All our virgin cotton is grown with organic practices that eliminate the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides and GMO seeds.
When we scrutinized fabric fibers to determine their environmental impact, we thought that cotton was “pure” and “natural” because it was made from a plant. We were right about the plant. However, very little is pure or natural about cotton when it is grown conventionally. We learned this in the early 1990s when we started looking more closely into our cotton supply chains. At that time, 10% of all agricultural chemicals in the United States were used to produce cotton that was grown on just 1% of all major agricultural land. Every year, conventional cotton crops in California alone were doused with 6.9 million pounds of chemicals. Research has shown that extensive and intensive use of synthetic fertilizers, soil additives, defoliants and other substances wreak havoc on soil, water, air and many, many living things. The alternative to this scenario is to eliminate synthetic chemical use and instead use organically grown cotton.
Patagonia first started using exclusively 100% organic cotton in 1996. Later, we also began using recycled cotton, Cotton in Conversion and Regenerative Organic Certified™ (ROC) Pilot Cotton.
Farmers who grow their cotton without harmful chemicals reduce their reliance on big agrochemical companies, like Bayer-Monsanto and Syngenta, and reduce their workers’ exposure to potentially toxic and carcinogenic compounds. Organically farmed cotton employs nature-based solutions to manage pests and to build healthy soil, instead of the synthetic pesticides, herbicides, defoliants, fertilizers and GMO seeds used to grow conventional cotton. Organic methods support biodiversity and healthy ecosystems, improve the quality of soil and often use less water.
Compared to growing conventional cotton, there is a 45% reduction in CO₂ emissions and a 90% reduction in water as a result of growing organic cotton.
We’ve introduced Cotton in Conversion, which allows farms growing cotton organically to sell their crop while they are still in the process of getting certified. Cotton in Conversion follows strict organic certification requirements through a multiyear journey. We back this crop to support farmers who are committed to reaching organic cotton certification. Our first line of clothes made with Cotton in Conversion launched in spring 2020.
And to take our commitment even further, we’ve piloted our first crop of cotton on farms working toward the highest standard—Regenerative Organic Certification, which aims to rehabilitate soil, respect animal welfare and improve the lives of farmers.