June 23, 2023 8 min read

Although you’ve probably heard about organic cotton, you might know about the specific benefits or the drawbacks. Whether you’re looking for new bedding, stylish cotton clothing, or other products, understanding the pros and cons of organic cotton is vital to help you make a well-informed decision. Growing and producing organic cotton is good for humans and the environment. So, what are the pros and cons of organic cotton, and do the disadvantages outweigh the benefits? This guide will help you learn more about organic and sustainable cotton so you can make the right choice for yourself and your home.

What is organic cotton?

Before we dive into the pros and cons of these organic materials, let’s take a closer look at what organic cotton actually is. Unlike conventional cotton, true organic cotton is grown using only natural methods without any genetically modified crops. Organic cotton farming also never uses any toxic chemicals like toxic pesticides and synthetic chemicals or dangerous fertilizers that can harm the air, soil, and water supply.

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Organic cotton products have a lot of advantages to offer to everyone from the farmers and the environment to the consumer. Let’s take a closer look at what makes organic cotton production and products better than conventional cotton.

What are the advantages of organic cotton?

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So, what are the pros of organic cotton? This sustainable material comes with a wide range of benefits. Read on to learn more about why this material is such a positive contributor to a greener, cleaner, and safer world.

A transparent sector

One of the core tenants of a sustainable industry is having a transparent supply chain that can easily be traced back to its origins. The standard cotton industry typically doesn’t follow procedures that provide consumers with a transparent view of the growing, production, and manufacturing process.

However, organizations like the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) ensure that all organic cotton farmers and producers follow strict rules and guidelines. For a product to receive official organic certification, all brands must follow specific organic farming practices as laid out by these organizations. This provides consumers with more peace of mind knowing that their organic cotton clothing and bedding were not only produced sustainably but also ethically.

Reduced water pollution

Growing cotton plants the traditional way requires a lot of water and much of this water is exposed to an assortment of harmful chemicals. But organic cotton crops are always grown without any form of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, or insecticides that could enter the nearby water systems. When sustainable organic cotton is planted and grown, it reduces water pollution to help protect and preserve local fish, birds, and wildlife by protecting the ecosystem as a whole.

Less water pollution also helps to support human health, since the polluted water from conventional cotton production can cause serious and dangerous health issues. One such chemical called glyphosate has been found in waterways in the United States. Exposure to this chemical can cause burns to the throat and mouth as well as other side effects like vomiting and diarrhea.

Hypoallergenic material

An organic cotton garment and all organic cotton fabric is naturally hypoallergenic because there are no additives that can contribute to issues like skin irritation or allergies. Since non-organic cotton contains an assortment of chemicals ranging from pesticides to bleaches, dyes, and more, it can cause adverse reactions, especially in those with allergies or sensitive skin.

Since the organic cotton industry never uses these chemicals, every product is safe and free of a wide range of common irritants. Regular cotton may contain thousands of chemicals, which means that it’s much more likely to cause irritation to the skin and allergy symptoms.

No genetic modification

Organic cotton crops are grown without the use of genetically modified (GM) seeds, which means that you’re getting a product that is completely natural. When seeds are genetically modified, they require more fertilizer, which can cost traditional cotton farms more money each year to keep their plants alive.

This poses a serious risk to farmers’ mental health, income, and the local environment. Choosing to buy products made from organic crops like organic cotton means that you’re getting something grown sustainably without using GMO seeds. This results in better soil health and better human health than GM cotton.

Better Longevity

Not only do organic cotton clothes, sheets, and other products help the environment, but they also last longer, too. That’s because chemicals used to process normal cotton products can weaken the fibers over time. Bleach and dyes can make non-organic and synthetic materials fall apart much faster. That means that your synthetic clothes and bedding are destined to end up in the trash much sooner than authentic, certified organic cotton products will. So, is organic cotton good or bad? Well, when it comes to long-lasting products, it’s definitely the smarter return on your investment.

Organic cotton is vegan

If you follow a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, choosing certified organic cotton and other organic materials is the way to go. No animal products or animal byproducts are used to make these materials, which means that you will have peace of mind knowing you’re choosing a truly vegan product. While many products in the fashion industry use materials like leather, organic certified cotton is totally vegan and animal cruelty-free. Most organic farms stick to using natural pesticides and fertilizers as well as other sustainable farming practices that don’t harm animals in any way.

No pesticides or insecticides

Of course, one of the biggest pros of choosing things grown via organic farming is that no pesticides or insecticides are used whatsoever. Always look for GOTS-certified organic cotton products, so you know that the things you buy are made to the highest possible standards. From the soil health, while growing organic cotton to the production and supply chain, everything grown organically is completely free of harsh and potentially dangerous chemicals, including all forms of toxic insecticides and pesticides.

Better for biodiversity

Conventional cotton farming has serious negative impacts on biodiversity due to pollution and waste. Organic cotton is inherently better for biodiversity, simply because it doesn’t require the use of chemicals and genetic modification. A reduction in soil erosion and lower greenhouse gas emissions also helps to preserve a healthy, biodiverse landscape where living things can continue to thrive. Good soil fertility creates an environment where insects and earthworms can flourish to provide food to other living things.

Better for farmers

Growing cotton via organic methods isn’t just better for the consumer and the environment. It’s also better for farmers, too. Choosing to grow and produce organic cotton reduces and even eliminates the health risks associated with exposure to toxic chemicals that affect farmers, farm workers, and communities in areas where conventionally grown cotton is found. Anything grown that receives official organic certification including GOTS-certified, and products certified by the Better Cotton Initiative also ensure that there is no forced or child labor taking place to protect locals and their families.

More durable

As we mentioned earlier, organic cotton materials are much more durable. Instead of choosing regular cotton clothes and bedding, look for certified organic cotton products instead to ensure that everything you buy lasts a long time. Durable organic cotton bedding and clothes will last for many years before you’ll ever need to think about replacing them. Buying organic cotton reduces your carbon footprint and reduces waste since your brand-new organic clothing and bedding won’t end up in a landfill just a few months after you buy them. Look for bedding and fashion brands that only sell organic products, so you have the confidence to know that everything you buy is made to last.

More breathable

If you’re looking for something comfortable and breathable, then buying organic is the way to go. This soft, lightweight fabric is naturally breathable, which means that your organic cotton clothes and bedding will keep you nice and cool in the summer, and cozy and warm in the winter without overheating. With much less synthetic chemicals than conventional cotton products, organic cotton is breathable by nature. The absence of various chemicals used to treat non-organic cotton means that the fabric is automatically lighter and more breathable than its non-organic counterparts.

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What are the disadvantages of organic cotton?

Now that you know more about the advantages of organic cotton, what are some of the cons of organic cotton? And what is better than organic cotton? While many organic materials have several advantages, let’s take a look at some of the downsides to choosing organic cotton.

Smaller Yield – Requires More Land

Unfortunately, growing organic cotton produces a lower yield, which means that it requires more land to grow than conventional cotton farming. An organic cotton yield is typically around 25 percent lower than the yield of regular cotton. This means that organic cotton farms must have more plants in order to get a decent yield, which also means more land is cleared, and more water and other natural resources may be required. Using land in established environmental landscapes can harm wildlife and contribute to devastating practices like deforestation.

Natural Pesticides Can Be Harmful Too

While natural pesticides are much safer than their synthetic counterparts, it doesn’t mean that all of them are completely safe. These pesticides are typically much less toxic than synthetic versions, but it also depends on the concentration and how often and how much they are used. Still, using natural pesticides is still much safer than those filled with dangerous, toxic chemicals that can harm people and the environment.

There are fewer organic cotton farms

A report released in 2021 discovered that less than just 0.95 percent of cotton harvested the year prior was actually grown organically. Sadly, there just isn’t enough organic cotton grown and produced every year to meet the high demand for the worldwide fashion and textile market. With fewer organic cotton farmers, there is a big void in the organic textile industry. When there is not enough of this material available, then brands are forced to purchase non-organic products grown using chemicals and higher greenhouse gas emissions.

More expensive

If you’re looking for bedding and clothing on a budget, you may notice that organic cotton products are more expensive than non-organic. Because true organic farming, production, and manufacturing pay a fair wage and don’t use child labor, the overhead costs are more. Organic farmers also need to have the capital to purchase more land, since growing organic cotton means a larger swath of land is required to be successful. However, buying organic is still worth the higher cost, especially if things like ethics and environmentally friendly processes are important to you.

A long and costly process

There’s a reason why that regular cotton t-shirt you love to wear costs less than the organic one you saw online. From organic food to clothing, growing things that are certified organic takes longer and costs more. Anything that is certified must undergo rigorous inspections and follow very strict guidelines. Additionally, just to receive GOTS certification, farms and companies must pay a fee in order to be certified and must make annual payments to maintain that certification. There are plenty of hoops to jump through, and sometimes, small businesses simply don’t always have the time or resources to do so.

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Final Thoughts on The Pros and Cons of Organic Cotton

Now that you know more about the definition of organic cotton and its pros and cons, you can make more informed decisions about the products you purchase. Whether it’s some of our luxurious organic bedding or a high-quality piece of organic cotton clothing, it’s easy to see that this unique material offers a wide range of perks not just for you, but also for the planet. When you choose organic cotton products, you’re helping to contribute to a more ethical world and a cleaner, greener environment as a whole.