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Organic cotton and non-organic cotton

Walk into any supermarket today, and the chances are that the word ‘organic’ pops out at you on many of the food product labels. In fact, it is not uncommon to find two variants of the same food stuff, say fruits - one of the organic variety and the other that is conventionally grown.

 

Understanding what the word ‘organic’ means

Our world today is ruled by fads, and for many who do not take the trouble to find out for themselves, the word organic is something similar. It feels good to say that one is using organic products just because a lot of people, and their neighbors, are doing the same. Then there is the vague comfort of knowing that the use of organic products seems to be doing something good for the environment and our ecological systems. This quick read below will not only inform and educate about what organic means, but also list out the distinct benefits of using organic products, for yourself and for the world around you.

The Mayo Clinic describes the word organic as “the way farmers grow and process agricultural products, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products and meat”. What this means is that the process of growing crops and raising livestock is done without adding synthetic pesticides or fertilizers to the soil or water, and without any genetic engineering to improve crop yields, and without any use of growth hormones for livestock. As a consumer you must be aware of which products are certified as ‘Organic’ by the US Department of Agriculture, which has laid down strict guidelines regarding production, handling and labeling standards. A product that wishes to be certified as ‘Organic’ needs to go through the organic certification process, and meet the minimum standards of soil quality, animal raising practices, and pest and weed control.

 

Understanding the difference between ‘organic cotton’ and ‘conventional cotton’

We, at Luxinea, are in the business of providing the best quality organic cotton sheets to you. And the fact that you are on our website reading this makes it clear that both you and we are interested specifically in knowing about organic cotton than in the more generic organic crops. The basic difference between organically grown cotton and conventionally grown cotton is the same as described in the preceding paragraphs. This is how the growing of organic cotton differs from the growing of conventional cotton :

  1. No genetically modified seed
  2. Soil vitality is improved by crop rotation, intercropping, and composting
  3. Pest control done by trap crops and beneficial insects
  4. Physical removal of feeds by hand instead of by spraying chemicals
  5. Natural defoliation followed

The non-organic part in the manufacturing process

But the process of converting the soft and fluffy cotton balls into threads and then into fabrics or crisp cotton sheets is where there are more differences which you should be aware of. Cotton needs to be first ginned to remove the seeds from the cotton balls. The next process is spinning in order to make the cotton yarn. Raw cotton in the form of bales is first cleaned and loosened. Then the fibers are combed and straightened, and then they get converted into slivers. Finally, these slivers get fed into machines where they are converted into yarn. After that these yarns are woven or knitted to create different kinds of fabric. This is the stage where conventional cotton and organic cotton differ. There are several chemicals and dyes that a conventional process subjects the cotton to. That is missing in the case of organic cotton. At best, they might be treated with environmental friendly and natural additives or colors. That is why one of the clear benefits of organic cotton is that it is a much safer option to avoid any negative impact on the wearer’s skin. Let us take a quick look at all the benefits of wearing / using fabrics/garments made from organic cotton.

 

The benefits of organic cotton

For ease of reading, the benefits have been arranged below according to whom they benefit.

Environmental and Ecological

  • There is lesser depletion of soil and water quality on account of cotton growing
  • No use of insecticides or pesticides
  • Intensive irrigation
  • Monocrops not used, and crop rotation implemented

For user of organic cotton fabrics and garments

  • Organic cotton is much softer to touch, in the form of clothes or cotton bed sheets
  • Less or no chance of allergies, rashes etc.
  • Users can feel much better that the organic cotton sheets they use helps preserving the ecological balance

Possible disadvantages of organic cotton

We do recognize that nothing in this world can be all good or all bad. Hence, it is only fair to also call out a few possible problems for growers or users of organic cotton. As mentioned earlier in this paper, the problem of weeds on cotton plantations is not tackled by chemicals. Instead, weeds are plucked out by hand, which needs labor. Now depending on the availability and cost of labour, this would usually push up the prices of the finished products like king size bed sheets or bed sheet sets.

A good perspective on this was provided by a 2017 research study (Riar, A., Mandloi, L.S., Poswal, R.S., Messmer, M.M. and Bhullar, G.S., 2017, A diagnosis of biophysical and socio-economic factors influencing farmers’ choice to adopt organic or conventional farming systems for cotton production, Frontiers in Plant Science, 8, p.1289) carried out in India, which is the world’s largest producer of cotton, and also the source of yarn and thread for some of our sheet set products. Both organic and conventional farmers who grew cotton were part of the open ended questionnaire. These were the problems mentioned by the organic cotton farmers.

There was more apprehension of the adverse effects of climatic conditions on their crop.

  1. They had limited options of botanical extracts to counter plant disease or pests.
  2. Some organic cotton farmers did claim lower productivity of their land, but that was not conclusively supported by data that the researchers found.
  3. Labour availability was one of the limiting factors for the largely labor intensive process of organic cotton farming, which also resulted in increased costs of the sheets on sale.

Closing thoughts

There are a few problems that organic cotton farmers face. Some of those problems could also get translated into higher input costs and therefore higher prices for the buyers of organic sheets. But as the previous paragraphs amply demonstrate, the benefits to all concerned are many more than these few disadvantages.

About Us

We at Luxinea use a specific percale weave to produce the best percale sheets. We are fully committed to the mental and physical health of the citizens of this country by helping to ensure sound sleep for them. We also consider ourselves devoted soldiers in the movement to establish organic cotton farming as the best way to give our planet a longer life.

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