How To: Natural Tie Dye

As optimists to the core, we are always trying to find the bright spots and silver linings in every situation—no matter how tough. We recently asked our customers what their bright spots were during this global pandemic, and here’s a common thread we kept hearing: Having more time to slow down.

Slowing down comes in many forms, but a lot of you mentioned having extra time for projects, hobbies, family, and making more sustainable choices. So we thought this would be a great time to talk about one of our favorite slow-down, sustainable activities: How to make natural dyes from food scraps (aka tie dye your clothes in the most eco-friendly way).

Using natural dyes to spruce up old clothes is a double win for sustainability: It’s an awesome way to breathe new life into old threads to save them from the landfills—and using food scraps to make the dye is an awesome (and fun) way to make use of your waste in the kitchen. You can use all types of food scraps like avocado pits, walnut shells, and beet tops, but for these instructions, we’re going with two of our favorite natural dye ingredients: onion skins and used coffee grounds.

And a big thanks and shout out to our friend Emma for sharing this step by step guide with us—she’s a textile artist launching her own upcycled clothing line, so yeah, she’s an expert (more on her below).

What you’ll need

  • •Cotton T-Shirt (organic cotton or bust)
  • •Yellow onion skins and/or coffee grounds (two of the best natural dyes)
  • •Rubber bands
  • •A non-reactive pot (stainless steel or enamel work well)
  • •Iron mordant (optional) **

 

What is a mordant?

When dyeing clothes naturally, a mordant is needed to fix your dye to your fabric—otherwise the colors will quickly wash out and fade. Iron (ferrous sulfate) is a a commonly used mordant that “fixes” and “saddens” your colors. It’s one of my favorites and can turn golds to olives and browns right before your eyes! If you’re wondering about natural dyes that don’t need mordant, onions are a great choice. Some plants (like onions) are very high in tannins (a naturally occurring mordant), and do not need additional mordanting with iron or other metallic salts. For this project, you’ll only need a mordant (and some extra lead time) if you choose to dye your clothes with coffee grounds.

To make a mordant at home:

  1. 1. Put a handful of rusty nails in a jar.
  2. 2. Fill jar with 2 parts water + 1 part white vinegar.
  3. 3. Cover and set aside until the solution turns orangey (1-2 weeks).

 

To dye your clothes:

  1. 1. Throw your tees in the wash with a pH neutral detergent (most “sensitive skin” detergents fit the bill). When they’re nice and clean, soak them in a pot of water for at least an hour, but ideally overnight.

 

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  1. 2. Meanwhile, put your dye supplies (coffee grounds or onion skins) in a non-reactive pot, adding just enough water to cover your shirts. Bring the water to a boil and simmer (for at least an hour, but overnight if you can). For this project, I used about 10 onions worth of skin for one shirt and a half gallon bag of used coffee grounds for a second shirt (1 shirt per dye pot). It’s possible to continue dyeing with the dye pots until the color is “exhausted” (aka producing really, really light colors). You can also adjust the amount of natural ingredients to get your colors darker or lighter.

 

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  1. 3. After your shirts have soaked, you can bind them into tie dye patterns.

 

For a bullseye pattern, pinch the center of the shirt and wrap rubber bands at regular intervals all the way down. 

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For a spiral pattern, pinch the center of your shirt and twist. Once it’s fully twisted, rubber band it in “slices.” 

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  1. 4. Strain the dye materials out of your pot, drop in your shirts, and simmer for an hour. Let cool and rinse.

 

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  1. 5. If you’re using an iron mordant, now’s the time. Simmer 1 cup of your iron solution with water for 30 minutes (make sure you use enough water so that your shirts will be fully covered once you submerge them). Remove the solution from heat and dip or submerge your shirts – iron works quickly so this may only take a few minutes. Rinse out.

 

  1. 6. Hang to dry in a shady spot, then wash your shirts with a pH neutral detergent again.

 

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  1. 7. Get excited to wear your new naturally dyed tees!

 

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**A few safety notes: As a general rule, it’s best not to use any pots or utensils for food after they’ve been used for dyeing. If using an iron mordant, keep solution out of reach of children and pets; avoid breathing steam from an iron bath and simmer in a well-ventilated area. Iron mordant can be safely disposed of down the drain in municipal areas. 

 

Once you’ve gotten this technique down, it’s easy to learn how to make natural dyes from plants and other food scraps—and the world is your oyster when it comes to things to dye. Think pillowcases, dish towels, cloth for wrapping gifts (a favorite sustainable trick—get instructions here). When sustainability meets creativity, everyone wins.

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Emma Fern is a textile artist living in Burlington, Vermont. Inspired by the stories and traditions of her Appalachian ancestors, she calls upon the sustainability of age-old techniques like natural dyeing to create contemporary textiles. She’s launching her upcycled clothing line, CNTR, this summer. Follow along on Instagram @cntrcntr

8 Ways to Save Water

March 22 is World Water Day, which aims to bring light to the water effects of climate change—and how everyone has a role to play in using it more efficiently. With that, here are our top Toad tips for saving that precious H20.

1. Do less laundry. We’ve always said “Dirty is the new clean” (seriously, just check out the hang tag on our new clothes). But when it does come time to freshen up, run full loads and make sure to skip the extra rinse cycle.

2. Reuse. Water that you’ve boiled pasta or veggies in is a great option for hydrating your indoor and outdoor plants! You can also make a big difference by capturing water while you wait for it to heat.

3. Grow native plants. If you’re looking to start a garden, we always recommend going native. Native plants are already perfectly accustomed to their environment, so they require less water than bringing in more traditional landscapes and lawns. They’re low maintenance, attract birds, butterflies, and other wildlife, and promote local biodiversity.

4. Take shorter showers. Easy peasy (you can also install shower heads that are designed to conserve water).

5. Run full loads only. Same tip from your washing machine applies to your dishwasher. And if you don’t have a dishwasher, double check that that faucet’s turned off as you rinse (bonus: if you have a dual sink, fill one side with hot soapy water for washing, and one with cold, clear water for rinsing).

6. Check for leaks. A slow drip from a leaking faucet can waste as much as 20 gallons of water per day. And a leaky toilet can waste 200 gallons per day (Pro tip: put food coloring in your toilet tank. If it seeps into the bowl without flushing, you’ve got a leak)!

7. Cover your pool. It reduces evaporation and can cut the amount of replacement water needed by 30 – 50%.

8. Wear organic cotton. Organic cotton uses far less water than conventional cotton to grow—and it often uses “green water” (which comes from rainwater) versus “blue water” (which is pumped in from lakes, glaciers, and snow). Shop Men’s and Women’s organic cotton clothes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Questions for Kate Larramendy

Kate Larramendy is the mother of all things sustainable at Toad. In the early 2000s, Kate took over as Director of Design back when we were still called “Horny Toad” and e-commerce wasn’t really a thing (so the name wasn’t really a problem…but we digress…) For almost two decades, Kate was the force behind our sustainability achievements: our switch to only organic or recycled cotton, ending our use of Angora and using non-mulesed merino wool, pushing suppliers for more recycled options, and even demanding we have an office compost bin (to name just a few). Kate and her teams established a sustainability criteria that we’d measure everything against. First it started as “50% of the line had to be made with eco-friendly materials and practices.” Then it was 70%. Then 85%. Now, 100% of our line has to be sustainably made. In the words of Kate, “If it’s not worthy of the resources to make it, we won’t make it at all.” 

Kate retired from Toad in 2018, but sustainable stewardship is a habit that never fades. Now, Kate serves as a board member for the Conservation Alliance, and of course, pops in to Toad HQ to drop off a bottle of of signature salad dressing (this stuff is seriously GOOD) and give us the latest sustainability news. 

1. What does the Conservation Alliance do? 

KL: The Conservation Alliance is the leading coalition of businesses that fund and partner with grassroots conservation groups working to protect North America’s wild places. The Conservation Alliance has the ability to bring together voices and actions that support thriving outdoor businesses, thriving outdoor communities and the possibility of a thriving planet into the future by protecting wild places and wildlife.

2. What do you love about the Conservation Alliance? 

When I was ready to transition from a career of making clothing and gear (even though it was beautiful, useful and mostly sustainably optimized), I was happy to swap commerce for conservation. I had been active with the Conservation Alliance for many years so joining the Board was exactly what I wanted next.

3. What’s the most gratifying part of your work with the CA? 

I especially love the advocacy aspect of our work that includes regular trips to Washington, D.C to lobby representatives on behalf of our public lands. Most people do not realize that the outdoor recreation economy generated $887M in revenues, provided 7.6 million jobs and accounted for 2.2% of the national GDP (2017 stats). There is a lot of power in those numbers –– and they’re growing. By last stats, the outdoor recreation economy is actually growing faster than the overall U.S. economy! 

4. What is your favorite quote regarding conservation? 

“I hope the United States of America is not so rich that she can afford to let these wildernesses pass by, or so poor she cannot afford to keep them. Wilderness itself is the basis of all our civilization.” – Mardie Murie

5. What’s your #1 sustainability tip?

Don’t buy, take or use anything that is disposable or can’t be reused many times, if not indefinitely.

How to Throw an Eco-Friendly Party

There’s a little football game coming up (we’re not legally allowed to use the name, but it rhymes with “Duper Bowl”) and we’re gearing up for snack central. Since we’re on a mission to find a greener way to do just about everything (see BBQs, holidays, coffee, summer), here are our tips for throwing an eco-friendly tailgate party. 

Checkbox LESS “TAILGATES”

Carpool, public transit, bike or walk… the days of everyone driving their own trucks are over. We’re not here to kill the vibe, just make it a little more carbon neutral.

Checkbox GROWLERS OVER CANS  

Have everyone go to their local brewery of choice and fill up some reusable growlers. OR have everyone pitch in for a pony keg. Sure, beer cans and bottles are recyclable, but reusable containers are where you can make a huge impact. 

Checkbox  GO MEATLESS 

We get it – we love chicken wings too. But maybe, just this once you can try a buffalo cauliflower recipe or mushroom burgers. Who knows, you might actually like it better.

Checkbox REAL UTENSILS  

Hear us out: you can get a zillion utensils for next to nothing at thrift stores (because who needs mismatched forks? YOU DO). Yes, the compostable utensils are better than plastic ones, but they still end up in landfills and take many years to break down. That’s why we’ll always preach the benefits of reusable items. Get a mess of utensils and keep them as your “party set.” You’ll use them more than you think! 

Checkbox RECYCLED DECORATIONS    

Real talk: Those 99¢ streamers we can get online have a lot of hidden costs to the environment (packaging, jet fuel, questionable manufacturing). Get creative and make streamers out of old ribbon or fabric you find at thrift stores, or make a big flower arrangement with the colors of your team. Encourage guests to wear team colors – it will feel festive in no time. 

Checkbox DONATE THE WINNINGS   

There’s a $5 buy in and the winner gets to donate to the winning to the non-profit of their choice! Win, win. Gotta love football! 

Holiday Recycling Tips & Ideas

We know a thing or two about leftovers. From fabric scraps to dye water to using every part of a plant, we’re always looking for ways to capture our leftovers and reuse them (wine bottle bowling, anyone?). If you’re having an eco friendly holiday, keep it going and stretch those leftovers into 2020. 

Checkbox USED WRAPPING PAPER

Unless it’s plain ol’ brown paper, wrapping paper isn’t recyclable. Wrap fragile things like ornaments or glassware in used wrapping or tissue paper  to keep it safe until next holiday. 

Checkbox CARDBOARD BOXES 

Ah the ubiquitous cardboard box. Instead of clogging the recycling plant, stick in your yard + cover with mulch = no weeds in the spring. 

Checkbox  POLY BAGS 

Most things ship in plastic in order to protect them from any transit snafus. Get in the habit of reusing these plastic bags for doggy doodoo bags (a Toad office trick), or save and use as packing materials next time you ship a package to another time zone. 

Checkbox FOOD SCRAPS  

Nearly all food scraps can be reused. Toss bones and veggie peels into a pot for broth or soup. Take literally anything, mix it with eggs, toss in a pie crust and you have a quiche (or do the same thing but with cheese and bread and voila, you have a grilled cheese). Stale bread becomes croutons, wilted greens become pesto, and less than perfect veggies love a quick pickle. Waste not, want not. 

Checkbox OPENED WINE   

Opened wine will keep in the fridge for 2 months, so now’s the time to make all those fancy recipes that call for a cup of wine – piccata, coq au vin, braised short ribs, scallops… cooking with leftovers doesn’t sound half bad… 

Checkbox CHRISTMAS TREE  

First, check to see if your local waste management recycles Christmas trees into wood chips (that’s a great option if you have it!). If not, get an axe and get to work – turn your tree into firewood and use the needles for much. Live near a lake or pond? Wash your tree with the hose (get any glitter, plastic, and hooks of of it) and toss the tree into the lake. The tree is a natural incubator for algae and great habitat for fish. 

Checkbox GIFTS 

Got stuff you don’t need? Instead of throwing it all in a box and sending to the thrift store, think about who could use it and donate to specialized organizations that will get it to people in need. Transition houses, homeless shelters, animal shelters, disaster relief organizations, children’s programs, family assistance leagues… what you donate now will be used throughout the year.  

Happy 2020 – let’s make it the most sustainable year yet! 

Vintage Denim 101: How to Cut it and Make it Your Own

The 90s called, and they’re not getting their jeans back anytime soon. We’re thrilled to announce that we’re now offering vintage denim on our website. By rocking vintage, you’re doing your part to keep clothes out of the landfill, which keeps the circular economy in motion, and lets Mother Nature rest easy (most denim production also uses a ton of water, so shopping vintage is just as water-wise as it is a win for your closet).

Because each pair of vintage 501s has its own unique story, inseam lengths will vary and some pairs are more washed and worn than others. We think it’s awesome that no two pairs are the same, and love the idea of adding your chapter to your new (well….old) pair’s story.

Our in-house denim gurus (AKA Kyle, our Head of Product, Design, and Supply Chain, and Lindsay, our Web Merchant/Style Superstar) share their super simple, step-by-step guide on how to cut denim to make it your own. Give it a try and we can guarantee that your newly acquired jeans will thank you for keeping them from the landfill, and breathing some extra life into them too.

And a pro tip from the rest of the Toads: Make it to the end for a good laugh.

 

Shop Men’s Vintage Levi’s 501s and Women’s Vintage Levi’s 501s.

How to Have an Eco-Friendly BBQ

So you’ve got your organic cotton apron and your bamboo utensils and you stopped buying plastic-bottled beverages a decade ago. You’re off to a stellar start! Here are a few more ways to turn your BBQ/cookout/tailgate/meet-and-eat into a sustainable Iron Chef spectacular.

SUSTAINABLE GRILLING

Gas vs. Charcoal – We’ll stay out of the flavor debate, but we’ll pass on the facts about these fuel sources: Charcoal briquettes are typically made from a combination of lighter fluid, sawdust, and other chemical additives; when burned, charcoal briquettes can produce 105 times more carbon than propane and nasty little air pollutants called VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds). Propane, on the other hand, does come from non-renewable fossil fuels but produces fewer and cleaner emissions. So propane is the way to go, BUT here’s the catch: if you can find true charcoal (generally called lump or chunk charcoal), this fuel is made from a non-additive hardwood material and burning it is carbon neutral.

Cookin’ With the Sun  – If you’re in the market for a zero emissions option, go for a solar grill or oven. Solar grills are a renewable take on the traditional “electric” grill, while solar ovens magnify and maximize sunlight to do the actual cooking. Science is so cool.

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FOOD & DRINK

Get Local – There are about a million and one reasons to buy local food. To name just a few, buying local: reduces your carbon footprint thanks to short-distance transportation, supports local farmers, stimulates biodiversity in your ecosystem, and generally sidesteps all that plastic packaging you find in chain grocery stores. Co-ops, farmer’s markets, farm carts, community gardens, local grocery stores… we’d bet there are tons of great options near you.

DIY Dips – Do you know how easy it is to make hummus? REALLY easy. Say buh-bye to single-use plastic tubs and hello to your new party trick. Google your favorite dip recipes (we like these for hummus, salsa, and green goddess dip) and put that food processor to work. Twice as much dip for half the cost and 0% the amount of plastic. Wins all around.

DIY Chips – Potato chips, pita chips, tortilla chips, bagel chips, kale chips…there is literally no end to what you can slice and bake. Pick your base, toss with olive oil and salt (or other spices if you’re feeling, well, spicy) and bake low n’ slow. (Addendum: If you’re like our copywriter, Daisy, and “just loooove Doritos,” just make sure to repurpose that empty Doritos bag and reuse it as a trash bag. But also, the internet even has a DIY Doritos recipe… so no excuses).

Chill Properly – This one is tricky, but we understand ice is useful (hello, margaritas). When buying ice, opt for one big bag instead of multiple smaller ones. Reuse the bag as a trash bag or dry out before recycling (BTW, here’s a quick rundown on what’s recyclable and what’s not). If you have a bucket or a cooler to keep cold, fill it with cold water and ice packs.

The Bottle and The Can – We know you know, but it’s a good reminder: Cans and bottles are the best materials to recycle, with clean plastic next, but avoid juice boxes or things that come in cartons – they’re coated with a thin film on the inside that renders them unrecyclable.

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SUPPLIES & MATERIALS

Plate & Wipe Responsibly – Skip single use plastic or styrofoam and look for paper plates and napkins that are made from recycled materials. When you’re done, toss in the compost or the fire. Don’t have a compost? Make one.

Get Real (With Real Utensils) ­– We challenge you to avoid single-use materials (even if they’re compostable and made out of corn oil…). Use the utensils you’ve got and ask a friend to bring all their utensils, too. If you host often, hit up a local thrift store and get a bunch of cheap utensils as a backup BBQ set.

Bees Have Your Back – Ditch plastic wrap if you know what’s good for ya! We’re big fans of reusable beeswax wraps that come in all different sizes and keep your leftovers just as fresh. You can find them in lots of stores now (even in Trader Joe’s), or you can make them yourself ­– just be sure to the get beeswax beads from a local store, not delivered via the interwebs!

Raise a Cup to Mother Nature –  Say it with us, “No more plastic cups!” Grab a 12-pack of mason jars (about $8 at the grocery store). Or just ask your friends to BYOC – tell them it’s just like camping.

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Spread the word with our No More Plastic Stainless Steel Pint

Happy BBQ-ing – save us some leftovers!