There is a lot of misinformation out there on the web about organic cotton, with many companies leading you to believe that it is directly healthier to sleep on organic. But this isn't actually true at all. What most people don't realize is that organic cotton isn't quite the same thing as organic produce where there may be residual pesticides, herbicides, etc. able to enter your body.
The cotton fibers themselves don't carry any residue of the growing process after it has been cleaned (which is done at several stages along the way from the field to your door). Then as most customers prefer to wash their bedding before the first use, again, anything that has been picked up in the multitude of places it's been handled will be washed away making it perfectly clean and allergy-free.
The other side of the "organic cotton story" that isn't talked about (and companies touting their organic cotton pillows aren't interested in telling you) is the labor involved in the actual harvesting of the cotton. The vast majority of all organic cotton sold in the US is coming from countries such as Turkey and India that use cheap labor, including children(!), to handpick the cotton. It's the "nature of the beast" that in order to call cotton organic it can't have chemical defoliants applied (which cause the leaves to drop) making it practically impossible to pick with machine pickers. Machine picking with leaves still on the plant stains the cotton and the residual dampness from the leaves can cause the cotton to mildew. All this means that probably the majority of the organic cotton bought and sold in the US involves some form of child labor! There are some growers which like to say that their cotton is defoliated "naturally", but the truth behind that is that nature doesn't always work in their favor for that process (e.g. lessening water, cold weather).
Then there is the final factor which is that many of these foreign producers may claim organic practices to appease the American market but then just don't use them! And since there is no Government Agency to followup, they can get away with whatever real practices they choose and sell their "organic" cotton to US companies when it's not even remotely organically grown.
Yes, conventionally grown cotton is hard on the environment, which has only made our decision to place our support with the environment OR the non-use of child and cheap labor an even tougher one. Given the ambiguity of all the above, we have chosen at the moment to go with the children and laborers.
The good news is that there are some positive strides being made here in the US to make organic cotton a viable option, but right now, the small amount of USA organic cotton available is generally mixed in with conventionally grown cotton. This means that there could be some organic cotton in our cotton, but no sure fire way to know.
And buyer beware: there are some companies claiming their bedding and pillows are made from USA Organic Cotton when once again, all that glitters may not be gold. They may be swallowing another suppliers' Kool-Aid, not understanding (or turning a blind eye to) the true percentages and accuracy involved, or simply trying to bluff their way into getting your dollars. Like ours, their cotton may only have some USA organic cotton mixed in. This is one of the reasons we chose not to continue our line of 100% organic pillows and cases: we simply couldn't follow the chain back to the real producers to know if we were being told the truth. And there was a clue maybe we weren't....the color of the fabric.
Another giveaway that a company claiming to sell an organic cotton pillow may not actually be giving you organic is the color. They make you think it's organic because it's a "natural" off-white or tan color. The truth is though this cotton will most assuredly have been DYED to achieve this "natural" look since all cotton for the last 100+ years has been white, both organic and conventionally grown. The natural brown and green colors were bred out of it ages ago and although there have been small attempts throughout the years to try to bring back true natural cotton (remember the natural brown and green cotton jeans by Levis in the 80s?), it has not been commercially successful. So if you see an advertised organic cotton pillow that is a "natural" color, you can know that you are already being misled. So then how can you trust that the cotton itself is truly 100% organic?
Now regarding the fill inside our pillow: being that it's a polyester-based fiber and not plant- or animal-based, it doesn't even fall into an "organic" or "non-organic" category. However it is entirely hypoallergenic. And even better, we have found an excellent source of the best quality fill that is made from a recycled polyester and therefore doesn't use any new raw materials! An additional bonus is that we have found that this recycled fill is even more supportive than the virgin fiber we once used.
To summarize, we at A Little Pillow Company are all for increasing our organic cotton production here in the US and for other countries to develop better, more humane techniques but as of this time, we place our support where we best feel it's needed and are simply grateful that even a small portion of organically grown US cotton is mixed in with conventional.
If you ever have any other questions or concerns, about this subject, please don't hesitate to contact us!
A Little Pillow Company