The Environmental Footprint of Organic Cotton

From Field Through the Supply Chain

Cotton is one of the most widely grown crops in the world, and conventional cotton is one of the most chemically intensive crops with serious consequences for both the environment and farmworkers. Furthermore, post-harvest treatment of cotton and fabric production practices can further contribute to environmental degradation. Organic cotton and textile production likely provides a sustainable alternative however, no assessment has ever been conducted for organic cotton past the stage of cotton ginning and baling of raw cotton, through the full supply chain.

This project compares costs and externalities (biological, environmental, and social) of organic and conventional US cotton and textile production. It combines published data with surveys of organic cotton producers and processors to better understand the specific approaches and techniques used in organic cotton production and processing, and the environmental impacts of those techniques, such as increases in beneficial organisms. The project also highlights the challenges posed by organic cotton production and looks at the future of how organic sustainable cotton can best be supported.


This project is underway, so check back soon for more information!


Dr. Kathleen Delate, Iowa State University
Ben Heller, Iowa State University
Dr. Jessica Shade, The Organic Center


The Organic Center
The Organic Trade Association’s Fiber Council

  • Timberland
  • Linda Cabot Designs
  • Naturepedic
  • WearPACT LLC
  • Coyuchi, Inc.
  • Good Earth Natural Foods
  • Grund America
  • James Wedel Farms
  • Texas Organic Cotton Marketing Cooperative
  • Control Union Certifications North America LLC
  • MetaWear
  • OneCert, Inc.
  • Oregon Tilth
  • Textile Exchange