24 May 2009

Don't Buy Conventional Cotton

Cotton is in your shorts, your T-shirt, your socks, and probably your underwear. It's a huge, global industry, and there are huge problems with it.

E Magazine gives a thorough run-down of the toxins involved in cotton production in its May issue. (Subscribe here.) In summary: Cotton production involves only 3 percent of the planet's land, but uses 25 percent of the pesticides; of fifteen pesticides regularly used on cotton, the Environmental Protection Agency considers seven to be potential carcinogens.

Harvested cotton is processed with bleach, treated with formaldehyde (another carcinogen) so it won't wrinkle, and dyed and printed with more toxic chemicals. The global economy means cotton is frequently grown in one place, processed in another, made into clothing in a third, and then shipped to a fourth country for sale.

All that shipping involves the emission of more toxins as I explained a couple of weeks ago, here.

Also, Uzbekistan has been using enslaved children to pick cotton. The Guardian reports, here. Companies that buy from Uzbek growers have insisted that the country sign on to International Labor Conventions. Whether they will follow what they've signed is another question altogether.

What can you do?

Buy organic cotton. Buy clothing made out of hemp, whose environmental impact is far lower than that of cotton. Buy clothing made out of recycled plastic. Buy used clothing. For some places to get this stuff, check out "Where to Shop" in the right hand column.

18 May 2009

Want A Pet? Please Adopt

What is this plea doing in a blog mostly concerned with environmental issues?

Well, there's the environmental cost of breeding ever more animals. There's also the issue of supporting breeders and pet stores that don't give enough attention to the welfare of the animals.

You could look for an animal at the ASPCA or at Petfinder. Or just go to your local animal shelter.

And once you have your new pet, consider environmentally friendly food and other products.


13 May 2009

Skunk Opposes Health Care Reform

No time for blogging: I still have final exams to grade. But I couldn't let this pass:

Rick Scott is funding a series of advertisements opposing whatever health care plan Obama might develop. He used to be the CEO of a for-profit health care company but was kicked out by his own board of directors in the midst of a huge scandal involving fraudulent billing of the government. Read more in the Times, here.

His methods in getting footage of people slamming Britain's National Health Service are described in the Guardian, here.

For complicated and much analyzed reasons, by the way, the German, French and Swiss national health systems -- in fact, those in pretty much any European country -- work much better than the NHS. That's why the NHS is so popular among those who profit from illness in the United States.

As Paul Krugman put it in a piece in the Times earlier this week describing the health industry's efforts to derail real reform, "what the rest of us call health care costs, they call income."

Call your senator. Write to your representative. Urge their support for comprehensive health coverage for all Americans.