“This site is dedicated to all the farmers, manufacturers, activists, retailers and others who are devoting their energies to making organic cotton a viable agricultural and economic alternative”.
who: located in the northern end of the world's most productive agricultural region – California's Central Valley – the Sustainable Cotton Project (SCP) focuses on one of the most widely grown and chemical-intensive crops. Since 1994, SCP has been building bridges between farmers, manufacturers and consumers to pioneer markets for certified organically grown cotton. Its guiding philosophy of "cooperation for change" has fostered an unprecedented level of shared information in support of creating a new industry.
what: because of cotton's versatility, it is used for a vast variety of food and fibber products, making it one of the most widely traded commodities. Cotton represents an essential component of foreign exchange earnings for more than fifty-five countries. Yet the simple act of growing and harvesting the one pound of cotton fibber needed to make a T-shirt takes an enormous toll on the air, water, and soil, not to mention the health of people in cotton growing areas.
According to 1995 data, for example, United States farmers applied nearly one-third of a pound of chemical fertilisers and pesticides for every pound of cotton harvested. When all nineteen cotton-growing states are tallied, the crop accounts for twenty-five percent of all the pesticides used in the U.S. Some of these chemicals are among the most toxic classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In developing countries, where regulations are less stringent, the crisis is even more severe.
how: SCP has developed programs in three primary areas to act as a catalyst in the transition to a mainstream organic cotton industry:
- The Cleaner Cotton Campaign is an outreach program launched in 1998 to educate manufacturers about ways to incorporate organic cotton fibbers into product lines. Spurring demand from manufacturers, they believe, is essential for creating the market conditions needed for farmers to make the switch to organic farming techniques.
- The BASIC program focuses directly on farm issues. This program walks farmers step-by-step through the transition from conventional to IPM and certified organic techniques. It also offers farmers tested methods that can reduce or eliminate certain farm chemicals and water consumption.
- Care What You Wear was an SCP-created initiative aimed at educating consumers about the availability and importance of purchasing organic cotton products. By partnering with the country's largest environmental consumer group, Mothers & Others for a Liveable Planet, they are helping to spread the word about the good work being done in the fields, factories and in the marketplace.