It's a well-known fact that most of our clothes are made of cotton. You only have to open just about any wardrobe to see this.
From underwear and T-shirts to jeans and dresses, cotton is everywhere. And then there's all the bedding in the home: sheets, towels, table linens... It is estimated that 20 million tonnes of cotton are grown every year in 90 countries.
The amount of cotton used is enormous, and not without impact on our environment quite the contrary!
Cotton is one of the world's most water-hungry plants. The WWF organization estimates that a single kilo of cotton requires up to 20,000 liters of water to grow and process! To give you a better idea of what this represents, a Canadian, already a water-hungry consumer, uses an average of 274 liters of water a day. The water consumption for one kilo of cotton represents the equivalent of 2.5 months (72 days) of a Canadian's average daily water consumption.
For a single T-shirt, approximately 500g of cotton are used, or 10,000 liters of water, representing 36 days of your water consumption! When we also know that the average number of times a T-shirt is used is 20 times, this is literally alarming!
You may be thinking that this doesn't concern you, because we've got plenty of water here! Even if the impact can be different from one region to another, it's essential to consider this aspect. For example, the water consumption associated with cotton cultivation has ruined an entire region of the planet. The drying-up of the Aral Sea is literally an ecological and human disaster.
Massive use of pesticides
The United States is the world's largest cotton exporter. In this country, cotton cultivation accounts for almost a quarter of domestic pesticide use. Otherwise, 75% of the world's cotton is grown in developing countries, which have even fewer rules and laws concerning worker health and environmental protection.
The quantity of pesticides used on cotton varies considerably from one country to another, depending on the "needs" of the environment. On average, however, 1 kilo of pesticides is applied to one hectare of cotton.
The massive use of pesticides and fertilizers contaminates rivers, lakes and groundwater. This has both short- and long-term impacts on biodiversity and human health.
Social risks can also be significant. Growing traditional cotton is particularly risky for small-scale farmers in developing countries. Many of them become ill or even die because they lack the knowledge and equipment to handle pesticides.
Nearly half the textiles used on the planet are made from cotton, even though it is the most polluting.
In addition to its massive consumption of water and pesticides, cotton takes up a large proportion of land that could be used for market gardening, among other things. The large-scale conversion of habitats could at least be used to feed... Today, there are a multitude of much more ecological solutions to this textile problem.
Organic cotton is certainly one of them, as it eliminates the use of chemicals. However, even organic cotton doesn't really reduce water consumption. Recycled textiles and fabrics such as bamboo rayon, Lyocell, linen and hemp are still the fabrics we prefer.
Fortunately, they are increasingly available on the market. The choice is in your hands!