Going Green — The Benefits of Organic Cotton

Summary Comparison Table “Regular Cotton VS Organic Cotton” 2019

WATER

  1. Cotton production makes up 69% of this overall water footprint (1*), with one kilogram of cotton taking as much as 10,000–20,000 litres of water to produce. The majority of this water footprint comes from cotton farming (8*, 9*).
  2. Processing of cotton into products (fabrics, garments etc.) requires as much as 200 tonnes of water for every tonne of textiles produced.
    It’s estimated that processing (including spinning, dyeing, finishing) a kilogram of fibre (different materials) requires 100 to 150 litres of water (1*, 4*).
  3. Organic cotton is grown using techniques that help to conserve water. Organic soils require less irrigation — 80% of the land producing organic cotton is located in areas which are predominantly rainfed. Organic cotton reduces water consumption by 91% compared to conventionally grown cotton (1*).

CHEMICALS

  1. Global cotton production requires 200,000 tonnes of pesticides and 8 million tonnes of synthetic fertilisers every year. Cotton production uses 2.5% of the world’s cultivated land, yet it accounts for 16% of all insecticides sold globally (1*, 6*).
  2. The usage of high levels of pesticides and toxic chemicals impact farmers and local communities. The World Health Organisation figures show show that in developing countries approximately 20,000 individuals die of cancer and suffer miscarriages as a result of chemicals sprayed on conventional cotton.
  3. The Grey Water Footprint (GWF) of conventional cotton production can be between 5 and 22 times higher than that of organic cotton.
  4. Around 20% of all global industrial water pollution results from the dyeing, treatment of textiles (4*). Dyeing and finishing of textiles, including cotton, can require as much as 200 tonnes of water for every tonne of textiles produced (1*).
  5. Most of the toxic chemicals can remain present in water (rivers, lakes and the sea) and soils for many years. These persistent toxins can bio-accumulate through the food chain leading to serious illnesses for both animals and humans. Some of the chemicals and dyes used in the manufacture of cotton have been found can even cause cancer and disrupt hormones (1*).
  6. Organic cotton benefits human health as farmers support the growth of healthy crops by using a range of natural techniques and low impact chemicals. Organic cotton farming don’t use toxic hazardous pesticides and artificial fertilisers. It is suggested that the pesticide use would drop by 98% if all farming was organic (1*). The Global Organic Textile Standard aka GOTS ensures factories have met strict social and environmental criteria.

SOCIAL CONDITIONS

  1. Cotton farming supports an estimated 250 million livelihoods, accounting for almost 7% of employment in some low income countries (1*).
  2. Cotton farmers in developing countries (including India and China) live in hardship. Cotton is vital for the survival of many low income countries in Central and West Asia and Africa but the challenges range from the impact of climate change, poor prices for seed cotton, through to competition from highly subsidised producers in rich countries and poor terms of trade (3*).
  3. Organic cotton farmers have safe working conditions and workers’ rights are protected. Organic and fairtrade cotton production helps farmers feed their families (1*, 3*).

GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS

  1. If the fashion industry were a country, it would be the sixth largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world (5*). Cotton production has a smaller greenhouse gas footprint (approximately 300 pounds of carbon equivalent emissions per acre) than polyester has but fertiliser use releases nitrous oxide — a greenhouse gas with 300 times more warming power than CO2 (4*).
  2. How accurately growers are able to tailor nitrogen application to their crop’s actual needs — is a huge focus for cotton growers. For example, regular cotton farming uses synthetic mineral fertilisers, which are high in nitrogen and phosphorus — these are used to feed crops. Organic farmers improve soil fertility using natural inputs such as farmyard manure and compost, which supports the health of soils in the long-term (1*).

SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS

SUMMARY

REFERENCES

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