Organic cotton, recycled cotton, conventional cotton... What are the differences?

Organic cotton occupies an increasingly important place in the world of fashion and textiles. Contributing to this is the fact that, for several years now, we have been becoming aware of the pollution generated by the textile sector and the deplorable working conditions that exist in certain countries. That is why we want you to find, in this article, the reasons to choose organic cotton instead of classic cotton, and discover with us the different advantages of eco-responsible cotton.

Where is cotton grown?

Cotton is a vegetable fiber that is obtained from the seeds of the plant of the same name. Among natural fiber fabrics, cotton is the world's largest production, mainly in China and India. In Europe we find some independent producers who are trying to recover cotton production, but the initiative is still at an early stage.

There are also two types of cotton farming: "conventional" cotton and organic cotton. Each of them has different ecological impacts.

Advantages of cotton

Soft, natural and breathable. It is also hypoallergenic and does not irritate sensitive skin. The fibers are tightly spun into a skin-friendly yarn that does not generate static electricity. That is why clothes such as t-shirts and underwear are usually made of cotton. Cotton is breathable and wicks moisture and heat away from your skin very well, keeping you cool and comfortable in hot weather.

Robust, economical and versatile: cotton is a strong, durable and abrasion resistant fiber. Cotton garments are machine washable and stand up to repeated washings in hot water. Cotton fibers are easily dyed, resulting in very
colorful. Cotton is inexpensive and extremely versatile. That is why it is used in a wide variety of very common fabrics, such as bath towels, calico, chino, corduroy, or jeans, among others. Therefore, you will be able to buy cheap cotton clothes in many different textures and styles, for all seasons and all occasions.

Why is cotton a problem for the environment? 

The cotton plant is a fragile plant. The intensive use of pesticides, fertilizers and insecticides is recurrent in conventional agriculture: these chemicals impoverish the soil and disturb biodiversity. According to the WHO, cotton cultivation represents 3% of the total area cultivated by humans, but consumes 25% of the fertilizers used in the world. Irrigation of cotton plants is also problematic, as it takes
between 8.000 and 11.000 liters of water to produce a kilo of cotton; without a doubt, an excessive consumption of water for the planet.

In addition, to give them more elasticity, the cotton fibers undergo various treatments and are dyed with substances that are also toxic to the skin and lungs. Heavy metals, chlorine, or phthalates, which are harmful to workers who handle cotton, but also to consumers who wear these garments in direct contact with the skin. Intensive production heavily pollutes soils and rivers, and is highly toxic to workers: it is estimated that some 20.000 people die each year from cotton cultivation.

For all these reasons, today we can affirm that the traditional cultivation of cotton is an environmental disaster, but also a human one.

Why choose organic cotton?

To deal with the problems generated by the production of conventional cotton, the organic or bio cotton market has been developing in recent years.

And it is that the cultivation of cotton from organic farming is not only more ecological for the planet, but also more ethical. It requires half the water and, what is more important, only natural fertilizers or natural compost are authorized for cultivation. Therefore, it does not pollute the environment, does not deplete the soil and is more respectful of the health of workers. Also, organic cotton farming is often associated with fairer trade compared to the conventional cotton industry.

Unfortunately, only a small fraction of the world's cotton production is certified organic. In fact, a recent report indicates that organic cotton accounts for 2 million tons sold per year, compared to more than 17 billion tons of conventional cotton. It is therefore evident that although organic cotton is beginning to gain ground, there is still a long way to go before it equalizes.

 

How to recognize organic cotton? 

The current problem we are facing is that there is no real organic certification for cotton. It is true that sometimes we see labels that have the “organic cotton” seal printed on them, and that they are used by various fashion brands to certify the use of organic cotton. However, some research reveals that, on a t-shirt with this type of logo, we can find Uzbek cotton, harvested in unethical conditions,
and in particular by children.

However, there are some seals that we can trust:

The label GOTS to Global Organic Textile Standard is the reference in terms of organic cotton. It can be identified by its green logo. It is the most complete certification, in the sense that it guarantees responsibility both from an ecological and social point of view. And this, throughout the textile production chain. In fact, to claim this independent certification seal, one must be able to meet strict standards at all levels of the cotton sourcing process.

GOTS guarantees you, among other things:

  • A minimum of 70% fibers from organic farming;
  • The absence of toxic chemicals generally used in the processing of textiles;
  • The reduction of water consumption in the manufacturing process;
  • And respect for the social criteria set by the fundamental conventions of the ILO (International Labor Organization).

 

So, cotton or organic cotton? We believe the choice is clear...

In addition, clothing made of organic cotton is not only more ecological, but also more resistant. Indeed, by not having been subjected to the various traditionally added treatments, organic cotton fibers are particularly resistant and allow the manufacture of durable and robust garments.

 

Where to buy organic cotton clothes?

The fashion industry emits 1.200 billion tons of greenhouse gases per year. It has a greater impact than international flights and maritime traffic combined. Whereby, dressing more responsibly is already a necessity. 

Faced with the abuses of fast fashion, or fast fashion, many brands are committed to more responsible fashion, both socially and with respect to the environment and health. They offer clothes designed from organic cotton, linen, hemp or lyocell, among others. More ecological materials than those offered in most stores, such as conventional cotton,
nylon or polyester.

Fortunately, every day there are more Spanish brands that are committed to the eco-responsible approach. Among them we want to highlight some that have caught our attention:

  1. Verdonce Home Mónica and Oliver design and manufacture a collection of "Basics for your Home for a Sustainable and Natural Life" in Madrid. Thanks to its bags for storing food or bulk shopping, bags, make-up remover discs, scouring pads, bath mitts, etc... you will turn your entire house into a more sustainable home.
  2. Xiro Atlantic Denim, Made In GaliciaThey use sustainable fabrics, such as organic cotton, which contains the GOTS certificate.
  3. Ecoalf, a Spanish brand that creates its garments with recycled materials.
  4. L'Envers, wool, linen, organic cotton, they offer us sustainable garments made by hand in Madrid. They also offer you to design your own custom model
  5. Velvet BCN, sustainable fashion store and ecological and fair trade products. With the motto “You take care of the planet, you take care of yourself”, guarantee that their garments have been manufactured in decent working conditions and respecting the environment
  6. Minimalism Brand, manufacture basic garments such as t-shirts, underpants, socks, swimsuits... sustainable with organic fabrics. They ensure transparency throughout the manufacturing process of their garments and highlight the positive environmental and social impact of their action.

However, from Home Healthy Home we invite you to consult the list of brands associated with the Sustainable Fashion Association of Spain (Amse) whose commitment to sustainability is guaranteed.

Resorting to these brands means deciding to buy less and better. We can also choose second-hand clothes, less expensive. Although the question should always prevail: "Do I really need this new garment?"

 

And what about recycled cotton?

Recycled cotton has an even smaller ecological footprint because it gives garments a second life without the production of any new material, thus saving resources.

To make a garment from recycled fiber, the fabric is recovered to be ground and returned to the fiber state. The fibers are then twisted into a yarn. Finally, the manufacturing process continues as for a traditional thread.

 

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