Zero-Waste Kitchen: Towels, Napkins, and Rags

At the Davis Food Co-op, there are many designs of kitchen towels! Or buy some pretty fabric and make some yourself! Stick to 100% cotton or linen to ensure that they are commercially compostable once they’ve run their course. 

Carry a cloth napkin with you! Then you can avoid paper napkins when you get takeout or during your lunch break!

Making your own Rags

Materials:

  • Old Cotton Shirts
  • and/or Old kitchen towels
  • Good scissors
  • Needle or sewing machine and thread (optional)

Hold onto your old 100% cotton T-shirts and cut them into rags! Old kitchen towels that are stained also make great rags! Start by cutting off the sleeves and cutting out any seams. The best rags are 6-8 inch squares. Start by making the larger rags, and use the sleeves and odd spots to make small rags. Do not worry about making every rag a square, these are not for show and any shape will do! The small rags are great for small messes and for cast iron care!

Use up the whole shirt! There is no need to cut off the bottom hems.

Cut your kitchen towel into 2 or 4 rectangles, depending on how big you want them. it is nice to have a variety of sizes! Use your needle and thread or sewing machine to hem the edges. Fold ¼ inch of each side in and use a simple stitch to hold it in place. A zig-zag stitch will work the best to stop strings and runners from coming loose. 

Two rags from one very old dish towel. I folded the raw edges over and used a cross-stitch on my sewing machine to keep it from fraying.

Tips:

  • Keep a separate bag for dirty rags. The rags are often covered in oil from a cast iron, dust from the bathroom, and various kitchen messes that you do not want staining your clothes! Once your stack is running low, it is time to wash them all including the bag! 
  • The great thing about using cotton, if you ever clean something that seems to gross to keep the rags, toss them in your city compost bin! 

Why this Makes a Difference

More than 13 billion pounds of paper towels are used each year in the USA. At the Davis Food Co-op alone, 4,491 units (single rolls or multipacks) of paper towels were sold in 2019. Rags are a great way to limit or completely stop your need for paper towels!

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Make and Maintain your Own Beeswax Wraps!

Beeswax wraps are a great way to eliminate or limit plastic use in the kitchen. They make great bowl covers and can even replace ziplock bags! We have some premade in our Kitchen section of the Co-op and at the end of this blog, you can learn how to refresh them and keep them usable!

Wash your wraps with cold water. Using soap and a sponge will cause them to deteriorate faster, so only use if necessary. Often times, rinsing your wrap is enough! Do not use hot water or a scrub brush, it will cause the wax to come off the cloth.

Materials:

  • Cotton fabric
  • Beeswax pellets or block
Use a cheese grater to turn a block into pellets

Three methods:

  1. Oven and Cookie sheet 
  2. Paintbrush and Pot or Crockpot
  3. Parchment Paper and Iron

Cut your fabric into various sizes; 6” X 6”, 8” X 8”, or any special sizes you may need, I have a special 12” X 16” wrap for my 9” X 13” pyrex dish.

Oven and Cookie Sheet method

  1. If you are using a block, use a cheese grater or knife to finely chop
  2. Preheat oven to 300F
  3. Place a wrap or two, however many will fit without touching on your sheet and sprinkle some of the beeswax pellets on top. (see photo)
  4. Place in the oven for 30-50 seconds, until the pellets have all melted then remove from the oven. 
  5. Do not let the wraps cool on the pan. Carefully pick them up by the corners and place on a cooling rack (cookie cooking rack or collapsable clothes rack workes well).
  6. Once cooled (which only takes about a minute!) inspect to see if you added enough wax. The wrap should be coated lightly on both sides, with no bare spots.
  7. I think it is helpful to crumple them in a ball a few times and flatten back out before first use. 
Sprinkle the cloth with pellets, the more your use the thicker the wax coating will be

Crumble in a ball after it has cooled the first time you use it.

Paint Brush and Pot method

Beeswax cools very quickly, this method does not work well in the winter! The wax cools too quickly on the brush. Do this method in a warm place.

  1. Place the pellets or block in a double boil pot set up or a crockpot. 
  2. Once melted, use a paintbrush to lightly coat both sides of the wrap. 
  3. Once cooled (which only takes about a minute!) inspect to see if you added enough wax. The wrap should be coated lightly on both sides, with no bare spots.
  4. I think it is helpful to crumple them in a ball a few times and flatten back out before first use. 

Parchment Paper and Iron method

  1. If you are using a block, use a cheese grater or knife to finely chop
  2. Place a piece of fabric on a piece of parchment paper, sprinkle some pellets on top and then top with another piece of parchment. 
  3. Iron on low for 15-20 seconds or until all the pellets have melted.
  4. Let them cool for a few seconds then place on a cooling rack (cookie cooking rack or collapsable clothes rack workes well).
  5. Once cooled (which only takes about a minute!) inspect to see if you added enough wax. The wrap should be coated lightly on both sides, with no bare spots.
  6. I think it is helpful to crumple them in a ball a few times and flatten back out before first use. 

How to Keep your (handmade or store-bought) wraps coated and sticky!

After a while, your wrap will gradually become less stick and have less beeswax coating. You can simply recoat it! The oven or parchment paper and iron methods work the best for re-coating!

Written by Madison Suoja, Education and Outreach Specialist

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Why Glass Jars Make Going Plastic-Free Easy

(7/12/20: Unfortunately the Davis Food Co-op is not allowing outside containers such as jars right now because of the Covid-19 pandemic. This page will be updated once the situation has changed and outside containers are allowed in our store once more.)

There is a truth about going plastic-free that none can deny, which is that it takes a certain level of preparation. If you want to avoid reaching for plastic bags, cutlery, or straws out of convenience then you need to have brought your own sustainable version along with you or be willing to go without. And going without isn’t always an option. 

But what one quickly realizes is that toting around their own sustainable silverware, to-go ware, and a stash of reusable bags takes up a fair bit of space. This is why it is important to find ways to optimize your strategy for going plastic-free to make it feel as easy for you as possible. That’s where glass jars come in.

Many people find when going zero-waste that glass jars are the swiss army knives of storage whether it’s for dry goods in your pantry or taking your lunch on the go. If you take your coffee and lunch in a couple of jars you can rinse them out and hit the bulk section of the grocery store.

Perfect for taking coffee or lunch on the go

Of course, there are many amazing options for this purpose out there already. From stainless steel tiffins to stasher bags to candy-colored Klean Kanteens, we are certainly living in an age where eco-friendly to-go ware is abundant. So why choose to use a glass container? Because it is extremely cheap and can suit just about any purpose you can think of.

As was stated above a good rinse is all that is necessary to transition your jar from your lunch container to your coffee cup to your shopping vessel. This means that you have less specialized items that you need to buy to go plastic-free and you end up carrying around less stuff.

If you haven’t made a rainbow salad in a jar, pasta salad in a jar, overnight oats, or chia seed pudding before we couldn’t recommend it more. The end result is fewer dishes to wash and a photo-worthy meal.

Great for grocery shopping

A mason jar is typically the perfect companion to shopping in the Bulk section of the grocery store. While the Co-op is not currently allowing outside containers in the store yet, now is the perfect time to be comping up with new strategies for sustainability once the current crisis is over. Once we have made sure that the health of our community has been protected we need to make sure to safeguard the health of our planet as well. And shopping in the Bulk department isn’t just good for the planet, it’s good for your wallet. By skipping the packaging you also avoid price markups and can buy the exact quantity of an item that you need without any going to waste.

When shopping in Bulk you’ll want to bring as many jars with you as you can carry. At the Davis Food Co-op, the Bulk section is full of amazing options for grains, beans, nuts, and even candy. You’re sure to find something you didn’t expect that you’ll want to try!

All you need to do to use your jars in Bulk is to write the tare weight, which can be determined with a scale located in Bulk, and the product PLU. There is masking tape for this purpose available in the Bulk Department. They’ll know what to do with all of the numbers at the checkout.

If you’re a pro at bringing your jar and know what your staple items are you can always put the tare and PLU on your jars with a label maker or write them on the lid with a sharpie to streamline the process.

Clear Kitchen Organization

If you use your mason jar to stock up on your favorite treats or staple pantry items at the store, unloading your items is a breeze. No need to open boxes and tear through layer after layer of plastic packaging, all you do once you get home is put your items away in your cupboards. But even if weren’t able to shop in bulk on your last trip to the store your glass jars can still come in handy in your pantry.

Decanting your grocery items into glass jars not only removes the visual clutter of all the packaging but also allows you to better visually assess what you have stocked. Most importantly though, decanting helps you extend the shelf-life of the products you have purchased.

Does this mean I need to go out and buy a bunch of mason jars?

Not at all! There are so many products that are packaging in glass jars you are likely to already be buying that it is likely unnecessary that you’d need to go out of your way to buy jars themselves. From tomato sauce to yogurt or even ice cream, there are many products that are sold in glass jars that would be convenient for you to wash and reuse. If you decide that you’re committed to the #jarlife then by all means buy some for yourself, just don’t forget that you can still find them in great condition secondhand! We also sell many different varieties of glass jars here at the Co-op to suit whatever needs you might have.

We hope that you found these tips helpful, and if you already are aware of the wonder of glass jars then please share this article with someone who needs some inspiration to reduce their plastic use! Share your jar meals and hacks with us on Facebook or Instagram using the hashtag #dfcplasticfree.

Written by Rachel Heleva, Marketing Specialist

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Types of Green Washing and How to Avoid being Green-washed

Types of Green Washing

Green by Association

A company slathers itself in environmental terms and images so that the product seems to have environmental benefits. Products will use neutral colors or images of greenery, but in no way trying to improve their product.

Lack of Definition

A product advertises an environmental claim that sounds good but is too vague or general. Look out for terms like “green” “environmentally-friendly” “sustainable” without any explanation or certifications clearly displayed.

A common lack of definition you will see is the “Please recycle” symbol with no number associated. Shelf-stable liquid cartons, juices boxes, tetra packs, etc. are not recyclable in Davis. These packages are made of paper, plastic, and foil that need to be separated(using a lot of water!) in order to recycle. The materials in the cartons are also not likely to be used in the same process, instead, it is “down-cycled”. The plastic can be made into benches or rigid plastic plates that are not able to be recycled again.

Huggies: Pure & Natural

This line of Huggies is covered with green leaves and neutral tones. These diapers are made with organic cotton, aloe, and are hypoallergenic. However, there are still disposable diapers made with plastics in the fabric. These are landfill items and in no way benefit the environment or even coexist with it.

Tetra Pak Launches New Packaging Material Effects to Help Brands ...
Lack of Definition and Outright Lying: They claim to be recyclable but are only recyclable in a few counties in the entire USA
These fall under Lack of Definition and Green by Association

Unproven Claims

When environmental claims are made but the company will not or refuses to back them up.

Forgetting the Life cycle

Choosing one aspect of the product’s environmental life cycle/profile while ignoring significant effects that are not environmentally friendly. Reusable products are great, but if they are made out of silicone, they are not recyclable in Davis and are difficult to recycle if your county accepts them! Think of what will happen to your item once it tears or breaks? Can it be fixed? Can it be recycled or composted? If not, then it is not a truly sustainable product. The packaging is a big one for this type of greenwashing! Is your sustainable product packaged in filmy plastics? Does the company truly rally for environmental responsibility if their “sustainable” product is packaged in landfill materials?

Arrowhead Water

These disposable water bottles are made with smaller caps, which means less plastic. This is not lying but is not “being green”. This is still a disposable water bottle and this is not going to get recycled in most counties in the USA and all over the world.

Bait and switch

When a company heavily advertises environmentally friendly attributes of one of their products while bulk manufacturing other products that are harmful to the environment.  

Tom’s is owned by Colgate

Although Tom’s of Maine brand is very transparent about ingredients, many of their products are not commonly recyclable. They have a program through TerraCycle, where you can send in your old tube and deodorant sticks. However, there currently is no available space in their program to start your own collection and this program is a financial barrier for many since you are required to mail in a large box and pay the postage. Colgate has no information on their website about their environmental efforts and it is estimated that 400 million toothpaste tubes are discarded every year in the United States alone. That is a lot of unnecessary landfill.

Burt’s Bees and Green Works are owned by Clorox Bleach

Similar to Tom’s, Burt’s Bees packaging is recyclable through TerraCycle which may be a financial barrier for some. The environmental effects of bleach are controversial, better to be safe than sorry! Choose a product you know is safe for your health and the environment.

Green Works is a tough one! The product is safe and ingredients are transparent. There is information on the product on how to successfully recycle. However, at the end of the day purchasing this product supports Clorox Bleach and is therefore still green-washed.

Rallying Behind a Lower Standard

When a product earns a third-party certification that validates them but the trade association has influenced the development of the relevant standards or actively lobbies against them. Avoid the Rainforest Alliance and Fair Trade USA certifications, unless paired with other certifications. These certifications have gaps in their requirements that allow only one step in the process to be fair.

Outright Lying

Companies will bend the truth to sound better. For example, referring to palm oil as vegetable oil to avoid the unsustainable relationship.

Unfortunately, less than seven percent of the total production of palm oil is certified as sustainable, as most companies refuse or are unable to pay the cost associated with less-destructive farming practices. When purchasing an item that contains palm oil or palm tree derived ingredients be sure it has the Palm Done Right certification.

Questions to ask yourself and tips before purchasing a product

  • Don’t just assume something is truly natural because there’s a pretty sticker on the front label that claims so.
  • Ask questions! Be skeptical! Who owns this company? Is it a big corporation? Where do they source their ingredients? Are the ingredients hard to find?
  • Get familiar with companies, labels, and ingredients that you trust.
  • Support smaller, independent, or local brands as much as possible.

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Farming While Black – Leah Penniman Speech

From EcoFarm’s YouTube Channel:

“Some of our most cherished sustainable farming practices have roots in African wisdom. Yet discrimination and violence against African- American farmers has led to a decline from 14% of all growers in 1920 to less than 2% today. Soul Fire Farm, co-founded by author, activist, and farmer Leah Penniman, is committed to ending racism and injustice in our food system. Earlier this year at the EcoFarm Conference, Leah shared how you too can be part of the movement for food sovereignty and help build a food system based on justice, dignity, and abundance for all members of our community.”

“Leah Penniman is a Black Kreyol educator, farmer/peyizan, author, and food justice activist from Soul Fire Farm in Grafton, NY. She co-founded Soul Fire Farm in 2011 and has been farming since 1996. Leah is part of a team that facilitates powerful food sovereignty programs – including farmer training for Black & Brown people, a subsidized farm food distribution program for communities living under food apartheid, and domestic and international organizing toward equity in the food system. Her book, Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land is a love song for the land and her people.”

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Staff Sustainability Picks

In celebration of Earth day we thought we would share some of our staff sustainability picks with you!

Ryan from our Deli department loves our selection of glass jars! They’re a great storage option that look pleasing in your pantry and help you buy in bulk. These jars in particular have a vacuum seal that keeps out bacteria.

Rheanna from our Produce team loves using beeswax wraps instead of traditional cling film. Beeswax wraps are washable and are a great way to keep foods fresh and covered. They’re also a great choice for carrying snacks! We carry a variety of wraps with eye catching prints in our store.

Madison from our Marketing team is a big fan of this Booda Butter deodorant that comes in a glass jar. This deodorant is made with pure, organic ingredients and the sustainable packaging that it comes in makes it a part of your self-care routine that you can feel great about!

Aster from our Deli team is a fan of the Stasher bags that we carry. These bags aren’t only great for storage but a perfect choice for marinades and sous vide cooking as well!

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