More than half a century has passed since the world’s first Earth Day, when 20 million Americans called for greater protection of the planet. The Earth Day movement continues on April 22 and more than one billion people around the world are expected to take part in events aimed at changing human behavior and creating global, national and local policy change.
This year’s theme is “Investing in our Planet”, and the goal of Earth Day organizers is to inspire governments, individuals, businesses and institutions to take action on climate.
“Using Earth Day as a platform, we aim to break down the barriers that have been erected by industry and the fossil fuel economy, and redirect all of our attention to creating a 21st century economy. century that brings back healing and health to our planet, protects all of our species – including our own – and provides opportunity for everyone on the planet,” said Kathleen Rogers, President of EarthDay.org. “People, governments and businesses are all afraid of change. But the status quo, the way we live today, is changing before our eyes. In building our future, individuals, businesses, entrepreneurs, inventors and governments each have a unique role. We must act individually and together.
Most consumers are now tied to climate and environmental concerns. According to the Cotton Council International (CCI) and Cotton Incorporated 2021 Global Environment Survey, three quarters (75%) of men and women in the United States say that environmental change and resource depletion are real and require a change in behavior. In addition, the percentage of consumers declaring to be After concerned (57%) has increased considerably since 2017.
To that end, today’s cotton farmers are striving to bring a more sustainable future to the fashion and textile industry, from how crops are grown to production. For example, the US cotton industry has experienced a general downward trend in greenhouse gas emissions over time. This is important because an increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations can contribute to more volatile weather patterns, such as more frequent and intense hurricanes, prolonged periods of drought, increased flooding, and others. extreme weather events. In the agricultural phase of cotton, Cotton Incorporated’s Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) shows that nitrogen fertilizers have the greatest impact in terms of global warming potential. Producers aim to reduce GHG emissions by 39% by 2025, according to Cotton Incorporated’s LCA (2017). They also pledged to increase soil carbon by 30% and reduce energy consumption by 15%.
In 1974, when Earth Day was in its infancy and the average person didn’t know about greenhouse gases, the world’s population was 4 billion. Since then, it has increased to 7.9 billion and is expected to reach 10 billion by 2057. This makes drinking water a precious resource. Currently, agriculture accounts for 73% of global water consumption. However, cotton is only responsible for 3% of this, according to an article in Water Resources Management. Despite false claims to the contrary, cotton is drought tolerant. In many parts of the world, it depends solely on rainfall. And in the United States, 60% of the cotton grown is produced without irrigation. A 2016 Field to Market study found that “the efficiency of irrigated water used has increased nearly 82% since the early 1980s.” It should be noted that the cotton industry aims to reduce water consumption by an additional 18% by 2025.
Another misconception revolves around the pesticides needed to grow cotton. Many crops account for double-digit percentages of global pesticide sales, but cotton only accounts for 4.7%, making it one of the lowest users of agricultural pesticides, according to global pesticide sales data. by Phillips McDougall.
Of course, as the population grows, the need to grow more cotton on less land becomes more urgent. Currently, cotton is grown in 80 countries but occupies only 0.6% of the world’s agricultural land, according to statistics from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Thanks to modern agricultural practices, cotton farmers have already improved their production: In 1976, it took more than 19 hectares (4.7 acres) to grow one metric ton of cotton lint in the United States In 2017, it less than 1.07 hectares (2.64 acres) to grow the same amount. And the cotton farmers’ goal has been to further increase land use efficiency by 13% by 2025.
Cotton is also a natural cellulose fiber that can be made into textiles, unlike synthetic fibers produced from petroleum and other man-made processes. But since cotton is a natural fiber, it also biodegrades in natural environments when it reaches its end of life. That’s significant considering the average American throws away about 70 pounds of textiles each year, according to the Council for Textile Recycling. Of course, about 10 pounds are given away. But overall, Americans send about 20 billion pounds of textile waste to landfills each year. But Mother Earth does better with cotton textiles than with synthetics. Researchers from Cotton Incorporated and Cornell University have shown that cotton is compostable and naturally biodegrades, unlike polyester. In a three-month study, polyester fabrics remained intact both under laboratory conditions and in a compost environment. Cotton fabrics, although more significantly degraded in the composting environment than in the laboratory, have all been confirmed to be “compostable”.
Researchers from Cotton Incorporated, North Carolina State University and Duke University have also determined that raw cotton microfibers break down faster than polyester in fresh water, salt water and water treatment facilities. On the other hand, polyester microfibers are “expected to persist in the environment for long periods of time”. That wouldn’t matter, except that the majority of clothing on the planet is made of plastic-based materials like polyester, rayon, nylon and acrylic, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Not only do these non-compostable clothes take up space in the world’s landfills, they emit carbon dioxide into the environment when they’re there. Additionally, synthetic clothing releases tiny microfibers that now fill the planet’s waterways, drinking water, and food chain.
The natural attributes of cotton also come into play during the textile production phase. After the cotton is harvested, all parts of the plant are used, from fiber to seed to by-product. The by-product has been used in a range of applications, including livestock feed and erosion control products. And now it can also be used as a component in cotton textile dyes. Archroma Earth Colors®
giving manufacturers a responsible option to dye textiles with up to 100% petroleum-free, bioeliminable dyes made from agricultural by-products. The result is a biosynthetic sulfur dye that releases no harmful chemical waste during processing.
Cationic cotton offers another sustainable solution at the manufacturing stage. Cationic cotton is cotton that has been chemically modified to possess a permanent – or positive – cationic charge. In typical cationic dyeing of cotton, salt and alkali are used in the dye bath to reverse the charge on the cotton so that it has a positive charge. This makes cotton dyeing more “friendly”, creating a shorter and more efficient dyeing process that uses less water, energy and chemicals.
“Smart businesses are discovering that it is no longer necessary to choose between going green and increasing long-term profits – sustainability is the path to prosperity,” says EarthDay.org. “So for humanitarian and business reasons, it is imperative that businesses of all sizes take action and reap the benefits of a green economy.”
The Cotton Incorporated Lifestyle Monitor™ is an ongoing research program that measures consumer attitudes and behaviors around clothing, shopping, fashion, sustainability, and more.
For more information on the Lifestyle Monitor™ survey, please visit https://lifestylemonitor.cottoninc.com/.