Cotton has been used for thousands of years and is the world's most popular textile material. It’s not that odd really. It's soft and nice, stays cool in hot weather and can withstand both high temperatures and repeated wear. But cotton also has a dirty story featuring everything from slavery to environmental destruction. So much so that today cotton has become one of the world's most problematic raw materials due to its poison-intensive cultivation.
Conventional cotton makes use of harmful chemicals
Cotton requires huge amounts of fresh water to grow. Sometimes as much as 29,000 liters is needed to produce one kilogram of cotton. Most conventional cotton is grown in dry warm areas, which necessitates the use of pesticides. Often these regions suffer from water scarcity leading to a difficult prioritization between earning a livelihood by growing cotton or saving water for drinking purposes.
Conventional cultivation also requires significant use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers. For example, as much as 25 percent of all insecticides used in agriculture globally is used in cotton farming. However, cotton cultivation accounts for only 2.5 percent of all cultivable soil globally. These chemicals do not stop at killing harmful pests in the cotton fields. They spread to other organisms in the food chain through water, air and soil interactions and may eventually destroy entire ecosystems if not addressed urgently. Exposure to these chemicals is also causing severe health problems for many farmers as well as their neigh-bors, from complaints of headaches, nausea, dizziness and severe allergies to serious illnesses and even deaths.
Organic cotton – better for both people and planet
Organic cotton, on the other hand, is grown without chemical pesticides and manmade fertilizers. For us at Haglöfs, the choice of using only organic cotton for our products has always been an obvious one. We want our products to be the best they can be – for you, for the cotton producers’ workers and their communities as well as our environment. Unfortunately, organic cotton still only accounts for 0.1 percent of all the cotton grown in the world.
While the demand for cotton is growing, the current rate of cultivating conventional cotton cannot be sustained. With severe water constraints already straining cotton production globally, several organizations are now researching methods for recycling cotton. Despite the slow progress, we are keen to experiment with recycled cotton and see if it can become a viable alternative to even the organic cotton we use.
What can you do?
• Get informed: Make sure the cotton garments you buy are organic and preferably using cotton sourced from countries where clean water is plentiful and being replenished if possible.
• Buy easier to recycle garments: If you buy garments without mixed materials, they are easier to recycle.
• Love your clothes: No garment deserves the landfill. Take care of your cotton garments so that they’ll last longer and hand them in for second hand or recycling when you no longer need them.
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