Saturday 24 August 2013

guest post : Olivia Golding : organic cotton

Today I'm delighted to bring you a guest post from up-and-coming fashion journalist, Olivia Golding. Enjoy!

What Goes Into Growing Organic Cotton?

Light and fluffy, cotton is a material that plays a major role in all our lives. It's highly likely that you're wearing something that has been made from cotton right now. What about that t-shirt on your back, or perhaps the jeans you're wearing?

It was around 7,000 years ago that humans are believed to have started growing cotton in the part of the world now known as Pakistan. Over the following millennia its use spread and today cotton is used to make two-fifths of all the world's textile products.

So many uses  
The reason that cotton is so popular is that it can be used to make so many things. Clothing items made from cotton can be found everywhere, but there are some more obscure items that also use the fibres attached to cotton seeds. These fine, silky strands known as cotton linters are used to add cellulose to products in order to stabilise them. For example, food manufacturers will add cellulose to items such as low fat ice-cream to ensure the dessert is still creamy when you lick it. It is also used in grated cheese to coat the individual strands to stop them sticking together and the product ending up as one big block. And that piece of gum you're chewing on… yep, it's in that too!    

Not quite so fluffy and nice

There's no denying that cotton is a great raw material and it is no accident that is has become so important in countries across the world. Unfortunately, producing cotton has a number of drawbacks. One of the main ones is that cotton is one of the most heavily sprayed crops in the world, with pesticides and herbicides used to help protect crops. Some estimates suggest the traditional cotton growing industry is responsible for almost a quarter of the world's insecticide use and a tenth of global pesticide use. There is also the issue of water usage as it takes more than 8,000 litres of water(1) to grow enough cotton to make a pair of jeans. The good news is that there are moves to curb the use of sprays that can harm the environment and wildlife. The supply of organically-grown cotton is increasing.

What is organic cotton?
Put simply, organic cotton is grown without the use of chemical pesticides or fertilisers. The overall aim is to produce cotton that has been grown in a way that has the least impact on the environment. Organic cotton farmers use compost and manure to build up fertility in land naturally, avoiding the use of synthetic pesticides. It's estimated that as many a 77 million people are poisoned each year through the use of such chemicals(2). It is always surprising to think that even though thousands of chemicals(3) have been used to turn a raw material into a finished product, so many parents will still put that material next to their child's skin. What's more, the production of organic cotton uses less water because organic systems mostly use rain fed water systems rather than artificial irrigation(4)

Better for the workers
Organic cotton is not just better for the environment, it is also better for the people working in the industry. According to the US-based Organic Trade Association, insecticides considered to be among the most harmful to human health, including Aldicarb, parathion and methamidopho, are in the top 10 list of most commonly-used insecticides by non-organic cotton growers(5). By removing such toxic pesticides from the growing process, workers in the fields are not exposed to them and the risk to health is nullified. And there's more good news for consumers, as businesses involved in organic cotton growing also tend to abide by other employment standards international labour standards(6), covering everything from fair wages and good working conditions to acceptable working hours and avoidance of discrimination. According to Jacqueline DeCarlo, author of Fair Trade: A Beginner's Guide, about 85 per cent of fair trade-certified coffee sold in the US is also organic. So by investing in organic clothing, consumers could also be having a direct impact on the lives of employees in developing countries around the world.

This post was contributed by Olivia Golding (hello!). As I've gotten older I've become more aware of the world that we live in and how we impact it, which is why I appreciated Lisa giving me the opportunity to write about the cotton industry! It's all about spreading the world, starting in little steps. I think that too many brands currently focus on the money - rather than how they source their material! That's why I'd like to mention Beaumont Organic - an ethical and organic clothing company. A brand that reflects my own views! I hope you enjoyed my post, thanks so much for listening.




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