While you may know that eating organic has benefits for human health and the environment, it often goes unsaid how much our clothing choices contribute to environmental pollution and resource degradation.

A new report by The Soil Association highlights the environmental harm of conventional cotton production in the clothing industry, pointing to organic textiles as the best way to conserve resources and reduce contamination in waterways and soils.

Titled “Thirsty for Fashion? How Organic Cotton Delivers in a Water-Stressed World,” the report by the U.K. nonprofit examines a lifecycle analysis of cotton production worldwide, from cultivation to dyeing and finishing.

Key Findings

  1. Growing conventional cotton accounts for 69% of the water footprint of textile fiber production and 5% of the use of the world’s cultivated land.
  2. Conventional cotton production is responsible for 16% of all insecticides sold globally (200,000 tons), as well as 4% of artificial fertilizer sales (8 million tons).
  3. Around 20% of all global water pollution results from the dyeing and finishing of conventional textiles.
  4. From farm to bale, organic cotton requires 91% less water to produce than conventional.
  5. Organic cotton also reduces water pollution, human health risks, and soil erosion.

It is important to consider the benefits of organic production in all consumer products, not just food. That’s why Rodale Institute is proud to partner with brands like Patagonia and Dr. Bronner’s to implement the Regenerative Organic Certification, a global standard upholding soil health, animal welfare, and social fairness guidelines in consumer goods.

Currently in a pilot phase incorporating 21 farms across the world, including cotton producers, the ROC aims to encourage consideration of water, health, and soil in all consumer products.

Don’t know where to purchase certified organic clothing? Start with Rodale Institute’s Garden Store, in person at our Kutztown, PA location or online.

Read the full report
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One thought on “5 Facts You Never Knew About Your T-Shirt

  1. Re: Your summary page about organic cotton, you neglected to mention the ecosystem impacts from genetically engineered cotton.

    About 90% of the world’s cotton is now GMO, engineering two ways: to tolerate herbicides that would normally kill the plants, and to produce/secrete insecticide. In addition, the seeds are pre-treated with neonicotinoid insecticides, plus genetically altered pollen is released into the wild. Use of this crop, along with similarly modified commodities (notably soybeans and corn) are responsible for the massive increased use of the toxic synthetic compound glyphosate (Roundup), which is now so pervasive that it rains glyphosate. https://water.usgs.gov/nawqa/pnsp/usage/maps/show_map.php?year=2016&map=GLYPHOSATE&hilo=L&disp=Glyphosate

    You might also want to know that the quality of GMO cotton is inferior to organic cotton, so much so that when the farmers union from Africa’s largest cotton-producing nation, Burkina Faso, sued Monsanto because they could not sell GMO cotton on the international market, due to it’s poor quality, the farmers won in court. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-burkina-monsanto/burkina-faso-settles-dispute-with-monsanto-over-gm-cotton-idUSKBN16F1N3

    There is no question that for clothing, bed sheets, and other fibers that come in direct contact with our skin, organic cotton is softer and is not infused with toxins.

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