The True Cost of Conventional Cotton

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Kate Ball-Young, former sourcing manager of Joe Fresh: “Does it bother me that people are working in a factory, making clothes for Americans and Europeans? No. I mean they are doing a job. There is nothing inherently dangerous with sewing clothes. So we are kind of starting out with a relatively safe industry. It’s not like coal or natural gas mining.” – In many ways, her worldview neatly encapsulates the abstracted beliefs about globalization and capitalism held by most Americans today, who aren’t aware of the dangers those factory workers have to face every day. Similarly to coal mining, where’s constant danger of collapse (much like Rana Plaza), people are also dying a slow death caused by the chemicals.

The dangers of conventional cotton

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Dr. Pritpal Singh

According to Statista, India is the country that produces cotton the most. So let’s talk about it.

Most of India’s cotton is grown in the Punjab region. As a result, it has quickly become the largest user of pesticides in India. Dr. Pritpal Singh has been studying the effects of these chemicals on human health. His reports showed dramatic results in the numbers of birth defects, cancers and mental illness.  

Dr. Pritpal Singh: “You can go to every village, you will see that hundreds of patients are suffering from cancers. You will find 70 to 80 kids in every village facing severe mental retardation and physical handicaps. Companies of the fertilizers and pesticides are totally refusing the after-effects of these chemicals. So it is a very dangerous phenomenon in Punjab.


How conventional cotton affects us

As our skin is the largest organ, these chemicals are passed into the bloodstream of the people sewing and wearing these clothes.

The alternative

We do have methods that have a lower impact on the environment and our health. It’s called organic cotton. Its production sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people by using natural processes rather than artificial inputs.

What you should know about organic cotton:

  • Reduces environmental footprint
    The growing of organic cotton doesn’t use toxic chemicals.
    It doesn’t damage the soil, has less impact on the air, and uses 71% less water and 62% less energy.

  • Promotes safe work & better livelihoods
    Growing organic cotton keeps farmers and their families safe.
    They are not exposed to toxic chemicals in the field or through their food and water supply.
    It also means farmers grow more than one crop which supplements their food and income.

  • Model for the future
    By 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population may face water shortages.
    But organic cotton is 80% fed by rain, which reduces pressure on local water sources.
    The absence of chemicals also means that water is cleaner and safer.
    Growing cotton in water-scarce areas requires irrigation and it takes 2,700 liters of water to make a conventional cotton t-shirt.
    Water consumption for organic cotton is 182 liters/kg lint, which is significantly less than that of conventional cotton at 2,120 liters/ kg lint.

  • Impacts our food system
    Cotton seed oil is an ingredient of food products such as cookies, chips and vegetable oil. Some farmers use it as feed to livestock.
    So while cotton fiber is not something we put in our body, the by-product can make its way into our diets.

  • Fair price for sustainability
    When you buy organic cotton you are investing in water conservation, cleaner air, better soil and farmer livelihoods.
    The price for organic cotton is therefore sometimes, but not always, higher.
    However, with demand on the rise, more choices will become available.

Brands that use organic cotton:

veja, organic cotton, finest fashion site, finestfashionsite
the wylde, finest fashion site, finestfashionsite, ffs, organic cotton
The Wylde
stella mccartney
Stella McCartney
mother of pearl, finest fashion site, finestfashionsite, ffs
Mother of Pearl
Mara hoffman, finest fashion site, finestfashionsite, ffs
Mara Hoffman









Read our previous article based on The True Cost here.

To watch the film, click here.

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