Organic Cotton vs Regular Cotton
I was looking through all my clothes the other day and I found that almost all of my clothes were made out of cotton or a cotton blend. Looking further, I found only 2 shirts made from organic cotton. About 75% of clothing items are made from cotton or a cotton blend, but only 10% of the cotton produced is made organically. Organic cotton is healthier and more durable than regular cotton, but why?
Cotton Seed – GMO vs Organic
Right from the seed, there is already a big difference between organic cotton and regular cotton. Organic cotton is grown from a non GMO seed, whereas regular cotton uses a genetically modified seed. The modified seed is designed to help repel bugs, by adding a small protein called Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). This will combat bugs such as the bollworm (bio.org).Farmers will also use pesticides such as organophosphates to control bugs, but can also be harmful to people. If exposed to kids, they might face longer term health effects, (nationalgeographic.com) such as certain chronic illnesses. Organic cotton uses a much safer method of bug control. Rather than spraying pesticides or genetically modifying the seed, they release larvae that will eat bollworms, but won’t touch the cotton. This eliminates the risks that organophosphates that remain in clothing present.
Growing Conditions – Differences in Organic and Non-Organic
Next, with organic crops, the soil in which the cotton is grown is rotated regularly. This lets the soil fill up with nutrients again, which will lead to healthier crops. For regular cotton, it’s the exact opposite. The same soil is used every season, meaning the soil wont have as many nutrients and the cotton seeds will be exposed to more pesticides than necessary. (sleepsherpa.com). Overall, this will lead to less healthy crops.
To keep the fields free of weeds or other unwanted plants, organic and regular cotton are maintained very differently. Organic cotton is weeded completely by hand. There are no actual machines, so workers will use their hands, shovels or hoes. This helps keep the cotton completely pure. Regular cotton is taken care of with pesticides. These pesticides kill other plants and weeds along with the bollworm and other pests.
Harvesting – Regular Cotton vs Organic Cotton
Organic cotton and regular cotton are also harvested differently. Organic cotton is picked by hand to avoid impurities and to minimize the risk of it getting damaged. It also reduces the risk of cross contamination, because they only pick the cotton. When machines harvest cotton, they pick everything – the cotton, the stem, even any litter that might have flown in from a nearby street. The machines mix everything together which is why there are so many more impurities in machine picked cotton. (deborarachelle.com)
Manufacturing – Natural Dyes vs Chemical Dyes
Finally, when turning cotton into clothing, the chemicals involved are different. Organic cotton uses peroxide, nature dyes, and natural whiteners. Regular cotton is made with heavy metals, chlorine and chemical dyes. Overall, the natural products have less effect on your skin and the chemical products can cause more harm. On top of that, the chemical dyes wash out quicker, but the harmful residues stay on. (sleepsherpa.com)
Personally, I was really surprised that there were so many differences. Buying organic seems so much healthier, so it surprised me that I only had a few things made with organic cotton. I’m looking forward to buying more clothes made organically!