Friday, August 08, 2008

Moss st Market - In2Bags

Now here is something I haven't seen at the Moss st Market before.

A collection of cotton and jute, nice, renewable fibers, presented to us in an eco-friendly, reusable bag form. There were a collection of different sizes, from big shopping bags to small, especially designed for bringing your produce home in, but more on that later.

I especially like the motto of In2Bags, 'Be the change you want to see in the world', perhaps the most useful Gandhi quote I've come across and an excellent mantra to live one's life by.

The shopping bag our happy vendor is holding up is written in Hindi and although I've forgotten what it says exactly, I remember it made me smile.

Some of you might be wondering what is jute anyway? I know a few things about jute, after all, I'll read anything I can get my hands on if it's written in the 18th and 19th centuries; be it household manuals, scientific treatises, philosophical texts, or good old fiction by Jane Austin or our imposing friend Dickens. I'm familiar with the word jute. I know it is or was used for making sacks for shipping and storing things in. It was a vital item to, if not trade itself, the infrastructure of trade. I know it is still used in nurseries for wrapping around the roots of large trees when they are dug up and transported from one home to another. Doing this keeps the tree alive by helping to retain moisture and protecting the good bacteria and other goodies that live in the tree roots. Not only that, when you plant the tree at it's new resting place, you leave the roots wrapped in the jute cloth. In short order, once buried in the ground, the jute cloth begins to rot and provides well needed nutrients to the tree.

But when I searched the database of my memory for everything I know about jute, I discovered that I didn't actually know what it was. In2Bags tells us this about jute:

Jute products are environmentally friendly.
Jute is one of the strongest natural fibers.
Jute fibers are 100% bio-degradable and recyclable.
Jute is a rain-fed crop with little need for fertilizer or pesticides.
The jute fiber comes from the stem and ribbon (outer skin) of the jute plant.
Jute is made of long, soft, shiny vegetable fibers that are be spun into coarse, strong threads.
Jut is produced primarily in Bangladesh, India and Thailand.
Jute, a natural fiber with a golden and silky shine, is often called the "Golden Fiber".

I especially like the forth one down: rain fed crop, little or no chemicals to produce. Being rain fed, means that people do not have mine the water table for this particular crop, a practice that has caused wide spread desertification over the centuries. Of course, I'm all for not using pesticides and (chemical) fertilizers.

These particular jute bags feel softer than most hemp cloth that is available in North America. You can imagine that I was surprised when I read on Wikipedia that Jute is usually known as that prickley fabric called burlap in these parts. It's an interesting fibre with a long history, and as though of you who know me well enough can imagine, I want to get my hands on some so I can try spinning it into yarn.

Before I leave you today, I want to tell you a little more about these mesh bags made from jute.

You know when you go to the grocery shop and you want to buy some, let's say, apricots? First, you get a plastic bag from one of the rolls hidden around the produce section, then you fumble around trying to get it open, and finish off by placing your carefully selected fruit in the bag. The idea is that instead of using plastic bags, you can use one of these jute mesh bags. This has advantages, some disadvantages, and some more advantages that turn some of the disadvantages into a situation which is good for your health.

  1. Advantage: fruits like apricots and plums, apples and even tomatoes (though whether this is a fruit or not depends on which set of criteria you are using - there are lots to choose from) ripen and rot much faster when they are not exposed to the air. For example, when they are in a plastic bag - once you get the tomato home, it's shelf life while sitting on the counter is about 48 hours, tops. The reason for this involves chemistry and botany and gasses, and really would make this blog entry intolerably long; so please, just trust me on this one. After all, food science is an area of great intrest to me. If you place the tomato in a non-plastic mesh bag, it doubles the shelf life.

  2. Advantage: each time you use it, you place one less plastic bag in the land fill.

  3. Disadvantage: it weighs slightly more than a plastic bag and we shop for produce mostly by weight.

  4. Disadvantage: some foods, like spinach, celery, beans, and broccoli, keep longer when in an airtight container like a plastic bag. Using these mesh bags to store foods like these for more than 24 hours, causes them to degrade faster (again I cite complicated chemistry).

  5. Advantage: we can use the disadvantage above to improve our health. The longer the food substance is away from the plant - be it an apple or leave of spinach - that is, the longer the time between harvest of the fruit or vegetable and the entry of said item into your mouth, the less nutrients the fruit or vegetable has to offer us. So, if you pick two beans and eat one of them immediately and the other other you leave in the bottom of your fridge for a week before eating it, the nutritional value of the first bean vastly outweighs that of the second. Why? The thing about fresh food is that it is FRESH. As food ages, many of the chemicals change into other chemicals - some of these new chemicals are good for you or fun to imbibe (alcohol for example) and others are not so good for you (mold). Again, I'm oversimplifying. The moral is that food is better for you fresh. It's got more of what your body needs when it's fresh. Shopping once a week for everything, a common practice these days, means that by the time you get around to eating your broccoli, it's lost much of the goodness it had when you first bought it. Instead, shopping every second day on your way home from work and buying only enough of what you need for those two days, ensures that you give your body fresh, good things to eat. Using these mesh bags would force you into a habit that is beneficial to your health.

That's the end of my mini series on the Moss st Market. I hope it was enjoyable for you. I'm off to the garden to pick some beans.


Josiane said...

Oh my, those pictures brought back childhood memories of using jute in various arts and crafts! Those bags are making a wonderful use of that great material. You've got me curious about spinning jute, too, so now I'll be on the lookout in order to find it in fibre form. It would be really interesting to find some, as I've never seen it in any other form than that woven fabric...

Beth said...

You might wish to know about these produce bags as well:

I'm eyeing them these days to buy for myself!

Nat said...

These aren't as nifty as they're not all natural fibers, but you're still saving on using plastic bags and they're very easy to make:
I've made about a gajillion so if you or your readers happens to want some let me know. :)

DD said...

Just to clarify (for Nat) the mesh produce bags are made of 100% natural jute fibers.

William said...

I've been to the Moss market and didn't see these bags. Is there some other market where they would be available. Do like the idea behind the mesh ones.