Cotton Has Come a Long Way in Reducing Environmental Impact
As these facts illustrate, cotton is nothing like the environmental offender that some detractors claim it is.
November 30, 2011
To some of the general public, cotton is considered a crop that requires a disproportionate amount of inputs, including herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers and water. That’s why it’s critical that cotton and textile professionals stay abreast of the strides cotton has made in recent years to decrease its overall environmental footprint. A number of those accomplishments are outlined below, so be sure to remember them the next time you hear someone denigrating this critically important natural fiber!
- Cotton’s global water footprint is about 2.6% of the world’s agricultural water use, lower than many other commodities and proportional to cotton’s land use.
- Only 11% of the U.S. cotton crop is fully irrigated, while 25% receives supplemental irrigation. The remaining 64% of U.S. acres receive no irrigation water, instead relying completely on rainfall.
- Growing a pound of cotton in the U.S. takes half as much irrigation water as it did 25 years ago.
- It takes less energy to produce a cotton crop than the energy produced by the cotton crop due to the energy embedded in the cottonseed.
- Growing an acre of reduced-tillage cotton removes 1.5 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere every year.
- The amount of CO2 removed by cotton plants worldwide is equivalent to taking 7 million cars off of the highways.
- The 23.4 million bales of cotton consumed in the U.S. sequesters 17 billion lbs of CO2 into textile products per year.