Learn how to sew on a sewing machine! 

Learn how to sew & make a simple napkin!

 

Do you want to learn how to sew?  It’s easier than you thought :).  In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to sew on a sewing machine.  

 

We’re going to make a simple napkin together, so let’s get started!

 

1. Supplies

photo of supplies - fabric, scissors, measuring tape, ruler
Here are the supplies you’ll need.

Here’s what you’ll need to learn how to sew:

  1. Fabric – you can use an old sheet for this project, or search the thrift stores for options, or go to your locally owned fabric store (HartsFabric.com in Santa Cruz has great options).  You can easily make 4 napkins from a yard of fabric.
  2. Thread.  You can get thread that matches your fabric, or just use whatever thread you have on hand.  I work with organic cotton thread, which can be hard to find, but it’s a great sustainable option.  
  3. Scissors
  4. Ruler
  5. Measuring tape
  6. Pins
  7. Iron & ironing board
  8. Marking pen or tailor’s chalk
  9. Sewing machine

2. How to set up your machine & thread it

  1. Find the spot where your spool of thread goes.
  2. Find a short post on the top of your machine, near the large spool, where the bottom bobbin goes to get wound up with matching thread.
  3. Thread from the spool of thread to the bottom bobbin.  There may be a path drawn on your machine showing how to get from the big spool to the bottom bobbin.  You generally go around at least one or two metal hooks to create some tension from the big spool of thread to the bottom bobbin.  To wind the bottom bobbin up, either press on your foot pedal or push a lever that’s just for winding the bottom bobbin.

    To thread the bottom bobbin in matching thread, follow a line from the large spool to the bottom bobbin.
  4. Once the bottom bobbin is threaded, cut the thread connecting it to the top bobbin and bring it down into the hook plate area, under your presser foot.  Thread the bobbin so that the thread is going AGAINST the notch in your hook plate area, as opposed to moving in the same direction.  The idea here is that you want the thread to come off the bottom bobbin with more tension, vs. come off with very little tension. 
  5. To thread the large spool of thread, you’re going to work your way down towards the needle, going through a few hooks and turns on the way.  Your machine might have a path displayed on the top, like this.  But if not, you’ll likely thread from the large spool to around a hook or plate.THEN move into these two long slots/notches on the machine right above the needle.  First, go down the long slot on the right,  then go back up again in the slot on the left.  You’ll find a hook inside the long notch on the left.  Turn the large round knob on the right side of your machine to make the hook come forward if it’s not visible. Thread the needle into that hook and then back down again towards the needle.  At the top of the needle, there will be a small wire or hook to hold the thread closer to the needle that you want to place the thread behind.  Then thread the needle from the front to the back.  Your machine might have an automatic threader or you can do it by hand or you can use a needle threader.  Then put the top thread under the presser foot.  You can also put the bottom thread under the presser foot if it comes out from the hook plate area.  On my machine, it stays down in there.
  6. Make sure your machine is set to a straight line stitch and that the stitch length is between 2-3mm.  I once borrowed a machine from a friend that she thought was broken – it was just in a zig zag stitch instead of a straight stitch so it kept hitting the presser foot and breaking!  Once we put it into a straight stitch, it worked great ;).
  7. Make sure your presser foot is in the down position before you start sewing.  There’s a handle on the back of your machine that moves your presser foot up and down. 
  8. Cut a scrap of fabric off or use a little rag and test some straight lines with your machine until you feel comfortable.  The more gently you press on the presser foot, the slower you will sew so take your time.  Repeat until you’re ready to tackle your napkin!

P.s. – If you want to watch a video of me threading my machine, CLICK HERE.

 

4. How to cut your fabric 

 

You can make your napkin any size you want.  17” x 17” is a pretty typical size.  The key is to add 2” to your desired final length and width before you cut it.

 

Another note: if your selvage edge (the part with the brand name printed on it) is wider than about ½”, you’ll want to cut that off before you take your measurements.

 

For this example, I made a 16” x 16” napkin.  I cut the fabric to 18” x 18” (added 2 inches all around.

 

Making marks at 18″ in a few spots on the fabric with a pen.

To cut your fabric, first fold it in half to make it a little easier to work with.  You might want to work on a large table or on the floor to have enough space to spread out.  Fold your fabric so that the edge is aligned evenly in at least one spot.  Take your measuring tape and make a mark at 18” from the edge (if you’re making a 16” x 16” napkin).  Make a few marks up the edge. 

 

Draw a line to connect the marks you made to make cutting easier.

Next get your ruler and draw a straight line connecting all of the marks that you made on the fabric.  Cut along the line.

 

Repeat this process on the other edge of the fabric by folding your fabric the other direction. E.g., if your fabric has a print with a direction on it, like flowers, fold so that the flowers are now pointed perpendicular to the direction they were pointed with the first fold.

 

Again mark 18” from the folded edge – make several marks along the edge.  Draw a straight line connecting the marks with your ruler, then cut along the straight line, just like you did for the first edge.

 

5.  Press & pin your fabric 

 

Take your fabric to your iron and press it flat.  Now you’ll fold up ½” on a side and then press it in place.  Repeat this for all sides of the napkin – fold it over ½” and press with the iron.  Then fold over each side another 1/2″ and press again.  This way all the raw edges are hidden in your hem.  

photo of fabric with edges folded 1/2" on all 4 sides
Fold edges 1/2″ on all 4 sides, press. Then fold again 1/2″ on all 4 sides, and press again.

Take your pins and pin the newly folded & pressed edges.  I put about 3 pins on each side.

fabric with hem pinned
Place pins along all 4 sides to pin hem in place.

6. Sew it up

 

Napkin is right side down so that I can see the hem I made. Sew close to the edge of the hem.

Take it to your machine and place it right side down.  This way you can see the hem and easily follow the straight edge. 

 

Pick a spot near a corner (but not on the corner) and sew straight down the side, making sure to capture the hem with your stitches.  Take your time, sew straight, and don’t go off the folded edge.

 

Sew slowly when you get near the corner. Sew close to the edge but not off the edge.

When you get to the corner, sew towards the bottom edge but don’t go off the fabric.  Press the reverse button (it probably looks like a u-turn) and go back a few stitches.  The goal is to stay on the corner and not go back onto the side.

 

Make sure the needle is in the down position.  Then lift up the presser foot and rotate the fabric so that you’re positioned to sew down the next side.  Press the reverse button and backstitch a few stitches.  Then sew straight down this side.  When you get to the corner, again go towards the bottom edge, backstitch a few stitches, rotate the fabric, backstitch towards the other side of the corner, and again go straight down the side.  

 

Repeat this until you get back to where your stitches start.

 

When you get to the side you started on, you’ll want to stitch over the original stitches with a few stitches, then back stitch, then forward stitch again just a few stitches.  This really locks those stitches in place so they won’t unravel.

 

7. Trim your threads

 

Once you’re done sewing, lift the presser foot and pull your napkin off the machine.  Your machine probably has a blade you can use to cut the threads, or just cut them with your scissors.

 

Next, carefully trim the threads very close to the fabric without cutting the fabric.  

 

Now you’re done!  

 

That’s it! 

 

Now you know how to sew!  Keep practicing with simple projects and before you know it, you’ll be sewing your own clothes!  Learning how to sew is taking a small stand for the planet.  Appreciating the effort that goes into making your stuff makes you a better and more thoughtful consumer.  And turning your old sheets and things into functional home goods is the greenest way to furnish your home.

 

Are you ready to sew?  What’ll you sew next?  Leave a comment below!

Thanks for reading!

Liz at No Trace

 

p.s. I’ve got a tutorial on sewing a snack or sandwich bag HERE if you’re ready for your next project :-)!

p.p.s. head over to my YouTube channel for more video tutorials by clicking HERE.

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Our 2019 low waste advent calendar

Are you hoping to slow things down and savor this special time of year WITHOUT a ton of trash?  Want some ideas for a low waste holiday season?  

 

Check out our easy low waste advent calendar ideas from 2019.  Having a low waste advent calendar is one way that we embrace the holidays and stay connected with each other during these busy days.  

photo of Christmas pyramid

 

We’ve been doing this family advent calendar for the last 5 years.  You can read about what we’ve done in previous years here.

 

Each year we keep our favorite activities from the previous year’s low waste advent calendar and create new ones too.  So I thought I’d share our 2019 low waste advent calendar ideas with you in case you are looking for some near zero waste advent calendar inspiration.  

 

Oh, and if you’re wondering what our physical advent calendar, it’s basically a fabric tree with 24 pockets.  Each pocket has a little fabric ornament that velcros to the tree.  We slip a piece of paper behind the ornament with each day’s low waste advent calendar activity/treat :).

low waste advent calendar
This is our actual calendar with pockets and velcro ornaments.
rocking horse ornament
The little slips of paper fit behind the ornaments in the pockets.

 

Ready to hear our ways of staying connected?  Here we go!

1-Make paper snowflakes.

 

Got paper in your recycling bin?  Watch a quick tutorial on YouTube to learn how to turn that paper into paper snowflakes.  We have fun make at least a few paper snowflakes each in different colored paper.  Then we’ll tape them to our windows and walls for a little extra holiday spirit.  

 

Don’t forget to compost the tiny bits of paper that come off in the cutting.  Most recycling centers don’t have a way to easily catch these and so they probably won’t get recycled.  

photo of paper snowflakes

2-Check the cupboard or fridge for a special treat.  

 

We’ll go by a local bakery the night before and get them each a cookie, donut, cupcake or anything special that we wouldn’t normally get to eat at breakfast.  Pre-COVID days we’d bring our own container to avoid the packaging trash.  And even today some places are coming back around to the realization that our own containers aren’t filthy, disease ridden super spreaders.

 

Little low waste treats like this are sprinkled into the advent calendar for busy days – we don’t have time for fun-tivities everyday, but we can take a moment to mark the day in easier ways.

 

3-Hot chocolate with whipped coconut cream.  

 

Another easy breakfast treat.  We get coconut cream in a can.  Simply scoop out the hard part of the cream (leaving behind any coconut water/milk) and then whip it either by hand or in your stand mixer.  You can add a dash of vanilla extract and sugar too.

photo of hot cocoa
Coconut cream is an awesome vegan whipped cream alternative.

4-Candlelight snuggle story time on couch.  

 

SO fun!  After dinner one night, we got out extra blankets, light candles, and snuggle around a good book.  We have a few Christmas decorations that involve candles, so this is a perfect time to light & enjoy those.  As for books, we’ve been loving The Mysterious Benedict Society lately.  My partner will read outloud to them for long stretches at a time.  I tend to lose my voice before him, so I get to sit and snuggle and listen instead :).

photo of Christmas pyramid
Our Christmas pyramids arent this fancy after years of wear and tear :).

 

5-Shop for adopt-a-family.  

 

Does your school or church or community group adopt a family around the holidays?  Our school participates each year and we join in too.  Last year the kids and I had fun at Target picking out what we thought our person might like.  My partner stayed home (not a huge shopping fan) and made dinner so we could squeeze this in after school and dance.  We don’t all 4 have to do everything on the calendar together – we try to keep it manageable for our regular life stuff like school, dinner, dishes, homework, piano practice, etc!

 

6-Night swimming.

  

Yes, just like the REM song ;).  We have a local heated swimming pool (Simpkins Swim Center) that has evening hours.  It was a blast.  Swimming at night feels magical.

 

7-Watch the lighted boat parade.  

 

At the Santa Cruz Harbor each year, there’s a parade of boats decorated in lights.  We went last year and took a couple of their friends with us.  It was pouring rain, but that made it more memorable.  Plus I packed a thermos of hot apple cider and some cups, and some popcorn.  We huddled under umbrellas, sipped cider and munched popcorn and watched the boats go by.  The rain seemed like a bummer at first but it made the night that much more memorable for everyone. 

 

8-Pick out a tree.  

 

We’re still getting a real tree each year although we’ve talked as a family about other options, wondering what is the most eco-friendly option.  As long as we aren’t driving far to get a tree (fewer emissions) and if we compost the tree at the end of its life, it feels fairly sustainable to get a real tree.  But there’s a tree rental place in our area called Rent a Living Christmas Tree (RentXmasTree.com) for another option.  

 

We go to a local business to get the tree (Capitola Produce) and the kids usually want to play hide and seek among the trees a few times before we bring one home.

photo of kids in Christmas tree farm
We try to have a little fun when we pick out our Christmas tree.

9-Pick a charity to donate to.  

 

As a family last year, we talked about the different causes we cared about and then picked one charity to donate to.  The kids wanted to donate to a charity that provides global health services, and so we picked Partners in Health.  

 

I will say, though, the amount of unrequested paper mail we’ve gotten from them over the year has been INSANE.  So this year, when we make a donation, we’ll remember to make a firm request for NO MAIL.

 

10-Make caroling video.  

 

The past few years we’ve recorded ourselves on our iPad singing a Christmas carol.  It’s of family-viewing-only quality, and a lot of the joy comes from looking back at our videos over the years.  Pretty dang cute! It’s neat to see how they’ve grown each year by Christmas time.

 

11-Write a letter to Santa.  

 

This is a big highlight for the kids, of course!  They each get to ask Santa for 1 pre-approved thing from Santa (i.e., we might veto certain items before they get in the letter.  Think more animals or an iphone or other devices).

 

12-Aquarium outing with Grandma & Grandpa.  

 

We are super lucky to have grandparents nearby who do fun things with our kids.  This past year they wanted to take them to the Monterey Bay Aquarium for the day.  So fun!  There are lots of great outings in our community – local parks and beaches, art museum, children’s discovery center, the animal shelter, etc etc.  You get the idea.

 

13-Ornament shopping with Grandma & Grandpa.  

 

This is another annual tradition in our little family.  Each year the kids head out for the afternoon with Grandma & Grandpa.  They drive to a few different locally owned stores that carry really cute ornaments.  The kids take everything in and then make their decision (sometimes having to go back to an earlier store, but that’s okay).  Part of the joy of this is just seeing all the creative and sparkly and beautiful ornaments.  Plus they love showing us and picking a spot to hang it on the tree.  And when we decorate the tree (which is often an advent calendar activity), we all like looking back at what they’ve picked each year.  E.g., a glass pink cadillac, a glass stand mixer, a fuzzy squirrel, glass ballet slippers, and more.

 

14-Doggy christmas at dog park.  

 

We made this up but basically brought our dogs to the dog park (which we RARELY do) and got them each a little something at the pet store.  Fun for the dogs, fun for us!  

photo of dog and ball
happy dog at the park!

 

15-Gratitude letters and hot spiced cider. 

 

One evening after dinner and before bedtime, we sat down to write a few things we’re each grateful for while we enjoyed hot spiced cider.  I like to buy spiced cider from Santa Cruz Organics because it comes in a glass container vs plastic.

 

16-Make an online family Christmas card.  

 

This was super fun, especially for my older daughter who’s into design.  We found some simple templates (Canva.com has plenty – all free), picked our favorite, and then picked family photos from our google photos and uploaded them into the card.  Once we were done, we downloaded it and sent it in email to our family and friends.  We aren’t doing real cards any more, although it was fun to do each year in the past.  But this is a more eco-friendly option.

 

17-Tea party for dinner.  

 

Although this is the most work, it’s my FAVORITE advent calendar event.  I make a big pot of herbal tea and then a bunch of finger foods – homemade cookies, popcorn, hummus, chopped veggies, vegan cream cheese & cucumber sandwiches, a couple other dips, and crackers. We put all the food in the living room and sit around our little coffee table on the floor and enjoy our special meal.  So fun!

 

18-Family S’mores night.  

 

By December we’re out of fire season, so it’s s’more season! At least for a bit.  Again there’s the packaging of vegan marshmallows (and graham crackers and chocolate!) If you’re feeling super ambitious, I’ve seen recipes for vegan marshmallows & you might be able to find the ingredients unpackaged in a bulk store.  Here’s one recipe: https://thehiddenveggies.com/vegan-marshmallows/ and another one: https://happyfoodhealthylife.com/vegan-marshmallows-recipe/.  

 

You could get creative and roast something else – i’ve seen folks do bananas (but they’re wrapped in tinfoil).  Or just have a little backyard fire.  The real fun is being in the yard on a cold night, warming our hands and feet around the fire pit.  

 

19-Family movie night.  

 

You know those nights when you’re exhausted and want to be horizontal for as long as possible?  Perfect excuse for a family movie night.  We try to pick a holiday movie, but honestly whatever the kids can agree to is great.  Elf and Home Alone are a couple of our family favorites.  

 

20-Ice skating with Grandpa.  

 

He likes to take the kids to the ice skating rink at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk that gets set up around the holidays.  Super fun for everyone.

 

21-Hanukkah breakfast at the Bagelry.  

 

We love our local bagel restaurants and added a little breakfast to the advent calendar.  They have loads of vegan spreads.  Yum!

 

22-Birthday celebrations.

 

My youngest daughter has a birthday in the middle of the holiday season and this day is her day – we do a family dinner party and then she has something with friends too.  We put any parties that we’re going to on the calendar as well – those are special enough for the day! 

 

23-Cookies with grandma.  

 

Another super special annual tradition.  Grandma bakes a bunch of sugar cookies the day or two before and then the kids come over for a decorating bonanza.  The kids have also helped bake the cookies in the past, but the decorating part is their favorite. And it makes it a little easier for everyone if they’re baked already.  Bonus: parents get to eat the cookies!

 

24-Craft date with momma.  

 

I like to put together super simple crafts that we can finish in a couple hours.  It’s a fun time to invite the kids’ friends over too.  One year we made cloth crowns with elastic bands out of fabric that they picked.  Another year we made simple sandwich baggies out of fabric they bought at the store.  Friendship bracelets are fun and easy.  Or bookmarks out of scrap fabric.  Lots of easy options!

 

There’s our 2019 low waste advent calendar.  Do any of these sound like fun for your family?  Or do you have any to add?  I’d love to hear – leave a comment below!

 

Thanks for reading,

Liz

 

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How do we REALLY fight climate change?

Read this to find out how to fight climate change – the 4 most important ways.

Climate change is coming, people.  But we can fight back and minimize the impacts on our communities & planet.  

photo of polar bears
How to fight climate change

 

There are TONS of small ways to fight climate change.  I wrote about 50 of them here.  

 

But in the bigger picture, the more life-threatening picture, there are 4 key actions we need to take to fight climate change.  Here are the 4 most important ways to fight climate change.

 

4. Fight disinformation

 

Disinformation is a huge threat to climate change action.  And hunting down this disinformation is a big project at the Union of Concerned Scientists. Big oil companies fund disinformation in several ways.  One of their sneaky ways is to create fake scientific information with made-up research results, and by only publishing certain findings (as opposed to all the results), and by using flawed methodologies.

 

Another way that corporations create disinformation is by intimidating scientists who publish information that goes against their financial interests.  They also create clever campaigns to create doubt in scientific findings. For example, they’ve created “grassroots” organizations in states like California to oppose legislation that targets carbon emissions.  Big oil companies also use their wealth to buy influence among universities and government officials in the name of their particular agendas.

 

So how do we fight this disinformation?  

 

Use your voice to call out these corporations for their misinformation.  You can call them out on your platforms (Twitter, FB, IG, etc) and you can also send letters through the Union of Concerned Scientists.  ExxonMobil, for example, has known about climate change for decades and buried the facts in favor of profit.  ExxonMobil, BP, Shell, Chevron & ConocoPhillips have paid billions to hide climate change facts.  You can read it about here.  Call them out for their misinformation.

 

3. Demand a tax on carbon emissions 

 

“Carbon pricing” puts a monetary cost on carbon emissions.  It’s a market-based approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and it can be put into action at a local, state, or federal level.

 

The idea is that corporations have to pay for emitting carbon and that cost will get passed on to the consumer.  This puts pressure on the market to find more cost-effective approaches to doing business that creates less carbon emissions.  

 

Carbon pricing is already in place in California and other states, as well as in other countries, but we need to do more.  National carbon pricing bills have been introduced but none have passed to date.  Reach out to your Congressperson & senator and tell them to support carbon pricing legislation.  Head to senate.gov and house.gov to find your representatives and contact them.  

 

2. Demand that the US sign the Paris Agreement

 

The Paris Agreement is a landmark international agreement among global leaders to fight climate change.  It’s super important to tackle climate change on a global level, and this legislation accomplishes that.

 

Of course, Trump began the process to withdraw us from this groundbreaking agreement which would go into effect this November 2020.  His reasons?  He cited false information (see above), he doesn’t believe in climate change, and he takes millions of dollars from the fossil fuel industry to fund his campaigns and inauguration.  I guess if you take millions of dollars from an industry you’re expected to offer something in return??  

 

So what can we do about this poor decision on Trump’s part?  Reach out to your representatives & tell them how important it is that the US rejoin the Paris Agreement.  Write to Trump asking him to rejoin the agreement.  And tell all your friends and family to do the same!

 

If anyone in your social circle is uncertain of the value of this agreement, the NRDC has a great piece on how to talk to them about it here.

 

1. Vote.  

 

This is the absolute most important thing you can do.  Vote for local, state, and most importantly federal representatives who will fight climate change and vote on legislation.  Look at candidates’ positions on climate change before you go to vote.  You should be able to find their stance on climate change on their website.  And if they don’t mention it, well, there’s your answer about their position (not good).  

 

Research local and state initiatives on energy & power plants, transportation, vehicles, agriculture.  Join your local climate action network to stay in the loop on important topics.  Head to usclimatenetwork.org to find one near you.

 

This November 2020, make sure you stand up for climate change at the ballots and vote for action.

 

There you have it -how to fight climate change – the 4 most important ways.  I hope something in here inspires you towards action.  

 

Do you have any to add to this list?  I’d love to hear in the comments below!

 

Thanks for reading,

Liz

 

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Are you hoping to make less waste this Halloween?  I’ve got some easy zero waste Halloween ideas that you AND your kids can get behind.  Read on to learn about:

Our 2019 zero waste Halloween ideas

 

Halloween again already??  I’m not complaining – it’s actually one of my favorite holidays.  And although it’ll look different this year cuz of COVID, we’re still aiming for a zero waste Halloween.  Last year we made even more strides towards a zero waste Halloween, so I thought I’d share our low waste Halloween ideas with you.  

 

For last year’s Halloween, we were inspired by Amanda at mamaeatsplants.com.  She described their zero waste Halloween in 2018 and I knew that was what we would aim for in 2019.  

 

How we had a zero waste Halloween in 2019

Zero waste Halloween
our zero waste Halloween

Here’s what we did.  Each year, the kids get a UNICEF box from school to collect spare change and bills that get donated to UNICEF – trick or treat for UNICEF, it’s called.  In the past, my partner and I have done our best to fill the little cardboard box with coins & bills. 

We didn’t want our kids asking strangers for candy AND money on Halloween. It felt like asking for too much.  So we figured we’d do the UNICEF part at home and let the kids do the candy part on the streets.  

 

But this year, we got behind trick or treat for UNICEF, instead of trick or treat for candy.  And one of the friends who came along collected spare change for a couple of other non-profits that support immigrant children at the border.  How cool is that?? 

 

Let me explain how we got the kids into these zero waste Halloween ideas. 

 

  • First, I told the kids what Amanda and her family did – trick or treat for UNICEF, followed by a homemade dessert party at their home.  Isn’t that a great idea? Says mom.  

 

  • Second, I proposed that if the kids decided to trick or treat for UNICEF instead of for candy, we’d have a literal BUFFET of homemade vegan desserts to come home to and pig out on.  And plenty of leftovers to carry us through the next few days, fully sugar-fueled.

 

  • Third, I proposed that the kids could each pick TWO desserts that they wanted to have on Halloween, and that I’d make them (within reason, of course, and with help from the kids if they were inclined).   Basically, we were aiming for a dessert BONANZA.  

 

  • Fourth, I reminded the kids that the fun of Halloween is not about the candy.  It’s about the planning, the costumes, the friends, the walking around, the excitement of it all.  The energy on the sidewalks from throngs of kids and parents walking in the streets, having a good time.  Such a fun night.

    Halloween costumes
    My kiddos in their DIY costumes (Wednesday Adams & Evie from the Descendants)

 

  • Fifth, I reached out to another family who cares about low waste living to see if they would be interested in joining us and being a part of trick or treat for UNICEF with a dessert buffet to follow.  They were in!

 

After going through all this, my girls had no qualms about giving up the candy in exchange for a dessert party with their buddies.  

 

The kids each picked desserts (rice pudding, cupcakes, chocolate peanut butter bars, and cookies). 

vegan cupcakes
Did you know you can whip coconut cream to make a delicious, vegan whipped cream??

I started with a shopping list the weekend before to make sure I had all the ingredients on hand, in a low waste form (planning ahead for groceries always works better than last-minute shopping and not finding what you need in bulk).  And then I started baking some of the goodies a couple of days in advance.  That way I wouldn’t spend all of Halloween baking (I’ve got other work to do too!).

 

On Halloween, our friends came over and we had a healthy dinner of vegan pesto pasta and a green salad – yum! – before we started on our walk.  Kids also got a little dessert before we hit the road. 

 

I was a little worried about how people would feel about donating cash on Halloween for UNICEF.  Surprisingly, no one blinked an eye or had any problems with the request!  Full success.  I forget the exact amount we raised but I think it was close to $100.  Go kids, go!  

 

After getting worn out walking around, we came back home and ate desserts.  Also, instead of counting candy, the kids had a great time adding up their UNICEF donations.  

 

Everyone was happy and full of sugar.  No complaints at all.

 

This felt like a more zero waste Halloween than the previous year.  You can read about our first zero waste Halloween ideas here.  This year we didn’t actually take home candy and then give it away – we avoided that trash altogether.

 

If you’re hoping to have a low waste Halloween this year or next year or whenever the world goes back to semi-normal again, here are my key tips for a low waste Halloween 

 

Tips for a low waste Halloween.

  1. Talk way in advance with your kids about your ideas
  2. Talk about the charity you’d like to trick-or-treat for, or ask your kids if they have any ideas.  UNICEF provides cute boxes but you could make your own!
  3. Make awesome desserts.  My favorite cookbooks for vegan desserts include Vegan with a Vengeance and Vegan Cupcakes Take over the World.  I also love NoraCooks.com for amazing vegan recipes.
  4. Find another family who is on board with your idea.  Are some of your kids’ friends into zero waste living?  Or some of your friends?  It’s more fun with a group!
  5. Remind your kids that the night is fun because of the dressing up & hanging with friends & and (post-COVID) having a good time in the neighborhood.  Not because of the candy!

 

BTW, this year we’ll do something different to accommodate COVID.  We might go on a treasure hunt with hidden bulk candy in the neighborhood!  Or we might just go to a few select homes of people we know and trick-or-treat for UNICEF or homemade goodies at their door instead.

 

That’s what we did last year!  Do you have any other thoughts on a low waste Halloween?  I’d love to hear so leave me a comment below!

 

xo,

Liz at No Trace

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Tour of the No Trace Studio!

 

It’s like open studios – online!

 

This year I was finally ready to participate in Santa Cruz’s annual open studios event.  I was looking forward to propping open my workspace doors for each day’s visitors. I was ready to tidy up my space and set out cold beers & bubbly waters, popcorn and cookies.  I was looking forward to having my inventory neatly arranged for shoppers to browse and shop.  And then COVID-19 cancelled EVERYTHING.

 

So instead of seeing you in person and sharing a real life moment with you, I decided to give you a virtual tour of my new workspace!  So grab yourself a beer or wine or bubbly water, make yourself a snack, and welcome to my studio tour!  

 

 

I’m sooo excited and grateful to have this space.  Since the start of No Trace in 2017, I’ve worked out of my home.  I would take over the kitchen to make wax wraps.  And take over the living room to package large orders.  And take over the master bedroom everyday for everything else.  

 

At first it was manageable to work out of shared space with my family.  But as I got more and more orders, my home started to feel crowded.  My bedroom was cluttered.  I was falling asleep each night surrounded by my machines and my in-process orders and my fabric and EVERYTHING.  I felt a little like a hoarder in my own bedroom.  It was time to move out.  And then COVID hit and everyone was home all day, everyday and moving out got more complicated and even more essential.  

image of original sewing studio
The original No Trace headquarters. AKA my bedroom.

But it finally happened just last month.  Now No Trace is in a separate workspace and it feels amazing to have a little elbow room.  It’s not in a perfect or final state, but it is 10,000% better than being in the house.   So following along for a sewing studio tour & a peek at my wax wrap-making station!

The sewing studio tour

In my new studio, I have areas for storage and for completing different tasks.  One of my FAVORITE parts of my new space is how easy it is to get my fabric off the shelf.  I used to have the fabric on a shelf on the wall above my large cutting table/work table in my bedroom.  So I’d have to bend and reach hard to grab a bolt.  Putting them back was a pain too.  Now I’ve got super direct access to my bolts on two large shelves right at arms height.  I got these shelves off craigslist years ago for our garage and just repainted them to spruce them up a little. The shelves also hold fabric scraps and my inventory.

photo of a shelf with fabric
One of two shelves that hold just about everything.
photo of shelf holding fabric
The second shelf loaded with fabric, inventory, scraps, and more.

 

Moving on…Lots of my tasks start right at my cutting table.  I work with full bolts and rolls of fabric (15 yards per bolt and 75 yards per roll) so I need a large enough space to unroll my fabric and make cuts.  Our old dining table works great.  I also have a cute little ironing board that allows me to iron my pieces and even get into tight nooks and crannies.  I think it’s called a chest & sleeve ironing board and I found it online at Amazon.  I tried to get it from a non-Amazon seller, but they had a 2 month wait.

 

photo of cutting table and ironing board
My old dining room table, repurposed for cutting & ironing & sewing.

After being cut, my pieces are made by either sewing or waxing them.  Let’s start with the sewing station first.  I have two machines that I use regularly, with some back-up machines in storage.  The one with the 4 large rolls of thread is my serger.  I use it for making my napkins, snack & sandwich bags, and for finishing the seams on some of my bags.  It’s a super affordable little model – bottom of the line, really – and it’s worked great – sewing up thousands of pieces over the last 3 years.  I’m including an affiliate link way at the bottom of this page to purchase this – if you need a serger and like the sound of this one, I’ll get a small commission if you buy it.  

 

photo of serger sewing machine made by Brother
This little machine has served me well over the last few years.

 

Next to the serger is my regular sewing machine.  It’s a pretty solid machine with a lot of bells and whistles.  I love simple, old fashioned machines too.  But when I’m fulfilling lots of orders, these bells and whistles shave seconds off each piece.  Like a knee bar – this lets me lift the presser foot with my knee so I can turn my piece without having to take my hands away from the piece.  Very handy.  And an automatic cutting button – saves the time of pulling a piece off and cutting the threads by hand with the thread cutter.   Also super handy.

 

Another thing I love about this machine is the speed control.  This lets me slow the machine way down to turtle speed for tricky pieces with tight spots.  It’s also awesome for teaching my kids (and other kids) how to sew at a slow pace.  I LOVE that.  And it has lots of stitch options and specialty presser feet.  I don’t use much of that but occasionally I’ll sew clothes for myself and it’s super handy to have those different stitch options.  I’m including an affiliate link at the bottom of this post just in case you want one.

 

photo of Juki brand sewing machine
My Juki has lots of bells & whistles and I use them!

Next to my machines is my pegboard for tools and small pattern pieces.  This lets me keep my table space open for cutting and sewing and takes up minimal space.  I got the idea from withwendy.com who does great DIY sewing tutorial videos.  And I found this pegboard in the trash!  I spruced it up years ago and gave it to my partner to hang his bike tools on it in the garage.  But he never used it. So I reclaimed it, painted it, and started using it a couple years ago for my sewing tools.  It’s really convenient.

 

photo of pegboard with sewing tools
Found this pegboard in the trash! Cleaned up & repainted, it works great for my sewing tools.

 

Wax-wrap making station

Now on to my AWESOME waxing station.  I can’t tell you how stoked I am to have a special place just to make wax wraps.  It is a GAME CHANGER for me.  It saves me so much time.  I used to have to scrub down the kitchen counters and stovetop and oven and then kick everyone out of the kitchen when I need to make wraps.  Now, all I have to do is turn on my gadgets and start.  So much faster and easier.  This ginormous thing is a commercial grade electric stove top by Yescom.  It plugs into a regular wall socket but pulls a lot of juice.  Everything else needs to be turned off when this thing turns on, like the hot plate right next to it and my iron.  I use an electric hot plate to melt my wax blends.  Once it’s melted, I turn the hot plate off and turn the Yescom on.  The great thing about the Yescom is that I only turn it on for 5-10 minutes at a time.  It keeps the heat for at least 30 minutes before I need to turn it on again.  And I only turn it to its lowest temperature (about 120F) to make my wax wraps.  I used to use the oven and a series of large baking sheets – pulling them in and out every few minutes.  This is much easier and no more bending over again and again.  Plus it felt like I was wearing out the hinges on my oven door.  

photo of Yescom commercial electric griddle
This electric griddle works great for making wax wraps. It only needs to be on for a few minutes at a time and stays hot for a while.

After coating each wrap with the wax blend, I hang it on a few strings that I set up across the shelves.  I have the strings tied onto S-hooks so I can easily take them on and off when making wraps.

photo of beeswax wraps drying on the line
Wax wraps on the line brighten up the studio.

My space for packaging orders 

The next workstation is my packaging area.  This is where I package orders for shipping and local delivery to stores.  I’ve got my packaging supplies in a little rolling cart and my shipping supplies in another little rolling cart.  This stuff used to be crammed around my bedroom in boxes under the work table and my bed.  As you can imagine, this is much more convenient than climbing under my table every time I need to ship an order.

photo of work table and rolling carts
I built this table! It serves lots of functions, including packaging orders.

I also work on my laptop at this table, like right now while I type up this post.  And I take photos of my products on this table.  This used to be the only work table in my bedroom (other than my sewing desk) but it’s still working hard in here on lots of different tasks.  Oh, and I made this table!  It’s made from a piece of plywood by Columbia Forest Products that free of formaldehyde.  I order some table legs online and attached them with screws after glueing reinforcing squares at each corner.  So at the end of its life, this table doesn’t have to go to the landfill. I can repurpose the plywood and legs.  I think the plywood is even compostable based on the soy-based glue but I’m not totally sure about that.  

 

So there you have it – a virtual open studio for you.  Of course, I didn’t lay all my inventory out for you but you can shop for that virtually at NoTraceShop.com/products anytime you like.  Do you have a workspace at home?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

 

Thanks for reading!

Liz

 

P.s. – I do hope to see you in person in the studio eventually!  As soon as that’s possible I’ll be shouting it from all the online places.

Learn how to fix a beeswax wrap – it’s easier than you think!

 

Is your beeswax wrap not working anymore?  Did it get left in the sun?  Or washed in hot water?  Or scrubbed a little too vigorously?  Or is it just getting really old? Or did you make one but it didn’t turn out great?

 

In this tutorial, I’m going to show you how to fix a beeswax wrap that’s gotten damaged or worn out.

There are 2 key ways to fix a beeswax wrap:

 

  1. Carefully warm it and smooth it any problems.

OR

  1. Apply more wax blend and warm it and smooth out any problems

 

I’ll walk you through the steps for both of these.  

 

If your wrap got a little damaged, you might just need to warm it and smooth it out again.  This is a little easier than applying more wax blend.

 

If your wrap got really damaged OR is worn out (over time, with use and washings, it’s normal for your wax wrap to get worn out), you’ll want to apply more wax blend and warm it and smooth it out.  

 

Wax wrap that needs to be rewaxed
As wax wraps get used, they may lose their stickiness and have areas that need to be rewaxed

 

Let’s go through the steps for fixing a wrap with just a little damage.  You can fix it using two methods – the iron method or the oven method.  

 

If you use the iron method to fix a beeswax wrap, here’s what you’ll need:

  • An iron
  • Parchment paper (you can find a compostable version by Reynolds Kitchen at Target and other stores).
  • Somewhere to hang your wrap to dry

 

If you use the oven method to fix your beeswax wrap, here’s what you’ll need

  • your oven
  • a baking sheet 
  • parchment paper if you’d like to protect your baking sheet.  
  • somewhere to hang your wrap

 

Let me walk you through the iron method:

  1. Place your wax wrap between two pieces of parchment paper.  The parchment paper protects your ironing surface & your iron from the wax.
  2. Iron across the parchment paper to smooth out the wax blend.
  3. Peel the paper away from the wrap
  4. Hang the wrap to dry for a couple of minutes.
Use a string or clip your wax wrap to a handle

Here’s a troubleshooting tip for you:  if you find that the wax wrap starts to stick to the parchment paper and doesn’t peel away easily, try ironing just smaller sections at a time and peeling away those small sections, letting them cool, and then ironing a different section of the wrap.  As the wraps cool, they’ll start to stick to the surface they’re touching, so it’s important to peel them away quickly and hang them to dry.

 

If you’d rather use the oven method, here’s how (this personally is my preferred way).

 

  1. Turn your oven on very low – 200F or lower.
  2. Place the wax wrap on a baking sheet.  You’ll want to cover the baking sheet with parchment paper to protect it from the wax unless the baking sheet will be used for making lots of wax wraps.
  3. Put the baking sheet into the oven for a few minutes (up to 5 minutes MAX).
  4. Pull the baking sheet out of the oven and quickly pull the wax wrap up off of the baking sheet.
  5. Hang the wrap to dry for a few minutes.

 

The reheating process, either by iron or oven, should help repair damage to the wrap by redistributing the wax blend.

 

If your wrap needs more luvin’ than that to get back to working, here’s what you’ll need:

  • More beeswax blend (either buy a bar or make your own blend of beeswax, pine gum rosin, and coconut/jojoba oil).

 

Plus:

  • a shredded that you don’t mind getting waxy.

OR

  • a small pot & clean paint brush that you don’t mind getting waxy.

 

The gist of the process is that you’re going to put more wax blend onto your wrap, warm the wrap, check your results and smooth the blend around, warm it again, and hang it to dry.  You can repeat the process of adding more wax blend, warming the wrap, smoothing the blend if needed, and warming it again, until you get the wrap where you want it to be. 

 

Here’s more specifics:

 

Using a shredder, get the blend spread evenly across your wrap and especially on any worn out spots.  Then apply heat to your wrap with either the iron method or oven method.  Check that the blend has melted all across the wrap.  Once you get it evenly spread, you can hang your wrap to dry.

 

Using the other approach with a small pot and a brush, melt your blend on a VERY LOW temperature just until it’s melted.  Then turn off the heat.  Keep a close eye on it so that it doesn’t overheat and start to smoke.  Wax is flammable!  

Dip the tips of a clean paintbrush into the blend and “paint” the blend across your wrap. 

Dip just the tips of your brush into your blend
Dip just the tips of your brush into your blend
Painting the wax wrap with beeswax blend
Paint the blend onto your wax wrap

The was will start to cool as you apply it – that’s okay!  Once you get a decent amount spread around, you can warm the wrap with either the iron method or the oven method.  Let it warm for a little.  Check the results to see if you used enough blend and if it’s spread around evenly.  If so, you can hang your wrap to dry! 

 

That’s all there is too it!  It’s really easy to fix your beeswax wraps.  It just takes a little time and patience.

 

If you want to learn how to make your own wax wraps from start to finish, head over to NoTraceShop.com/courses to sign up for my online DIY beeswax wrap workshop – you can take it from the comfort of your home at any time!

 

Have you tried fixing wax wraps?  I’d love to hear about it!  Leave a comment below!

 

Thanks for reading!

-Liz @ No Trace

Today I’ve got a special guest post on ways to reduce your carbon footprint at home!  This was put together by Julia Weaver with contributions from me and many others.

17 Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint at Home

July 14, 2020 by Julia Weaver

In today’s environment, there are many ways homeowners can reduce their waste and energy use. Whether it be from planting a garden, composting, or reusing items that were previously recycled, the opportunities are endless. And, if you live in a hot climate that receives a considerable amount of sunlight – like Phoenix, Arizona or Miami, Florida – maybe switching to solar power might be the right option for you. We asked experts from across the country to share their tips on how homeowners can reduce their carbon footprint and live a more sustainable life. 

 

 

 

Avoid cleaning products with harmful chemicals

Consider using EPA Safer Choice certified green cleaning products that are biodegradable and non-toxic. These products will not only deep clean your laundry but they will also remove residue you didn’t know was there. This will help you create a healthier home by reducing airborne chemicals and keeping your washing machine clean to keep it running long into the future! – Charlie’s Soap

 

Reduce the amount of food you throw away

We throw away about 40 percent of our food in the US – food that was grown with water, fossil fuels, money, and labor – and this food waste turns into a major greenhouse gas in landfills, known as methane. To help preserve the environment and reduce food waste, store your food properly, keep your fridge clutter-free, freeze excess food, and compost food scraps. – No Trace

 

Opt for green products

Green products are surprisingly powerful and can yield the same results as traditional harmful products if used properly. Not using products properly is by far the biggest mistake people make when using green products, so be sure to follow the instructions on the label. Homeowners love using them as a way to protect themselves, their children, and their pets from health risks that are associated with prolonged exposure to traditional harmful products.  – Modern Maids

 

Invest in solar energy for your home

Installing a solar system on your home allows you to harness the power of the sun and produce your own clean energy, moving away from the dependence on fossil fuels and reducing electric cost at the same time. – REP Solar

 

The Earth’s atmosphere is exponentially increasing in carbon dioxide levels, so now may be the best time ever to invest in renewable solar energy. Going solar has been proven to reduce your carbon footprint, and is an investment that will pay itself back over time. Now is the perfect opportunity for everyone to make an impact by saving our planet. – Altair Solar

Repurpose containers you would otherwise toss out

Instead of tossing food containers – which may not actually end up being recycled – keep a small collection that can be repurposed. For example, a jar of spaghetti sauce can be used to hold pens or small tools, as drinking glasses, to store leftovers, or to keep hair ties. Even if you have a small space, find a shelf where you can store containers in a (reused) cardboard box and grab one the next time instead of purchasing a new container. – Bev Goes Green

 

Make small changes in the kitchen and bathroom

Keeping a waste-free home can be difficult, but a few simple, low-cost changes can lessen your home’s environmental impact dramatically. Consider the two most wasteful rooms in your home, the kitchen and the bathroom. Try swapping plastic straws for reusable straws in the kitchen, and why not invest in a safety razor for your bathroom. – Jungle Straws

 

Grow your own food in your backyard

Having a backyard garden can reduce your carbon footprint substantially. When you grow your own food it takes less resources to grow and to make its way to your table. But one of the ways we have reduced our resource use even further is by installing a rainwater barrel to water our garden. It was super simple to install ourselves in an afternoon and now we save 200 or more gallons of water every month.  – Sustainably Shelbi

 

Discover new ways to live a sustainable lifestyle

Separating and composting your food scraps can be the first step into a world of sustainability. When you begin to separate your waste into three categories–compost, recycling, and landfill, you become more mindful about what is in all three categories. Then you can go about discovering what you’re actually wasting and how you could shop or eat differently to reduce. Reduce, reuse, recycle-it’s a hierarchy! – Collective Resource

Make fertilizers for your garden

Limit your food waste by creating nutrient-rich fertilizers that your indoor and outdoor garden will love. Bananas are full of potassium, coffee grinds are full of nitrogen, and fish bones (if processed properly) are chock full of phosphorus. – Food Cycle Science

Design an edible landscape

Homeowners can help preserve the environment by implementing edible landscapes into their property. Work with a landscape designer to create a landscape with plants that offer both aesthetic and sustainable nutrition, like a lemon tree for example.  – Prana Nutrition

 

Use a solid-state hard drive

Consider upgrading your older laptop or computer instead of buying a new one by replacing the hard drive with a solid-state drive. You will notice your laptop running much faster, adding years to its life. – High Tech Recycling

 

Wash your clothes in cold water rather than hot water

Homeowners can easily reduce their demand for energy by changing their laundry practices. For example, consider washing all your laundry with cold water. GE Appliances estimates that 75 to 90 percent of all the energy your washer uses goes to warming up the water. By switching to cooler water less energy is used and this can result in a lower bill for you! It’s a win, win for the homeowner and the planet. –The Honest Consumer

 

Introduce more vegetables into your home

Homeowners can help preserve the environment by trying to lead a more conscious lifestyle, ditching things they don’t really need to make more space for the things that make them happier and healthier. One practical way to apply this is to decrease your meat consumption and eat more vegetables, which will help you feel better, live longer, and reduce your amount of greenhouse gas emissions. –Simple Vegan

 

Eat more veggies! The vegan lifestyle has the smallest footprint on the environment, as far as land use, water consumption, and greenhouse gas emissions. Plus, your health will benefit from it, too. – Better Vegan

 

Add a solar awning if your roof is too small

Is your roof is too small to get enough electric power from solar? Try adding a purpose-built solar awning facing south underneath your roof eave all along the side of your house. This would also give a little shade and shelter from the rain as you enter your door. – Harvest Sun Solar

 

Incorporate automation to reduce your carbon footprint

Installing automation technology provides an easy way for homeowners to monitor their device usage, which can save you money and wasted energy, and also reduce your carbon footprint. We’re working on a system that can anticipate people’s needs based on how they interact with their home’s devices and take actions proactively to help before you realize you need assistance. –Josh.ai

 

There you have it!  17 ways to reduce your carbon footprint at home.  Do you have any to share?  Leave a comment below!

Thanks for reading!

11 tips to fight plastic pollution during a pandemic.

 

We used to bring home just one or two plastic-packaged groceries home from the store.  Now, with stores closing bulk bins due to COVID-19,  it feels like almost half of our groceries are in plastic.  Plastic is our clogging our waterways, polluting our planet, killing wildlife, and ending up in our bodies.  Even though our world feels upside-down during the pandemic, there are still ways to fight plastic pollution.

 

Instead of giving up altogether, I’ve put together 11 ways to fight plastic pollution during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

At home:

 

1. If your tap water is safe, drink it instead of bottled water.

 

Avoid the packaging and cut down on the amount of microplastics that you eat at the same time! According to a 2018 study, bottled water has twice as many microplastics as tap water.  If your tap water is safe (i.e., you don’t live in Flint, MI or one of many other communities where contamination has occurred), it’s better for you and the planet than bottled water.  See where your communities stands here:  https://www.ewg.org/tapwater/

 

2. Store your food without plastic.

Certain plastic containers may leach harmful chemicals into foods, according to a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics.  Save your old plastic containers for non-food stuff, like organizing your kids art supplies or pebble collection.  Use plastic-free containers instead for your food like glass jars, pyrex, stainless steel, and wax wraps.  You can get plastic-free containers at LifeWithoutPlastic.com and wax wraps from yours truly at https://notraceshop.com/beeswaxwraps/

3. Choose to cook at home most of the time.  

 

I admit, this one is kinda tough for me.  I mean, cooking &/or washing dishes everyday and night gets old, amiright?  But we try to limit our take out to once a week.  One of our local pizza shops delivers vegan pizza (no plastic box topper!) so we’ll enjoy it and then compost the box.  And we’re trying to support our favorite restaurants during the pandemic.  Normally we’d dine in.  But we’ve opted for takeout in plastic, just sparingly.  

 

I’ve got a few posts on easy, low waste, vegan dinner ideas here and here  and here.

 

4. Keep microplastics out of our water.

 

Put your synthetic fabrics into a Guppyfriend bag or toss a Cora ball into your wash to catch the microfibers released by your fabrics.  You can get a Guppyfriend bag at Ethos in Capitola (shop online here) and a Cora ball from Earthhero.com. Microplastics are polluting our water and ending up in our bodies.  Stopping them at the source is key.

 

At the store:

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Buy larger quantities.

 

If you can’t shop into your own containers, like we can’t right now, opt for the largest portion you can find that won’t spoil.  Pantry staples like beans and grains are a safe bet, as well as flour, sugar, salt, and other baking supplies.  

 

6. Look for paper over plastic packaging.

 

Since bulk foods aren’t available in bulk right now, we’ve been searching for paper-packaged versions instead.  We’ve been able to find paper alternatives for pasta, sugar, salt, pinto beans, lentils, rice, & flour.  We recycle the paper packaging if it’s clean, and compost it if it’s not.  

 

We’re also looking for glass and metal options over plastic – e.g., certain peanut butter and olive oil brands come in large plastic-free packaging.

 

7. Rethink certain ingredients.  

Can you substitute something in plastic for something not?  Can you find a lower waste alternative?  Opt for unpackaged fruits & veggies in the produce aisle.  Now’s the time to show your flexibility with food.  In our house, rather than buy green lentils in plastic, e.g., we’re eating mostly red lentils that we were able to buy in a huge paper bag.  

 

8. If you can’t bring your own bags, skip the bag altogether.  

 

Lots of stores will let you put your groceries into your cart, then use your own bags at your bike or car or on the curb.  We’ll place loose produce in our cart and then bag it at home in our own cloth bags.  You can shop for cloth bags made by No Trace here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In your community…

9. Write a letter to your local paper

AND

10. Write to your favorite local business thanking them for positive steps and asking for more.

Tell them that we need to return to/move towards reusable options in our shops, restaurants, and cafes.

Wondering if your own containers are safe during COVID-19?  The short answer is YES!

 

More than 100 scientists have signed a statement that “reusable systems can be used safely by employing basic hygiene”.  As long as we follow basic hygiene recommendations, there’s no reason to think that reusable containers are riskier than disposable containers.  In fact, the virus lives longer on plastic than on cloth, glass, and paper (

read the statement by scientists here

.  Also, although washing your hands and not touching your face is still important, the spread of COVID-19 is happening through aerosolized droplets, not from germs that remain behind on surfaces.  Spread the word!  

In the global community…

11.  Reach out to the biggest plastic polluters and demand action.

 According to a

report by Break Free From Plastic

, the 3 biggest polluters in 2019 include Coca Cola, Nestle, and PepsiCo.  Break Free From Plastic demands that corporations “reveal their plastic footprint, reduce the plastic they produce, and reinvent their packaging to be reusable”.  Reach out to them through social media or their websites. Ask your friends and family to do the same.  Take & share pictures of their plastic litter.  Demand that corporations take responsibility for their plastic pollution.

 

 

 

 

There you have it – my top 11 ways to fight plastic pollution during apandemic.  Do you have any to add?  Share in the comments below!

 

Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Liz

Top 10 reasons to buy organic cotton

whenever you can!

 

Are you wondering if organic cotton is worth the cost?  

 

Or worried about the effects of conventional cotton on you, your family, your home, and the planet?

 

 

Cotton can be a super polluting crop.  But organic cotton benefits the fields, nearby streams and rivers, local ecosystems, farmers, farm workers, fabric manufacturers, you, and your family.  

 

(BTW, recycled cotton is also a sustainable option when you have it!)

 

First – let’s define organic cotton.

 

What’s organic cotton?

Organic cotton is different from conventional cotton in 4 key ways.  

 

1. Organic cotton is cotton that’s grown in a way that has minimal negative effects on the environment.  This means: 

-soils are protected and replenished.  

-toxic pesticides and synthetic fertilizers are avoided

-crops are grown in a way that supports bio-diversity of crops

 

2. Organic cotton is grown without genetically engineered seeds.

  

3. Organic cotton is grown in a way that complies with the United Nations’ guidelines for human rights.  That means from fields to manufacturing plants, no child labor, no slave labor, and no forced labor is used.  

 

4. Organic cotton is certified by a third-party organization.  That oversight means farmers have to comply with the standards set by third-party organizations. 

 

Sounds great, right?  It is!

 

Now that we understand what organic cotton is, here’s the top 10 reasons to buy organic cotton instead of conventional cotton.  

 

1. Less exposure to toxins

Organic farmers and farmer workers are exposed to fewer toxic pesticides and synthetic fertilizers.  Conventional cotton uses millions of pounds of pesticides per year in the U.S. alone.  These include known and probable carcinogens (OTA website).  Yikes.

 

2. Clean rivers & streams

Organic cotton doesn’t pollute local rivers and streams.  Water treatment is mandatory in the process of dying and manufacturing organic cotton (GOTS standard), but not so for conventional cotton.  You’ve probably seen the damage done from the fast fashion industry to local waterways.  Remember pink rivers, anyone??

 

3. Protects human rights

Organic cotton has strict labor standards whereas conventional cotton still uses child labor and other forced labor in certain areas (EJF report).

 

4. Less conflict over water

Conventional cotton can lead to competition and conflict over water in different regions of the world (EJF report).

 

5. Preservation of water resources

Conventional cotton has led to the depletion of a sea – the Aral Sea – and the loss of local habitats and species (EJF Report).  The unsustainable approach of non-organic cotton allows for this type of destruction to happen.  Without standards in place, the worst is possible.

 

6. Protection of local eco-systems

Cheap, unsustainably produced cotton is destroying local eco-systems (EJF Report).  In the case of the Aral Sea, its ecosystem was destroyed in order to grow non-organic cotton.  Locals who depended on that ecosystem for their livelihood lost that as well.  Organic cotton can only be grown in a way that avoids these types of consequences.

 

7. Fewer medical bills & lower food costs

Organic farmers save on medical bills and food costs (Soil Association Report).  This allows them to save money and invest in their own futures.

More benefits have been found when looking at the life cycle impacts of organic cotton.  A life cycle assessment (LCA) is a study of the environmental impact of a product across all the stages of its life: from raw material, manufacturing, distribution, use, and end of its usable life (recycling or disposal).  The cycle of life.  Get it?

 

8. Fewer greenhouse gases

According to LCAs, organic cotton reduces the global warming impact of growing cotton by 46% through fewer greenhouse gas emissions (Textile Exchange LCA).

 

9. Less soil erosion

According to LCAs, organic cotton reduces soil erosion by 26% (Textile Exchange LCA).  Soil erosion leads to less productive fields and water pollution from the sediment run-off.  That water pollution can impact water life and ecosystems.  The loss of soil also leads to worse flooding. We have to protect our topsoil like the precious resource that it is.

 

10. Lower energy demand

According to LCAs, organic cotton reduces energy demand by 62% (Textile Exchange LCA).  Fewer fossil fuels are used to grow organic vs non-organic cotton.

 

And here’s a big fat bonus reason that organic cotton is better than conventional cotton:

 

11. Income stability for farmers

Organic cotton farmers in India (where much of it is grown) have more stable income than conventional cotton farmers.  It’s because they grow their crops in a more diverse environment, with other crops, in line with organic farming practices (Soil Association report).

 

Before you leave, let’s talk about some claims AGAINST the use of organic cotton.

 

Claims that organic cotton has problems too

 

  1. Organic cotton crops produce less cotton 

 

Compared to their genetically modified cousin (i.e., conventional cotton), organic cotton has been found to produce less per hectare (an area of measurement in farming).  This means it requires more land and resources to grow the same amount of cotton than conventional crops.

 

Here’s the thing about this claim: It’s a tricky point to prove.  There are SO many variables that go into a particular crop of cotton (country, soil qualities, crop rotation, amount of fertilizer, etc).  Comparing the amount grown, or yield, for organic vs. conventional cotton isn’t easy.  It’s varied in different published, peer-reviewed scientific studies (see Seufert & Ramankutty, 2017, for a review).  

 

Scientists have conducted review studies on this topic to try to get a grip on this.  A review study is when lots of different published studies are combined to make broad conclusions across a subject.  In general, review studies have found that organic crops, like corn, wheat, soy, and cotton, have smaller yields than non-organic crops.  The difference can be anywhere from a few percent less to half the non-organic amount (Seufert & Ramankutty, 2017).  

 

There aren’t a ton of studies that look at organic vs. conventional cotton yields.  The most recent review on the topic included four studies (Seufert, Ramankutty, & Foley, 2012).  These scientists  found that in 2 of the 4 studies, organic cotton yielded 8% and 11% MORE than conventional cotton.  And two of the studies found that conventional cotton yielded 35% and 19% more than organic cotton.  If you’d like a few more numbers, that averages to 91% yield of organic to conventional cotton.  AKA a 9% difference in favor of conventional.  

 

But that’s just four studies.  And the average yield difference of 9% seems kinda of small when you think of all the other benefits of organically grown cotton.

 

  1. Organic cotton requires more water than conventional cotton.  

 

Here’s the thing about this claim: according to a report by the Textile Exchange, 80% of organically grown cotton in the world is rainfed.  This means its grown without irrigation or diverting water from rivers etc. (Textile Exchange report).  In fact, the Textile Exchange report found that organic cotton uses 91% LESS water than conventional.  That’s because 1. it’s rainfed and 2. the soil is better able to hold onto water.  

 

So actually, this is ANOTHER benefit of organic cotton.  Make this a top 12 list!

 

If you’re not buying GOTS certified organic cotton, do you really know the impact of the cotton you’re buying?  

 

Do you know where it’s from?

 

Do you know who picked it?

 

Buy organic cotton whenever you can.  

 

And recycled or upcycled cotton when you can – that’s a sustainable option.

 

And avoid generic, conventional, new cotton whenever possible.

 

No Trace uses only organic cotton and, in a few select products, recycled cotton (which is sustainable and eco-friendly).

 

Our wraps cost a little more than the conventional cotton wraps you might find online.  It’s because we use only 100% GOTS certified organic cotton.  Because organic is worth it.

 

What are your thoughts on organic vs conventional cotton?  I’d love to hear in the comments below!  

 

Thanks for reading.

 

P.S. – If you’d like to look at my original sources, check them out here:

 

EJF Report: The true cost of cotton: cotton production and water insecurity.  Available at https://ejfoundation.org/resources/downloads/EJF_Aral_report_cotton_net_ok.pdf

 

GOTS latest version 6.0: https://www.global-standard.org/the-standard/latest-version.html

 

OTA website: Get the facts about organic cotton  https://ota.com/advocacy/fiber-and-textiles/get-facts-about-organic-cotton 

 

Seufert, N. Ramankutty, Many shades of gray—The context-dependent performance of organic agriculture. Sci. Adv. 3, e1602638 (2017).  Available at: https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/advances/3/3/e1602638.full.pdf

 

Seufert, N. Ramankutty, J. A. Foley, Comparing the yields of organic and conventional agriculture. Nature 485, 229–232 (2012).

 

Soil Association Report: Cool cotton: Organic cotton and climate change.  Available at: https://www.soilassociation.org/media/11662/coolcotton.pdf

 

Textile Exchange LCA: Life cycle assessment of organic cotton: A global average.  Available at: http://farmhub.textileexchange.org/upload/library/Farm%20reports/LCA_of_Organic_Cotton%20Fiber-Full_Report.pdf

 

Textile Exchange report: Organic cotton sustainability assessment: Summary of findings.  Available at: https://textileexchange.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/OC-SAT-Summary-of-Findings.pdf

Low waste vegan dinners: what our family’s eating this week

 

We’re heading into week 2 of social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at our house.

No last minute shopping trips for us.

Time to dig deep in the cupboards! And eat what needs to be eaten ASAP.

So here’s our week of low waste vegan meal plans that the whole family will eat.

Very little processed or packaged foods, almost everything available in our local and Bay Area bulk bins, and no animal products :).

FYI: my approach to cooking is pretty free form so apologies if you need strict measurements. I don’t got ‘em :).

  1. Saturday:  Instant falafels, homemade hummus, homemade tahini dressing (Minimialist Baker has 2 different yummy dressings on her site – check them out!), roasted cauliflower, homemade pickled carrots, and mashed potatoes.

It was a little smorgasbord type plate but all the flavors were really yummy together.

A couple recipes for ya:
Instant falafel mix from bulk bins (no recipe, just eyeballing it):
-put the mix in a bowl.
-add a little water, a little olive oil, and stir.
-Keep adding water, a little at a time, til the mixture is pretty thick and holds together.
-Roll the mix into balls – we did about 2” per ball.
-Spread them on a baking sheet & press them down a little to flatten slightly.
-We baked ours for about 15 minutes at 425F because we were also roasting cauliflower. You could cook them at a lower temp, maybe a little longer, until they feel as hard and crunchy as you like ‘em.

Mashed potatoes:
-wash, peel, and thinly chop potatoes
-cook in boiling water with salt for about 15 minutes
-drain over a clean bowl so you can save some of the cooking water.
-mash the cooked potatoes with salt, pepper, vegan butter, and some of the cooking water til you get the consistency you like. We use either a fork or our pastry device that cuts butter into dough :). Use whatever you have for mashing foods.

2. Sunday: spaghetti with tomato sauce, texturized vegetable protein (TVP), shredded brussel sprout salad, sauteed mushrooms & onions.

Easy-peasy spaghetti dinner with shaved brussel sprout salad.
with sauteed mushrooms and onions 🙂

 

3. Monday: vegan pasta alfredo; steamed broccoli with vegan butter, lemon, and salt; chickpea salad with finely sliced red onions, shredded carrots, and a honey mustard vinaigrette. The alfredo sauce recipes comes from Vegan with a Vengeance and is a blend of pine nuts, nutritional yeast, water, cooked onions/garlic, and spices. We used half cashews, half walnuts instead of pine nuts because we’re out of pine nuts :).

Fast vegan alfredo sauce from Vegan with a Vengeance

4. Tuesday: tacos with home cooked black beans, rice, shredded cabbage, salsa or salsa ingredients, if we run out of stuff, chopped on the side; simple guacamole of avocados, lemon juice, and salt.

5. Wednesday: instant chili, cornbread or toast, green salad

6. Thursday: TBD (I like to leave some wiggle room for leftovers or, pre-COVID-19, going out to eat).

7. Friday: pizza dinner with sauteed veggies, olives, tomato sauce, cashew cheese from Nora Cooks Vegan, popcorn, green salad or other veggies.

Homemade pizza with vegan cashew cheese.

 

There’s our week of low waste vegan dinners! All of these take about 30 minutes to 1 hour to prep, but usually we have leftovers for lunches, snacks, breakfasts, and maybe a future dinner. Plus it’s worth it to us to be eating very little processed and packaged foods. So I don’t mind the time to cook. And now that we aren’t shuttling the kids to after school activities or going anywhere ourselves, we seem to have plenty of time to cook.

Are you planning out your low waste dinners? I’d love to hear about it!
Liz