When you open your wardrobe, it’s guaranteed to be there: cotton. No wonder, after all, the natural product is the world’s most frequently processed textile fiber. As a result, it is in almost every piece of clothing. More and more people and textile manufacturers are now relying on organic cotton so that the cultivation of the “white gold” does not come at the expense of poorer people and our environment. What is the difference to conventional fibers? What are the advantages and disadvantages? How is organic cotton made and how do you care for it properly? You can find the answers here.
What is organic cotton exactly?
Basically, cotton, as you know it, is the natural fibers of the cultivated plant of the same name. These fibers, in turn, are the so-called seed hairs that appear when the yellow flowers of the plant transform into cotton ball-like buds. These cotton bales are usually harvested by machine and processed in spinning mills. But even if the fibers are basically a natural product, there are some points in the cultivation and harvesting of conventional cotton that must be viewed critically:
- Use of pesticides: Due to the long growth time, the plants are susceptible to pests. There is therefore usually no avoiding the use of insect repellants on large plantations. However, this can seep into the groundwater.
- Genetically modified plants: In order to keep the harvest as high as possible, there are genetically modified cotton bushes in most fields worldwide. They are less prone to insect infestation and have high yields. However, it is not clear here what effects genetically modified seeds have on nature and humans.
- Leaching of the soil: so that the cultivation is profitable, one harvested seed is followed by the next. This leaves the earth no time to recover from nutrient deprivation.
- Massive water consumption: Around 11,000 to 23,000 liters of water are used to produce 1 kilogram of cotton, because the plants are quite thirsty. Dried out lakes and rivers are the result in some cultivation areas.
- Exploitation: Even though a large part of the work is done mechanically, there are still people who work in the fields and farmers who deliver their harvest to processing companies. But especially in countries like India, Pakistan and China, where cotton is mainly grown, it is not always clear whether fair wages are paid or the rights of workers are respected.
The benefits of organic cotton
The bottom line is that cotton has become indispensable as a raw material in the clothing industry. Due to the resource-intensive production conditions, textile companies have a humanitarian and moral responsibility towards producers and consumers. This is why organic cotton has become increasingly popular in the textile industry in recent years. With it, both are possible: Sustainable fabrics under fair production conditions. For this reason, our PURE by Ulla Popken collection consists of at least 70 percent organic fibers. Many articles also comply with the GOTS standard. This is an important textile seal for organically produced natural fibers. Organic cotton has the following properties:
- Natural pest control: Instead of swinging the chemical club, producers of sustainable cotton rely on ecologically compatible alternatives. For example, on many plantations there are B. Sunflowers, which lure hungry insects away from the white gold. In addition, because no chemicals are used, predators of the cotton pests settle again, which also protects the plants from infestation.
- Unchanged seeds: For the benefit of the environment, the producers of organic cotton also forego genetically manipulated plants.
- Compliance with crop rotation: To improve the supply of nutrients to the earth, many plantations follow crop rotation. This means that other seeds such as maize or millet are first planted on harvested cotton fields. This way the soil is not stressed as intensely and has time to recover.
- Lower water consumption: In short – yes, even organic cotton plants are thirsty eaters. However, according to studies, consumption can be reduced by up to 91 percent compared to conventional cultivation through measures such as crop rotation or renouncing genetic engineering.
- Certified production: fair wages, good working conditions and above all sustainability – in the production of organic cotton there are now many certificates that you can use to be sure that your garment meets strict quality standards. The best example: the already mentioned GOTS standard or the Oeko-Tex label.
You can read all the important facts below comparing organic and conventional cotton:
- Use of pesticides to control pests
- Cultivation of genetically modified plants
- Constant cultivation leads to depleted soils
- Very high water consumption
- Peasants and workers are at risk of being exploited
- Natural and gentle remedy against insects
- No modified seeds
- Compliance with a crop rotation
- The amount of water required is reduced
- Fair wages and high quality standards through certifications
The disadvantages of organic cotton
The sustainably grown natural fiber has many advantages. But there are also critical aspects in the production of organic cotton:
- Lower yield: Compared to genetically modified seeds, untreated plants usually yield a smaller harvest. The result: In order to be competitive, organic plantations need more acreage.
- Higher costs: Since more care and manual labor are used in sustainable production, organic cotton fabrics are usually more expensive to produce. This way, not only does buying organic cotton clothes become a question of money. Due to the additional expenses, smaller production facilities may not be able to afford certification.
- All in all, the global share of organic cotton produced is increasing from year to year. A clear sign for both manufacturers and consumers that it is time to rethink sustainably.
Where is organic cotton now grown?
Organic cotton is on the advance in 22 countries on more than 16,000 hectares. The leading nations in organic cotton cultivation include, in particular, India, Turkey, the USA and Egypt. Syria is relatively new. Sustainable cotton has been produced here for the world market since 2006.
How to care for your organic cotton garments
Once you’ve found a nice organic cotton t-shirt or dress, you’ll want to wear it for as long as possible. In terms of care, the sustainably produced fabric does not differ that much from its conventional counterpart. Nevertheless, you should consider a few points:
- Follow the washing instructions for your garment exactly . Since the organic material has not been chemically pretreated, the material is usually somewhat more sensitive.
- Never wash organic cotton clothes hotter than 30 ° C. In this way you ensure that your favorite piece retains its fit for a long time.
Buy fashion made from organic cotton!
Do you love clothes? At the same time, do you care about the environment and the well-being of the people who produce them? Then choose fashion made from organic cotton. With this you buy textiles that have been produced in a resource-saving and sustainable manner.