Almost every single choice you make will impact the environment in some way. That’s something that’s equally bad and good. On one side, everything you do in your daily life will somehow have an environmental impact. On the other side, there’s so much potential in changing the way you live – for the sake of the planet.
But when it comes to what we purchase of material goods, it becomes very clear that some products are more environmentally friendly than others. In other words: you will leave less environmental footprint if you buy a salad instead of a beef sandwich. That is simply a fact, because the meat industry has been proven to be very bad for the environment. Another good example is what you wear.
Take a look at what you wear right now. Your t-shirt, underwear and pants. Are they made out of organic cotton? No? Well, in that case: this article might make you feel guilty. 🙂
This article will guide you through what organic cotton is and why it is a better alternative than “normal cotton”.
Table of Contents
- What is organic cotton?
- Why is “normal cotton” environmentally unfriendly?
- My project: organic cotton t-shirt versus non-organic cotton t-shirt
- Products made in organic cotton
- Full story: How the Cotton Industry destroyed the Aral Sea
What is organic cotton?
A product can only be said to be produced in organic cotton if it both is grown with organic materials and using methods that have a very little impact on the environment. In other words, it is not only about the materials used – the production process is also a big part of it.
By default, cotton is a bad material for the environment.
The amount of chemicals used in cotton production is extremely significant. It destroys our oceans, the soil and the air. A lot of different pollution types can be traced back to the “normal cotton industry”, which is why organic cotton is an excellent choice.
Later in the article, I will give you a great example from Asia on how cotton production leads to drought and ocean pollution. Stay tuned. 🙂
Why is “normal cotton” environmentally unfriendly?
Environmental issues are very often best exemplified by pointing towards human and/or wildlife impact. If living creatures die or get seriously injured by exposure from certain pollution types, there is a big chance that something is wrong. And in the “normal cotton industry”, there definitely is something wrong.
Studies have shown that both farming and processing can be connected with various diseases. Those include allergies and cancer. The problem is definitely biggest in poor countries. In richer countries, we have seen a slight improvement in the cotton industry over the last years where most of the chemicals are being recycled or replaced by better alternatives that do not have such a huge impact on the environment and human beings.
When we also know that about 7 % of the labor force in developing countries are connected to the cotton industry somehow. That is a massive number. A huge industry that is neither healthy for people nor the environment. That does not sound very good to me.
This Youtube video is probably biased, but it gives great insight in why organic cotton is a more sustainable resource compared to “normal” cotton:
Increased comfort level
In addition to being better for the environment, organic cotton is also known for giving increased comfort. When you sleep on a mattress or put on a t-shirt, you always want to get that good feeling. In general, clothes or cotton items that have not been filled with chemicals and pesticides will be considered as higher quality items.
Another point is that these products will last longer than “normal cotton” ones. And the best thing of all: they do not necessarily cost a lot more to neither produce nor purchase as a customer. So you will get a high quality item for the same price.
I wanted to test this out. Which is why I started the project as you can read about below.
My project: organic cotton t-shirt versus non-organic cotton t-shirt
Prior to writing this article I really needed to test this. I would feel pretty bad if I filled this website with facts that I really did not know of. So I ordered two customized t-shirts: one made out of normal cotton and one made out of organic cotton. Then I was supposed to walk around with these t-shirts five days and was them three times in the washing machine. After that, I would hopefully be able to see a slight difference in quality. A very simple experiment.
And luckily, it went just as I hoped.
The t-shirt made from organic materials was simply in better condition. It felt better. The color did not start to “wash off” – and I would much rather pick that one over the other one, any day. Now, I am not saying that this would have been the result every time. If you bought 1000 t-shirts from 1000 different shops, you will definitely find some non-organic cotton shirts that are in high quality. In fact, most of the t-shirts sold in the world are not organic, and people tend to be very happy with a lot of the clothes they buy.
These are some pictures I took. Not only am I a horrible photographer, but my mobile camera is also bad.
Anyway, on the left you can see the non-organic t-shirt. The color has started to fade off and it is just not as comfortable as it was when I bought it. On the right you can see the organic cotton t-shirt, which is pretty much in the same mind condition as it was right after purchase.
I have already written too much about this t-shirt example. So what other products can you buy in organic cotton?
Products made in organic cotton
The answer is: a lot. You would be surprised of the amount of products that are being made in organic cotton these days. Just like organic food, it went from being “trendy” to something that everyone actually understood that they should purchase.
You should remove your paper towels and replace them with eco-friendly organic cotton towels. And we are of course not thinking about the towel that you dry yourself with after a shower. But rather the single-use paper towels that is being used to wipe off various things in your apartment.
Many people do not realize that the toys they are giving to their kids can be dangerous. Not dangerous only to the environment, but also to themselves. If you purchase plush toys from a cheap, Asian website, which many people tend to do, you have no idea what kind of chemicals than can be found in these toys. That is dangerous.
So a lot of toy manufacturers have actually turned towards organic cotton when they make teddy bears for kids, which is fantastic.
Nothing is better than a good night sleep. Purchasing a mattress in organic cotton is an excellent investment for yourself and the environment.
As a human being, you will spend about 1/3 of your lifetime in bed. And I believe it is really important that you sleep on a mattress that will not release a lot of toxic chemicals when you sleep. Think about it for a second…do you really know what materials your current mattress is made of? I really don`t want to sound like a sleezy salesperson, but I would recommend that you at least start to consider buying an ecofriendly, organic mattress.
You can see it as an investment for both your health and the environment.
Clothing and other products
Everything that is being made with non-organic cotton can be made with organic cotton. And when we know that it becomes more and more popular to buy organic products (food as well), we know that there is almost no limit on products that you can buy. I really hope this article made you more educated about the choice you have when you buy new, everyday products.
And if you want to explore the world of organic cotton, you can always jump over to Amazon and see what you can find. If you click this link , it will directly guide you to all the organic cotton products on Amazon. The “everything store” will of course have a wide product range of relevant products. If not, I am sure that you will be able to find a lot of organic cotton products in some of your physical local retail stores.
Full story: How the Cotton Industry destroyed the Aral Sea
The world’s fourth largest lake, located on the border between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
Actually, let me rephrase that a bit. The Aral Sea used to be the fourth largest lake – back in 1960.
This is a photo taken in 2018:
The sea has shrunk to about 5% of its original size. The main reason is cotton plantations, and their huge irrigation systems. You might already understand that cotton is a very thirsty plant. To produce a t-shirt made of cotton, you need at least 15 full bath tubs of water.
And I guess you can already see the connection with the Aral Sea here?
Yup – the cotton industry has more or less dried out the sea by using the water for cotton production. That is creating a wide range of environmental problems in the nearby area:
– The fish population has completely collapsed. Vanished. Gone.
– Grass and deserted areas surrounding the lake has been infected with toxic dust due to decades of fertilization.
– This leads to social problems such as starvation, high infant mortality, cancer, and other deadly diseases.
One t-shirt = a milk glass with highly toxic chemicals
One glass of toxic chemicals = one t-shirt
To produce one t-shirt in conventional cotton, a milk glass with highly toxic chemicals is needed. This is not only a problem to all the nature around the Areal Sea. It also affects thousands of poor farmers working within the industry. Unfortunately, thousands of people in Kazakhstan choose to end their lives as a direct consequence of these toxic chemicals every year. According to certain reports, this is the main factor for suicide in the area.
This is why you should buy t-shirts from companies that are using organic cotton. Most people do not understand the importance of buying clothes that are produced under fair conditions. I guess the “before and after” pictures of the Aral Sea might help you to understand that a bit better.
Q: What type of products can be bought in organic cotton?
Oh man! That’s a lot!
I can’t list all of them, but the most common ones are:
- Organic cotton tampons (!!)
- Underwear (super comfy by the way!)
- Baby clothes
In addition to that, I’ve seen that companies sell leggings, panties, pillows and yarn in organic cotton. It’s booming. And I like it. 🙂
Q: Why does organic cotton matter?
I think I’ve answered that question quite well in the article already. However, this Youtube movie is quite interesting as it shows a real-life example of how organic cotton production helped people out in third-world countries:
Q: Can organic cotton clothing be washed?
Yes, they are washed in the exact same way as “normal” cotton. No need to change your washing routine, buddy! 🙂
Q: Will organic cotton shrink?
This is a question that is quite popular to ask online (I’ve checked through some Analytics tools).
Many companies, especially the ones selling organic cotton clothing, will say it’s not going to shrink. But it is. Exactly like with “normal” cotton clothing, you would have to take into consideration a ~10 % shrink after you’ve washed it for the first time. That’s it.
I’m gonna be the first guy to admit that I don’t only buy organic cotton clothing. But I’ve gotten so much better at it.
It’s up to the consumer to take choices that will eventually have an impact on the world. Businesses are not going to become more eco-friendly unless we force them to do it.