4.5 billion jeans; the number of jeans sold annually on a global scale. That’s 0.59 pairs of jeans per person in the world. Every year!
Sadly, organic cotton only accounts for 0.68% of the global cotton production, despite there being incredibly good reasons why every single pair of those 4.5 billion jeans should be made from organic cotton.
BCI COTTON VERSUS ACTUAL ORGANIC COTTON
You may have noticed that some of the major global brands are using a type of cotton called BCI (Better Cotton Initiative) cotton, which accounts for approx. 20% of the global cotton market, and think that I got the above percentage wrong; so before I continue, let me clarify what BCI is and is not. BCI certification means that fewer synthetic pesticides, insecticides and fertilisers are used when growing the cotton than conventionally grown cotton. It does not however mean organic cotton and it is up to the farmer to decide how much of the chemical pesticides etc they use; in short, they set their own targets. It is certainly better for the planet, but it is a half-hearted effort in my opinion as it still pollutes.
GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certified organic cotton is the whole-hearted effort and OCS (Organic Content Standard) certified cotton is also ok. If we could get all brands on board with using certified organic cotton, then we could make huge, tangible gains in terms of reducing pollution. And that’s where you come in…
FIVE REASONS TO BUY ORGANIC COTTON JEANS
As you can see from the above numbers, the denim industry equals BIG business, and hence brands monitor any changes in consumer demand closely and adjust their offer accordingly. As a consumer, you can send a strong signal to the industry that you want your jeans made of organic cotton through the purchases you make.
Here are five reasons why your next pair of jeans should be organic cotton jeans;
1. NO CHEMICAL PESTICIDES OR INSECTICIDES
Organic cotton is grown using only natural pesticides and insecticides. Conventional cotton, on the other hand, is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to the use of chemical insecticides and pesticides, accounting for approximately 16% and 10% of the total global use respectively.
Without going into too much harrowing detail, synthetic pesticides and insecticides are linked to cancer and other illnesses in cotton farmers, and affect not only the workers, but also wildlife and potentially ourselves as it is carried in the air and seeps into water streams and wells. According to GOTS, 77 million workers suffer from pesticide poisoning every year…
2. NO CHEMICAL FERTILISERS
Organic cotton is also grown using natural fertilisers only such as manure, whereas conventional cotton is using chemical industrial fertilisers. The chemical fertilisers are known for releasing vast amounts of carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere and soil, contributing to climate change.
3. LESS WATER CONSUMPTION
Cotton is the thirstiest crop on the planet and demands extensive amounts of water to grow, regardless of whether it is conventional cotton or organic cotton. The difference is, that conventional cotton uses ground water for irrigation, whereas 75-80% of all organic cotton is grown using the more responsible rain water irrigation method.
Given that clean drinking water is going to be a scarce resource in the future (and already is in some places), the less we use of it in farming the better. According to the United Nations, it takes 7500 litres of water to make a pair of jeans. Some of that is related to the dyeing and finishing processes, however the vast majority is related to the irrigation of the cotton crops. Imagine all the clean drinking water we can save by using organic cotton instead of conventional cotton for those 4.5 billion jeans that are sold every year. Mind blowing, isn’t it?
4. NO GENETICALLY ENGINEERED SEEDS (GMO)
Nearly 75% of the world’s cotton is grown using genetically engineered seeds (GMO). These seeds are engineered to be more pest-resilient and hence requires less pesticides, which is great. Unfortunately, this has not entirely worked out as intended, as the pests have become resistant to the toxins that are built into the genes of the seeds and secondary pests have emerged, forcing the farmers to increase the amounts of pesticides instead of decreasing.
There are also reports of livestock and farmers falling ill after being close to the fields and seeds. BCI cotton takes a neutral stance to GMO cotton, allowing their members to use it in cotton farming.
Organic cotton is produced without the usage of genetically engineered seeds.
5. NO TOXIC DYES OR FINISHES
Conventional denim production is a heavy contributor to pollution caused by toxic dye stuffs and chemical-heavy finishing processes The movie River Blue describes the impact of the conventional denim industry on people and the planet well, in case you are interested in knowing more about the subject.
Jeans made from organic cotton are typically dyed with non-toxic dye stuffs and finished using more eco-friendly processes. It is not a guarantee unless they are GOTS certified, but a brand using organic cotton is likely to be mindful about the environmental impact of the jeans-making process in general.
YOUR ACTIONS REALLY MATTER
As you see, there are plenty of compelling reasons to choose organic cotton denim, and fortunately there ARE quite a few brands around (including VILDNIS) who offer organic cotton jeans, as well as jeans made from Tencel and recycled polyester blends.
Although not a given, most of them are dyed with Oekotex certified dye stuffs (ours are) and finished with laser or other less water and chemical heavy processes. As an example, most of our VILDNIS jeans have been washed with air, using state-of-the-art nanobubble machines from Italian Jeanologia and saving 200 litres of water per pair of jeans. Soon we will be able to reduce the amount of water used in the dyeing process as well!
If you weren’t already an organic cotton convert, I hope I have given you enough reasons to become one now!
Your actions really can make a difference, so next time you are buying a pair of jeans, save the planet – and yourself – from all those nasty chemicals by investing in a pair of organic cotton ones :-)