Buying local isn’t just about food choices. In supporting community businesses and reducing our ecological footprint, fiber is another important consideration, encompassing farmers that grow cotton and hemp or raise sheep for wool, fiber artisans and textile designers.
The U.S. presently imports about 95 percent of Americans’ clothing, reports the Ecology Global Network (Ecology.com), with most manufactured in countries where sweatshops and human rights abuses are common. Polyester and nylon, the most commonly used synthetic fibers, are derived from petroleum and processed and dyed using synthetic, often toxic substances. According to a 2010 report by China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection, the textile industry is that country’s third-worst polluter.
One of the most innovative, energy-efficient houses in the United States has been built in the District of Columbia’s working-class Deanwood neighborhood, which has struggled with foreclosures. The Empowerhouse, a residence that produces all of its own energy, consumes 90 percent less energy for heating and cooling than a conventional dwelling.
Reusing, recycling or repurposing a worn-out mattress is a far better solution than adding another to the 20 million or so that annually end up in landfills. Before discarding, first check with family members, friends or coworkers, or post a note on a community bulletin board or on the Internet (Freecycle.org) about the availability of a free, gently used mattress.
Next, offer to donate the mattress to The Salvation Army, Goodwill Industries or a local consignment or thrift shop, church, shelter or disaster relief organization. Note that this option may require professional cleaning prior to donation. Many nonprofit outlets provide free home pickup of items, which can be claimed as a charitable tax deduction.
There is a natural alternative to dryer sheets and plastic dryer balls. Woolly-balls, made from organic felted wool, are eco-friendly dryer balls that can cut drying time by half, conserve energy, and soften naturally. The properties of the organic wool balls draw moisture from wet fabric, and while they move around the dryer, they separate the laundry, enabling better circulation and resulting in a shortened drying time. Woolly-balls soften clothes, reduce wrinkles and limit static cling, leaving a minimal carbon footprint.