"Where organic cotton may have an advantage is in using fewer chemicals. It still uses chemicals, just naturally derived ones, which advocates say are less harmful—though there’s some evidence to suggest that certain organic pesticides can be worse for the environment than conventional ones. But particular chemicals used in conventional farming have raised serious concerns, such as glyphosate, a widely used herbicide that’s the key ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller brand, which the World Health Organization has deemed a “probable carcinogen” based on studies of workers who used the product. (There’s no evidence to suggest that wearing clothing made from cotton grown with the chemical is harmful.)
Environmentally conscious shoppers should also be aware that how their cotton is grown isn’t the only question to ask. Before that organic cotton garment can make it to a store, it must be dyed and finished—one of the dirtiest and most chemically intensive steps in making clothes. Unless your organic-cotton garment is certified under a program such as the Global Organic Textile Standard, it is near impossible to guess whether the dyeing processes used were organic or not.
What’s a shopper to do? The best bet is stick to this simple ethos: Buy better clothes. Buy less of them. Wear them more. There’s no more certain way to reduce your impact than to reduce the amount of clothes you consume and to keep those clothes for a long time. Just try to wash