Animal attractions and holidays


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It’s no secret that I have a deep dislike of zoos; as I have mentioned before, I would rather see animals become extinct in their natural environments, than to see them live in captivity, no matter how large the cage. This article discusses ten wildlife animal attractions that cause much suffering and cruelty to animals. This cruelty may not be apparent to the tourists; this article explains briefly some of the common problems with these attractions.

  1. Elephant rides
  2. Wildlife selfies
  3. Swimming with dolphins
  4. Wildlife souvenirs
  5. Monkey performances
  6. Marine parks
  7. Crocodile farms
  8. Tiger tourism
  9. Holding sea turtles
  10. Bull runs and bull fighting

Ultimately, I believe that animals are not here for our entertainment, and particularly animals who are not domesticated. It may seem perfectly innocuous, for example, to swim with dolphins, but those dolphins have been captured for our entertainment and are forced to live on our terms, rather than theirs. Animals have no say in how they are treated and used; let’s give them the respect they deserve.

Zero-waste eating at the office


I try to extend my zero-waste lifestyle to beyond the home. The image above shows the items I use at my campus office on a daily basis. I make my own coffee at work, as this helps keep waste to a minimum. I’m also very particular about my coffee, and I make a far better cup than I can find on campus. I grind my beans at home in the morning and transport them in the smallest of the stainless steel containers. The middle container contains sugar that I refill as necessary from the bulk container at home. The largest container has snacks such as almonds. The blue coffee mug is made by a local artisan. Not shown are the stainless steel coffee tumbler I use when I’m teaching for ease of transportation, and the French press in which I make my coffee.

In the background are a matching water jug and glass. I dislike drinking from a water bottle. I do have a stainless steel bottle I use when I’m on the move, but when I’m in my office, I prefer the elegance of these two glass items.  The black item in the water jug is a charcoal filter, which can be composted once it has been exhausted. In the centre of the photograph are the plate and ceramic bowl that I use to eat my lunch, as well as a cloth napkin and stainless steel cutlery. There is a sink at the office, so I can wash all these items easily.

I make a point of bringing my lunch to work every day. I like to control the quality of the food that I consume and avoid take out food as much as possible. Further, bringing my lunch cuts down on a lot of waste. And finally, of course, my cooking is normally far better than anything I can buy on campus :).

If there is a social function at work that features food, I make a point of taking my cutlery and plate, if possible. I rarely get weird looks anymore.

Low-impact oral care


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I am a little (OK, a lot) obsessive about oral hygiene. Keeping teeth and gums clean, strong, and healthy, unfortunately, can generate a lot of waste. The biggest offender is the plastic toothbrush, which should be changed at least once every three months. These toothbrushes are not recyclable and all end in the landfill. I brush my teeth about four times a day, so I go through a lot of toothbrushes. I have been using bamboo toothbrushes for about four years. I use the Brush with Bamboo or Brush Naked brands; I prefer the latter, because it’s a Canadian brand, but I can’t always find it in local stores. I buy soft bristles, since these are best for the gums. The toothbrushes come in biodegradable cellulose and cardboard boxes; unfortunately, Halifax doesn’t allow cellulose in the compost. The brushes are made of nylon, so once the toothbrush needs to be replaced, I use a small set of pliers to remove the bristles, which go in the garbage bin, and place the handle in the green bin.

I don’t find manual brushing overly effective in removing plaque, so I use an electric toothbrush at night. When it comes to the health of my teeth and gums, I am prepared to make environmental compromises, which is a theme in this post. I use an Oral-B Pro electric toothbrush, which has a pressure sensor that alerts you if you are brushing too vigorously, and which has a set timer for 30 minutes per quadrant of your mouth. I’ve noticed a significant reduction in the amount of plaque buildup on my teeth since using it these past few years. I use my bamboo toothbrush throughout the day.

I don’t use mouthwash: I really don’t see the point. If your teeth and gums are clean, why do you need a mouthwash? Besides, I don’t want that plastic bottle in my home. It’s easy to make your own mouthwash using a simple combination of water the peppermint essential oil, but I don’t bother. I do not chew gum to freshen my breath for two reasons: Most brands of gum use a lot of packaging and, further, I have TMJ, which makes extended chewing uncomfortable. I prefer to carry mints, which I buy in bulk, and which I use if I don’t have easy access to my toothbrush. I use a stainless steel tongue scraper in the morning and evening, and I find this does an excellent job of removing any residual odour-causing bacteria.

The environmental impact of flossing has always bothered me. Most flosses come in plastic containers that can’t be recycled, then you need to put all that floss in the landfill. There are more environmentally-friendly flosses now that come in glass jars; you can buy the floss refills for the jars. The floss is biodegradable but the catch for me is that it’s made of silk, so it’s not vegan. There are some vegan flosses on the market, but they can’t be composted. I find flossing uncomfortable, as I have a small mouth and my teeth are packed very tightly, which makes it difficult for the floss to slide in evenly between the teeth. The best compromise I’ve found is a handheld Waterpik flosser. Yes, it’s plastic, but it will last me several years; more importantly, it’s done wonders for my teeth and gums. At my last dental checkup last week, the hygienist noticed a significant improvement in my gums, and I had absolutely no bleeding during the cleaning.

Toothpaste is another area where waste can be a problem, as most toothpaste tubes cannot be recycled. You can make your own toothpaste; the typical ingredients are baking soda, coconut oil, and possibly xylitol. I categorically refuse to do this. Most DIY toothpaste has a very high concentration of baking soda, which can cause tooth enamel erosion. Second, I am a strong believer in the positive impact of fluoride on tooth enamel. I know some people are concerned about the impact of fluoridation, but my research has shown that you need to consume very large amounts of fluoride for this to occur. I am not about to compromise the health of my teeth on the statistically insignificant danger of fluoridation. My compromise is to use fluoride toothpaste in the morning and evening and less wasteful alternatives during the day, such as Lush’s solid toothy tabs (yes, they do come in plastic, but at least it can be recycled), which are excellent for travel purposes, or David’s toothpaste, which comes in an aluminium tube.


Back to the olive oil drawing board


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Olive oil is an important staple in my life. I always have an ample supply of olives in my home, as well as olive oil, both of which I buy in bulk from the Bedford Basin Farmers’ Market, where they allow me to use my own glass containers. I have written before of my love of Savon de Marseille, which I use in bar form for personal use, as well as for household chores. I have been looking for a zero-waste or low impact body moisturizer for a while. Over the summer, I experimented with using just olive oil, which worked very well. I still bought a hand cream, however, as I can decant the cream into a travel-sized container when I am out of the house. I’ve learned from experience that oils do not travel well in handbags.

When my local zero-waste store started to carry bulk moisturizer, I thought this would be an ideal way to stop buying packaged hand cream; further, this meant that I could use one product instead of two, as I could use it as a body moisturizer as well. Unfortunately, this bulk moisturizer is simply not rich enough for my hands, and after just a few days, my cuticles started getting dry. My skin is genetically dry, and is prone also to eczema, so this cream simply didn’t do the trick.

I’m back to my original plan: I use olive oil as a body moisturizer. I use a re-purposed glass pump bottle and use two-three squirts per body part. The key is not to use too much. The oil absorbs quickly; I don’t know if this would be true for other skin types, but it certainly is the case for mine. I have gone back to using a hand cream that I can decant in a travel container. Because I use this cream only for hands, it lasts a long time. My choice is the Body Shop’s collection of vegan hand creams. I have been pushing the company to make at least one scentless alternative. The creams are rich enough for my needs, and the company uses a lot of recycled plastic for its containers.