Sustainability update

Now that I’ve gone through the process, I can say that moving one’s blog is akin to a physical move. You can’t help but see your posts in a fresh light as you export and import them, and make sure they’ve survived the move. I was surprised to look back and see the variety of posts on sustainable living, clean beauty, and food. While my love for sewing has really taken over Crab & Bee (and I’m not fighting it), I still spend a lot of time thinking about how to live healthfully, happily, and more thoughtfully. So in the spirit of Crab & Bee’s beginnings, here’s a smattering of updates on what I’ve been up to!

An illustration I made in 2009

I was feeling pretty happy about my eating habits – lots of cooking and bringing my lunch in – until school started this September. My consumption of packaged foods has definitely been up because I have less time to cook. And  while I’m good about buying lunch at places I know have compostable containers, but my snacks – and I snack often – come in crinkly plastic that goes into the garbage. (Do any of you have good tips on how to eat home-cooked food given my time limitations, or favorite snacks with responsible or no packaging?) The other complicating factor is that I’m eliminating wheat because of potential allergy issues. Because of that, I’ve integrated an occasional (maybe once a week) serving of fish back into my diet after being strictly veggie for over a year.

On the food waste front, we’ve been composting our food waste for a few years now, but I’m still amazed to see how much it cuts down on garbage!

As I explained in one of my Wayback Machine posts, my career path has been all over the place (although mostly in creative fields). I’ve been working at the same job for the past year and a half now, which has been a much-needed break from freelancing and self-insuring. That said, I work for an online retailer. Considering how interested I am in handmade and thrifted clothing, I have some cognitive dissonance around that fact! There’s a lot to like about my company; they hire locally, they sell higher-quality items, they treat their employees ethically, my team is made of awesome and genuine people, and I’m not sure how I would have survived this year without health insurance. I also feel really fortunate to have a job when many people are having difficulties finding anything, let alone fulfilling work. But ideally, my personal convictions would match my work life.

Cleanin’ and Beautifyin’
Really exciting developments in cleaning department!  My main goals have been to keep the same level of cleanliness while using safer products and reducing packaging. This includes:

  • Making my own re-fillable surface cleaning spray from water, baking soda, Borax and tea tree oil. (Just a warning about essential oils – they can be toxic to pets at their full concentration, so dilute them. I couldn’t find a consensus on a safe concentration, but I used 10-15 drops per 12 fluid oz. of water for my cleaning spray and wiped it up as I cleaned.)
  • Based on a tip from No More Dirty Looks via Readymade, I’ve been making my own eyeshadow and brow powder from activated charcoal tabs. (Another warning, The granules are bigger than the ones in makeup powder and can scratch your eyes more easily.)
  • Continuing to make my own laundry detergent, recipe here!
  • Continuing to buy bulk shampoos and soaps

Next up, I’m going to try and make some blush from beet powder and starch, as well as look for a bulk dishwashing soap solution!

Clothes and sewing
Here’s some familiar territory! In my Top 5 Reflections on 2012, I talked about my interest in both new and thrifted fabric. After some extra fabric purchases in 2011, I tried to stick to buying fabric only for the project I was currently working on this year. This was both good (my tiny fabric closet stayed about the same level of crammed throughout 2012) and bad (I bought expensive fabric in a pinch.) Still, this year I’m planning on staying the course, buying fabric on a per-project basis and also spending more time looking for environmentally responsible fabric as well as thrifted fabric sources.

As for what I bought retail, I was able to keep my clothing purchases down through a mixture of thrift shopping and sewing. I bought two sweaters (I have little luck at thrift stores with sweaters and am super jealous of So, Zo’s thrifted beauties), leggings, a dress and… designer sweatpants off of ebay, for a total of 5 items. I did, however, purchase way more shoes than I had intended! I was planning on keeping it to 0-2 pairs, but ended up at 5. They all met my requirements (durable, repair-able, walkable) and 4/5 of them have seen a lot of use, but hopefully I’m set for 2013.

I’ve also decided to do the Seamless pledge, during which I would create or thrift any new clothes for a given period of time. I’m super excited that Gillian is both joining in and helping to re-vamp it.

What are you up to?
I was going to get into transportation, but as this post has run a bit long and I’m pretty much keeping to my bus/walk to work, drive-occasionally routine, I’ll table that topic! But, I’m interested in hearing some of your favorite ways to maximize your resources and reduce waste, so please share! I’m also interested in hearing how these sorts of practices vary by location.


17 thoughts on “Sustainability update

  1. Morgan, I really loved this update and hope you’ll continue with them. There is so much to take away from this, and I can’t wait to read about your blush experiment. I’ve really tried to cut down on the waste with lunches both for me and my boys, but wow it is difficult. We seem to have so many little plastic containers for sandwiches and salads and I try dutifully to use them but still I manage to populate the world with wrappings. Anyway, I’m trying. Like you, while I bought a number of shoes last year, I do find that I only seem to buy ones that I can resole and will last a good while. How long are you going to do the seamless pledge for? I really should join in.
    Lastly, my mum, my sister and I walked the highest mountain in Aus today (it’s not that high) but I was so happy to see despite in peak season up to 3000 people a day will walk the track, how clean it was with no rubbish. Such a relief!

    1. Thank you so much, Kirsty! It’s really wonderful to have a forum to talk about these ideas! I’m glad you had such a nice hike. That’s awesome that you’re thinking about the Seamless Pledge! I think it’s going to be great. I’m going to do the year and set a personal goal of 0-2 pairs of shoes. I need to write a post this week, good reminder!

      Re: lunch, cutting back on waste takes a bit of work! I saw a big difference when I stopped buying plastic wrap and baggies. I use glass or durable plastic containers, which can make for a pretty heavy lunch but there’s less to toss afterwards. The other big change I made (which I’ve reverted a bit from since starting school) was buying ingredients and bulk food instead of packaged snacks. You’ll have to let me know what you try out! And I’ll definitely do a blush post.

      Thank you again for your thoughtful response!

  2. Hi, I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed this post. I’ve only found you recently, while you’ve had more a sewing focus (which I love) but reading about your sustainable efforts is really interesting & reminds me of some of the things I’m trying to improve – like using containers rather than plastic wraps, making more cleaning products (my spray is the good old vinegar & water, I love that I’m not spraying chemicals all over the place). I also want to start composting. Re quick snacks, I find small containers (I make up from bulk) of dried fruit & nuts to be handy in my handbag. When I worked I would make up the whole lot for the week & snap the lids on, they would keep fine in the pantry & I’d just take one each day with my lunch & fruit.

    1. Hi Shell, thank you for checking out the blog, as well as the snack tip! That’s a great idea, buying snacks in bulk and portioning them out. I’m going to give that a try this week!

      Are you looking to start your own compost pile or put your food scraps into the yard waste? Composting is really easy if your city offers yard waste. I’ve tried both a tightly-sealed large Rubbermaid container and a breathable charcoal-filtered receptacle to collect food waste and both are great. I did spring for the bio-degradable bags because it’s made the process a lot more pleasant!

      I’m very excited to hear that you’re also interested in sustainability and I’d love to hear more about your journey as well!


    1. I might be brain-storming a snack-food blog post right now.
    2. Let’s get together and make our own makeup! I’ve been dying to make a cheek / lip stain forever (I smell a sister post…)
    3. LunchBots bento containers in stainless steel are amazing, very lightweight (esp. compared to glass) and kept me in good, home-cooked portable dinners when I was in night school. And when I was hauling 50 lbs. of textbook to and from, the extra weight off was a welcome reprieve!
    4. Check this out: (I kind of want to be that girl)
    5. I also have a sustainable birthday surprise for you that I’m dying to spoil. Ask me, I dare you!

  4. What a great post! I’ve been thinking a lot about sustainability of sewing since taking the Seamless Pledge – I feel like I can’t really claim to be cutting back on pollution or poor labour conditions what I buy fabric instead of clothes, because both industries are harmfull… I buy used fabric whenever I see something good, but it’s hard to buy for a specific project – You just have to take whatever is there!
    I’d love to hear more about your eco-friendly choices! Keep on writing about it, please!

    1. Hi Gillian! I feel you, it’s often tough to find the right used fabric for the right project! From the bits I’ve read, thrifted or ethically/sustainably produced fabric is best, but projects sewn at home with new fabric still improves upon store-bought clothes in a number of ways. The fabric gets shipped to a store where you buy it, instead of fabric getting shipped to another factory where the garment is constructed, then packaged and shipped to a store where it is marketed with tags, etc. and/or stored. Ideally, the garment you make lasts longer and fits you perfectly!

      I’m not an expert about sustainable sewing, but I’ll definitely keep documenting the new things I learn here. You probably already read Zoe’s blog (, but it’s been a huge inspiration and source of learning for me!

  5. What an awesome post! I love this update, and it´s interesting to see how things like recycling differs from place to place. In Oslo, where I live, the municipality offers plastic, food, paper, glass and metal recycling for every household. Which means we have six small bins instead of just one big 🙂

    When it comes to snack, I am a huge fan of nuts and other types of crunchy goodies. Shell´s idea of buying them in bulk is a great idea.

    I got a thermo cup for Christmas, and I find that it not only works well for hot beverages, but it´s great for homemade smoothies as well.

    Finally, I think that both Indian and East- Asian cooking (and I mean made from scratch, not from a can;-)) can be made quite fast, you can make a lot of it at the same time, it´s usually inexpensive, there are lots of great veggie alternatives and last but not least it tastes delicious!

    1. I love curries! Indian/Asian food is a great idea for something that’s easy to cook ahead of time. I’m in a bad cycle of cooking one meal at a time and I really need to break that given my time constraints.

      I like the idea of having the 6 bins so it’s easy for people to sort out their waste. I’m wondering if there’s an educational component that goes along with the 6 small bins, like posters or public service announcements? I’ve noticed that the more confused people are, the more likely they are to throw something in the trash just to get it over with. It also seems like European countries as well as Australia/New Zealand have more infrastructure and better adoption rates in waste diversion than the US is as a whole, just based on what I’ve read and heard. Hopefully that is changing everywhere as people’s awareness grows!

      1. Actually the six little bins are what we do at our home, others might do it differently. What the municipality have done though is introducing the character “The recycling robot”. Basically it´s a cartoon character who loves sorting things into different colors. Green bags for food, blue for plastic, everything else for combustible. Easy to remember and a noticeable and cute cartoon. Genius! 🙂 Norwegians are already pretty good at metal, glas, paper and at returning bottles, but we have seen similar PR-stunts for other types of recycling.

  6. My dear, your packaging problems and stash busting scraps need to meet in the middle and solve your snacking packaging habits. A few of those darling zipper pouches, lined with oil cloth or laminated cloth (even getting the iron on laminate for your scrap cloth) and you have defeated two problems with one solution. Add in buying your snackables in bulk and you’re well on your way.

    I’ve also done flat wraps with velcro dots to wrap around sandwiches or other flat munchables. These even work for things like celery or carrot sticks in a pinch. Whip up your own lunch bag, line with insulbrite, toss in a frozen juice or bottle of water to keep things cool. Instead of bottled water or juice, I’ve found collapsible drink pouches that are reusable. Fill with my drink of choice, toss in the freezer over night and then into the lunch bag on the way out the door in the morning.

  7. I loved this post! I’m so impressed with your well-thoughtout approach to the various aspects of your life you’d like to improve upon. I feel pretty lame on concentrating so firmly on clothing and accessories! Please do do more of these general posts, very inspiring!

    I always take homemade lunches when I can, but seeing as that is invariably sandwiches that’s no use for your wheat intolerance. Good luck with pushing forward in all the avenues Morgan, lots of us are cheering you on x

    1. Hi Zoe, thank you for your sweet comment! And I think I speak for a lot of us in the online sewing community when I say that I absolutely LOVE your focus on sustainable clothing and textiles. I refer back frequently to your posts on garment/fabric production and really appreciate how well you research your topic of interest.

      PS there is gluten-free, yeast-free bread but it’s quite brick-like and only tastes good as heavily-buttered toast, ha!

  8. Wow such great suggestions! I am taking so many tips away haha. I always like to make boatmeal (baked oatmeal) for snacks during the day! Super simple, certified gluten free oats package (harder to find, but if its just a wheat sensitivity and not celiac a lot of people find plain old oats just fine), a dollop of nut butter, and a drizzle of milk/non-dairy milk (I use almond milk). Mash all the ingredients together, fill a muffin tin, in the oven (375) for 15 minutes! You can expand the recipe to make more, I use the pre-packaged oatmeal only because that’s what I had on hand when I was baking, but you could probably use a 1/2 cup of bulk oats/per “muffin”. I say “muffin” because when they come out of the tin they look like little muffins and hold their shape very well.

    They go great with bananas, jams, or on the side of a breakfast like eggs in place of real muffins or toast.

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