That onesie you dressed your baby in this morning has a history. If it’s cotton, and it probably is, it started as a plant.
The journey started in the dirt.
Planting cotton begins as early as February 1 in South Texas and as late as June 1 in northern areas of the cotton belt.
“Approximately, two months after planting, flower buds, called squares, appear on the cotton plants. In another three weeks, the blossoms open. Their petals change from creamy white to yellow, then pink and finally, dark red,” according to the National Cotton Council of America.
(Interesting, huh! Dark red! Bet you didn’t know that fact!)
“After three days, they wither and fall, leaving green pods which are called cotton bolls. Inside the boll, which is shaped like a tiny football, moist fibers grow and push out from the newly formed seeds. As the boll ripens, it turns brown. The fibers continue to expand under the warm sun. Finally, they slit the boll apart and the fluffy cotton bursts forth. It looks like white cotton candy,” according to the National Cotton Council of America.
The cotton plant is defoliated if it is to be machine harvested. Some American crops are naturally defoliated by frost, but at least half of the crops must be defoliated with chemicals (unless it is organic cotton).
Without defoliation, the cotton must be picked by hand, with laborers clearing out the leaves as they work. Harvesting is done by machine in the United States. The machine takes the place of 50 cotton hand-pickers. Most American cotton is stored in modules where it is then cleaned, compressed, tagged, and stored at the gin. The gin separates the seeds from the fiber. The cotton is then compressed into bales. This summary is from http://www.madehow.com/Volume-6/Cotton.html#ixzz551uXiNn0
And, according to cotton.org. The opening of bales is fully automated now. Lint from several bales is mixed and blended together to provide a uniform blend of fiber properties.
Fun facts! A bale of cotton weighs 500 pounds. It can produce:
249 bed sheets
690 Terry bath towels
1217 Men’s t-shirts
313,600 $100 dollar bills
The not so fun important information regarding the fluffy white conventional stuff is that it is estimated that growers use, on average, 5.3 ounces of chemicals to produce one pound of processed cotton. Cotton cultivation is responsible for 25% of all chemical pesticides used on American crops. Holy Cow!
However, an important caveat to remember is that organic farming utilizes biological control to rid cotton of pests and alters planting patterns in specific ways to reduce fungicide use. While this method of cultivation is possible, an organically grown crop generally yields less usable cotton. This means an organic farmer must purchase, plant, and harvest more acreage to yield enough processed cotton to make the crop lucrative, or reduce costs in other ways to turn a profit. (From Madehow.com/volume-6)
By the way, China is the largest producer of cotton, followed by India, and then the United States. There are about 18,600 farms in the US.
In choosing organic cotton for your t-shirts and baby clothing over conventional cotton, you are helping to save the planet from harmful chemicals. Organic baby clothing is super important for the health of your baby.
What cotton onesie is against your baby’s skin today, organic or not?