The word “Organic” has become a bit of a buzz word lately showing up on restaurants, foods, and other products. But it is more than just a trend, it is a movement toward a more sustainable and ethical future. When most hear the word organic we picture foods free of harmful chemicals and additives. However, the word organic applies to more than just food. Cotton for example is one the top growing industries to use this word, proclaiming that their organic product is superior to the modern cotton harvests. Enji wants to help our readers and fans understand what exactly this means and why you should care about organic cotton, even if you are not eating it.
Defining organic cotton
It is important to understand the definition of organic cotton from cotton harvested using traditional methods. The United States has put in place federal regulations on how organic cotton is supposed to be grown and treated. This includes having fields that have not been contaminated with toxins, synthetic chemicals, and pesticides. The cotton seeds used to grow cotton must not be genetically modified. And lastly, the cotton itself is to have no contact with harmful pesticides or toxins during its growth, harvest, and processing.
How is Organic Cotton grown differently?
There are many differences in the organic and conventional cotton growth process. Here is a brief overview on just how different they really are.
Organic cotton will grow from natural, untreated, and GMO-free seeds.
While conventional methods call of seeds to be treated with fungicides, insecticides, and possible GMO modifications.
Organic cotton farmers also consider soil fertility and land modification. Organic cotton farmers will maintain naturally healthy soil through crop rotations as to limit use of unnecessary fertilizers and chemicals.
Non-organic farmers will use to a method called mono-crop culture, where the same crops are harvested every year on the same land leading to slow depletion of fertility in the land. This causes non-organic farmers to rely on synthetic fertilizers, loss of soil, and intensive irrigation.
Due to the crop rotation, organic farmers can maintain the natural soil balance and can easily remove weeds through manual labor or cultivation.
Non-organic farmers use herbicides and chemicals to inhibit the growth the of weeds leading to more drug resistance among weeds.
Organic farmers use beneficial insects that naturally prey on other insects harmful to cotton, and use trap crops. Trap crops are used to lure pets away from cotton and help encourage a healthy balance between predators and prey.
Non-organic farmers use pesticides and insecticides via aerial spraying. This fatally affects all animals, and has the potential to contaminate neighboring farms and wild areas.
Cotton is harvested through defoliation. A process where the leaves are encouraged to separate from the plant. Organic cotton will use natural seasonal changes or through water management.
Non-organic cotton will usually rely on toxic chemicals for defoliation.
Why does organic cotton matter if I don’t eat it?
That is a very good question. Although you might not eat cotton, think about all the possible ways you encounter cotton in your life. Your clothes, sheets, pillows, curtains, and even children’s toys. These are all products that are in constant contact with your body and your skin can naturally absorb them. People with sensitive skin and children are the most susceptible and at risk. Eco Friend Online states that “The average “100% cotton” product actually contains only 73% cotton. The remaining 27% consists of Chemicals, Resins, and Binders used in Farming and Manufacturing”
Is Organic Cotton expensive?
Not necessarily. Organic cotton should be an investment rather than a traditional good. While organic cotton can be priced higher than conventional cotton cloths, you also must look at the benefits that organic cotton provides. Currently organic cotton provides fewer water consumption, less environmental contaminants, fewer waste products, better wages, safer working conditions, and helps encourage a natural balance in the ecosystem.
Not only does cotton impact its immediate surroundings, but it directly impacts your health. The Environmental Protection Agency considers seven of the top 15 pesticides used on cotton in the U.S. as “possible,” “likely,” “probable,” or “known” human carcinogens. It is amazing how this is even an option. We would all happily say no to clothes that may give us cancer in 30 years.
Plus, if we all shifted to organic cotton, large corporations would have to meet demand and eventually bring an equilibrium where organic cotton prices would match non organic prices.
But what Can I Do?
Yes, the task of switching to organic cotton is daunting. But it doesn’t mean you have to burn your entire wardrobe in one night. You can slowly make the shift to organic cotton, Enji challenges you to buy one organic cotton item this new year (2018) and just see how you like it. Examine how it competes with your other cloths. Does it smell better? Does it feel softer? If you like how it make you feel and how it feels on you, then purchase another item. Slowly make that transition. Advocate for your choices, tell friends about why you decided to purchase organic cotton.
If you do become serious about having a fully organic closet but are not sure about how to start, consider these few tips to ensure that your clothes are fully organic.
- Look for a certified seal. Or some verification that the item is indeed fully organic.
- Don’t buy bright colors and patterns. These colors are usually hard to make organically and rarely are.
- Scents are a giveaway. Most organic clothes will not have an artificial smell to them.
- Make sure white organic cotton is not chemically bleached.