Organic Cotton and Climate Change
Organic cotton outperforms conventional cotton when it comes to climate change mitigation. A life cycle analysis for organic cotton found that energy demand, calculated on a per yield basis, was 62% lower than that of conventional cotton, and that the total global warming potential of organic cotton was 46% lower than that of conventional cotton. These results are consistent with other studies that have found that organic production methods significantly reduce GHG emissions and use less energy.
Organic farming also contributes to climate change mitigation by sequestering carbon in the soil. Studies show that the diverse crop rotation strategies and soil-building practices required by USDA’s National Organic Program for all certified organic farmers increase soil organic carbon leading to increased long-term carbon storage.
Organic Cotton and Water
Organic cotton production has been shown to significantly reduce the amount of water pollution via soil erosion and nutrient leaching compared to conventional cotton production. These benefits have also been documented in other cropping systems where organically managed soils retain water and nutrients more effectively than conventionally-managed soils.
Because of the benefits to soil that organic systems provide, organic soils are also better able to hold water, which can reduce the need for irrigation. In fact, organic cotton production practices can reduce water consumption by as much as 91%. Irrigation water consumption for organic cotton is significantly lower than that of conventional cotton, as organic cotton is mostly rain-fed. The reduction of water use continues throughout the processing of cotton, and water use in GOTS certified cotton is limited to around 50 liters per kg fabric in later stages of the cotton processing.
Organic Cotton and Biodiversity
A large body of literature suggests that organic farming systems can play a role in biodiversity conservation. Common organic farming practices benefit a wide range of organisms. Compared to conventional farms, organic farms generally support a greater diversity of carabid beetles, spiders, earthworms, beneficial parasitoid wasps, vascular plants, birds, bees and other native pollinators, soil microbes and fungi, and small rodents.