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The Dirty Side of Cotton

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Conventional cotton isn’t “The Fabric of Our Lives,” though industry group America’s Cotton Producers and Importers have spent big bucks to make us think this is the case.

Wait a sec! Cotton is a natural material. What could be dirty about that? When you take a look at conventional cotton’s social and environmental impacts, this 100 percent natural fiber starts to feel like not such a natural choice. Let’s talk about some of the problems with conventional along with some much more ethical alternatives.

Environmental Impacts

Cotton’s environmental issues are probably the most common problem that consumers know about. Conventional cotton is a very water- and pesticide-intensive crop. A full 16 percent of the pesticides sprayed worldwide are sprayed onto cotton crops. Of course, those poisons don’t stay on the plant. When farmers water or when it rains, those pesticides wash into the soil and into rivers and streams, where they pollute waterways and damage fragile ecosystems.

All of those chemicals are also terrible for cotton workers. Check out the video at the top of the page for more on how pesticides harm cotton farmers.

In Uzbekistan, pesticides have decimated the environment and are causing widespread cancer and tuberculosis among populations there. This video from Earth Justice Foundation gets into more details about how cotton production is hurting the land and people in Uzbekistan.

Pesticides aren’t the only part of cotton production that’s bad for farmers. On the next page, read about how Monsanto’s genetically modified cotton destroyed the lives of so many Indian farmers.

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Becky Striepe

Becky Striepe is a freelance writer and vegan crafter living in Atlanta, Georgia. Her life’s mission is to make green crafting and vegan food accessible to everyone! Like this article? You can follow Becky on Twitter or find her on Facebook!


+ add your own
4:21AM PST on Dec 23, 2012

that sucks, I can only wear cotton

3:16PM PST on Dec 19, 2012


11:26AM PST on Dec 9, 2012

some good info. i went to the etsy site for hemp but they're closed this weekend.

10:56AM PST on Nov 19, 2012

Thank you for the information!!!

6:59AM PDT on Oct 13, 2012

If we just got rid of Monsanto.....

9:45PM PDT on Oct 12, 2012

Organic cotton! even cotton with some color in it (plants bred to be greenish or tan)! Thanks for the article.

9:42PM PDT on Oct 12, 2012

i was not impressed actually. there are no more good and natural things left or maybe very little. anyway, thanks for sharing ;)

5:13PM PDT on Oct 10, 2012

There always seems to be a dirty side to everything. Thanks for the article Becky.

12:57PM PDT on Oct 10, 2012


8:53AM PDT on Oct 9, 2012


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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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