Category: Life + Style

DEET vs. Insect Shield

By dweb247 on June 7th 2020

Nothing says summer quite like the bloodsucking buzz of the mosquito. And it’s not just the mosquitos — the ticks, midges, no-see-ums, ants and other creepy crawlers are just as relentless. Luckily, we humans have developed various bug repellent tactics to combat Mother Nature’s most annoying pests: lighting citronella candles, burning sage, dousing ourselves in DEET, rubbing picardin lotion all over, and our favorite, Insect Shield Technology woven right into our clothing. Before we get into why we love Insect Sheild protected clothing, let’s dive into the alternatives.

What is DEET?

DEET (or diethyltoluamide), is the most common active ingredient in insect repellents. It was actually developed by the U.S. Army in 1946 to protect soldiers in insect-infested areas, and a few years later it hit consumer shelves.

DEET works by basically taking you off of a bug’s radar. Insects can sense people and animals by detecting the air that we breathe out. DEET masks the smell and thus makes it harder for insects to find you. Sounds harmless enough, but the issue with DEET lies in the chemistry.

The compounds that make up DEET are toxic when absorbed or ingested into the human body – it’s a pesticide, after all. And if you’re rubbing or spraying DEET onto your skin, the chances to absorb are high. Though it’s not been proven by the FDA to cause cancer, DEET has been linked to skin irritation, redness, rashes, and swelling. And DEET actually stays in the body for a long time. DEET absorbed through your skin can be found in the blood up to 12 hours after it is applied. Once it’s in your body, DEET travels through the liver where it’s broken down into smaller chemicals, and finally exits through the urine. Most DEET has left your body within 24-hours of application.Because DEET is so widely used, it has been found in wastewater — and in places where waste water becomes part of the environment.

So let’s talk about the effects of DEET on the environment. First of all, DEET does not dissolve or mix with dater very well, so it needs. To be broken down by other chemical processes – even natural ones. When DEET gets into the soil it will stick to the soil unless it can be broken down by microbes, like bacteria and fungi. Like the human kidney, these microbes just break the chemicals down into smaller compounds without actually “removing” it. Like most pesticides, once it’s out in the world, it stays there. Think of it like plastic. The same thing happend when DEET is sprayed or evaporates: it will be in the air as a vapor and then begin to break down slowly in the atmosphere.

The producers of DEET have spent a lot of money trying to say that it’s not toxic, or that it’s safe for kids. But as parents and environmentalists ourselves, we don’t buy it. To be on the safe side, we avoid DEET sprays and DEET mosquito repellents and look for alternatives that do not absorb into the skin or the environment.

What is Insect Shield Technology?

The DEET alternative that we like is Insect Shield Technology that utilizes permethrin (per-meth-er-in). Permethrin has been successfully used in the United States as an U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered product since 1977, with an excellent safety record. It is used in lice shampoos for children, flea dips for dogs, and various other products, some of which are regulated by the FDA. The Insect Shield process binds a permethrin formula tightly to fabric fibers which result in effective, odorless, permethrin-treated clothingfor insect protection that lasts the expected lifetime of apparel.

And best of all, it does NOT absorb into the skin. Insect Shield Repellent Apparel puts insect repellency near your skin, instead of on it, and the protection is invisible. Also, the repellency is long lasting, so no re-application is needed.

Permethrin treated Insect Shield® Repellent clothing has been proven and registered to repel mosquitoes, ticks, ants, flies, chiggers, and midges (no-see-ums). Insect Shield® Repellent Gear has been proven and registered to repel mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, and flies. The EPA requires extensive effectiveness data to prove a product’s ability to repel insects. Many species and varieties of these insects have been tested, including those that can carry dangerous diseases.

Permethrin treated clothing is not toxic to dogs or cats, and is safe for kids and toddlers – though we recommend monitoring your kids closely when you use any new products. Insect Shield Technology has been deemed safe by the EPA and has actually been used in millions of uniforms for US Military as well as in millions of permethrin-treated bed nets that are distributed globally via malaria control programs.

Check out more on Insect Shield Technologyand shop our Debug Collections for safe, permethrin clothing for men and women.

How To: Natural Tie Dye

By cwiesendanger on May 11th 2020

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.

 

 

  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.

 

 

  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.

 

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

 

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

 

 

  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.

 

 

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

 

**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.

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.

The Benefits of Meditation

By natalielaurenco on May 3rd 2020

By Natalie, Sustainable Materials Manager and Toad’s resident meditation expert.

In its simplest form, meditation is the process of training your mind to focus and redirect your thoughts. A meditation practice depends on the individual and can take many forms. Anything done with complete mindfulness and intention can become a form of meditation.

I’ve found that the swath of meditation benefits are all interconnected. For example, if I’m less stressed, I sleep better and wake up happier and more focused. Here are some other benefits of meditation, according to the experts (and corroborated by me!):

1. It can reduce stress and all of the negative side effects of stress. No more “Sunday Scaries.”

2. It improves your sleep by helping you control your ability to relax and turn off the racing thoughts in your brain.

3. It helps control anxiety, which helps keep your stress down (Seeing a pattern yet?).

4. It promotes emotional health and decreases symptoms of depression.

5. It enhances self-awareness and grows a stronger sense of self and confidence.

6. It can lengthen your attention span, increase your ability to focus, and may even reduce effects of age-related memory loss.

7. It can increase your compassion toward others and yourself by helping you focus on the ability to be kind and forgive (Like forgiving your mother for gifting your dog a squeaky toy…).

8. It can help fight addictions. Trying to give up sugar this year? Meditation might be your secret weapon.

9. It helps control pain and can even raise pain tolerance levels (Time to get that tattoo!).

10. It can lower blood pressure and boost your immune system.


The Physical Benefits of Meditation

Your body loves meditation. Study after study has found that the benefits of the mind/body connection have a lasting impact on your overall physical health. The benefits of meditation and yoga, for instance, is that they help send breath to your muscles which increases your flexibility, which decreases your chance for injury.

Meditation and running and meditation and swimming have a similar effect. When you exercise at a low-impact, consistent pace with intention, your body and mind can align to enter a state of flow – or being “in the zone.” So think of meditating like a runner’s high that you can tap into at any time.

Meditation also benefits the brain by strengthening your neural connections. When you practice the skill of mindfulness, you’re also sharpening your willpower. You can increase your attention span, manage your stress better, and master self-control.

Meditation can actually alter your brain structure – in a good way. Studies have found that meditation adds wrinkles to your cortex – the outer layer of your brain that helps us think critically and introspectively (more wrinkles = better problem solving). It can also increase the volume and density of the hippocampus – the area in the brain that helps us with our memory. Here’s a great Harvard Gazette article on the brain science behind mindfulness.


How to Meditate

This is a complex question, but luckily there are many types of meditation and many ways to incorporate a meditation practice into your life. We’ll cover some of the most basic types of meditation.

Mindfulness meditation – Keeping your attentions fixed on your thoughts and physical sensations in the present moment. This is great for meditation before bed – or in bed!

Guided meditation – Exercises guided by an instructor (or an app) to walk you through various techniques and breath work.

Body scan meditation – a guided meditation meant to sync body and mind by observing the state of your body from the crown of your head to the tips of your toes.

Transcendental meditation – this is the champagne of meditations. It’s a complex practice that involves multiple sessions per day using various mindfulness and mystical techniques – and it’s technically only taught by specialized instructors and comes with a price tag.

Loving kindness meditation – directing positive energy, compassion and goodwill toward ourselves and then toward others.

Yoga meditation – not high-intensity work-out yoga, more slow and intentional yoga designed to strengthen the nervous system. Yoga Nidra and Kundalini yoga are common forms. Extended savasana (“corpse pose”) is a founding principle of Yoga meditation.

Moving meditation – just like it sounds: keep it moving! Tai Chi, walking or gentle hiking are all forms of moving meditations.

Mantra meditation – focusing your mind through repetition. It’s not an affirmation, more of a repetition of sounds to deepen breathing and sense of peace. “Om” is just the beginning!

There are so many types of mediations, so try a few versions and find the one that feels right for you. And remember: what’s right might vary from day to day. I integrate all kinds of meditation into my life, depending on what I need or what my schedule allows.


Start Your Practice

The most important part of meditation is that you aren’t forcing it. You don’t need to practice meditation 3 times a day – even meditating for 20 minutes a day might be too much at this point. So start with a small goal – 5-minutes of mindfulness or a quick morning breathing exercise – and work your way up.

Check out my blog onmeditation techniques for beginners for some quick pointers for getting started!

Toad Picks: CBD Products

By dweb247 on April 16th 2020

It’s no secret that we love hemp. On the fabric side of things, it’s lightweight, breathable, has great drape, very low-maintenance, and is VERY durable (your hemp clothes should last a looooong time). On the farming side of things, it’s easy to grow, relies mostly on rain water, is phytoremediative (meaning it actually improves the soil), and the whole plant can be used in production, meaning ZERO waste.

We’re not getting into the weeds (heh) about the recreational use debate (though, we DO live in California…), but we’ll throw our kudos behind the health benefits of CBD oil. (Here’s a quick refresher on the difference between Hemp vs. Marijuana vs. CBD if you need it.)

In a nutshell, CBD is a naturally occurring oil that reminds your body to calm down. It’s not a wonder drug or a cure-all, but it has been proven to help with stress, joint pain and anxiety in some people – including our very own Toads.

Like anything, there’s high quality versions and quack versions of CBD products. So if you’re wading into the waters of CBD, we recommend you look at the ingredients, look for any third-party testing, and follow the dosage directions directions – AND check the legality in your state.

We don’t pretend to be doctors (and we don’t play one on TV), so our CBD recommendations are straight from our Toads based on their experiences.

“The best topical CBD product I have ever used is Humble Flower Co – Cannabis-infused Relief Balm. The Arnica+Clary Sage scent is unbelievable. It has 200 mg CBD and 200 mg THC. It is a topical rub that you can put on aches and pains and it truly does help the muscles and joint pain. After shoulder surgery and consistent PT, I use this multiple times a day and it has really helped with my pain. I use this instead of taking over the counter pain relievers and I have found it to work very well. I have used every topical product on the market including oils, different ratios of BD/THC and this is by far the best. Not only do I love it for the quality of product and effectiveness, but it is a rub, not an oil, and is not messy at all. The last thing you want is an oil to unscrew in your purse and then you have an expensive mess (personal experience and it is not fun). I highly recommend this product and tell everyone about it that has arthritis or an injury.

I am also a big fan of The Humboldt Apothecary tinctures. The have tinctures for every use and each one has different rations of CBD to THC. I opt for the high CBD, low THC tinctures. I use these at night in my team before bedtime and find that they really help me relax and sleep better. I am a big fan of the “inflammation soother” tincture which also has anti inflammatory natural ingredients in it to help after working out or physical therapy. ” – Sarah

Papa & Barkley Releaf Balm is my go-to for a great rub on sore muscles after a big weekend of skiing or a long day of sitting at a desk chair. They have different versions with varying portions of THC:CBD. It has my favorite combination of Eucalyptus, Tea Tree, Peppermint, Lavender so it smells a million times better than Tiger Balm.

Care By Design Sublingual Drops (18:1 CBD:THC) is the best sleep enhancement aid I have found. It is really mild in flavor and never leaves me ‘disoriented.’ A little goes a long way. It helps me to go to sleep and stay asleep which lets my body recover after any sport, a big hike in the mountains or a fun day on the slopes.” – Jo

If you’re easing into CBD, try a small amount and keep track of how your body and mind feel. And if you’re just not sure, think it over in some soft hemp sweats!

Work from Home Tips

By dweb247 on April 14th 2020

Full disclosure: We’re optimists. With the whole Toad team reporting from dining room offices and couch calls, we’re right there with ya on the pros and cons of working from home (PROS: immaculate sock drawer, more family time, no commuting / CONS: constant snacking, technical difficulties, anxiety pangs).

No one likes forced change, BUT we’re trying to see this “great indoor migration” as just another adventure… albeit, one where pants and shoes are entirely optional. So here are our tips on how to work from home effectively and HAVE MORE FUN.

1. Watch “The Office”

Missing water-cooler culture and that coworker who always drops random trivia? (Shoutout to Lucinda and her Hungarian Empire facts!) Turn on a steady stream of Dunder Mifflin’s Scranton Branch. Nothing gets you through a WFH day like Michael Scott’s conference meetings (“Make friends first, make sales second, make love third. In no particular order”). Stream all 9 glorious seasons on Netflix…all day, every day. In no particular order.

2. Work Less Hard

Mental health = productivity. If you’re distracted and stressed by deadlines, homeschooling, restless dogs, and generally living in a bubble, then take an extended fiver. Go on a walk, roll around on your floor, get really invested in the shower grout. Whatever gives you the mental space you need. Giving 80% in quarantine really is good enough. So file that under “Working from home tips for success and productivity.”

3. Cookies = Brain Power

This is just science. Just as you catch more bees with honey, give yourself some incentives when you feel the WFH burnout. Fresh baked cookies, another slice of banana bread, a little Baileys for your third Zoom meeting of the morning…we call these “benefits of working from home.” Enjoy it while it lasts, and get this recipe in cookie rotation.

4. Trade Spaces

That tip to “make a dedicated workspace” is bologna. We say change up your spaces, change up your thinking. Here are a few more home office setup ideas:

Morning Office: Your bed. Must have coffee and furry creatures.

Coffee Shop: Your kitchen. Stand at the counter with your second cup and fire off those quick little to-dos. Do some squats while you stand. Break for lunch and go on a neighborhood walk. Keep that 6 foot buffer!

Afternoon Office: Your dining room. Spread out, make a mess, get those creative juices flowing. For the next two hours you are a genius.

Happy Hour Office: Your deck/patio/stoop – find an outside space. Make yourself a quarantine drink (we like Ina’s style) jot down tomorrow’s to-do list, and call it a day’s work.

5. Quarantine Bingo

Some people call this “setting daily goals.” We call it Quarantine Bingo. Make a grid, write an easy goal in each box, and tick one off per day. Some goals: smile at yourself, go upside down, send a postcard, spot wildlife…you get the point. Not really a true “work from home tip,” but clearly it’s not ALL about working.

6. Dress for Success Joy

Newsflash: success is not contingent on what you wear (And we make clothes, so we’re experts on this). Here’s our work from home style tip: Dress for JOY and the success will follow. If pants don’t bring you joy right now, forget ’em. If you want to put on a spring dress and blast ABBA (just us?), you go right on ahead. CHOOSE JOY.

7. Take a Safari

Both literally and figuratively. Every sunrise and sunset, check our WildEarth’s safari live stream. Seriously – it’s bananas. It’s also a great reminder that nature is thriving and will be even more glorious when we finally emerge from our dens. And remember, the same tips apply to both Safari and work from home safety: keep your hands and arms inside the vehicle at all times. Keep that social distancing up, friends!