Often, when we think of cotton, we immediately think of a natural and non-polluting material. Cotton is a natural material, but this does not mean that it is not polluting. On the contrary.
Why choose organic cotton?
Growing and processing organic cotton requires much less water than conventional cotton. A soil without chemicals retains more water. Indeed, chemical substances need water to be diluted. In addition, to meet the criteria of organic, it must not contain any pesticides, chemical fertilizers or GMOs: it is an eco-responsible material.
The use of organic cotton instead of conventional cotton would reduce the climate impact of this culture by 46%.
Favoring organic cotton means protecting our planet, but it also means protecting the people who work the cotton throughout the production chain, since they are not in contact with chemicals. Choosing organic cotton allows us to improve the working conditions of the workers, but also of the people around them, and of the inhabitants of the cotton growing regions.
At Elia, we have chosen to use organic cotton for our menstrual panties, but why? First of all, after having exchanged with various health professionals, all confirmed to us that for the vaginal flora, cotton was the best to take care of it. The materials used in our panties are Oeko-Tex certified, i.e. without chemical substances harmful to the environment and to humans.
How to recognize organic cotton from conventional cotton?
Thanks to the certifications, you can recognize an organic cotton from a conventional cotton. The GOTS (Global Organic Standard Textile) label, for example, guarantees the organic nature of cotton. The Oeko-Tex label guarantees the absence of chemical substances that are harmful to the body and the planet.
Be careful not to confuse all the labels! The BCI (Better Cotton Initiative) label, promoted by several major fast fashion brands, only provides for better standards in cotton cultivation in 24 countries, but this label does not in any way prevent the use of pesticides, insecticides and herbicides.
Why is traditional cotton a disaster for the planet?
Traditional cotton represents 26 172 678 tons produced per year, it is simply the most produced natural fiber in the world.
But the cultivation of traditional cotton is also 25% of the total consumption of pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Many GMOs are also present in the cultivation of cotton.
The other problem with the cultivation of traditional cotton is its need for water. The cultivation of cotton requires enormous amounts of water. A conventional cotton t-shirt requires 2700 liters of water, the equivalent of 60 to 70 showers. For comparison, 900 liters are used to produce one kilo of corn. Today, more than 50% of the world's cotton crop is irrigated. Consequence? In organic cotton producing countries, such as China or India, access to drinking water has become complicated. A well-known example: the Aral Sea which was emptied by 80% between 1960 and 2000 due to cotton production. It is also estimated that half of the cotton produced in Uzbekistan is the result of state-sponsored forced labor.
Traditional cotton is also harmful to health
As stated earlier, conventional cotton cultivation requires many chemicals to grow the flower and to improve yields. Whether it is insecticides, chlorine or heavy metals, all are very harmful. For example, if we compare cotton growing with vegetable growing, it takes 10 times more chemicals to produce cotton. These chemicals are extremely harmful to humans and to the planet: when pesticides and herbicides are sprayed, they end up in the soil, then spread to the water table and contaminate the soil, water and even the air. Today, it is known that the chemicals used in cotton cultivation are responsible for infertility, hormonal disorders, depression, diseases, cancers, and birth defects. Some of the substances used are banned in the European Union.
A report by France Info showed that the number of skin cancers increased from 800,000 in 2001 to 1,200,000 in 2016 in the Punjab region of India (one of the largest cotton exporters). In addition, in this region of India, there would be one patient per family in the villages surrounded by cotton fields, because of its production.
The working conditions of cotton producers are disastrous, and the consequences of this production are direct on their health. In countries where there is little or no framework of labor laws, child exploitation remains the norm.