Saturday, April 13, 2013

Organic Cotton 101

What is "organic cotton?"

Organic cotton is grown using methods and materials that have a low impact on the environment. Organic production systems replenish and maintain soil fertility, reduce the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers, and build biologically diverse agriculture. Third-party certification organizations verify that organic producers use only methods and materials allowed in organic production. Organic cotton is grown without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. In addition, federal regulations prohibit the use of genetically engineered seed for organic farming. All cotton sold as organic in the United States must meet strict federal regulations covering how the cotton is grown.

Organic cotton is generally understood as cotton from non genetically modified plants, that is to be grown without the use of any synthetic agricultural chemicals such as fertilizers or pesticides. In the United States cotton plantations must also meet the requirements enforced by the National Organic Program (NOP), from the USDA, in order to be considered organic. This institution determines the allowed practices for pest control, growing, fertilizing, and handling of organic crops.As of 2007, 265,517 bales of organic cotton were produced in 24 countries and worldwide production was growing at a rate of more than 50% per year.

Ecological footprint

Cotton covers 55% of the world's cultivated land yet uses 75% of the world's insecticides, more than any other single major crop. Other  environmental consequences of the elevated use of chemicals in the non organic cotton growing methods consist of:
·         High levels of agrochemicals are used in the production of non-organic, conventional cotton. Conventional farming devours roughly a third of a lb of pesticides & fertilizers to produce enough for just  1 t shirt .
·         Cotton production uses more chemicals per unit area than any other crop and accounts in total for 10-16% of the world's pesticides (including herbicides, insecticides, and defoliants).
·         Pesticides, the nine most common are highly toxic; five are probable carcinogens.
·         GMO used in 70% of US grown cotton. That requires intense irrigation .
          Chemicals used in the processing of cotton pollute the air and surface waters.
·         Residual chemicals may irritate consumers' skin.
·         Decreased biodiversity and shifting equilibrium of ecosystems due to the use of pesticides.

Organic system plan 
Producers must elaborate an organic production or handling system plan which must also be approved by the state certifying agency or the USDA. This plan must include careful explanation of every process held in the plantation, as well as the frequency with which they are performed. A list of substances used on the crops is also necessary, along with a description of their composition, place where they will be used, and if possible documentation of commercial availability. This inventory of substances is important for the regulation of allowed and
prohibited material established by the SOP.Organic cotton growers must also provide A description of the control procedures and physical barriers established to prevent contact of organic and non organic crops on split operations and to avoid contact of organic production with prohibited substance during gestation, harvesting, and handling operations . This production plan can also be transferred to other states as long as it has already been approved by a certifying agency.
Production requirements are specifically the set of changes that must be made to field and farming practices in order for a crop to be considered organic. To begin with, organic fields must go through a cleansing period of three years, without the use of any prohibited substances, before planting the first organic crop. Fields must also be equipped with physical barriers and buzzers in order to prevent contact of organic crops with any chemical substance product of surface runoff from crops nearby. Producers must also strive to promote soil fertility through cultivation practices while maintaining or improving the physical, chemical, and biological condition of the soil and minimizes soil erosion. Organic growers must also implement practices to support biodiversity. Such practices include integrated pest management (IPM), which consists of the manipulation of ecosystems that benefit both the crops and the 
organisms that live around it. In addition to these practices, producers may only apply crop nutrients and soil amendments included on the National List of synthetic substances allowed in crop production.
Handling procedures are all the processes related to product packaging, pest control in handling processing facilities among others. The SOP allows the use of mechanical or
biological methods for the purpose of retarding spoilage of products, but at the same time it prohibits the use of volatile synthetic solvents in processed products or any ingredient that is labeled as organic.
Since organic cotton is grown without the use of synthetic pesticides, it should contain fewer pesticides than conventional cotton. Pesticides used in the production of conventional cotton include orthophosphates such as phorate and methamidophosendosulfan (highly toxic to farmers,] but not very environmentally persistent) and aldicarb. Other pesticides persisting in cotton fields in the United States include TrifluralinToxaphene and DDT .Although the last two chemicals are no longer used in the United States  their long breakdown period and difficulty in removal ensures their persistence. Thus even organic cotton fields may contain them since conventional cotton fields can be transitioned to organic fields in 2–3 years.
Over time though, studies have been done to find alternatives to conventional pesticide substances. These nonconventional farmers have given up their land and its yields to the testing of different, more organic ways of pest control. Organic farmers argue that conventional farmers don’t know the long term effects of the pesticides they use, especially when the evidence is hidden under the soil. Some farmers in the US use composted tea leaves to act as a substitute for pesticides. Research continues to seek new environmentally, friendly ways to rid the soil of harmful pesticides. There has even been a study on using certain animal manure, like chickens, to decrease pest population.
 How is the apparel industry involved with organic cotton? 
Apparel companies are developing programs that either use 100 percent organically grown cotton, or blend small percentages of organic cotton with conventional cotton in their products. There are a number of companies driving the expanded use of domestic and international organic cotton.  
What kinds of products are made using organic cotton? 
As a result of consumer interest, organic cotton fiber is used in everything from personal care
items (sanitary products, make-up removal pads, cotton puffs and ear swabs), to home furnishings (towels, bathrobes, sheets, blankets, bedding), children's products (toys, diapers), clothes of all kinds and styles (whether for lounging, sports or the workplace), and even stationery and note cards.
In addition, organic cottonseed is used for animal feed, and organic cottonseed oil is used in a variety of food products, including cookies and chips.

Sources used in an article : Organic Trade Association , Wikipedia  

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Clothing Recycling Program: Present & Future

We went out to scout best clothing recycling programs  and this is what we have found:

Here’s a way to make that affordable fashion even cheaper. Shoppers 
can bring any bag of used clothing into H&M and get a coupon for 15% 
off their next purchase. The clothing can be from any brand, in any condition.  
  “One bag for one coupon – it doesn’t matter how many clothes are in 
it or what condition they are in. However, at this time, we’re only accepting clothing – no shoes or jewelry. Customers are limited to 2 bags per day.” When the sales associates accept a bag, they tape it
up with special green tape to ensure that no one goes through the 
bags looking for great finds. The bags are shipped to a sorting 
facility where they are divided into 4 groups:
  • Rewear: clothing that is good enough for reuse will be sold
  • Reuse: textiles that can easily be converted can find a second life as cleaning cloths
  • Recycle:some clothes will be broken down and repurposed into new textile fabrics
  • Energy:clothing that can not be reused or repurposed will be burned to create energy.

Any revenue collected from these activities will be used to fund 
the customer coupons, donate to local charities, and re-invest in
 H&M’s sustainability initiatives.
H&M partnered with Swiss company I:CO to facilitate the 
collection and recycling. I:CO is a company that provides the 
infrastructure for clothing recycling initiatives provided by a 
growing number of retailers. And it’s big business: the company
 has 3,000 employees worldwide and currently processes around
 500 tons of used items every day in 74 countries.
The company doesn’t just want to recycle discarded goods – they
 want to upcycle the materials they collect and even influence
 the supply chain to increase the quantity of recycled materials
 in new products.

Only select stores are participating in this program, though H&M
plans on including more stores this year.

The North Face
 The world’s largest outdoor clothing company, has partnered with
 I:CO and The Conservation Alliance to launch a new recycling 
program designed to keep clothing out of landfills.

The Clothes The Loop program allows consumers to drop off worn out
 or unwanted clothing at participating The North Face stores, 
regardless of condition or brand. Specially marked collection 
bins have been placed in ten of the company’s retail stores, 
including Chicago,New York and San Francisco locations.
Consumers who drop off items will receive a voucher that can be 
redeemed for $10 off a purchase from one of the company’s stores.
The Clothes The Loop program will be carried out in collaboration 
with I:CO, a company that collects, sorts and recycles used 
textiles and shoes. I:CO has previously partnered with PUMA,
 Foot Locker, Adidas, Carhartt, Volcom and H&M.
Items deposited into the bins will be sent to a recycling center 
where they are sorted, reused or recycled into raw materials, 
including fibers for new clothing, carpet padding, stuffing for toys
 and carpet padding, according to The North Face.
"Our partnership with I:CO takes our commitment to reducing waste 
even further by providing our customers with an alternative end 
for products they no longer want or need, keeping these items 
from landfills and protecting our natural playgrounds," 
said Adam MottThe North Face corporate sustainability manager.
Approximately 22 billion pounds of textile waste ended up in 
landfills in 2010, according to the U.S. EPA. The production of 
a single T-shirt consumes between 10,000 and 30,000 liters of
 water and produces almost eight pounds of C02 emissions, 
says I:CO on its website
Only five to ten percent of these quantities are used or produced 
during the recycling process, the company says.

All proceeds from the program will benefit The Conservation
 Alliance, which helps fund community-based campaigns to protect wilderness
 and recreation areas.

InCycle is available in Puma stores worldwide starting this month - 
the industry's first "closed-loop" clothing line includes clothes, 
footwear and accessories - all Cradle to Cradle Certified.
Puma says its purpose is to help people reduce their personal environmental footprints by buying clothes that can be returned to
the company at the end of life. 

When people return the clothes under PUMA's Bring Me Back Program,
they will either be recycled or composted depending on the material.

"We feel that we are responsible for the environmental impact

 our products cause and this innovative concept in 
sustainability is a first step towards our long-term vision
 of using innovative materials and design concepts for PUMA 
products that can be recycled in technical processes or composted
 in biological cycles," says CEO Franz Koch.
Reported  based on  a story by Jen

Friday, April 12, 2013

Beyonce And Sustainable Apparel Collection at H&M

 It looks like  very soon H&M is going to be, if not already is  identified with terms 
like "Sustainable and Eco Fashion".

For the last few years this company showcased unprecedented commitment and willingness  to go above and beyond to meet the highest environmental and sustainable standard. 

Following its mission H&M made another step: Collaborated with Beyonce to produce great new collections. Their Summer 2013 collection features many of Beyonce's own ideas and her personal style. So, whether or not you are going to H& M just simply because they are trendy and inexpensive or because you are a huge fan of Beyonce, you definitely get an added benefit because you happen to do good  for environment. Don't forget to give yourself a credit, be proud and call yourself an environmentalist! That is probably bit of a stretch, but still! 

H&M does more than just create great fashion; they're also very environmentally conscious and just publicly released a list of their suppliers, which many retailers refuse to do, according to Forbes .

They also have a Don't Let Fashion Go to Waste campaign where you can bring in your old clothes and get a voucher for 15% off something new. The old clothes are then donated to charity; H&M has donated 3.2 million garments so far.

Monday, April 8, 2013

President Obama signed “The Monsanto Protection Act."

Based on materials from Eastern Echo
  President Barack Obama inked his signature on a bill that sadly, in minds of millions of consumers, has a name of its own,
  “The Monsanto Protection Act.” It details a restriction of governmental intervention to halt the supply and production of genetically modified seeds and crops, even if studies conclude that they pose an environmental danger. Why dont we know about it? It is  so  important ? Why should we care that it was not highly publicized? Was is intentionally "covered up'" as many other  unpopular decisions ? My mind is spinning, as  I  am sure many of  the other  green activitists. What about  the general public? or it just us again, "The  Paranoid  green consumers. who  over react  to anything" and ready to "Occupy ...anything!"? 
Lets investigate, if  any of it should be a concern or the facts below are isolated incident and not a pattern.
 Grossing over $2 billion last year, Monsanto is one of the largest agricultural biotechnology corporations on the planet. Its contributions to our world include a wide array of pesticides, genetically modified soya and corn seeds and LEDs. Oh, and Agent Orange, the chemical used by the U.S. army to kill hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese during the ’60s. A mixed bag to be sure.

It may be the case that Monsanto has moved on from its enthusiasm for murder, joining the nouveau movement many, ironically, describe as “responsible capitalism.” But it is still far from being the altruistic provider its website portrays it to be, with an Argentinian scholarship here, a smiling African child there.
Last year alone, Monsanto took more than 100 American family farmers to court for infringement of patent laws, and in 2012 they spent $46 million on advertising efforts to dissuade Californian residents from voting “yes” on a piece of legislation that would force producers to openly label their GM products. In short, one of the largest food production corporations in the world has made it obvious that they would rather the public did not know what is going into their food.
 The provisions Obama signed into law last Thursday directly infringe upon states’ right to protect its people and ecosystem if the worst-case scenario becomes a reality. 
Yet, by the looks of things, Monsanto was the only third party to collude in the bill’s creation and, according to the Russian Times, contributed $64,250 to the 2012 election campaign of the bill’s author, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo. 
Perhaps it is not all that surprising to hear of a multinational corporation lobbying Washington to see its needs are met. Perhaps it is not all too strange to hear Blunt, once voted the “most crooked member of Congress,” took a little financial convincing. 
What would you say now?
 ...and one more thing I am wondering about: What kind of food does Mr.Obama family eat? I have  heard  there is an organic garden in the  White House that his wife is so proud about. Does that mean they are  trying to avoid  GMO in their food? Why? What is safe for a general public might not be that safe for his  own children? Strange. Oh, well, I might be just having a bad day..

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Whole Foods Market Betrays its own Customers... for the sake of peace with USDA

Based on materials from

In the wake of a 12-year battle to keep Monsanto’s Genetically Engineered (GE) crops from contaminating the nation’s 25,000 organic farms and ranches, America’s organic consumers and producers are facing betrayal. 
Whole Foods MarketOrganic Valley, and Stonyfield Farm, the executives from these companies have publicly admitted that they no longer oppose the mass commercialization of GE crops, such as Monsanto’s controversial Roundup Ready alfalfa, and are prepared to sit down and cut a deal for “coexistence” with Monsanto .
Whole Foods Market, while proclaiming their support for organics and “seed purity,” 
gave the green light to USDA bureaucrats to approve the “conditional deregulation” of Monsanto’s genetically engineered, herbicide-resistant alfalfa.   This means that WFM and their colleagues are willing to go along with the massive planting of a chemical and energy-intensive GE perennial crop, alfalfa; guaranteed to spread its mutant genes and seeds across the nation; guaranteed to contaminate the alfalfa fed to organic animals; guaranteed to lead to massive poisoning of farm workers and destruction of the essential soil food web by the toxic
herbicides such as 2,4 D to be sprayed on millions of acres of alfalfa across the U.S.

A recent large-scale Swedish study found that spraying Roundup doubles farm workers’ and rural residents’ risk of getting cancer),
In its email of Jan. 21, 2011 WFM calls for “public oversight by the USDA rather than reliance on the biotechnology industry,” even though WFM knows full well that federal regulations on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) do not require pre-market safety testing, nor labeling; and that even federal judges have repeatedly ruled that so-called government “oversight” of Frankencrops such as Monsanto’s sugar beets and alfalfa is basically a farce. At the end of its email, WFM admits that its surrender to Monsanto is permanent: “The policy set for GE alfalfa will most likely guide policies for other GE crops as well  True coexistence is a must.”

Why Is Organic Inc. Surrendering?
According to informed sources, the CEOs of WFM and Stonyfield are personal friends of former Iowa governor, now USDA Secretary, Tom Vilsack, and in fact made financial contributions to Vilsack’s previous electoral campaigns. Vilsack was hailed as “Governor of the Year” in 2001 by the Biotechnology Industry Organization, and traveled in a Monsanto corporate jet on the campaign trail. Perhaps even more fundamental to Organic Inc.’s abject surrender is the fact that the organic elite has become more and more isolated from the concerns and passions of organic consumers and locavores.
The Organic Inc. CEOs are tired of activist pressure, boycotts, and petitions. Several of them have told me this to my face. They apparently believe that the battle against GMOs has been lost, and that it’s time to reach for the consolation prize.  The consolation prize they seek is a so-called “coexistence” between the biotech Behemoth and the organic community that will lull the public to sleep and greenwash the unpleasant fact that Monsanto’s unlabeled and unregulated genetically engineered crops are now spreading their toxic genes on 1/3 of U.S. (and 1/10 of global) crop land.

 WFM and most of the largest organic companies have deliberately separated themselves from anti-GMO efforts and cut off all funding to campaigns working to label or ban GMOs. The so-called Non-GMO Project, funded by Whole Foods and giant wholesaler United Natural Foods (UNFI) is basically a greenwashing effort (although the 100% organic companies involved in this project seem to be operating in good faith) to show that certified organic foods are basically free from GMOs (we already know this since GMOs are banned in organic production), while failing to focus on so-called “natural” foods, which constitute most of WFM and UNFI’s sales and are routinely contaminated with GMOs.
From their “business as usual” perspective, successful lawsuits against GMOs filed by public interest groups such as the Center for Food Safety; or noisy attacks on Monsanto by groups like the Organic Consumers Association, create bad publicity, rattle their big customers such as Wal-Mart, Target, Kroger, Costco, Supervalu, Publix and Safeway; and remind consumers that organic crops and foods such as corn, soybeans, and canola are slowly but surely becoming contaminated by Monsanto’s GMOs.
Whole Foods’ Dirty Little Secret: Most of the So-Called “Natural” Processed Foods and Animal Products They Sell Are Contaminated with GMOs
The main reason, however, why Whole Foods is pleading for coexistence with Monsanto, Dow, Bayer, Syngenta, BASF and the rest of the biotech bullies, is that they desperately want the controversy surrounding genetically engineered foods and crops to go away. Why? Because they know, just as we do, that 2/3 of WFM’s $9 billion annual sales is derived from so-called “natural” processed foods and animal products that are contaminated with GMOs. We and our allies have tested their so-called “natural” products (no doubt WFM’s lab has too) containing non-organic corn and soy, and guess what: they’re all contaminated with GMOs, in contrast to their certified organic products, which are basically free of GMOs, or else contain barely detectable trace amounts.
Approximately 2/3 of the products sold by Whole Foods Market and their main distributor, United Natural Foods (UNFI) are not certified organic, but rather are conventional (chemical-intensive and GMO-tainted) foods and products disguised as “natural.”

Unprecedented wholesale and retail control of the organic marketplace by UNFI and Whole Foods, employing a business model of selling twice as much so-called “natural” food as certified organic food, coupled with the takeover of many organic companies by multinational food corporations such as Dean Foods, threatens the growth of the organic movement.
Covering Up GMO Contamination: Perpetrating “Natural” Fraud
Many well-meaning consumers are confused about the difference between conventional products marketed as “natural,” and those nutritionally/ environmentally superior and climate-friendly products that are “certified organic.”
Retail stores like WFM and wholesale distributors like UNFI have failed to educate their customers about the qualitative difference between natural and certified organic, conveniently glossing over the fact that nearly all of the processed “natural” foods and products they sell contain GMOs, or else come from a “natural” supply chain where animals are force-fed GMO grains in factory farms or Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs).
A troubling trend in organics today is the calculated shift on the part of certain large formerly organic brands from certified organic ingredients and products to so-called “natural” ingredients. With the exception of the “grass-fed and grass-finished” meat sector, most “natural” meat, dairy, and eggs are coming from animals reared on GMO grains and drugs, and confined, entirely, or for a good portion of their lives, in CAFOs.

Whole Foods and UNFI are maximizing their profits by selling quasi-natural products at premium organic prices. Organic consumers are increasingly left without certified organic choices while genuine organic farmers and ranchers continue to lose market share to “natural” imposters. It’s no wonder that less than 1% of American farmland is certified organic, while well-intentioned but misled consumers have boosted organic and “natural” purchases to $80 billion annually-approximately 12% of all grocery store sales.
The Solution: Truth-in-Labeling Will Enable Consumers to Drive So-Called “Natural” GMO and CAFO-Tainted Foods Off the Market
There can be no such thing as “coexistence” with a reckless industry that undermines public health, destroys biodiversity, damages the environment, tortures and poisons animals, destabilizes the climate, and economically devastates the world’s 1.5 billion seed-saving small farmers.
There is no such thing as coexistence between GMOs and organics in the European Union. Why? Because in the EU there are almost no GMO crops under cultivation, nor GM consumer food products on supermarket shelves. And why is this? Because under EU law, all foods containing GMOs or GMO ingredients must be labeled. Consumers have the freedom to choose or not to choose GMOs; while farmers, food processors, and retailers have (at least legally) the right to lace foods with GMOs, as long as they are safety-tested and labeled.
Of course the EU food industry understands that consumers, for the most part, do not want to purchase or consume GE foods. European farmers and food companies, even junk food purveyors like McDonald’s and Wal-Mart, understand quite well the concept expressed by a Monsanto executive when GMOs first came on the market: “If you put a label on genetically engineered food you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it.”
The biotech industry and Organic Inc. are supremely conscious of the fact that North American consumers, like their European counterparts, are wary and suspicious of GMO foods. Even without a PhD, consumers understand you don’t want your food safety or environmental sustainability decisions to be made by out-of-control chemical companies like Monsanto, Dow, or Dupont – the same people who brought you toxic pesticides, Agent Orange, PCBs, and now global warming.

Industry leaders are acutely aware of the fact that every single industry or government poll over the last 16 years has shown that 85-95% of American consumers want mandatory labels on GMO foods. Why? So that we can avoid buying them. GMO foods have absolutely no benefits for consumers or the environment, only hazards. This is why Monsanto and their friends in the Bush, Clinton, and Obama administrations have prevented consumer GMO truth-in-labeling laws from getting a public discussion in Congress.
Although Congressman Dennis Kucinich (Democrat, Ohio) recently introduced a bill in Congress calling for mandatory labeling and safety testing for GMOs, don’t hold your breath for Congress to take a stand for truth-in-labeling and consumers’ right to know what’s in their food. Especially since the 2010 Supreme Court decision in the so-called Citizens United case gave big corporations and billionaires the right to spend unlimited amounts of money (and remain anonymous, as they do so) to buy media coverage and elections, our chances of passing federal GMO labeling laws against the wishes of Monsanto and Food Inc. are all but non-existent.
Perfectly dramatizing the “Revolving Door” between Monsanto and the Federal Government, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, formerly chief counsel for Monsanto, delivered one of the decisive votes in the Citizens United case, in effect giving Monsanto and other biotech bullies the right to buy the votes it needs in the U.S. Congress.
With big money controlling Congress and the media, we have little choice but to shift our focus and go local. We’ve got to concentrate our forces where our leverage and power lie, in the marketplace, at the retail level; pressuring retail food stores to voluntarily label their products; while on the legislative front we must organize a broad coalition to pass mandatory GMO (and CAFO) labeling laws, at the city, county, and state levels.

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