Cotton is a lightweight breathable fiber that we wear, use, and even sleep under. But, in terms of cotton, what does organic mean? We think of organic usually when it is related to fruits and vegetables. The association is that organic produce is grown without the use of pesticides or harmful chemicals.
Relating organic to something like cotton can be confusing for some because it is not something you eat. Once you do some research about it, however, you will see that the chemically intensive process have a huge impact on the air, water, and the soil throughout the world. In short, it affects the health of humans everywhere. The chemicals used to treat non-organic cotton are listed by the Environmental Protection Agency as some of the most toxic chemicals around.
So Why Doesn’t Everyone Use Organic Cotton?
Since you now know that the process to create cotton can be extremely toxic if it is not done organically, you may be wondering why it isn’t a given that we would use only organic cotton. The biggest issue today is that developing countries do not have informed consumers and do not have a lot of control over the process. The cotton farmers are taken advantage of and exposed to the toxic chemicals, shortening their lives while the process ruins the land.
The thing is that pest control has become so engrained in even our culture that we go to extremes to try to control it when there are safer ways to save your crops. The safer ways are unfortunately more expensive on the whole, so corporations will still use the toxic methods in order to cut corners, ignoring that in the bigger picture, they are destroying the global environment and hurting people all around the world.
The Organic Cotton Grown in the United States
There has been an increase in organic cotton growth and production in the United States due to an increase of consumer demand and awareness. The United States has increased in the regulation for labeling organic cotton products, ensuring that the products are created to the organic standard.
In the U.S. we have had a substantial increase in the amount of organic cotton being planted each year. The crops have been dramatically impacted by the devastating drought that had affected the southern plains in the past few years, but the drought has since been lifted and crops have been thriving. Due to public pressure, the amount of organic cotton grown has increased percentage-wise, ensuring that the crops are grown as safely as possible.
The Color of Organic
One of the superficial concerns over using organic cotton is the question as to whether itcan be white and if it can be dyed. The answer to both is yes. The safe method of whitening organic cotton is with a peroxide solution, which is not harmful to the environment. So even after the cotton is grown organically, the process will continue to be environmentally sound through the completion of what the fiber was intended for.
As far as dye is concerned, they use more environmentally sound methods of dying organic cotton, keeping the product organic from growth until it reaches its final consumer. The pigments used contain no heavy metals.
By contrast, the harmful pigments that are used in non-organic material contain both heavy metals as well sulfur. As far as pigments are concerned, there is a large amount of petroleum bases as well as heavy metals. The primary reason that these are both harmful is the run-off will spill into water ways, polluting the streams and other water systems that surround the area.