April 12th, 2017
Posted in Burlap, Emergency, Flood Protection, Go Green, Prevention Tips, Sandbags | No Comments »
Hurricane season begins in June and extends through November. Over the next few months, depending on several major climate factors affecting the air and ocean water temperatures, the season can be largely unpredictable. That is why being prepared for flooding is so important.
Flooding causes extensive property damage around the world every year. More recent building practices have made newer homes and structures less prone to flooding disaster, but older construction remains vulnerable. Throughout the world, there is an increasing interest in finding practical and cost-effective ways to reduce exposures to hurricane damage and flooding from tidal surges to overflowing rivers and streams.
These methods include:
- limiting new building inside existing flood plains,
- constructing floodwalls or berms as barriers to redirect water, and
- retrofitting buildings by modifying them with water tight floor and wall systems or elevating the ground floor above flood level to keep living space dry
These construction practices help, but beyond that, we still rely on sandbags as the main staple for constructing barriers and redirecting water to further prevent major problems from occurring. Filled and stacked properly, they will also prevent erosion from the repeated assault of successive storms leaving weakened soil behind compounding the initial damage. They can help keep drainage systems clear of the debris that prevents the flow of water causing flood levels to rise higher than expected. Sandbags can also seal up sewer lines to prevent backflow into a building.
Embracing Nature with Bio-Friendly Tools
Floodplains exist for a reason so the less we alter them, the better. They are nature’s best system for organic flood and erosion control, storing and diverting water, reducing the pace of water flow, filtering nutrients and debris from runoff, and keeping a balance that supports local wildlife. These things provide the most beautiful areas to study and enjoy nature. We need to respect the environment and work with it rather than against it. It’s important to prepare for flooding caused by heavy rainfall over short periods of time – coastal storms, tropical storms, and hurricanes – using eco-friendly resources that are readily available. Otherwise, floods can wreak havoc on our manmade settings.
Remember to work with the land’s natural flow of water by either letting it pass through an elevated structure or uninhabited living space or by temporarily redirecting it around the property to return it to its natural course. Sandbags have always been an environmentally friendly tool that can be left in place to biodegrade and have a natural look of burlap made from simple plant fibers. They are filled with clean soil or sand and can be reused as well. The flexible materials are able to withstand the changing water pressure unlike retaining walls of wood and stone that eventually fail. Empty burlap bags take up minimal space and can be filled onsite and as needed. Protect yourself from flood hazards by stocking up on sandbags long before a flooding occurs and have a plan in place.
March 30th, 2017
Posted in Burlap, gardening, Go Green | No Comments »
Everyone knows that plants die if temperatures are too chilly for them to endure. Spring can bounce back and forth with bouts of cold, windy, or rainy weather before getting to the more consistent weather of summer. This time of year, it is hard to decide what clothes to wear as we head out the door to work and temperamental plants, as well as the toughest, have a similar problem.
An early spring burst of bitter cold can kill young plants with stems that haven’t hardened yet. Once they do, those same plants can manage the cold much better, but you need to protect them until they mature. The cells of some plants, especially trees and shrubs, are more vulnerable to the cold in their youth or shortly after transplanting. Reaching a hardy level of maturity can take a year or two.
Warm spells can be just as dangerous since unexpected high temperatures can evaporate the last reserves of moisture needed to get through the winter season. Plants like evergreens with roots that are still in the frozen ground are unable to draw moisture from the soil. Also, when the earth is subject to freezing and thawing in early spring, it can easily shift plants and expose the root systems.
Preparing a marginally hardy or recently planted perennial, tree or shrub with a 2- to 4-inch blanket of protection will help moderate temperature changes and offer a barrier from the wind and sun. Natural and environmentally friendly choices include burlap bags and tarps, mulched leaves, or a heavy-duty paper bag.
Combining these tools can help create the protection you need while still maintaining a yard that looks aesthetically pleasing until the shelters are removed. It may be necessary to use them for a year or two until a newly planted tree or shrub is well-established. Plantings that need long-term attention can be placed discretely in the backyard and moved in place later or planted in less prominent areas.
Burlap is the most versatile and breathable shelter available for shrubs or small trees. Take a length of material long enough to wrap around the plant a couple of times, drape it on one side of the plant and begin wrapping it loosely, carefully positioning the branches. Larger plants require taking the material up or down the plant with each new layer. Twine looped around the burlap holds it in place.
Additionally, burlap fabric can be used to create a barrier by stapling it to a few tomato stakes surrounding the plant and allowing more air space and support. The walls need to be about 6 inches higher than the plant.
Whether using it to create a simple windbreak or sunscreen for protection, a coarse burlap provides individual cover or can shield an entire row of seedlings. Spring is full of surprises, but you can prepare your plants with a simple and inexpensive burlap bag.
March 23rd, 2017
Posted in All Natural, Jute, Plant Fiber | No Comments »
Natural fibers can be sourced from plants such as oil palm, sisal, flax, ramie, hemp, kenaf, and jute. These plants specifically produce cellulose fibers in stems, leaves, seed, grass, or reeds. They are known to be relatively low weight, low cost, cause less damage to processing equipment, and have the strength and flexibility to create improved surface finishes of molded composite parts called natural reinforced polymer composites (NFPCs).
This sustainable material is being tested for use in the design and construction of new boats. Biocomposites—like jute or flax fiber—may replace non-ecological materials like fiberglass panels and steel fittings in marine construction to promote waste recycling, reduce weight – and therefore, fuel consumption – in racing yachts and superyachts and significantly lighten large passenger ships. Depending on the size of the ship, a superstructure uses 5-10% less energy maintaining stability with biocomposite than when using the equivalent in fiberglass.
In 2009, a French engineer, Corentin de Chatelperron, built a sailboat made entirely of jute fiber in Bangladesh to demonstrate that natural materials found around the world could permanently replace fiberglass on an industrial scale, from power boats to swimming pools. The marine sector only represents 10% of the world’s fiberglass market, so the potential impact is huge.
It takes very thin fibers from glass to make fiberglass and it requires heating it to 1500 degrees which consumes a lot of energy. The waste won’t burn and must be buried. Biodegradable jute and other fibers are easily recycled and used as fuel.
France has been replacing fiberglass with flax fiber for many years. Corentin replaced 40% of his boat’s fiberglass hull with jute fiber and added resin, then built a second boat hull of 100% jute with no fiberglass at all.
He sailed successfully from Bangladesh to France and has since sailed halfway around the world. He financed a research center to make jute fabric designed for boat building; making the fibers directly into fabric, not thread. Rather than twisting fibers, this fabric is created with parallel fibers adhered with polymer resin for better performance and strength. Newer resins called thermoplastics are partially biosourced and partly organic and have improved the process. They can also be melted and reused.
Different natural fibers are found in many regions of the world and are customarily used to make cordage. Loops of biocomposite high-strength rope made by Dyneema, Kevlar, and Polybenzoxazole (PBO) are used with blocks and deck fittings made of textile rather than metal. Each component is stronger than stainless steel and about ten times lighter.
Flexible material allows each part the ability to move in any direction without metal to metal contact, eliminating noise and resisting abrasion and fatigue which causes stainless steel to fail. Composites have rounded curves rather than sharp edges.
Plant fiber composites perform better, generate less load, require less material to build, and cost less. They are renewable and abundant resources that are biodegradable and minimize health hazards.
March 14th, 2017
Posted in All Natural, Jute, Plant Fiber | No Comments »
Plant-based fibers such as flax, jute, and hemp are being used to engineer medical use bio-composites. The National Institutes of Health Consensus Development Conference defines biomaterials as a natural or manufactured material that can be used for any interval of time to treat, enhance or replace a tissue, organ, or function of the body. They are used in implants and medical devices and must be compatible to interact with biological systems without rejection. As complicated as it sounds, humans have been doing this throughout history.
Egyptian mummies used artificial teeth, eyes, noses, and ears. The Chinese and Indian people have been using glues, waxes, and tissues to repair and regenerate wounds in traumatized patients. In North America, we’ve used casting materials made of woven natural fibers for splints, casts, and braces to fix bones and used gauze dressings to stop bleeding. We learned that plant cellulose stimulates wound healing.
Over the centuries, we have improved our synthetic materials, surgical techniques, and sterilization methods to use biomaterials that are non-toxic, non-carcinogenic, and mechanically strong enough to withstand repeated use. They possess high strength, don’t corrode or fracture, and are renewable and sustainable.
Today, scientists and researchers find the environmental benefits and performance of natural fibers very attractive for drug delivery, tissue production, orthopedics, and cosmetic dentistry. New biomaterials are easily accepted by the human body as a framework while waiting for regeneration of tissue and organs. Plant fibers will replace glass and carbon fibers that are less biodegradable and are non-renewable.
Polymer composites using a combination of natural and synthetic resin can also increase the durability. Natural fibers are bonded by polymer agents obtained by natural resources like polylactic acid (PLA). By combining fibers like hemp, flax, jute, wood, or various leaves and grasses with polymer from renewable sources, orthopedics, and limb prosthetics have greatly improved and at a lesser cost for materials.
Bio-composites are used for hard tissue applications like prosthetic sockets, dental posts, bone plate, orthodontic brackets, hip replacement, screws, and pins. In medical nanotechnology, nanocomposites are small enough to be used for blood bags, cardiac devices, and heart valves. Patients have faster bone healing, no risk of pathogen transfer, faster and cheaper surgery, and less pain. By controlling the composition of materials and adjusting flexibility and strength, implants can be customized to suit the patient and avoid rejection.
As the popularity of using materials and products that are sustainable, ecologically sound and efficient, and incorporate green chemistry increases, bio-composites may be the next generation of products that mimic living tissues like bone, cartilage, and skin.
Biomaterials will reduce our dependency on costly petroleum products, carbon dioxide emissions, and create economic opportunities to improve our environment by slowing energy consumption when used for insulation and sound absorption in manufacturing processes too. Plant fibers and products made from them – burlap sacks to high-tech geotextiles and more – are low cost, lightweight, eco-friendly, renewable, and durable.
March 10th, 2017
Posted in All Natural, Burlap, DIY, Go Green | No Comments »
Burlap-crete is a loosely woven burlap saturated in a rapid setting cement. Unlike exterior plywood sheathing, it doesn’t warp or swell. It won’t delaminate, mold, burn, or get damaged by rodents. It doesn’t take as many tools or any special skill either. It can withstand years of weather as well as the heat of a blowtorch and hammer blows when correctly applied.
Using a solution of quick set non-shrinking cement and overlapping the burlap layers like shingles, takes the more brittle artistic process and transforms the burlap into a shell with the strength of rigid half inch plywood coated with stucco. Adding latex concrete binder makes it more elastic and allows it to bend before breaking. In 30 minutes, cement containing non-shrinking grout achieves up to 9,000 pounds per square inch (psi) compressive strength after 28 days. It can handle wet weather and condensation and dries a nice sandy beige color with invisible seams.
The fast-drying cement can be mixed in a rubber feed bucket found at a livestock supply store – three feet around and over a foot high. Flexing the bucket will remove residual cement for reuse. Air temperature and wind can change the amount of water needed while the temperature of the water can change the setting time.
It is easiest to take a 55-pound bag of cement and mix it five gallons at a time and pour it into the larger feed bucket for use with the burlap. Using a half inch drill with a mixing paddle is important- a smaller drill motor can’t handle this thick solution.
Burlap needs to soak in water overnight and be cut into two-foot squares that will fit in the big rubber bucket. Wearing gloves, wring the burlap out slightly and dip it into the cement of a pea soup consistency, turning the burlap over a few times.
Large wooden clothes pins, covered in oil, hold the burlap onto the wire wall or stock panels without sticking permanently to the structure. The mix dries rapidly, so put the pins on the wire just above where you intend to place the burlap so that they will be ready to use immediately. Turn the clothes pins toward the wire to press the burlap against it. You will need to fill the divot later with more cement. Doors and windows can be cut out later with a reciprocating saw just like with plywood.
Only one quart of concrete binder is needed per bag of cement if you use the Quickrete brand. A bag of cement will yield about 25 square feet of saturated burlap. One person can work quickly enough to deal with the entire process alone if well organized. It has a textured finish, but it can be dampened and smoothed out by hand or trowel using a thinned-out layer of cement. The versatility of burlap, a simple fabric of jute plant fiber, is proven once again.
December 30th, 2016
Posted in All Natural, Clothing, Go Green, Plant Fiber | No Comments »
In the past, the few garments a person owned would fit in a small wardrobe closet. A coat for winter, a few shirts, and a couple of pairs of pants or dresses. Clothes were brushed clean or washed very infrequently and shoes were polished. Today, we have several colors of the same shirt or pants and overflowing walk-in closets. Many consumers act as though clothing is disposable.
The world population is rising as we continue to grow mass quantities of cotton and spin fossil fuels into mountains of synthetic fabrics. The fashion industry must use more sustainable fibers as consumers rethink their clothing needs and how to convince global clothing chains to be more proactive.
Clothing companies are focusing on using sustainable fiber rather than reducing inventory; modernizing their brands through environmental performance, health, safety, and community engagement for sustainable vendors in the supply chain.
They are further encouraging the use of line drying clothes to save on energy costs while producing plant fibers from crops that use less water and pesticides to cultivate as well as spinning recycled plastic bottles into fabrics. It is becoming a global initiative as certain textiles influence the fashion industry evolution.
5 Main Textiles
- Cotton uses a lot of water to grow but it is preferred for its durability, comfort, and breathability. Experiments for blending other fibers like hemp, jute, and flax with cotton will reduce the footprint of cotton clothing for more sustainability in production.
- Hemp is strong and grows quickly without excessive water or pesticides. It does not dye as well and has a rougher look and feel, but manufacturers are working on textures more like denim. The U.S. laws regarding hemp production need to be relaxed, but jute has similar qualities and is the popular option.
- Bamboo was considered “sustainable” but the fibers spun from it required so many solvents that it became a virtually synthetic fabric. Other plant fibers will need to replace it.
- Synthetic fabrics experience less patent litigation today which supports the move toward more environmentally friendly textiles. Some of this change is due to companies sharing ideas and innovation.
- Recycled fabrics are now a large focus of the textile industry to conserve resources and improve recycling technology. Closed-loop processes used by carpet manufacturers need to become the standard. The materials used must be non-toxic, safe for workers to handle, and safe for the consumer. This makes companies work harder to produce products that are eco-friendly.
Reclaimed textiles start at the beginning of the supply chain using materials like recycled fishing nets and other unwanted materials generated into yarns for use as fabric. The clothing can be recycled again and continue a captive recycling process.
The right selection of plant fibers produces “green” clothing and a sustainable environment. As forward thinking individuals buy new clothing, they may want to find out their favorite retailers’ policies on recycling and repurposing during the manufacturing process.
December 27th, 2016
Posted in Arts and Crafts, DIY, Plant Fiber | No Comments »
Modern fiber art evolved from the textile arts practiced globally since ancient times to create practical cloth for clothing, tapestries, quilts, and rugs. New artistic applications combine fibers to produce new products, with an exclusive feel, smell, aura, and appreciation.
It was around the 1960s when textile art began to transform from the category of craft to that of art. Prior to the 70s, it was believed that fiber art wasn’t as good as painting or sculpture because it was considered the toil of women, the working class, and ethnic minorities. For a time, feminist artists became focused on the textile arts in defiance of this narrow-mindedness.
Technology has transformed the use of textiles by various cultures around the world, expanding its uses with new processing affects for greater aesthetic and functional qualities. In this case, taking the textile arts from a necessary tool to a decorative representation of nature everyone can simply enjoy.
Combining many fibers and fabrics produces a wide range of materials with which to work. Traditionally, fiber is taken from parts of plants like the seed pods of cotton and the stems of jute, hemp, and flax. More recently, synthetic materials were also added to displays.
These natural fibers must be twisted into a workable yarn strand and are often dyed before being made into cloth. Knitting and crocheting are common methods of shaping the yarn as well as weaving it on a frame called a loom. Each fiber creates different sized threads of various styles and textures. They can be used to quilt, embroider, and craft into unique designs, both handmade and commercially.
If the individual fibers were not initially dyed, the fabrics can be dyed or painted in multiple colors. Diverse techniques can achieve solid or mottled designs. The cloth can also be manipulated by pleating, folding, layering, or gathering. Combinations of fibers can be pressed together to create a nonwoven felt using moisture and compression to create yet another type of finish. Additional plant fiber threads and yarns are used for embellishing finished products and art displays.
Today we pursue a balance between nature and technology in the contemporary art environment that parallels an ancient craft with our futuristic world of smart devices. Crafts require talents and skills that are quickly being lost, containing human flaws that remind us of our history. We love the ease of technology but marvel over earlier times and efforts needed to accomplish daily comforts and tasks. Something as small as a thread can soften the contact of feet on the floor or become a giant sculpture, not to be walked on, but simply to be to be viewed and appreciated for its natural beginnings and ability to inspire the human mind.
From natural textile consumables to modern fiber art; jute, hemp, flax, cotton, and many other fibers, continue to enhance our lives in so many ways. Whether we purchase them as practical items or visit a local museum, plant fibers will continue to influence our world.
December 20th, 2016
Posted in Go Green, Jute, Plant Fiber | No Comments »
Plant fibers create natural fabrics for all kind of uses. The trend to use green products that are simple and sustainable reduces pollution and encourages efficient land and energy use.
The Baby Boomers are comprised of 80 million Americans that will be making end-of-life decisions in the next couple of decades and they seem to be fueling a natural burial trend. Like many things, this is actually a resurgence of practices from an earlier time in history.
Traditional funeral and burial methods inhibit the decomposition process and the funeral industry has made the act of dying into an increasingly commercial and depersonalized event since the mid-19th century.
In a green burial process, a body is not prepared with embalming fluids or other chemicals and can completely decompose and recycle naturally. The body is put in a biodegradable coffin or shroud with no concrete burial vault. These coffins and shrouds can be made from 100 percent jute mixed with natural starch and then compressed to make a strong, easily biodegradable board that resembles wood. They are suitable for cremation and burial for the eco-friendly consumer concerned about the environment.
Coffins can be lined with jute fabric and carried using jute rope handles. Jute products were originally mass produced by a company in Dundee, Scotland and they began providing a variety of funeral products several years ago, including personalized coffins, urns, shrouds, pet coffins, remembrance books, and even jewelry.
A shroud can be used for cremation or burial as well. It is a simple piece of cloth to wrap the body made of plant fibers like cotton, linen, flax, or hemp. They are designed to be plain or embellished, natural or in a variety of colors, and affordable; from a plain cotton sheet to custom hand stitched felt.
Some alternative coffins are made from recycled paper and are also 100 percent biodegradable. The style is a plain cardboard look, but it is an inexpensive alternative that helps the environment. An exterior coffin cover, also made of plant fiber materials and more aesthetically pleasing, can be slid over the cardboard temporarily during a funeral event.
Wicker coffins are woven from any one of a variety of flexible materials like willow, bamboo, seagrass, banana leaf, jute, flax or hemp. All of them are quite attractive, biodegradable, and used in either cremation or burial.
Jute and other plant fiber bags are used for carrying an ash casket or ashes that will be scattered. Plant fiber urns can be made of anything from cornstarch to paper. Different plant fibers are blended for cords, tassels, face cloths, pillows linings, and curtains, or decorative braided edging.
In the future, companies are already working on organic, biodegradable burial pods that turn remains into nutrients for a single tree. Without embalming fluid or synthetic ingredients, each body is returned to the earth to compost in a park called a “memory forest” rather than the cemeteries of traditional headstones and vaults of today. Plant fibers are the perfect material to help everyone return to nature gracefully.
Sources and Links:
Beal, C., “Be a Tree; the Natural Burial Guide for Turning Yourself into a Forest”, http://www.beatree.com/
December 12th, 2016
Posted in Go Green, Plant Fiber, Prevention Tips | No Comments »
Across the world, we have become more vulnerable to natural hazards like floods due to human activity and intervention into nature’s processes. The result is changed drainage patterns from commercial development, agricultural practices, and deforestation that affect river flow and basins. Exposure to flood-prone areas is growing and expected to increase due to evolving climate change referred to as global warming by the science conference held in Shanghai in early 2001. This means dangerous floods are expected to become more frequent due to more winter rainfall and unusual and extreme weather events. Many efforts at ‘hard-engineering’ such as flood walls and embankments are shown to be temporary solutions, not permanent adaptations.
Preparing for the Future
The new trend is to approach natural disasters with ways to manage the risk while learning to live with increased flooding; being prepared for regular occurrences as well as rare events. We need to adapt to existing and potential floodplains with the best possible equipment and measures to restore the previous ability of wetlands and floodplains to retain water and lessen flood impacts naturally.
Many efforts to do this are through large-scale and semi-permanent projects like restoring wetlands and woodlands currently endangering neighboring communities. These projects often use Flexible Intermediate Bulk Containers (FIBC) because they offer a variety of sizes and options of much larger bags with higher sand capacities, easier filling spouts, discharge shoots and slide gates to construct strong barriers able to control or store large volumes of rising water.
With the proper tools, like these bulk industrial size flexible containers, the landscape can be maintained until it can be returned to a more naturally effective environment through re- foresting and planting that will conserve surrounding wildlife and improve water quality as well as sustain fisheries and recreational areas. This is called ‘soft engineering’ for more long-term solutions. It is less expensive and very environmentally friendly, eventually improving the ecology and flood peak run-off without permanent manmade structures.
Flexible Intermediate Bulk Containers
FIBCs are not only used for flood conditions. They are made from 100% virgin woven polypropylene fabric designed to hold specific amounts of weight, anywhere from 2000 – 4000 pounds, and used to store or transport all kinds of dry products including:
- Food – Sugar, Salt, Flour, Starch
- Agricultural – Seed, Grain, Popcorn, Nuts, Potatoes
- Construction – Sand, Gravel, Cement, Clay
- Plastics – Polymer, Resin, Pellets
- Steel – Rebar and Specialty Minerals
These bags come in circular structures for fine materials and can be lined for moisture protection. A u-panel construction is better for heavy lifting capacity for dense products. Baffled bags are best for transportation because they maintain their shape. The baffles have holes that allow the product to flow through them and save interior bag space. Mostly recommended for one-time use since they are made to be biodegradable, UV treatment can be added to extend its life. FIBCs can help the earth and its inhabitants adapt to global climate change.
November 30th, 2016
Posted in Arts and Crafts, Burlap, DIY | No Comments »
What started out as packaging needs for agriculture, landscaping, and manufacturing, provides so much more in the retail space. Over the past 80 years, new practices and ideas evolved as technology and shipping advanced. Companies across the globe are using biodegradable products – jute, flax, hemp, reeds, starch, and sugar to produce their packaging.
There was a time when technology took us in the direction of inexpensive petroleum-based packaging for food, produce, and supplies, but the danger to the environment and rising costs of oil corrected the path back to natural products that are biodegradable, renewable, and sustainable.
Some of the largest retailers in the world have shifted to selling everything from produce to children’s toys, back to packing material and simple bags made of burlap, molded plant fiber, and polylactic acid (PLA) – a biodegradable thermoplastic derived from corn starch and combinations of reeds, tapioca roots or sugarcane. The choice to use biodegradable containers boosted sales of all kinds of new packaging, decreasing the use of hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil each year while saving space in landfills.
This Holiday Season
Whether you need a heavy jute bag to hold a large item or a small lightweight bag with an added drawstring closure, rough natural burlap bags are highly versatile and come in many sizes. If the natural fiber is not the look you want, there are softer jute, hemp, and flax pouches and bags that can be dyed different colors, have a smoother feel and can be customized with prints. Wine bags with rope handles, jute beach bags, reusable linen shopping bags, or a burlap bag you embellished yourself with ribbon or cord make any holiday gift distinct.
Burlap is organic, durable, and very affordable. It can be cut to any size, printed in multiple colors, come with moisture proof linings or laminated exteriors. Not only are they used for machine parts, construction, vegetables, nuts and other snacks, but they showcase designs for commercial and retail brands. Large feed and coffee bags are great for storing things in or using for creative projects.
Get ideas by noticing the various customized retail shopping bags already out there as you make your holiday purchases, then buy your own plain bags to decorate with printed personal designs or messages to package gifts this holiday season.
Natural jute, hemp, and flax fabrics have different looks for packaging and decoration. They create an attractive mesh or loose weave, but when more tightly woven, it becomes heavier and stronger, still striking in design, as well as flexible. Buying rolls of burlap fabric can make an excellent window trimming or a backdrop for floral arrangements as well as a multitude of creative projects. Burlap bags reused from their original purpose in different industries have a natural beauty with branded logo prints that give them a unique worn style. Biodegradable bags can be ordered new for commercial uses for packaging, but also in retail stores for more personal uses, especially holiday gift-giving.