written by Jennifer Pearce
Cotton has been used to create clothing for at least the last 7,000 years, with it now making approximately 50% of all textiles.
Jumpers, t-shirts, jeans, underwear and more are all usually made from this dirty, thirsty crop, but what effect is that having on our planet? And what can be done to ensure we can still rock our favourite garms without it costing the earth?
Aral Sea No More
- A country that has really felt the force of this thirsty crop is Uzebekistan, home to what was once the world’s fourth largest lake, the Aral Sea.
- During the 50s, they diverted fresh water to the Aral Sea, in order to irrigate their cotton crops. The process was an environmental failure and it took only 40 years for the lake to drastically shrink to 10% its original size.
- NASA recently reported that the Aral Sea has now almost completely dried up. The formerly thriving ecosystem has been destroyed and communities by the shore left in devastation, with a cancer causing cocktail of chemicals blowing from the irrigation system into their towns and a loss of fish for food and income.
As well as being a hugely thirsty crop, cotton is known as the ‘dirtiest’ crop in the world, requiring more pesticides than almost any other crop.
- The effect that this has on people and our environment is vast. The World Health Organisation estimates that at least 40,000 people worldwide die every year from pesticide poisoning, and at least 10,000 US farmers from cancers related to these chemicals.
- Humans are not the only ones feeling the repercussions – according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, at least 63 million birds die per year from pesticides. The use of pesticides and insecticides is seriously unbalancing the food chain, putting multiple species at risk of extinction, especially bees and fish.
- Over-use of these chemicals means that pests build up immunity so farmers have to use stronger and stronger doses. Genetically modified seeds have also been adapted, that produce natural insect repellent and herbicide tolerance, but these also come at an awful price;
- 250,000 Indian cotton farmers have killed themselves in the last 15 years, partly as a result of going into debt to buy genetically modified cotton seeds.
GOING ORGANIC, the good bit
- Although organic cotton can still use a very small amount of chemical pesticide, natural alternatives are also used, such as companion planting with bug-repelling plants.
- Ethical farmers use the same techniques that have been used since way back to the first recorded confirmation of cotton growth – in 3000 BC.
- Crop rotation preserves nutrients and water in the soil and a knowledge of pests lets farmers gauge when to plant and harvest for minimal infestation.
- Ample plant spacing reduces nutrient and water usage, and proper water management techniques conserve water.
- Then, there are no harmful chemicals during processing and only natural dyes are used, if any.
- The entire process has minimal environmental and social impact.
Benefits of Organic: The stats
In 2014 the Textile Exchange created a life cycle assessment that found the following findings in the benefits of organic cotton.
- 91% less surface and groundwater used
- 70% percent less acidification of land and water
- 62% lower demand for energy
- 46% percent less harmful to global warming
- 26% less potential for for soil erosion
Do your bit by making sure you buy ‘Certified Organic’. This means that the whole process of your garment, from growth to production has been done without use of chemicals, as opposed to ‘Grown Organically’, which just means at some point no chemicals were used.
GOTS Organic means the cotton is certifed by “Global Organic Textile Standard”
What are we doing at FUUD?
Our new sweatshirt has been knitted specially for Fuud in the UK and is GOTS Organic Cotton blended with Lenzing Modal.
Our t-shirts are 100% Organic cotton
Our racer vests are Organic cotton and Modal.
Even the thread we use is 100% organic cotton!!