Cotton fabric is made from yarn spun from the fibres of the cotton seedpod, called a boll. Most of the world's cotton is grown in India and China, usually on farms that rely heavily on pesticides, fertilisers and intensive irrigation.
Growing 1 kilogram of non-organic cotton lint (the raw cotton fibre) uses about 2,120 litres of water from irrigation, according to Textile Exchange, a not-for-profit group promoting sustainable practices within the industry.
Cotton is generally harvested by machine, then undergoes ginning, a mechanical process that removes the fibres from their seeds.
These fluffy fibres are then subject to a series of processes, such as carding and combing, to smooth and refine them until they are ready to be spun into yarn.
A Textile Exchange life cycle analysis published last year found organic cotton — which is usually grown using water-conserving practices and without pesticides and fertilisers — had reduced potential for global warming, acidification, soil erosion, water consumption and non-renewable energy compared with conventional cotton production.
Australia holds a relatively small piece of the global cotton pie, producing about 2 million bales a year compared to China and India's 33 million and 27 million respectively, but it punches above its weight in the environmental stakes, contributing less than a third of a per cent to the country's agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, according to Cotton Australia.
A 2014 industry report found Australian cotton had increased its water efficiency by 40 per cent over the previous decade and had reduced insecticide use by 89 per cent since the late 90s.
Find more information at: https://cottonaustralia.com.au/