I used cotton for YEARS in my previous job as a Retail Buyer.
BUT.... then I learned about the devastating environmental cost of conventional cotton.
The astonishing fact is, growing cotton globally in developing countries can causes some of the highest environmental pollution of any crop grown, if not carefully managed.
An article in the Huffington Post by David Dietz discusses the major issues around conventional cotton versus organically grown.
Conventional Cotton is responsible for nearly 1/6 of the world's pesticide and herbicide usage due to it's high amount of predators. And due to the way cotton is harvested, ripping the whole plant and its root system, destabilising the soil, a lot of these chemicals find their way into the underground water tables.
And it gets thirsty....
Conventional cotton is one of the thirstiest crops, requiring vast amounts of water.
To produce 1 kg of cotton -the equivalent of a t-shirt & a pair of jeans - it takes on average the equivalent of 80,000 glasses of water! (this blew me away)
Fresh water being one of the most valuable resources - easily accessible fresh water amounts to just 0.025% of the world's water supply - that seems a crazy use of valuable resources.
In fact, the clothing industry is the 2nd biggest polluter after the oil industry!
I set about researching alternative fibres, focusing firstly on comfort - looking for something really soft.
And I stumbled across bamboo. And I was blown away.
- In fibre form, bamboo is soft, often likened to silk.
- As a natural fibre it "wicks", a process which draws moisture away from the skin leaving the wearer cool and dry.
- Best of all, bamboo has a naturally occurring antibacterial agent that suppresses foot odour.
BUT - most intriguing and surprising of all, was bamboo's environmental credentials when compared to cotton:
Bamboo grows fast organically - 10x faster than trees - and requires typically only rainfall. No chemicals are needed as it naturally deters insects & pests. AND it absorbs 5x the amount of greenhouse gases - than other crops, including trees.
When the plant is harvested, the root system is left intact - keeping rich nutrients in the soil, unlike cotton where the soil is left fragile and barren.