By KIM PHAM
Organic has become a major trend for health-conscious consumers. Clothing made from natural fibers is generally better for the environment and more sustainable than synthetic fabrics, such as polyester and nylon, which feature oil-based products. They also have other benefits, such as being more breathable and comfortable. However, like other crops, many of these fibers, and particularly cotton, grow with the help of chemical pesticides, which wreaks havoc at every level. Organic cotton offers numerous benefits over traditionally grown cotton and other materials. Consider the five reasons to choose organic cotton clothing.
1. Organic Cotton is Chemical Free
Choosing organic cotton is great for anyone looking to remove chemicals and toxins from their lives. Organic farmers do not use any chemical pesticides and fertilizers. They also commit to using non-genetically modified ingredients. In the U.S., these farmers also face strict regulation and oversight, including inspections. Foreign producers wanting to import to the U.S. must also undergo certification. Any organic product is subject to strict labeling requirements as well. The U.S. Department of Agriculture lays out specific guidelines for organic clothing labels: It is worth noting that containing organic fibers does not ensure that the manufacturing process is entirely organic. Clothing made in compliance with the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) may also hit the market as “organic” in the U.S., but again, there are differences in products made with 95 to 100 percent organic fibers and those made with at least 70 percent organic materials.
Cotton Products Appear in Food, Too Cotton comprises shirts, dresses, and even denim, but it also makes its way into food products. Cottonseed oil is useful as cooking oil or in condiments, such as salad dressings. It is also an ingredient in some baked goods, such as cookies, as well as salty snacks, such as chips. Moreover, some farmers feed the cottonseed hull, where pesticides can accumulate, to livestock, which means pesticides from non-organic cotton can even reach dairy products and meat. Opting for organic food helps reduce the problem.
2. Organic Cotton is Better for Sensitive Skin and Allergies
Even in the manufacturing process, most traditionally grown cotton faces various chemical treatments and harsh dyes. Organic clothing also does not go through the same chemical treatments. If dyed, the material’s dyeing features low-impact or natural colorants. For those reasons, organic cotton clothing can reduce irritation and minimize allergic reactions. Babies and children have much thinner and more sensitive skin than adults, which makes them even more prone to these sensitivities. Look for organic cotton children’s clothes. You can also find organic cotton baby products, from clothing to cloth diapers.
3. Organic Cotton is Better for the Environment
Cotton is one of the world’s “dirtiest” crops; despite making up about 2.5 percent of all the world’s agriculture, it uses about 25 percent of the world’s insecticides and 10 percent of the world’s pesticides, according to the Soil Association and the Organic Trade Association. Those chemicals can contaminate groundwater, harm biodiversity, and affect soil fertility. Groundwater contamination can even affect oxygen levels in the water and harm aquatic life. By contrast, organic farming methods restore nutrients to the ground, do not contaminate groundwater, and can actually help other plants and animals thrive. Organic farming also helps offset the effects of climate change by locking CO2 in the soil and reducing greenhouse gases released into the environment by avoiding fossil fuel-based fertilizers in favor of organic ones.
4. Organic Cotton is Better for Farmers
Chemicals used in traditional farming methods not only wreak havoc on the environment; they have a devastating effect on the people who contact them. With the vast majority (75 percent) of the world’s cotton grown in developing nations, the impact it has on those farmers is crucial to note. Some of the chemicals used, such as Aldicarb, can be lethal to people, while others can cause sickness or birth defects. Many farmers in rural areas pick the cotton by hand, thus increasing their risk of exposure. Growing organic cotton is far safer for the farmers, and it can even be less expensive for the farmers because they do not have to purchase expensive chemicals.
5. Organic Cotton Clothing is Often Manufactured Under Higher Standards
Companies that manufacture organic clothing often have the same sort of values as their consumers. More companies are embracing social responsibility and ensuring their products come about ethically. Do your research into different companies and learn what steps they take to minimize their impact on the environment.
In addition to looking for certified organic clothing, you can also ensure the ethical manufacture of your garments by choosing Fair trade cotton. FLO International, the global organization behind the movement, works to ensure that cotton farmers, both organic and non-organic, receive a fair, living wage for their work. You can also look for clothing manufacturers who participate in the Better Cotton Initiative, a global effort to make cotton production sustainable and abide by ethical standards.