Every day I find myself learning something new about the world of sustainability and conscious living and I’m so grateful that we’ve gotten the chance to connect with so many experts on all things ethical and eco friendly over the past year. When we first started chatting with The Dharma Door USA, for example, one of my absolute fave home decor shops online, one of the first things I learned about was their Jute basket collection.
I have to admit I knew very little about jute to begin with, but once I learned more I become fascinated with this material. Once you learn how great it is, it’s pretty impossible not to want to tell everyone you know. If only more of our everyday products were made with jute, we could keep so many environmentally detrimental materials out of circulation. Not to mention the impact this plant has on the artists employed by The Dharma Door to produce it.
The artists that produce TDD’s jute baskets live in Northern Bangladesh and were previously tobacco farmers and cigarette rollers. Given all the chemicals used to produce it, the tobacco crop is actually so harmful to the soil and land that it becomes unusable after the season. So not only is it harmful health-wise for the workers producing it, they have to rely on outside sources of food since they can’t produce it themselves on their own land.
You probably won’t be surprised to hear that there are also many social issues of tobacco farming. There are long manual work hours for low wages and no financial security. According to The Dharma Door, Children are often deprived of going to school during tobacco harvesting a they are required for child labour, and many children do not have the opportunity to attend school outside of harvest times because their families can’t afford it.
The communities wanted to find a way to transition out of tobacco, so TDD’s partners went looking for a solution. Enter: jute.
Jute is an amazing solution for the social problems that these communities have suffered: the NGO has so far been able to fully train 200 artisans, build two weaving schools, and assist men in regenerating their land to grow jute and food crops.
From an environmental standpoint, I’ve been learning just why jute is an amazing crop to cultivate. It’s a sustainable plant fiber that’s incredibly durable and versatile. It’s a very efficient annual crop, taking about 120 days to grow without requiring the use of pesticides, and with a much smaller carbon footprint to produce than other materials. It also enriches the soil for the next season, making it a simple crop to continually cultivate.
Like hemp, jute seems to be one of those natural materials that sustainability advocates have been praising for years, but that the masses simply haven’t paid enough attention to. I hope this sheds some light not just on jute as an amazing material but on the people who expertly turn this plant fiber into beautiful and functional wares.
Thanks to our member Dharma Door USA for sharing these photos + info!