Is Organic cotton better?
When we, at BASEVILLE, use this word Organic, we’re describing a farming method: production without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides or other artificial chemicals, from seeds which have not been genetically modified.
Organic farming methods have benefits for the land, water, air, biodiversity and population surrounding the crops, once pesticide and chemical use results in many negative environmental aspects:
- Pesticides allow disease resistance to build up in plants, weeds, plant-eating-insects, fungi, and bacteria.
- Pesticides and chemicals sprayed on plants contaminate the soil, water supply, and air. Which means that the population (including animals) surrounding the crops will be affected.
- Synthetic chemicals also discourage smart farming practices such as cover crops and crop rotation, which in turn, may cause other harmful environmental problems like erosion.
By choosing organic over conventional farmed raw materials, we’re using less resources (accounting with chemicals production — water, energy, crude-oil — and its transport to the crops). We’re also preventing the emission of Greenhouse Gases (significant driver of observed climate change) that arises from these chemicals.
It would be easy to assume that organic crops are healthier to the planet (and to us) than conventional crops, right? Unfortunately, it is not that simple.
The Cotton Fiber Example
Looking into the organic cotton production there’s a big buzz and discussions claiming if it is better to use organic or conventional cotton. Why?
According with Cotton Inc. conventional cotton varieties have a higher yield, meaning a single plant will produce more fiber than its organic counterpart. The genetical engineering of the conventional cotton manipulates the seeds to create a plant of cotton more productive. This also means that for the same amount of cotton produced it will be necessary more land for the organic than for the conventional. That land, of course, has to be tended and irrigated.
Also according with Cotton Inc., it will take you about 1000 liters of water to grow enough conventional, high-yield cotton to produce a t-shirt. To grow the same amount of organic cotton for a t-shirt, however, requires about 2500 liters of water. The disparity is similar for a pair of jeans.
Once again it is not so easy. How many of the conventional cotton crops are high-yield? And according with AboutOrganicCotton.com the cultivation of organic cotton uses 71% less water, and 80% is rain-fed. This institution also states that conventional cotton is often grown in water-scarce areas using irrigation and it takes 2,700 liters of water to make a conventional cotton t-shirt.
But if there are different approaches and opinions regarding which is the most sustainable option regarding use of land and water consumption, regarding the use of chemicals, there are no doubts: organic cotton has the advantage of using fewer chemicals.
Organic Cotton Life Cycle Assessment – photo sourced from AboutOrganicCotton.com
Organic = Sustainable?
This is really a difficult question to answer and it’s necessary that all steps of the textile value chain are taken into account to answer it properly. You’ll need to know where the cotton came from, if the land and water are scarce resources at its origin. Where you are is also a big question once the transportation of the fiber (and your garments) plays an important role in climate change (the CHG’s gases).
Sustainability is much more that the raw material and at BASEVILLE we look into Sustainability in a 360 view. For us, the cotton growth and farming aren’t the only questions to ask.
What we do at BASEVILLE
We choose materials in 3 dimensions: quality, suitability to use and eco-footprint. Our organic cotton is premium quality, to assure durability throughout the lifecycle. It is also the suitable choice for tops and tees: comfortable & breathable. Choosing organic over conventional cotton was easy: NO to chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and insecticides. This helps to improve the quality of the land and to prevent water contamination and conserve biodiversity. This choice also helps farmers: less pesticide poisoning, less cancers related to such chemicals.
We also look at the dying process, once it is the most chemical intensive step of making clothes. We choose GOTS certified suppliers, meaning the dyeing processes and dyes used in the process are organic.
It is not easy. And what should we do (as conscious consumers) to decrease the eco-footprint of our wardrobe? The best bet is stick to this simple ethos: Buy better clothes. Buy less of them. Wear them more. There’s no more certain way to reduce your impact than to reduce the amount of clothes you consume. And to keep those clothes for a long time.
YOU make the difference. We want you INformed. We want you IN!