Organic cotton & what I didn’t know about conventional cotton
Earth. Life. Balance.
By Vinita, Bhumi Organic Cotton
WHAT I DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT CONVENTIONAL COTTON
Working for over a decade on international public health projects in New York, India and Bangladesh, I was fortunate to gain enormous insight into one of the critical sustainability and environmental issues facing our planet today – the significant detrimental effect non-organic cotton production has on humans, animals and the environment.
Travelling across what is known as the ‘suicide belt’ – the cotton-producing regions of India and across Bangladesh, I could no longer ignore the staggering pattern of the devastating effects of cotton production that I was seeing. There is a large undercurrent causing a dangerous imbalance that I had never stopped to question. I had never asked: What was I actually wearing? Where did it come from? What was in it? Who made it? What was the story behind it? What was happening to the soils? The water? The ecosystem? The effects of my ordinary cotton T-shirt and pants were deathly. My life completely changed.
In a recent report by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), 100 million cotton farmers produce approximately 20 million tonnes of non-organic cotton each year with China, the United States, India, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and West Africa accounting for over 75 per cent of global production for the retail market.
The cotton seed that is used is Bt, a genetically modified cotton that requires a far greater amount of water than natural cotton varieties. The Bt cotton seeds lose vigour quickly, requiring farmers to buy new stock every year. The seeds are becoming insect resistant and demand irrigation, pesticides, fertilisers and farming techniques few farmers can afford. In addition to crop failure is the high economic investment needed to purchase the seeds. As the cycle goes, forced to buy inordinately priced and unsuccessful seeds each year, farmers sink more into debt, their soils become barren and toxic and many take their own lives.
The United Nations (UN) and World Health organization (WHO) estimate that up to 77 million non-organic cotton workers suffer poisoning from pesticides each year, with more than one million agricultural workers worldwide requiring hospitalisation every year. Non-organic cotton is also responsible for the release of US$2 billion of chemical pesticides annually, more than any other single crop worldwide. And in our atmosphere for every kilo of raw non-organic cotton, the plant uses a kilo of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser, which produces nitrous oxide (N2O), a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2).
Along the supply chain of regular cotton production and manufacturing, tens of thousands of acutely toxic chemicals are used, including chemical dyes, heavy metals, formaldehyde and aromatic solvent. Many of these chemicals are classified as hazardous and toxic by WHO and are associated with allergies, skin rashes, respiratory problems cancer, birth defects and hormonal and reproductive effects.
Yet what is staggering is that all this ends up in our soils, in our waterways, in our clothes, in our towels, in our sheets, in our skin and in our bodies.
And to add to the devastation, there are issues of poor working conditions and child labour practices that are rife in the cycle of mere existence for many people on the planet who are struggling to grow the cotton that we wear and use every day.
WHY BHUMI ORGANIC COTTON WAS CREATED
After staying in the field learning about organic farming and meeting with non-government organisations (NGOs), grass-roots organisations and a growing movement of organic farmers, it was time for positive change.
In 2012, Bhumi Organic Cotton was created in Melbourne, Australia. Bhumi, which means Mother Earth in Sanskrit, is founded on the principles of nurturing the fragile environment by using certified organic cotton, restoring a balance in humanity with strict fair trade practices, and providing compassion to the earth by not using or harming any animal life in any of our products.
Through research and questioning, we chose the path of Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified organic cotton as opposed to just natural cotton or pure cotton.
GOTS is recognised as the leading processing standard for textiles made from organic fibres worldwide. It defines high-level environmental criteria along the entire supply chain of organic textiles and requires compliance with social criteria as well. Independent third-party certification is required along the whole supply chain from seed to finish, which enables legitimate ‘organic’ claims to be made on final products.
To put it simply, certified organic cotton is produced without the use of any harmful chemicals, insecticides and pesticides. It does not use genetically modified seeds, nor does it use any toxic dyes, bleaches or finishes. Overall, this results in having the lowest environmental impact, a deep sense of social justice with fair trade practices and also the purest cotton, which is extremely soft yet resilient and gentle on the skin, which is imperative for skin conditions.
WHAT IMPACT WE CAN HAVE TOGETHER
- Almost 5 tonnes (4,978 kg to be precise) of GOTS certified fair trade organic cotton has been used in the manufacturing of Bhumi products
- Grown on 100+ farms all across India
- Supporting 750+ farmers and their families
- Supporting 200+ mill workers who are treated well, have safe working conditions, use no child labour and are paid fair wages
- Reinvesting a portion of the premiums paid for the organic cotton in community development and education
- Hundreds of satisfied customers who love the way their clothes and sheets feel, as well as knowing how they are made
Our mission is to only ever use cotton that is GOTS certified in all of our products as we grow our range.
With knowledge and the power to change and knowing the positive impact that organic cotton can make, we urge people to make responsible consumer choices and help restore the Earth Life Balance.
Vinita has been fortunate to travel to many exciting destinations on the planet and experience the beauty of nature and cultures of the world. With a background in health and a Masters in International Public Health, Vinita saw first-hand the disastrous health and environmental impacts of traditional cotton growing, including farmer suicides, pesticide poisoning, birth defects, harmful dyes and toxic water ways. After years in the field meeting with amazing NGOs, grass-roots organisations and a growing movement of organic farmers, it was time for positive change. Vinita combined her deep love for the Earth, humanity and sustainable design to create Bhumi Organic Cotton.
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