Posts Tagged ‘Organic cotton’

Break The Plastic Wrap Habit!

Plastic wrap is convenient, inexpensive and deeply ingrained as the way to cover and store food. According to Earth911.com, “we use enough plastic wrap every year to shrink-wrap the entire state of Texas.”  Yikes! Plastic wrap is also non-biodegradable, rarely recycled, a derivative of petroleum, and can leach chemicals into the food especially when heated. With a little knowledge and some imagination, you can cover and store your food far more safely and just as conveniently without plastic. Here are some ideas:

  • Glass storage containers like Pyrex, which are stackable, sturdy and microwave safe are a good solution. You can buy them new at any kitchen or home goods store, or take a trip down memory lane and look for the colored pyrex dishes from the 1950’s found at flea markets or consignment shops.  
  • Reusable silicone lids that fit most bowls are another good solution.  They are 100% airtight and are dishwasher and microwave safe.  They come in a variety of sizes and are even sold in the shape of lily pads. You can find them at most kitchen shops.  
  • Bee’s Wrap is a clever new product made from organic cotton muslin infused with beeswax, jojoba oil and tree resin. The anti-bacterial properties of beeswax and jojoba oil keep the food fresh and allow the wraps to be used over and over. Bee’s Wrap comes in 5 sizes and can be found at most specialty kitchen stores or on line.  
  • If you need to cover food after preparing but before serving, why not simply place a dishcloth over it? No need to waste plastic wrap.
  • When transporting a salad or a dish to a friend’s house, cover the bowl with a lovely dinner plate. It makes a much more impressive presentation than plastic wrap!

The challenge is breaking the plastic wrap habit! It’s easy if you remember that food and plastic don’t go together. I’d love to know your ideas for alternatives to plastic wrap. Email me!

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 Some information compiled from http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/QAA401234/Is-Plastic-Wrap-Safe.html, earth911.com.

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Is Your Shower Curtain Toxic?

Don’t be fooled by the “new shower curtain smell” emitted when you buy a new plastic one.  That smell is actually an indication of the toxic substances that are released, or off-gassed.  Most shower curtains and curtain liners are made with polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic, which contains volatile organic compounds (VOCs), phthalates and metals, all of which cause a host of problems like respiratory irritation, damage to the central nervous system, headaches, fatigue, dizziness and even worse.   You also want to avoid shower curtains with anti-mildew treatment, antibacterial or antimicrobial claims.  Who knows what’s been added to make these unregulated claims and you don’t want to inhale chemicals in the shower curtain!

In a study recently published by the Center for Health, Environment & Justice entitled “Volatile Vinyl: The New Shower Curtain’s Chemical Smell”, claims more than 100 chemicals are released into the air when consumers open the curtain packages. The level of total VOCs measured was over 16 times greater than the recommended guidelines for indoor air quality established by the U.S. Green Building Council and Washington State Indoor Air Quality Program.  Seven of the chemicals released by shower curtains are classified as hazardous air pollutants by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Clean Air Act.  The heat and humidity in the shower may make the VOC concentrations even worse.

Alternatives to toxic PVC shower curtains?

Cotton, (organic cotton is even better), duck cotton, recycled sailcloth or hemp shower curtains, are best and available on line. If you can’t find cotton ones, synthetic materials are okay as long as they are made of the more environmentally friendly EVA, PVA, nylon, polyester or microfiber. Retail giants like Target and Bed, Bath and Beyond are now aware of the problem with PVC and are carrying non-PVC shower curtains and liners.  I just bought an inexpensive curtain liner made from 100% EVA Vinyl produced without chlorine.   So – stop inhaling toxic substances and replace your shower curtain now!  You’ll be happy you did!

Some information compiled from  http://healthyhomefocus.com/?p=925

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

A Question from a Reader – Buying an Organic Bed

Dear Betsy:

We’re looking to buy an “organic bed”. I’ve done a fair amount of research, which, frankly is overwhelming. So just wondered if you’ve had any experience with this part of the “green marketplace”.

 Thanks – 

Carole

East Sandwich, MA

Hi Carole:

Thank you for contacting me.  We spend approximately 1/3 of our life sleeping,  (that’s 33. 3 years spent sleeping if you live to be 100 – wow!), which makes choosing a mattress an important investment.  I’m glad you are considering non-toxic materials; conventional mattresses are made of polyurethane foam, toxic flame-retardants, and water or stain-resistant chemicals.  You don’t have to be chemically sensitive to reap the benefits of an organic bed.  I think everyone should sleep on one.

I’ve been sleeping on an organic mattress for 6 or 7 years and I love it!!! It’s definitely the most comfortable mattress I’ve slept on. It’s made of natural rubber (latex) with the following features:

  • Extremely durable, flexible and resilient
  • No toxic substances or ozone-depleting agents used in the manufacture of the mattress
  • No synthetic rubber or other fibers used
  • Warm in winter, cool in summer
  • Resistant to moisture buildup
  • Naturally antibacterial and hypoallergenic
  • Mold and dust free

With my bed, there are three layers of rubber – soft, medium and firm.  Based on your weight and preference, you can custom design the layers.  You and your spouse or partner can each choose your own layers. There is an organic wool or cotton casing (meaning it is grown without pesticides) that surrounds the rubber layers.  Wool provides great dust mite protection, making it ideal for allergy sufferers.  Wool is also naturally fire resistant.

I suggest you look around and try different options. There are many choices in organic mattresses, designed for all preferences and all budgets – those made from a combination of natural latex and cocofibers, those with only one or two layers of natural rubber, organic cotton innerspring mattresses or mattresses made with wool and coils.

I bought my mattress from Furnature in Watertown, Mass (they also have a complete line of chemical free furniture with certified organic textiles).  Organic Mattress in Sudbury, Mass and The Clean Bedroom in Wellesley, Mass also carry toxic-free mattresses, as well as bed frames made from sustainable, renewable and biodegradable hardwoods and organic pillows, bedding and toppers.

(For non-Massachusetts readers, go online and search “organic mattresses”.  They are more available than they used to be.)

Check out my post on “The Green Bedroom” for additional information on organic bedding.

Good luck Carole – sleep soundly on your comfortable and healthy organic mattress.  Let me know how you like it!

Regards,

Betsy

Readers: Don’t forget to send me your saving energy tip to win an advanced power strip from Mass Save!  Contest is over next week.

 

 

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.

 

 

GREEN BEDDING FOR AN UNUSUAL HOLIDAY GIFT

English: Picture of Pure wool blankets

Image via Wikipedia

Need an unusual and green holiday gift idea?  Consider giving organic or natural fiber sheets and blankets.  We spend one third of our life sleeping, so go for the healthier option.  Permanent press, easy care, no iron, and cotton/polyester blends have usually been treated with formaldehyde, which has been linked to cancer, asthma and other ailments. Some sheets are labeled formaldehyde-free, but most do not indicate whether or not they contain formaldehyde.  Conventional cotton is often bleached and treated with dyes, and is one of the most heavily sprayed products, accounting for up to 25% of insecticides used worldwide.

Organic cotton, linen, hemp or bamboo bedding are all natural alternatives free of toxic chemicals, minimizing environmental pollution in the growing and manufacturing process. They usually use low impact dyes as well.  Bamboo sheets actually wick away moisture and are naturally anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. They are perfect for people with skin allergies.  A great eco-choice, bamboo is naturally pest free, fast growing and sustainable. When purchasing bamboo sheets (or clothes), look for 100% Viscose from Bamboo.   Some bamboo textiles are actually rayon, which is made using toxic chemicals.

A beautiful natural wool, organic cotton, flannel or for a real splurge, cashmere blanket or throw also makes a lovely holiday gift that can be passed down for generations.  A warm bed with natural fiber bedding allows you to turn down the thermostat, increasing the eco-benefits since you’ll save money and energy!  A cooler bedroom is better for sleeping anyway.

Natural fiber and organic cotton bedding will wrinkle and costs a little more, but they are more breathable, comfortable and last longer. You can find natural and organic bedding online at Gaiam.com and GreenEarth Bamboo, as well as other online stores.  Bed, Bath and Beyond, Pottery Barn, Target and other major department stores also have a selection.

Introduce your family and friends to a healthier, cozier night’s sleep with natural fiber sheets and blankets.  While you are at it, get some for yourself – you won’t believe the difference!

Click here for more information about “Greening your Bedroom”.

Information compiled from green.life@sierraclub.org, treehugger.com and Green Living by the editors of The Environmental Magazine.