The idea of sustainability is simply so much more than just being organic. Growing a cotton crop sustainably takes many factors into consideration in both a short-term and long-term view, and must address economic growth, environmental protection and conservation, as well as social responsibility. The ultimate goal of reaching a level of sustainability is to create a situation in which the net effects balance all the variables to enable the production of a cotton crop as efficiently as possible with minimal impact and while remaining fiscally viable.
Under a long-term view, cotton can be generally viewed as being sustainable as it has been grown to clothe and protect mankind for at least 7,000 years. If cultivation of cotton had not been sustainable at any point over that long historical time period in comparison to other competitive fibers, then we would not have any cotton produced in any substantial quantities today. Additionally, cotton is and always has been a natural, renewable and biodegradable fiber.
Tremendous efforts are continually being made in the U.S. to improve the entire cotton production process in order to reap the natural benefits of cotton, today and into the future. The U.S. cotton industry is committed to producing cotton in the most sustainable manner possible. Advances in technology and the modernization of farming and processing allow the U.S. cotton producer to play a significant role in being a sustainable producer. The implementations of new technologies allow U.S. cotton producers to minimize the impact on the environment by using less water, land and energy. Improvements in the new fiber varieties that have been developed and are used today have seen irrigation requirements drop to half as much as they were in the 1980’s. The new varieties are also yielding more, and thereby putting out more fiber for each acre farmed. Advances in farming practices are also recognized as saving over 1 billion liters of tractor fuel.
Finally, it is important to remember that cotton also sequesters carbon. An annual cotton crop has the same beneficial impact as removing 7.25 million passenger vehicles from the roads.
Organic American Pima is available in very limited quantities on an annual basis, and the fiber is quite often forward contracted. Typical production levels for this cotton are less than 1% of the entire American Pima crop. Certification of this cotton is done at the state level with respective state certifying agencies.