An organic cotton dishcloth is an eco-friendly choice when replacing old dishcloths and towels. By using something made from organic fibers you are cutting down on the environmental pollutants in your home.
Conventionally Grown Cotton
Dishcloths are, for most people, the workhorses of the kitchen. Considering that these cloths are used in the place food is prepared and served, it is important to consider the residual toxins present in the cotton fibers.
One of the most environmentally detrimental crops ever, conventionally grown cotton receives a massive amount of pesticides and chemical fertilizers as it is maturing. The Organic Trade Association estimates that in 2003 alone there were 55 million pounds of pesticides used on the world's cotton crops. That figure includes 10% of the world's pesticide and 25% of the world's insecticide use. These toxins are known to cause health problems in all living things. Some of the risks associated with these chemicals are:
- Birth defects
- Reproductive problems
- Weak immune systems
In addition, most conventionally grown cotton has been genetically modified. The general population may not be concerned with this as it isn't considered a food crop. However, cotton byproducts are used for animal feed and cottonseed oil is present in many prepared foods.
Costs to Humanity
If it was only the environment that was adversely affected, many people could ignore the problems associated with conventional cotton products. However, it is also a humanitarian issue. Much of the conventional cotton grown is grown in other countries. One of the primary areas is Uzbekistan.
This country is the world's third-largest cotton exporter. Recently Uzbekistan has received international attention because of allegations of forced child labor. Children as young as six are required by the local governments to spend long hours picking cotton. This is an encompassing policy created by the state. The information so inflamed the rest of the world that many large retailers began to refuse to carry items which contained Uzbek cotton.
Most stores in the United States, especially the discount stores like Wal-Mart and K-Mart, have not instated a ban on this cotton yet. The chances of you using Uzbek cotton are pretty good. One in every four garments and many household items contain this cotton.
Certified organic cotton must be grown and produced according to certain guidelines.
- No chemical pesticides
- No chemical fertilizers
- No genetically modified seed
In addition, organic cotton is produced under strict guidelines and monitoring. Sadly, organic does not mean that there was no child or sweatshop labor involved. It is less likely but as more people clamor for cheaper goods more large companies will cut corners where they can. If you are concerned about the humanitarian aspects then beware of any cotton, including organic produced in the following areas:
Organic Household Items
So what does all of that have to do with a simple, organic, cotton dishcloth? Simply this. Where you buy your organic items and from whom you buy them may make as much difference to you as whether or not they are organic. If the sweatshop aspect of a mass produced item bothers you, then you may want to find products that are fairly traded. These will be more expensive, but will be good for both humankind and the environment.
You can certainly find organic cotton household products at many local stores, including Wal-Mart, Sears, and others. Generally, these items will be a little more than conventional products but not significantly more. Buying from a cottage industry, whether it be local or online is one way to find products that you can be comfortable with.
Etsy is a wonderful way to get what you need and support work at home moms. There are several shops that carry handmade organic dishcloths of cotton and other materials. Items are often not much more expensive than conventional items since the overhead costs are less. If you can't find exactly what you are looking for in a dishcloth then you can always email and ask if one can be created to your specifications.
Eco-Kitchen carries many types of organic, Fair Trade, and sustainable kitchen products including dishcloths. If you are looking for a woven product rather than a hand made one then this is a good place to start.
Homemade Organic Cotton Dishcloths
If you sew, knit, or crochet, making your own dishcloths might be another option to consider. Dishcloths tend to be a quick and easy project to make. They are small enough to be worked on anywhere. You can find a simple dishcloth pattern for free on the Internet and then use any organic cotton fiber to create it. You should be able to find organic cotton yarn at a local craft store. If not, try these Internet sources:
Keeping home environments nontoxic is an increasing concern to many people. By making small changes to organic products over a period of time you can ensure your home is healthy and eco-friendly.