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Listen to “The Human Cost of Recycled Cotton”

Organic, recycled, or synthetic: As the fashion industry scrambles to find more sustainable textiles, what’s the future of cotton? And what is the true cost? Editor’s note: This story was updated from the original by the author for re-release in our Fall 2021 issue.

The Human Cost of Recycled Cotton

Everyone in the fashion world wants to find a more sustainable, environmentally friendly way to make cotton clothing—or a benign (and equally comfy) alternative to it. In Scandinavia, an enterprising cadre of materials scientists is on the brink of succeeding. But almost no one appreciates these innovations’ social costs.

Story and photography by ALDEN WICKER

Listen to “India’s Rug Saint”

Nand Kishore Chaudhary built Jaipur Rugs Co. into a runaway success by working closely with India’s poorest citizens, and by developing an apprenticeship system around India’s chronic battles with child labor. How do such difficult pieces fit into India’s socio-economic puzzle?

India’s Rug Saint

Nand Kishore Chaudhary has built one of India’s most successful handmade carpet ventures by forging close ties to a community that most businesses on the continent shun: the poor, largely uneducated caste of citizens long referred to as “Untouchables.” To help his business grow, he’s also had to develop an apprenticeship system around India’s chronic battles with child labor. To Chaudhary, navigating these issues is the only way to honor the true meaning of sustainability. During a visit to the Jaipur Rugs company, our correspondent tries to figure out how all these pieces come together.

By CATHRYN JAKOBSON RAMIN

Watch “India’s New Carpet Weavers”

In our mini-doc, “India’s New Carpet Weavers,” visit some villages where hand-knotted carpets are made.

The Child Labor Dilemma

Starting in 1975, in order to build up India’s rug-making industry, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi established government schools to train children to weave. Those schools, built in traditional carpet production areas, quickly turned into factories that “recruited” poor, lower caste children to fill seats at the looms. Within a few years, exports had quadrupled, but…

The Circuitous History of India’s Handmade Carpets

The city of Jaipur—which sits near the center of India’s northern half, in the middle of the country’s chest, so to speak—is known for its pink and white buildings. In 1876, when the Prince of Wales was scheduled to visit, Maharaja Ram Singh ordered the buildings to be painted in these shades, which were symbolic…

View “The Art and Craft of a Hand-Knotted Rug”

Precious Drops

While many people in arid regions of the world struggle just to find water, others in rain-soaked developing countries face a different challenge: getting water that is safe enough to drink. What will it take to turn their precious water clean—so they can stay healthy, and we can stop spending scarce resources on mountains of plastic water bottles?

By HEATHER BOURBEAU

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