Lush shampoo bars

 

I have been on hunt again for a low waste method for washing my hair. For a while, I had used the rye flour method to wash my hair, but I wasn’t too happy with the results, as even though I rinsed my hair well, I would still have some residual flakes from the flour. I have tried a number of shampoo bars, but many of them either dried out my hair, or left too much residue in my hair, likely because of the high concentration of oils. Many shampoo bars use coconut oil, which my skin does not like.  I am not a fan of coconut oil at all, as I find that it sits on the skin rather than moisturizes it.

I had avoided trying Lush shampoo bars because they contain SLS. Liquid shampoos with SLS have been disastrous with my hair, leaving a veritable rats’ nest behind. If  have to douse my hair in conditioner to overcome the damage from the shampoo, then clearly there’s a problem. This article, admittedly written by Lush, suggested that SLS in shampoo bars might be less damaging because you apply only the foam to the hair, rather than the product directly: When you use a liquid shampoo you apply the neat material to your scalp, but you don’t get that with a shampoo bar — you only get the foam that comes off the material, which means that even people with the most sensitive scalps can use it.  I don’t know if this statement is scientifically sound, but I was willing to give it a try.

Choosing a shampoo bar at Lush is a challenge in that all of the bars contain fragrance. I know that Lush takes pride in its fragrances, but I do wish that some unscented products were made as well. Shampoo, at least, rinses out, so I crossed my fingers. I selected the Jason and the Argonauts shampoo bar, which is vegan. I use the shampoo bar only once a week, as my dry scalp does not like to be over washed; I wash with water and conditioner in between shampoos as necessary. I’ve been pleased with the results. The bar lathers well, and you use very little of it, so this bar should last me for a number of bars. It cleans the scalp and hair well, and does not appear to over dry my hair. I was pleased to note that the scent of the bar does not linger in the hair. So, this bar is a win-win with regard to zero waste and effectiveness.

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Switzerland bans crustacean cruelty

I was very pleased to read that the Swiss government has banned the practice of boiling alive lobsters without first stunning them. Further, live crustaceans, including the lobster, may no longer be transported on ice or in ice water. Aquatic species must always be kept in their natural environment. Crustaceans must now be stunned before they are killed.  Needless to say, the food industry in Switzerland is not happy about this.

Living in Nova Scotia, where lobster fishing is a large industry, it’s impossible to avoid seeing the cruel treatment of lobsters. You can’t go into any supermarket without seeing a tank filled with lobsters who can barely move. The lobsters are sold alive and, in most cases, will be boiled alive by consumers. I cannot fathom how any normal person can immerse a living creature into a pot of boiling water. It’s also horrible to see freshly-boiled lobsters being served in restaurants, knowing what these poor creatures must have endured. Knowing how far behind animal welfare laws lag in Canada, I very much doubt we will see similar legislation any time soon.

Some of my favourite online Canadian green stores

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If buying gifts is on your agenda for this holiday season, why not consider giving environmentally-friendly gifts? I have compiled a list of my favourite Canadian online retailers that sell green and sustainable products. Buying in person is always the best option, of course, but online stores provide a wider range of options at times, especially if you want to ship items to friends and family. If possible, buy only what people need, to avoid adding waste to landfills.

  • P’Lovers: This only store sells eco-friendly products, and has physical stores located in Mahone Bay, Halifax, and Dartmouth in Nova Scotia.
  • Life Without Plastic: This store has been in business for a number of years, and is committed to providing products that are sustainable and that reduce our use of plastic.
  • Rawganique: This store sells mostly clothing and accessories made from hemp, linen, and organic cotton.
  • Green Cricket: This store sells personal and home products via two storefronts: Retail and Commercial. All the products sold are made by the company.
  • Just the Goods: Personal care items.  I started buying from this store when it had a few products on Etsy. The store has since grown, but continues to maintain its very high standards.
  • Ten Thousand Villages: This retailer provides handcrafted products made in a variety of communities around the world, with a focus on fair trade and local materials
  • Elate Cosmetics: Vegan beauty products with a focus on reducing packaging and using refillable products.
  • Cool Earth Products: Canadian-made products to reduce the use of plastic. I have been using their Carebags produce bags for years.
  • Hornet Mountain: Various eco-friendly products for personal use, the home, and animal companions
  • Bamboo Clothes: Self-explanatory.
  • Eco-Handbags: All bags are made from recycled materials.
  • Eco Suds: Soapnuts and wool dryer balls.
  • Penny Lane Organics: Personal and home products at reasonable prices. Their cleaning paste is excellent.
  • The Soap Dispensary: This brick-and-mortar store in Vancouver sells a large variety of refillable home and personal products. An online shopping site will be opening soon, which I would be interested in exploring, since I always prefer to refill whenever possible.

Pacifica Devocean Lipstick

Finding good vegan lipsticks can be very challenging. Because vegan lipsticks don’t use animal derived waxes to thicken them, such as beeswax, they can be rather soft and break easily. I have gone through a number of lipsticks that melted if they were carried in a handbag in the summer, or broke in half. Colour selection can sometimes be limited, especially since, for some reason, so many vegan lipsticks contain shimmer.

I have used Pacifica lip products in the past and wasn’t satisfied with the results. I am not a fan of lip gloss, as I don’t like the slippery texture. Their tinted lip balms had a little too much shimmer for my liking. Their new product, Lip Devocean, however, is wonderful. The lipstick comes in a slim stick, which I like, goes on very smoothly, has no shimmer and, most importantly, does not dry out or irritate my lips. The shade in the picture above is the one I am using: Natural Mystic. The ingredients are:

oleic/linoleic/linolenic polyglycerides (from sunflower oil), butyrospermum parkii (shea) butter, diiostearyl malate, caprylic/capric triglyceride (from coconut oil), simmondsia chinensis (jojoba) esters, simmondsia chinensis (jojoba) oil, euphorbia chinensis (candelilla) wax, cetyl alcohol, rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) leaf extract, flavor oil (all natural), tocopherol (vitamin E). May contain: melia azadirachta fruit extract, mica, titanium dioxide, iron oxides, tin oxide, vaccinium macrocarpon fruit (cranberry) extract, coccinia indica flower extract, daucus carota sativa root (carrot) extract, lycopersicum fruit (tomato) extract, and beta vulgaris (beetroot) extract.

The high level of shea butter explains the moisturizing aspect of this lipstick. the lipstick does have a scent, but it’s not an artificial one but, rather, derived from a number of the ingredients above (e.g., rosemary leaf extract, cranberry extract, and so forth).

Highly recommended. All Pacifica products are vegan and cruelty free.

 

 

Exploring Daiya alternatives

 

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I have been a fan of Daiya products for many years. I was proud to support a Canadian company that was committed to producing cruelty-free vegan products. Now that Daiya has been sold to the Japanese company Otsuka, a large pharmaceutical company that engages in animal testing. Many vegans like me are not at all happy about this development, as we do not wish to support a parent company that conducts animal testing.  It is for this same reason that I don’t buy products from  Tom’s of Maine, for example, which is owned by Colgate, a company that has been conducting tests on animals for decades.

Many vegans have decided to stop buying Daiya products because of this change in ownership. It’s always difficult to know how far up the chain of ownership to take one’s ethics. Daiya products continue to be cruelty-free, as are those made by Tom’s of Maine. The question of parent companies is vexing, since so many companies are owned by larger companies which may, in fact, be owned by even larger companies. Again, how far up the chain does one go?

My approach is to use products made by companies that do not have links to animal testing. If these alternatives do not exist, then I will buy from a company if its products are vegan and cruelty-free, even if its parent company has some links to animal testing.  In the case of Daiya, I have found a number of good alternatives made by companies with no ties to animal testing. My favourites are:

  • Earth Island (in Canada), whose parent company, Follow Your Heart, makes its products in a solar-powered factory, and is firmly committed to cruelty-free products.  The shreds are much better than Daiya’s and the price is comparable.
  • Sheese, made by Bute Island Foods, which does not test on animals, and does not use palm oil.  The Sheese line is incredibly good, but rather more costly than other vegan brands.

I make my own cashew-based cheese, but I do use commercial vegan cheeses if I want something a little firmer, and especially if I want to put shreds on my pizza.

Bikinis, vegan desserts, and PETA

In this article, Phoebe-Jane Boyd, who is vegan, discusses the latest publicity-stunt-gone-wrong by PETA at Wimbledon. This time, PETA had bikini-clad women serving strawberries and vegan cream.  According to PETAthe tennis fans loved our vegan version of the classic Wimbledon snack, which helped prove that there are delicious plant-based alternatives to every dairy-based food you can think of.  Boyd questions the efficacy of these tactics: My own interactions with promotional models at these things have never ended in increased brand awareness, but rather with a feeling of discomfort at the expectation that I’m to treat the women like walking, talking product shelves with boobs instead of human beings.

I gave up my PETA membership a number of years ago, mostly as a reaction to their tasteless publicity stunts, such as this. I am so tired of PETA parading mostly women in scantily-clad costumes to promote animal welfare and veganism. PETA’s pat response is demonstrated below (this was in reaction to its tweet about the Wimbledon event):

PETA’s response is facile at best. The fact that the women in question chose to participate in this publicity stunt does not address the notion of exploiting women’s bodies. Exploitation does not presuppose or require consent (or lack thereof), but is the use of tactics for the sake of profit, marketing, and so forth. These tactics are outdated at best.

There is a long list of reasons why I cannot support PETA: The tasteless publicity stunts, the cloying pandering to celebrities, the sexist and tasteless “sexy vegan celebs,” the aggressive attacks on people (e.g., those wearing fur coats), and their association of the killing of animals with the Holocaust. Many people object to PETA’s euthanasia policy; I am less troubled by this, as euthanasia may sometimes be the only humane solution for animals who are severely ill or injured, and who are not candidates for adoption. At least, I very much hope that PETA does, in fact, use euthanasia as a last resort.

Some tipping points for me were PETA’s attempt to exploit Detroiters’ lack of water by offering to pay their water bill if they promised to go vegan for one month. I was so incensed by this crass attempt at publicity at the expense of people who were suffering, that I phoned PETA and expressed my utter disgust. Besides taking advantage of people who were at a low point, “veganism under duress” is hardly going to produce long-term commitments to veganism, so it was nothing more than a cheap publicity stunt. Another spectacular low point was PETA’s suggestion that a prison serve a teen, who had practised cannibalism, vegan meals, arguing that we are all made of flesh and blood, that we are all animals, and that the violent acts that Harrouff has been charged with are similar to those commonly inflicted upon billions of farmed animals in the U.S. each year. I can’t even begin to imagine how the friends and families of the two people that Harrouff murdered were impacted by this crass suggestion.

There is no doubt that PETA has been successful in pressuring governments and organizations into improving the welfare of some animals, but I’ve never believed in the adage that the ends justify the means. I would much rather support organizations that use compassion, intelligence, and kindness, and whose focus is upon animals and their welfare, rather than on self-promotion.

The role of social media in the proliferation of fast fashion

This article discusses the role that social media has played in the growth of fast fashion, which is a contemporary term used by fashion retailers to express that designs move from catwalk quickly to capture current fashion trends (Wikipedia). Popular retailers such as Zara and H&M are excellent examples of companies that promote fast fashion.  The article posits that social media accounts such as Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, and so forth, have encouraged fast fashion, as people do not want to be seen wearing the same item often, or even more than once.

I know that some people who read this article will say “well, that’s certainly not me,” but is that actually the case? How many of us have closets bursting with clothes? How many of us buy items of clothing, shoes, or bags, for a “special occasion,” even though there are perfectly adequate items in our closets, because we want something new, or because we don’t want to be seen wearing the same outfit for the occasion? How many new items of clothing, shoes, and bags do we buy every season, even though we already have so many clothes? How many of us buy something because it’s on sale, even if we don’t need it? How many of this think that we’ve scored a big sale: “look, it was 50% off,” even though its money wasted because it’s adding to the mountain of clothes we already own?

I am the living embodiment of this attitude. In my student days and earlier in my career, especially when I lived in very small accommodations (I was living “tiny” before it became a thing), I didn’t have all these possessions. As my living quarters and pay cheque grew larger, so did my purchases. My Achille’s heel has always been handbags. When I travelled, it was always with a suitcase large enough to accommodate the purchases I would no doubt make. Shopping became a hobby; this was particularly true when I lived in Detroit, where the large variety of shopping malls beckoned me every weekend.

I’ve been committed to environmental causes since I was a child. I have always done what I could to reduce my carbon footprint. I remember me as a child lecturing my no-doubt exasperated mother on the need to shut off lights, to not let the taps run, to wear sweaters in the house in winter to stay warm, and so forth (I still do this. Sorry, Mum). My shopping and accumulation of stuff, however, was a hurdle that I did not overcome, or even acknowledge, until a few years ago.

I have made significant reductions in the items that I buy. My wardrobe has been pared down considerably, and I buy at most 2-3 items of new clothing a year, and now only to replace something that I can no longer use. I’ve slipped once or twice, I will admit it, but I see a vast improvement. I no longer care if people see me in the same clothes, as I rotate a small amount every week. Frankly, most people neither care nor remember what you wear. Men have been getting away with wearing the same items for years; it’s about time that women stopped this ridiculous obsession with not being seen in the same outfit every month or, heaven forbid, every week.

Fast fashion has many negative impacts on the environment, not the least of which is the sheer waste it generates. In our narcissistic world of selfies and posting daily updates (of which I plead guilty), we tend to be guilty of greenwashing. We congratulate ourselves on using travel mugs, recycling, composting, and so forth – all of which are excellent things to do, of course – but our rampant and increasing consumerism is causing far more damage than using bottle water or disposable coffee mugs. I have been appalled by my own consumerism, as it has crept up on me insidiously; I think so many of us equate possessions with success. I have been blessed – or is it cursed? – with a love of beautiful things, and I have indulged in this love far too many times. I applaud the growing movement of minimalism amongst younger people in their twenties and thirties; they have come to this realization far earlier than I. I think we have a lot to learn from this movement, and I, for one, am enjoying embracing it in incremental steps.

I have found owning fewer things to be liberating, not limiting. I smile when I see empty cupboards in my home, extra storage containers I no longer need, rugs that I no longer need to vacuum, and clothes that I can actually see in my closet. Travelling with a small carry on for a two-week trip with no more than four dresses that I rotate makes decisions about what to pack so much easier, not to mention negotiating airports so much faster. Not feeling the need to buy souvenirs for other people that will simply add to their clutter (hint, please don’t buy me souvenirs) saves so much time when I’m travelling; time that I would much rather put towards visiting museums and art galleries. It has been a most enjoyable journey, and one I look forward to continuing.