1. Organic crops are grown without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. In addition, federal regulations prohibit the use of genetically engineered seed for organic farming. All items sold as organic in the United States must meet strict federal regulations covering how the crop is grown, e.g. cotton, and how the animal is raised, e.g. wool.
2. Non-organic cotton consumes approximately 25% of the insecticides and more than 10% of the pesticides (including herbicides, insecticides, and defoliants) used in the world. Some of these chemicals are among the most toxic classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
3. Five of the top nine pesticides used on non-organic cotton in the U.S. (cyanide, dicofol, naled, propargite, and trifluralin) are known cancer causing chemicals. All nine are classified by the U.S. EPA as Category I and II— the most dangerous chemicals. Depending on the practices involved, it can take up to a pound of such chemicals to grow the cotton for one pair of pants and a shirt.
4. Pesticides used in non-organic farming can enter the human food chain. Because cotton is grown primarily for its fiber, it is regulated as a non-food crop. The majority of the cotton plant in the form of cottonseed, approximately 60% by weight, ends up in our food supply. Cottonseed is used to make oil that is used in processed foods. Beef and dairy cows are fed cotton straw, cottonseed meal, and waste from cotton gins.
5. Organic sheep production includes the following practices: Sheep must be fed 100% organically grown feed (grains) and forage (pastures); use of synthetic hormones, vaccinations, and genetic engineering is prohibited: use of synthetic pesticides (internal, external, and on pastures) is prohibited. Organic livestock producers can not exceed the natural carrying capacity of the land, thus preventing the devastating effects of overgrazing.
6. Non-organic wool uses substantial chemicals which may be unhealthy. Sheep are usually dipped or sprayed with harmful chemicals. “Dipping” of non-organic sheep is a method of controlling external parasites in which sheep are submerged in pools containing organophosphate-based parasiticides. Studies have indicated that prolonged exposure to sheep dip pesticides cause changes in the nervous system of humans. (Imagine how the sheep feel about this process!) Moreover, disposal and “runoff” of dips can contaminate ground water supplies.
7. Bamboo and hemp are eco-friendly because they grow fast and are naturally pest resistant so they don’t require pesticides and other harmful chemicals.
8. Bamboo and hemp require dramatically less water to grow than cotton. They are both bacteria-resistant meaning that it takes longer for bacteria to build up and cause odors. That means you can wear them more than other fabrics before washing. Less washing uses less resources and causes less friction on clothing allowing them to last longer. Unlike cotton, both can be grown on the same land for decades without depleting the soil if properly managed.
9. Bamboo also has the advantage that it doesn’t need to be replanted. When it is harvested it is cut near the ground but the stalks remain and grow new plants. Therefore, it has a lower carbon footprint by not creating engine exhaust for planting.
10. At the processing stage, bamboo and hemp can be processed in an eco-friendly manner. There is variation in the processing so this is where it is good to trust those from whom you purchase these items.