Cotton LEADS

Choose
Cotton

Feel good in it,
feel good about it

Cotton is the natural choice for clothing. It keeps your family cool and comfortable on any occasion – playing sports or presenting to the boss, out for the evening or snuggling in for a good night’s sleep.

Cotton helps you care for your family’s needs. And when you choose sustainably sourced cotton, you’re supporting the millions of farming families around the world who grow it. Cotton can also help you care for the environment. This natural fiber comes with a significant benefit for our natural world – it’s biodegradable. And from the way it’s grown to the way it’s reused, Cotton LEADSSM partners and growers are serious about continually improving cotton’s sustainability.

Count on Cotton

Cotton LEADS founders have developed sustainably sourced cotton and cotton/wool blends that will keep you warm and cozy like synthetic fleece – without the plastic. Choosing a natural fiber is one way you can help our rivers and oceans.

BEFORE IT'S WORN,
IT'S BORN.

Cotton checks all the boxes: It's comfortable, versatile and sustainable. This natural fiber is grown from sunlight, water and earth. From the farm to your closet, it's a good fit for your needs and our world's.

Watch the video to see what makes cotton natural, responsible - and good.

FOLLOW COTTON ON ITS JOURNEY THROUGH LIFE

Have you heard the phrase "closing the loop"? This means a product can be turned into another product at the end of its useful life. A product or material designed to "close the loop" reduces waste and decreases the amount of brand-new resources required to make new products.

Cotton can "close the loop" in not one but three ways. This natural fiber is grown from earth and can be reused, recycled and even returned to the earth. Explore our interactive model of cotton's life cycle to learn how brands are creating innovative and eco-friendly cotton products.

TAKE THE JOURNEY
Here are a few MORE reasons you can feel confident in choosing cotton

We're planning for the future

You can trust cotton from Australia and the United States to be grown sustainably. Growers from these two countries – the joint founders of the Cotton LEADS program – have long led the world in responsible agricultural practices, research and technologies that allow them to protect natural resources and produce enough fiber to meet the world’s needs. Each country has developed sustainability goals and objectives to guide continuous, ambitious improvement over the next decade.

Hear the experts talk about U.S. industry goals Read Australia’s Third Environmental Report

We've done our homework

Cutting-edge scientific research funded by Australia and the U.S. provides the most complete picture to date of when and how sustainably sourced cotton interacts with the environment, from the plant growing in the field to the clothes hanging in your closet … to how you dispose of those clothes. You know the phrase “knowledge is power” – well, this research allows cotton growers and Cotton LEADS partners to make smart, forward-thinking decisions about how to continuously improve their environmental impact.

Is knowledge power for you too?

Take a look at the details of our cotton life cycle assessment
Cotton Underwear vs Synthetic Underwear

Cotton helps turn the tide on ocean pollution

Whether it’s made from natural or synthetic fiber, all clothing sheds microfibers when washed. These microfibers are finding their way into our soil, rivers and oceans around the globe – and in the case of synthetics, that’s a problem.

Every time you wash it, oil-based synthetic clothing (think polyester, nylon, spandex and “fleece”) sheds plastic microfibers. Measuring less than a millimeter long, these microfibers have been found in table salt in China and inside fish from the California coast. These tiny fibers add up – and they don’t decompose. They’re adding to the more than 270,000 tons of plastic particles already in our world’s oceans.

Cotton’s natural fibers, in contrast, break down easily in wastewater and soil. Using international standards to assess cotton biodegradability, we’ve studied how textiles and wet wipes degrade compared to synthetics in a variety of environments.

You can see in the photo above that cotton and synthetic underwear break down at very different rates in the soil. The cotton pair is unrecognizable.

Sustainably Sourced Cotton vs Polyester
Cotton vs Polyester

Cotton textiles biodegrade 76% after 243 days in a wastewater environment compared to polyester, which degrades only 4%. That means sustainably sourced cotton degrades 95% more than synthetic fiber. The research indicates cotton will also continue to biodegrade over time, unlike polyester. If cotton textiles somehow end up in the soil, they will break down there, too. Our research found that cotton biodegradability is 99% greater than synthetics in a compost environment – 89% in 12 weeks versus 0.8% in 12 weeks.

What about wet wipes?

Cotton wet wipes don’t have the chance to shed microfibers in the wash, but what happens when they are flushed down the toilet? Independent research shows cotton wet wipes’ ability to return to nature in composting, sewer and septic system environments. Even in cotton/synthetic blends, the cotton biodegraded while the synthetic did not.

Our results demonstrate good news: When you choose sustainable cotton, you can rest assured you’re not contributing to the growing problem of microfiber pollution in our oceans.

Get the full story on cotton, biodegradability and microfibers

There's life for sustainable cotton after your closet

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, about 80 pounds of textiles per U.S. resident per year are sent to landfills, while Australian consumers throw out 51 pounds. Cotton LEADS founders and partners are working together to create more opportunities for recycling cotton clothing, like the Blue Jeans Go Green℠ program in the United States and research into the recyclability of cotton in Australia.

Blue Jeans Go Green

Cotton Incorporated started this denim recycling program in 2006. As of 2018, retailers, clothing brands, colleges, nonprofits and individuals have prevented more than 2 million pieces of denim – that’s more than 1 thousand tons of clothing – from going into landfills. The collected denim is upcycled by Bonded Logic, Inc. into UltraTouch℠ Denim Insulation. As energy-saving insulation, this cotton continues to provide sustainable benefits after its life as clothing.

Learn how to recycle your old denim
Recycled, Sustainably Sourced Cotton

The brands you buy are committed to sustainably sourced cotton

Hear from Cotton LEADS partners how they’re working to ensure the cotton in your clothes is sustainably produced.

Get to know our growers and researchers