Cotton. It’s Just A More Sustainable Fiber Solution.

Butterfly on Cotton Ball | Barnhardt CottonIt’s a well-known fact that cotton is the preferred choice for customers due to its perfect mix of softness, strength, and flexibility. But what also makes cotton popular is the fact that it’s a sustainable choice, too.

Cotton Processing — A Time-Tested Method

While synthetic fibers like rayon and polyester go through a long and complicated process before reaching the consumer, cotton goes through a fairly simple one: after being plucked from the field, the gin separates the plant from the seed, and then the Barnhardt purification process cleans and whitens the cotton, ultimately making it absorbent. Then the cotton’s ready for its wide array of uses.

Compare the cotton vs rayon process for yourself.

Cotton’s Unsophisticated–And Homegrown–Supply Chain

And when it comes to supply chain, cotton is born and raised (meaning, harvested and converted) right here in the USA. Once again, rayon can’t say that, remotely. In fact, rayon basically travels around the world before it ever hits retail shelves.

Much of the feedstock to produce rayon is produced from trees grown and pulped in Africa or South America, and then it’s shipped to Asia or Europe for conversion to rayon. Only then does rayon find its way to North America. That long and winding path could hardly be considered a sustainable solution.

Cotton vs Rayon Production | Barnhardt Cotton


Annually Renewable

Of course, before the supply chain ever comes into play, cotton crushes its competitors in renewability. A cotton plant has an eight to nine month renewable life cycle. Rayon, on the other hand, comes from mature trees. These trees take 15 to 20 years to grow.

The math’s pretty simple; while those trees targeted for rayon are growing, a decade and a half of cotton crops (at minimum) have been harvested.

Harvested Cotton Infographic | Barnhardt Cotton

Farming Innovations Reduce The Use Of Resources

Cotton has been around for centuries. While that’s proof enough of its popularity, it also translates into finely honed farming practices that have evolved to be more efficient over the last couple of decades. When considering water usage, soil loss and energy used for production, the numbers have steadily declined over the past 20 years.

Most of the U.S. cotton crop is now irrigated exclusively from rain, seeds now require less pesticides and tillage, and for every pound of cotton fiber, there are roughly 1.6 pounds of other useful products being created, such as cottonseed oil, dairy feed, and mulch.


There’s a reason cotton is called “The Fabric of Our Lives.” By its very nature—along with some innovative growers and researchers—cotton represents the natural choice, and plays an integral part in our daily lives.

And the only thing more exciting than the advancements that cotton production has made over the last 20 years is imagining what cutting edge practices will be developed in the future.

Vertical Integration through Kinston Fibers

Kinston Fibers purchases cotton gin motes, soft textile mill waste, sample loose and staple cotton to reclaim these by-products for use in Barnhardt’s purified cotton products. As seasoned manufacturers, we’re able to convert by-products like gin mote fiber into valuable material for nonwoven products.

Textile manufacturing leads to textile waste fibers. Reclaiming of these fibers not only leads to perfectly useful consumer goods, but also repurposes a renewable resource while lightening our landfill load. Kinston Fibers is just another example of how Barnhardt is committed to sustainability.

Getting On Board With BioPreferred

USDA Biopreferred logo-smallBarnhardt Manufacturing is proud to have earned the USDA Certified BioPreferred Product Label for our HyDri® Cotton. This program was formed by the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (the “2002 Farm Bill”). Designed to increase the purchase and use of biobased products, the United States Department of Agriculture manages the program and identifies products that meet the strict requirements.

Further Reading

For more information about cotton sustainability, visit our Cotton Library.