As part of the Sustainability In Style and PACT apparel  Fashion Revolution month celebrations this weeks giveaway is this pair of adorable organic cotton socks.

Win these Organic Cotton Socks

Today’s post will be focusing the good, the bad, and the ugly side of the cotton industry. As a part of this post you have the opportunity to win these super cute socks courtesy of PACT. Not only are they awesome to look at and comfy to wear, these socks were made in a factory powered by renewable energy. So when you get compliments on your funky new socks you can proudly tell share the info that your socks were made by a wind power!  To be in the draw to win these beauties please comment below or share your favourite cotton or homewares item on the Instagram post @sustainabilityinstyle. The lucky winner will be picked at random and announced next Tuesday and the competition is open to all regardless of location.

But before we can go any further it is time to announce the lucky winner of last weeks fair trade tee giveaway. Drumroll please….Congratulations @lessthan3emily! Your name has been drawn at random. Please email with your postage details.

Now…onto the cotton chat.

Where does cotton come from?

Lets start with a video because if your anything like me you will likely find it far more entertaining than reading. This video is pretty much all about ‘cotton 101’.

If you made it through that video good for you!

If you are more into reading the basics without the whizz-bang videos the take home message is that cotton come from a plant which makes it a natural fibre source and doesn’t require any animal exploitation. This means that cotton is Vegan friendly.

Ok. So now we know where cotton comes from lets look at some of the issues associated with the cotton industry.

The Ugly Truth About Conventional Cotton 

Is it starting to become obvious I have spent four days straight at my computer writing assignments by the number of lazy videos I am sharing? He he he. The following clip from National Geographic shares the dramatic facts about the issues associated with water usage and cotton growth and the laundering of cotton products.

The water used for irrigating cotton crops in Australia has been causing issues with environmental flows. In the Murray-Darling basin, one of Australia’s most important agricultural areas, up to 20% of the water drawn from this water system is used to irrigate cotton crops. As the area experiences more frequent drought periods and decreases in rainfall the system is struggling. Water used on cotton crops could otherwise be applied to food production or maintaining the natural river flow and the flora and fauna that rely on it.

What the information above doesn’t cover is the fact that cotton is also associated with some of the worlds highest pesticide usage. According to WWF cotton farming uses accounts for just 2.4% of the worlds crops but accounts for 24% of the use of insecticides and 11% of pesticides world wide. When used inappropriately and without the use of correct safety equipment these chemicals can have detrimental effects on both the health of cotton field workers and the environmental flows of the area in which the cotton is grown.

Another nasty of the cotton industry is the introduction of genetically modified cotton varieties. As a plant scientist I totally understand the lure of creating new and improved varieties of cotton that require less water or pesticides than others. However, I completely agree that GMO really isn’t a good idea. While we may be able to perfect cotton that requires little pesticide and less water it is impossible to test what the long term implications of this sort of crop can be. You never know if you are making the next environmental super-weed or worst still (but probably unlikely) your very own Little Shop of Horror’s man eating ‘Audrey’ plant. Sounds far fetched but you never know!

Why Wear Cotton? 

Cotton is one of the worlds most popular fabric choices and is likely to be found in many things around your home. From bedding, to towels, to the t-shirt on your back cotton is comfortable, breathable, absorbent (can absorb up to 27 times its on weight in water) and strong. It washes and wears well actually becoming stronger when wet, withstands a good bleaching (which is why hospital sheets are cotton) hold up to hot iron, and is soft against the skin.

Quite frankly, I LOVE wearing cotton.

Unfortunately there is no way, aside from genetically engineered ‘franken-crops’, to avoid the amount of water used to irrigate cotton crops. But on the bright side you can buy organic cotton. Which is better for you, the farmers who produce the crops, and the environment. It is also good to look out for eco dyed cotton as many conventionally dyed cottons contain all sorts of crazy stuff. I have done an academic search and found lots of interesting scientific papers, but after having read scientific papers for several days straight I might just leave you with this little summary about synthetic dyes and save my brain power.

And finally for this education section I will leave you with the link to a ‘Watch This’ post I did on organic cotton a little while back.

My purchasing values and cotton. 

Would I buy cotton?

YES! I love cotton it is nice to wear, ages beautifully, and is biodegradable. But like all the good things in life such as chocolate, sunshine, and late nights out dancing, cotton should be consumed in moderation. Why? Because it is so water hungry.

If you plan to buy cotton aim to buy organic because it is better for you and the environment, always look for fair-trade options (cotton has a long and horrible history of slavery that still continues to this day), try to buy naturally dyed items, and only buy what you need. To reduce your overall impact only wash when necessary using eco-friendy detergent (air things out in the sunshine if smelly rather than visibly dirty and you might find they don’t need a wash), wash on a cold cycle, and line dry rather than tumble dry.

Do you love your cotton?

Please tell us all about it below!

ps. I will share a list of organic cotton brands but will do it another day. It is off to bed for me after a successful four day assignment binge. 

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