The Environmental Impact of Cotton: Water-Intensive, Carbon-Heavy, and Eco-Unfriendly

To this end, cotton, which is often promoted as a natural and renewable fiber, has several undesirable side effects that are not well known among consumers. Beyond the aesthetic and tactile appeal of the material there is a crop with a large environmental impact in the areas of water usage and carbon emissions.

Water Consumption: A Thirsty Crop The cultivation of cotton is one of the most water-consuming activities across the globe. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has found that it takes 2700 liters of water to make one cotton T-shirt. This appalling water utilization is particularly problematic given that the cotton is grown in water-scarce countries.

Cotton is one of the longest fibers naturally produced and is used across the globe and the global value of the cotton industry is estimated to be 2. Global water usage, in this regard, is estimated to be at 6% by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). To put this into perspective, this is enough water to supply more than 400 million people every year hence its importance.

Carbon Emissions: Cotton production comes at a high cost to the climate: under normal conditions, it guzzles water, but it also emits significant amounts of greenhouse gasses. According to the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, 1 kilogram of conventional cotton production consumes as much as 4. This will cause 3 kilograms or 9. 5 pounds of CO2 emissions to be released into the atmosphere.

These emissions stem largely from the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and the energy that is consumed throughout the cultivation, picking, and processing of cotton. Various statistics available from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) show that the textile industry is one of the biggest polluters with an estimated contribution of around 1. This is 2 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions per annum, and cotton is one of the biggest contributors.

However, the truth is that conventional cotton is anything but innocent; it is a highly damaging crop that comes at a very high environmental price. The high amount of water that is used in the growth of the cotton crop and the emissions of carbon that results from it affects the water resources and the atmosphere respectively.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Need Help?
Scroll to Top