Conventional cotton is the kind of cotton which is most widely used, also called “traditional” or “ordinary” cotton.
Natural, soft, flexible, breathable and absorbing.
China and India are the biggest conventional cotton producing countries. Today, India is even surpassing China as the world’s top cotton producer. However, the production of cotton continues to increase in Bangladesh, Indonesia and Vietnam and even parts of Africa are catching up.
The ground where conventional cotton is produced is often heavily depleted because of continuous re-use and the frequent usage of fertilizers and other chemicals. As a result, the soil gets damaged and a high risk of erosion arises. Moreover, the production of cotton requires lots of water and therefore farmers often use intensive irrigation systems in order to cultivate conventional cotton.
The production of cotton is usually very labor intensive (except for large cotton fields; these are sometimes picked by machines). Besides, chemicals used in the process are harmful to farmers. Often, cotton farmers do not know how to protect themselves against these chemicals. They do not wear any protection and do not wash with warm water. As a result, pesticides have the chance to get through their skin, causing serious illness in the longer term.
As mentioned before, the production of cotton requires a huge amount of water. In order to produce 1 kilogram of cotton, you need approximately 10.000 to 20.000 liters of water. 1 kilogram of cotton is often needed to produce 1 pair of jeans (!).
Did you know that the original color of cotton is white with yellow and brown tints? The white color, which is often associated with cotton, is the result of a bleaching or dyeing process. This coloration process requires high temperatures and contains high levels of metal- and sulfur. These materials are toxic and end up in our water system during washing. Besides, this toxics might be absorbed through your skin while wearing garments of cotton.
Cotton is usually not a very expensive fabric. Traditional cotton is approximately 20 to 30% cheaper than organic cotton.
Organic cotton is made up of natural fibers and is cultivated without the use of fertilizers and toxic pesticides. Organic cotton grows, therefore, slower than non-organic cotton, but usually has stronger and better fibers.
Natural, soft, flexible, breathable, absorbing, renewable, biodegradable and better for your skin than conventional cotton.
Lots of organic cotton is produced in India, China, Turkey, the United States, Latin America and nowadays also in Africa. Tajikistan in Central Asia is a relatively small provider of organic cotton, but its production has grown with 200% over the last year.
The production of organic cotton requires more soil than regular cotton. The agriculture needs a new piece of farmland every time to make sure that the soil stays healthy and does not impoverish. Besides, this way farmers can continue cultivating their food. Producing organic cotton means that there is no use of fertilizers and pesticides because of this, the soil stays much cleaner than with ordinary cotton. Insects are kept away by the use of ‘beneficial insects’. This means that natural enemies of the insects are used in order to keep away the insects. Another solution for this is the use of bacteria’s.
Organic cotton is usually picked by hand and not by machines. The use of machinery requires chemical defoliants which is not environmentally friendly. In general, the production of organic cotton is better for workers than the production of regular cotton.The production of organic cotton avoids the use of toxic pesticides which is often associated with health problems of farmers. The use of fertilizers and pesticides is expensive and many farmers have pesticide debts which they won’t be able to pay off. This has resulted in numerous suicides in countries where cotton is produced.
The water usage during the production of organic cotton is similar to the water usage of the production of traditional cotton. In order to produce 1 kilogram of cotton, you need approximately 10.000 to 20.000 liters of water. 1 kilogram of cotton is often needed to produce 1 pair of jeans (!).
The dyeing process of organic cotton takes place with the use of natural dyestuffs with a low percentage of metal and sulfur. Water-based ink or pigment without heavy metals are widely used dyestuffs of organic cotton and have a less negative impact on the environment.
In general, the costs of producing organic cotton is higher than regular cotton. Organic cotton is approximately 20 to 30% more expensive than regular cotton.