The “Blue planet” effect has raised awareness environmentally on so many levels. We wanted to make a difference on a domestic level by tackling single use plastic, for example shopping bags and cling film. Cling film is a non-recyclable plastic and can be easily replaced with plastic boxes and waxed cloths. We are clear that plastic containers which can be used for years are not the target of our efforts, only single use plastic items. Did you know that in Britain more than 1.2 billion metres (745,000 miles) of cling film is used EVERY YEAR - that is enough to go around the circumference of the world 30 times!! It was statistics like that made us want to change our everyday household habits. We got together and made some waxed cloths for our own use and several friends asked us to make cloths for them and offered to pay!The cloths take a bit of getting used to as it’s a different technique to stretching plastic over food. You need to use the warmth of your hands to shape the cloth to the bowl or around the food. Rinsing them with warm soapy water makes them easy to clean and reuse again and again. They can also be revitalised with a few minutes in a warm oven or by being ironed between sheets of grease proof paper, and at the end of their lives they can go on the compost heap. We’ve experimented with food in the fridge and the life of cut produce (for example cucumbers, lemons, cabbage, lettuce, peppers etc) has been extended significantly in our experience as compared to wrapping in cling film. Beeswax naturally has antibacterial and antifungal properties and is non toxic if ingested. Leigh has discovered that using a waxed cloth to cover proving bread has really good results! The feedback we’ve had has all been positive.
We are very much in our infancy and a “cottage industry” but so many locals were interested that we decided to set up a folksy (a UK equivalent of Etsy) shop and now have added a Facebook page and instagram is coming! We are keen to sell locally produced products to local people.
The waxed cloths are time consuming to produce and have taken over 6 months to get the method right and it is still evolving. We make them in Caroline’s kitchen in Itchen Abbas. We have experimented with essential oils and resins to see if they improve the cloths but ultimately we felt that pure British bees wax on cotton cloth forms the safest and best seal. Some producers’ cloths use resin but after researching some people consider resin to be less safe when in contact with food - so we decided to leave it out as it gives a minimal advantage.
We have deliberately taken it slowly to fit in with our busy lives, so are happy with the gradual increase in sales. We hope to add other reusable items and soap made by us in the future. We both enjoy the process of making cloths together (although Leigh won’t let me have a tipple while we are doing it! C) We want the cloths to be attractive and fun so we enjoy choosing fabrics that reflect this. Our current range includes cactus, London, and fox themed packs along with tractors, Marvel and apple sandwich wraps. We hope to continue having fun changing the range every so often.
The size of the cloths was an interesting challenge - we wanted to produce cloths that reflected what people wanted to wrap and cover. Our packs include a large (35x35cm), medium (25x25cm) and 2 small (15x15cm) cloths which is perfect for covering a bowl, wrapping food (cheese, cabbage) or covering a plate and wrapping cucumber or lemons etc. But we both use large platters for food so we have produced extra large (45x45cm) wraps and platter (35x55cm) sized wraps. The sandwich wraps are 45x45cm which easily wraps 2 standard sandwiches or rolls.
One of the main challenges currently is the legislation surrounding soaps - it’s important to make sure products are safe!
Cling film is completely non degradable and leaches its chemicals into the environment for years affecting wildlife and soil, in many cases entering the food chain. Some believe that some plastic wrap is toxic when in contact with food due to BPAs. Breast Cancer UK is calling for a ban on all BPAs but in some cases BPAs are being replaced with other, unresearched chemicals.
We hope to add other environmentally and people friendly products to our range, like reusable cotton pads for skin care, soap and we are always on the look out for new ideas.
You can either message us on Caroline@carolleigh.co.uk, via Facebook and Instagram - just search for Carolleigh. Or call Caroline on 01962 779121