Cotton really is the “fabric of our lives.” But because it’s also one of the most pesticide-laden crops in the world, more consumers are choosing the organic version of this textile we love so much.


Global retail sales for organic cotton products increased more than 85 percent to $1.1 billion during 2006, and are projected to increase to $6.8 billion by 2010, reports the Organic Exchange 2007 organic cotton market report. And it’s not just about organic cotton T-shirts.


“Consumers are no longer simply eating organically grown food — they are wearing clothes, using personal care products and outfitting their kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms with products made with organic cotton,” says Rebecca Calahan Klein, president of Organic Exchange, a nonprofit trade association that works to expand the use of organically grown cotton.


Here are 8 ways to spare the earth and your home of more pesticides and agricultural chemicals.

  • Cotton swabs – It only takes a few dollars to choose organic cotton for your personal care products, including organic cotton balls and rounds. Organic Essentials Organic Cotton Swabs are totally biodegradable and compostable, and the packaging is made from recycled cardboard.
  • Baby toys – If any product should be void of pesticides in your home, perhaps it’s the one that goes into your baby’s mouth on a regular basis. Organic cotton baby toys are also often stuffed with wool, which naturally inhibits bacterial growth – a plus for health-minded parents.
  • Feminine hygiene products – With the number of tampons or sanitary pads a woman will use during her lifetime topping 10,000, that’s a lot of cotton fiber. But the real toll on the planet? The rayon-cotton blend used in many conventional tampons is typically chlorine-bleached, releasing cancer-causing dioxins into the environment. And that’s not all. According to The National Research Center for Women & Families, a study sponsored by the FDA Office of Women's Health found detectable levels of dioxins in seven brands of tampons. Organic cotton tampons, such as the ones from Seventh Generation, are bleached without chlorine for pesticide-free, dioxin-free peace of mind.
  • Pet gear –Now your furry friend can get in on the organic cotton threads too, dreaming about chasing squirrels while napping on an organic cotton bed stuffed with natural fillings instead of synthetic foam and polyester. Chew toys and pet fashion have also gone organic.
  • Nightgowns to wedding gowns – Whatever you want to wear, chances are you can easily find it in organic cotton. According to Organic Exchange, apparel represented 85 percent of the total organic cotton market demand in 2006. The companies using the most organic cotton that year included Nike, Patagonia and Wal-Mart. Today, Sweden-based retailer H&M is one of many mass-market labels expanding their line of eco-chic duds. In 2005, the affordable chain produced sustainable garments with 40 tons of organic cotton.
  • Bed and bath linens – For every set of queen-sized organic cotton sheets you purchase, you save 1.25 pounds of pesticides and fertilizers from entering the environment. Plus, organic cotton fibers are more absorbent than processed fibers, making bath towels like Gaiam’s Thick and Thirsty Organic Towels the ones you want to reach for after your shower.
  • Upholstered sofas and chairs – Like mattresses, the insides of conventional home furnishings often contain petrochemicals. And, if they’re treated with a stain-resistant coating on the fabric, probably perfluorochemicals (PFCs) too. Organic cotton sofas, chairs, throws and sofa pillows let you take a load off and reduce your footprint at the same time.
  • Mattresses – Conventional mattresses are often made of petroleum-based polyester. Rest easy while reducing your dependency on fossil fuels with a mattress made with organic cotton. You’ll also reduce the cancer-causing VOCs released into the air.