Eco-friendly dishcloths unite Japanese community

Posted April 4, 2005, Japan for Sustainability: Gara-bo Aikokai, a non-profit organization based in Hamamatsu City, Shizuoka Prefecture, has been encouraging people to protect the environment by using detergent-free cloths for washing dishes. The wash clothes are made from organic cotton the NGO has planted in local fields. Once a center of cotton production in Japan the fields had laid abandoned for several years and the local industry has struggled as a result. The NGO hopes the cotton grown without the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides will have the added benefit of boosting the local economy.

Using their past experience, about 40 elderly residents undertook the task of cultivating and spinning cotton. The cotton is being spun using a now obsolete method called “Gara-bo”. According to water quality activist Ryoko Honda, they enjoy these activities, believing that they are playing an important role in preserving the local culture. The passing on of traditional wisdom and techniques from the elderly is also developing the relationships between generations in the community.

Children also participate in cotton harvesting. Fascinated with white cotton, they handpick it with tender care. "I'd like to preserve the authentic texture of traditional cotton for children," said Honda. The organization aims to produce one ton of cotton in 2005.