eco-friendly

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.

How Do I Store That? A guide to keeping your fruits and vegetables fresh (with a little help from your Khala Cloths)

By Asa McKee

Bananas wrapped in a Khala Cloth to manage naturally occurring ethylene gas

A question I often get working in gardens with students or at farmer's markets is: “what's the best way to store this?” For some this question is obvious, for others it is new terrain. And for some, the answers/ opinions have been debated for generations. From my experience, I'd like to share some of my tried-and-true methods of storage – and if you have a different method, I would love to hear from you!  

Tomatoes 

Let's start with the controversy or "constantly debated" one: fruit or veggie?

     Yes, tomatoes are a fruit.

The next few debates are a little more nuanced:

The First Debate: Should you store tomatoes upside down or right side up....?

     Yes, this seems silly, but chapters in books have been debating this. The answer: upside down on a plate or bowl will do. (And if you want further protection, cover it with a Khala Cloth.) Why upside down? The belief is simple: blocking the tomato’s stem will prevent moisture from leaving the tomato and blocks air for entering the tomato preventing mold and bacteria from developing and entering the tomato. 

The Second Debate: to refrigerate or not to refrigerate

     This is debate I believe is not as clear cut as I believe some make it out to be. It depends. If you are ripening your tomatoes (upside down ) I would do so on a counter out of direct sunlight. If you want to speed up this process, place a banana near them (ethylene gas producers -see bottom of page) some also will let tomatoes ripen in a cupboard or in their pantry as cool temps are good for the process, but not cold temps.

Now if your tomatoes are already ripe.

     Why not put them in the top shelf of the fridge?  These cold temps below 55 degrees F  will stop the flavour producing enzymes but will do little damage to the flavour if stored for a sort period. But I would suggest letting them sit on a counter for a day or two before eating them for maximum flavour after storing in the fridge. 

Cilantro and parsley

I find the best method is to cut the base of the stems so that they are clean and able to absorb water.

cut cilantro

I then place them in a small jar with cool water in the base.

cilantro in water.

 

I then wrap a Khala Cloth around the jar and herbs for moisture capture, and place in the fridge. 

cilantro and Khala Cloth

 

Basil

To say basil dislikes cold is to say an alligator dislikes the snow. For this reason it should never go in the fridge. Cut the stems and place them in a jar with cool water. They can be left on your counter out of direct sunlight with your upside down tomatoes.

Cucumbers

These will do best stored at room temperature according to UC Davis and their department of Post Harvest Technology. Once you have cut your cucumber, wrap a Khala Cloth around the cut end and refrigerate. Remember to keep them away from apples, tomatoes, avocados and melons (ethylene gas producers)

 

Garlic and Onions

Store at room temperature and allow for air circulation. Don't remove the protective "paper" until ready for use. Also remember to keep onions away from potatoes so that potatoes don’t sprout!

Potatoes

They don't need to be refrigerated but love a cool (42 to 50°F) dark place to hang out. But remember keep them away from apples and onions.

For more detailed information check out the University of Idaho.

Celery

I always cut off the ends before storage, whether pre-cut stalks or a bunch. The reason? It is simply for convenience and space. No need to take up more room then needed. Celery has an efficient system of drawing water into its cells from the bottom of the stalk (they are 95 percent water). But if they are damaged or poorly cut this won't happen.  Stalks not cut cleanly are more prone to curl, brown, split and decompose at a faster rate. After they are prepped (cut, washed and dried), I wrap them tightly in a Khala Cloth and place in the fridge.  

celery unwrapped on a Khala Cloth
Celery wrapped in a Khala Cloth

Asparagus

Cut the base and place in jar with cool water just like a bouquet of flowers. Then wrap with a Khala Cloth (as you do with cilantro and parsley) and place in fridge.

Carrots

Always cut the greens off your carrots. You can leave them whole and wrap them in a Khala Cloth and place in fridge. If you want cut them, place them in a glass container with water. 

Broccoli

These veggies are high humidity loving. I pat mine dry then and wrap in a Khala Cloth, then place them in the drawer in the bottom of the fridge. With other humidity loving neighbours such as leafy greens and mushrooms (which also can also be stored in a Khala Cloth), broccoli keeps in good company.

Broccoli on a Khala Cloth
Broccoli wrapped in a Khala Cloth

Ok, now Bananas...

As I've mentioned, bananas are high ethylene gas producers. What this means they produce a gas that helps themselves and others ripen . They are not the only ones that do this (see below). If you want to slow the ripening prices down there are a couple of tricks. You can wrap a Khala Cloth around the stem, slowing the gas output thus slowing the ripening process. But once they reach the "perfect ripeness" place them in fridge to slow it down drastically.

Using Khala Cloths on bananas

Ethylene Gas: use it to your advantage!

As I've mentioned, some other fruits and veggies produce ethylene gas. And some are sensitive to these gases and will ripen much faster when stored together. But remember you can use this to you benefit but be carful not to forget to keep an eye on them!

Ethylene-producers : 
- apples
- apricots
- avocados
- ripened bananas
- cantaloupe  
- figs
- honeydew
- kiwi
- mangoes
- nectarines
- papayas
- passion fruit
- peaches
- pears
- persimmons
- plantains
- plums
- prunes
- quince
- tomatoes

Ethylene-sensitive:
- unripe bananas
- green beans
- Belgian endive
- broccoli
- Brussels sprouts
- cabbage
- carrots
- cauliflower
- chard
- cucumbers
- eggplant
- leafy greens  
- okra
- parsley
- peas
- peppers
- spinach
- squash
- sweet potatoes
- watercress
- watermelon

Questions?

I hope you found this blog useful for learning how to store your fresh fruits and veggies, and the role Khala Cloths can play in helping you! If you have any questions about what sizes of Khala Cloths to use and exactly how to use them with different fruits (including tomatoes;) and veggies, please do not hesitate to contact us: info@khalacloths.com

 

 

 

 

 

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).