Is Non Organic Cotton Vegan + Sustainable?

By Adriane Marie •  Updated: 08/03/22 •  8 min read
is non organic cotton vegan and sustainable

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Durability: pros non-organic cotton is somewhat durable

Versatility: pros non-organic cotton is absorbent, breathable, can be good for sensitive skin, machine washable, soft, versatile, used to make clothing, bedding, t-shirts, jeans, underwear, socks, bath towels, pillow cases, curtains, etc. | cons non-organic cotton bleeds, fades, shrinks, wrinkles, can irritate skin from chemicals

Affordability: pros non-organic cotton is typically inexpensive, prices will vary

Non organic cotton is…

ENVIRONMENT

Fiber source: natural, cotton is a natural fiber, a white fibrous substance that surrounds the seeds of a tropical and subtropical plant that grows soft, fluffy fibers

Biodegradable: yes, cotton is biodegradable, cotton is one of the most biodegradable fabrics there is, especially if it is 100% cotton, when composting cotton may biodegrade within as little as 1 week but average decomposition times are around 5 months, however non-organic cotton cannot biodegrade easily due to the large number of dyes or finishing chemicals applied

Destruction: high, non-organic cotton production is relatively destructive, requires higher water usage than organic cotton due to poor soil quality, water pollution, loss of biodiversity, cotton may be bleached/dyed with toxic chemicals, if cotton is not organic lots of pesticides and often GMO seeds are used, pesticides kill beneficial insects and pollinators, up to 16% of the world’s pesticides are used in cotton farming every year, chemicals degrade soil, reduced soil fertility, poor irrigation, fields become barren, loss of biodiversity

Non organic cotton is…

ANIMALS

Kills: none, non organic cotton production does not require any animals

Harms: none, non organic cotton production does not require any animals

Indirectly kills or harms: wildlife, eco-systems, if there are pesticides it will undoubtably harm and kill wildlife and ecosystems by contaminating soil, water, air and plants that animals eat, alternatively buy organic cotton

Non organic cotton is…

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LABORERS

Health and safety: hazardous, many workers die every year, exposure to toxic chemicals and pesticides, unsanitary housing, lack of safe drinking water, there are reports of women workers in India (the world’s second highest cotton producer) being sexually harassed and raped

Living conditions: poor, forced adult and child labor in Uzbekistan (one of the largest cotton exporters in the world), every year the government orders schools to close and enforces millions of adults and children to devote all efforts for the nation to meet their cotton field quotas, the government threatens, detains and tortures activists who want to help the situation, the government refuses to end forced labor, similar issues regarding child labor occur in India, several hundred thousand children must give up their education to work in the cotton industry

Wages: low, in Uzbekistan there is little or no pay, if work is refused adults are told they will lose their employment, pensions and child benefits

Non organic cotton has…

What are non organic cotton uses?

Non organic cotton uses include making a large variety of items like woven fabrics, clothing, bed sheets, towels, underwear, home decor and much more.

What is the material abbreviation for cotton?

CO is the material abbreviation for cotton (non organic or organic).

non organic cotton is somewhat durable.

durable, long lasting fabrics, materials and textiles

Is non organic cotton durable or delicate? Non organic cotton is somewhat durable and long lasting when cared for properly.

For every 5 garments produced, the equivalent of 3 end up in a landfill or incinerated each year!

One reason for such wastefulness society’s ever growing desire to acquire. Fast fashion (creating low-priced items at high volumes) is problematic for a number of reasons and promotes the attitude that clothing is nearly disposable.

But another component of such a quick turnaround on clothing is because it’s just not lasting long enough. Snags, stains, warping and shrinkage render items unusable and unacceptable for the  donation pile. Avoid such problems by buying better quality, more durable, long lasting materials. Timeless wardrobe favorites that last for years and years are more sustainable and reduce the need for replacements. 

Every second, the equivalent of one garbage truck full of textiles burns or goes to landfills…

Keep minimalism in mind and buy less, borrow and buy items second hand. Thrift shops offer many inexpensive, unique finds that have already proven to stand the test of time!

non organic cotton is unsustainable.

sustainable shopping, for eco friendly brands and products good for the environment

Is non organic cotton eco friendly and sustainable? No, non organic cotton is unsustainable.

Materials from animals are natural fibers and biodegradable unless heavily treated with chemicals. However, they are not at all eco-friendly or sustainable due to the overwhelming strain on natural resources; the water needed, food needed and land usage that must happen for such abundant amounts of animals to live.

That’s not to say that all vegan materials are sustainable. There are many vegan yet unsustainable fabrics, materials and textiles. Most of us don’t realize that washing one synthetic garment releases about 2,000 plastic microfibers which then enter the ocean and food chain…or that 30% of rayon and viscose used in fashion comes from endangered and ancient forests. So because a fabric is vegan it does not necessarily mean that it is sustainable, eco-friendly and so on. 

Natural fibers like cotton are actually really harmful IF they are not organic. How? Cotton seeds are often GMOs that require pesticides, which are extremely toxic! In fact, up to 16% of the world’s pesticides go to non-organic, GMO cotton farming every year. The chemicals degrade soil and pollute water as well as poison cotton pickers.

Wow! …So it’s time to start using sustainable fabrics, materials and textiles.

Vegan and sustainable fashion near you is easier than ever with this: Vegan Clothing Brands Per Country List

non organic cotton is vegan but harmful for wildlife.

vegan-material

Is non organic cotton vegan? Yes, non organic cotton is vegan but harmful for wildlife.

Cows, sheep, alpacas, goats, ducks and foxes are animals commonly subject to exploitation for their skins, hair or feathers. In fact, BILLIONS of them die every single year simply in the name of fashion. 

Before buying a pair of shoes, a sweater, a purse, check the materials. Common and unfortunately popular animal-derived materials include:

These materials often come from places like India and China where there can be NO animal welfare laws or enforcement. But if the item does come from a more developed area of the world, such as the United States or Europe, that animal was likely a victim of factory farming. In such overcrowded farms there is confinement, disease and animals sometimes live their entire lives indoors, never seeing the light of day.

Dressing and decorating vegan is easier than ever with this: Vegan Fabrics, Materials and Textiles List

non organic cotton is a material that likely has labor issues.

benefits of buying fair trade, labor rights, human rights and workers rights issues

Is non organic cotton a material that has known labor issues? At this time, there are reports of worker mistreatment regarding non organic cotton farming.

Many workers die every year from exposure to toxic chemicals and pesticides, unsanitary housing and lack of safe drinking water. There are reports of women workers in India (the world’s second highest cotton producer) involving sexually harassment and rape.

There is adult and child labor in Uzbekistan (one of the largest cotton exporters in the world). Every year the government orders schools to close and enforces millions of adults and children to devote all efforts for the nation to meet their cotton field quotas. The government threatens, detains and tortures activists who want to help the situation. The government refuses to end forced labor. Similar issues regarding child labor occur in India, several hundred thousand children must give up their education to work in the cotton industry. In Uzbekistan there is little or no pay. Additionally, if people refuse work they may lose their employment, pensions and child benefits.

Sadly, many labor concerns exist around the world in both developed and developing countries. We must be vigilant to ensure what we buy is not contributing to industries that are unfair to their valuable workers.

Fair trade organizations fight to ensure better social, environmental and economic standards. 

We can improve people’s lives simply by being mindful to buy items that are certified fair trade. 

Sources:

International labor rights forum
Sew Guide: Fabric glossary
Sleeping organic: organic cotton
Textile School: Textile fabric types
slow fashion: sustainable vs. unsustainable fabrics
Fabric of the world: What are biodegradable fabrics?

Adriane Marie

Grocery Guru, Material Maven, Conscious Consumer Connoisseur. I organize ethical info for us to comprehensively see how purchases impact people, animals and the planet. I hope you find HEALabel helpful! Use it for personal and global improvement and empowerment.

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