Often, when we think of cotton, we immediately think of a natural, non-polluting material. Cotton is a natural material, but that doesn't mean it's pollution-free. Quite the contrary, in fact.
Why choose organic cotton?
Growing and processing organic cotton requires much less water than conventional cotton. Chemical-free soil retains more water. This is because chemical substances need water to be diluted. What's more, to qualify as organic, it must contain no pesticides, chemical fertilizers or GMOs: it's an eco-responsible material.
Using organic cotton instead of conventional cotton would reduce the climate impact of this crop 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 don't come into contact with chemicals. Choosing organic cotton not only improves the working conditions of the workers, but also of those around them, and of the inhabitants of the cotton-growing regions.
At Elia, we've chosen to use organic cotton for our menstrual pants, but why? First of all, after talking to various health professionals, they all confirmed that cotton was the best way to care for vaginal flora. In fact, the materials used in our panties are Oeko-Tex certified, i.e. free from chemical substances harmful to the environment and to humans.
How can you tell organic cotton from conventional cotton?
Thanks to certifications, you can tell organic cotton from traditional cotton. The GOTS (Global Organic Standard Textile) label, for example, guarantees the organic nature of cotton. The Oeko-Tex label, on the other hand, guarantees the absence of chemical substances harmful to the body and the planet.
Be careful not to confuse all labels! The BCI (Better Cotton Initiative) label, promoted by a number of leading fast-fashion brands, only sets higher standards for cotton cultivation in 24 countries, but in no way prevents lthe use of pesticides, insecticides and herbicides.
Why is traditional cotton a disaster for the planet?
Traditional cotton represents 26,172,678 tonnes produced per year, making it quite simply the most widely produced natural fiber in the world.
But traditional cotton growing also accounts for 25% of total consumption of chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Many GMOs are also present in cotton growing.
Theother problem with traditional cotton growing: its need for water. Cotton cultivation requires enormous amounts of water. A conventional cotton T-shirt requires 2,700 liters of water, the equivalent of 60 to 70 showers. By way of comparison, 900 liters are used to produce one kilo of corn. Today, over 50% of the world's cotton is irrigated. The result? In organic cotton-producing countries such as China and India, access to drinking water has become complicated. A well-known example: the Aral Sea, which was drained by 80% between 1960 and 2000 due to cotton production. It is also estimated that half the cotton produced in Uzbekistan is the result of state-sponsored forced labor.
Traditional cotton is also bad for your health
As previously stated, conventional cotton cultivation requires the use of numerous chemicals to grow the flower and improve yields. Insecticides, chlorine and heavy metals are all highly harmful. For example, if we compare the cultivation of cotton with that of vegetables, it takes 10 times as many chemicals to produce cotton. These chemicals are extremely harmful to both humans and the planet: when pesticides and herbicides are sprayed, they end up in the soil, then spread to groundwater, contaminating soil, water and even the air. Today, we know that the chemicals used in cotton cultivation are responsible for infertility, hormonal disorders, depression, disease, cancer and birth defects. Some of the substances used are banned in the European Union.
A France Info report showed that the number of skin cancers has risen from 800,000 in 2001 to 1,200,000 in 2016, in the Punjab region of India (one of the world's biggest cotton exporters). Also in this region of India, there is said to be one sick person per family in villages surrounded by cotton fields, due to cotton production.
The working conditions of cotton growers are disastrous, and the consequences of this production have a direct impact on their health. In countries where there is little or no framework of labor laws, child exploitation remains the norm.