In our modern society cotton is a part of everyday life, there is no denying its popularity and versatility. Cotton is all around us, you have probably used it today - maybe your bedsheets, your clothing, the cotton buds you used to clean your ears out this morning or even your makeup removal pads. You name it - cotton's in it. It’s no surprise that the cotton industry is so entrenched in civilisation, it's had a long time to do so - the first farmed cotton dates back as far as 6000BC (1). Since then cotton has grown worldwide to become a highly profitable commodity, Australia alone exports over $2 billion each year! Now, as one of the world's most commonly used fabrics, cotton accounts for over 40% of the textile industry, and with the textile industry being one of the largest producers of waste on the planet, at Sequela, we had to ask, is cotton clothing eco-friendly clothing?
On our search for eco-friendly clothing to manage our own textile waste, we discovered organic cotton. Although organic cotton is currently a rarity, with less than 1% of all cotton produced worldwide being organic(4), we believe it may be a more eco-friendly choice than regular cotton, and something you may want to consider next time you are on the hunt for a cotton product- and here's why.
- Organic Cotton Is Water Saving
Regular cotton is one thirsty camel, it takes around 2,700 litres of water, just to produce enough cotton to make one shirt (2). That’s equivalent to running a dishwasher nearly 210 times! That’s a lot of dishes (3). Alternatively organic cotton uses 91% less water, a far more water sustainable choice, especially in drought-stricken regions where large allotments of water are diverted away from precious river systems to grow crops (4).
- Organic Cotton is Chemical Free!
Secondly, organic cotton also uses zero herbicides and pesticides, opposed to its regular counterpart which is responsible for a whopping 16% of the entire planet's insecticide use. These harmful chemicals contain carcinogens and can cause disease in farmers with increased exposure (5). These chemicals as a result of runoff often enter the local water cycle polluting natural waterways and harming the animals and the ecosystem that rely on these waterways (2). These polluted waterways often affect the surrounding people as well, and unfortunately, it is often the innocent that suffer, in developing countries some of these chemicals have even been known to cause birth defects (2). Organic cotton’s clean growing methods also affect the longevity of the land they are farmed on, land depletion is slowed without the addition of extra chemicals, meaning farmers can keep growing more crops for longer (2).
- Organic Cotton Reduces Carbon Emissions & Increases Quality + Yield
Organic cotton is hand-picked, the lack of machinery in the picking process seems to have a positive effect on the quality and durability of the organic cotton fibres. Not only does the lack of machinery result in organic cotton producing 46% less carbon emissions than regular cotton (4), but as handpicking is a much more delicate process, there is less damage in the process - less damage means less waste and more efficient yield for the farmers (5). The reduction in rough picking procedures also tends to create a softer and more durable final product, so that you can feel more comfortable in your shirt for longer (5).
- Organic Cotton Is More Gentle On Our Skin
The resulting product of organic cotton compared to regular benefits us, as well as the environment. Even after washing, the final product from regular cotton often contains residue chemicals from the manufacturing process that can irritate the skin and cause eczema in sensitive individuals. Organic cotton leaves a much more hypoallergenic final product.
Here at Sequela we don’t just want to stick our heads in the sand about eco-friendly clothing, we are aware that not everything is clear-cut right or wrong, better or worse, good or bad (we would love if this were the case!). We realise organic cotton can still strain the environment when compared to regular cotton in other ways, for instance, it has been proposed that organic cotton would have issues when scaling up (4). While organic cotton may not be perfect, we believe compared to its regular counterpart it definitely trumps. Also, keep in mind organic cotton is not the only option out there, there are also loads of other eco-friendly clothing materials, such as hemp and cork. Keep your eyes peeled for future blogs coming on these.
Please, share with us anything else you find interesting about organic cotton or any other eco-friendly clothing materials, we would love to hear what you have to say!
If you would like to check out some of our amazing Australian eco-friendly brands that use organic cotton in their products, check out these links below: