JungleVine Fiber is Revolutionizing the Natural Fiber Industry


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Contact:  Amy McDowell, Director of U.S. Operations
info@naturebag.org   +1 515-777-1118

January 15, 2020 - JungleVine® Foundation - Des Moines IA USA and Luang Prabang, Laos

JungleVine® fiber, used by indigenous artisans in Laos to create Nature Bags and other eco-friendly products with a virtually non-existent carbon footprint, is revolutionizing the natural fiber industry.

Buying organic products, including natural fibers, feels right to most people.  The terms "organic" and "natural" evoke scenes of rolling hills of green or pristine jungles in the world's deep, unspoiled places.  But things are not always what they seem; not all natural products are created equal.

Let's compare three natural fibers:  cotton, hemp, and JungleVine® fiber.  Cotton is a pliable fiber that's used widely and hemp is fast becoming a better environmentally-friendly alternative for world textile needs.  However, neither of these materials has the same potential to revolutionize the natural fiber industry as JungleVine® fiber.

Growing Cotton Damages the Environment

Cotton's largest impact on the environment derives from the use of agrochemicals such as pesticides, the overconsumption of water, and the loss of habitat to large swaths of commercial agriculture.  In fact, the World Wildlife Fund is working to hold the cotton industry accountable for the damage it wreaks on animal habitats1.  Globally, more fertilizers and pesticides are poured onto cotton fields than nearly every other crop.  

Although organic cotton avoids the use of pesticides, its cultivation consumes massive amounts of fossil fuels for planting, cultivation, and harvest.  Cotton was originally cultivated on the nutrient-rich flood plain of the Nile River and requires substantial fertilizer.  Growing cotton depletes soil rather than adding nutrients back as JungleVine® fiber does.  The phrase ‘fertile fields of cotton’ is a myth.

So, what about hemp?

Hemp Is Better than Cotton, But Not a Perfect Solution

Hemp requires just 10% of the water that cotton fields guzzle.  However, that's still a lot of water compared to JungleVine® fiber, which grows naturally and is not "farmed" due to an abundant natural supply.  Hemp also has a natural resistance to weeds and pests, which greatly reduces the herbicides and pesticides needed to grow it.

But there are disadvantages in growing hemp2.  Growers have to fertilize hemp and reseed after harvest.  When farmers replant hemp, they use grain drills or commercial seeding equipment that increases the carbon footprint and contributes to soil erosion.

Hemp grows in poor soil conditions that won't sustain nutrient-hungry cotton plants, but hemp plants won't produce industrial-strength fiber without supplemental soil nutrients.  Hemp growers rely on chemical fertilizers, which pollute surface water and have other environmental impacts.  Even organic hemp growers must fertilize, seeking organic alternatives that nonetheless consume considerable resources, like the labor and machinery needed to haul and apply it.

To harvest cotton or hemp, farmers must use mechanical harvesters powered by fossil fuels that release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, contributing to ozone depletion and global warming.

By contrast, JungleVine® fiber has the lowest possible carbon footprint.  It is far more eco-friendly and sustainable than both cotton and hemp.  

JungleVine® Fiber is the Superior Fiber Environmentally

JungleVine® is a fast-growing perennial vine (Pueraria phaseoloides) that grows naturally and rapidly regrows from the crown after harvest.  It doesn’t need planting or replanting, ever.  Incredibly, without human intervention or cultivation, free-growing vines support a thriving cottage industry in the small rural villages that make Nature Bags.

Natural rainfall is enough for the growth of JungleVine® plants; they don’t need any supplemental irrigation.  They’re strong plants that grow quickly and don’t need pesticides or fertilizers.  The vine belongs to the pea family (Fabaceae).  As such, it draws nitrogen from the air and returns it to the soil, improving its fertility.  Fiber-producing plants that enrich the soil are exceedingly rare.

JungleVine® planted in completely barren soil can transform it to fertile fields of green.  This, in turn, leads to healthy ecosystems for birds, insects, and other wildlife.

JungleVine® fiber has the lowest carbon footprint and highest ecological and economical advantages for the Khmu people, who harvest the vines and make Nature Bags.  JungleVine® improves the economic viability of these remote villages without harming the teeming natural beauty of the region.

Real Economic Impact of JungleVine® Fiber for Indigenous Artisans

More than 1,000 artisans in 40 villages have put tens of thousands of Nature Bags into the hands of grateful consumers yearning for useful, sustainable products.  Multigenerational artisans pass down the crafts of fiber spinning and bag making, as they have for millennia.

These handicrafts have become sought-after around the world.  You can find hand-made JungleVine® products in more than 200 boutiques in 20 countries.  As demand grows, more villages take on the fulfilling task of harvesting the vines, producing the fiber, and weaving the bags.  The bags may be decorated with dyes made from locally sourced raw materials.

The positive economic impact of this cottage industry is evident within the remote villages.  Artisans use the proceeds of their work to buy clothing, food, and school supplies for their children.  JungleVine® fiber gives Khmu artisans the opportunity to earn income while working at home, maintaining tribal cultural traditions.

Sources:

1 WWF: https://www.worldwildlife.org/industries/cotton
2 Hemp: https://daily.jstor.org/the-environmental-downside-of-cannabis-cultivation/