Diva Design Diary

By Holly Peterson

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Organic Cotton... Why all the hype?

By Holly Peterson

Organic Cotton
The Cotton Club

It may be the fabric of our lives, but conventionally grown cotton takes a major toll on the earth and human health. What’s the problem? Read on for the quick and dirty lowdown, the skinny on organic cotton, and a good guy move from big, bad Wal-Mart.

What’s wrong with cotton?
Hmmm, where do we start? For one, it takes about 1/3 of a pound of pesticides and chemical fertilizers to create just one T-shirt. The crop accounts for about 25 percent of global insecticide consumption—which is often applied via aerial spraying, causing lethal health problems in farm workers and neighboring communities.

Why go organic?
Unlike its competitor, organic cotton skips the laundry list of harmful practices. Organic cotton farmers, just like their food-growing counterparts, forego chemicals and instead rely on compost fertilizer, crop rotation, and natural predators (plain old bugs) to produce each bale.

Where do you find it?
The good news? Almost everywhere. The Organic Trade Association reports that global production of organic cotton spiked by 53 percent in 2007, and the sustainable material can be found in clothes, housewares, feminine products, diapers, and more. A healthy mix of upstart
companies (Plover Bedding, Good Society Denim) and major chains (Wal-Mart, Target, West Elm, American Apparel) are offering organic cotton products.

What’s the catch?
When it comes to third-party certification, the cotton industry falls prey to the same Catch 22 as wine and food: Standards must be stringent, but the amount of hoop jumping (and three-year grace period) required makes it difficult for small farmers who want to go organic (or already have) to get certified. To its credit, Wal-Mart has invested in “transitional cotton” by paying premium prices for non-certified cotton from farmers in the process of converting to organic.

What can you do?
Vote with your dollar by choosing organic cotton over conventional whenever you can. If the clean, green stuff isn’t an option, ask retailers when they’ll be carrying organic. And, while you’ve got their ear, take the next step: ask for organic products that aren’t treated with chemical dyes.

By making these simple changes, we're on the road to living cleaner and healthier lives...
Who wouldn't want that?

Sources: The Sustainable Cotton Project, Reuters, Organic Exchange, Organic Trade Association

1 Comment

Great information Holly, incredible statistics 1/3 of pound of pesticides per t-shirt and 25% of global insecticide consumption. I will look for organic cotton a lot more now.

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