Monday, April 20, 2015

Reusable Cotton Snack Bags - Tutorial

After writing Part 1 of my going plastic free post (here)  I did something I've been wanting to do for a while. I broke out my fabric stash, took the dust cover off my sewing machine, and spent some quality time my neglected SINGER.  I have been eyeing up snack bag patterns for a while, and after watching the tutorial by angrychicken here: http://angrychicken.typepad.com/angry_chicken/2010/07/snack-bags-a-sewing-tutorial.html I was totally convinced that this would be an easy and relatively quick project.

While I liked angrychicken's snack pouch pattern and tutorial (I loved her fold over flap), I decided that I wanted a double layered snack bag with pretty fabric on the inside too...and pretty seams.  I don't have a serger, so that meant getting a bit more creative for a nice finished seam.  Here's what I did:

1. Pick out the fabrics.  I used a different fabric for the inside and outside layer.

2. Cut the fabric.  I made three different sizes

Small : I cut the fabric 10" x 5"
Medium: I cut the fabric 12 " x 7"
Large: I cut the fabric 15" x 10"



(at first I thought the small size pouch would be pretty useless, but then I realized it is the perfect size for smaller items like carrot sticks and raisins)

3. Layer the fabric, right sides together (nice side facing each other).

4. Sew around the outside edge, leaving a 1.5 " to 2 " gap on the short edge. This is the hole I used to turn it right side out.

5. Trim the corners.
Left: layered fabric (right sides together)
Middle: Sewn with gap at the bottom
Right: corners trimmed

6. Turn the fabric right side out, poking out each of the four corners.


7.  Iron the fabric.
Turned right side out through the gap left at the bottom.
8. Sew across the edge with the gap, to seal it up.

9. Working with the outside fabric facing in and the inside fabric facing out, I folded the flap down and the rest of the pouch up.  I know, that doesn't make sense in writing. Just check out this photo for clarification. I used solid yellow for the inside fabric and tractor pattern for the outside fabric.
If you look closely you will see that the bottom edge with the gap is sewn.
That top part that is folded over will form the flap that hold the bag shut when you are done.
The solid yellow is the inside of the snack pouch and the print fabric is the outer layer.



10. With the flap and pouch folded, I sewed down either side of the snack pouch.


11. Trim the threads and turn the snack pouch right side out.

12. Voila! The cotton fabric snack pouch is ready.





Now, if you want to make this a whole lot easier and faster for yourself and you don't care about having pretty seams, you can make your snack pouch with a single layer of fabric.

What I love about these bags is that there are no buttons, snaps, zippers, or velcro.  They are plastic free and easy peasy.  I liked them so much that I made a few for the Glorious Life store.  So if you don't feel adventurous enough to break out the fabric and sewing machine but want to give them a try, check them out at www.gloriouslifehandcrafted.com.




The best part of all was Son's reaction when I presented them to him when he came home from school: "You made them for me!? They are mine? Really?  They're awesome mom! Can I use them tomorrow?".  I feel so lucky that my family rolls with my earth friendly ideas, willing to give anything a try.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Going Plastic Free - Part 1 to My Plastic Free Goal

Our family recycles, green bins, and composts, but every time I open the kitchen garbage can I am reminded of just how much plastic packaging we discard, and I get frustrated.  It seems like everything we buy is wrapped in plastic. I'm not just talking about the recyclable kind.  I can rest easier with that stuff (I think, maybe).  I mean the non-recyclable plastic stuff that has to be garbaged.


Source: Google Images
Plastic is absolutely everywhere it seems.  It's used for everything from bubble wrap, microbeads,  disposable produce bags, shower curtains, perishable and non-perishable food packaging.  It feels very difficult to avoid.  This might just be the case...but I'm going to make a go of it and see what I can do to fight back against plastic.

In my business, I have been very careful to use only recyclable or reusable materials in my product packaging because I respect our earth and I want to respect my customers who value this as well. I know I can do better in my day to day life though. In my quest to find ways to help myself and you determine ways to reduce plastic use I went googling and found a website: http://www.myplasticfreelife.com  where I found a many resources to help me on my way.  My Plastic Free Life (www.myplasticfreelife.com) has some a handy guide with a list of 100 ways to go plastic free. Many of the items in her list we are already doing (insert pat on back), but my garbage can tells me I can do better. It's a long list, but I'm going to walk us through all 100 suggestions with some comments along the way:


1. Carry reusable shopping bags to replace plastic shopping bags provided by stores.

Check. I remember when plastic bags were the norm at the grocery store.  But now, with reusable bins and bags, this one is fairly easy.

2. Give up bottled water.

Check.  We use filtered tap water and LifeFactory glass bottles.  With so many shapes and sizes there's one for everyone. I'll write a post on that later.

3. Shop at Farmer's Market and use reusable shopping bags 

As My Plastic Free Life points out, there also aren't any plastic stickers on the produce at farmer's markets.

4. Use re-usable produce bags instead of those plastic ones.

I am so on board with this idea. I feel like we'll be implementing this one soon.
Here's a pattern for a DIY upcycled cloth produce bag:
From: http://www.ecouterre.com/recycle-an-old-t-shirt-into-a-produce-grocery-bag-diy-tutorial/
...and another one:
From: http://www.deliacreates.com/greeneasy-knit-produce-bag/


5. Buy from bulk bins.

I like this idea and we did this a lot more before I discovered I have a gluten intolerance/allergy.  Because of the worry of cross contamination from the bins I tend to shy away from them. 

6. Cut out plastic bottled beverages.
No problem.  We only drink water (filtered tap water), tea, and milk (dairy for my boys and rice or almond for me).  I've been wanting to make my own almond milk anyway. Time to get started on that one. (Sounds like another post to me!)

7. Buy fresh bread that comes in either paper bags or no bags.

Gluten free bread typically comes in plastic bags in the freezer section.  I have recently found a baker that makes a fantastic gluten free bread though. Perhaps he'll package in paper if I make a special request...or maybe I need to spend some time perfecting my own recipe.......I think I smell another post here.

8. Return containers for berries, cherry tomatoes, etc. to the farmer's market to be reused.

Or visit local berry farms and bring your own containers.

9. Bring your own container for meat and prepared foods.

This really only works if you're buying from the butcher counter, but it's doable. Often butchers will wrap meat in paper anyways though.

10. Choose milk in returnable glass bottles.

I like this idea. I don't know how many places in Canada sell milk in glass bottles, but it might be worth looking in to. 




11. Buy large wheels of unwrapped cheese.


12. Choose wine bottled in glass with natural cork stoppers.


13. Let go of frozen convenience foods.


14. Give up chewing gum.

Apparently (according to My Plastic Free Life) it's made from plastic. No surprise there. Another great reason to avoid it. I knew there was a reason why I don't like it.


15. Carry your own containers for take out food and leftovers.


16. Carry a stainless steel travel mug or water bottle at all times for coffee and other drinks while out and about.


17. Carry reusable utensils and glass drinking straws in your purse.  

There have been very few times that I have been out and needed utensils. I can't see me carrying a set of steel utensils in my purse but maybe a light weight reusable alternative is more likely.
There are many options, like these ones from www.to-goware.com.

18. When ordering pizza, ask for them to refrain from using the plastic table in the middle of the box.


19. Get your ice cream in a cone rather than a bowl.

This one will rarely work for those with celiac since cones are made from wheat, but taking your own container will work.

20.  Keep reusable food ware at the office.


21. Use reusable containers for your lunch and snacks.


22. Choose reusable cloth sandwich/snack bags.

There are multiple stores on Etsy that craft and sell these bags. 
If you want to make your own, here's a couple tutorials:
http://www.myhappycrazylife.com/make-a-reusable-sandwich-bag/
http://angrychicken.typepad.com/angry_chicken/2010/07/snack-bags-a-sewing-tutorial.html
From: Angrychicken.com http://angrychicken.typepad.com/angry_chicken/2010/07/snack-bags-a-sewing-tutorial.html

23. Choose glass/stainless steel food storage containers for left overs.
I admit it, I still have  roll of plastic wrap in the cupboard...but I use it sparingly and usually will use a reusable container or a glass dish instead.  Really.  I can give this one up completely.

24. Preserve food without plastic.

Those plastic freezer bags are handy.  But they are plastic.  We tend to use, and reuse them until they are torn or worn out.  But here is another we can do without.  Jars and glass containers work just as well.

25. Avoid non-stick cookware.

I love my cast iron pan.  We still have a couple coated frying pans though. I would love to replace them with ceramic cast iron when we're done with them.  Yes, they are pricey but I really only need one and at least I wouldn't be cooking with toxins (teflon really is nasty stuff).

26. Choose a glass blender.

My blender is not glass.  Although I'm not about to replace it because it's plastic, if I'm in the market for a new one in the future I will consider this for sure.

27. Spin salad without plastic.

Plastic free life suggests using a cotton produce bag instead of a plastic spinner. Worth a try for sure.  ...right after I make the ones up in #4 out of an up-cycled t-shirt. 

28. Use stainless steel popsicle molds.

We don't buy popsicles anymore. This is more due to the high sugar levels and the use of food dyes.  We have reusable (not disposable) plastic molds.  We'll continue using these.

29. Use a stainless steel ice cube tray.


30. Make your own yogurt.

I have tried this.  We'll work on this one again. Maybe.

31. Make your own soy milk.

I say no to soy because it is a hormone disrupter.  ...but I say yes to almond milk. (see # 6)

32. Make your own condiments.

Plastic Free Life offers recipes for mayonnaise, mustard, and ketchup. 

33. Make your own snacks that you would normally buy in plastic packaging. 

We have a dehydrator and have on occasion made crackers.  I would love to try to do this more often. 

34.  Compost food waste.

Yes!

35. Clean with vinegar and water.


36. Use baking soda as a scouring powder.

Baking soda works really well in the bathtub.

37. Use powdered dishwasher detergent in a cardboard box.

Or check out my reciphere. Alternatively, you could use a homemade powder detergent containing equal parts borax & baking soda, with a vinegar and water rinse. My preference is for the dry version because it is easy and quick to make and works well.

38. Hand wash dishes without plastic.

Plastic Free Life suggests using baking soda or bar soap.
I have used my bar soap before, but never baking soda. The bar soap doesn't seem to work as well on plastic containers (go figure) as oil seems to really be attracted to the plastic. I have another suggestions for this too, so stay tuned for another post on this one.

39. Use natural cleaning cloths and scrubbers instead of plastic scrubbers and synthetic scrubbers.

I would add in not to use disposable wipes which are a synthetic fiber, not to mention the harsh (toxic) chemicals they often contain.

40. Wash Laundry with soap nuts or laundry powders without a plastic scoop.

This one I have concurred. Glorious Life has and awesome laundry stain stick.  I grate this and add it to borax and washing soda for a great laundry detergent. Glorious Life also sells soap nuts (they are not really nuts but rather soap berries).

41. A reusable Swiffer cloth is great for those of us who already own a Swiffer mop.
I don't use a Swiffer, but I did find this article by One Good Thing By Jillee where she uses a sock to create a reusable Swiffer pad.
From: http://www.onegoodthingbyjillee.com/2012/11/make-your-own-endless-supply-of-swiffer-refills.html

ParentalPerspectives.com also offers a pattern for sewing your own using a towel.
From: ParentalPerspectives.com

42. Use natural rubber gloves. ??


43. Check labels of personal care products.

Watch out for those plastic microbeads in your personal care products.  Look for 'polyethylene' in the ingredient label.
Source: www.treehugger.com

44. Use bar soap instead of liquid hand soap.
Again, Glorious Life to the rescue.  I don't use any plastic packaging.

45. Give up shampoo in plastic bottles.
Use the 'no-poo' method or shampoo bars.
Okay. So it's starting to look like I'm writing this article to promote my own products. Honestly I'm not. But Glorious Life has a great shampoo bar.  You can find it in my store on my website at www.gloriouslifehandcrafted.com.  I have also used the no-poo method (using baking powder to clean followed by an apple cider vinegar rinse) and will often change up between these two methods.


46. Try hair salves and pomades in metal tins or glass jars.

There are many options.  But again, Glorious Life makes a hair serum, packaged in a metal bottle.  Although the pump is plastic, it is reusable.


47. Color hair with henna purchased without plastic packaging.

48. Baking soda is the best deodorant ever.

I have experimented with a recipe using baking soda and coconut oil.  I liked it and used it for a while but didn't like the marks it left on some of my shirts. Usually I go without deodorant and use essential oils if anything.

49. Use soap instead of canned shave cream.
Shaving bars offer a great lather. Glorious life has a bar for that too.   


www.gloriouslifehandcrafted.com 
50. Choose lotions and lip balms in plastic-free containers.

Okay. Here is where I will stop for now.  It's a long list and we got to 50! Hurray!


I feel like most of my family's plastic consumption comes from food products.  And with this, I think I have determined our starting point - the kitchen. Let see what I can do reduce my family's use of plastic.  This is my mission and I accept it. I will report back with part 2 of Going Plastic Free, which will include the remaining 50 items on My Plastic Free Life's list of ways to go plastic free.



Do you do any of these things? 


Do you think you could?  
Have any suggestions to add to the list?  
I would love to hear from you.

Follow my blog to stay informed of when I report back with part 2.





  






Friday, March 13, 2015

GMO-Free Girl - Rachel Parent

Not long ago I was introduced to the GMO-Free Girl. Not in real life unfortunately, but somehow, before 6-months ago, I had never heard of her.  If you have never heard of her, well, let me introduce you to Canada's very own Rachel Parent - 15 year old , amazing environmental campaigner. 



At just 12 years old she completed a school project on GMOs that launched this young woman on a journey to educate the world about our right to know what is in our food, and the impact of GMOs on our planet, our health, our ecosystems and our future. She won an award for this speech and since then has many applaudable achievements including:



Rachel's accomplishments are so much more numerous than this.   If this is what she has accomplished by the age of 15, I can not wait to see what she is able to accomplish in the years to come.  This girl is going places! 

So now lets talk a little about GMOs. GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism.  Doesn't sound scary, right? Keep reading and see if you feel the same way.  Genetically modifying food is the process by which scientists alter the genes of plants or animals with the DNA from different species of living organisms, bacteria, or viruses.  Still sound normal, or safe?  Keep reading. 

Source: http://www.kidsrighttoknow.com/gmos/


GMOs were introduced to increase crop yields, by creating plants that were more pesticide and herbicide resistant. Yeah!? No, not really so great.  Here's some more scary info I got from David Suzuki's site (www.davidsuzuki.org/what-you-can-do/queen-of-green/faqs/food/understandin-gmo/) that helped me form this decision:  apparently, the companies that develop and patent GMO seeds are the same companies that develop and patent the pesticides and herbicides these seeds have been modified to be more resistant to (i.e. Monsanto is the seed company and is also the parent company of the pesticide company Roundup).  So, the seeds are modified to withstand increased levels chemical application on the crops.  

In my opinion, you can wash your vegetables all you want, but you will never be able wash off all the chemicals that have been applied to them.  You see, the skin of our fruits and vegetables are much like our skin. They are permeable and therefore absorb what is applied to it. Not only that, the roots of the plant absorb the chemicals from the soil that they grow in.  Think about how a white carnation placed in coloured water absorbs the colour from the water right to the tips of the petals.  Our fruits and vegetables are no different - they absorb what is in the ground they are planted in. 

So are there risks to GMOs? Are they safe?  Many groups and people feel that they are not.  This is not surprising to me.  According to Mercola.com, GM foods have been found to result in tumors, organ failure, gastric lesions, liver damage, kidney damage, allergic reactions, and more.  Some of the other negatives of GMOs that I located in my research are:
  • GMO foods hold less nutritional value
  • the pesticides being used in mass amounts on these crops don't readily break down and  therefore pollute our earth and water sources.  
  • as weeds and pests are becoming resistant to pesticide use, more and stronger pesticides are being applied to counter this
  • the built in pesticides in GMO seed crops have been linked by some researchers to the the dying off of several insects including monarch butterflies and honey bees, which are important for the pollination of many plants and crops and therefore invaluable in the production of our food
So how do we know if the foods we're consuming are genetically modified?  Well, currently food manufacturers are not required to label foods that they produce that are genetically modified.  This is why Rachel Parent founded her Non- Profit, Kids Right To Know.  Rachel and her organization believe that "we all have a  "Right to Know" what is in our food, regardless of age..." . I would love to share more info with you on the dangers/concerns around GMOs and the importance of the introduction of labeling laws, but I am far from an expert in this arena so I'll leave that to Rachel Parent. She does a much better job of imparting this knowledge.  
Please take a few minutes to watch one of her very informative and eye opening videos and visit her Non-Profit's website at www.kidsrighttoknow.com...and remember that this very intelligent young woman is only 15.  Let's help her change the world we live in.  Let's show her our support by Liking the Kids Right to Know Facebook page, or even helping her deliver the message of concern to more people by making a donation to help her with her with the related expenses to do this.

Want to learn more? Rachel's website has several links that can help with that: http://www.kidsrighttoknow.com/education/.