As in all aspects of my life, I have tried to pare my skincare down to the bare essentials. I have sensitive skin that is prone to eczema, so I have to be very careful about what I use and avoid products that can provoke a skin reaction. Products must all be fragrance-free and as free as possible of sensitizing ingredients. I’ve gone through a lot of products in my life, and I am always resisting the temptation to try new products; this has led to a lot of wasted money as well as skin irritation. I have learned that (a) expensive does not necessarily mean high quality; (b) the longer the list of ingredients (which tends to be more common amongst expensive products), the greater the chance that my skin will be irritated; (c) eye creams are a complete waste of money, since regular moisturizer is all you need; (d) layering multiple products on your skin can lead to irritation; and (e) “natural” means very little. The term “natural” is not regulated in the cosmetics industry, so there are no assurances. Further a lot of “natural” ingredients can be very irritating, especially many essential oils that these products often contain. My goal is to use the fewest number of items, to use products for different purposes and, as always, to generate as little waste as possible
I rinse with warm water, then apply CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser to damp skin, and wipe off with an Erase Your Face cloth, which I use also to remove any eye makeup. I rinse my face with warm water and pat dry with a microfibre facecloth, as I find cotton cloths too harsh on my skin. I know that these cloths can release microfibre particles into the water, but my face really can’t handle cotton well. The added advantage of both these cloths is that I can wash them in the evening and they will be dry for use the next day; this allows me to have only one of each. While my face is still slightly damp, I apply some hyaluronic acid from Canadian company The Ordinary, including to my neck and around the eyes. Once the serum has dried, I apply CeraVe moisturizing cream to my face, eye area, and neck. This moisturizing cream doubles as my hand and body cream.
I don’t cleanse or rinse my face in the morning. I know this may sound a little shocking to some, but doing so dries out my face too much. I’ve checked with some dermatologists, who told me that it’s perfectly fine for me to do this. I simply apply a sunscreen on my face and neck, and some CeraVe cream around the eyes. I use the Canadian Live Clean Mineral Face Sunscreen SPF 45. Many mineral sunscreens are very greasy, but this one absorbs well. As is typical with mineral sunscreens, it leaves a bit of a white cast initially, but this is not a problem with my skin tone. I use this sunscreen on exposed body parts if I go outside during the day.
I don’t exfoliate my face; my skin simply can’t tolerate it. I find that massaging the jojoba oil is enough to help shift any dead skin cells. I’ve had face burns from using exfoliators, even those that were marketed as gentle. The worst experience is when I used a facial clay; my skin was the colour of a ripe tomato and was very hot to the touch and inflamed for several hours. As for my body, I use a dry body brush once a week.
I’ve been paring down my makeup up collection significantly over the past two years. The older I get, the less makeup I want to wear. I prefer to focus on taking very good care of my skin so that I don’t need products to cover it up.
Most of my makeup is made by Pure Anada, a Canadian company that sells vegan products with minimal packaging. I have the compact featured in the image above, which has a magnetic base. You buy items such as powder foundations, blush, and eye shadow that come in metal bases that you place in the compact to customize your mix. The refills come in cardboard containers that are infused with wildflower seeds that you can plant.
My entire makeup collection consists of the following items:
Eyebrow pencil: Pure Anada sells a loose eyebrow powder, but I’ve learned the hard way that loose powders around the eyes don’t work for me, as I invariably get some in my eyes. I have thin brows that need filling in. I prefer to use a pencil that you can sharpen, as this creates minimal waste. I use the Taupe eyebrow pencil by Annabelle, another Canadian company.
Concealer: I use concealer around my eyes. I use prescription eye drops that cause ocular hyperaemia and the darkening of the skin around my eyes. As a result, I need a concealer that has high coverage, is waterproof and won’t cake. The best concealer to meet my needs is Bye Bye Under Eye by It Cosmetics in Light Nude. The container is small, but you use very little, as the concealer is very concentrated.
Eyeliner: I use eyeliner sparingly. Most people think I’m wearing eyeliner when I’m not because I have a naturally dark lash line, especially on the lower lashes. I’m very lucky to have long, thick lashes. I will sometimes wear a very thin line on the upper lid. I use the Brown Pureline eye pencil from Pure Anada.
Eye shadow: I own only two shades, and I wear only one at a time. I couldn’t be bothered with contouring the eye area with 2-3 shades. My irises are almost black in colour, and if I wear too much around the eyes, they stand too much in contrast with my pale skin. I have the following shades: Harmony, which is matte lilac grey, and Mirage, which is a grey brown.
Mascara: Mascara is a must for me; it’s my proverbial desert island item. I use the KVD Go Big or Go Home mascara in black.
Blush: I don’t particularly like to wear blush, but if I don’t, I often get asked if I am feeling well, or told that I look tired. I use Sweet Pea pressed blush from Pure Anada.
Arrowroot starch: Yes, I know this sounds a little strange. I stopped wearing foundation over the past few months, as I got tired of staining my COVID-19 face masks. I’ve found that my skin looks better if I don’t wear foundation. I wear sunscreen every day (SPF 50) regardless of weather, and reapply it during the day; I would prefer not to do this over a layer of foundation. I wear sunscreen if I’m staying indoors, too, since UVA-A can penetrate windows. I’ve been wearing sunscreen daily since I was in my late teens, and I avoid the sun religiously at all times, which means my skin is in good shape with little discolouration. I do like a matte look to the face, however (sunscreen can add a sheen). The best translucent powder I’ve found is arrowroot starch, the plant-based starch that is used as a thickening agent for foods (similar to corn starch). I buy it in bulk and carry some in my handbag in a small container. It imparts no colour on the skin, but makes the skin look polished.
Lipstick: Lipstick is a difficult area for me, as I am very particular about what I wear. I hate lip glosses, as they always travel around the mouth. I don’t like satin lipsticks for the same reason. Because I’m pale, I need to avoid lipsticks that are too close to my lip colour, as otherwise I look too tired. My lipstick of choice is Gabriel Cosmetics in the shade walnut.
And that’s the extent of my makeup: 9 items. I have only two brushes: one for eye shadow, and one for blush and arrowroot application. Everything fits in a small bag and I use every item that I own.
I use soap bars in my home to do dishes, wash my hands and body, as well as wash my hair (using shampoo bars). I have never liked liquid soap, as I find it extremely wasteful. Even though I can buy liquid soap in bulk, using my own containers, the production and transportation of liquid soap, which is heavy and full of water, is not what I consider to be a sustainable option.
When the soap bars reduce to a small end, which becomes hard to handle, rather than throw away the ends, I repurpose them. In the past, I have melted ends to make a new soap bar, but this can be a messy process. My preference now is to simply grate the soap ends into a tin, then throw a small handful in my dish washing tub to wash dishes. I used to boil the soap ends to make a liquid soap, but I found this to be time consuming, and I often ended up with a solid, gel-like substance. This newer method is much faster.
Since I don’t always have enough grated soap on hand, I generally use a 1kg bar of solid Savon de Marseille to do the dishes – I simply rub a wooden dish brush along the surface of the soap and clean the dishes. When I use the grated soap, I skip this step. This is an easy way to make sure that none of your bar soaps end up in the landfill.
I thought it would be useful to provide an updated list of my favourite vegan dining options in HRM especially since, as I’m delighted to report, these options have increased over the past year. I won’t provide too much information for the locations for the sake of efficiency. My focus is on establishments that are either completely vegan, or have a large range of vegan options (one veggie burger or the dreaded and cliched falafal wrap won’t suffice).
Wild Leek Food and Juice Bar: At Wild Leek the focus is on seasonal local ingredients made into familiar vegan comfort food. Everything is made in house daily using whole natural ingredients and our juices and smoothies are made right before your eyes! With fresh and flavorful daily specials, vegan breakfast served everyday. We strive to create delicious food that vegans and non-vegans can enjoy.
Envie: A Vegan Kitchen: Our mission is to inspire people to choose a healthier, sustainable and more compassionate lifestyle through plant-based eating by making information and education accessible, so that we can create a healthier community and planet.
Heartwood: Vegetarian. Most of the dishes have vegan options.
Springhouse: Vegan grocer. We’ve got lots of locally-made goods, frozen meals to-go, fresh produce, body care products, groceries and specialty items you won’t find anywhere else in the city. Some products are made here in-house, and the rest we thoughtfully curate from top-notch suppliers. We’re also a little take-out restaurant, with a tasty lunch menu.
Real Fake Meats: A small Vegan Butcher Shop that includes take-out and delivery.
The Wooden Monkey: Omnivore menu, but vegan options are available for many of the menu items.
I have been using cloth handkerchiefs since I was a child. The convent school I attended (it was a very pleasant experience) didn’t allow tissues, at least when I was very young, as they felt tissues were too messy. I went through a period of using tissues later in life, but I haven’t used them for over twenty years now.
A lot of people are disgusted by the notion of using handkerchiefs. I don’t understand how paper tissues could be hygienic, considering that you dispose of them, which means potential contamination. To be honest, few things disgust me more than seeing balled up tissue paper lying around, which happens too often in public places such as the bus. I think handkerchiefs are actually more hygienic, as you can use as many clean ones as you need, then simply launder them and re-use them. I also find tissues to be much softer on my nose. Besides suffering from year-round allergies, I was diagnosed with vasomotor rhinitis a few years ago, so I need to use a handkerchief very often. Tissues would be far too harsh.
The environmental benefits of handkerchiefs are obvious as well, since handkerchiefs are re-usable and can be made from repurposed fabric, which is what I tend to do. I sew my own handkerchiefs; I’m not an expert sewer by any means, but hankies are so easy to make. I’ve re-purposed items such as cloth napkins that I’ve never used, scraps of material from other sewing projects, and so forth. This helps further reduce waste, as it means I haven’t bought anything new. When I have a cold, I use flannel hankies, which are the softest on the skin. I go through a lot of hankies, which is why this is one area in my home where I don’t practice minimalism, i.e., I have a lot of hankies. I keep an eye open for hankies when I visit antique or consignment stores and have found some lovely embroidered hankies over the years.
For those not inclined to sewing, you can often find hankies sold at local farmers’ markets and natural-foods stores; they are often labelled as “cloth wipes.” These wipes can be used also in place of toilet paper, to clean sticky fingers, and so forth. Below are a few Canadian companies that make hankies; some even make tissue-style popup boxes to store the hankies. I’ve purchased hankies from these companies, as I like to support local businesses, in addition to making my own.
Eco-Freako: This company is based in Sechelt, BC. I’ve had some of their Hankettes hankies for several years. The hankies are very durable and come in different sizes. I haven’t had any luck finding these in physical stores, so I’ve ordered them online in the past.
Oko Creations: This company is based in Boisbriand, Quebec. I’ve had some of their hankies for years as well. You can often find their hankies in natural-food stores, as well.
The Home Made Happy: This is an Etsy store run by Julia Lussier, who lives in Halifax, NS. Julia makes a variety of products, including cloth wipes, which can be used as hankies. I have purchased Julia’s products at local artisan markets and have had some lovely chats with her about zero waste and sustainable living. Julia is taking a break during the COVID-19 pandemic, but I hope she will be back soon.
Cheeks Ahoy: This company is based in Peterborough, Ontario. They sell a variety of products, including cloth wipes that can be used as hankies. The company doesn’t sell its products online, but you can find them at a variety of stores across the country.
If you haven’t used hankies in the past, I would recommend that you try them. Channel your grandparents, or great grandparents.
This article from the Guardian discusses the potential impact of Generation Z (18-24) buying behaviour on fast fashion: If generation Z’s habits are adopted by the population as a whole there could be a shift to consumers with a “divided wardrobe” – featuring rented items and others bought from resale vendors – becoming the new normal … This emphasis on sustainability, non mass-produced goods and uniqueness mirrors the consumer values of the younger generation whose attitude towards fashion has been shaped by the “Blue Planet effect.”
The picture above is taken from an Australian article that suggests that the fast fashion industry accounts for 10 per cent of global pollution. Dr Kirsi Niinimäki, from Aalto University, has done a lot of research into the fashion industry; her latest publication, Sustainable Fashion In A Circular Economy, is on my reading list for this summer. The CBC documentary, Fashion’s Dirty Secrets, discusses that garment, apparel production, is one of the top five polluters globally…we are producing over 100 billion new garments from new fibres every single year, and the planet cannot sustain that. This page, from the Fashion Takes Action website, provides some sobering statistics about the environmental impact of the fashion industry, perhaps the most startling of which – because it is so personal – is that 37 kg of textile waste per person ends up in Canadian landfills each year.
I won’t spend too much time on the environmental impact of fast fashion, as this has been done far better by experts in the field. I want to focus instead on some sustainable Canadian clothing brands that provide some better options. This list is not exhaustive and reflects only the companies from which I have purchased. I don’t tend to wear casual clothes, so sustainable Canadian brands like Tentree are not included in this post.
The most important thing we can do to reduce textile waste, of course, is to simply stop buying so many clothes, and to keep what we have for longer periods. Fast fashion is often poorly made, so clothing doesn’t last as long, so buying better quality is always a good idea. Secondhand shopping is a good alternative, although I’ve noticed that people often tend to overbuy from thrift stores because the clothing is cheaper there, which will still result in a lot of textile waste. No solution is perfect, of course, but at least the companies below are doing what they can to produce clothing in more sustainable ways.
Lights of All:We are vegan, sustainable and ethical; we value all life on this planet and do whatever we can to honour those lives in the product we make. Everything is made in house using only the best materials for the environment, people and animals. The company is owned and run by one woman, Katia Hagen, who designs and makes all the clothing. Katia outlines the ecocentric philosophy of her company here.
Korinne Vader: Our goal is to only use natural fibres in production … Many of the suppliers that we work with are STANDARD 100. The STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX® is a worldwide consistent, independent testing & certification system that tests for harmful substances used during all stages of production (raw materials, intermediate, and end product). Korinne Vader creates unique handmade goods that reflect the beautiful imperfection of nature and humankind.
Encircled: Encircled’s name originated from the dream that fashion can benefit everyone – it can be stylish, sustainable and responsibly-made. It’s about feeling proud of the clothing. hanging in your closet, and investing in quality over quantity. The company’s code of ethics may be found here.
Frank And Oak: The devastating impact of climate change has made us conscious that we all have an active role to play in our collective future. Today, we are more than ever committed to fighting for our planet and will continue to set an example as best we can by offering better sustainable products. The company’s sustainable goals may be found here.
Kotn: By working directly with cotton farming families in Egypt, we want to rebuild the industry from the inside. We make our own fabrics from raw cotton bought direct from farmers at guaranteed prices. Like farm-to-table, but for your clothes. commitment to sustainability may be found here.
Hoi Bo: Hoi Bo was born from a desire to create a truly sustainable brand that would offer a unique balance of beauty, design, craft and functionality.
I treated myself this weekend to an old classic: Bangers and mash. I used Montreal-based Gusta’s Italian seitan sausage, as well as Yukon Gold potatoes mashed with Becel vegan margarine and soy milk. I added lots of caramelized onions, as well as peas. At this time of the year, fresh peas aren’t available, but frozen do well. I sauteed the peas with the onions after the latter were caramelized. I topped this with a simple gravy, which is a combination of water, flour, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, gravy browning, and a touch of soy sauce.