Organic Cotton Is a Good Thing. Right?

The New York Times has an article titled “The Cotton Tote Crisis” today that raises so many questions in my mind that I do not have answers for…

According to this article, an organic cotton tote bag requires daily use for 54 (Yes! fifty-four!) years, to offset its overall impact of production. ( I had no idea that the production of cotton was THAT detrimental to our environment.)    Cotton production is also “associated with forced labor” with 20 percent of the world’s cotton being produced in Xinjiang, China.

But organic cotton…  That is recyclable, right?   Especially the unbleached canvas ones?   According to this article, municipal compost bins don’t accept textiles.

How about composting them?  “… most dyes used to print logos onto them are PVC-based and thus not recyclable.”

You get the idea by now.   Click here to read the article.

Why is this bothering me?   I am not going into the cotton tote business.  (Even though my last post was about a tote I made for myself with the business logo on it.)   But I am an avid quilter, and read industry news about quilting, and now I am wondering about the inks in the digitally printed quilting cottons.  I do realize there is a big upside to the process of “printing” on the the fabric as opposed to “painting” color onto the fabric.  But what chemicals are they made of?   Are they “normal” dyes just applied differently, or are they based in more harmful or longer lasting chemicals?

Are the quilting cottons I am buying produced in the same factories that this article is talking about?   Is my purchase enabling that country to  even higher levels of forced labor?

And the ultimate question should be, what can we as quilters and sewists do to help?

As stated previously, I have no answers to these questions,  but felt the need to start a discussion.  I admit that I am a craftsman, not an expert on production of fabrics or an expert on ecology.  I am concerned, however, by what is happening to our climate and our world.

Feel free to contact me, especially if you know of some reading material that would enlighten me!

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