What is Organic Cotton?


It’s easy to think of cotton as a ‘good’ natural fibre but in reality, conventional cotton growing uses more chemical insecticides worldwide than any other crop. These insecticides and pesticides can be toxic to people and planet and have devastating effects on cotton growing communities.

Farmers can find themselves in the desperate situation whereby excessive use of pesticides has decreased the soil quality so sharply, that the only way to get a decent cotton yield is by using more and more chemical insecticides and pesticides. Lack of support for these farmers, living in some of the poorest parts of the world, means that many find themselves in debt. Not only is suicide common among cotton farmers, but the World Health Organisation estimate up to 40,000 people die each year from accidental pesticide poisoning.

Organic cotton provides farmers and consumers with another option. Organic cotton is grown without the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilisers. Instead, natural compost and manure is used to grow sustainable, renewable cotton plants that are better for the environment and local communities. 

Why would I wear organic cotton?

Organic cotton is now widely available in clothing and household items. The best brands are cottoning on to the need to find more sustainable, ethical clothing options, if you excuse the pun! As a consumer, organic cotton won’t feel any different to conventional cotton. If anything, the quality and softness is often higher. If you choose to buy organic cotton clothing however, you’re casting a vote for sustainable fashion that really limits its negative impact on the environment. You’re also supporting organic cotton farmers and their families and helping to create a market for a better way to grow cotton.

Are there any benefits to me?

It’s easy to see how organic food could be good for our health, but what about organic cotton? Are there any similar benefits? Certainly, cotton is considered a healthy fibre due to its breathability and soft handle. Whilst it makes sense that cotton fibre grown and processed using toxic chemicals could have traces of these contaminants left in the final products, most studies have found these traces to be negligible. That said, the wide range of organic cotton baby products available suggests that there is a market for protecting vulnerable skin from these residues.

Whatever science you believe, organic cotton certainly helps those at the start of the supply chain. Completely biodegradable too, you don’t have to worry about old textiles filling up landfill. Not that you’d ever need to throw any of our fab eco fashion that way.


For more information on organic products this Organic September, see the Soil Association website.
Emma Waight
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