Normal vs. organic clothing: what’s the difference?

Normal vs. organic clothing

The global apparel market is valued at 3 trillion dollars (3,000 billion), and accounts for 2 percent of the world’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The womenswear industry alone is valued at 621 billion dollars. The menswear is valued at 402 billion dollars, the luxury goods market is estimated to be 339 billion dollars and childrenswear clocks in at 186 billion dollars. So the clothing industry is a big global market, with even sub-industries worth in the hundreds of billions. In the midst of this giant industry, one recent trend has been coming to the forefront of the market and the awareness of consumers: Organic clothing. But what is organic clothing, exactly?

This is a tough question to answer, because regulation and certification by governments around the world have been a bit slow to respond to demand in the marketplace for organic clothing, as opposed to labeling requirements for organic foods, which are much more advanced in terms of its development. But generally, organic clothing is clothing made from materials grown in compliance with organic agricultural standards. For instance, authentic organic clothes involves no pesticides or artificial fertilizers in their production process, and the land from which the raw materials are grown from is also pesticide and fertilizer-free. To help you navigate the differences between normal and organics, here is a table listing the main differences between conventional cotton and organic cotton:

Conventional Cotton Farming Organic Cotton Farming
Land is not detoxified Land is invariably detoxified
Artificial/chemical fertilizers are used Organic fertilizers/compost/manure is used
Artificial/chemical pesticides & insecticides are used Organic/herbal pesticides and insecticides are used. Bio-controlling of insects/pests is also done.
Seeds are treated with fungicides & insecticides Seeds are not treated
Mono crop culture is practiced Crop rotation is practiced
Genetically Modified Organisms are used Genetically Modified Organisms are not used
Soil lacks organic matter & cannot retain water & a lot of irrigational water goes wasted/drained out Soil has more water retention capacity due to presence of organic matter & water is least wasted
Weeds are destroyed using herbicides/weedicides Weeds are manually or mechanically removed
Has fatal affects on many friendly small animals & insects like owls, snakes, earthworms, frogs etc. Does not affect their habitat. Rather, it encourages their dwelling.
Adversely affects ecological balance, both due to deforestation & extensive use of toxic chemicals Affects adversely (as trees or forests are cleared for making space for farming), but not that much.
Chemical defoliation Defoliation is seasonal/natural or by water control

The thing about buying organic clothes is that you have to pay attention to the labeling. Specifically to the semantics of the words. Many clothing manufacturers will put ‘organic’ in the tag of their clothes as a marketing ploy to get you to buy their products. So just seeing ‘organic’ in the labeling doesn’t mean much. Look for certified organic clothes approved by a recognized certifying authority. Here are some of those authorities in North America, Europe and Asia:

  • Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS)
  • USDA National Organic Program (NOP)
  • European Organic Regulations (EU 2092/91)
  • Export Certificates for Japan (JAS Equivalent)
  • Indian National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP).
  • Quebec Organic Reference Standard (CAAQ)
  • Bio Suisse Standards
  • IOFAM Basic Standards

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portrait of William Lee

About the Author

This is Will, current content coordinator at Trusted Clothes. Will is a writer at heart with a journalism print background. An award-winning writer and video producer, Will divides his time between super-heroing at Trusted Clothes and being a complete die-hard Star Trek fan. And wearing funny Captain Picard shirts too.

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