Cotton dates from at least 7,000 years ago, making it one of the world’s oldest known fibres. Seeds dating back to 450 BC were found in Peru. Archaeologists found a 5,000 year old cotton fabric at Mohenjo Daro, an ancient town in the Indus River Valley of West Pakistan.

Cotton is a sustainable fiber and it is also the much preferred fabric throughout the world. The seeds are planted in the spring and harvested in the fall. It takes about five to six months for the plant to mature and the bolls to open for harvesting. The cotton fiber is made up of cellulose, which is a natural polymer. 100 million farmers grow cotton in 80 countries worldwide. Cotton is 100% biodegradable and is compostable. Under aerobic or anaerobic conditions, wipes made of cotton will biodegrade completely in 4 weeks.

Organic cotton – a clever solution

With this being said, cotton farmers must now adhere to strict guidelines prohibiting pesticides and chemical fertilizers. With this process, organic cotton offers one of the most soft, breathable and luxurious clothing to the wearer’s skin, especially for infants.

Besides helping the environment, there are other benefits of organic cotton products. Working environments are safe and better for workers. Small-scale farmers are able to make good savings as they do not have the need to spend on large amounts of pesticides. Consumers are also benefited; many suggest that organic cotton products are softer and easier on their skin. Recent awareness of these benefits has increased demand of organic cotton and thus, lowered its cost.

Benefits of wearing organic cotton

  • It is softer than conventional cotton clothing
  • Causes fewer allergies as compared to conventional cotton clothing
  • Production does not involve use of chemicals
  • Ensures better health for farmers and families
  • Growing organic cotton is cheaper than growing conventional cotton
  • Reduces pollution caused by use of pesticides in conventional cotton
  • Helps to improve quality of land, prevents water contamination and conserves biodiversity

Ill-effects of conventional cotton

About 25 percent of the world’s insecticide use and more than 10 percent of the world’s pesticide goes to cotton crops. In 2003, that amounted to about 55 million pounds of pesticides being sprayed on 12.8 million acres of cotton, according to the organic trade association. Some of these chemicals are considered to be the most toxic chemicals in the world. The health risks of pesticide exposure include birth defects, reproductive disorders and weaker immune systems.

In many countries, cotton is still handpicked; therefore anyone working in those fields is exposed to extreme amounts of toxic chemicals. The chemicals can also affect others in the community once they have seeped into the water supply. With so many products made from cotton, we are all exposed to these chemicals at some point. Even some baked goods, cookies and salad dressing contain cottonseed. Water use is another issue with conventional cotton production. Crops use intensive irrigation and some estimates say cotton crops are the largest water user among agricultural crops.