Written in collaboration with Georgie Manly for the Norfolk Organic Group newsletter.
When we think of organic, we often think of food. Although we are not eating fabric, we are still exposed to it through wear, not to mention all the other lives, both animal and human, that are implied in the production process of an average non-organic fibre.
The cotton industry in notorious for using an incredible amount of pesticides. A quarter of the the worlds use of pesticides and fertiliser goes towards the production of cotton. Why is this?
Above: Like other plants, cotton is diverse, including varieties like this naturally beige-coloured one.
Cotton is hard to grow organically due to the boll weevil that enjoys the cotton’s buds and flowers as well as the regular challenges that growers face. Compared with organic food, the difference in organic cotton to non organic cotton is often not enough to incentivise farmers to transition to organic practices.
However, there have been studies that have shown that farmers that have made that transition have been able to be more resilient. For example in extreme weather conditions such as flash floods and droughts they have seen their crop saved because their soil has a good structure and moisture holding capacity. With Climate change increasing the frequency of these unpredictable and extreme conditions, organic farming practice within the cotton industry could even become the more economically viable option as we go forward.
In 2018, 38 companies committed to the Sustainable Cotton Challenge in which they pledge to go 100% organic cotton before 2025. This is a step in the right direction but a lot more remains to be done within the fashion industry. There are an increasing number of organic cotton products out there. Next time you are thinking of buying a cotton product, check out the organic cotton options. They will often be more expensive, but hopefully through this article I have shone some light on the reasons for this extra cost and the negatives that paying this extra bit will help to offset.
Here are three very useful sites if you want to learn more about organic cotton production.
Here are some clothing brands that have been using organic from the outset, ones that I would support:
And a list of more to explore...