Key facts, tips on care, advantages and brands - we present everything you need to know about sustainable organic cotton
Author: Katharina Healing
- The benefits of organic cotton protect people and nature worldwide
- There are numerous seals for organic cotton, including GOTS and IVN
- Numerous brands use organic cotton in textiles for clothing and living
Cotton is the most commonly processed natural fiber in the textile industry, about 50% of all textiles are made of cotton and the production employs around 250 million people. Some rarely think about the quality and sustainability of these fabrics, while others consciously choose organic cotton. But what does organic cotton really bring and how does it stand out?
What is organic cotton and what are the advantages?
Organic cotton is characterized by the fact that no pesticides or genetic manipulation are used in its cultivation. It is therefore healthier for both the environment and people. The advantages are:
- No genetic engineering
- Reduction of water waste
- No chemical fertilizers
- Prevention of monocultures
1. No genetic engineering
Many farmers resort to genetic engineering to make the cotton plants resistant to pests and more resistant to environmental conditions. About two thirds of all cotton plants grown worldwide are genetically modified varieties, according to TransGen Database.
This does not work without risk: genetic diversity is lost, spread is uncontrolled, plants develop unforeseen resistances and farmers make themselves dependent on the manufacturers of the seeds and pesticides. Organic cotton, on the other hand, produces seeds that generate new yields. In addition, the use of genetic engineering and pesticides is strictly prohibited here.
Cotton buds Image source: BCI
2. Reduction of water waste
The cultivation of cotton uses large amounts of water. According to a study by BCI the production of a cotton sheet in conventional production uses up to 10.000 liters of water. Around 80 percent of this is used to grow cotton. Also the fiber comparison portal MSI Higgs index states: "Cotton is the fiber crop with the highest water requirements".
With organic cotton, however, large amounts of water can be saved efficiently. In rainy regions, for example, rainwater is collected to irrigate the fields. But the use of drip irrigation systems also reduces the conventional consumption of water.
In addition, the soils of organic cultivation contain more organic substances and can store more water due to changing plants and fewer monocultures. Up to 91% less water is used than when growing conventional cotton.
3. No chemical fertilizers
In organic cotton fields, no synthetic chemical agents are used for plant protection. Instead, the focus is on natural fertilization methods. This protects the plants themselves, while also being gentler on the soil, the field workers and also the biodiversity. Even end consumers benefit because organic cotton does not transfer toxins to the skin. Since cotton already has a low allergy potential, organic cotton is even less irritating to the skin.
4. Prevention of monocultures
In order to make the yields as effective as possible, farmers often replant the cotton fields immediately after the harvest. The used soils cannot recover well and monocultures develop. These are more susceptible to pests, weeds and require more fertilizer. Conversely, this means the use of even more toxic pesticides and fertilizers. That is not the case with organic cotton.
There is still a lot of potential for growing organic cotton
The world's largest producers of conventional cotton are India, China, the USA, Brazil and the countries of sub-Saharan Africa. In many developing countries, cotton is the main foreign currency source. In addition, 65% of cotton producers are small farmers. These are often suppressed and exploited during production.
This encourages child labor as well as the excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides, which is very damaging to the local environment (BMZ). In the production of organic cotton, however, these farmers are guaranteed fair wages, they do not come into contact with harmful chemicals and can thus guarantee their livelihoods.
The global production share of organic cotton is currently around 19%. Thanks to many global initiatives, this trend is increasing. However, our consumer behavior also plays a major role in increasing the organic share. Choosing sustainable cotton products consciously increases demand and, in the long term, the global share of production.
Image source BCI, Copyright by Nicholas Adatsi
Quality sigle for organic cotton
- Fair Wear Foundation
- Fairtrade Cotton and Fairtrade Textile
To recognize whether the piece of textile is really organic cotton, there are some recognized ones Siegel as the "GOTS seal", which characterizes textiles made from natural fibers. The regulations of the German"IVN Siegel"(International Association of the Natural Textile Industry eV).
Both seals guarantee fair and ecological production, from the extraction of the natural fibers to delivery to the consumer. If the products are labeled with "kbA", ie "controlled organic cultivation", organic cotton can be assumed.
There are also seals that pay particular attention to the working conditions during cultivation. This includes the "Fair Wear Foundation" seal and the Fairtrade seal, namely "Fairtrade Cotton" or "Fairtrade Textile".
Care of organic cotton
In order to guarantee the longevity of the soft fiber, important care is required.
- Outerwear & pants: 30 ° C
- Underwear, socks & bed linen: 60-90 ° C
- No special detergent is necessary, but it should be plastic-free
- Separate colored, light and dark laundry
to remove stains
- In order to avoid loss of color, it is first necessary to check the color fastness on the inside
- Gall soap and panamarind extract are suitable for processing stains
- Rub in the stain and then wash the textile
- Air drying instead of a dryer
- To avoid unsightly wrinkles, you can hang a T-shirt or sweatshirt, for example, on a hanger to dry
- Alternatively: after washing, pull into shape and dry flat
- In many cases, ironing after lying or hanging drying is superfluous
- If you want to iron, the fabric can withstand temperatures up to 200 ° C
- It is advisable to iron the fabric slightly damp and at the lowest possible temperature
Top 10 brands that use certified organic cotton
No genetically modified seeds are used for organic cotton, the water consumption is significantly lower and the soil and the environment are spared from toxic chemicals and fertilizers.
In addition, the biodiversity is preserved, production is safe for all workers and of course your own skin is spared. So the conscious decision for organic cotton is worth it! Many small labels use them exclusively, but large companies are also increasingly opting for it for certain products.
Our favorite brands
Image source & copyright by People Tree
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- Organic basics
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- Amour Vert
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Image source & copyright by Komodo
- Waer Pact
- Knowledge Cotton
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Image source & copyright by Rise & Fall
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