First, some facts about conventionally grown cotton. When we think about cotton, we think about cleanliness, purity and comfort. In reality, conventionally grown cotton is one of the world’s dirtiest agricultural commodities and is one of the most environmentally damaging crops grown in the world.
Unfortunately, nearly all cotton production is hugely (and increasingly) reliant on pesticides derived from petrochemicals. Because it is not a food crop, cotton is routinely sprayed with an even heavier cocktail of poisonous pesticides than normal agricultural crops. In fact 2.5% of all farmland worldwide is used to grow cotton, yet 10% of all chemical pesticides and 22% of insecticides are sprayed on cotton. This means that eight times more pesticide is used on one hectare of conventional cotton, than on other crops.
Heavy pesticide use reduces biodiversity, disrupts ecosystems, and contaminates water supplies. Worse still, more and more chemicals are being used each year as the pests exposed to the synthetic pesticides build up a resistance to them. Many of the chemicals used in cotton farming are acutely toxic. At least three of them are in the “dirty dozen” - so dangerous in fact that 120 countries have agreed to ban them. So far this hasn’t happened and they are still being used, resulting in an estimated 20,000 deaths and three million chronic health problems each year in developing countries.
In the U.S. it takes nearly a third of a pound of chemicals to grow enough cotton for just one t-shirt. It is estimated that less than 10% of the chemicals applied to cotton are accomplishing their tasks, the rest are absorbed into the plant, air, soil, water and eventually, our bodies.
The alternative is organic cotton, which in contrast, uses agricultural methods to help sustain the land it grows on, the people who grow and harvest it, and the planet in general. It is not only less destructive to the environment, but provides a better income for farmers and is sustainable long term.
Organic cotton farming uses natural pesticides (usually containing a mixture of chilli, garlic and soap). This keeps pests off the crops but does not destroy their natural predators - which survive to control their numbers naturally. Organic farming really does start with the soil. Compost, frequent crop rotations and cover crop strategies replace synthetic fertilizers to keep the soil healthy, fertile and productive. Unlike the insatiably thirsty conventional methods of production, our organic cotton is largely rain-fed. Organic cotton farming actually promotes biodiversity: the fields contain a significantly higher number of insect species (especially those which are beneficial).
When it comes to harvesting by hand, it follows that organic cotton is also much safer for those who pick it. Workers aren’t exposed to breathing in or otherwise ingesting toxic chemicals while active in the field, and don’t have to worry about the same nasty chemicals getting into their water supply if they live nearby. Therefore they can raise healthier children and livestock.
The final cloth is unbleached and dyed with natural plant dyes; therefore it really is a truly natural product.
After all this, I don’t think I have to do much more to explain why organic is best for us and for our babies.
A baby’s skin is 5 times thinner than our own, allowing toxins to penetrate much more easily. It is even more necessary to protect their growing bodies and immature immune systems from harmful chemicals.
When you buy organic cotton baby clothes you have the peace of mind that the fabric which is in contact with your baby’s delicate skin is pure, natural and free from harmful chemicals. Organic cotton is so soft, and this is because the fibres have not been damaged by the chemicals used in the farming and processing of conventional cotton. Being free from harmful chemicals also makes it less likely to trigger allergies.