Yes, cotton is vegan. It is not animal-derived and is considered suitable for anyone living a vegan lifestyle.
It can be produced without causing cruel, unethical, or inhumane treatment of animals, however the methods used to grow non-organic cotton may cause ethical concerns for some vegans.
What Is Cotton?
Cotton is a natural fiber that is harvested from cotton plants, which are typically grown en-masse.
Fabric created from cotton is strong, wicks moisture well, and is relatively easy and cheap to produce.
It has been used for thousands of years to create clothing, and, unsurprisingly, is still one of the most popular fabrics in the world today.
How Is Cotton Made?
The fibers for cotton come from the outside of the seed casing grown by the cotton plant.
The fiber is harvested and separated from the cotton seed, cleaned of impurities, and then either ‘carded’ or ‘combed,’ two similar techniques used to prepare the cotton thread for spinning by lining up the individual fibers.
For most uses, carded cotton is used, as it is cheaper. Once the carding or combing is complete, the cotton is spun into a yarn.
This yarn may then be dyed before being woven into the clothes, upholstery, or other products we see on the shelves of our local stores.
Is Cotton Sustainable?
As an organic and biodegradable fiber, organic is considered sustainable when it is grown in a sustainable fashion.
Unfortunately, the mass production of cotton has led to many unsustainable practices being used.
The necessity of creating the largest volume possible while keeping costs low means that cotton is often grown in unsuitable places, requiring huge volumes of water, fertilizer, and pesticides to be used to get the maximum harvest.
This can cause significant damage to the local environment, and the use of pesticides, of course, does cause some harm to specific animals, so some vegans may consider this a problem.
Of course, cotton can be grown sustainably – but that makes it more expensive. Sustainably grown cotton is normally called ‘organic cotton’ on the label of your clothing.
This means it has been cultivated in areas that have enough rain (so the cotton doesn’t need to be watered excessively) and means pesticides are not used.
This is much more sustainable but results in a lower yield, so it is more expensive.
Verdict: Is Cotton Vegan?
Cotton is vegan, and the material itself is not animal-derived.
However, non-organic cotton is produced in a way that damages the local environment through excessive pesticide use.
We recommend that vegans do use cotton, since it is a great vegan material, but where possible choose organic options over non-organic.
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