I’ve always been a plastic bag re-user, a choice founded in environmentalism as well as frugality. Reducing, reusing, and recycling plastic is a naturally easy mindset if you are economically concerned and interested in sustainable living. While making the most of the many plastic items that cross my doorstep is almost second nature by now, it was not until recently that I began my journey in earnest towards a plastic-free kitchen.
Like all good things, this journey to eliminate plastic in my kitchen began with getting curious. I wondered about all the little mystery plastics I encountered like milk jug tops or other tiny plastics that are too small or weird to recycle, but were ending up in my kitchen. I did research on the origins of such plastics, specifically synthetic polymers and polyester, and wanted to know more about when plastics came into common use in the household. I discovered that it was largely a Second World War era phenomena. I asked my mother, who was born in 1939, and her peers, if they remembered what they did for food storage when they were younger before plastic was so common. They had memories of eating fresh foods stored in glass in the fridge, storing unwashed eggs on the counter top for weeks on end (most eggs have a protective membrane that keeps them fresh), keeping freshly baked breads in wooden bread boxes, and wrapping fresh produce from their mothers’ kitchen gardens in damp cloth towels.
Armed with this knowledge, I set out to try to rid my kitchen of plastic. I didn’t rush to throw everything plastic away, but I started to make conscious decisions that would eliminate additional plastic items from accumulating in the kitchen. I didn't feel it was sustainable or cost-effective to just toss my non-recyclable but still usable kitchen objects in the garbage simply to achieve an instantaneous plastic-free aesthetic. Instead, I slowly began to establish steps for a plastic-free kitchen that worked for my lifestyle. First, I eliminated buying or acquiring single-use plastics such as produce bags and cling film. Then, I made decisions to recycle my existing multi-use plastics like resealable storage containers as they reached the end of their usefulness and to replace them with non-plastic alternatives like glass jars. Today, my kitchen is approximately 85% plastic-free. My journey, which started with questions and research, has continued steadily forward as I look for creative solutions to going completely plastic-free. Believe it or not, the process to ditch plastic can be a fun challenge! Here are ten changes I have made and that you can easily make, too.
1 - Store fresh produce in damp linen towels or bags. Did you know linen is naturally anti-microbial? When you replace your single-use plastic storage bags with linen you are not only reducing waste, you are also keeping your food fresher and cleaner!
2 - Use a ceramic plate as the lid for your bowl of leftovers. This is a simple and brilliant way to eliminate cling wrap.
3 - Store cheeses in beeswax wraps, butcher paper, or even glass jars. Store meats in waxed or butcher paper whenever possible.
4 - Bake your own bread in small batches and store it in a bread box or a linen bag. Try out a slow-rise, no-knead bread recipe because it takes so little hands-on time. Buy bread at the farmers market or bakery, ask for no plastic, and wrap bread in a linen storage bag or towel instead.
5 - Buy dry goods in bulk whenever possible. Bring your own containers for bulk goods to the store. Great solutions for containers are cotton or linen bags, re-useable glass containers, or paper bags.
6 - Shop for foods that aren't packaged in plastic. This is a tough one! Look for items that don't need packaging at all or things that are packaged in recyclable or re-useable materials like paper boxes, paper bags, cans, or glassware.
7- Use less plastic in your freezer. Invest in some re-useable glassware designed for cold storage. And did you know you can freeze leftovers in glass mason jars? Leave plenty of head room in the jar and refrigerate well before putting in the freezer. Warm up the glass slowly when you remove it to thaw so it doesn't crack.
8 - Look for stainless steel, ceramic, porcelain enamel, or cast iron pans that are more durable and not coated with plastic derivatives that make them non-stick. Choose wooden or metal utensils instead of plastic items for stirring your foods.
9 - Instead of disposable paper products or polyester fiber napkins, buy napkins that are 100% natural fiber like our linen and cotton napkins. Linen napkins dress up any table!
10 - Give up single-use plastic garbage bags. Yes, you heard me! It's easier to give up garbage bags if you use a smaller garbage bin, recycle as much as you can, buy items with less packaging waste, and find ways to compost produce waste. When you're going plastic-free, you'll already notice less packaging waste in your garbage stream and you will be making choices that decrease your waste volume, so why not use a smaller can? With smaller garbage bins, you can even re-use paper grocery bags instead of buying new plastic garbage bags. You can also choose to just set the whole garbage bin by the curb and rinse it out later instead of using a separate plastic liner! And, of course, finding a way to compost makes the garbage bag dilemma even easier because you will have less messy, wet food waste to deal with (and composting is a whole separate blog post!).
Enjoy the journey! Comment and let me know your favorite tips for going plastic-free!
The Winter Solstice is a time to enjoy the cozy silence of the year's longest night and to set intentions for the lengthening days ahead. I like to take this time to reflect on the growth patterns I’ve set and groundwork I’ve prepared in previous seasons and to start planning for the future. Looking back at the year’s hard work helps me see and re-see that the path forward can be one of regeneration.
At the kitchen garden series, I’ve always been focused on supporting urban agriculture, reducing waste at the manufacturing level, hiring locally and using natural fibers. Over the years, my mission has come to include designing products that reduce the use of single-use and plastic disposables in homes and restaurants. I think a lot about the idea that all textiles come from the earth, whether they are made from plant-based fibers, fibers from animal wools or furs, or synthetics derived from petroleum drawn from the deep cores of the planet. The systems for getting textiles into our hands can be systems of renewal or systems of destruction. I want to build a business community that works to make renewal the norm. I want to help create better systems that enrich and connect thriving local living economies that are part of healing the planet. To this end, in the coming year, I’ll deepen my commitment to local growers, and continue making sustainable textiles more accessible.
One project in particular has helped me see through how to build better systems of textile regeneration. The flax growing project I started this year in collaboration with Emma Cunniff from Kneehigh Farm in my little corner of the world has been transformative. I am proud that I aspired to start cultivating a plant-based fiber supply chain on a diversified organic vegetable farm. Come spring of 2021, our Flax Project will be growing and growing and growing! Before we know it we will be able to offer locally grown and manufactured textiles! I’m excited to be sharing news about the flax project and other online offerings in 2021! Look for some special workbooks and more DIY projects soon and keep an eye out for seasonal surprises!
Thank you for following along and helping me grow the kitchen garden series. I’m looking forward to staying connected to all of you through this work of renewal in the year ahead. Happy Solstice, may you enjoy all the bright blessings of the holiday season!
Gift giving has long been a way to connect us to one another, allowing us to express our feelings through tokens of affection and helping strengthen relationships. Sending a beautiful thoughtfully chosen or carefully crafted physical object to a friend or loved one is a lovely way to bring worlds a little closer. My favorite gifts are part of my daily rituals like a mug that brings memories of a dear friend into my morning coffee routine, a woolen scarf that keeps me warm on a frosty winter morning, or a beautiful vase I fill with celebratory flowers. I love to include food in my rituals, too! I relish giving and receiving holiday gifts that taste good and help me feel a personal connection to the maker. Some of my favorite food gifts are simple things like fragrant local honey, bread from my favorite bakery, or canned goods from the local farm.
In the spirit of the giving season, share some joy in giving gifts from the heart that will be used in your loved ones’ daily kitchen culinary rituals. Try pairing some of our lovely textiles with a local food item to make a gift extra delicious! Make a gift a bit more personal and use our linens as an elegant alternative to wrapping paper. Wrap up some flavored vinegars from the market in our tea towels or fill a produce bag with homemade treats from a local candy shoppe. Combine some of our cocktail napkins with some artisanal infused spirits or give your favorite baker one of our aprons! You can even shop one of our holiday gift bundles for an all inclusive combo of beautiful linens highlighting good food and homemade kitchen delights.
Whether you buy napkins from us or decide you need to support us in other ways this year, we want to let you know that we appreciate all that you do. We know gift giving is not just about the material goods. We built our business on the belief that being kind and generous to our fellow beings is a force for social good. We understand that this time of year can be difficult for many and it might be hard to feel generous. When you refer your friends to us or share our blog posts or share posts on social media not only are you supporting our small business, know that you are also giving back to a larger community. Your interest and referrals help us create opportunities for others. Your investment in our work helps us collaborate with other local makers and expand our revitalization of a local textile industry through our flax project. Your purchases mean that we can continue our annual support to urban farms in our city by donating 10% of our annual profits to local growers. Thank you for helping us grow a reciprocal relationship to our local community through the ancient art of giving.
At the kitchen garden series we’re thinking about how to honor the systems that feed us, and what we can do to make the most of every morsel as the holiday season approaches and the harvest brings a cornucopia of produce into our homes.
Throughout the year, up to one-third of all food produced in America ends up in the garbage. Sometimes a farm had a great growing season and underestimated demand, so they have too much of a good thing. Sometimes food is dumped when the farmer has a crop that is slightly irregular or imperfect looking. Some food gets thrown out between the farm and the grocery store in transport. More food is discarded at the grocery store when certain foods don’t sell well. And more food is wasted in our homes because we forgot it in the refrigerator or it was hidden behind something in the crisper drawer.
To reduce food waste in your kitchen this season, you can start by making some simple changes in your daily food purchasing cycle. For an easy change, try out a CSA group (community supported agriculture) in your area for some ‘ugly’ vegetables or shop for your groceries at local farm stands and farmers markets. Plan your menu to use every part of the goods you bring home from the market. Eat the beet greens with local cheese baked in a tart, make carrot top pesto with backyard walnuts, enjoy some radish green soup, or just make a big pot of vegetable stock with your food scraps. And of course, think about how to better store your food wisely to keep it fresher longer.
Our linen produce bags, bread bags, and tea towels are great for all sorts of food storage and can help kickstart your holiday food mindfulness journey. Our linens can help you set a sustainable table this holiday season, honor the natural resources used to produce your food, and send gratitude to the people who labored to bring it to your tables. Let us help your food stay fresher and give you something to feel good about during big holiday feasts.
On every equinox, night and day are approximately equal in duration as the sun centers directly over the earth's equator. This ancient symmetry of our rotating planet reminds us that we must find new ways to restore balance as we move from season to season.
The 2020 spring equinox occurred on March 19 when the pandemic shifted our everyday lives out of sync and rapidly brought major halts to people's structures all over the globe. Disruptions have continued through the summer as life and death continues to hang in the balance. Changes are arriving not just from the pandemic, but from climate disasters and social-justice revolution, and these changes have begun challenging our priorities, forcing us to find new methods to work, reorganizing how we play, learn and stay connected. Some of the changes have been exhilarating as we elevate what is important and necessary and discard what is no longer needed. Some of the changes have been devastating as we have seen lives lost, families fractured, and large parts of our environment destroyed by floods and fires. Balance has definitely been scarce!
I know we’re all exhausted by the many challenges of the last six months. The upcoming autumn equinox reminds us there is much work to be done to restore equilibrium to our communities and to the natural world. For me, the upcoming fall equinox signals an invitation to appreciate the relative quiet of nature as I notice the sensation of the evening lengthening to meet the day. I find myself looking for simple ways to restore serenity in my daily routines like enjoying a new warming tea blend at my mid-day break or shifting my daily schedule to take advantage of the shortening daylight hours. I am getting reacquainted with my favorite recipes for the season, savoring the flavors of the fall crops. I skip the fall garden clean up, leaving the perennial seeds and leaf litter for the birds to enjoy as the nights get colder. I step outside more often to notice color changes in the leaves and take note of my garden's changes. I take time to rest so I can prepare myself for what comes next because there is still much on the horizon. The equinox nudges me to remember symmetry and to find grace by inviting more calm into the chaos.
This Labor Day season, I am considering how the hard work of many has shaped the American nation and how we as consumers and business owners in the American economy might better consider how we distribute our hard earned money. Spending a little bit more for products made in America is not a new idea, but recently it’s started to gain some traction with many of us as we try to return to a more conscientiously driven economy. As a consumer, I don’t mind paying ‘a little bit more’ if I know that my money goes to insure that my neighbors are paid a living wage, have food and home security, access to healthcare and nutrition, and can give back to municipal services like schools and food banks.
While I applaud the idea of “made in America” as a marketing tool that supports businesses in our communities and reclaims something vital to our nation, it is easy to assume that something American made is sustainably and ethically produced. Currently, claiming that something is “made in America” does nothing to insure that products are responsibly made. There are many American factories that do not care for the value of their workforce or their impact on the environment. There are industries in America that continue to violate safety standards, pay low wages without benefits, and perpetuate a corporate culture of exploitation, while they pollute the environment. Even with our complex history of labor laws and fair trade and environmental protection, there are popular American businesses that are still cutting corners on environmental safety regulations and exploiting the workforce in order to reduce prices to consumers.
Like many other small businesses right now, I am thinking a lot about economics, climate change, and financial security as we inch closer to the end of the year. I am also thinking about how asking shoppers to pay ‘a little bit more’ for something that is made in America isn’t enough. I believe that the value of fair wages, supporting a local and sustainable economy, and compensation for labor should be part of a transparent “made in America” marketing plan if we are to shift to a more ethical system. Using my business as an example, our human resources workforce includes myself, two cut-and-sew businesses, three individual independent contractors who support different aspects of the business, and an independently contracted marketing firm. Every individual that works for me lives here in America and is paid a living wage. I run the business out of my home and try to produce ethically, recycle goods, design for zero waste, and invest in my community. I think about where my materials are produced and how aspects of the business might impact my local environment. But, as the business owner, I am the only one regularly compensated at or below minimum wage, which is a sacrifice I make to grow the business and my equity in it. I take less compensation because I want to help produce items that reflect the value of labor, the importance of environmentally friendly materials, and a thoughtful and transparent approach to running a business.
And what bearing does any of this have on the cost of goods sold? It takes more effort for American businesses like mine to make ethical choices, but the payoff is better in the long run when you consider fair wages, environmentally friendly practices, and lowering the carbon footprint. Let’s take a look at how this adds up to the prices of my products. I’ll use my linen market bag as an example because it most closely mirrors my averages.
With this tiny profit margin, I can’t justify wholesaling my products and still remain committed to slow growth and to the health and wealth of my community, but I want to do a little bit more by structuring my textile business as a way to truly celebrate items that are ethically made in America and good for the environment. I want to support a better, more sustainable economic system by giving consumers access to products made from heirloom quality textiles that cost a little bit more, but will last a lot longer and maybe mean a lot more when we say they are “made in America”.
It's a marathon!
This pandemic has turned out to be a marathon instead of the sprint we were all hoping for! Like many of you, the thrill of all this extra time at home is fading for me and we're all looking for positive ways to make the old homestead feel a little bit new again or maybe just looking for some distractions.
Kick plastic out of your kitchen
Maybe you've noticed how much more plastic waste is in your kitchen as you spend more time social distancing at home. Our essential kitchen collection will keep you moving towards a plastic-free kitchen even in these difficult times. With the great combination of our three best selling kitchen textiles, you can leave the plastic bags behind, keep your produce fresh longer, never run out of coffee filters again, and ditch the paper towels!
Discover the secret powers of linen
Support local small businesses
I have also been thinking more about the importance of supporting local, small businesses like my own as I spend time closer to home. Just like me, many small businesses pivoted quickly online and shifted gears away from in-person interaction. Things you can easily do from home to support the local economy and keep the community resilient: shop directly online with makers, order for curbside pickup or home delivery, direct message your favorite boutiques and ask if they will ship your favorite products (usually, they will!), or buy gift certificates for later dates.
Here are some of my favorite things from my favorite businesses:
- Good books from Uncle Bobbies Coffee & Books
- Best undies ever from Danu Organics
- Potion cups from Clarissa Eck
- Cotton towels from Cuttalossa
- New rain boots from Harvey Oak Mercantile (technically not in my house ... but oh so good!)
beautiful • sustainable • practical
With the changing seasons upon us and our minds on long term security, it’s a good time to make some small home refreshes while still keeping an eye towards sustainability. As you spend more time in your kitchens and home spaces, take more time with your favorite objects and consider long-term ways you can shift your spending from big corporations to the local economy.