Cotton is a natural fibre, therefore biodegradable, and so should be classed as sustainable right? Well, kind of... Cotton is a difficult crop to grow; it is incredibly vulnerable to pests, requiring heavy use of pesticides; and requires a lot of water to farm.
There can be up to 8,000 chemicals used in the production of a one garment! One common used pesticide called Aldicarb is so dangerous that if a single drop is absorbed through the skin, it can kill. [1.]
The majority of cotton crops are grown in developing countries which pose another problem: environmental laws and regulations are overlooked, and forced or child labour is often found within the industry.
What about Organic Cotton?
Organic Cotton is grown in pesticide-free soil, the most sustainable method being rain-fed. As it is a crop susceptible to pests, natural methods of controlling pests are used in order to avoid the use of chemicals.
The absence of chemical pesticides and hazardous chemicals help keep the water supplies clean, enhancing biodiversity. Organic Cotton also uses 91% less water than conventional cotton. [2a.]
Unfortunately, Organic Cotton only represents 1% of the global Cotton market. [2b.]
Certifications and standards such as GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standards) are now globally recognised. They have criteria in place to ensure the rights of workers' safety, environmentally friendly practices, and safe end-products that pose no harm to the consumer or to future recycled usage.
What about the BCI?
The Better Cotton Initiative scheme is geared to help farmers gain access to knowledge and tools to ensure the improvement of environmental, social and economic sustainability of cotton production. They also play an important role in growing the demand for sustainable cotton, encouraging farmers to learn and grow.
"In the 2015/16 cotton season, BCI and its partners provided training on more sustainable agricultural practices to 1.6 million farmers from 23 countries." [3.]
The BCI "supports the livelihoods of more than 250 million people [...] often in some of the world’s poorest countries, cotton is a vital link to the global economy."[4.]
This is a much better approach than boycotting conventional cotton productions.
Check out our collection of Cotton fabrics here.