Organic cotton still only makes up a fraction of the cotton industry. As more people understand, what is organic cotton and why is it such a beneficial choice, the organic cotton market is sure to grow. From 2008 to 2009, worldwide sales of organic cotton clothing rose by 35 percent, according to the Organic Trade Organization. Also in 2009, in the United States farmers increased their acreage of organic cotton by 26 percent. These are great strides forward towards a more sustainable future, at least in regards to the textile industry.
Growing this crop organically simply makes more sense for the environment, for the consumer and for the producer. What exactly is organic cotton? What is involved in making sure clothing can be certified as organic?
What is Organic Cotton
For cotton to be certified as organic the crops and growing methods have to be checked and verified by a third-party organization.
For cotton to be produced organically it can not be grown from genetically engineered seeds. Certifiers have to test the plant and the soil to make sure there is no trace of genetically modified material, aside from a tiny allowable amount due to possible cross-pollination. All of this effort ensures not only a natural product, but also more sustainable soil after growth and a safer environment for the people who live around cotton production.
Producers are not allowed to use toxic pesticides or fertilizers. This means that only natural means can be used to deter pests and enhance growth, thus reducing some of the toxins that show up in the actual cotton fibers and that pollute nearby soil, air and water.
From the Field to the Clothing Rack
Producing truly natural, eco-friendly cotton clothing does not end at the farm. The cotton should not be processed with bleaches and chemical dyes. This is important to avoid the toxic residues of textile processing. Clothing can be made from organic cotton, and be labeled as such, but it still may be colored with toxic dyes and finished with chemical products.
If that organic cotton shirt you want to buy is a bright cherry red, it probably was made with synthetic dyes and chemical finishes. More neutral-colored clothing may be truly eco-friendly and chemical free. Check with the manufacturer if you are unsure. Many eco-friendly brands will advertise their clothing as being not only organic, but also chemical-free if that is the case. Even if toxic dyes are used, opting for the organic cotton clothing is definitely the greener choice.
What is organic cotton? Hopefully it is the fiber of the future. Organic cotton, along with other eco-friendly fibers such as hemp, bamboo and flax, offer a sustainable alternative to synthetic and non-organic cotton fibers, the dominating textiles today that are so detrimental to the planet.