The most important questions about organic cotton

Around 100 million households earn their living from cotton. Of this, around 1% of the cotton grown worldwide is certified organic. For our streetwear collections, we use only GMO-free and fair-trade organic cotton, thus promoting organic cotton farming for a just society.

WHAT IS ORGANIC COTTON?

Certified organic cotton is grown according to the principles of organic farming. This means that no chemical pesticides or fertilizers may be used and that genetically modified seeds are usually, but not always, prohibited. Farmers use mixed crops or crop rotation to ensure healthy soils and more biodiversity. Organic cotton is picked by the farmers exclusively by hand instead of with heavy machinery. This also protects the soil and saves CO₂ emissions.

Conventional cotton plantations often use harvesting machines that can only harvest the cotton if the plants are first defoliated with chemicals.

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WHY IS ORGANIC COTTON GOOD?

Organic cotton requires up to 90 percent less blue water than conventional cotton. This refers to the extraction from lakes, rivers and groundwater. In addition, organic cotton has a greenhouse gas potential that is about 40 percent lower. By using natural methods for fertilizing and crop protection, farmers protect biodiversity and the health of their workers.

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The organic cotton for our textiles from Remei Tanzania, is fed by rainwater and does not require artificial irrigation. Together with the bioRe® Foundation, Remei India is committed to the careful use of water in irrigated fields by installing drip irrigation or researching drought-resistant varieties. In addition to dry periods, periods of very heavy rain are increasingly becoming a problem for organic cotton to thrive in India.

WHY IS WATER CONSUMPTION PROBLEMATIC IN COTTON CULTIVATION?

According to the WWF, it takes 11,000 litres of water to produce one kilo of conventional cotton. An 08/15 T-shirt needs an average of 4000 litres of water before you can put it on. 2,700 litres are needed for cultivation, the rest goes into processing and dyeing. The problem: cotton is mainly grown in dry areas because the rain makes the cotton-like buds rot easily. In order to be able to use enough water in these cultivation areas, rivers or lakes are severely dried up, with serious consequences for people and the environment. The best-known example is the Aral Sea in Central Asia.

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FACTS

2.5 percent of the world’s agricultural land (32.2 million hectares) is used to grow cotton. At the same time, this cultivation consumes almost 16 percent of the insecticides used annually worldwide. The annual cotton harvest continues to grow and was estimated at 29 million tonnes of cotton in 2021/22. (PDF: United States Department of Agriculture) Despite increasing demand, only about one percent of cotton is grown organically, as the current market report of the non-profit organization Textile Exchange shows.

IS ORGANIC COTTON AUTOMATICALLY FAIR TRADED

As a rule, organic farmers receive better prices for their cotton. They are not exposed to pesticides that are hazardous to health, and thanks to crop rotation, farmers also harvest other organic products that they can market or eat themselves. However, organic farming does not necessarily guarantee fair working conditions and fair wages.

For us, this is one more reason to work with our partner Remei. Remei gives the farmers a purchase guarantee and pays an additional organic premium directly when the cotton is sold, which is 15% above the local market price.

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BIORE® FOUNDATION

For 25 years, the bioRe® Foundation, together with Remei, Coop and many other partners, has been committed to organic agriculture in India and Tanzania. Training farmers in organic and biodynamic agriculture, research into GMO-free seeds and the promotion of women enable farming families to lead self-determined lives. In addition, the foundation is involved in social projects in various areas such as education, health, drinking water or sanitation. ZRCL supports the foundation in its commitment to provide schooling for children of very remote farming families.

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IS MY T-SHIRT ORGANIC IF IT SAYS ORGANIC COTTON ON IT?

Once the organic cotton has been harvested, it is processed into yarn, fabric and clothes, which are then dyed and printed. To be able to offer you clothes that are ecologically produced from A to Z, we make sure that our clothes come from dyeing factories that ensure careful input management and have controlled waste water treatment. This protects the health of the textile workers, protects the environment, and we can offer you skin-friendly clothes.

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