Love the notion of buying organic cotton, but can't afford it? Our family has struggled with that, too. I was thrilled to find some organic cotton robes on sale for my children a few years ago. But we couldn't begin to replace all of our towels and washcloths. I've purchased the occasional new organic clothing item for the kids. Mostly, our idea of going green is to buy secondhand clothing because it fits our budget. Yet, if more families wanted organic cotton, it might be more affordable for all of us.
When I asked a Texas farming leader about the availability of organic cotton, particularly some made in America, he tried to explain the delicate balance of supply and demand. "This year, with the drought, we'll have a very short crop," said Kelly Pepper, Manager of the Texas Organic Cotton Marketing Cooperative
. Texas farmers grow the bulk of the most preferred grade of organic cotton in the world. Yet they can't grow enough to secure some of the largest deals in the textile industry. The Organic Trade Association
ranks, in terms of volume grown, the countries of India, Turkey, Syria, Tanzania and China ahead of the United States.
If you buy one of the pricier organic cotton items, it's more likely to be made with material from the US. In order to make the numbers work, some clothing mills are shipping the US cotton abroad to weave it into cloth. Some boutique companies are constructing clothing entirely in the states.
Yet others are hiring US workers in clothing mills, while they use organic cotton from other countries. Yeumei Shon is President of Cottonfield USA
, where she says it's been difficult to find enough domestic cotton to use for producing clothing in the US. "We had to search all over the place for fine organic yarns," she explains. Shon designs fine lingerie and other cotton garments especially for people with chemical sensitivity. Shon admits that the cotton used, while organic, does not always come from the US.