Why Organic Cotton

Sixteen years ago when I founded Green Babies, the term “green” was so disassociated from fashion (or anything else for that matter), that people would ask my husband and business partner: “Green Babies, what’s that?” And he’d answer, “It’s an adoption agency for Martian children.” “Oh”..they’d say, slowly nodding and backing away. Sometimes he'd tell them what it really was and they looked equally perplexed. Things have changed, for the much better and brighter, but the question still remains: Why does organic cotton matter?

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.

There just simply is no magic garbage barge taking these neurotoxins off the planet, our planet. We all cringe when we see the wicked witch handing poor Snow White the poisoned apple and yet, if we’re not choosing organic, we are doing the same. Can we really just close our eyes as our land is being bombed with poisons, some developed as chemical weapons during wartime?

Cotton in the Food Chain

If you eat potato chips, corn chips, [insert favorite salty snack food here], you’re most likely ingesting conventional cotton. Check that label: Cottonseed oil is right near the top in the list of ingredients, and it’s chances are, it’s not organic cottonseed oil. If you eat salty snack foods, you’re most likely ingesting conventional cotton. Conventional cotton and its toxic legacy makes it into our food supply in other ways, too. Hulls from cottonseeds are a common feed for beef cattle, so if you’ve got a hankering for a burger, you’re probably getting more than you bargained for in your own personal ecosystem, as well.

The Silver Lining

Here’s the good news: Organic cotton acreage is growing, not just here in the United States, but the world over. This is because of clever designers embracing the better promise of organic cotton, along with making appealing clothes that increase awareness and demand for greener textiles. And more organic cotton not only makes a better quality of life for the farmer and farm workers, but it may also make your food bill cheaper, even in the short run.

Organic cotton could also make your food bill cheaper, even in the short run. Organic acreage allows for more crop diversity and health. It also doesn’t allow genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that may be linked to Colony Collapse Disorder, a mysterious syndrome in bees that is confusing and killing them. Less bees means more cash at the grocery store, since struggling farmers have to “rent” worker bees and sometimes ship them long distances to pollinate their crops.

Voting With Our Dollars

Conscious consumerism is changing the way we think about our purchases and our relationship with “stuff.” We’ve begun to ask ourselves the questions big ad agencies get paid a lot of money to help us forget to ask:

  • Where does it come from?
  • Who made it?
  • Who touched it?
  • Under what conditions?
  • What will happen to it when I’m done?

Because We're Worth It

How good does it feel to look good, feel great, be connected to other people and the planet? How good does it feel to pick up a new shirt, smell it, and have it really smell like fresh fields and not a laundry detergent claiming to smell like fresh fields or volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the polymers new clothes are treated with? New clothes often smell like VOCs from the polymers they’re treated with. How good does it feel to know that the young woman who picked that cotton in Turkey with her toddler on her back does not have to worry about what’s been sprayed on the crop that became your shirt? The answer is really good. Organic cotton matters and it’s worth the extra couple of bucks.

Actually, when you think about it, it’s not so much that organic cotton is worth it. It’s that we’re worth it.