Cotton has really great marketing behind it, but conventional cotton has some dirty secrets.
I’m sure you guys have all seen those “Fabric of Our Lives” ad campaigns, featuring happy people snuggling into cotton garments. Sure, conventional cotton is comfy. It’s also relatively inexpensive and easy to work with. What we don’t always think about with textiles is how that fabric gets onto the shelf.
We talk a lot at Crafting a Green World about eco-friendly fabrics, but we don’t always spend as much time talking about why it’s important to opt for these alternatives. They’re often more expensive and harder to find than their conventional counterparts, and I think sometimes we forget the “whys” behind green crafting.
Cotton gets a lot of love as a natural fabric, but how natural is conventional cotton, really? Let’s take a look at how non-organic cotton production impacts the planet and the people who grow and harvest it.
Conventional cotton is one of the most pesticide-intensive crops in the world. In fact, 16% of the world’s pesticides are sprayed on this single crop alone. That is huge. These pesticides run off into local waterways contaminating drinking water and harming wildlife.
All of those pesticides are no good for the people who work in those fields, either. We grow the vast majority of the world’s cotton in developing countries, and those farmers don’t have the means to implement as many safety measures in their farming operations. These farmers experience an array of health problems from coming into contact with all of those pesticides in the field.
Another little-known fact about conventional cotton is that much of the stuff grown worldwide is genetically modified. That means when you buy conventional cottons, you’re indirectly supporting companies like Monsanto, who are notorious for mistreating and bullying farmers. In India, farmers are so deeply in debt from costs associated with GM cotton that in some areas farmers are committing suicide at rates up to one every eight hours.
Feeling a little bit down about the cottons in your stash? Don‘t beat yourself up! I’m a big believer in using what you have and doing the best you can to make greener choices in the future. Instead of feeling guilty, be glad that now you’re empowered to make more sustainable choices next time you’re shopping for fabric.