The Most Popular of the Organic Fibers
By far the most popular of the organic fibers is organic cotton. With concern for the environment on the up-rise, the push toward a greener lifestyle has seen an increase in consumer demand for organic cotton products. US production showed a 26% increase in 2009, while globally production increased by 20% over previous years. The US only trails India, Turkey, Syria, Tanzania and China in organic cotton production. Organic cotton fiber is used in everything from clothes and personal care items to linens, home décor and toys. Not only are the fibers being used in more products, but the seeds also have seen an increase in use especially in human food products and animal feed.
Organic and conventional growing methods are quite different. Conventional cotton production uses more chemicals per unit area than any other crop. Not only do these chemicals pollute the air, soil, and ground waters, but residuals of these chemicals on cotton fibers may cause skin irritation. As with all organic products, the goal is to grow and produce with a low environmental impact. Organic cotton growing methods actually replenish the soil and maintain a natural ecological balance. Regulations prohibit the use of genetically enhanced seeds and because it is grown without the use of toxic fertilizers and pesticides, soil and groundwater contamination is eliminated. Cotton growers who use organic methods to grow and harvest cotton offer consumers a purer product and also benefit the environment by eliminating contaminants to the soil and ground waters.
Regulations for Growing Organic Cotton
Cotton grown and sold in the US as organic must adhere to strict regulations. These regulations are outlined in the Organic Foods Production Act and cover specific practices for controlling pests, for fertilizing and for handling organic crops. Following is a summary of these regulations:
- Prior to any crop planting, fields must be deemed organic through a three year period in which no prohibited substance is used on or near that field.
- The organic field must be surrounded by physical barriers that prevent contact, including runoff, with a non-organic crop.
- Growers are responsible for using natural cultivation practices to improve soil conditions and control soil erosion.
- Growers may only apply substances to crop production that are identified in the National List of Allowed Synthetic Substances.
These regulations are enforced by the National Organic Program through the USDA. If guidelines are not met, organic certification is not given. Organic Certification is the process of assuring that a certain product meets specified criteria for quality, production, growing, storing, packaging and shipping as established by national organic standards. Exempt entities are operations whose gross income from organic sales totals $5,000 or less.
To be approved by the state certifying agency or the USDA, organic cotton producers must present for approval a step by step plan for their production and handling procedures. The plan must;
- identify all substances used on the crops
- include an explanation of preventative measures to assure the organic crop does not come in contact with any non-organic crops
- describe all of the procedures followed to avoid crop contamination during the handling procedures (picking and packaging)
Organic cotton growing fields are subject to periodic inspections.
The biggest hurdle for growers is consumer understanding of the value added costs of buying organic cotton products. Additional expenses to establish an organic planting environment, growing challenges of crop lost to insects and weeds, higher labor costs for special handling requirements, and competition from international markets make US organic cotton products slightly more expensive than their non-organic counterparts. But consumers must realize the benefits of using organic cotton products far outweigh the slightly higher price.
Foremost is the benefit to human health. Human exposure to toxic pesticides and fertilizers cause physical ailments like headaches and nausea, with prolonged exposure having more serious effects ranging from hormonal or nervous system problems, reproductive or immune system issues, or even cancer. Also of importance is the benefit to the environment. The absence of harsh chemical fertilizers and pesticides in the production promote ecological balance and avoid soil and water contamination.
Well worth a few extra dollars, organic cotton products offer a better solution for our health and for the environment.
Organic Certification is the process of assuring that a certain product meets specified criteria for quality, production, growing, storing, packaging and shipping as established by national organic standards. The Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) and the National Organic Program (NOP) are charged with ensuring the integrity of USDA organic products in the US and throughout the world. Operations that produce and process organic agricultural products must be certified by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)-accredited certifying agents. Exempt entities are operations whose gross income from organic sales totals $5,000 or less.
The labeling requirements of the NOP apply to raw, fresh products and processed products that contain organic agricultural ingredients. Agricultural products that are sold, labeled, or represented as organic must be produced and processed in accordance with the NOP standards which “foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity”. Requirements for Certified Organic cover the absence of synthetic chemicals in the product’s production including fertilizers, pesticides or any kind of additives. Additionally, there can be no use of human sludge as fertilizer and no genetic modifications made to the product. Detailed production and sale records must be kept and regular site visits are made to confirm the strict separation of organic and non-organic products.
The National Organic Program (NOP) was enacted as federal legislation in the US in 2002. It restricts the use of the term “organic” to certified organic producers selling more than $5,000 a year. Certification is handled by state, non-profit and private agencies that have been approved by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Any product labeled ‘Made With Organic….’ must contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients. Federal legislation defines three labeling categories of organic foods.
Labeling categories are based on the percentage of organic ingredients in that product:
- Label Category 1 - 100% Organic These are products whose ingredients are wholly certified organic. Products in this category must not contain any synthetics, additives, fertilizers, chemicals, pesticides or any genetically engineered substance and cannot be produced using excluded methods, sewage sludge, or ionizing radiation. These products must show an ingredient list, the name and address of the producer or processor of the finished product and the name and seal of the organic certifier. Products meeting the requirements for Label Category 1, may display the term ‘100% Organic’ on the label. The percentage of organic content, the seal of the certifying agent as well as the USDA Seal are also allowed on the label and in product advertisements.
- Label Category 2 - Organic This category is for products who have at least 95% organic ingredients, excluding water and salt. Any remaining product ingredients must be on the ‘National List’ as approved ingredients that are either non- agricultural substances or non-organically produced agricultural substance not commercially available in organic form. In the US, the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 “requires the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances which identifies synthetic substances that may be used and the non-synthetic substances that cannot be used in organic production and handling operations”. The five percent non-organic ingredients could include additives or synthetics if they are on the approved list but products are not allowed to be produced using excluded methods, sewage sludge, or ionizing radiation. Labeling in this category must contain a list that identifies both the organic as well as the non-organic ingredients in the product as well as the name of the organic certifier. Products meeting the requirements for Label Category 2, may display the term ‘Organic’ as well as the percentage of organic content, the seal of the certifying agent and the USDA Seal. All of these are also allowed in the product advertisements.
- Label Category 3 - Made with Organic Ingredients This category is for products that contain a minimum of 70% organic ingredients. Not allowed are any products that are produced using identified excluded methods, sewage sludge, or ionizing radiation. This category may display up to three of the organic ingredients or food groups on the main part of the label and may also display the logo of the certification body that approved them. The label must contain a list that identifies the organic as well as the non-organic ingredients in the product along with the name of the organic certifier. Processed products in Label Category 3 may not use the term Organic anywhere on the main part of the product label. They may, however, specify in the ingredients statement on the information part of the label any ingredients that are organically produced. Additionally, the name and address of the certifying agent of the ?nal product must be displayed on the information panel.
There is strict enforcement by the USDA of the National Organic Program standards. In accordance with the National Organic Program’s regulations anyone who knowingly sells or labels a product as organic that is not produced within the organic certification process can face a civil penalty of up to $11,000. Consumers should feel confident in the organic certification process and in the subsequent product labeling.
Organic gardening can be a great way to save some extra money in your budget. Imagine cutting your grocery bill in half or more! With a little planning and preparation, this is easy to achieve. In this article I will give you an idea of how much effort is involved and will explore ways to save money in your garden.
How Much Effort is Involved?
In the beginning, learning everything you need to know can be a challenge; however, when money is involved this becomes less of an issue. Most of the physical effort with organic gardening is in the bed preparation and the harvest. In all fairness this should only account for a couple of weeks out of the gardening season, although it may involve other activities (for example, maintaining a compost pile).
Other chores that require some time and effort, such as weeding and watering, can both be reduced through the proper use of mulch. Walking through your garden for a couple of minutes every day will help you identify your gardens needs quickly, before they become a problem. About one hour twice a week should be enough to maintain a substantial garden.
Finally, if your goal is to produce a large portion of your food requirements for the year, canning may take several days of time and effort. This can be minimized by planning ahead to grow items that can be dried or stored in a root cellar.
Where Does All the Money Go?
One reason to start organic gardening is for the money you can save. By paying close attention to the health of the soil, organic gardens are more productive. Plants fed through proper soil management require less additional fertilizers. They are also more disease and pest resistant, therefore they use less pesticides. More vegetables and larger vegetables mean less food you have to buy!
To save money on gardening in general, let’s take a look at all the things in a garden that could cost you extra money. You could pay for seeds. You could pay for manure and compost. You could pay for additional fertilizers. You could pay for pesticides. Finally, you could water your garden with city water and run up your water bill.
How Do You Save Money Gardening?
With your first garden you may find it necessary to buy seeds. In order to save yourself this expense, you can save seeds from tomatoes, cucumbers and other garden produce as you use them. However, it is not exactly that simple…
Over the years greedy seed companies have genetically modified food crops to produce seeds that are sterile. Saving seeds from any of these varieties will just be a waste of your time. They key is to purchase heirloom strains, also known as heritage strains.
Heirloom varieties have not had insect DNA spliced into their genes, nor have they been modified to produce sterile seed. So far seed companies have not been able to modify potatoes to make them sterile… simply grow 10% more than you intend to eat and save them as seed potatoes for the following year.
Saving Money on Mulch, Manure, and Fertilizer
The secret to healthy, organic soil is compost. While some plants might enjoy the addition of manure, the truth is you can grow a very healthy and productive garden without manure or mulch if you have properly made compost. If you want to save money on all three (plus use less fertilizer), it is easy to learn how to make your own quality compost! Add plenty of it to your garden bed, and wherever you need mulch use sifted compost instead.
Organic gardening itself will save you money on fertilizer, but if your plants need a little extra during the growing season you can make your own compost tea. While there are many different recipes, the general idea is to fill a sock with compost and suspend it in a 5 gallon bucket of water for several hours. The resulting liquid can be watered down if needed and will contain humus, beneficial microorganisms, and nutrients that are immediately available to your plants.
Saving Money on Pesticides
Every garden needs some form of pest control. If you look through an organic gardening guide, again and again you will see the same item mentioned: Rotenone with pyrethrins. A plant called purslane is the commercial source for pyrethrins, and rotenone breaks down in 24 hours to Nitrogen and Phosphorus (making it one of the safest of all insecticides).
If this is your first year gardening than buy some rotenone with pyrethrins, but also plant some purslane. Next year you can make your own pyrethrins- simply use 1 tablespoon freshly ground dried purslane flowers, 2 liters of hot water, and a few drops of dish soap.
Also plant a few extra cayenne peppers and garlic plants. A couple peppers and a couple cloves of garlic ground up and soaked in a liter of warm water will make a spray that keeps bugs away.
Saving Money on Water
A lake or pond can be helpful for saving you money on your water bill. Otherwise, a very low cost modification to your downspout can divert rainwater to a barrel or cistern for use in your garden. Not only will it save you money on your water bill, but this water contains no chlorine and is much healthier for your plants.
One Final Thought
Let me just say that gardening should be thought of as a long term solution. If you buy a hoe and a rototiller and a pressure canner (and other items) and you only use them for one season, than you are probably spending more money than you are saving. It is only when you purchase these items (once) and use them season after season that you are truely saving yourself money on the food you produce. Keeping this in mind will help you save the most money with your garden.
About The Author
Hi, my name is Jason Willkomm. I have more than 12 years experience gardening indoors and out using both organic and hydroponic gardening methods. It is my goal to help others achieve excellent results with easy to follow advice. For more information on preparing your organic garden this year, visit me at http://www.jasons-indoor-guide-to-organic-and-hydroponics-gardening.com/organic-gardening-bed-preparation.html
Current awareness of the importance of reducing our carbon footprint finds more designers and manufacturers producing ‘Green’ products. Today’s advertisements are laden with terms such as Organic, Natural and Sustainable. So what is the difference between each of these?
Organic pertains to something that is derived from living organisms. Organic Cotton then refers to cotton produced without the use of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. Production may include the use of fertilizers or pesticides that are plant or animal in origin. Organic Wool, as another example, must follow federal standards for Organic livestock production. These standards include use of certified organic feeds, use of good management practices to maintain livestock health and adherence to the natural carrying capacity of grazing lands. Synthetic hormones, genetic engineering, synthetic pesticides, whether internal, external or on pastures, is prohibited.
Natural, as the opposite of artificial, means existing in or formed by nature. As an example lanolin, a greasy yellow substance, is a Natural product found on wool. Natural lanolin serves as a base for cosmetic products such as ointments and hand creams. Another example is Natural Dyes. The majority of Natural Dyes are vegetable in nature made from plant sources such as roots, berries, bark, leaves and wood but can also be derived from clays and minerals.
Sustainable refers to something that can maintain its own viability in a short amount of time allowing for its continual use. Hemp is a quick growing robust plant that grows in diverse soil conditions. As one of the fastest growing plants in the world Hemp also has a high yield ratio- about ten tons a year per acre-and it requires no herbicides or pesticides to grow. Hemp Clothing has become very popular especially with recent eco-friendly processes that soften the fibers. Another popular Sustainable material is Bamboo. Bamboo is a highly renewable grass used for anything from Clothing to Furniture to Kitchenware.
Do your part to reduce our carbon footprint by finding Clothing made from Organic Cotton or Organic Wool, Personal Care products comprised of Natural ingredients like Essential Oils, Aloe Vera or Chamomile and Furniture made from Sustainable materials such as Bamboo.
This is a good video clip referring to care of your body skin. Remember to go for Organic and Natural Skin Care Products such as a Bamboo Loofah Body Scrubber and an organic Exfoliate. Alpha Hydroxy Acid, as mentioned in the clip, gets deep down to sluff off dead skin cells and claims have been made that it reduces wrinkles and improves the overall feel of the skin. Better to assure the product you use has this acid in its organic form which is a fruit acid that can be derived from grapes, apples, sugar cane, maple, pineapple, papaya, willow bark, lemon, lime or blackberries.
How To Exfoliate Your Body
So you exercise daily and try to eat healthy by avoiding foods with chemical additives. But did you realize toxins can get into your system through the products you use on your skin? More than half of the toxic chemicals used in non-organic skin care products are absorbed into your bloodstream. Further, absorption of these toxic chemicals has a direct effect on hormones. As an example, studies have shown an increase of paraben use is directly correlated to an increased risk of breast cancer. According to The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) over 800 chemicals used in Personal Care Products are toxic. It is important to use Organic Skin Care products to avoid toxic preservatives and toxic ingredients such as the four main parabens; Butyl Paraben, Isopropylparaben, Methylparaben and Propylparaben.
In addition to having a negative effect on our health, non-organic skin care products have a detrimental effect on the environment. A US Geological Survey showed that 95 waste water contaminants found in US waterways were from chemicals used in Personal Care Products. As previously mentioned, parabens are a group of chemicals used in personal care products as preservatives and have been linked to carcinogenicity. Petroleum, synthetic colors such as FD & C Blue No.1, Behentrimonium Chloride, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride and Linolemidopropy PG - Dimonium Chloride Phosphate, are all carcinogens resulting in degeneration of the kidneys, anemia, nerve damage and a rise in cancer. Dibutyl phthalate and Diethyl phthalate are chemicals that are used to aid in the absorption of lotions into the skin and have been classified by the EPA as a “probable human carcinogen”. The list of harmful chemicals used in skin care products goes on.
It is important to read product labels to ensure there is no introduction of toxic chemicals. Ingredients listed on the label, should be recognizable to you as natural. If an ingredient listed is unrecognizable, you should look it up. Chances are that ingredient is not truly natural or organic. Organic Skin Care Products are healthier for you and for the environment. Why then use anything else?
A Good Skin Care Routine to Follow:
Our skin is our body’s protection from external elements and as a result is abused by a variety of conditions that cause wear such as dirt, dust, grim, sun and wind. A daily skin care routine is as essential to our health as is a daily exercise program or a proper diet. It is important to find a routine that fits your specific skin needs and that the routine is effective rather than elaborate. Basic daily skin care should include;