beeswax

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.

Why We Started This Company

The Founding Ethics of Khala Cloths Beeswax Wraps

by Asa and Tamar McKee

Asa

I've always been an environmentalist. I owe that to my parents. I grew up farming organically and spending weekends selling our vegetables and flowers at farmer’s markets. My mom cooked everything from scratch and taught me how to prepare and store vegetables from canning, freezing, to fermenting. I guess that is where I first learned and just knew that food did not need plastic to preserve its integrity and nourishment.

Asa's family's garden. 

Asa's family's garden. 

But for many years, I never truly appreciated the knowledge I gained from my family background, except that it helped me get jobs, like working in green houses and landscaping. Then I had a family, and the great importance of these old skills and their abiding ethics finally came into profound view - like ensuring organic food for our children by growing our own, and storing this produce as healthy food for the winter.

This is one of three gardens we had on our property growing up.   

This is one of three gardens we had on our property growing up.   

Tamar

I grew up with a big backyard garden that my mother kept. It was fertilized by the manure of our horses, who would watch us over their paddock gates as we worked in the garden adjacent to them. When the harvest was greater than what my family could eat and store (split between plastic bags (!) in our deep freezer in the garage and canned jars in the kitchen pantry), we’d take a wheelbarrow of produce to the corner of our street and sell out in a day.

Tamar hard at work (above) and her family's garden and barn growing up. 

Tamar hard at work (above) and her family's garden and barn growing up. 

Such strong memories I have of that garden and how it sustained us growing up, that when Asa and I started growing our own garden with our own family, I began remembering so much that I had not thought about in years, even decades. When we started canning, it took me back not only to my mother’s kitchen, but her mother’s kitchen, particularly the smell of canned peaches. In this great reawakening, I realized the path that had been laid down for me by my family, and knew I had a chance to do the same for my children. What would that path be? And how could it lead them into a less endangered and taken-for-granted world?

Our daughter's first garden.

Our daughter's first garden.

 

New Ways, Old Ways: Beeswax Wraps vs. Plastic

Having children creates a love that is impossible to explain (we will leave that to the poets). Because of such love, we realized we needed to do more. We started examining at our plastic use. We were washing plastic bags and reusing them but felt there had to be a better, more grassroots way.

Plastics themselves are relativity new, part of what philosopher Donna Haraway would call the “Great Acceleration” of modernity and progress after World War II.... So what did people do before plastic? What did we (do we) throw out by turning to a more plastic-dominated world?

We stared researching, looking back over time and across cultures....and discovered several “old” traditions of food storage alternatives to plastic. Two in particular caught our attention: the use of tree resin to seal earthen or glass containers for long term storage, and the use of wax-infused cloth as removable covering for containers. In North America, such practices of food storage were commonplace as little as 100 years ago, but now (like so much of the world) have been heavily supplanted with plastic alternatives. (Think about all the ziplock bags, Saran-wrap, Tupperware, and other plastic food storage items used the world over.)

We started playing with two pre-plastic ingredients in particular – tree resin and beeswax - to infuse cloths with. We were experimenting with how we could update this method to the food storage landscape of the 21st century…


Enter coconut oil. With its natural antibacterial properties, health benefits, and ability to be ethically sourced, it just made sense (and more cloth pliability too!). It then took us a while to create the perfect ratio blend because we wanted to create the most ideal natural alternative to plastic. Slowly but ever so surely, Khala Cloths beeswax wraps was born.

The Great Future... A Less-Plastic World


Sometimes the best solution is one that already existed. We spend so much time trying to make things simpler that we forget to look at its future impact. We often think of the scene in the film, The Graduate, where Denis Hoffman’s character, Ben Braddock, is told by Mr. Maguire, in almost secret, worshipful tones: "Plastics… There's a great future in plastics.”

To us, this scene typifies how plastic started entering both the consciousness and the commodity chain of the mid-20th century. And now here we are, trying to tame this “great future” that's taken over our oceans and is killing the human and greater-than-human world.

What if we started saying something like - “Khala Cloths…There’s a great future in Khala Cloths?” -instead?

Come see for yourself (shop).