What you are really buying when you buy organic cotton

Organic cotton is becoming increasingly popular on the clothing market, but what does “organic” really mean? In this post, we will explore the process and environmental impacts of organic cotton production and explain why buying organic is worth the extra cost. We’ll also dive into the labor conditions of cotton production and demonstrate why buying organic is a smart ethical decision.


The Cost of Cotton Production

Conventional cotton is considered the dirtiest crop on earth. It consumes 16% of the world's insecticides and requires $2 Billion in pesticides each year. Pesticides and insecticides used in cotton production contaminate the soil we use to grow crops, the air we breathe, & the water we drink. The deaths of animals exposed to these contaminants are counted in the millions every year.

The Environmental Benefits of Organic Cotton

Organic cotton is grown without harmful chemicals, leaving the soil, air, and water free from contaminants that cause harm. It produces 46% less CO2 compared to conventional cotton. Organic cotton growers typically utilize more rain (green water) than irrigation. And speaking of the water. Check out the water footprint of some of some of our most popular cotton items:

  • Socks- 244 gallons per pair
  • Underwear- 86 gallons for bikini style, 252 per pair of men's boxers
  • T-shirts- 569 gallons each
  • Dress shirts-975 gallons each
  • Jeans- 2,866 per pair

The Ethical Benefits of Buying Organic

Many people with skin problems report a dramatic improvement in their skin condition once they switched to organic.  If wearing or using towels made with conventional cotton can cause skin irritations imagine the harm on the people who harvest the crop around the world. When people work on organic farms, they are not exposed to harmful chemicals.

Consumers Hold Power

Organic cotton is more expensive than traditionally grown cotton, but the cost reflects the effort, quality, and ethical considerations that go into the production of organic cotton products. Buying organic cotton products not only reduces the environmental impacts of cotton production, but it also helps support better labor conditions and thus a more equitable global economy.

Action Step 

Support responsible labor and environmental practices. Let's grow the demand for organic cotton and make a difference with your purchases. 

Check out the organic tea towels with designs made just for Eat Less Water.  

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About the author:

I'm an award-winning author of EAT LESS WATER, a public speaker, and an environmental activist. I am an expert on sustainable living and water conservation solutions and have a growing line of sustainable kitchen products designed bring more joy in the kitchen-the most important room of the house to save water with the food we eat. I have appeared on television, radio, and podcasts including NPR, American Public Media, KCRW’s Good Food, New York and Bay Area Pacifica Radio, Entertainment Weekly, and CBS, KTLA Morning News.  I host the podcast HOW TO EAT LESS WATER.  Home is mostly in Oxnard, California, an agricultural town on the Pacific coast and sometimes Santa Fe, New Mexico.