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How Green is Your Cotton?

BY DIONE LISTER

We are encouraged to buy clothes made from cotton, because cotton is a natural material – and the more natural the better, right? Cotton breathes and feels nice to wear, however there are many environmentally damaging practices that occur when the cotton is produced (grown).

  • Growing cotton requires a lot of water – the average amount of water needed for a t-shirt is 1,514 litres, a pair of jeans 6,813 litres.
  • Conventionally grown cotton crops require more pesticides than any other crop – that’s a lot of chemicals. 10% of deaths of farmers in developing countries can be attributed to these chemicals. These toxic substances also end up in our waterways and on adjoining farms, contaminating livestock and other crops.
  • During the conversion of cotton into fabric, many hazardous materials are used and added, including silicone waxes, petroleum scours, softeners, heavy metals, flame and soil retardants, ammonia, and formaldehyde - just to name a few
  • The colouring, or dyeing, process also uses more water and more chemicals.

The good news is that many organic cotton farms are ‘cropping up’. So how can we tell if our clothes have been made with organically farmed cotton? There isn’t yet a standard logo that defines whether a product is made from organic cotton; however the label on your article of clothing should state ‘certified organic’.

If you're looking for other popular organic and natural materials, you may want to consider hemp, silk and wool.

To browse some of our eco fashion listings, take a look at our green earth guide.

What do you think?


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