DIY Faux Paper Towels. Upcycled, Eco-friendly and Economical!

One of the first unsustainable products I “disposed of” when I made the decision to stop using single-use products, was paper towel.  Old rags made from torn up pieces of old cotton bath towels worked beautifully.  They absorbed more than paper towels, they were free, and they washed up nicely to be reused again.  They weren’t, however, attractive.  I like beautiful things, and when I first came across faux paper towels (also known as un-paper towels) on etsy I was attracted to them.  Not only are they functional, eco-friendly and cheap to make: they are a beautiful addition to the kitchen!  And they make great gifts.

I hit up the thrift stores and purchased a few towels in good conditon, as well as a few pillow cases and napkins, also in good condition, made with a fabric pattern that suited what I was looking for.  1 large towel makes 12, 11 inch un-paper towels.  If you happen to already have fabric you like, and a few old towels, you won’t even need to purchase them.  I admit it feels good to upcycle old bedding, table cloths or napkins into something new and useful! 

Perhaps the most challenging part of the un-paper towel project is what to fasten them together with so they roll up nicely and stay together on the roll.  I have a snap press used previously for making my babies’ cloth diapers so I chose snaps.  Buttons would also be attractive, and velcro would work too.  Or, if you don’t want them to roll up like paper towels you can leave them on the counter in a basket.

If you love the concept but don’t have the time, skills or materials needed to make them and would just like to buy them, check out Green Planet Parties (Canadian supplier but also ships to the USA) or this etsy seller (based in the USA), or google them and find many other WAHM-style cotton towels!  Butterflies and Needles is a facebook follower of mine who makes and sells them.  They sell anywhere from $40 and up, and are worth the cost if you can’t make them.  They take several hours to make at home if you have the right materials.

Materials:

  • Attractive fabric for the decorative side of your towels.  11×11 inches or so for each cloth.
  • One large bath towel for the absorbing side of your towels.
  • A sewing machine or serger.
  • Snaps, buttons or velcro for attaching them together.
  • Scissors or rolling cutter (and cutting board), thread, pins.

Directions:

  1. Wash and dry your fabric if necessary.  Iron.
  2. Find something to use as an 11×11 inch, or 12×12 inch pattern.  An old tile would work, or cut one out of cardboard.  I used a child’s book :D.
  3. Cut 12 pieces of your decorative fabric into squares using your pattern.
  4. Cut 12 pieces of your towel into squares using your pattern.
  5. Place one piece of towel together with one piece of decorative fabric, right sides showing.  Pin together and serge or tightly zig-zag your squares together.  Repeat for all pieces.  You could also stitch, turn and top stitch if you would rather have a more finished looking edge.
  6. Choose your fasteners.  Make a simple paper pattern for snap/button placement.  Mark the spots with a washable pen or chalk.   If using buttons, make button holes on one end of each cloth and sew buttons on the other end.  I’d recommend 3 per side.  If using snaps, attach male snaps and caps to one end, and attach female snaps and caps to the other end, making sure that the caps on one end  are not on the same side of the fabric as the caps on the other end, as shown.  (Again, I recommend using 3 snaps per side).  If using velcro, place fuzzy side (loop) and rough side (hook) on opposite sides and ends of the fabric.  Attach.
  7. Fasten together your fabric and roll up, or onto a paper towel holder and you are done!

This post has been linked to Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways #55, Fresh Eggs Daily’s Farm Girl Blog Hop #11 and Waste Not Want Not #7, and Homestead Barn Hop #90.

Plastic Wrap Alternative: DIY Beeswax Cotton Wraps

I was first introduced to beeswax-coated cotton wraps when someone gave me one made locally They quickly became an important part of our food storage regime. They are beautiful, functional, reusable, economical and eco-friendly.  And, as I soon discovered, not difficult to make.

I have been trying to cut back our kitchen plastic usage for years.  I don’t trust plastic especially when it is holding food, and it is simply NOT sustainable.  I replaced all my plastic storage containers and zip lock bags with glass or stainless steel ones.  Other than the cost, those weren’t too difficult to switch over to.  The item that I had a greater challenge replacing was plastic wrap.  The convenience is difficult to replace.  These beeswax wraps, however, have single handedly eliminated plastic wrap from my kitchen.  They are great for wrapping cheese, covering dishes, or folding into snack bags.  They can even be sewn into small snack bags to be used at school or work if desired.

Plastic wrap (I used Saran wrap) is a wasteful, single-use, petroleum product that I am convinced is not an acceptable part of natural living.  When used to store or heat food, plastic leaches toxins into our food that we then consume.  Many studies have now proven that BPA, a chemical that is in many plastics, causes a number of unacceptable health issues in those who consume food products in contact with it.  All plastics contain chemicals, and some are not well-studied to prove their safety. Plastic wrap is no exception.  Beeswax cotton wraps provide a safe and effective alternative.

We have beeswax available all the time since we keep honey bees.  Beeswax is 100% natural, non-toxic, and relatively inexpensive.  I use it in my body product recipes such as hand lotions, body butters, deodorant and balms.  It is water-repellent and has natural antibacterial properties.  When applied to cotton, it renders the cotton “unbreathable” which helps maintain the proper moisture content when storing food.  These qualities make it a great candidate for a plastic wrap alternative.

When choosing your fabric, use 100% cotton (organic is preferable).  The ideal thickness is a sheeting cotton.  (Think, your bed sheets or pillow case).  You can reuse old sheets or pillow cases, or you can choose beautiful fabrics for fun.

If you would rather purchase these wraps made in North America by a sustainable company and priced reasonably, click here.

Materials

  • beeswax, grated (or pellets).  I use about 0.5 oz. of beeswax per wrap
  • 100% cotton fabric, cut to appropriate size (12×12 in. or 8×8 in. works for us)
  • old cookie sheet (that will be used for this purpose only, forever after)
  • paintbrush (that will be used for this purpose only, forever after)
  • chop stick for stirring the wax as it melts
  • cheese grater (used exclusively for beeswax)
  • a make-shift clothesline and clothes pins
  • oven

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 185F.  (Higher will burn the wax.  I know from experience…)
  2. Place pre cut fabric on cookie sheet.
  3. Sprinkle evenly and lightly with grated beeswax.  You don’t need a lot!
  4. Place in preheated oven.  Watch carefully!  This should take 5 minutes or less.
  5. As soon as the beeswax is just melted, remove from oven.
  6. Spread wax evenly with paintbrush to cover over any spots that are not yet coated.
  7. Hang on makeshift clothes line with clothes pegs, to dry.  Once cooled, you can use it!

Notes

  • If your wax starts to harden before you have evenly spread it, simply reheat it in the oven and try again.
  • This recipe uses less than 1 oz. of beeswax per sheet.
  • If you have a lot of wax left on the cookie sheet, place another piece of fabric on empty cookie sheet and it will absorb the extra wax.
  • All of the supplies except the beeswax can be purchased cheaply at thrift stores and can be used again for other DIY projects involving beeswax.  Purchase the beeswax through Mountain Rose Herbs, a trusted company carrying all sorts of ingredients for body products.
  • Wash in cool water with a mild soap.  I use liquid castile soap.
  • Each wrap will last several months or more depending on usage.

This post has been linked to Frugally Sustainable’s Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways #54, Fresh Eggs Daily: Farm Girl Blog Hop #10, Homestead Revivial’s Barn Hop # 89, 116th Wildcrafting Wednesday and Real Food Forager’s Fat Tuesday November 20th.

 

Safe, Stainless Steel Popsicle Molds. Bring on summer!

Everyone loves popsicles.  Cold, refreshing, and sweet.  Fun for everyone, especially the kids.  I grew up eating homemade popsicles.  Mom would pour lemonade or apple juice into her Tupperware plastic popsicle molds, freeze them and we would have a cool treat on a hot summer day.

When I had my own family, I remembered those popsicles.  I wanted my own children to share the enjoyment of homemade popsicles.   Mom still had her Tupperware popsicle molds.  She gave them to me.  I used them for a bit, but by then I was starting to become more aware of the health risks of plastic, and I took a better look at my popsicle molds.  100% plastic.  Even the little chewed-on sticks.  What kind of plastic?  Who knows?  Was there BPA in the plastic?  Were those toxins leaching from the plastic into the popsicles?  I gathered up all my popsicle molds and sticks and tossed them into the recyle bin.  Sadly, I disposed of a part of my childhood.

It was 4 long years later before I saw advertised some stainless steel popsicle molds. 4 years of my kids’ childhood wasted without homemade popsicles!  (I am serious, by the way.)  When I tried to order them through Amazon they were out of stock.  Everyone wanted them!  And why not?Locally- and sustainably-sourced party supplies.  They weren’t made of plastic!  They were non leaching.  They were a safe alternative to store-bought sugar- and preservative-laden, artificially colored and flavoured popsicles.  A year later I was given a set to try out from Green Planet Parties.  Talk about excitement!  We had popsicle molds in the house again!  Safe ones!

So here I am writing a review on stainless steel popsicle molds.  Never have I been happier. I am writing a review on a product I love.  We have made juice popsicles, yogurt popsicles, and homemade ice cream popsicles dipped in a coconut chocolate sauce to create a hard chocolate shell.  The kids are over the moon and so am I.  Because popsicles aren’t just for kids.  :)

My Healthy Green Family Review Criteria
1.  Kid/Parent Appeal 5/5
The stainless steel molds have brightly colored silicone stick holders and a sleek design.
2.  Eco Appeal 4.5/5
The stainless steel popsicle molds are made of stainless steel, silicone, and wood popsicle sticks.  The molds were packaged in a small cardboard box.  Inside the box each item was wrapped in a plastic bag.  Packaging was acceptable.
3.  Functionality 5/5
The molds work beautifully.  They are made of high quality 18/8 stainless steel.  Run the popsicles under hot water for a few seconds to loosen the molds and then remove.  Molds are dishwasher-safe.
4.  Company 5/5
Green Planet Parties is a source for sustainable and locally-made party supplies and more.  This is one of the greenest companies I know, with some of the best-made, and locally-sourced products I can find.  I shop here regularly for gifts and browse for party ideas.

Based on our product review standards, this product recieves a 5 star rating.

Purchase these stainless steel popsicle molds at Green Planet Parties.

Disclaimer:
As per usual, reviews are based on my own opinion.  I follow a set of review guidelines that are the same for every product I review.  I am not paid to write these reviews.  This popsicle mold was given to me by Green Planet Parties to try out and review.

 

It’s a wrap! Furoshiki, eco-friendly wrapping.

50% off Christmas fabrics!  Hit the fabric stores!  They won’t be crowded like the malls 2 days before Christmas.  You’ll find good deals on Christmas fabric that you can reuse for many years later.  Just make sure you ask for the wrapping back after the gift is opened :).
A few years back I stocked up on Christmas fabric and real ribbon.  I cut it in generous sizes, and fold it to the appropriate size, as needed.  The first few years I struggled with how to keep the gift secure in its wrapping.  I even used scotch tape which just DOESN’T cling to fabric like it does to paper.
A totally inspiring video taught me a few basic techniques and now, despite my fabric not being double-sided and the edges not hemmed (I’ll get to that some day) I finally found ways to wrap my gifts without the need for tape.  Furochic demonstrates methods of folding, tying, and rolling to make fantastic wrapping for any shape.  You can even make handles for your gifts.  I am in love…
Furoshiki eliminates the need for disposable wrapping paper.  Americans spend billions of dollars a year on wrapping paper, and for what other than beauty?  It is all torn off and thrown away, for the most part.  You can make beautiful wrapping from fabric.  It lasts for years, is much more eco-friendly, and in the long run, is much more economical.
So, this evening I wrapped it up.  I am (almost) done all my Christmas gifts and wrapping.  The flannelet nightgowns and pjs I made for the nieces, nephews and my own kids, are wrapped in fabric.  Despite the fantastic video, my attempts are very amateur, but pleasing enough to me.  Although unnecessary, I used ribbon as well, and some non-furoshiki methods.   The candy cane sugar scrub for my older nieces and sisters are in glass jars and decorated with fabric, ribbon and candy canes.  A few large items are still needing some attention, but I think the size and excitement involved will require very little wrapping.  We were able to find second hand, excellent condition toys for our three children.  Done, done done!  Merry Christmas everyone!