Women picking cotton.

Why we should buy organic cotton

A guest blog from the Soil Association.

Loving your clothes starts with smarter buying, so it’s important to understand where your clothes come from. The high street is full of fashion options, but a cheap tag should leave you wondering – who is really paying the price? Conventional cotton production is harmful, but there is an alternative. Read on to discover five ways that choosing organic cotton helps benefit people and the planet.

Give control to farmers, not GM companies

Farmers growing genetically modified (GM) cotton are tied to strict contracts. This presents a risk as a quality harvest and high yields are not guaranteed. Additionally, GM crops can be more vulnerable to drought and disease.

Organic farmers don’t have their choices controlled. Organic principles encourage farmers to work with, rather than against nature, in a sustainable way to support the empowerment and independence of small-scale farmers and their families.

Eliminate hazardous pesticides

Conventional cotton farming requires a cocktail of harmful pesticides. These chemicals endanger the health of men, women and children in farming communities. Pesticides are also incredibly costly: 60% of the cost of producing non-organic cotton goes towards their purchase and application. Such high prices force many farmers into extreme debt.

By prohibiting the use of hazardous chemical pesticides and instead using natural techniques to tackle pests, organic principles protect farmers’ wellbeing as well as the environment.

Help farmers feed their families

Conventional cotton is grown as a single crop (known as a monoculture). Input costs are high and returns are low – meaning small-scale farmers rarely see substantial profit. Monoculture cotton farmers usually have to buy their food as they have no surplus land to grow their own, making them vulnerable to food shortages and price spikes.

Organic farmers grow a variety of crops to help maintain a healthy soil. Having an assortment of crops can provide an additional source of income, make farmers less vulnerable to crop failure and contribute to a more varied diet for farmers and their families.

Save precious water

Conventionally farmed cotton is irrigated, meaning that lakes and rivers are drained to feed the crops. When water is recycled, chemicals from cotton production pollute these waterways, upsetting ecosystems and threatening the health of wildlife and people.

80% of organic cotton is rain fed, preserving water stores. By eliminating synthetic pesticides, organic cotton keeps drinking water clean – the water pollution impact of organic cotton production is 98% lower than non-organic.

Combat climate change

From manufacturing fertilisers and pesticides to fuelling spraying vehicles, conventional cotton farming uses a lot of energy. 83% of synthetic fertilisers end up in the atmosphere, emitting huge amounts of nitrous oxide which can pose a health risk.

Organic cotton growing produces up to 94% less greenhouse gas emissions. Also, organic practices can benefit the environment by turning soil into a carbon ‘sink’ which removes CO2 from the atmosphere.

While organic clothing can sometimes be more expensive, at least you know that someone else isn’t paying the price. Think of your clothing as an investment and remember that your individual choices make a real difference.

Find out more about the Soil Association’s ‘Have You Cottoned On Yet?’ campaign.