We aren’t all fig leaves and loin cloths anymore (Part 1)

Staggering fact: the clothes we wear have become so disposable, that textiles are one of the leading causes of pollution in the world today. So qualified for these reasons:

  1. The shear volume of textiles being disposed of has more than quadrupled
  2.  More and more fabrics are made from synthetic materials that aren’t biodegradable
  3. Harmful toxic chemicals are used in textile production
  4. Production, distribution, and disposal negatively impact all three elements vital for life on earth – land, water, air

Vintage clothes for sale inside a shop

I know you read your food labels, but do you read your clothing labels? Clothes are made from some funky textiles these days, divided into two categories: natural, and man-made.


Here is a list of the most toxic textiles, and why:

  1. Polyester is the worst fabric you can buy. It is made from synthetic polymers that are made from esters of dihydric alcohol and terpthalic acid.
  2. Acrylic fabrics are polycrylonitriles and may cause cancer, according to the EPA.
  3. Rayon is recycled wood pulp that must be treated with chemicals like caustic soda, ammonia, acetone and sulfuric acid to survive regular washing and wearing.
  4. Acetate and Triacetate are made from wood fibers called cellulose and undergo extensive chemical processing to produce the finished product.
  5. Nylon is made from petroleum and is often given a permanent chemical finish that can be harmful.
  6. Anything static resistant, stain resistant, permanent press, wrinkle-free, stain proof or moth repellent. Many of the stain resistant and wrinkle-free fabrics are treated with perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), like Teflon.

All textiles undergo significant processing (even in natural fibers), here are some of the problematic chemicals used:

  • Detergents – to clean
  • Petrochemical dyes
  • Formaldehyde to prevent shrinkage
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
  • Dioxin-producing bleach
  • Chemical fabric softeners to make fabric pliable


Some of the chemicals used in production contain heavy metals, like mercury, or lead. Although this is a large scale, global problem, it is an easy one to tackle. Just start here:

  1. From now on, try to buy only biodegradable fabrics, i.e. made from natural materials. Avoid buying synthetic fabrics that don’t breakdown (this is easier for the kids than it is for us, cotton denims or jeans, cotton t-shirts and hoodies, animal fiber jerseys, hats and scarves and you are all set!)
  2. Buy classics. Follow the 80/20 rule. Strive to have 80% of your wardrobe made up of ‘classics’ that don’t age or go out of style as quickly, and accessorize with the latest seasonal trend rather than buying whole outfits that will be outdated in three months
  3. Don’t forget your linens – sheets, bath towels, table linen

I’m always very inspired by anybody who takes the time, trouble, and care, to go at something like this 100% and replaces all textiles in their home with 100% organic chemical-free options. But every little bit helps, and if we all start with one little change, we will have a massive impact, it’s not an all or nothing solution.

Here are some other interesting facts:

  1. did you know that Americans now buy five times as much clothing as we did in 1980?
  2. the volume of textile trash rose 40% between 1999 and 2009 and it is directly related to the production of cheap, disposable clothing
  3. 20% of fish brought from supermarkets contain synthetic microfibers that have been washed into our waterways with our laundry water

In our next newsletter, we will be talking about easy things we can do to reduce, re-purpose and recycle our clothing to keep it out of landfills.



October Cooking Challenge – Week 2

The results are in from our first week, and I was so surprised. Truly! You can feed your family a healthy organic locally sourced meal for less than the price of a Big Mac Meal from MacDonalds!

This week, I am sharing my menu plan early in case you want to cook with me! Remember the parameters of the challenge? Okay, well here’s what I have going on in the kitchen this week:

Green Veggie Box – $40

1.5lb green tomatoes

2 acorn squash


2lbs sweet potatoes

8oz green peppers

1lb green beans

1 bunch red beets

1 bunch yellow carrots

1 bunch kale

1 head lettuce

8oz crimini mushrooms

1 bunch scallions

From the South Shore Organics Local Market

Here’s what I ordered extra, for $37.02 (I needed a few dollars extra at the store for shrimp):


8oz ginger

1lb limes

1bu cilantro

1bu basil

8oz feta

1.2lb beef sirloin tip steak

1/2 dozen eggs

From the Fish Market/Store

Spend was $12.98:

12oz shrimp (this is my plan, but I might change my mind when I get to the market and the shrimp is farm raised – but it will be another seafood)

32oz organic long grain white rice

sachet of yeast (I keep a sourdough starter going for our bread – it’s cheaper than store bought bread and tastes better and its cleaner, so I don’t actually need this to make pizza dough. However, part of the challenge is to use what everybody has in their pantry, and not everybody has a sourdough starter,! A sachet of yeast is inexpensive – 50c – and it will get the job done but once this challenge is over, I’ll do a post on baking bread – it’s easy!)


Meal 1 – Pan Fried Shrimp with Lime Chili Rice (with Carrots, Ginger, and Green Beans)

Meal 2 – Italian Steak ‘n Eggs with Kale, Crimini, & Sweet Potato Hash


Meal 3 – Roasted Beet Pizza with Feta, Beet Greens Drizzled with Balsamic Glaze, and a Salad

Meal 4 – Stuffed Acorn Squash (I’ll use whatever is left for the week)


I’ll post as a I cook, check back in for recipes, and join me!

Staff Review: Insect Repellant by ‘Things That Work’


Reviewer: Michelle Berry

“Vacationland here we come!” I smiled, thinking of spending time with friends on our annual trip to Old Orchard Beach, Maine.  Our ‘camping tribe’ expands each year, and we anticipate new stories, lots of laughter, and that familiar feeling of coming home.  It was a great trip, but we did have a few hundred uninvited guests.  As soon as the unpacking began, we were eagerly greeted by hungry greenhead horse flies, we expected mosquitos at dusk but not these tenacious beasts during the day! They were everywhere; the campsite, the beach, and they even accompanied us on our morning kayaking expedition through the curving canals, under the Amtrak bridge, and the along the sparkling coast. This was a good test for Things That Work deet-free insect repellent.

S - Insect Repellent

Needless to say, we sprayed down frequently.  During our leisurely bike ride on the Eastern Trail, snowy egrets, glossy ibis, salt marshes, winding tributaries, wildflowers, and busy, buzzing insects were the stunning back drop that lead to a cool, woodsy, flat, open path.  The temperature was a perfect 75 degrees and fluffy white clouds floated overhead.  We passed backyards with large gardens, roaming chickens, and watched a playful little goat trying to engage a big black potbelly pig in a game of barnyard tag.  We found a trail off to the side that lead down to a steep, roller coaster (precariously rooted) path, to a quiet river.  All the while, only a few horseflies landed on us and we had no itchy bites.  I’m happy with the effectiveness of the spray.  The scent is pleasant too and I don’t feel concerned reapplying often since it is made from essential oils.  No weird chemicals seeping into my pores.  It wasn’t sticky and didn’t have an overly strong scent.  The bottle size is generous too.  I do give it a good shake before applying.

I’m relieved to report, we weren’t covered with bites as I expected after four days and nights.  This deet-free insect repellent is a “Thing That Works”.

About Things That Work:

Lisa is a busy wife and mom of four. She’s a career gal by necessity and a creative by choice. She always has a new project in the works, such as wild crafting herbs for the medicine cabinet, growing and canning vegetables for the pantry, making rag rugs for the floor, hand spinning yarn, or whatever her newest passion is.

Things That Work started as one of those projects to eliminate toxins from her home in 2012. She started by making her own detergent and cleaners that were free of controversial chemicals and provided better everyday options for her home like Fluoride Free Toothpaste, Non-aerosol Hairspray, Aluminum Free Deodorant, Fragrance Free Detergent and a Bleach Free Cleaner. In 2014, this developed into a business to help others in her surrounding community discover the benefits of using natural based alternatives, paired with a passion to support small, locally owned businesses with her own.

About Michelle: 

Michelle’s work at SSO aligns with a personal mission to live sustainably and meaningfully. She and her family grow vegetables, and happily play host to honey bees. Michelle is a good woman to have around, she doesn’t complicate simple situations and enjoys finding ways make it easy for her family, and our customers, to enjoy the local harvest.