Many supposedly sustainable brands rely on organic cotton as a fiber for clothing. This is of course a better alternative to traditional cotton. Nevertheless, there are enough reasons why you should not use organic cotton.

1. Water consumption of organic cotton

Cotton is known to use a lot of water. The production of one kilogram of cotton can take up to 15,000 liters of water. Some sources even report that it is higher in certain countries. This is certainly less with organic cotton, but it is still far higher than many other fabric fibers. The main problem here is that cotton is grown in areas that already often have lower water resources and are therefore even more affected by greater consumption.

2. Partly questionable certificates and little control of organic cultivation

Cotton comes mainly from Asia. Unfortunately, the same guidelines as in Europe often do not apply there in terms of environmental standards and environmental laws. In addition, it is much more difficult to control the cultivation of cotton in these states. In addition, there are sometimes questionable certificates such as the Better Cotton Initiative. Most of the big fashion brands cooperate with producers who have the Better Cotton Initiative seal of approval. However, this is only about “more sustainable” cultivation. Genetically modified cotton can still be used. The stricter alternative to this is the GOTS certificate. Here, however, you have to consider that such certificates have to be acquired very expensively, which makes it impossible, especially for small family-run farms, to acquire certificates such as GOTS.

3. Working conditions: Fair fashion often looks different

Even if it is often assumed that the working conditions at suppliers of organic production are better, this is not a mandatory requirement for many certificates. Here, too, low wages, poor conditions, long working hours and sometimes child labor are part of the program.

4. Long ways: once sailed around the world

More than 90% of organic cotton comes from Asian countries. This ensures that these fibers then have to be shipped to Europe and the USA on container ships, the main buyer countries for clothing and also sustainable clothing. And these container ships are among the biggest polluters there is. In addition to high CO2 emissions, loose sulfur limits also lead to higher air pollution. The rules on these limit quantities for cars are 500 (!) times stricter than for container ships.

5. Processing of the clothes

Normally, no chemicals may be used with organic cotton. That's good and right. The only problem is that in many cases the processed fibers are free of chemicals, but when processing the fibers into the end product, such as dyeing, bleaching agents and the like are often used. If production also takes place in Asia, for example, this can result in significantly higher quantities of chemicals being used and chemical agents that are not even permitted in Europe.

Sustainable clothing looks different

For the reasons mentioned, we recommend not using organic cotton. There are materials that are produced in Europe, such as cellulose-based fibers, viscose, modal or eucalyptus. In addition, pay particular attention to where the products are finally manufactured and also tailored. There are brands like ciao. the label who specialize in fibers and clothes made in Europe.

February 12, 2023 — Nina Nossal