12 Ways That Cotton Is Making the World Better
September 30, 2021
Celebrating World Cotton Day, 2021
In the last 35 years, U.S. cotton has made staggering gains in its sustainability practices. Below, we outline 3 major ways that cotton has become more sustainable since the 1980s, and 6 ways we plan to become even better by 2025.
Cotton’s 3 Biggest Sustainability Strides in the Last 35 Years
Cotton’s water efficiency increased by almost 82% since the 1980s (Field to Market, 2016) Modern agricultural practices mean that cotton is not a water intense crop. Cotton has been bred to be drought tolerant, and only 4% of the U.S. cotton harvested acres in 2008 required irrigation to grow (USDA, 2010). The vast majority of cotton irrigation simply improves crop yields, maximizing land-use and water efficiency simultaneously. In fact, 60% of U.S. cotton and 50% of world cotton is grown using only rainfall.
Cotton requires 31% less land than it did in 1980 (Field to Market, 2016) U.S. cotton yields have doubled over the last three decades, even as farmers are planting less land. Soil health and technological advances are a huge part of this land efficiency: Improved tilling practices and cover crops return nutrients to the soil, while precision agriculture helps growers apply fertilizer and pesticides more efficiently, reducing chemical runoff and soil loss.
U.S. cotton has reduced greenhouse gas emissions 30% since 1980 (Field to Market, 2016) Conservation tillage contributes substantially to soil carbon capture, as much as 400 pounds of carbon per acre per year (Causarano et al., 2006). In fact, an acre of no-till cotton actually stores 350 pounds more atmospheric carbon than is emitted during its production. Sensors, drones and sophisticated mapping tools also help growers to measure and distribute synthetic fertilizer, with about 90% efficiency in nitrogen use (USDA-NASS, 2016).
Cotton’s 6 Sustainability Goals for 2025The U.S. cotton industry has set 6 key sustainability goals to achieve by 2025:
- Increase soil carbon by 30%
- Increase land use efficiency by 13%
- Decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 39%
- Decrease soil loss per acre by 50%
- Decrease water use by 18%
- Decrease energy use by 15%
3 Ways That Cotton Impacts the Global Community
Cotton also touches the lives of people the world over far beyond its environmental impact.
- Approximately half of all textiles are made from cotton.
- It’s the most widespread, profitable non-food crop in the world, and cotton production provides income for more than 250 million people, accounting for almost 7% of labor in developing countries.
- Cotton is also the only agricultural commodity that provides both fiber and food, since cottonseed can be used for cooking oil and livestock feed.
As cotton growers, manufacturers, merchants and general cotton lovers, we see every day how this fiber is woven into the fabric of the global community. It’s that knowledge that’s lead us to take our sustainability impact so seriously and make such strong commitments to improving our outcomes.
If you’d like to learn more about how cotton promotes good all over the world, register for World Cotton Day’s free seminar here.
The work we do is possible because of collaborations with researchers like these and partnerships with people all throughout the value chain. Ready to commit to sustainably produced cotton? Become a Cotton LEADS℠ partner today. Interested in doing even more? Contact us for ideas to get the most out of sustainable cotton and your partnership with Cotton LEADS.
Brands, retailers Help Set Direction for Australian Cotton Future Sustainability Work
To better understand stakeholder expectations the Australian cotton industry has developed a formal Sustainability Reference Group which met for the first timeGet the full story
Register now for Cotton Australia's next webinar
Register now for the second instalment in the webinar series There’s Nothing Conventional About Australian Cotton.Get the full story
How Farming Data Tools Can Benefit the Entire Cotton Supply Chain
Research and resources that detail the potential of RFID traceability and cotton farming data to increase yield, cotton research, and sustainability programs.Get the full story
Cotton’s Life Cycle and Natural Biodegradability
Research and resources that provide data on cotton’s environmental impact over its life cycle as well as its multiple end-of-life uses and biodegradability.Get the full story
Australian irrigators forgo harvesting water to improve environment outcomes
New South Wales cotton farmers will lose one third of water they would normally harvest during a flood event to ensure more water goes downstream for the environment.Get the full story
The Seed That Packs A Punch now available for viewing
If you missed the first webinar in the series There’s Nothing Conventional About Australian Cotton, watch the replay of it here.Get the full story
Cotton Incorporated Teams with USDA to Standardize Cotton Research Data
How a Cotton Incorporated/USDA partnership is helping to unite data across the entire cotton industry for public use.Get the full story
Young leaders better equipped to inspire future generations
The program has shifted focus from a ‘me and my farm/work’ to a ‘me and my industry and what’s my role in it’ approachGet the full story
Water saving has positive impact on Australian crop production
Australian Cotton growers are using almost 50 per cent less water to grow one bale of cotton, new research has revealed.Get the full story
Aussie Cotton Season kicks off in Central Queensland
The first cotton seeds have been sewn into central Queensland soil ahead of what is expected to be a bumper crop this season.Get the full story
CottonWorks™ Pathways to Progress Webinar Series Outlines Achievements Toward 10-Year Sustainability Goals
A webinar series that presents how the U.S. cotton industry is setting and reaching goals to reduce its environmental impact.Get the full story
SHASA Leads Fashion Sustainability Branding with Cotton
How Latin American fashion brand SHASA is using cotton’s sustainability story to promote their own sustainability initiatives.Get the full story