Cotton? Hmm, discuss.
Ok, well cotton takes up only 2.5% of the world’s arable land, but uses a whopping 16% of all pesticides and 6.5% total herbicides of all global agriculture. Growing cotton also uses an INSANE amount of water - the Aral Sea now exists only in history, having almost completely dried up in 2014 following decades of redirecting water for irrigation. Upwards of 10000L goes into just 1kg of cotton clothing - ie just the t shirt and pair of jeans you are wearing right now [WWF.org]. 29 million tonnes of cotton are produced every year; enough for about 30 T shirts for everyone on earth according to theworldcounts.com, however wealth disparities mean that consumption ends up instead equivalent to 100 shirts for westerners (new, every year).
Luckily, Australia is a world leader for sustainable cotton farming in terms of state-of-the-art irrigation technology, biotechnology and soil conservation with low use of chemicals.
Organic cotton farming is a more ecologically sound alternative, however uses significantly more water than bioengineered alternatives. Sigh. Same old story - nothings perfect, right?!
THE WRAP: cotton is a balancing act. Organic cotton is generally “better” than inorganic, but still uses a crikey-dick amount of water and farmland. Social implications must also be considered, as those farming inorganic cotton face chemicals that are not only toxic to the environment but to human health also. So next time you buy cotton products, ask yourself who farmed it? Where? For how much?
Every decision needs to be a mindful one and clothing is no exception; buy second-hand where possible and organic if not. More sustainable fabric options include hemp, bamboo and silk. Materials to try and avoid: acrylic, polyester and (…*hypocrite-shudder*) neoprene.
Every choice counts!