Tonnes of toxic chemicals are used in the conventional farming and production of clothing and textiles. From the farming of the crop, to the production of the yarns, to the finishing of garments, chemicals are used that eventually end up in the environment, causing devastation to plant and animal life indiscriminately. When you add in the human cost to farmers and their families who are in direct contact with these nasty chemicals, this becomes an even bigger issue that we cannot ignore.
Textiles which are made from organic agricultural products, produced in an eco friendly manner in all steps from fiber to the end product, have no harmful effects on users and can be recycled without any harm to the environment are called organic textiles. Almost all of the organic textiles are produced from organic cotton which is grown without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides or fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation or genetic engineering and is certified by an accredited independent organization.
Organic cotton is grown without insecticide or pesticide or the use of genetically modified seeds – in other words it's guaranteed 100% natural and chemical-free. It’s typically rotated with other crops – replenishing the soil and reducing farmers' dependency on a single crop. Certified organic cotton textiles also ban the addition of chemicals as the fibre is turned into cloth.
Cotton :-next to the skin
Organic cotton:- A slide show
Cotton is the most preferred and most widely used natural fiber in the textile manufacturing ,because of its comfort , breathability and aesthetic looks. With the growing world population , the demand for textiles is increasing at a very fast pace , thus the demands for quality cotton textile is also growing. Cotton is grown in more than 50 countries of the world , and is a major crop in US, China, India, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Ezypt etc.
The increase in demand of cotton put much pressure on the agriculture researchers for increasing the output to meet the demand and to reduce the cost of production in the last century particularly. The output of cotton depends upon the natural climatic conditions, soil fertility, availability of irrigation facility , attacks by pests and weeds. To get more output from per unit area of land , a large quantity of, fertilizers to increase the fertility of land , pesticides and insecticides to save the crop from pests and insects, herbisides to defoliate cotton to pick it easily and weedicides are used worldwide. Most of these synthetic chemicals are hazardous and poisons in nature , these chemicals find there way from the agriculture fields to the soil , ground water and to the natural water streams such as rivers , lakes and canals killing thousands of animals and living organisms. Ultimately these enter our food chain and causing deadly diseases. The impact of these chemicals on our environment , natural vegetation , living organisms and human health are alarming. The residues of these chemicals remain on cotton even after processing causes various types of skin diseases and even cancer to consumers , the workers engaged in textile manufacturing come into contact and inhale these chemicals during various processes.
The organic cotton is an answer to the conventionally grown cotton , which is grown in such a way that it has a very low impact on the environment system, by reducing or eliminating the use of harmful chemicals such as fertilizers , pesticides , insecticides and herbicides. Instead of these chemicals natural organic compost manures are used , manual or mechanical weeding implants are used, instead of insecticides , natural and biodegradable insecticides such as neem are used, instead of heavy machinery hand picking is done which also minimizes the wastages.
What is organic cotton ?
Cotton grown without the use of synthetic harmful chemicals such as fertilizers , pesticides and herbicides , and produced without affecting the environment is considered to be organic in nature.
Organic cotton production
Organic cotton production
Processing of organic cotton
Besides the harmful chemicals and processes used in growing of cotton , a very large quantity of the chemicals also used in the pretreatment , dyeing and finishing of cotton textiles. Many of these chemicals are non biodegradable and dangerous to the environment and human health. A large quantity of fresh water and salt is used in processing , which not only pollutes the natural water resources but also responsible for soil pollution and degradation. The residues of such chemicals in the finished textile items cause various types of allergies and skin diseases. Therefore the process sequence and chemicals in the processing organic cotton must be selected in such a way that
a. consumes less water and energy.
b. Have minimum impact on environment.
c. Must be biodegradable .
d. Needs lesser salt quantities.
e. No harmful emissions.
f. Less polluting .
It is recommended that natural and biodegradable products must be used in the spinning , weaving and knitting , the dyes and chemicals used in the different processes such as pretreatment , desizing, bleaching, dyeing and finishing must be eco friendly and have a low impact on the environment. Even the use of natural colored cotton is preferred. Mechanical finishing techniques must be explored instead of chemical finishes.
GOTS global organic textiles standards , has the specifications of the chemicals , dyes and auxiliaries which are safe to use and are considered fit for organic cotton processing. These products are certified by the institute of market ecology.
Benefits of organic cotton
Major benefits of organic cotton are
a. minimum impact on environment during growing, processing and use of textiles.
b. Healthy working environment for the cotton farmers and textile workers and hence less health problems.
c. Textiles produced are not harmful to the consumer.
d. Less use of synthetic chemicals would assist to maintain ecological balance and increase the soil fertility .
e. Lesser water required and less pollution of natural water bodies.
Potential for textile industry in organic textiles
Most of the top brands in the world such as Nike, Levis, walmart, patagonia, timberland, orvis, addidas, M&S, roots , cotton ginny and target are already introduced organic cotton in their product range and they are expecting manifold increase in the demand of organic textiles in the next coming years. The organic textiles are in great demand particularly in the health conscious high end society.
The organic textiles is a much promising field in the cotton textile segment and India being a major player in the textile field can play a much bigger role by adopting the growing and processing of organic textiles. The textile industry must make an action plan to promote the organic cotton farming by funding the agriculture research projects for providing better and environment friendly inputs. The industry must come forward to help the farming community to grow oraganic cotton , this will not only be beneficial to the farmers and industry , but also help in protecting the environment for the coming generations.Important Information about organic textiles
IMO Global Organic Textile Standards
Sustainable Organic Textile
Organic textiles and Clothing
All About organic cotton
Organic Farming: Everything You Need to Know
The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener (A gardener's supply book)
Successful Small-Scale Farming: An Organic Approach (Down-To-Earth Book)
The Organic Farmer's Business Handbook: A Complete Guide to Managing Finances, Crops, and Staff-and Making a Profit
Micro Eco-Farming: Prospering from Backyard to Small Acreage in Partnership with the Earth