If you're like most people, when you hear the phrase "organic cotton" it might sound like a gimmick to charge exorbitant prices for otherwise ordinary clothing, or just another ethical elitist catch-phrase, designed to make you feel guilty about buying that $7.99 "conventional" cotton t-shirt at Target.
TRUTH TIME: Organic Cotton wasn't invented to scam or shame you! It's just regular old cotton, without the hazardous chemicals dumped on the fields and into the factories for the sake of modern convenience (more on that in a minute). Are organic clothes more expensive? Yes, a little (especially when workers are paid fairly), but there's a hidden cost behind the cheap, toxic alternative.
Consider organic foods. It's pretty widely accepted that they're healthier for your body, gentler on the soil and groundwater, tend to support smaller farmers over big GMO seed companies, and offer tastier, more diverse options. Perhaps you only buy organics when it's convenient or when you have a little extra cash in your wallet. Nobody's perfect - the point is that we stay informed about what we're buying.
According to the Organic Trade Association, "cotton is considered the world's 'dirtiest' crop due to its heavy use of insecticides. Cotton covers 2.5% of the world's cultivated land yet uses 16% of the world's insecticides, more than any other single major crop." Yikes!
Check out this nifty infographic from the Soil Association that follows the whole production cycled of cotton garments (click the image, then click upper right to expand).
Here are five key takeaways:
1. Organic Cotton produces 94% less greenhouse gas emissions than conventional cotton.
2. 77 million cotton workers suffer poisoning from pesticides each year. By the way, this number is higher than ANY other industrial crop, and mostly affects people in poor developing countries.
3. Conventional cotton processing uses toxic dyes and chemicals that are absorbed through your skin - sometimes causing allergic reactions and respiratory problems.
4. Waterways near cotton processing factories are contaminated with hazardous, hormone-disrupting chemicals.
5. Certified Organic Cotton clothes are toxin-free in all stages of production - from field to shop.
Want to learn more? The Organic Trade Association gets down and dirty about pesticides used in cotton here:http://www.ota.com/organic/environment/cotton_environment.html