I’ve written before about the importance of organic cotton and the residual chemical damage traditional cotton leaves behind in our land and our bodies. As many of you know, we planted and raised our own organic cotton here in Alabama last summer, and every Alabama Chanin product is made with 100% organic cotton. We are a sustainable design company, making as much use of everything we have so that we throw away very, very little. Cotton scraps become pulls for tying hair or curtains, smaller pieces are reworked into something larger. In honor of Earth Day this coming Monday, we’ve taken the EPA Pick 5 challenge to go a little deeper and consider some ways cotton can be reworked into our daily routines.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency runs a Pick 5 program asking individuals to choose five ways they can make a difference in their daily lives. The acts are often simple, like turning off the lights when you leave a room or turning off the faucet when brushing your teeth.

Here are 5 ways we can save resources, eliminate chemicals, and reuse existing cotton materials in our lives:

1. Vanilla scented deodorizer: soak a few cotton balls or a small boll of raw cotton in vanilla extract and place on a back shelf in the refrigerator.

2. Pillow stuffing: skip the synthetics and stuff a pillow with raw (organic) cotton.

3. Cotton insulation: a member of the Alabama Chanin staff has a dream to build a tiny house (and in some versions of the dream, live off the grid).

4. Dish towels + napkins: Reuse your old cotton t-shirts by making them into dish towels and napkins (or quilting pieces, pillows, hair bands, and bandanas). Add some embroidery details for a unique touch.

5. Lawn and garden fertilizer: cotton meal is made from the very last bits of the cotton plant. After harvesting, ginning, and processing, the seeds are pressed for oil. What’s left becomes cotton meal, an organic fertilizer with no additives. It is slow-release, won’t burn your plants, and poses no run-off threat.

It may feel like an insignificant effort to turn the faucet off while brushing, or to repurpose old forgotten cotton balls, and our suggestions may not be ideals in sustainable living. But in the same way Maggie collects loose change to buy more candy (as much as I protest her sweets addiction) those little efforts add up to something tangible and substantial. These are small steps in a better direction.

3 comments on “PICK 5: A RECIPE FOR CHANGE

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  1. Rebekah

    Last week I cut a pile of old t-shirts into cloth wipes for my sweet baby’s bum. We just switched to cloth diapers and I couldn’t be happier with the change. Every little bit matters.

  2. Janet

    Thank you so much for your beautiful blog, it inspires me daily. I live in Michigan where the winters are very cold and so the gardening season is looked forward to with great anticipation. I am ordering cotton seed meal for my lawn and garden, I was unaware of this as an organic fertilizer.

    I appreciate the valuable contribution you continually make to my life and everyone else’s fortunate enough to discover you. You are a treasure Natalie.

    Janet Elise

  3. jen

    i started using old cotton t-shirt and flannel material for hankies for my little ones – so much softer than either “kleenex” OR regular hankies! (and yes, great for a drop of essential oil too.)