Ever since the introduction of organic tote bags on our website, the demand for eco-friendly bags has been growing steadily. But since we feel that not all our users are accustomed with organic cotton and its overarching benefits, we’ve rounded up a short guide to the importance of buying organic even when it comes to your clothing and bags.
What Is Organic Cotton?
Organic cotton is cotton grown according to international and local organic farming standards and certification requirements. In the U.S., the general requirements for certification of organic cotton and other agricultural products can be found here.
One of these requirements is growing cotton on land that cleared of any residue from chemical pesticides and fertilizers at least three years prior. Another critical requirement is the use of non-genetically modified cotton seeds.
Why Organic Cotton Makes a (Huge) Difference
Here are several reasons organic cotton is better for your health, the environment, and the health and livelihood of thousands of people you don’t even know.
1. Organic Cotton Will Not Poison You
When you utter the word ‘organic’ the first thing that pops into mind is organic food. Most people buy organic only when it comes to food as they do not want poison to end up in their bodies. However, few people are aware that what you wear can also poison you.
Nonorganic cotton is packed with pesticides and cotton garments still contain harmful chemical residue. While some chemicals can be removed through repeat washes, much of the residue either gets transferred to other items of clothing in your washing machine or ends up in waterways, harming fish and humans alike. For instance, there are disturbing studies about the ‘feminization’ of male fish after repeat exposure to hormone disruptors.
What’s more, there are chemicals in your nonorganic cotton like the hormone disruptor nonylphenol ethoxylate (NPE) that cannot be fully removed through laundering. These poisons linger on your clothing pieces and get absorbed through the skin. As we already know it, the human skin is a permeable barrier and absorbs just about everything, good or bad, which is why nicotine patches are so effective.
Exposure to pesticides in nonorganic crops have been often linked to a high risk of asthma, neurological diseases, allergies, skin issues, and even cancer.
What’s more, people that are handling these pesticides, mainly dirt-poor cotton farmers in the third world, handle them by hand or inappropriately store them in their homes contaminating their kids’ water and food.
Here’s a Greenpeace report on what the fashion industry fails to tell you about their nonorganic fabrics: Toxic Threads: The Big Fashion Stitch-Up.
Photo courtesy: Studio HPAVG-Solidaridad
2. Cotton Farmers Can Make a Living
By buying organic cotton products, including organic cotton bags, you help cotton farmers put food on their families’ table. Currently, there’s an enormous pressure on these farmers as the West continues driving cotton prices down.
Many retailing giants are now setting the prices for the commodity, with farmers having little to no say in the process. So, it is increasingly hard to grow cotton and actually make a living as a farmer.
What’s more, companies such as GM seed giant Monsanto, have been exploiting the desperation of cotton farmers (India and China are the world’s top 2 cotton producers), promising a quick and easy solution to their financial woes: genetically modified (GM) cotton seeds.
Monsanto, which controls 95% of India’s cotton seed production, marketed these seeds to farmers as seeds that have higher yields and are more resistant to pests and weeds than their non-genetically altered counterparts.
What Monsanto has repeatedly failed to mention to farmers is that these seeds are not only more expensive than the regular seeds, but they also need to be sprayed with special pesticides (exclusively produced by Monsanto), which are even more expensive than regular pesticides.
Plus, as some genetically modified seeds are intentionally made sterile, they cannot produce offspring on their own, so cotton farmers need to buy them every year, from Monsanto. This just adds to their financial burden, which paired with poor yields during a bad year, has often led to the suicide of hundreds of thousands of farmers. In India alone, 270,000 cotton farmers committed suicide by 2014.
In short, buying organic cotton, which is usually a bit more expensive than regular cotton, ensures that cotton farmers are paid fairly. In addition, organic cotton farmers do not use GM seeds which means that their seeds are not contaminated with extra pesticides and herbicides.
3. Organic Cotton Uses Around 70% Less Water & Energy
Another reason to buy organic cotton is that this crop is less resource intensive than its nonorganic counterpart. A single kilogram (2.2 lbs) of nonorganic cotton needs up to 20,000 liters (5,300 gallons) of water to grow, which is insanely wasteful.
Organic cotton, on the other hand, needs 71% less water and 69% less energy to produce. Plus, it is better at retaining water than its nonorganic counterpart thanks to the superior quality of the cotton fiber.
4. Organic Cotton Doesn’t Damage Soil and Poison Groundwater
Organic cotton doesn’t cause soil erosion and soil and groundwater poisoning as nonorganic cotton does. Cotton is one of those few crops that needs huge amounts of pesticides and weed killers. These chemicals leach into groundwater and waterways poisoning tap water and aquatic life.
On top of that, because soil rotation is a rarity when it comes to conventional cotton, soil gets easily depleted of nutrients. One curious fact is that cotton yields have jumped 300% since 1930s, but the amount of soil used to grow the crop hasn’t budged ever since. This can be a result of intensive agriculture, GM crops, and intensive use of pesticides and fertilizers.
5. Organic Cotton is More Durable
Last but not least, expect your organic cotton bags and clothing to last considerably longer than those made out of conventional cotton. This is because organic cotton fibers are not worn out through harsh chemicals when cotton is processed and because organic cotton fibers are thicker and healthier than those coming from genetically modified crops.
So, you might have to shell out some extra $$ to buy organic, but the investment will pay big dividends in the long run.
Why Should I Shop Organic?
Most people steer clear of organic fabrics because they are either more expensive or hard to find. While organic cotton used to be prohibitively expensive several years ago, now that many companies have decided to jump on the sustainability bandwagon, the fabric has been getting cheaper and cheaper.
Why should you buy organic cotton bags, for instance, rather than your usual cotton totes? For all the reasons mentioned above and one more: Change starts with you! Don’t expect big companies to start using organic cotton in their products if their customers don’t seem to care about which type of cotton they buy. In many cases, supply creates its own demand, and this is how change starts.
To put things into context, take a look at this WWF chart and see how far behind were most of U.S. retailers in the organic cotton department in 2016. Except for the world’s largest furniture retailer, Ikea, which scored a solid 12.00 out of 19.50 in its organic cotton efforts, other big retailers were trailing well behind.
Image credit: WWF
Introducing Tote Bag Factory’s Organic Cotton Bags
Totebagfactory.com is one of those few places where you can purchase 100% certified organic cotton tote bags at discounted prices. Most of our organic cotton bags do not require a minimum order quantity, which means that if you are not a wholesaler you are still welcome to do business with us.
What’s more, the price of our organic cotton totes can drop, based on the quantity you need to buy, which makes our eco-friendly tote bags great promotional items for green businesses, organizations, and events.
The organic cotton bag category is a relatively new entry on our website, but it has been a big hit with our loyal customers ever since its introduction. Here are a couple of our best-selling organic cotton bags.
Organic Cotton Canvas Tote Bag
This reusable shopping tote is made of 6-ounce, 100% certified organic cotton, It has sturdy self fabric handles and reinforced stress point stitching for extra durability. It can be easily folded up to double as a backup grocery bag.
Organic Cotton Heavy Canvas Tote Bag
If you are looking for a sturdier organic tote bag, this one is for you. The Durable Twill Grocery Tote Bag is made of 12-oz 100% certified organic cotton, it has sturdy handles, stress point stitching and boxed bottom to retain shape even when empty. This bag is a workhorse when it come to lugging around heavy stuff.