Cotton. We know many of our clothes are made from it, but do we know the stark reality behind conventional cotton? What’s the difference between traditional cotton and BCI cotton? Take a read to find out why traditional cotton farming isn’t ideal for the environment, nor the workers within the industry.
How is cotton made?
Cotton farming is a lengthy process. Traditional cotton farming starts with genetically modified seeds. The purpose of the modification is to build resistance towards bugs and pest, however, over time, more pesticides or other harmful chemicals are required.
Once the seeds are planted, they are grown and sown onto the same soil repeatedly. In turn, this diminishes the soil quality, removing all-natural nutrients and the result is an unhealthy crop harvest. The end products means the crops require more water, leading to an incredible amount of water wastage.
Those green-fingered gardeners out there will know that with planting, comes weeds. The weeding process of traditional cotton uses chemical to eradicate weeds. Naturally, where toxic chemicals are used, the quality of the crop continues to diminish. It removes moisture and crucial nutrients from the soil, but not only that, it harms the farmers working on the land. The constant exposure to these chemicals can lead to life threatening illnesses for farmers, as well as affecting the any environment within a close proximity.
(Not so) fun fact: more than 25% of all harmful pesticides used in farming are from cotton production.
Sick of the sound of nasty chemicals yet? It doesn’t stop there. When being processed, traditional cotton continues to be subject to large amounts of chemicals. Even after the final wash of the product, there is residue of these chemicals which can cause irritation to your skin.
What is the impact of cotton on the environment?
We briefly touched on this, but in a nutshell:
- It degrades soil, causing poor quality cotton. Not only this, it has a negative impact on biodiversity and eco-systems that would usually thrive within it.
- As a result of degradation of soil, it can cause flooding and pollution.
- Greenhouse gas emissions.
- Due to the high water consumption, there is a humungous amount of water wastage which simply isn’t necessary.
- An increased use of harmful pesticides and fertilisers.
The good alternatives to cotton
There are better ways of producing cotton, BCI cotton principles being one of them. BCI cotton stands for Better Cotton Initiative. They are a non-profit organisation based in Geneva and London and they strive for improved production of cotton and work towards making the cotton industry more sustainable.
Farmers working for BCI should follow the following seven principles:
- Crop protection – they support farmers in phasing out the use of hazardous pesticides
- Water stewardship – using water with an environmentally sustainable ethos
- Soil health – to mitigate climate change and reduce pesticides, leading to higher quality yields
- Enhance biodiversity and use land responsibly – to minimise the negative impact on habitats in and around their farm
- Preserve fibre quality – to reduce man-made contamination, enhancing the value of the cotton
- Promote decent work – to ensure all workers enjoy decent working conditions, including fair pay and equal opportunities for learning and progression
- Operate an effective management system – by incorporating policies and procedures to enable continuous learning and improvement of farming practices.
Where can you invest in BCI cotton clothing?
The good news is that here at Studio A, all our clothes are made from BCI cotton or recycled polyester. This means that every time you purchase a product from us, you know you are making a difference to society, globally. Farmers aren’t being exploited or subject to hazardous chemicals, ecosystems are being supported, there isn’t an abundance of water wastage and your clothes will be free of toxic chemicals. Win-win!
The final actual fun fact you can be happy about – we like to leave on a high: as of 2020, BCI have 2.1 million licensed farmers, which amounts to 22% of global cotton production. Now that’s something to celebrate!