Why Organic Clothing
What is organic cotton?
Organic cotton starts with organic farming practices, which use seeds that haven't been genetically modified or treated with pesticides. Pest control is accomplished through the use of natural predators and other natural practices. From growth through harvest, the process is monitored according to a set of Organic Growing Standards adopted by governmental bodies.
Organic cotton is soft, strong and resilient and is manufactured without the use of harmful chemicals, meaning it is very gentle on your baby’s skin. In addition, organic clothing can typically be washed up to ten times more than clothing made from conventional cotton, providing you with a garment that is better value as well as being gentler on the environment.
Cottoning Onto Cotton
Conventional cotton takes a much heavier toll than you might know. Consider this:
- Conventional cotton occupies only 3 percent of the world’s farmland, but uses 25 percent of the world’s chemical pesticides and fertilizers.
- Cotton is the second most pesticide-laden crop in the world (after coffee) and number one in the United States.
- Pesticides don’t just land on crops, but make their way into groundwater, which is drinking water for 60 percent of Americans.
- Cancer is the number one disease killer of children in the United States—and the second cause of death after accidents.
Is the dyeing process harmful to the environment?
According to experts, conventional clothing dyes can cause a wide variety of health problems for people with chemical sensitivities. It is often the dye fixative used to bond the dye color to the fabric that causes the most problems. Toxic chemicals sometimes found in the dyeing process include, Dioxin, Formaldehyde, and heavy metals such as chrome, copper, and zinc. These chemicals are absorbed through the skin.
Toxic chemicals from dyes also create severe environmental damage. Large amounts of water are required to flush conventional synthetic dyes from garments. Theoretically, this waste water must be treated to remove the heavy metals and other toxic chemicals before it can be returned to water systems, sewers, and rivers; however this does not always happen.
How can dyed organic cotton be certified?
In order for products to meet organic certification, only low-impact fiber-reactive dyes may be used. Fiber-reactive dyes are synthetic dyes that chemically bond directly to the clothing fiber molecules. The fixation or absorption rate of low-impact dyes is at least 70%, creating less waste-water runoff and therefore a lower impact on the environment. Recent advances have created fiber-reactive dyes with colors that are brighter and richer, and they provide excellent color fast properties. They contain no heavy metals or other known toxic substances, and they meet all European Union criteria for being an eco-friendly pigment.
Is organic cotton softer and more durable?
Since organic cotton plants aren't bombarded with toxic chemicals they tend to produce longer fibers, which yield stronger yarn and more durable fabrics. Pesticide-free long cotton fiber also feels softer, more breathable and luxurious against the skin.
Where can I find more information about organic cotton?
The Organic Exchange (www.organicexchange.org) is a good place to start learning about the cotton production choices that are available, and the key environmental, economic, and social issues associated with different methods of producing cotton.