3 Top Reasons Conventional Cotton Is Terrible for Mother Nature
Cotton is one of the most widely used fabrics all over the world. One of the earliest fibers to be ever grown by humans, cotton is known for being comfortable, breathable, durable, and skin friendly. Cotton sheets, cotton clothing, cotton napkins, and diapers are some of the products used by us on a daily basis. Because its durable, cotton is also good value for money, lasting several years. Cotton products can also be used throughout the year, without getting too hot or too cold at any time.
There is evidence to prove that cotton existed over 7000 years ago in Mexico. Unfortunately, most of the cotton produced today isn't sustainable at all. In fact, conventional cotton is one of the biggest reasons for soil, water, and other environmental pollutions. Cotton is in huge demand everywhere around the world, so the manufacturing process relies on various artificial means to yield higher produce. Close to 90 countries worldwide produce cotton, but more than 75 percent of the global production happens in the United States, West Africa, China, India, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan. The problem is, most of these countries aren't exactly known for being eco-friendly.
How Is Cotton Cultivated?
The cotton that we get to see and use is the product of a long manufacturing process. The soft and fluffy cotton grows inside the pods of the cotton plant and burst open when it's time to be harvested. Conventional cotton isn't handpicked. The crop is harvested by stripping machines and then put into a machine called “gin” for removal of leaves, stems, and dirt. The fiber and the seed are also separated. This resultant fiber is called lint that is compressed into “bales”. These bales are then transferred to textile mills for being converted into fabric.
Non-organic cotton doesn't adhere to safe or eco-friendly production standards. Here are three ways it harms the earth:
Use of Chemicals
Out of all crops grown around the world, cotton farming uses the maximum amount of chemicals. This sounds ironic because cotton is known as one of the most sustainable fabrics. Cotton farming contributes to 24 percent of global insecticide use, with seven out of 15 of the most carcinogenic chemicals used for the plantation. Besides harming the ecosystem, these chemicals also kill the healthy insects, making way for more potent pests. The manufacturing of cotton fibers also use toxic chemicals for bleaching and dyeing, all contributing to environmental pollution.
Since cotton farms are located near the rivers, leaching and drainage systems are used to prevent water logging and salinity of the soil. When this wastewater drains into the river, it takes along the salt, pesticides and the fertilizers. This harms the fish and also makes the water unsafe for consumption. Cotton production also requires excessive use of water, leading to the drying of rivers and lakes.
Genetically Modified Crops
The use of genetically modified cotton varieties has gone up significantly in recent years, accounting for almost 30 percent of all cotton grown now. These modified crops resist insects and weed killers. The problem is that pollen dispersal carries the modified genes to other organic cotton crops nearby and contaminates those fields. Genetically modified cotton is also harmful to human health in the long-term, even though cotton isn't consumed internally.
Organic cotton is the solution to all these problems. Organic cotton farming is done without the use of chemicals, and the process doesn’t involve water pollution, wastage, or inhuman treatment of animals. Although expensive, organic cotton is a healthier alternative to conventional cotton and does not pose any harm to the environment.