Cotton: The Dirty Truth about “The Fabric of our Lives”

Cotton: The Dirty Truth about "The Fabric of our Lives"Cotton has some really great marketing behind it, but conventional cotton has some dirty secrets.

I’m sure you guys have all seen those “Fabric of Our Lives” ad campaigns, featuring happy people snuggling into cotton garments. Sure, conventional cotton is comfy. It’s also relatively inexpensive and easy to work with. What we don’t always think about with textiles is how that fabric gets onto the shelf.

We talk a lot around here about eco-friendly fabrics, but we don’t always spend as much talking about why it’s important to opt for these alternatives. They’re often more expensive and harder to find than their conventional counterparts, and I think sometimes we forget the “whys” behind green crafting.

The Dirty Truth About Cotton

Conventional cotton is one of the most pesticide-intensive crops in the world. In fact, 16% of the world’s pesticides are sprayed on this single crop alone. That is huge. These pesticides run off into local waterways contaminating drinking water and harming wildlife.

All of those pesticides are no good for the people who work in those fields, either. We grow the vast majority of the world’s cotton in developing countries, and those farmers don’t have the means to implement as many safety measures in their farming operations. These farmers experience an array of health problems from coming into contact with all of those pesticides in the field.

Another little-known fact about conventional cotton is that much of the stuff grown worldwide is genetically modified. That means when you buy conventional cottons, you’re indirectly supporting companies like Monsanto, who are notorious for mistreating and bullying farmers. In India, farmers are so deeply in debt from costs associated with GM cottons that in some areas farmers are committing suicide at rates up to one every eight hours.

Feeling a little bit down about the cottons in your stash? Don’t beat yourself up! I’m a big believer in using what you have and doing the best you can to make greener choices in the future. Tomorrow, we’ll look at some alternatives to dirty cotton and where you can find them.

Updated: Here’s a link to the follow-up to this post! Check out these handy resources for finding organic cotton.

Image Credit: Cotton Field photo via Shutterstock

Written by Becky Striepe

My name is Becky Striepe (rhymes with “sleepy”), and I am a crafts and food writer from Atlanta, Georgia with a passion for making our planet a healthier, happier, and more compassionate place to live. My mission is to make vegan food and crafts accessible to everyone!. If you like my work, you can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, and .


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