All About Organic Cotton

7 September 2016


There's been a lot of talk about organic on this blog recently especially in terms of beauty and food, but today's post is focusing a bit more on textiles and the importance especially of organic cotton in particular for both our clothing and beauty products and feminine care and even more.

Cotton as a raw material is used in a huge range of items that we have in our modern lives, from t-shirts to jeans, cotton pads for makeup, cotton buds and tampons, from shoes to bags, towels and bedsheets to cloths, rugs and throws. They all can incorporate beautiful cotton. However not all cotton products are made equal.

 COTTON & A LITTLE SOMETHING ELSE 
Traditional 'cotton' products are not always 100% cotton, they can be blended with rayon and synthetics including thermoplastic polymers such as polyester or even polypropylene. In the UK if a product is labelled with any of the terms '100%', 'Pure', or 'all' in relation to a raw material such as cotton then it legally has to be solely made from, in our case, cotton (however it may legally contain up to 2% of other fibres to account for impurities or fibres used for anti-static properties). A pure cotton product doesn't have to state it is pure even if it is, so sometimes it can be hard to tell. Just make sure you look out for that 100%/pure/all label.

 GROWING COTTON 
However, this doesn't mean that this cotton is still lovely and pure in the terms of chemicals and modification. Non organic cotton can be grown using GM seeds, in fact a whopping 30% of cotton grown worldwide is from GM seeds, in the USA alone it is 70% of their cotton that is grown from GM seeds! On top of that, worldwide, non organic cotton accounts for 16% of global insecticide use and a fourth of the global use of insecticides and pesticides combined! GMOs are bad news for wildlife and biodiversity and human health.

Organic cotton however is never grown using GM seeds, all GMOs are banned from being used in any aspect of organic farming for cotton (in fact for growing anything organic!) Similarly the use of all synthetic fertilisers and pesticides are prohibited in organic cotton farming and growing. Instead natural manure is used for fertiliser and natural pesticides such as Neem are used to control pests instead of wiping them out. Using these natural fertilisers and pesticides are better for both humans and the environment in terms of wildlife, soil health, biodiversity and clean water etc. Farmers are not exposed to harmful chemicals doing the farming process and consumers are not harmed by residues on the end product. 

 PROCESSING COTTON 
To get non-organic cotton to look bright white it is often bleached with chemicals such as chlorine. Using this bleaching process can cause additional toxic carcinogens such as dioxin and trihalomethane which are both classed as disinfection-by-products (DBP). Dioxin in cotton can also be present due to synthetic pesticides. These chemical residues can be found in the fatty tissue of humans and even animals and can cause allergies, rashes and many other negative side affects.

Non-organic cotton, on the other hand, is not bleached using chlorine, instead much friendlier and safer and naturally occurring disinfectants such as hydrogen peroxide are used.

Furthermore organic cotton is always processed using dyes and inks that adhere to strict toxicity and biodegradability guidelines.

Additionally the cotton industry is known to be one of the worse in terms of poor working conditions. By choosing organic cotton not only are your supporting farmers who do not expose their workers to toxic chemicals but also you are supporting organisations who adhere to strict guidelines. In the case of Soil Association certified organic cotton, workers are protected by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions which monitor workers hours, wages, working conditions and treatment among other aspects.

 LOOK FOR THE LOGO 
To make sure that you are choosing the best organic cotton products always look for the logo! Below are the two main logos to check for. There are other logos and certifiers but many only account for the organic growing or farming of the cotton and do not cover the organic practices within processing and manufacturing. The two below: Soil Association and GOTS both cover every aspect of the organic process from farm to fashion etc.
#LookForTheLogo


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