A long-time goal of mine has been to live off the grid. I’m not there yet, but a few months ago, I took a big step toward realizing that dream. I bought my first solar panel and began the process of going solar. Continue reading
Anyone who lives on a well knows the importance of water conservation. Continue reading
If you’ve ever looked at the ingredients in a package of cheese and seen the word “rennet,” you may be wondering exactly what that is. Continue reading
There are a few people I know who are embarrassed to admit they shop second hand. Apparently there’s some sort of stigma attached to shopping at second hand stores. But I think those who shop at second hand stores should be proud to say so, because it’s not only good for the wallet, it’s good for the Earth as well. Continue reading
Advocates of GMO crops often try to tout their products as necessary by claiming that Round-up ready crops require less pesticides, however, what happens when the GMO’s don’t work? Continue reading
Simply put, yurts are cool! Here are 10 reasons to love yurts. Continue reading
If we could actually see CO2 coloring our planet, would we take better care of it? Continue reading
If aphids are sucking the life out of your plants, try this homemade spray recipe for a little do it yourself pest control. Continue reading
If you live in an area with dandelions, it’s super easy to turn them into a beautiful golden dandelion soap dye. Continue reading
Mulch is an important part of gardening as it helps keep plants from getting too dry or weedy. Here are a few types of mulch that you can often get for free. Continue reading
Though many of us wear cotton, it’s not exactly one of the most eco friendly clothing choices. Continue reading
If you’re looking for a natural way to clean house, try using some essential oils for cleaning. Continue reading
Grey water recycling is a great way to cut down on the amount of water you use around the yard. Continue reading
There is a lot of debate about genetically modified food and the associated health risks. Continue reading
Straw bale houses are one of my favorite forms of eco-friendly housing. Continue reading
It cannot be denied that there is a lot of waste in our world today. Here are a few simple ways to reduce waste in your life. Continue reading
Well they’ve done it again. They’ve taken yet another healthy food and defiled it in the name of “progress.” This time it’s GMO apples coming to a stand near you. Continue reading
I really had ya going with that title didn’t I? The vampires I’m actually referring to are the appliances in your house that use “standby” power. They’re often referred to as vampires because they suck energy from your home the way vampires suck blood.
Many of our household items such as computers and televisions are always set on “standby” when they’re plugged in. They’re never actually completely turned off and therefore continue to suck up power (sometimes as much as 20 watts each) at all hours of the day. Over time that extra energy being sucked up by your appliance vampires adds up substantially.
The biggest energy vampires in your house are usually the TV (especially the newer LCD and plasma TV’s), Computers, Microwaves, Video gaming systems, and Cell phone/tablet/power tool chargers that are left plugged in even when they’re not charging a device.
The cure? Unplug your electrical devices when they’re not in use. This saves a ton of energy over time, therefore reducing pollution, as well as saving you money on your energy bill! It’s a win-win situation; go green, save green.
Sometimes it can be a struggle to unplug all your devices, however, as they may be hard to reach. An easy solution is getting a power strip. You can plug related devices such as TV, DVD player, and gaming console into the same strip, since you’ll generally be using those devices at the same time. Then once you’re finished, just flip the power strip to off, preventing those items from going to standby mode, and keeping the energy vampires out of your house.
Copyright © Amber Reifsteck ~ The Woodland Elf
Hopefully by now you’ve heard the good news that fracking has been banned in NY, but the fight against fracking isn’t over yet. Continue reading
Industrial hemp is a very versatile plant with a myriad of uses, including my personal favorite: hemp fabric. Continue reading
Whether you’re looking for a fun project, or just need to give the rooms in your house some new life, try some upcycled furniture. Continue reading
A friend recently sent me this story about the Desatoff family and their experience with fracking in their neighborhood. Continue reading
There is something quintessentially “farmy” about using a wheel hoe to cultivate your produce rows. Continue reading
Hybridization and GMO are not the same thing. When it comes to GMO vs hybrid, one is natural, one is definitely not… Continue reading
If you grow lilies, you’ve probably noticed red lily beetles chewing on them. Instead of using poisonous commercial sprays to deter them, make a homemade red lily beetles deterrent from something you probably already have in your kitchen. Continue reading
…at least when it’s in his own backyard. Continue reading
Want to get a jump on the spring growing season? Try starting seeds indoors. Continue reading
While almost any food can unfortunately be genetically modified these days, there are some foods that are more likely than others to be genetically modified. Here are 7 of the most commonly genetically modified foods: Continue reading
Looking for a place to get GMO-free seeds to grow your own produce? Try some of the companies on this list. Continue reading
If GMO’s are so safe, why doesn’t Monsanto want them labeled? Continue reading
With the controversy surrounding the labeling of GMOs, a name that’s getting a lot of attention is Monsanto (the same company responsible for rbST). Monsanto is currently running a large ad campaign trying to discourage the labeling GMOs, touting them as safe. I will be following up this post next week with a post about GMOs themselves, but for now let’s take a closer look at the Monsanto company itself.
GMO labeling is not the first time Monsanto has tried to put profits before people. The following is an essay I wrote 14 years ago about the approval of rbST, and it still has very pertinent information concerning the sleazy Monsanto company.
rbST – really bad STuff
Monsanto would have you believe that bovine hormone rbST or rBGH is safe. It is a hormone that was developed to force cows to provide more milk. The truth, however, is that Monsanto bribed people to ignore certain studies so the public would buy products with rbST, believing it was safe. This hormone is actually dangerous and disease causing and was only approved because big companies like Monsanto have connections.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved rbST in 1993. Supposedly rbST had gone through all the necessary testing to prove it was safe. However, rbST is not quite as safe as Monsanto and the FDA claim. The European Union Scientific Committee found some serious health risks connected with products containing rbST, such as increase in certain cancers and tumor growth in people. The Health Canada study found that cows treated with rbST are prone to leg ailments, shorter lives, reproductive problems and mastitis.
To ensure approval of rbST, Monsanto concealed information and bribed people to withhold their knowledge of rbST’s dangers. Case in point, Monsanto had to perform a study on rats before the drug could be approved. A regulation cancer test mandates a drug be tested for two years on hundreds of rats. Monsanto’s hormone was tested on only thirty rats for ninety days.
The results of Monsanto’s rat study, as reported to the public, were fabricated, saying that rbST was safe. In actuality, Monsanto found that even during the short ninety-day test period, male rats developed thyroid cysts and showed prostate disorders. Monsanto never conducted the full, two-year cancer tests, but the FDA approved rbST anyway.
Why would the FDA approve a drug that had not been properly tested? The answer is the old adage, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Monsanto was set to make a fortune from rbST, so they used their powerful connections to ensure its approval.
Monsanto’s influence with Tony Coehlo on the Democratic National Committee persuaded Mike Espy, the Agricultural Secretary at that time, to favor Monsanto. Also some Monsanto workers resigned from their jobs and commenced working for the FDA to help guarantee the approval of rbST. After rbST had been approved, those workers quit working for the FDA and resumed their jobs as Monsanto.
In effort to have rbST approved in Canada, Monsanto offered a bribe of two million dollars to Canadian government officials, but rbST was not approved. Furthermore, Monsanto even tried to “buy” veterinarians. Some veterinarians received “kickbacks” when they encouraged the used of rbST.
After all the dangers that had been found with rbST the FDA still approved the drug as safe. The FDA is a subsidiary of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Could it also be a coincidence that the same USDA (a tax-funded agency) receives a five-percent kickback on sales Monsanto’s sterile seeds?
With all the covert information that was twisted, and considering all the people that used their positions or were bought, is rbST really safe?
Copyright © Amber Reifsteck ~ The Woodland Elf
Not a big fan of brussls sprouts? Would brussels sprout battery operated Christmas lights change your mind? Continue reading
Want a natural, renewable source of laundry detergent? Try using soap nuts in your next batch of laundry. It’s not hard to learn how to use soap nuts and it makes laundry so much healthier and eco-friendly. Continue reading
Walmart’s torture of pigs is a real American horror story. Driven mad from boredom and stress, pregnant pigs confined to filthy gestation crates. Walmart must stop supporting cruel gestation crates. Continue reading
I’m always on the lookout for natural remedies, as I prefer to avoid synthetics as much as possible. It’s so much nicer when we can put natural things in and on our bodies as opposed to factory-produced synthetics. Continue reading
Reduce, reuse, recycle isn’t just a trendy catchphrase, it’s a way of living. Going green doesn’t have to be expensive, in fact there are little ways of going green that can actually save you money. You can save green, by going green. Continue reading
Have you ever wondered what’s really in your food? GMO foods are a scary view of the future. A few years ago I attended a showing of the documentary The Future of Food. It’s something anyone who eats food (therefore everyone) should see. Continue reading
Recycling is one of the easiest things we can do to keep our planet beautiful. It’s as simple as throwing a bottle into the blue bin instead of the trash bin, but it’s amazing how many people simply don’t do it. I’ve actually had people tell me it’s just too much of a bother. Really? Continue reading
I don’t eat a lot of meat, but I am not a vegetarian, nor do I have any qualms against people eating meat; I simply have issues with the way many animals are treated before they reach our dinner tables. Killing an animal for food is a basic instinct dating back to prehistoric humans. Continue reading
We all know that green energy is good for the environment, better for our breathing air, and helps lessen our dependence on foreign oil, but what about world affairs? Can green energy help with that? Well, it could certainly help prevent the generation of dangerous nuclear weapons.
Some people refer to nuclear power as a “green” energy, and while it is true that it doesn’t produce emissions like coal, it is certainly not a “green” energy. The Nuclear Energy Institute says that “A typical nuclear power plant in a year generates 20 metric tons of used nuclear fuel.” That’s a lot radioactive waste, which can remain highly hazardous for thousands or sometimes millions of years. The only way to dispose of it is to bury it for thousands upon thousands of years. Somehow a power source that produces so much dangerous waste just doesn’t strike me as being all that “green.” Continue reading
When it comes to household cleaners, many of them carry a toxic chemical ingredient list long enough to warrant a hazmat designation. These noxious chemicals pollute our water when they’re washed down the drain, as well as being potentially hazardous to breathe while they’re being used to clean. Fortunately there are some safe (safe enough to eat even) and very effective alternatives that you can find right in your own kitchen.
Vinegar is probably most well-known of natural cleaning substances and with good reason. It’s a wonderful disinfecting cleaner and is great for rubbing down countertops and greasy appliances. When mixed with baking soda it can be used to unclog a drain, and you can even throw a little vinegar in with the laundry for a safe, natural fabric softener. Continue reading
Leonardo da Vinci once said “Those who take for their standard anyone but nature – the mistress of all masters- weary themselves in vain.” He was right. When it comes to creative design, Mother Nature is still the greatest maker. Decorating with branches can be an easy and inexpensive way to put Mother Nature’s beautiful genius to practical use.
At our house, we do a lot of outdoor decorating with branches. In particular, we love the branches that the cows have rubbed over and over again by the edges of the pasture. The oil from the the cows rubbing them gives the branches a shine and makes them look as beautiful as any store-bought stain. We have several gnarly “cow branches” gracing our gardens. Continue reading
When people mention green power, images of clunky solar panels and huge fields of wind turbines often come to mind. These are often the way sources of green power are implemented. The problem is that they’re such an eyesore, people are often hesitant to accept these alternative sources of energy. That’s understandable, as anyone who has ever been close to a field of wind turbines, probably wouldn’t want that to be their backyard view.
The truth, however, is that alternative power doesn’t have to be ugly if it’s done on the smaller scale. At left is a picture of the windmill that my neighbor uses for electricity. We don’t consider his windmill an eyesore at all. It’s much smaller and cuter than the huge white wind turbines. In fact, it used be common to see a windmill at every country house back when they were used for drawing water. Nearly every farmhouse painting includes a windmill in it. The trouble is that when green power is reduced to the small scale, it means that individuals profit instead of some large corporation. Continue reading
“I went to college in Mansfield PA, and have many friends still down in the area. The past few times I have gone back to what used to be a great, quiet, Pennsylvania town is now built up with hotels and has constant loud truck traffic. When sitting at the bar I used to frequent in college it was several trucks a minute going through town (oil trucks). Not to mention the devastation to the land. Continue reading
I am a huge fan of shopping at the Salvation Army, Volunteers of America, the Goodwill and just about any other second-hand shop you can name. For one thing I like to experiment with clothes and costumes that I’m making. I don’t feel as bad if something gets wrecked when it was a used item I picked up for a few bucks at the local second-hand shop. Another reason I love such thrift shops is that the selection is so much better than in regular stores. Second-hand shops have all types of clothing, not just the latest trends or what’s currently in season (I usually don’t like the latest trends anyway, so it works for me). The clothing are from all trends, all brands, and all seasons, and of course, you can’t beat the price. I also have a particular penchant for vinyl records (Yes, I’m one of those crazy young people who thinks records sound warmer, but play an Animals CD and then play an Animals vinyl and tell me the vinyl doesn’t totally rock!) and I love finding them for a $1 in the second-hand shop (itunes eat your heart out).
There does, however, seem to be a certain stigma Continue reading
With all the news surrounding the mysterious “black goo” that was found on swimmers at the local Kershaw Park, (which turned out to be from 80 year old buried oil drums that had missed detection), I can’t help but think about fracking. Fracking companies don’t even have to disclose the chemicals that they pump into the ground, (we have the Environmental LACK of Protection Agency to thank for that). My question is, if the chemicals are so harmless, why wouldn’t the fracking companies want to disclose them and set everyone’s mind to rest? If a few old oils drums can close a beach for the summer, what could a a few barrels worth of fracking chemicals do? I’d rather not find out.
The Finger Lakes area is renowned for its lakes and clean water. If fracking companies are allowed to come through and pollute the waters with their undisclosed chemicals, it will certainly take a toll on the tourism. Canandaigua Lake would be a much less desirable area with polluted water and it would be a huge blow to the local economy. Perhaps the lesson to be learned from the oil barrels is that even more harm could be done with fracking chemicals. Perhaps the message is loud and clear: Don’t frack with good water!
The debate about fracking in New York State is still ongoing, but hopefully they will rule against it. Back in December I wrote a piece here on why I believe the dangers greatly outweigh the benefits. If you want to get involved, here’s a form below you can send in. Since money seems to be what makes the world go ’round, it is very important for lawmakers to hear from businesses who believe they will be adversely affected by fracking.
New Yorkers Against Fracking Form
Everyone knows that flowers are pretty to look at, but a lot of people don’t realize that many of those delicate blossoms are also quite edible. A few years ago at the local farm market I attend, one of the vendors had implemented the ingenuous idea of selling “edible bouquets.” They were exactly what they sound like, aesthetically pleasing bunches of flowers that were also one-hundred percent edible.
A few edible flowers include:
Dandelions – Though generally thought of as a weed, dandelion leaves go great on a salads and rival many traditional vegetables with their health benefits. My family has used the dandelion heads for years to make excellent wine.
Squash blossoms – Those big yellow flowers that appear on your squash vines and eventually turn into pumpkins are very edible and quite delicious when fried up with a little butter and Cinnamon.
Violets – With violets both the flowers and the leaves can be eaten. They make beautiful candied flowers are also a good addition to jelly, so I’m told.
Day lilies – These flowers are often seen growing along the roadside. The blossoms have a sweet flavor even when eaten raw and provide a good source of vitamin C. (A warning, however, they are poisonous to cats)
Honeysuckle – As one might image the tiny blossoms of this plant have a sweet taste and go great when added to salad and the like.
Red Clover – Again, generally thought of as a weed, those big purplish globes that grow out in open meadows have some of the sweetest sugar you’re ever likely to taste. These are so good, I don’t even add them to food, I just grab a few and suck on the blossoms as I’m walking through the field. Tasty!
A fun way to use edible flowers is to “sugarize” them. You can make sugared flowers by boiling together a little water and sugar, which will create a type of paste. Dip your flowers in the sugar paste and let them harden. You can then use them to decorate cakes. Or skip the sugaring process altogether and just decorate the cake directly with the flowers for more vibrant colors. No marzipan roses here!
Copyright © Amber Reifsteck ~ The Woodland Elf
With the current possibility of New York State being opened to fracking, the debate about whether the benefits outweigh the risks is a hot topic. There are extremes on both sides, with some people claiming that there are no benefits to fracking, and others claiming there are no adverse effects from fracking. The truth is, fracking has both benefits and detriments. The problem is that, while the benefits are certainly instant gratification, the long-term impacts are often catastrophic.
First and foremost, the greatest benefit of fracking is that it will immediately provide jobs. What is often overlooked, however, is how many jobs it will undoubtedly destroy in the long run. Fracking consumes huge amounts of drinking water and uses toxic chemicals. When spills occur (which is inevitable in any man-made operation), those toxic chemicals are released into the environment, right into the path of drinking water sources. Aside from the hazardous chemicals used in the process, fracking also releases naturally occurring deposits of dangerous substances, including radioactive materials, found in high levels in the Marcellus Shale where the NY fracking would take place. There will be many sites flunking their radon tests if fracking is allowed in New York.
Such chemicals have ended up in the water sources at hundreds of places in Pennsylvania, New Mexico and Colorado, which has suffered over three-hundred spills of chemically contaminated fracking waste water. In Pavilion, Wyoming, the EPA found high levels of cancer-causing substances that are often used in fracking, in the water supply of over forty homes. Residents in this city have also contracted a number of neurological ailments from exposure to these chemicals. The residents of this city had fresh clean water until the fracking began, at which point their water began to turn black as well as smelling and tasting like gas.
Perhaps the most alarming fact is that fracking is exempt from the Clean Water Act of 2005. Fracking companies are exempt from disclosing what toxic chemicals they use in the process. In short, they can pump what whatever toxins they want into the drinking water, reap the profits from the gas produced, and be long gone while the residents are left to deal with the aftereffects.
Due to these ecological impacts, people who will be adversely affected include, but are not limited to, farmers whose livelihood depends greatly upon water availability. Waiters, cooks, and others in the restaurant industry when tourism rates fall due to polluted water sources. Hotels workers for the same reason. People involved in real estate will be affected, as banks know the impacts of fracking and are reluctant to loan to those in the vicinity of fracking wells. Not to mention the fact that property values plummet in the wake of fracking fallout due to contamination.
Gas is not a gift that keeps on giving. With our current rate of consumption, it is something that will inevitably run out. Therefore it is ludicrous to destroy so many lives for a few extra years worth of what is ultimately a finite resource. The ones who profit are the ones who will be least affected by the aftermath of fracking; the gas companies. The rest of us pay for the gas companies’ greed.
People often tout fracking as a way of gaining energy independence. This is a misleading claim, however. Fracking produces natural gas, a liquid that is used largely for home heating. America’s larger energy consumption, however, is petroleum. This oil is used in everything from cosmetics to plastics to medications and of course is the gasoline that fuels American automobiles. In fact America consumes more oil than any other country in the world. The oil for this country’s guzzling appetite is fueled largely by other countries such as the Middle East which hold the largest deposits of oil. No amount of fracking will change that, and therefore will never lead to energy independence.
The natural gas produced by fracking is claimed by supporters to be a “cleaner” energy source, and while it is cleaner than oil (most of which doesn’t come from this country anyway), it actually leaks more emissions than coal. Robert Howarth, a professor at Cornell University conducted a study on the emissions produced by natural gas and found that “Compared to coal, the footprint of shale gas is at least 20 percent greater and perhaps more than twice as great on the 20-year horizon and is comparable when compared over 100 years.”
Additionally, hydrofracking has been found to cause earthquakes, just one more way fracking will harm people and their properties. Cuadrilla Resources, a British hydrofracking company actually admitted that their fracking well did cause multiple, minor earthquakes. Unlike seismic events on the west coast, where the damage is generally more localized, quakes on the east coast are often felt throughout an area ten times larger than the west coast, due to the fact that the east coast ground is colder and more intact. East coast quakes are often felt throughout several states, making the damage area more widespread. Also the locations of many fault lines on the east coast are unknown, making it all the more difficult for fracking companies to avoid. Just one more reason to keep fracking out of New York.
In the end, I think there’s one phrase that sums up the situation. Don’t frack with my water supply! Don’t frack with New York!
National Geographic Magazine
The American Petroleum Institute
The US Energy Information Administration
The Daily Messenger Newspaper
Copyright © Amber Reifsteck ~ The Woodland Elf
I decided to try a little a experiment this week after stumbling across an idea for homemade shampoo.
For the most part I use commercial shampoo that’s on the organic/natural end of the spectrum with as few of the nasty shampoo toxins as possible (no SLS!). Even so, basically every commerically bought shampoo has a few unwanted chemicals, if only to preserve shelf life. I used to use the Beauty Without Cruelty shampoo, but Wegman’s stopped carrying it for whatever reason, and there aren’t many brands I like as well as that one, so I decided to try the all natural route this week.
I’d heard before that hair could be washed with baking soda, followed by a vinegar rinse, so I decided to give it a go. To make the baking soda shampoo mix a few spoonfuls of baking soda with a cup of water (if your hair is short, you can lessen the recipie). Make sure it’s all stirred in well.
The hardest part to get used to is the fact that the mixture is so thin when you’re used to using thick shampoos. The second thing is that is feels like you’re washing your hair with sticky sand. That’s where the vinegar rinse comes in. Mix two spoonfuls of vinegar with a cup of water (again if your hair is short, you may need less).
Like the baking soda, the vinegar rinse is thinner than any shampoo, but once you get used to that, it does get rid of the stickiness left behind by the baking soda.
This homemade shampoo works fine, but it does have one odd characteristic. The hair is clean, the hair looks clean, but the hair doesn’t feel clean. It has a heavier weight due to the fact that the natural hair oils aren’t being stripped away as they are with commercial shampoo. That means even though it is clean, and looks clean, it doesn’t have that light, squeaky-clean feeling.
This may take some getting used to (or I may just decide to run back to my bottle of chemical shampoo.)
Without bees there is no pollination, and without pollination, there is no food. Be Bee Friendly.
Colony Collapse Disorder is a problem currently talked about a lot among beekeepers. No one knows the cause of it, and therefore, no one knows how to fix the problem. But a problem is exactly what it is. For reasons unknown, the bees will suddenly lose their sense of how to return to the hive. Without the hive, the bees die, and without the bees returning, the hives die. Hence the colony of bees collapses.
Outside of the bee community, it not widely talked about, and many people believe that colony collapse disorder doesn’t affect them. Nothing could be further from the truth, however, as bees feed us all. They are the primary source of pollination for many of the world’s main food crops. Without bees there is no pollination, and without pollination, there is no food.
While there is not yet a known cause for colony collapse disorder, there are things we can do to help bees. First and foremost, don’t kill honeybees. Killing members of an endangered species (exactly where honeybees are heading toward if something doesn’t change) only weakens the group further. A single honeybee can carry up to 100,000 grains of pollen in a trip. Killing even one bee makes the hive sacrifice that 100,000 grains of pollen and thus the honey that would have been made from it.
During the spring, when the hives separate and swarm off, many unhappy people find themselves host to a swarm of hundreds of bees trying to make a nest in their house. Once again, do not spray these insects. Instead, call around the community looking for people who collect bees. You can even post ads on sites like craigslist offering free bees to anyone who wants to come and get them. In most community there are bee groups with people who go out every weekend collecting renegade swarms. They are more than happy to remove them from your property for you.
Another way to help bees is to plant flowers that are attractive to bees, giving them an ample food supply. Asters, sunflowers, hollyhocks, crocuses, roses, blackberries, pumpkins, lavender, butterfly bush, and honeysuckle to name a few are all bee-friendly plants. Having an available water source is always a boost for them as well. The main staple food in most bees’ diets, however, is clover. As such, a person wanting to help bees should never spray their lawn. Not only are the toxins themselves a danger to bees, but spraying kills all the clover that the bees so greatly need.
If you want to take it a step further, consider actually raising bees. Not only does it produce a sweet treat for you, it helps increase bee populations. If the thought of raising bees and collecting honey is less than thrilling to you, consider raising bees for the sake of the bees. This is probably one of the healthiest ways to raise bees. In this method there is no profit of honey sought, a person simply gets the bees, gives them a home, and leaves them alone, letting them live as though they were completely wild.
Last but not least, even if raising bees yourself is out of the question, you can always support those who do raise bees by purchasing local honey. Not only does this keep people raising bees, it is also a healthy alternative to store bought honey. Due to the local pollen that the bees put into local honey, it helps reduce the symptoms for people who suffer from seasonal allergies. Buy local, be bee friendly.
I’m big on recycling, no matter what it is, so one of the things I try to do when I’m sewing is use as much salvaged or recycled material as possible. When I say recycled material, I’m not referring to material that has gone through a recycling process, rather I’m referring to the vast quantities of unwanted clothing that people get rid of every day. Rather than buying new material, getting it from a thrift store is a way to recycle. Not only that, it can also be a great money saver.
At first glance, sewing material in a thrift may not be obvious, but upon closer inspection, it is revealed that everything in the thrift store is material, albeit in a preformed garment. This allows for double convenience. One can either purchase a large item of clothing with the intention of cutting it up to use as material, or the actual garment itself can be used as a starter for something else.
In my area there is both a Salvation Army and a Volunteers of America, so the selection of “material” is wonderfully large. I recently found a huge long sleeved T-shirt with a rather ridiculous picture on the front side (probably the reason it was in the thrift store in the first place!) for a new costume pattern I was trying out. While the hideous front was useless, the entire backside and the large sleeves were prime for the taking. The thick knit material would have cost a lot more in a regular fabric shop, but I was able to purchase it for only 50 cents, which was great as I didn’t have to worry about wasting money if my experiment didn’t work out.
Even better was the white linen tablecloth I found to make a confessor’s dress for the Renaissance festival. I had been looking in the thrift store for a white dress to use as a base, but as long-sleeved dresses are rather scarce to come by in the summer, I had no such luck. It was not long, however, before I found myself in a section with sheets, blankets, and a white linen tablecloth. I ended up getting for $4 at a thrift store what would have been around $20 of linen at a regular fabric store, and as an added bonus, the edges were already finished, so I didn’t have to worry about them fraying. I already had a black tank top and leggings to wear under it, and I was able to get the sleeve trim and lacing for the costume for a $1 at JoAnn Fabrics, bringing the total cost of the dress to $5.
As for finding clothes that can be used as starters, a simple blue dress was the basis for my cousin’s costume. The gown itself was already sewn, all I had to do was add a few ribbonsto the sleeves and the front to make it look “Renaissancy.”
Naturally there are many times when a visit to a traditional fabric shop is necessary, when a certain color, type, or size of material cannot be found in a thrift store. However, it is always worth the time to look in the thrift store first. As an added benefit, purchasing material from a thrift store like the Salvation Army or Volunteers of America supports the organizations that help people. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.
Copyright © Amber Reifsteck ~ The Woodland Elf
When it comes to things like food packaging, plant fiber bags are a biodgradable alternative to traditional plastic.
Plastic is one of the least environmentally friendly things around. It takes oil to produce which means possibly destroying pristine environment in order to obtain the oil. It runs the risk of possible oil spills once the oil is obtained and needs to be transported. The process to turn the oil into the plastic often pollutes the air. And finally, once the plastic is made, it eventually ends up in landfills where it sits for thousands of years due to being non-biodegradable.
Of course there are some things with which plastic is a necessity, but there are also many things where plastic does NOT need to be used. Plastic bags are probably the biggest waste of all when it comes to the things plastic is used in, due to the fact that it is so unnecessary. Aside from all the negatives listed above regarding plastic, plastic bags are also an eyesore when they blow all over the neighborhood. To help reduce this, more and more people are fortunately turning to the fabric shopping bags, which as an added benefit, are stronger than traditional plastic bags anyway.
So getting rid of plastic shopping bags are an easy fix, but do we even need plastic bags at all? In some very rare cases (like hospitals) yes, but in most cases, absolutely not. We don’t even need plastic bags to keep food fresh. There are several companies now producing eco-friendly “plastic” bags, which are actually not plastic at all. They look and act like plastic bags to keep things fresh, but are in fact made of plant fiber and are therefore 100% biodegradable.
I recently discovered a company that uses such plant fiber (instead of plastic) to make affordable, strong, flexible, fully biodegradable bags. You honestly wouldn’t know they weren’t plastic without being told. I’d been searching for something along those lines for several years. Being committed to the environment, it always bothered me that I had to package the soaps I sell in little plastic bags to keep them fresh. So when I finally found these, I thought, yippie!! I can sell my eco-friendly soaps in eco-friendly packaging; so when someone throws the bag away, it won’t just sit in a landfill for the next several thousand years. No more plastic bags! And it’s so easy, just changing bags from plastic to plant fiber is a small action that makes a big impact on the environment.
Considering how many items in the average person’s cupboard are packaged in plastic, if more companies began changing their bags from plastic to plant fiber, it would have a HUGE impact. The Sunchips company began offering their snacks in such bags not to long ago. Unfortunately, consumers began lodging the complaint that the biodegradable bags were too noisy. Maybe it’s just me, but a little bit of extra crinkle noise seems a small price to pay for a fully biodegradable “plastic” bag. It would be tons less trash in the landfills and less oil wasted in the production of unnecessary plastic bags. When the plant fiber bags are thrown away, they just disintegrate into nothingness. Environmentally excellent!
Copyright © Amber Reifsteck ~ The Woodland Elf