scrimping and perhaps thinking before we splurge might help us make better decisions when it comes to buying clothing.
If anything else, at least it always pays to be informed.
Tell us, do you buy organic cotton clothing? Would you?