Goth toothpaste

img_4213-2I thought that my teeth were looking a little dull lately, so I explored some options for tooth whitening. I had no interest in using any whitening strips, as they create far too much waste. I tried one of those dual-tube products, where you brush with the first tube of toothpaste, then with the second tube of whiteners. I tried a sample, and was horrified with the results. The whitening product contains a lot of hydrogen peroxide, and it bleached my gums, not to mention hurt them. No, thanks.

I came across a glass jar of a natural toothpaste that contains activated charcoal. The product is made by Nelson Naturals, located in Nelson, B.C.; the company makes only toothpaste. The toothpaste makes your entire mouth black when you use it; I look like an extra in a Goth film. It’s actually rather fun to see the effect. The toothpaste is messy (the jar warns you about this), but I’ve been impressed with how well it works. My teeth look whiter since I started using it Saturday. I brush with it only once a day.

 

 

Earth-friendly spring cleaning, Canadian style

I am one of those odd people who enjoys doing housework; I am particularly fond of ironing, which I find very soothing. Because I do some housework every day, I don’t find the need to do spring cleaning as such, but for those who do, I thought I would share some Canadian cleaning products that are earth friendly, and whose companies have a long-standing commitment to the environment (i.e., no greenwashing). I make my own cleaning products, but for those who are not inclined towards DIY, and who want to use locally-made products, the list below might be of some use:

Bio-Vert: Bio-Vert environmentally-friendly cleaning products are manufactured by Savons Prolav Inc., a family owned and operated company based in Laval, Québec.  They use only recycled plastic containers, and sell refills. An interesting fact is their use of square-shaped containers, which allows them to fit more of them on shipping pallets, and thus reduce transport costs.

Nature Clean: Their website is being overhauled right now, so I can’t determine where these products are made, but if memory serves, they are based in Ontario. Their products are all scent-free, which I very much appreciate.

Gentle Earth: This company is based in Victoria, BC.  They sell products at both the retail and wholesale levels.

Eco-max: These products are made in Oakville, Ontario. The company uses Bullfrog Power to make its products, which are EcoLogo certified.

Attitude: These products are made in Montreal.  The company uses renewable energy sources, is EcoLogo certified, and makes only vegan products.

Sapadilla: These products are made in Port Coquitlam, BC.  Their products do contain fragrance, but it’s derived only from essential oils, and are phthalate-free.

Effeclean: These products are made in Toronto.  The products are all plant-based, and the company does a very good job of explaining all the ingredients that it does not use.

Down East:  The products are made in Dartmouth, NS. Their cleaning products were the first in Canada to be EcoLogo certified.

 

Cleanser-free cleansing

I have been working hard to pare down the number of personal care products that I use. My skin is dry and sensitive, so I have always cleansed my face with cleanser in the evening only, using only warm water in the morning to remove any residual night cream. Even though I am careful to use very gentle cleansers, my skin still tends to feel tight afterwards, and I certainly can’t use exfoliating products, as they are all too harsh. I bought a product the other day that can help me cut out one more personal care product. The product is a facial cloth called Erase your Face. You simply wet the cloth in warm water, then wipe your face and eyes. I am amazed by how well the cloth works: All traces of makeup were gone, including mascara and eyeliner. No tugging of any kind was necessary. Removing eye makeup has always been a challenge, as there is always the possibility of irritation, even though I have typically used only sweet almond oil. Using only warm water is not only environmentally friendly, but economical, and much easier on my skin; I did not need to use a cleanser afterwards. I used the tissue test on my face, and there was absolutely no residue left. The cloths wash out very well; I simply wash them in the sink with a bar of Savon de Marseille and hang to dry. I bought the cloths at Bed, Bath, and Beyond; it’s an excellent investment of $14 for a product that should last a very long time.

 

 

Vegan cheese: Made in PEI

This article discusses the success of a new business in Prince Edward Island, called Fresh Start Fauxmage, which makes a variety of vegan cheeses using cashews and almonds. I very much hope that this company will continue to be successful and to grow large enough to sell its products more broadly. I will certainly encourage my local health food stores to consider carrying these products. I will stock up the next time I am fortunate enough to visit Charlottetown.

Why zoos should be closed

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I despise zoos. I have written about this topic before. I have never supported the arguments that zoos help educate people about animals which, in turn, leads to better animal welfare. The continued horrific treatment of animals around the world does not correlate to increased education. Another argument is that zoos can help preserve species that are close to extinction; I doubt the price of captivity is worth it. I would rather see animals go extinct while living their lives in their natural environments than doomed to an existence of living in cages, no matter how large. In her article, Catherine Bennett discusses the state of zoos, and particularly the efforts of zoo keeper David Gill, who has culled 500 animals.

Embracing a new skill: Sewing

I have toyed with the idea of sewing for a while now. I have spent most of my life focused on developing the mind and, frankly, dismissed most crafts as being too stereotypically female. Even as a child, my interests lay in intellectual pursuits, rather than learning how to sew or knit: I considered these activities to be too “girly.”  I still face these biases today, to be honest, but I have approached crafts from another perspective, namely that of reducing my carbon footprint. For the past 5 years, I have made all of my own cleaning products, and most of my personal-care products. I am quick to point out that I don’t do so to avoid “chemicals” as is, sadly, a myth that so many people perpetuate. Water, for example, is composed of chemicals, as are many “natural” products that we use every day, such as baking soda. I do, however, strive to use ingredients that have reduced environmental impacts; further, I wish to avoid buying unnecessary packaging. Yes, some of the ingredients I use, such as vinegar, do come in containers, but I try to buy most products in bulk, using my own containers. Nothing can be truly zero waste, of course, since bulk products come in packaging, need to be shipped, and so forth, but I do what I can to reduce my use of packaging.

My DIY products are as follows:

  • All-purpose spray cleaner
  • Laundry soap
  • Dish soap
  • Floor cleaner
  • Dusting spray
  • Fabric spray
  • Deodorant
  • Hand cream
  • Face serum
  • Lip balm
  • Face tonic
  • Leave-in conditioner

I try to use single products for several applications; for example, I use a 1kg bar of Savon de Marseille to handwash clothes, to clean counters and sinks, and to make laundry and dish soap. I use vinegar and isopropyl alcohol for all-purpose cleaning sprays and floor cleaner. I used to make my own toothpaste, but I noticed that it did not remove plaque as effectively as commercial toothpaste and, further, I have no intention of giving up fluoride, as there is plenty of scientific evidence to show its positive impact on reducing tooth decay. I use shea butter as a lip balm and night cream.

I knit and crochet household goods such as face cloths and dish cloths. I’ve made some scarves as well. I don’t tend to wear sweaters, and find that hand-knit sweaters take up too much closet space. I’ve pared down my wardrobe considerably, so I don’t want to add to what I have.

Sewing is the latest way in which I wish to reduce my environmental impact. I realize, of course, that sewing machines and their accessories are not carbon-free. Still, I embrace sewing as a way to make my own products, particularly if I can reuse materials. I prefer to learn on my own, so I am finding videos online to help me learn. My first projects have been simple: Handkerchiefs (I have not used tissues for nearly 20 years), cloth bags for the bulk store, a small pillowcase for my mini-buckwheat pillow, and a pouch to store nightwear. I  will move on to tablecloths, large pillowcases tea towels, and so forth. Eventually, I hope to make my own clothes.

I still have to deal with my years of associating crafts with stereotypical attitudes towards women. On the other hand, I find great pleasure in creating something physical, especially as this activity stands in direct contrast to the largely intellectual pursuits that have shaped most of my life.

 

Lentil and oat soup

This soup features what is perhaps an odd combination of lentils and oats. I had planned to make a simple lentil soup, but I came across a small bag of oat groats that I had received as a sample, and decided to toss them in the soup. I had no idea what to expect, but this sums up my approach to cooking: Experiment, enjoy, and learn from the results. The picture is not good, as it was taken while the soup was cooking. I didn’t take one of the finished product, but it thickened nicely. Measurements, as always, are approximate, since I never actually measure anything when I cook.

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Ingredients

2 cups dried green lentils

Enough vegetable stock to cover the lentils. I make my own stock, but use what you have.

Chopped broccoli

Diced carrots

I cup oat groats

Crushed tomatoes. I used half a 280z tin.

Thyme and sage

Salt to taste (and pepper, if you like it)

Ras el hanout spice mix. If you don’t have this, you can add some cumin, ginger, and cayenne).

Preparation

Bring to a boil, the simmer until the lentils and oat groats are tender. The soup will thicken, so add some water, if needed.