We too often neglect the impact of our clothes on the environment and on our health, yet, the impact is all too real. Cotton is one of the oldest crops in the world, and is still the foundation of the fashion industry today. It’s everywhere, but do you really know what its production entails? Here are 5 things you may not have known about cotton.
1. Cotton: world champion of water consumption!
It takes about 2,700 liters of water to make a single T-shirt! This is equivalent to the water consumption of one person for 3 years. You read that correctly, more than 2000 liters of water are necessary for the production of a garment as basic as a plain, white t-shirt, including the amount of water needed to grow, transform and transport it.
It is therefore essential that we turn to less water-intensive alternatives to preserve our water sources. 97% of water is from the oceans, 2% is locked in ice, and 1% is from rivers and lakes. Water is precious, and garment manufacturing is leading to extreme loss of water, due to irrigating the crop.
2. Cotton growing is one of the most polluting in the world
While cotton cultivation occupies only 2.4% of the world’s arable land, it alone accounts for between approximately 11% and 25% of the total quantities of pesticides and insecticides used in the world. Among the many pesticides used in cotton fields, some are classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “highly hazardous” (class 1B), such as monocrotophos or thriazofos, or as “extremely hazardous” (class 1A), such as parathion or phosphamidon.
These pesticides are dangerous endocrine disruptors that can alter the functioning of the endocrine system and thus induce deleterious effects on that organism or its descendants. It is important to note that when cotton fibers come in contact with these chemicals, they are saturated at the fiber level and cannot be washed out over time. Therefore, the wearer of the cotton clothing will come into contact with these chemicals used throughout the manufacturing process, each time they wear the clothing.
3. In India, a cotton farmer commits suicide every thirty minutes
India is one of the main producers of cotton and is experiencing an unprecedented wave of suicide among farmers. The growth of this sector, which still employs nearly half of the working population in India, has slowed down considerably, resulting in a drop in income for farmers. Companies like Monsanto have promised farmers larger cotton yields if they use their GMO seeds, however, year to year the farmers go further and further into debt because they need to buy pesticides and other chemicals to treat the GMO seeds.
Not to mention, each year the farmers need to buy new GMO seeds, because they are manufactured to not reproduce year to year, as regular cotton does. Farmers’ expenses for purchasing pesticides tend to increase from year to year, thus reducing their earnings from production. When they are no longer able to pay back their credit, and see no way out, they commit this tragic act.
4. Cotton cultivation is responsible for the increase in cancer rates in the areas where it is cultivated the most
According to a 2015 study in Environmental Sciences Europe, the number of cancer cases in Punjab (a region that produces 1/3 of India’s cotton and where production has increased threefold in 15 years) has risen from over 800,000 new cases in 2001 to 1,220,000 in 2016, affecting all categories of people. We can deduce that the use of pesticides has an impact not only on the quality of the soil, which is becoming less and less fertile, but also on people.
The simple fact that they live in a region where cotton cultivation is so present, it exposes them to risks of cancer through food, water, and air. Finding an alternative to the pesticides that these producers use is therefore not only an environmental issue but also a health priority.
5. Cotton is not only present in the textile industry
The global cotton market is expected to reach $5.59 billion or about €4.77 billion by 2025. Therefore, to maximize its yield, each piece of cotton is used at 100%, and not just by the textile industry. It can now be found on our plates as well. The extract of cotton seeds is an ingredient used for cattle feed in the form of press cakes (a solid pressed nutrient extract).
If the cow eats the chemical-ridden cotton, and we eat the cow, we are inevitably ingesting the same toxic chemical compounds, which means that it can eventually have repercussions on our health as well.
In front of such facts, it is necessary to find a solution both on the sanitary and environmental level. What if organic cotton was a solution? Unlike traditional cotton, it is grown without pesticides, insecticides or chemicals. Natural compost replaces chemical fertilizers and neither chlorine nor heavy metals are used in the manufacturing process. Thus its water consumption is 90% lower than that of traditional cotton.
Chez SANNA, we make it a point to use materials grown in an environmentally friendly way. Discover the brands in our selection that have adopted organic cotton: Bogdar, Boyish Jeans, Envelope1976, GOAT, Les Poulettes, Mother of Pearl, Swedish Stockings, The Summer House and TUCCA.