Since day one Rotholz has proudly adopted the use of organic cotton in shaping our collections. The use of organic cotton has grown to become an underlying principle in offering fair & organic fashion for our everyday as a low-impact alternative to conventional cotton.
So, what is organic cotton? In short organic cotton is non-genetically modified cotton, grown without toxic pesticides or synthetic fertilizers that is harvested under fair working conditions. Its production sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people by relying on natural processes rather than the use of nasty toxins and synthetic fertilizers.
So, why organic cotton!? We have compiled six key reasons why we choose organic cotton, and why you should too:
1) Organic Cotton reduces our environmental footprint
Conventional cotton requires 2,700 liters of water to make one cotton t-shirt, yes just one. At 324 liters per t-shirt organic cotton requires 88% less water than conventional cotton. The effects of water usage in conventional cotton crops can already be seen globally. One such example, the Aral Sea, was once the fourth largest lake in the world sandwiched between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, boasting vibrant fishing communities and an abundant wildlife population. But when rivers feeding the lake were diverted to help irrigate conventional cotton farms in eastern Europe the Aral Sea rapidly dried out. It is now called the Aralkum Desert.
In addition to its low water usage Organic cotton reduces our environmental footprint as it also does not require toxic chemicals throughout its growth process, including hazardous pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers. This natural approach doesn’t damage the soil where cotton is grown, but instead replenishes soil fertility. It also has less impact on the air, using 62% less energy. Great news if we compare it to conventional cotton which uses about 16% of the world’s insecticides and 7% of pesticides, threatening the quality of soil and water, as well as the health of biodiversity in and around the fields, and finally in our waterways and oceans.
2) Organic Cotton promotes fair working conditions and better livelihoods
Growing organic cotton keeps farmers and their families safe, contrary to the terrible harm that conventional cotton growth has over their lives and communities. The use of chemical pesticides pollutes the natural water sources of the farmer’s communities, the same communities that have pesticide-laden dust blown into the air every year. The Aral Sea region, mentioned above, suffers from the highest rate of throat cancer in the world, representing 80% of all throat cancer cases worldwide. On the contrary, growing organic cotton offers farmers the ability to grow multiple crops, including residue-free food crops as part of the organic cotton system, further promoting rural development. This gives farmers the opportunity to supplement their own food supply or add another income stream. No pesticides also mean no exposure risk to mothers or pregnant women working within the crop system, allowing them greater involvement and role diversity.
3) Organic Cotton is a sustainable model for the future
By 2025 it is expected that two-thirds of the world’s population may face serious water shortages. Not a surprise when we know that on average the fast fashion industry uses 10,000 liters of water to produce one single kilogram of cotton. To put this into context the world's largest conventional cotton-producing countries like China, USA and Pakistan are already under high water stress. But organic cotton is a different story. Organic cotton is 80% rain-fed, which drastically reduces the pressure on local water sources in comparison to regular cotton. Plus, the absence of chemicals in the growing of organic cotton also means that water is much cleaner and safer, giving farmers the ability to diversify their crops and providing a safer workplace and home.
4) Organic Cotton impacts our food system and is good for our skin
While cottonseed oil is commonly used to feed livestock, a well-kept secret is its common use in a variety of our own essential everyday food products from crackers, chips, and margarine to vegetable oil. Supporting and prioritizing the cultivation of organic cotton and the use of organic cotton seeds eventually translates to better quality food for us. So while cotton fibre is not something we directly put into our body, the by-product does make its way into our diets. Furthermore, organic cotton is good for our skin too. In fact, organic cotton is so safe, it’s one of the best materials for your skin. It’s hypoallergenic, meaning it won’t cause irritation to people with skin issues and sensitivity, and people with asthma are safe to wear it too. On top of that, organic cotton is the safest and comfiest choice for babies’ clothes who have very sensitive skin as well. In conclusion, if you avoid eating fruits and vegetables that have been treated with chemical pesticides, you should probably also avoid wearing fabrics treated with harming chemicals and absorbing them through your biggest organ, your skin.
5) Organic Cotton can make a real difference in fighting climate change
From 2018 to 2019 cotton production worldwide amounted to some 118.65 million 480-pound bales, most of it for the fashion industry. Crazy, we know. And what's more crazy is that organic cotton makes up less than 1% of this. However, there is still hope; in the last years organic cotton production has been rising nonstop, thanks in large part to a spike in demand. So by choosing organic over conventional cotton we have the purchasing power to influence brands, manufacturers and farmers, to make more conscious choices. The Soil Association believes switching to organic cotton could reduce the global warming impact of cotton production by 46% compared to non-organic cotton. Organic cotton would also reduce consumption of scarce fresh water by over 90% and energy use by over 60%.
6) Organic Cotton is an investment for an affordable sustainable future
The current reality is that the price for organic cotton is higher than regular cotton. Factors such as a smaller yield per acre, tighter protocols around cross-contamination with regular cotton, and its more labour intensive growing and harvesting processes, are some of the key elements as to why the price for organic cotton is higher. But when you pay a bit more for organic cotton products, you invest in water conservation, cleaner air, better soil and farmer livelihoods. The good news is that with demand on the rise, more choices and a wider price range for organic cotton is continually increasing. As mentioned before, it is consumer purchasing power that pushes and influences companies to invest in sustainable alternatives.
So there you have it, six points on the benefits of organic cotton that motivates us to continue our path as a fair fashion brand, and reasserts our mission to continually strengthen our sustainable practices. As you read this, hopefully it has provoked some reflection and has inspired you to take action too. So, next time you think cotton, think organic cotton.