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ORGANIC FIBERSHow we're supporting clean air, clean water and a healthy environment for workers and wildlife.

Cotton accounts for 35% of world fiber and 17.5% of insecticide sales, but only a small fraction—about 1%—is organic.
Read More: Made in USA: A Global Story
Going the Distance for Fashion

What makes organic cotton different is that it is grown as part of a balanced ecosystem. Soil is enriched with compost, creating healthy plants that attract fewer pests. Instead of using petroleum-based herbicides and pesticides, farmers pull weeds, trap bugs, rotate crops and use companion plantings such as corn to attract beneficial bugs and lure away pests. Here is a close-up look at the differences between organic and conventional cotton farming.

Field To Factory: Organic Cotton


SEEDS Natural, untreated. Not genetically modified, which means there are no patent laws prohibiting farmers from collecting, saving and replanting seeds. Typically treated with fungicides or insecticides. GM seeds used for 87% of US cotton. Patent laws require farmers to buy new GM seeds every year, increasing their costs.

SOIL MANAGEMENT Crop rotation and composting promote soil health. Organic matter retains moisture. Monoculture (consistent planting of one crop) depletes nutrients in soil, synthetic fertilizers necessary.

WEED & INSECT MANAGEMENT Healthy soil creates stronger plants that are more resistant to pests and disease. Companion crops lure harmful insects or attract beneficial bugs. Spraying of pesticides. The five most commonly used pesticides are either suspected carcinogens or neurotoxins.

HARVESTING Natural defoliation from freezing temperatures or water management. Defoliation with toxic chemicals.

WELL-BEING Healthier environment for farm workers. Cotton byproducts—plant waste, ground seeds for livestock feed, oil for processed food—are not contaminated with chemicals. High risk of worker health issues. Fertilizers and pesticides pollute water, soil and food supply.


WHITENING Nontoxic oxygen bleaches such as hydrogen peroxide. May use chlorine bleach, which releases toxic byproducts into the environment.

DYEING & FINISHING No toxic heavy metals, formaldehyde, aromatic solvents. Chemicals meet basic requirements on toxicity and biodegradability. May contain toxic compounds. Chemical processes meet government regulations but may or may not meet an eco standard (see below).

FABRIC CERTIFICATION Global Organic Textile Standard certifies organic fiber as well as finished fabric, vouching for responsible chemical and water use as well as waste processing. Bluesign Technologies certifies energy, water, chemistry and emissions at processing facilities. Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certifies that finished fabrics are free from more than 100 harmful substances.

Initial cost is more expensive. Consumers make a long-term investment in the environment and human health. Initial cost cheaper because doesn't include impact on planet and people.