My Earth Day 2016 review

As I did at this time last year, I would like to review my efforts to reduce my carbon footprint. I am now into my ninth year without a car. I rely upon public transportation to get around, and try to walk 8-10 km a day, both for the sake of exercise, and to reduce my use of buses. When I need a car, for example to go to the airport, or to buy larger items, I rent one from my local car rental company (I get a special university discount).  I don’t miss the insurance and car payments, and certainly not the fuelling costs.

I continue to make a lot of my own products, using earth-friendly ingredients, namely:

  • Face toner
  • Leave-in hair conditioner
  • Hand soap (for kitchen and smaller bathroom)
  • Dish soap
  • Laundry soap
  • Dusting spray (for furniture)
  • Deodorant
  • Body powder
  • Floor cleaner
  • All-purpose cleaner
  • Sugar scrub
  • Air freshener/fabric spray
  • Window cleaner
  • Eyeglass cleaner
  • Facial scrub
  • Personal wipes (I buy felt fabric and cut into strips)

Cleaning

Floors and furniture

I use microfibre mops and brooms to sweep the floors. I use cloth rags (old face towels, or cut-up towels) and my own dusting spray to clean the furniture.  I use a vacuum cleaner only every two weeks to clean the stairs, which are carpeted, but otherwise simply sweep the wood, cork, and porcelain floors. I wash the floors weekly with my own cleaner and a wet microfibre mop to clean the floors; I alternate with a steam mop with a reusable microfibre head.

Laundry

Although I do use the dryer for sheets and towels, I use clothes horses for other items of laundry to cut down on dryer use.  I my own laundry soap, and use vinegar as a fabric softener. I use dryer balls in the dryer. Hand washing (every day) is done with savon de Marseille. I use only cold water in the laundry machine. I iron my clothes with a steam iron, and use a homemade fabric spray (lavender) to refresh carpets, beds, sofas, and any other surface on which the cats like to sit.

Kitchen and bathrooms

For kitchen and bathroom counters, as well as stainless steel appliances, and bathroom tiles, I use a homemade all-purpose cleanser. I use linen dish cloths. No paper towels.  I use borax to clean the toilets.

I wash my dishes every day in the sink. I use a plastic tub in the sink to reduce the amount of water I use. My homemade soap does not lather and leaves no residue, so there is no need to rinse the dishes. In this way, I save more water than if I were to use the dishwasher. I never wash dishes by running them under water. I use only cloth dish cloths and tea towels.

Dining 

I use cloth napkins every day, and cover my table with either a cotton or linen table cloth. I store food in either glass or stainless steel containers. I pack my lunch to work every day, using these containers, stainless steel cutlery, and real plates and soup bowls (the latter I keep in the office).

I prepare my meals at home every day. I love to cook, and I think I’m good at it, so why waste money with take out? Besides, I am careful about what I eat, and like to control ingredients and amounts. I buy in bulk whenever I can (e.g., dried beans, pasta, coconut oil, sugar, salt, flour, cornstarch, baking soda, baking powder, etc.). I have an electric pressure cooker which I use to cook beans, make soups, sauces, and so forth.  I use stainless steel, ceramic, and cast iron cookware. I make my own faux parmesan cheese, cashew cheeses, nut butter, almond milk, and soy milk. The only food items I buy in tins are diced and crushed tomatoes, which I used for soups and marinara sauces. I avoid packaged foods as much as possible; some items, like tofu and Daiya cheeses, are staples in my fridge, so some packaging can’t be avoided.

I go to local farmers’ markets every Saturday. I use cloth bags, and cloth produce bags, both at the markets, and in the grocery stores. I use cloth bags also in the bulk bins (e.g., bulk peanuts and almonds).  I buy local as much as I can. There are a lot of myths associated with organic food. Organic food is, in fact, exposed to pesticides for the most part (they must be derived naturally); further, several taste tests have indicated that it doesn’t taste any better. For me, local trumps organic every time. I wash my fruit and vegetables with vinegar and water, so why spend unnecessary money on organic?

When I go out, I carry a portable cutlery set and stainless steel straw if I know I will eating somewhere that uses disposable containers. I have a small S’well water bottle that I carry with me. When I order coffee, I always drink it “to stay,” as good coffee should not be rushed. At work, I make my own coffee and use a mug.

I gave up my microwave years ago, as I wasn’t using it. I bought a Cuisinart counter top convection oven years ago, which doubles also as a toaster. I use this oven every day, and rarely use my big convection oven.

Cat care

My cats like to sit on the bed. I use a rubber lint brush to clean the duvet cover on a daily basis. This brush does not generate waste, as do lint rollers with tearaway strips. I cover the sofa with a slip cover. I use a throw on the bed when I am travelling, since I can’t do the lint brush routine, but on a daily basis, I prefer to not cover the bed, as I think it looks sloppy. I used use biodegradable dog waste bags to collect cat waste (one bag a day), but I have switched to paper lunch bags, as they are more earth friendly. I use a sawdust-based cat litter, which is compostable and earth friendly. I have a sonic essential oil diffuser that helps keep the air by the cat litter fresh, which is important when you live with two cats. Unfortunately, dry cat food comes in bags that are not normally recyclable; cans for wet food can be recycled.

 

Personal care

I have been using handkerchiefs for years. I never use facial tissues and buy a box only when family members come to visit. I use a number of handmade products, listed above. I use a bamboo toothbrush and toothy tabs from Lush; the former come in a cardboard box that is biodegradable.  I do use a commercial toothpaste, as I’m not giving up fluoride, but since I brush my teeth about four times a day, I use the tabs in the middle of the day, and the toothpaste in the morning and evening.  I use Eco-Dent vegan floss, which comes in a cardboard container than can be composted. I alternate cleaning my gums with Stim-U-Dent plaque removers, since they are biodegradable. Floss generates a lot of waste. Toilet paper is made from recycled paper, although I use mostly homemade personal wipes (I will spare you the details). I hand wash lingerie every day, as well as many of my clothes, since washing machines can wreak havoc on many fabrics. I use cloth panty liners both for hygiene purposes, and to preserve underwear. I use bar soaps whenever possible, although I do use homemade liquid soap in the kitchen and small bathroom (mostly to save space). I use cotton make-up removers, which I wash every day, hemp face cloths, and takelon make-up brushes, which I wash with simple soap and water (I cannot believe that people actually buy special cleansers for make-up brushes). I use bamboo towels.

Utilities

I live in a condominium, so I have no control over what we use for heating (electricity), although I keep the thermostat as low as I can, use space heaters, and wear sweaters and fingerless gloves. I use LED lightbulbs. I still have some CFL bulbs; they’ve been with me for 15 years and I am waiting patiently for them to give out before I replace them with LED. I keep lights on only in the room in which I am sitting. I try to unplug appliances when I don’t use them, but it’s a bit of a nuisance for those connected to a clock (e.g., the countertop oven), or the DVR. I haven’t pulled the plug on cable yet, as I’m not prepared to give up HBO. My appliances last a long time, although I know I’m an easy prey for having the latest mobile devices, but since I rely on them so much, I don’t have much patience for slow devices with limited memory.

Clothing

I am whittling down my wardrobe as much as possible. I love clothes. I buy good quality clothes that last a long time, but I am trying to stop buying new clothes. Since last July, I have bought only three items (dresses), and only to replace items I gave away. Handbags and jeweller are my Achilles’ heel, but I have reduced purchases significantly. In a trip to Rome last November, for example, I bought only three items (a gold crucifix with an emerald, and two rosary bracelets, since I collect rosary beads). For anyone who knows me well, they will understand how restrained this was. Shopping for clothes, bags, and jewellery is the biggest area in which I need to improve, but I am making strides.

 

 

Packing your lunch: Zero waste style

My twelve-month sabbatical is coming to an end soon (June 30); it’s amazing how quickly twelve months can go by. It was a nice treat to be at home to enjoy lunch, but I always make it a habit to pack my lunch to work. As a vegan, I find that there are very few lunch options in my workplace, as at most, I might find a vegetarian option, but one that invariably has cheese. A salad at one of the vendors on campus costs $8, which is overpriced.

This post discusses the health benefits of taking lunch to work every day. The author provides the nuitrition breakdown of what might appear to be healthy choices and vendors, but shows how much sugar or fat they might contain. I find, too, that it’s frustrating to wait in the long queues to buy any food; further, take out food generates a large amout of waste.

On days in which I take home-made soup to work, I pack it in a thermos, as I don’t like plastic containers, even if they are BPA free. We do have a microwave in the office, so I could heat the soup there, if necessary. I have a ceramic soup bowl at the office, together with a set of stainless steel travel cutlery. I have access to a sink at the office, so I can wash my plates and utensils there. I bought the Thermos below from Home Outfitters, only in a beautiful shade of chocolate brown.  The Onyx utensil was purchased from P’Lovers, an environmental store in Halifax:

Capture

Capture

 

 

 

 

 

In addition to the soup, I will take some locally-made bread, which I carry in a Preserve sandwich container, made from recycled plastic, and PBA free, bought from Home Sense:

Capture

 

 

 

 

On soupless days, I will have a home-made salad, which includes greens, an assortment of vegetables, a grain (quinoa, rice, kamut, or bulgur), and a legume (chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, and so forth). I store the salad in a lidded Life Without Plastic stainless steel bowl, and pack the dressing in a smaller container. I purchased the bowl from P’Lovers, and the Swissmar dressing container from Home Outfitters. I have a glass water bottle in my office, which came from a Chemistry laboratory on campus that sold off its supplies. It’s not a bottle from which one can drink directly, which is fine by me, as I always prefer drinking from a glass.

Capture

Capture

 

 

 

 

 

I carry my lunch in a Lug lunch tote. Lug is a Canadian product, whose products are available in many retailers. The tote isn’t big enough to carry both the thermos and the stainless steel bowl, so I use a cloth napkin. I wash out my containers at the office sink, and use a cloth tea towel to dry them. The napkins and towels are laundered at home.

Capture

 

 

 

 

 

I make my coffee at work. I grind my beans at home, as I like fresh coffee. I use a Bodum French press, and use locally-made ceramic mugs. When I’m teaching, I carry my coffee to class in a stainless steel mug, which I bought from a Second Cup retailer. The only time I purchase coffee on campus is if I’m taking a break with a colleague.

Root vegetable and greens soup

 

20160416_114503

Ingredients

  • 1 leek (or onion), diced
  • 3 potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 half sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 rutabaga. peeled and diced
  • 2 cups spinach, chopped
  • 2 cups kale, chopped
  • Herbes de provence
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • Bay leaves
  • 5 cups vegetable broth

Preparation

I used my electric pressure cooker to make this soup. I added all the ingredients, and cooked for 10 minutes, once pressure was achieved. If cooking conventionally, bring the soup to the boil, and simmer until the vegetables are cooked.

As always, the measurments above are approximate, only, as I always tend to my eyes as judge.  Use enough broth to cover the vegetables.

I used an immersion blender to puree the soup. Be sure to remove the bay leaves before you do this.

 

Broccoli, cabbage, and chickpea soup

Unfortunately, I deleted the picture I had taken of this soup, so I can include only text. I made this soup to use up some vegetables that had started to go soft. It allowed me also to use up some aquafaba that I had in the fridge, as I find it makes for a good substitute for vegetable broth.

Ingredients

  • Broccoli: I used about 1/2 of a head of broccoli, as this is all I had left
  • Cabbage: Also 1/2 head of cabbage
  • I leek, diced
  • 1 tbsp Olive oil
  • Herbes de Provenc
  • 1 litre of aquafaba (the cooking liquid of the chickpeas)
  • 1 cup of cooked chickpeas

Method

  • Saute the diced leek, cabbage, and broccoli in the olive oil. Add the herbs towards the end.
  • Add the aquafaba, and season to taste. I like thicker soups, so I use enough aquafaba to cover the vegetables. You can always add more liquid after you blend the vegetables, but don’t add too much at first.
  • When the vegetables are softened, blend the soup. I did not blend too finely, as I like the occasional chunk of vegetable.
  • Add the chickpeas.