Look Out Cotton, These 3 Fruits Are Shaking Up the Textile Industry
From fabric, to food, to feed, cotton has thousands of uses. Its ubiquitous presence, however, is entrenched with a long, brutal history that tremendously affects our world today. The Organic Consumers Association said that cotton is the most toxic crop in the world, using more than 25 percent of all the insecticides in the world and 12 percent of all the pesticides. The World Wildlife Fund says it takes 20,000 liters of water to produce one kilogram of cotton, the equivalent of a single T-shirt and a pair of jeans.
About half of all textiles are made from this environmentally unsustainable source, which is why the cotton industry could use a little competition. The good thing is there are plenty of eco-friendly choices to add to your wardrobe. In an article last week in The Guardian, three surprising fruit fabrics are featured that could not only contend with the cotton industry, but also uses up parts of the plant that would normally be left to rot.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
1. Pineapples leaves: We usually think of pineapples as a healthy snack or even a pizza topping, but Ananas Anam is using pineapple leaves to make a sustainable and cheaper alternative to leather called Piñatex, The Guardian reported. With a Cradle-to-Cradle approach, the textile company enlists pineapple farming communities to extract fibers from leaves in an extraction process called decortication. The resulting biomass from decortication can also be converted into organic fertilizer or biogas as an extra source of income to the communities.
Pineapple waste can also be useful for the food industry. In a study published in the journal Food and Bioproducts Processing, researchers found the enzyme bromelain (used to tenderize meat, baking and brewing) can be extracted from all parts of the pineapple, especially from the peel and the crown. As Food Navigator reported, the researchers said that bromelain extraction from pineapple waste would not only add revenue through increased bromelain supply, it would also reduce the impact of waste disposal.
Found in abundance in the Philippines, piña fabric is already used in traditional Filipino clothing for its fine and lightweight qualities. It's ideal for warmer climates, and as Ecosalon wrote, the "glossy surface of the material also eliminates the need for toxic treating agents, since it acts as a protective layer for the fabric in itself." There's plenty of supply for the luscious fabric. The Philippine Information Agency announced that the country's 59,000 hectares of pineapple plantations can yield 55,483 tons of pineapple fiber, adding that this agricultural waste can be alternative materials for apparel, home textiles, upholsteries, non-woven and industrial fabrics.
Watch here to find out how pineapple fabric is made:
2. Coconut husks: Approximately 50 billion coconuts fall from trees annually but the husks and shells are typically tossed. But a coconut is a terrible thing to waste—its milk, meat, shell and even its fibrous outer layer can have a second life. Also known as coir, this versatile coconut fabric can be turned into many things, from common items such as door mats and brush bristles, as well as not-so-common items.
Specialty weavers Belton Industries spins this sturdy, biodegradable fabric into logs and fencing for landscaping and erosion control. Its absorbent nature is also being applied for for oil spills on land and water, as well as aiding re-vegetation along stream beds and on river embankments. Coir pith, a waste byproduct from coir production, can be used for mulching, soil treatment and a hydroponic growth medium, as Made How pointed out.
Essentium Materials, a bio-composites company, is producing automotive trunk liners, load floors (battery pack covers in electric cars) and living wall planters out of coconut husks and recycled plastics. The researchers said that replacing synthetic polyester fibers with coconut husk fibers will reduce petroleum consumption by 2-4 million barrels and carbon dioxide emissions by 450,000 tons annually.
In terms of clothing, cocona fabric is made of coconut husks that have been recycled into activated carbon. When incorporated into fibers and fabrics, the result is a garment that dries fast, absorbs odor, stays cool and offers UV protection, which makes it ideal for sports wear.
Photo credit: Shutterstock/TOG24
3. Banana stems: Another versatile fabric comes from banana plant stalks, a part of the plant that's usually dumped or burned once the fruit is cut off, causing pollution. As The Guardian wrote, approximately one billion tons of banana plant stems are wasted each year, even though "it would only take 37 kilograms (about 81.571 pounds) of stems to produce a kilogram (about 2 pounds) of fiber."
The fabric is already used in Japan and Southeast Asia, as the course outer layers of the stem can be used for baskets or table cloths and the fine inner layers can be used for delicate kimonos. According to eco-textile company Offset Warehouse, "Banana plants often do not require pesticides or fertilizers when grown in the tropics. Being a waste product of the food industry, these stalks that were once often just thrown away are being used as a new valuable resource with very little extra cultivated acreage being required."
In India, paper manufacturing firm Eco Green Unit the NGO Chaitanya Mandal are buying banana stems directly from banana farmers to manufacture paper, The Indian Express reported. "Earlier the farmers had to pay Rs 3,000 (about $50) per acre to get their fields cleared," Dileep Kulkarni of Chaitanya Mandal told the publication. "Now, if they decide to supply banana stem to the processing units they would not only save on that amount but instead they would be paid well for it."
As a side note, if you are looking for cotton clothing, look for organic varieties that are grown without toxic, synthetic chemicals. Seek out natural dyes to further reduce the amount of chemicals dumped into our ecosystem.
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By Gwen Ranniger
In the midst of a pandemic, sales of cleaning products have skyrocketed, and many feel a need to clean more often. Knowing what to look for when purchasing cleaning supplies can help prevent unwanted and dangerous toxics from entering your home.
1. Fragrance – Avoid It<p>One of the fastest ways to narrow down your product options is immediately eliminating any product that promotes a fragrance, or parfum. That scent of "fresh breeze" or lemon might initially smell good, but the fragrance does not last. What does last? The concoction of various undisclosed and unregulated chemicals that created that fragrance.</p><p>Many fragrances contain phthalates, which are linked to many health risks including reproductive problems and cancer.</p>
2. With Bleach? Do Without<p>Going scent-free should have narrowed down your options substantially – now, check the front of the remaining packaging. Any that include ammonia or chlorine bleach ought to go, as these substances are irritating and corrosive to your body. While bleach is commonly known as a powerful disinfectant, there are safer alternatives that you can use in your home, such as sodium borate or hydrogen peroxide.</p><p>While you're at it, check if there are any warnings on the label – "flammable," "use in ventilated area," etc. – if the product is hazardous, that's a red flag and should be avoided.</p>
3. Check the Back Label<p>Flip to the back of the remaining contenders and check out that ingredient list. Less is more, here. Opt for a shorter ingredient list with words you recognize and/or can pronounce.</p><p>You may notice many products do not have ingredient lists – while this doesn't necessarily mean they contain toxic ingredients, transparency is key. Feel free to look up a list online, or stick to products that are open about their ingredients.</p>
4. Ingredients to Avoid<p>We already mentioned that cleaners containing fragrance or parfum, and bleach or ammonia should be avoided, but there are other ingredients to look out for as well.</p><ul><li>Quaternary ammonium "quats" – lung irritants that contribute to asthma and other breathing problems. Also linger on surfaces long after they've been cleaned.</li><li>Parabens – Known hormone disruptor; can contribute to ailments such as cancer</li><li>Triclosan – triclosan and other antibacterial chemicals are registered with the EPA as pesticides. Triclosan is a known hormone disruptor and can also impact your immune system.</li><li>Formaldehyde – Causes irritation of eyes, nose, and throat; studies suggest formaldehyde exposure is linked with certain varieties of cancer. Can be found in products or become a byproduct of chemical reactions in the air.</li></ul>
Cleaning Products and Toxics: The Bottom Line<p>Do your research. There are many cleaning products available, but taking these steps will drastically reduce your options and help keep your home toxic-free. Protecting your home from bacteria and viruses is important, but make sure you do so in a way that doesn't introduce other health risks into the home.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.ehn.org/how-to-shop-for-cleaning-products-while-avoiding-toxics-2648130273.html" target="_blank">Environmental Health News</a>. </em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649054624#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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Twenty-five years ago, a food called Tofurky made its debut on grocery store shelves. Since then, the tofu-based roast has become a beloved part of many vegetarians' holiday feasts.
By Jessica Corbett
A leading environmental advocacy group marked Native American Heritage Month on Wednesday by urging President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Kamala Harris, and the entire incoming administration "to honor Indigenous sovereignty and immediately halt the Keystone XL, Dakota Access, and Line 3 pipelines."
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Returning the ‘Three Sisters’ – Corn, Beans and Squash – to Native American Farms Nourishes People, Land and Cultures
By Christina Gish Hill
Historians know that turkey and corn were part of the first Thanksgiving, when Wampanoag peoples shared a harvest meal with the pilgrims of Plymouth plantation in Massachusetts. And traditional Native American farming practices tell us that squash and beans likely were part of that 1621 dinner too.
Abundant Harvests<p>Historically, Native people throughout the Americas bred indigenous plant varieties specific to the growing conditions of their homelands. They selected seeds for many different traits, such as <a href="https://emergencemagazine.org/story/corn-tastes-better/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">flavor, texture and color</a>.</p><p>Native growers knew that planting corn, beans, squash and sunflowers together produced mutual benefits. Corn stalks created a trellis for beans to climb, and beans' twining vines secured the corn in high winds. They also certainly observed that corn and bean plants growing together tended to be healthier than when raised separately. Today we know the reason: Bacteria living on bean plant roots pull nitrogen – an essential plant nutrient – from the air and <a href="http://www.tilthalliance.org/learn/resources-1/almanac/october/octobermngg" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">convert it to a form that both beans and corn can use</a>.</p><p>Squash plants contributed by shading the ground with their broad leaves, preventing weeds from growing and retaining water in the soil. Heritage squash varieties also had spines that discouraged deer and raccoons from visiting the garden for a snack. And sunflowers planted around the edges of the garden created a natural fence, protecting other plants from wind and animals and attracting pollinators.</p><p>Interplanting these agricultural sisters produced bountiful harvests that sustained large Native communities and <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/eam.2015.0016" target="_blank">spurred fruitful trade economies</a>. The first Europeans who reached the Americas were shocked at the abundant food crops they found. My research is exploring how, 200 years ago, Native American agriculturalists around the Great Lakes and along the Missouri and Red rivers fed fur traders with their diverse vegetable products.</p>
Displaced From the Land<p>As Euro-Americans settled permanently on the most fertile North American lands and acquired seeds that Native growers had carefully bred, they imposed policies that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1086/ahr/87.2.550" target="_blank">made Native farming practices impossible</a>. In 1830 President Andrew Jackson signed the <a href="https://guides.loc.gov/indian-removal-act" target="_blank">Indian Removal Act</a>, which made it official U.S. policy to force Native peoples from their home locations, pushing them onto subpar lands.</p><p>On reservations, U.S. government officials discouraged Native women from cultivating anything larger than small garden plots and pressured Native men to practice Euro-American style monoculture. Allotment policies assigned small plots to nuclear families, further limiting Native Americans' access to land and preventing them from using communal farming practices.</p><p>Native children were forced to attend boarding schools, where they had no opportunity to <a href="https://doi.org/10.5749/jamerindieduc.57.1.0145" target="_blank">learn Native agriculture techniques or preservation and preparation of Indigenous foods</a>. Instead they were forced to eat Western foods, turning their palates away from their traditional preferences. Taken together, these policies <a href="https://kansaspress.ku.edu/978-0-7006-0802-7.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">almost entirely eradicated three sisters agriculture</a> from Native communities in the Midwest by the 1930s.</p>
Reviving Native Agriculture<p>Today Native people all over the U.S. are working diligently to <a href="https://www.oupress.com/books/15107980/indigenous-food-sovereignty-in-the-united-sta" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reclaim Indigenous varieties of corn, beans, squash, sunflowers and other crops</a>. This effort is important for many reasons.</p><p>Improving Native people's access to healthy, culturally appropriate foods will help lower rates of <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/aian-diabetes/index.html" target="_blank">diabetes</a> and <a href="https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity-health/native-american/obesity" target="_blank">obesity</a>, which affect Native Americans at disproportionately high rates. Sharing traditional knowledge about agriculture is a way for elders to pass cultural information along to younger generations. Indigenous growing techniques also protect the lands that Native nations now inhabit, and can potentially benefit the wider ecosystems around them.</p>
By Jake Johnson
Amid reports that oil industry-friendly former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz remains under consideration to return to his old post in the incoming Biden administration, a diverse coalition of environmental groups is mobilizing for an "all-out push" to keep Moniz away from the White House and demand a cabinet willing to boldly confront the corporations responsible for the climate emergency.