American-made bedding options

My parents wanted new sheets, so, of course, I wanted them to buy the most sustainable option! So I ended up doing a ton of market research to find the best option. Here is the answer:

Native Organic

They sell sheets, bath towels, kitchen towels, and aprons. The cotton is organically grown in the US (in Texas). The fiber is milled, spun, and woven in a historical water-powered mill in Mexico (source). Their products are colored through a combination of low-impact dyes and color-grown cotton. The prices are on par with other mid-tier bed and bath products not made sustainably and not made in the US (so I hope that Native Organic makes a profit!).

My parents went with Coyuchi, not a bad choice. They are also organic and, I believe, use low-impact dyes, but their products are mostly made in India (and, surprisingly, are more expensive). The balance was swayed in Coyuchi’s favor because they have sateen sheets in white (the closest Native Organic has is “natural”).

Red Land Cotton is another good option, although I know less about it. They grow their cotton in the US (in Alabama), and make all their products in the US. Their cotton is not certified organic, but the About Us page states that they dry-farm the cotton (no irrigation!) and use sustainable practices.

On a similar note, KellyGreenOrganic and Holy Lamb Organics are cool sustainable bedding companies. They sell mattresses, pillows, sheets, blankets, other home goods, and craft materials. DIY Natural Bedding is the mecca for bedding-related craft materials. They are amazing!! Most if not all of these companies’ materials are organic and sustainably sourced, and made in the US.

Next time you need to buy bedding, support one of these amazing companies! They appreciate it 🙂

A step forward in haircare

I only wash my hair with water (and scrubbing!), which works well with soft water. If you have hard water, though, dissolved minerals bind to sebum in your hair to form a weird sticky white residue. Super unpleasant! It makes your hair oddly stiff. The only solution I’d found in the past was to occasionally (maybe once a month) wash with normal shampoo.

But I just had a breakthrough! Some people claim that washing with cold or cool water keeps your hair nicer (for unknown reasons). Between this and the fact that cold hard water in particular should have fewer dissolved minerals, I decided to try washing my hair with cold water (but take an otherwise hot shower). I wash my hair as the water is warming up.

It works amazingly well! The cold water even reversed previous mineral buildup. My hair is silky and soft without being greasy. It’s not stiff, it’s not sticky. Even my skeptical mom says that it feels nice!

Speaking of food waste…

If you have food that’s going to go bad or that you think you won’t use, what do you do with it?

If you want to eat the food yourself:

  • Eat it before it goes bad, quick!
  • Ignore expiration dates! They are unregulated except on medication and baby food (and even then don’t mean much. 90% of medications retain nearly their entire efficacy 10 years after the expiration date. Even the military ignores expiration dates to save loads of money!). If it looks fine, smells fine, and, finally, tastes fine, then it is probably fine.
  • Freeze it. Many things can be frozen without harm to their taste or texture. This includes raw and cooked meat, purportedly hard cheeses (never tried this myself!), tomato sauce, broth, cooked beans, whole and sliced bread and other baked goods, dry goods (flour, dry beans, spices, etc if you’re worried about rancidity or loss of flavor), and more! Many veggies can be blanched and then frozen.
  • Preserve it. There are many preservation methods to try! You can can, dehydrate, salt, ferment, smoke, or pickle. For example, turn milk into kefir or yogurt. Ferment cabbage into kimchi or sauerkraut. Smoke fish. Make jam.

If you are sick and tired of a particular food:

  • Take it to work to share with colleagues! Alternatively, share with friends and neighbors. This works especially well if you’re trying to get rid of desserts and snack foods.
  • On a similar note, have a potluck.
  • Give it away! You can do this on Freecycle or Craigslist (there is an area for free things under the sale section). There is also Olio, a food-sharing app for smart phones, soon to have a web app as well. Unfortunately, it isn’t as widely-used as Freecycle and Craigslist. I believe Olio is European in origin, so it is widespread in Europe. Amazingly, people also use it in Northern California! Lucky!
  • Feed it to pets. My grandparents always fed their cats table scraps.
  • Feed it to animals you’re going to eat (e.g. pigs or chickens).
  • Feed it to wild animals. Although not good to do frequently, at least some living being gets to eat it.
  • Compost it and use the compost to grow something else!

Wasted!

There’s a new food waste documentary out! It’s called Wasted! and features Anthony Bourdain, a food show celebrity who apparently has a cult following.

The documentary is well-produced and covers familiar as well as unfamiliar ground. I’d say that the overall message is familiar, but the details and anecdotes are interesting and illuminating.

Did you know that people in Seoul, South Korea, pay by weight to throw away their food waste? And Japan has a food-waste-saving pig-feeding operation. That’s pretty neat! Japanese pork producers have been experimenting with what combinations of types of food waste (e.g. veggies and fruits, but no grain) to feed pigs to get the best flavor.

And it takes about 25 years for a head of lettuce to decompose in a landfill D: Not neat. So don’t waste food! If you’re not going to eat it, give it away or feed it to a pet. And make sure to take advantage of composting in your area! If you have a yard, start a compost pile. Maybe your city collects compost, maybe there’s a community garden near you that has a compost pile. Lots of options! Some people even keep worm bins in their apartments.

You can rent the documentary various places online. See the website for details!

Feijoas and chickens

The other day, J and I took a trip to pick up free fruit.

Free pineapple guavas (feijoas) from someone on Freecycle! The fruits have an amazingly fruity, floral smell that’s apparently due to (naturally-occurring) methyl benzoate.

I’m not sure what I’ll use these for. Eating, of course, but they get overripe fast. I was thinking of making cobbler or drying some. Any other suggestions?

On the way to pick the feijoas up, we saw chickens!!! I guess zoning allows them in this area.

They weren’t scared of us at all. In fact, they walked up to us as if they were expecting treats.
The chickens had a ton of space. Definitely free-range, cage-free, and probably pretty happy. There were several different breeds, too. I wonder if any were heritage breeds?

During the trip, J and I stopped by Whole Foods to buy some stuff and to recycle some number 5 plastic through the Gimme 5 recycling program. Plastics are turned into plastic lumber and maybe into consumer products. They also recycle Brita filters!

Fancy coffee drink from Whole Foods.

We used the trip to go to our local Japanese grocery store, where we had dinner. I check out 99 Ranch’s and Nob Hill’s dumpsters on the way. Unfortunately, they both use compactors, so I couldn’t go diving.

Lastly, we stopped at Goodwill for more mason jars! I think we’re finally reaching the saturation point for prepared food storage. At this point, I’m attempting to get enough that we can store dry goods in jars too. It’ll make the kitchen cabinets a lot more organized.

Plastic in tap water and sea water

These plastic fibers were captured by filtering laundry water from washing a fleece jacket. From Patagonia.

There is growing concern over the presence of plastic microfibers in the environment. Here is The Story of Stuff on the issue. Basically, when you wash plastic things (clothes, sponges, plastic containers, etc) or when plastic things degrade, they shed little pieces of plastic. These end up going down the drain to water treatment facilities. Unfortunately, most water treatment plants don’t have the means to filter these out, so they get released into local bodies of water and eventually end up in the ocean.

Fast fashion, which cuts costs by using cheap synthetic materials, is a major culprit. This infographic is from a Greenpeace blogpost.

There’s a lot of worry among environmentalists and marine biologists about potential effects on marine ecosystems, upon which humans rely, and the environment as a whole. It seems reasonable to think that if humans eat fish that ate plankton that ate microfibers, humans might experience negative health effects. However, before now, no one knew for sure if people were being exposed.

A recent analysis established that most tap water contains microfibers (94.4% of all samples in the US). Additionally, another project found that sea salt from various parts of the world contains plastic microfibers.

What can you do to help?

  1. Wash your clothes less. This especially applies to those made of synthetic materials, like polyester, lycra, nylon, spandex.
  2. Buy clothes made of natural materials, like wool, cotton, linen, hemp.
  3. Wash your clothes on cold. Higher temperatures cause the materials to break down faster and shed more plastic particles.
  4. Likewise, line dry your clothes instead of using the dryer.
  5. Use liquid detergent instead of powder. Powder is more abrasive and causes clothing to shred more.
  6. Don’t litter. Plastic items, like plastic bags, break down into microfibers in the environment. While it would be ideal to not use these items at all, it’s better for them to be in a landfill than in the ocean. When throwing a plastic bag or other flyaway item away, tie it into a knot first to make it less aerodynamic.

There are other things you can do, but they require more of an investment. You can purchase a washing machine lint filter (I’ve seen this and this recommended). You can also purchase a Guppy Friend, a (plastic…) bag to wash your clothes in. They are supposed to filter out 99% of microfibers.

 

 

All the stuff we buy in packaging

Someone new(er) to living low waste asked what types of packaging I still buy. I’m pretty sure the asker just meant categories, like cans, glass jars, milk jugs, etc. However, I found it an interesting exercise and tried to enumerate all the things we regularly buy that come in packaging. I’m not counting durable goods that need some research before purchase, like clothing, shoes, cookware. These types of items can often be found at thrift stores anyway.

To find all the packaging we buy, I walked around the apartment looking in cupboards. I could have looked in the trash, but packages that we go through slowly wouldn’t have been included. But I’m sure I forgot something…

Here is everything that my household routinely purchases in packaging:

Continue reading “All the stuff we buy in packaging”

Mattress update: Tufting

After lacing, I cut the string so that every desired tuft location had two string ends on the top of the mattress. I loosely tied the ends with a special tufting knot, as described in How to make a cotton mattress.

This knot isn’t hard, but it’s easy to tighten it wrong so that you have to completely untie it and start over.

Before tightening the string fully, I placed rolled up pieces of cotton sliver on the top and bottom of the mattress underneath the string. This helps prevent the string from ripping through the fabric of the ticking (mattress case).

This part was really hard. You have to tighten the string a lot, and each knot has to be tightened the same amount. Otherwise your mattress will be lumpy and uneven. It took me several days to finish this part. My fingers were so sore!!

Finished! I’m not sure what to do about the strings. If I need to adjust the tension of the tufting, I need to keep the strings long. I’ll probably try the mattress out for a while, then decide whether or not I like the thickness/tension.

The final mattress is fine. It’s not amazing, but it’s definitely sufficient. It’s pretty firm, as expected. Unfortunately, there’s very little spring. Maybe I should have added a thin latex core. I hear latex is excessively springy, enough that it’s not usually used alone.

I haven’t slept on the mattress yet, so I’ll report back once the two of us are more familiar! 😀