Organic Cotton – Everything you need to know about organic cotton

Have you ever thought about what it means when something is made from organic materials? When clothing is marketed with "organic cotton" or "sustainable cotton clothing". This article breaks down everything you need to know about organic cotton.

Organic cotton requires less from nature and the cultivation consumes up to 91% less water, 62% less energy, and emits 46% less carbon dioxide than conventional cotton farming. These numbers only refer to the agricultural stage.

Less water
The explanation for less water use is partly because healthier soil can retain water and nutrients much better than dehydrated soil (which requires more irrigation), and partly because organic farming promotes better water management and irrigation systems, such as drip irrigation.

Less carbon dioxide
In conventional cotton farming, synthetic fertilizers/pesticides are used. These are manufactured using by-products from the petroleum industry (oil industry) and are a very carbon-intensive production. The fertilizers/pesticides also release greenhouse gases when used in the fields. And by avoiding synthetic fertilizers/pesticides, CO2 emissions are reduced and thanks to organic farming giving rise to healthier farmlands, the soil can absorb much more carbon dioxide – just as it should.

Traditional methods
Organic farming methods are nothing new – these traditional methods used to be the norm once upon a time. However as the textile industry grew and pressure from the fertilizer/GMO industries increased, farmers were forced into increasingly aggressive farming methods. The fact that we, in the so-called "global north", have recently started to encourage and train farmers in ecological methods is not something we should be praised for, it is rather our responsibility since it was we who destroyed the soil from the very beginning.

Advantages of organic cotton
The advantages of organic cotton farming are many, above all from an environmental perspective, but also for the farmers. As mentioned above, the cultivation takes place without artificial fertilizers and chemical pesticides, which leads to healthier soil and prevents chemicals from spreading and affecting environments far beyond the plantations themselves. It therefore benefits both nature and the farmers who work, live, or make a living from the farmland.

The Better Cotton Debate
There has been, and still is, quite a lively debate about Better Cotton and whether or not it should count as organic cotton. Better Cotton is a non-profit organization whose work aims to improve the world's cotton production and which trains farmers to grow more sustainably. However, this does not mean that Better Cotton is organic, as pesticides are allowed and the cotton is not traceable.

Read more about Better Cotton here!

How do I know if it is organic cotton?
The best way to find out if a garment is made from organic cotton is to look for the right certification. Important to remember is that a green label does not automatically mean that something is environmentally friendly, organic, or sustainable – concrete proof is required, for example, traceable cotton. Another important thing to keep in mind is that just because a company itself is certified, for example, GOTS certified does not mean that all of their products are. Each individual product must be adorned with the certification in question in order to be classified as organic.