Posts Tagged ‘dye’

Paper Napkins or Cloth?

 

“In a Gentle Way You Can Shake the World.” – Gandhi

When I came across this wonderful quote, I started thinking about gentle changes that positively impact the earth.  One such change is to switch from paper to cloth napkins.  It sounds silly, but here is the math.  If 50% of the U.S. population used 3 paper napkins a day, that would total 450,000,000 napkins for 1 day or 164,250,000,000 napkins over a 1-year period.  That’s a staggering number of paper napkins!

The manufacture of both cloth and paper napkins obviously uses resources and energy. According to a report published by the Environmental Paper Network, however, the paper industry (which includes all paper products) is the 4th largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions among United States manufacturing industries, and accounts for 25% of landfill waste and 1/3 of municipal landfill waste.  Additionally, in the manufacture of paper napkins, the chlorine bleach used to whiten them contains toxic compounds and the dyes in decorative napkins are also questionable.  And, paper napkins are only used once!

napkins

napkins (Photo credit: pinprick)

Cloth napkins alternatively, can be used over and over, often lasting for generations.  They can be energy intensive too, but there are several ways to minimize their environmental impact.

  • Unless it’s organic cotton, it’s best to avoid cotton cloth napkins.  Cotton is labeled the world’s “dirtiest” crop because of its heavy insecticide usage.  Instead use linen (which comes from the fibers of the flax plant), hemp, vintage or your own made from fabric remnants.
  • Reuse cloth napkins for 2 or 3 days, depending on how dirty they get.  Buy different colored napkins for each member of the family.  I jokingly match the napkin color to each family member’s personality, my napkin being green of course.  You can also individualize napkin rings.
  • Wash the napkins with regular loads of laundry with environmentally safe detergent, and air-dry them.  In addition to saving energy by air-drying them, I find I don’t have to iron them!

Paper napkins are clearly more convenient, and for entertaining large crowds, picnicking or eating on the run, they make sense. Just make sure to use recycled paper ones.  According to MotherNatureNetwork, “If every household in the U.S. replaced one package of virgin fiber napkins with 100 percent recycled ones, we could save 1 million trees.”

Most of the time, however, use cloth ones.  Dig out your grandmother’s beautiful linen napkins and find yourself brought back to a simpler, slower time when gathering around the dinner table for meals and conversation was routine. That’s a pretty gentle change to me!

Information compiled from greengroundswell.com, mnn.com and thedailygreen.com.

 

 

Don’t Throw Away Your Coffee Grounds!

Coffee grounds, fine, wet.

Coffee grounds, fine, wet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Before you pour your coffee grounds down the disposal, read this blog and find out what you can do instead with this versatile, nutrient-rich leftover.

  1. Neutralize odors in your refrigerator or freezer with dried grounds.
  2. Repel insects by mounding the grounds into a protective ring around plants that will ward off ants, snails and slugs.
  3. When you clean your fireplace, sprinkle damp grounds on the ashes to cut down on airborne dust.
  4. Scrub hands with grounds to act as an exfoliant and eliminate food smells like fish and garlic.  Grounds are also a good cellulite reducer (see recipe below).
  5. A few teaspoons placed on a thin rag can be used to clean grease and grime from dishware.
  6. Steep grounds in hot water to make a natural dye for Easter eggs or fabric.
  7. For a non-toxic cockroach trap, fill a can with an inch or so of wet grounds and line the neck with extra-sticky double-sided tape.  The scent draws the roaches into the trap.
  8. Add some grounds to your potting soil to give plants and seedlings a nitrogen boost.  They may repel root maggots too!
  9. Coffee grounds dabbed on scratches in dark wood furniture will minimize them.  Use a cotton swab to apply and add a bit of liquid; try a test area first.
  10.  Coffee grounds are a nutritious addition to your compost pile!

Companies are doing interesting things with recycled coffee grounds.  Moving Comfort, an athletic gear company, uses recycled coffee grounds in a fabric called S. Cafe to absorb odors. My husband’s company, Boston Tree Preservation, has an arrangement with Boston Bean Coffee Company to recycle their spent coffee pods. The pods are fed to the worms in the worm farm;  the worm castings are then used to make a rich, nutritious compost tea which is sprayed on customers’ trees as an organic fertilizer, natural fungicide and pest deterrent.

Recipe for Coffee Ground Exfoliant

 (from livestrong.com)

 Since coffee grounds are course, they are a natural exfoliant.  They also contain caffeic acid, which has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects on the skin and stimulates collagen production.

Mix 1 cup warm coffee grounds with 1/2-cup sugar, then add 2 tbsp. olive oil. Rub the mixture all over your skin, especially rough areas such as elbows and feet. If you do this in the shower, put a mesh sink strainer in the drain. Otherwise, the coffee grounds could clog the drain.  You can also just use the coffee grounds to exfoliate.

Information compiled from thisoldhouse.com March 2012 and curbly.com.