I used to think plastic was the only way to keep food fresh because it kept an airtight seal over perishables, but if you dig a little deeper you'll see there's more to perishability and preservation than just keeping the bad stuff out, which may lead you to ask if they don't keep bad stuff out...
How does an etee wrap keep food fresh?
If this doesn’t make you want to vomit, try thinking of an etee as a mummy wrap for your food. And by mummy, I literally mean our ancient Egyptian brothers and sisters.
I'm sure you've seen a mummy at some point in your travels to your local museum. As a kid, I quickly by-passed them and head over the Dinosaurs... Roooaaar! I had no idea how those ancient Egyptian bodies were preserved and I didn’t really care. But a couple decades later, when I became acquainted with the work of Stephen Buckley and Richard Evershed - a couple Scientists from the University of Bristol - Mummies suddenly got way more interesting and relevant.
You see, in 2004, Buckley and Evershed confirmed that the primary ingredients that kept Mummies preserved all those centuries were a combination of coniferous tree resins and beeswax:
“Coniferous resins, the scientists [Stephen Buckley and Richard Evershed] explain, can slow microbial degradation, whereas beeswax has antibacterial properties and serves as a sealant.” (Scientific American)
And so beeswax and tree resins became the starting point in developing our etee - mummy - wraps.
So where do we get our beeswax?
These days, not all beeswax is created equal and while we've always used pure beeswax, in December of 2017, we switched from a Canadian supplier to only USDA certified organic beeswax to limit chemical exposure and ensure the bees themselves were being treated as humanly as possible.
Though we never had any reason to believe that the bees our suppliers worked with were mistreated, we wanted to hold ourselves to a higher standard, as follows:
- Beehives located in natural settings - 4 miles away from any residential/ public yards & gardens, non-organic farms, golf courses and landfills;
- Use NO antibiotics, pesticides or chemicals in any beekeeping practices;
- Monitor and document practices on a regular basis;
- Monitor bees and beehives constantly to ensure that no contamination occurs
- Use only healthy bees from organic sources
But Isn’t Coniferous Tree Resin Used to Make Turpentine?
We use pure damar resin, which is a natural resin obtained from trees in tropical forests in a tapping process that is similar to acquiring sap from maple trees - check out this article for more details on its sustainability. On its own, Damar Resin is not toxic - ours in particular is a food grade variety that is also used as a clouding or glazing agent in food.
The resin we use shouldn’t be confused with Damar Varnish - damar mixed with mineral spirits which is a more toxic version.
What makes the wraps sticky enough to provide a tight seal?
Beeswax and tree resins keep food fresh, but they tend to make the cloth rather stiff and not very tacky, which makes it difficult when trying to get a tight seal on bowls and foods. If you’ve ever tried a home-made version of these wraps, you’ll likely find this to be the case.
To solve this problem, etees also have a touch of non-gmo soy wax, USDA certified organic essential oils of cinnamon and clove (which also have preservative qualities) and USDA certified organic jojoba oil.
If you haven’t tried our wraps yet, make sure you activate them first in order to seal them on bowls and foods. This video will help you get started.
King Tut was not wrapped in bright colours, so what gives with the colourful etees?
Fair point. The colours have virtually nothing to do with freshness, but they are that way for a reason. First off, we wanted to find a way to get around the issue of not being able to see what is inside your etee wrap, so by colour coding the wraps by size, we found it a little easier to categorize your fridge and know what is inside each of them.
Second and maybe even more importantly, we think the colours are a key part of making a change - and sowing the seeds of our revolution.
The idea is that every time you open your fridge, lunch bag or cupboard, these bright beauties will stand out, start a conversation and remind you and anyone who asks that there is - in our opinion at least - a better way to store your food.
But aren’t dyes toxic?
All of our dyes are non toxic and free of heavy metals, AZOs and formaldehyde found in typical textile dyes. They also utilize very little water, of which a great portion is recycled. They are certified under the Global Organic Textile Standard - recognized as the world's leading processing standard for textiles made from organic fibres - which means they are also in compliance with social criteria. You can learn more here: http://www.global-standard.org/.
Why Organic Cotton?
Again, our mummy friends didn't have to think about whether or not their cotton was pesticide free or that it was non-gmo, locally sourced, organic and fair trade. Times have changed and so should we....
What makes organic materials, like cotton, a better alternative to the conventional ones is that Certified Organic cotton is grown in a way that uses methods and materials that lessen the impact on our environment. A big effort in the organic movement is to use growing systems that replenish and maintain soil fertility and build biologically diverse agriculture. Organic cotton uses far less water too, most of which is recycled after use.
We go into a lot more detail in this article about sustainable fabrics - if you’re interested.
But are etees really better at keeping food fresh than plastic?
Okay, so we've established that natural waxes, tree resins and essential oils have preservative capabilities that can help keep food fresh, but what about the air part?
There is a general idea that plastic "seals in freshness", but this is only true to a point. Have you ever stored your veggies in a plastic bag, only to pull them out of the fridge a few days later and find that they are mushy and inedible?
That's because many fruits and vegetables have a hormone in them known as ethylene and ethylene can release a gas that causes fruits and vegetables to prematurely rot. Plastic can trap ethylene, which accelerates the rotting process.
etee wraps are naturally breathable, so the ethylene passes through without causing the same issue.
Now, that said, we're not trying to suggest that an etee wrap is going to solve all the problems plastic creates - while they are awesome for keeping produce, snacks, cheese fresh and topping bowls and leftovers - they’re not going to replace all of your plastic.
They shouldn’t be used on raw meat, they’re only good for short term freezer use and so - for now - if you want a more sustainable plastic bag for your meat and in the freezer your best bet is a biodegradable plastic - stay tuned, we’re working on one!
But this is only the beginning and we believe the food wraps are the first step. As we continue exploring, innovating and questioning our fundamental beliefs about what touches our food and enters our ecosystems, the possibilities are endless.
And so.... onward ho with the REVOLUTION!