Organic cotton is on the rise

Organic cotton is growing, both literally and in terms of worldwide usage.

According to a report from EcoTextile News, organic cotton could represent a quarter of global cotton production by 2020. The report states that 933,000 metric tons of cotton was standard-compliant in 2012, or in other words, grown in accordance with sustainability guidelines. While 933,000 metric tons sounds like, well, a ton, it represented only 3.4 percent of global cotton production last year.

The benefits of organic cotton versus conventional cotton are numerous. Here’s a quick breakdown of ways in which organic cotton makes a positive difference for people and the planet.

Benefits of Organic Cotton

  • Conventional cotton consumes 10 percent of the world’s agricultural chemicals and 25 percent of all insecticides; organic cotton is chemical and insecticide free.
  • In the most extreme forms of conventional growth, cotton is grown in “dead soil” devoid of nutrients. This means everything supporting the crop’s growth is delivered synthetically. Organic cotton is naturally grown and supports diverse ecosystems.
  • Because chemicals are absent, organic cotton is safer for laborers to harvest.

Now, back to the projected growth of organic cotton production. While organic cotton only represented 3.4 percent of the global total in 2012, organic cotton growth rose 54 percent per annum from 2008 to 2012.

Demand from major international retailers is helping drive the increase in organic cotton production. The leading sellers of organic cotton products aren’t niche brands or small names—they’re major retailers, brands all consumers are familiar with, including H&M, Nike, Puma, Williams-Sonoma and Target. In terms of nonclothing sellers, IKEA is the largest user of organic cotton.

For consumers looking to build their wardrobe sustainably, check out the organic cotton consumer guides from Prairie Eco-Thrifter and Mother Earth Network. As it currently stands, organic cotton products are not hard to find, but if the projections of future growth are accurate, it’s on its way to becoming a lot more common.

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