cotton logo
footprint calculator


Use our Fiber Footprint Calculator to discover the environmental benefits of growing BASIC or organic as compared to conventional cotton in California.

The Ecological Footprint is one of the world's most ubiquitous measures of ecological sustainability. Ecological Footprints measure the area of the Earth's surface needed to sustain our consumption patterns and assimilate our wastes. Center for Sustainable Economy and the Sustainable Cotton project have adapted the Ecological Footprint tool to measure the impacts of cotton production taking into consideration where that cotton is grown, how much water and energy is required, chemical inputs, transportation, and waste disposal. Our Fiber Footprint Calculator compares the footprint of conventionally grown cotton with BASIC or organic in California so that growers can make informed choices. The Fiber Footprint Calculator evaluates the following footprint categories:
  • Land footprint: which is the amount of cropland needed to produce a given quantity of cotton taking into consideration differences in productivity of cropland in various regions and long term impacts on soil resources from various cotton growing methods.
  • Water footprint: which measures the acre-feet of irrigation water needed to grow crops and the amount of water needed to dilute toxic concentrations of chemicals to safe levels.
  • Carbon footprint: which measures the area needed to sequester carbon emissions associated with planting, maintaining, and harvesting, irrigation, production of chemical inputs, and disposal of wastes.

Results of the Fiber Footprint are expressed in "global acres," which are standard units of area normalized to account for the differences in the ecological productivity of different land and marine areas we impact through our consumption activities. Here is a rough comparison of the Fiber Footprint of one acre of BASIC as compared with conventional cotton based on California averages and prevailing technology.

To compare the Fiber Footprint of conventional, organic, or BASIC growing systems