Khala Cloths Teams Up with Changing Tides Foundation to Empower Women and Protect the Environment

In May 2017, we connected with Changing Tides Foundation, to explore how we could support each other's commitment to protecting the environment through everyday human empowerment. Upon learning that Changing Tides Foundation (CTF) was heading down to Panama to support and document the Women's Outreach Mentorship Program (WOMP), we sent a bunch of Khala Cloths down with the CTF team to support their efforts to go zero waste wherever they might be. Upon their return from Panama, CTF shared two incredible returns with us: the following blog post AND some awesome photographs of Khala Cloths in use, some of which we share along with this blog post. 

Our partnership with CTF and support of such programs as WOMP are just some of the ways Khala Cloths is more than just a company. We are a cause for good. Every time you purchase and use a Khala Cloth, know you are a part of these efforts. To learn more, please read on!

Honoring her food with Khala Cloths in Bocas del Toro Archipelago in Panama, pro-surfer Leah Dawson gives a toss to some local fruit wrapped in an original line Khala Cloth. Photo courtesy of @barkerfoto

Honoring her food with Khala Cloths in Bocas del Toro Archipelago in Panama, pro-surfer Leah Dawson gives a toss to some local fruit wrapped in an original line Khala Cloth. Photo courtesy of @barkerfoto

The Women’s Outreach Mentorship Program (WOMP) provides underprivileged teenage girls the opportunity to improve their swimming skills, learn how to SUP and eventually surf, encourage them to grow personally and build strong bonds with each other using art and the ocean as tools. The first ever WOMP program has launched in the Afro-Caribbean community of Old Bank on the island Bastimentos located in the Bocas del Toro Archipelago in Panama.  The program lasts 10 weeks, meeting two times a week throughout the Spring and Summer months.

The #WOMPBocas is administered by our local non-profit partner Give and Surf and funded by Changing Tides Foundation. In June 2017, the Changing Tides Foundation Team traveled to Bocas del Toro to participate and engage with the participants of WOMP Bocas along with special guest, Emi Koch from Beyond the Surface International. While in Bocas, Give and Surf, CTF and BTSI collaborated on a 3-day women’s empowerment clinic to address gender inequality, body image and other local issues through art, photography and water sports and to document the WOMP program’s progress

Here is what we knew going into the project: To our knowledge is the first-ever female oriented group formed in Bocas del Toro. The girls in the community are not accustomed to expressing their feelings and showing emotions. They are not generally outgoing and accepting to outsiders.  They are generally self-conscious and shy and pretty private. Also, when it rains, generally everything is cancelled; no one leaves their homes.

Here is what we were able to accomplish in our short time with the WOMP ladies: Through icebreakers and bonding exercises, we made strong connections with the girls almost immediately. We spoke to them about who we are and how we all connected and how the ocean brought us all together. They opened up to us about things that make them happy and expressed what they liked and disliked about their community and the gender stereotypes they would like to break. They talked about how, only 3 weeks into the WOMP program, they had discovered a love for the ocean they never knew possible. The talked about the joy they feel when they’re in the ocean and how their worries, fears and problems were washed away by the sea, which is something we could all relate to. They talked about how, in such a short time, the WOMP program has changed their lives, and how it is the biggest thing they look forward to every week. Then we did a “photo shoot” with their newly donated hats and rash guards and swimsuits from RVCA and The Seea. This really brought them out of their shells from a physical standpoint. They were so happy and felt so pretty and they produced the shots they wanted themselves. 

The next day, Emi Koch led a photography workshop, speaking about perception and how we all perceive things differently and how different angles of the same thing can be so interesting and make something beautiful. We showed them some of the photos from their swimsuit photo shoot the previous day, and they delighted in how beautiful they looked and all cheered each other on. We did a jungle walk and gave all of the girls cameras to use to shoot things in their community. Along the way, we took photos of and talked about the trash problem on the island and offering suggestions on how they could help change that. We ended up at the beach, where we gave them their Patagonia gear bags which were loaded with goodies like masks, snorkels, swimcaps, Mizu water bottles, Spy sunglasses Avasol sunscreen and RVCA towels. The gear bags will remain property of the WOMP program for their continued use and for future participants. Then the girls got on the WOMP Program’s new inflatable SUP’s from Milkshake and XTerra and those donated by Gerry Lopez and other donors and used their Black Fin Paddles and took off paddling for the next island where we met them to snorkel. This time in the water was so amazing! The smiles and giggles were plentiful. Their laughter was so contagious. We were all one in the same, on a level playing field; no class or color to worry about.  It was beautiful. 

On the third day of the program we were scheduled for a field trip to Polo Beach to SUP and snorkel but it rained, so we expected our time with the girls to be cancelled. Much to everyone’s surprise, the girls showed up to the community center right on time to wait for us. They didn’t want to miss more time with us. Because of the rain, in lieu of SUP, the girls decided they wanted to see the pictures from the workshop the previous day. Then they offered to teach us white girls to dance! We proceeded to have the most hilarious, sweaty and fun hour-long dance party, ever using their new EcoX Gear waterproof speakers! This fortified our bond, as they were bringing us into their world as we had brought them into ours. They realized they had something amazing to teach us and again, we were one in the same! We left them with gifts: Avasol reuseable shopping bags filled with Changing Tides Foundation tank tops, Cobian Sandals, Humble Brush bamboo toothbrushes, and lounge pants from Indosole. They were so incredibly grateful and so excited to have new gear for themselves.  This was supposed to be the last day but they invited us back for a few hours one more day, saying they had a surprise for us.

We returned to beautifully painted shells and stones as gifts. We sat with the girls, got henna tattoos and massages and the girls braided our hair. We said very tearful goodbyes and promised to come back to see them and teach them how to surf one day soon. It was bittersweet. We have missed the girls every single day since we have been back. We have some promises to keep and cannot wait to see their beautiful faces again. Our lives have been changed forever through this experience. Thank you so much for being a part of it.

 

Happy food is honored food. Set it free from plastic and wrap it in a Khala Cloth - the ocean will thank you! Photo courtesy of @barkerfoto

Happy food is honored food. Set it free from plastic and wrap it in a Khala Cloth - the ocean will thank you! Photo courtesy of @barkerfoto

Ambassador Profile: Brittany Parker

Khala Cloths is excited to launch a new blog series where we profile our amazing brand ambassadors. First up is a blog personally penned by stand up paddle (SUP) champion and environmental activist, Brittany Parker. If you are intrigued by what you read you can learn more about her on our Ambassador's page here.

Surfing Pipeline on the Lochsa River     Photographer: Heather Jackson

Surfing Pipeline on the Lochsa River     Photographer: Heather Jackson

Hey Khala Cloths community, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Brittany Parker and I’m a whitewater stand up paddle, river surfer, van lifer, nomad, and mother nature lover. I have just recently jumped on board with Khala Cloths and am so excited to represent a company that’s a champion for the planet.

Natali Zollinger and I getting ready for our RVR 2 RVR clinic

Natali Zollinger and I getting ready for our RVR 2 RVR clinic

My season has just begun and it’s going off in full force. Myself and business partner Natali Zollinger are currently making our way up to Bend, Oregon for our first RVR 2 RVR clinic. This is one of a few that we’ll be doing across North America. We travel to local river communities and teach people how to successfully and safely navigate their local waterways and surf their river waves. It’s a very exciting job and allows us to really immerse ourselves into all of the different communities. Following Bend we’ll be making our way back towards Utah and Colorado to teach a weekend clinic in Boise, Idaho. If you’re interested in joining us or just want to come say “hey” when we’re passing through your town visit our website www.rvr2rvr.com to view our full schedule. We’ve also got lots of swag to give away so if you see us flag us down or come say "hey" for a hat, koozies, and stickers.

Dropping into rapid 12B on the Zambezi      Photographer: Chantelle Melzer

Dropping into rapid 12B on the Zambezi      Photographer: Chantelle Melzer

The river has changed my life significantly. I’m obsessed, I’ve got the bug. When I travel, I travel with purpose and that purpose is almost always to paddle or surf something. Along with my business I work for a rad stand up paddle board company called Badfish Stand Up Paddle based out of Salida, CO. They make boards that charge through whitewater and surf river waves like a dream. My work allows me to the live a mobile and free lifestyle that suits me perfectly.

When I’m not teaching or participating in a whitewater event I’ll be surfing. In most cases the river surfing season exists within a very brief window. When a wave comes in you can bet I’ll be hopping in the Sprinter and driving two to 15 hours to catch a waves window. Aside from the surfing the chase is half the fun.

Surfing at Skookumchuck in British Columbia      Photographer: Heather Jackson

Surfing at Skookumchuck in British Columbia      Photographer: Heather Jackson

I’m currently writing this in a trailer in Santa Cruz, California while the rain falls. Yesterday I paddled out to catch some waves and ended up catching nothing but some close encounters with gray whales. We drank champagne on the beach while the sun went down and slept next to the PCH in a pull-off that overlooks the Pacific. Not every moment on the road is this blissful but it’s these moments that make peeing in a bucket, ice baths in the rivers, and being woken up in the middle of the night for illegal parking worth it!

This is the life I have chosen for myself and I do not live with an ounce of regret. To follow my travels you can visit my blog at www.bpsups.com and for details about our clinics visit www.rvr2rvr.com.

 

Paddling in the Uji Canyon in Japan      Photographer: Zach Mahone

Paddling in the Uji Canyon in Japan      Photographer: Zach Mahone

Khala Cloths Weighs In: Can you use beeswax-based food wraps with a clear conscience?

By Tamar McKee

There is a lot of talk as of late about the ethics and economics of using beeswax to make non-plastic wrap to store food. Opinions range from “bees are endangered, why ask more of them to give?” to “good idea to reduce plastic, BUT at that price point, no thanks!”

Here at Khala Cloths, we sensed these issues from day one and have thus built our company on a founding ethos that encourages you to “honor your food” from source to sustenance, and beyond. We like to call this cycle of respect and reciprocity “from Mother Earth, back to Mother Earth.”

Especially in light of the (valid!) concern over using beeswax for humanocentric food storage practices, we are more proud than ever before to be a dedicated bee-friendly company, sourcing our beeswax only from conscientious local apiaries where the bee's life is the main priority. This means that harvesting of wax or honey is a distant second. These apiaries also keep the hives chemical free[1]. To quote one of our farmers, when Asa asked if his beeswax was organic, he replied: "Beeswax is organic in nature. Don't be fooled by the term ‘organic beeswax’. Organic beekeepers are allowed to use toxic chemicals in their hives. But I will never use these in my hives!"  So when you buy and use a Khala Cloth, know that love, respect, and concern for bees are infused in our organic hemp-cotton fabric[2] right in with sustainably-sourced beeswax[3].

sunflower.jpg

Given all this, how much do Khala Cloths cost? We are priced as competitively as possible given the ways that we source our materials. So know that when you invest in a Khala Cloth, you are “buying into”[4] a product representing a movement towards reducing the plastic imprint on this planet and all the environmental and greater-than-human exigencies that go with it. This means that while you might pay “a lot” up front, you are choosing to re-direct your money away from countless purchases of plastic wrap, bags and containers, as well as from companies that overlook the exploitation of bees in harvesting beeswax in favor of a washable and reusable substitute that can last for a year or longer. And when it is done, Khala Cloths are biodegradable – from Mother Earth, back Mother Earth, as we like to say.

Think of all the plastic that gets purchased, used, and thrown away in a year's time. Think of what the world would look like if we only took what we needed and left the rest for the greater-than-human world. And then think of what your money and conscience could be otherwise focused on if you chose to honor your food by using a Khala Cloth instead...

But of course, actions speak louder than words. So please follow us on Facebook and Instagram – as well as keep up with our blog – to stay in the loop about our story as not just a company, but a force for positive change on this imperiled-yet-precious planet.

KhalaCloths logo etched in sand

[1] Although we recognize that chemical solutions to varroa and avoiding colony collapse must sometimes be used for the humane treatment of mite-infested hives, we are also aware of other non-chemical methods of strengthening hives - such as producing and propagating mite-resistant stock. You can read more about this delicate balance (and debate) here: http://scientificbeekeeping.com/the-varroa-problem-part-6b/ 

[2] Grown in North America and certified by Global Organic Textile Standards.

[3] Our additional ingredients – tree resin and coconut oil – are also sustainable, organic, and ethically sourced; all of which has earned us certification by Green America.

[4] Fully aware of the co-opting forces of global capitalism (David Harvey’s 2011 The Enigma of Capital and the Crises of Capitalism is a window into this), we use this term aptly and yet ironically; as such, we look forward to promoting ways that Khala Cloths and the ethos we stand behind can challenge neoliberalist market demand and re-define how we can resource and sustain ourselves as a human species on earth.

The Road Ahead: On winning the "most exciting" brand award at the 2016 Portland Green Festival

By Tamar McKee

It is hard to believe that a month has already gone by since Khala Cloths won the “most exciting” brand at the 2016 Portland Green Festival. With the whirlwind of the holidays, life with children, and the continued growth of Khala Cloths, time can certainly fly. We just wanted to take a moment and reflect on what it was like to be at the Festival and win this award, and what it means for the road ahead.

Asa applying tire chains to drive one mile to the convention centre in Portland.

Asa applying tire chains to drive one mile to the convention centre in Portland.

Speaking of roads, to get to the Portland Green Festival we had to drive six hours, the last of which was into a raging snow and ice storm. A demonstration off-road driver in a former life, Asa deftly navigated our conversion van to our Portland accommodations before the roads got any slicker and scarier. Like all Portlanders, we woke up the next morning to a world encased in about three inches of ice. Busses, (pretty much the only vehicles on the road) roared through the streets with chains slapping on their tires. After chipping the van out of its icy slumber, Asa similarily applied chains to the tires in order to make the drive to the Portland Convention Centre – luckily only a mile away – to get the Khala Cloths booth set up. 

Ice-encased grass, Portland, OR.

Ice-encased grass, Portland, OR.

Because Portland rarely suffers storms of such caliber, the first day of the Festival was quiet. Nevertheless, it was still subtly exhilarating to be there in person to promote Khala Cloths. When people would walk past our booth, curiously eyeing our wares, we’d invite them in with the insight: “We are a natural alternative to plastic wrap.” Seeing people’s faces light up with additional intrigue is such a joy – not only because it means a potential purchase, but also because it gives us an opportunity to talk about WHY we make and believe in Khala Cloths so much. Folks usually end up buying Khala Cloths not only because of its impressive food storage capacities (we had a loaf of bread wrapped in our “potluck” sized Cloth that stayed soft and fresh for the whole festival and multiple handlings), but because people come to realize what an easy, viable alternative Khala Cloths can be to using plastic. Such a realization gives them the power to take everyday action to stop plastic pollution, and care for the Earth just a little more

Being notified that Khala Cloths had qualified as a finalist for the brand award.

Being notified that Khala Cloths had qualified as a finalist for the brand award.

So it was with great delight (and not without a bit of surprise!) when on the second day of the Portland Green Festival we were nominated as one of the top five finalists for the brand award. Receiving this initial recognition meant that we had received enough votes by our customers and social media fans to qualify as one of the finalists. This was tangible recognition that people (such yourself) were rallying behind Khala Cloths. Such affirmation of our brand was, and still is, so reassuring and inspiring that we are doing the right thing. So THANK YOU for reading this blog and supporting Khala Cloths – clearly it does make a difference!

Qualifying as a top finalist now meant that our chance of winning the “most exciting brand” of the Festival was now in the hands of a panel of esteemed judges: Erik Wolf (Executive Director, World Food Travel Association), Risa Meynarez (CEO, Consumers Everywhere), and a representative from Terracycle. So on the third and final day of the Festival, the judges came by our booth learn more about Khala Cloths and ask us additional questions. One question that came up was the origin of our name, particularly “khala” (Tibetan: KhaLag). Asa explained that this meant “food” in Tibetan and was meant to honor all the hosts that had fed and formed friendships with me during my research and travels in Tibet and Tibetan exile communities. This symbolism particularly struck a chord with the judges, and upon further conversation with them, Khala Cloths’ new slogan – “Honor Your Food” (#honoryourfood) – was born.

Khala Cloths winning the 2016 Portland Green Festival's "most exciting" brand award.

Khala Cloths winning the 2016 Portland Green Festival's "most exciting" brand award.

But obviously a new, more poignant and appropriate slogan was not all we got out of the brand contest. At 3pm on the final day of the Festival, nominated brands and their owners/representatives, gathered at the main stage to hear the announcement of the runners-up and winner. Khala Cloths was in amazing company: Primal Kitchen, Homegrown Trailers, NYR Organic, and Ortho-Bionomy. After the runners up were announced and it came time to reveal the winner, we will never forget the words of Green Festival president, Dr. Corinna Basler, when she said that it had been a very close decision but that the judges were all in agreement that the best brand had been chosen. With that, she announced that Khala Cloths had won! Truly not expecting this honor, we did not have any remarks prepared, so Asa gave a heartfelt and totally unrehearsed acceptance speech that thanked everyone involved and spoke to Khala Cloths’ easy ability to go more plastic-free in our everyday lives.

As expected, we were on cloud nine after that and enjoyed the additional interest in our booth for the remaining hours of the Festival. But perhaps the biggest joy we had upon receiving this award was telling our children and extended family and friends what Khala Cloths had accomplished.

Khala Cloths' biggest fan and one of the reasons we started this company.

Khala Cloths' biggest fan and one of the reasons we started this company.

So, driving through an ice storm with kids, babysitter, and dog in tow to get to Portland. Needing chains to drive a simple mile down the street to the Convention Centre to set up our booth. Breaking through to a storm-subdued consumer base. All these challenges only made our success at the Portland Green Festival all the more hard-won and sweeter. As is often said in Tibetan Buddhism: we suffer hardships to clear away negative karma for something better.

Here’s to 2017! May any hardships we encounter only be there to ultimately clear the way for the road ahead.

Street Mural on we passed every day going to the Portland Green Festival, Dec 9-11, 2016.

Street Mural on we passed every day going to the Portland Green Festival, Dec 9-11, 2016.