If Textiles Could Talk: “Does that color come in organic?”

In a prior blog  I wrote about the unfortunate toxicity of conventional dyes and how the textile industry historically has a devastating effect on the environment and people’s health. As populations continue to grow and eco-awareness spreads, the clothing industry will need to find viable solutions to this problem.

People have been using “natural” dyes made from plant, mineral, and animal ingredients for thousands of years. In fact, dyed flax fibers, dating back 36,000 years, were found in a cave in the Republic of Georgia. Today, cultures around the world continue the craft of natural dyeing to produce uniquely colored yarns and cloths.

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There is a huge variety of natural substances that can be used to color fabric. Having a broad chemical range, different substances require different techniques, and many require the use of a mordant. Mordants are metallic salts that bind the dye to the fabric, typically applied prior to submerging fabric into a dye bath. Many, but not all, traditionally used mordants are toxic, which presents the same problems as synthetic dyes: human exposure and wastewater disposal. Some popular natural dye extracts have a certain level of toxicity as well. Hmmm…

Though natural dyes can produce rich, complementary colors, many of the bright hues we see in stores are not available as natural dye colors. Even if consumers were to accept those limitations and switch to naturally dyed items only, we wouldn’t have enough land and water to produce all the dye material needed to color the human race’s wardrobes.

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The concept of using agricultural waste as dye material makes good sense. Let’s see where that goes in the future. Ploughboy Organics, a blooming U.S. company, is developing a line of organic dyes and textiles using organic tobacco by-products, and claims the process will use less water and energy than conventional dyeing.

Noon Design Studio in Los Angeles specializes in dyeing natural fibers using natural ingredients and non-toxic mordants.

Saco River Dyehouse claims to be the only GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certified yarn-dyeing factory in the U.S., and is now operating in Biddeford, Maine.

DIY. Safe, natural dyeing is definitely doable. If you do it yourself you can control which substances are used. I recommend you research the effects of the chemical compounds of each individual plant, mineral or animal used, as well as for the mordant recommended for each dye material.

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Until truly sustainable dyeing systems are invented and adopted for mass production, I recommend backing the alternatives. Buy GOTS-certified organic textiles that were produced using low-impact dyes or none at all. Support colorgrown cotton, hemp, untreated wools, and recycled fabrics. Look for up-cycled items (clothes and accessories made from repurposed textiles and used clothes).

If items are certified organic to the GOTS standard, they will have the following qualities:

  • All chemical inputs (e.g., dyes, auxiliaries, and process chemicals) must be evaluated and meet basic requirements for toxicity and biodegradability/eliminability
  • Prohibition of critical inputs such as toxic heavy metals, formaldehyde, aromatic solvents, functional nano particles, and genetically modified organisms (GMO) and their enzymes
  • The use of synthetic sizing agents is restricted; knitting and weaving oils must not contain heavy metals
  • Bleaches must be based on oxygen (no chlorine bleaching)

Here at Lifekind, we only use colorgrown organic cotton, meaning the colors you see are the natural colors of the plant fibers that were used to make the product– NO DYES! More on colorgrown cotton to come…

Cheap Is Not Always Cheap

The lesson of the week at my house is: someone is paying for everything we use. 

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It’s easy to recognize this when we teach children to turn off unneeded lights or to turn off the water when their hands are nowhere near the sink.

In addition to the obvious, I like to remind my kids that even the “cheap” items from discount stores have hidden costs to the environment and, likely, to the workers manufacturing the junk. The cheaper stuff is, the more we want to buy. So we buy more cheap stuff that is more likely to break or wear out than its quality alternative, then we do it again. This is a cycle we consumers have become too comfortable with.

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We can all be a part of the solution. Vote with your dollars. Know that you directly support the continued manufacture and distribution of every new thing you buy. Ask yourself about the integrity of the products you want to buy, how long they will last, where they are made and shipped from, what they are made of, and where they will end up when their life is over.

Remember, cheap is not always cheap, and nothing is free. 

 

 

 

Running out of Garbage

The unfortunate problems that plague our world today are obvious to most: out-of-control landfills harming the Earth, fuel prices constantly rising, and having to pay for the privilege of recycling, to name just a few. Implementing a viable solution for even one of these issues would be impressive nike air max penny
, but Sweden is putting the rest of the world to shame by solving all of them so well that now they’re actually running out of garbage!

 

Find out how they’re brilliantly addressing these problems here:

http://www.pachamama.org/blog/models-of-sustainability-sweden-runs-out-of-garbage

Travel plans this summer? Here are our top 7 essentials.

Summer can be a busy travel time. Since having children, gone are the days of grabbing the toothbrush, a change of clothes and some gas money, hopping in the car and driving off.

It’s nice to travel light, but remembering some key items that will make the trip simpler later is a valuable, learned skill.

These seven Lifekind products will simplify or enhance your traveling experience this summer, and they are all made in the USA!

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1.     Keep it simple with our super-clean Personal Care Travel Kit, available in lavender or unscented. It’s lightweight and designed to meet airlines’ carry-on luggage restrictions.

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2.   If car travel is in your plans, be ready with an Organic Cotton Travel Pillow or two.  Your passengers will thank you later.

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3.   Keep an Organic Chenille Throw in your car all summer (along with the Travel Pillow), because you never know when you’ll need to wrap up after cooling down, at the beach for example. I like to keep a blanket in my car year round.

4.   If baby is in tow, you’ll need a Wool Moisture Protector Pad to protect guest beds. The 25×30” Puddle Pad is just the right size for travel, and will slip under any mattress pad and sheet.

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5.   For bathing those babies at home or away, the Bath Ball Dechlorinator will remove over 90% of the chlorine in the bath. Just swirl it around in the water before your child gets in.

6.   Don’t settle for conventional chemical cleaners. Naturally Safer Laundry and Cleaning products come in convenient sample sizes, perfect for travel.

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7.   Grab your favorite pillow on the way out the door. Don’t forget a camera, water bottle and healthy snacks, and you’ll be good to go.

BYOB*, California!

(*Bring Your Own Bag)

Something exciting is afoot in California: A new push to ban single-use retail plastic bags in favor of more Earth-friendly choices. Past efforts have met resistance from bag manufacturers and retailers, but a new State Senate bill (SB 405) is being officially supported by the California Grocers Association. That’s a big deal!

The retailers’ group supports the ban because they say it would provide “consistency and predictability” for consumers, compared to the more than 70 local bans in place now that the group says can be confusing to shoppers and expensive for retailers to comply with. If the bill becomes law, stores would phase out the bags by January 1, 2015. Shoppers would bring their own reusable bags or pay about 10 cents each for paper. (Hawaii became the first – and, at the time of this writing, still the only – state to ban the bags outright, in 2012.)

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While some bags are recycled, most end up in landfills, where they can blow away and end up in creeks and rivers. Many ultimately end up flowing to the sea and harming wildlife and marine animals. Reducing the amount of ALL kinds of disposable plastic we use is one of the easiest ways to help the Earth and its creatures.

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For more information about how to reduce plastic waste, check out plasticpollutioncoalition.org.

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Four Tips for a Healthy Halloween

Every year I struggle with finding the perfect balance to celebrate one of my favorite holidays, without going overboard. I like the fun, but I don’t want my kids to fill up on all of the processed candy and sugar that goes hand-in-hand with the holiday. Here are some tips to ensure your Halloween (and the days following) is full of treats, not tricks!

1- Be the change you want to see in the world. Yes, Gandhi and Halloween make a perfect match! One of the easiest changes for me to make was switching from passing out candy to filling a huge cauldron with toys for trick-or-treaters. Some other ideas are offering raisins, pretzels, pencils or temporary tattoos. The bonus is most kids don’t have to wait to tear into a cool toy; and the instant gratification cancels out any lingering disappointment of not getting more candy. I don’t feel guilty or deprive the neighborhood kids, but I still have the chance to be a good example. If you are a purist, and insist on handing out candy, look for organic alternatives that you don’t have to feel bad about passing out.

2- Have your treats on the side. Adults and kids alike are tempted to over-indulge when surrounded by nothing but candy. A family tradition my parents started is to have a bounty of food available all day, so when the sun sets and it’s candy time, everyone is already stuffed! Our favorites are apple cider, organic chili or a hearty stew simmering (yum), a wide array of fresh, seasonal organic fruit, vegetables for dipping in hummus, and chips with salsa. If you plan ahead and create a similar bounty in your own kitchen, it really sets the mood and eliminates surprise ingredients or extra sugar.

3- Keep busy! Who keeps you busier than friends and family? By turning the focus from candy to good times, memories are counted rather than calories nike flyknit air max cheap
. Play some fun games like pin the nose on the jack-o-lantern, toss a bean bag into the cauldron while blindfolded, play Pop Goes the Pumpkin, tell ghost stories, decorate Halloween treat bags, or if all else fails carve more pumpkins!

4- How to handle the aftermath? Sadly, Halloween celebrations only last one day. The candy, however, can linger well into Thanksgiving! Many dentists turn this sugary holiday around by giving rewards for donated Halloween candy. Another idea is to pay your children a set amount for every piece of candy they want to “sell” you. If the kids in your life are anything like mine, they will welcome any money that comes their way! A nice variation is to trade the candy for a special privilege or outing; 10 pieces might be worth a trip to the movies or staying up past bedtime. Instead of getting elaborate simply let your kids feed the ants. Go outside (far away from your home!) and let the little ones proceed to stomp, smash, throw and destroy the leftover candy. This option lets them burn though some sugar, doesn’t cost a thing, is fantastic entertainment for parents classic new balance shoes, and creates a great transition into sharing for Thanksgiving. (Bring a hand broom and sweep up when you’ve stomped all the candy.)

The Lifekind Crew, Halloween 2011

Have a better idea? Please post a comment below if you have ideas or tactics that have helped you with this tricky time. Hopefully with these tips, and a little creativity, this Halloween will be the happiest, healthiest yet!

What are we packin’?

Recently a customer called concerned about how she should dispose of the “Styrofoam-like” packing material her Lifekind order arrived packaged in. She wondered why we would even use such a product in the first place.

I happily assured her that our packing material is 100% biodegradable, derived from an annually renewable raw-cornstarch material that meets the most stringent environmental requirements for packaging. When I suggested she place a few pieces of the packing material into a dish of water she was happy to give it a try, and while still on the phone, I could hear the excitement in her voice as she watched the material dissolve in the water.  (View the entire process in this video.)

Michelle, loading up the giant "peanut" dispenser

Our Warehouse Manager, Michelle, who has worked at Lifekind for over 10 years, explains that all the packing materials we use are biodegradable and contain no harmful chemicals. This leaves me hopeful that other companies are also choosing to make a difference by using alternative, environmentally-friendly packaging. Making an effort to change the way we package things, and being mindful of the products we purchase and how they are packaged, over time will make a difference in providing greener solutions for our environment.

So the next time you receive a package in the mail, take a moment to see if the company you ordered from is being environmentally mindful. Simply place the “peanut” packing material into a dish of water in the hope you will watch it magically dissolve!

Eco-Friendly Clothes that Won’t Break the Bank

Most of us who enjoy and believe in an organic lifestyle try to incorporate our beliefs into every aspect of our daily lives. Making educated choices in food, cleaning products, furniture, and clothing are just a few ways we can do that. But buying organic usually comes with a price….literally.

Everyday organic item pricing is almost always higher than non-organic. With the increase of popularity in the organic industry, however, companies are coming out with low-cost options. This is even creeping its way into the fashion world.

Clothes are not only necessary, they’re what separate and individualize us, whether we realize it or not. For me, what I wear is a chance to express myself. Moods, seasons, personality, and priorities are all reflected in our choice of dress and represent us in the minds of others. A person is more likely to remember someone’s clothes than the color of their eyes.

If we put that much thought into our image, why aren’t we putting even more into what our clothes are made of?

As the public learns more about the benefits of living organically and demand increases, companies are coming out with organic clothing lines for a lower budget. But price isn’t all that matters! When looking into where products are sourced from, I found it troubling that even if the tag says “organic,” it might still come from a sweatshop, have been imported, or have been fumigated. (Yikes!)

Such issues are increasingly becoming public knowledge. In response, popular brands are unveiling organic lines. Some, like H&M, REI, and Jonano, are meeting the demand for organic choices while keeping prices reasonable. Levi Strauss offers choices that include organic cotton and recycled zippers and buttons, as well as natural indigo dyes. Products from popular t-shirt company American Apparel are made in the U.S. and are sweatshop-free. They’re a great place to find inexpensive basics like leggings, t-shirts, and hoodies. Their cotton products are made with 20% organic fiber, and they’re hoping to bump that up to 80% in the near future. They also recycle over a million pounds of scrap fabric per year and have solar panels on the roof of their LA headquarters. Talk about moving toward greener living!

So next time you’re picking out a new pair of jeans or strolling around the mall thinking about buying that lovely blouse, remember that there are choices in mainstream fashion. Don’t compromise your way of living just because the majority of the retail world does. You can focus on honoring the companies out there who are thinking organically, just like you!

RUBBER TREES ARE NOT BOUNCY

Rubber trees are not bouncy. I know; I was disappointed to find this out as well. As a child growing up on the philosophies of Dr. Seuss, I assumed that rubber trees grew in giant, jungle gym forests just outside of Whoville. They don’t, for the record, and if you ever find yourself in a rubber tree forest, trying to bounce from tree to tree is not advisable.

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Rubber trees actually grow on large plantations, mostly in warm, tropical climates in countries like Malaysia and South Africa. Natural rubber is a sap, and is tapped from the tree much like maple syrup. It’s very sustainable; one tree can be tapped for 40 years without harming the growth of the tree. As a person who always casts her vote for sustainability, I am obviously all for this type of production, and loving the fact that natural rubber is rising rapidly in demand. As a person who works in an industry dependent on natural rubber, I am not so thrilled to find that demand is rising faster than production. This combination always seems to end in price increases.

With more demand from other industries looking for a natural alternative to synthetic rubber in their products, natural rubber is the “it-girl” of the latex industry. Factor in rising demand from rapidly developing countries such as China, and natural rubber is becoming more and more sought after. Unfortunately, unlike synthetic substances, we have to wait years for a rubber tree to mature before it is able to produce sap that can be used to make products.

And so this story ends with higher mattress prices. The cost of natural rubber went up 20% in just the past year, and unfortunately we can’t absorb that much of a price increase and still stay in business, although we wish we could. However, when put into perspective, a Lifekind organic mattress will last at least 20 years…which is 7,305 nights (including leap years)…which is 58,440 hours of restful, organic sleep. That’s a lot of sleep for your buck.

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Dad’s Tofu Tacos

Growing up, I was fortunate enough to have parents who not only believed in an organic and holistic lifestyle, but lived one as well. My sister and I grew up without jarred baby food or baby formula. My parents would use a hand grinder wherever they went, and we would eat straight from their plates. Goat’s milk and kefir were staples, as well as tofu and homemade bread. My parents shopped for organic produce at the local co-op or grew it themselves. We hand-raised pigs, and bought a steer from a local farmer each year. It was a healthy, sustainable childhood.

My upbringing taught me to believe in a natural and organic lifestyle. I eat organically, use natural remedies, and always recycle. One area I never thought about until I started working at Lifekind, however, was my bedroom. I never knew the potential hazards of something so seemingly trustworthy as a mattress. I’ve learned so much at Lifekind, and have unearthed a new dimension in my strive for purity.

My goal is to have an organic mattress made without chemicals as soon as possible, but in the meantime I’ll work my way up through pillows and mattress toppers till the money tree can shake a branch free. This in turn has prompted me to start trying harder in the areas of my life I already consider to be organic, and where better to start then to re-create some of my parents’ dinnertime dishes from when I was growing up?

One of my father’s most notorious and loved dinner recipes is for Tofu Tacos. Not only is it a great option for vegetarians (a.k.a. my sister Ashley), but it’s also a much leaner choice than typical beef tacos. Hopefully sharing this recipe will show how easy it is to make a small change to a healthier lifestyle.

Ingredients:
1 or 2 packages of firm tofu (I like to use two for leftover taco salad)
1 small yellow onion
Salt and pepper
Chili powder
Garlic powder
Paprika
Grated Pepper jack and/or cheddar cheese
Sliced olives
Chopped tomatoes
Cilantro
Chopped lettuce (Romaine is best)
Avocado
Sour cream
Corn tortillas

Drain tofu and squeeze out excess moisture, then chop into roughly 1/4-inch squares. Coat a large non-stick skillet with olive oil and turn the heat to med-high; add tofu. Meanwhile, dice the onion and add it to the tofu. Once the tofu begins to brown, you can add the seasoning: a healthy dose of garlic powder and chili powder, then a lighter dusting of paprika. Add salt and pepper to taste. Turn down the heat and continue cooking until the tofu is crispy on the outside.

While the tofu and onions are cooking, prep the rest of the fixings: Chop the lettuce, dice the tomatoes, pick the cilantro leaves, peel and slice the avocado, drain the olives, and grate the cheese. Fill a small skillet with about ½” of vegetable oil; turn to med-high heat until the oil is hot. Place corn tortillas one at a time in the oil for 10-15 seconds, then using tongs, fold in half into a taco shape. Cook on each side about 30 seconds, or until the shell turns golden brown, and place on a plate lined with paper towels to drain.

For extra “yum” factor, dust the tortilla shells with parmesan cheese while they’re still hot. Build your taco with all the fixings you prefer, and you’ll have Dad’s Tofu Tacos.

Enjoy!