Here are the facts… There’s a lot “bad” about conventionally grown cotton—cotton grown with the aid of synthetic chemicals, that is. The Organic Trade Association (OTA), a nonprofit trade group representing America’s burgeoning organic cotton industry, considers cotton “the world’s dirtiest crop” due to its heavy use of insecticides. The nonprofit Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) reports that cotton uses 2.5 percent of the world’s cultivated land yet uses 16 percent of the world’s insecticides—more than any other single major crop.
Three of the most acutely hazardous insecticides, as determined by the World Health Organization, are well represented among the top 10 most commonly used in producing cotton. One of them, Aldicarb, “can kill a man with just one drop absorbed through the skin,” says OTA, “yet it is still used in 25 countries and the U.S., where 16 states have reported it in their groundwater.”
Conventionally grown cotton also uses large amounts of nitrogen-based synthetic fertilizer—almost a third of a pound, says the OTA, to grow one pound of raw cotton. To put that in perspective, it takes just under one pound of raw cotton to make one t-shirt. Researchers have found that the fertilizers used on cotton are the most detrimental to the environment, running off into freshwater habitats and groundwater and causing oxygen-free dead zones in water bodies. The nitrogen oxides formed during the production and use of these fertilizers are also a major part of the agricultural sector’s greenhouse gas emissions.
This is all true despite that the use of sprayed insecticides is quickly decreasing with the advent of genetically engineered cotton seeds that have insecticides bred right into them. A third of global cotton cropland and 45 percent of world cotton production now uses genetically engineered seeds. This poses a whole other set of issues, as some scientists fear that the proliferation of such “Frankenseeds” can lead to pest immunities and even the unleashing of so-called “super pests” that can resist virtually any pesticide.
So, now what do we do? Well, easy.. Choose chemical free.
Bamboo is one of the worlds fastest growing sustainable resources being produced today. The benefits to this “grass” are increasingly positive. With a world looking to be greener and lessen the pressure on the earth, this is worth looking deeper in to.
Bamboo is the fastest growing plant on the earth. It can shoot up more than 1 yard per day. This grass reaches its maturity and can be harvested within 4 years. With its vast root system, it continually sprouts up new shoots. It requires no chemicals or pesticides to grow. It is extremely resistant to pests and is very hardy. It is also retains water, so grows without the use of artificial watering. It improves the soil quality and is great for erosion control.
Photosynthesis is another factor taken into play with bamboo plantations. Green house gas is greatly reduced by these filtering crops. Bamboo absorbs 5 times more carbon dioxide than their partnering trees and produces 35 percent more oxygen than them as well.
Organic cotton is grown using methods and materials that have a low impact on the environment. Organic production systems replenish and maintain soil fertility, reduce the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers, and build biologically diverse agriculture. Third-party certification organizations verify that organic producers use only methods and materials allowed in organic production. Organic cotton is grown without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. In addition, federal regulations prohibit the use of genetically engineered seed for organic farming. All cotton sold as organic in the United States must meet strict federal regulations covering how the cotton is grown.
Overall, you may spend a little more on your organic and Bamboo towels and sheets and area rugs, but the fact is, they last longer, get softer with each washing, are so much better for your family and our environment! Personally for my family, I’ll never go back to conventional cotton regardless of what the “deal” may be.