zero waste

The (not so) humble handkerchief

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.

Sustainability

My favourite sustainable Canadian clothing brands

Source

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 normalThis 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.

Recipes, Veganism

Vegan bangers and mash

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.

Absolutely delicious.

Veganism

Local vegan pastries

I’m very glad to have found a local bakery that makes two vegan tarts: Cherry and coconut lemon. Dinah’s Sourdough is a bakery located in the north end of the city. I’ve not been there in person yet, but I’m very happy to see that the bakery has been offering online shopping and delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic. I am looking forward to my first order of both tarts today. They are destined for the freezer, as I like to discipline my consumption of baked goods; these will be Saturday afternoon treats with espresso or herbal tea.

Recipes, Veganism

Creamy chocolate custard

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups soy milk
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Combine the cornstarch and water to form a paste.
  2. Mix together the cocoa powder and sugar.
  3. Pour the soy milk into a pan over medium heat. Although you can use other plant-based milks, soy milk works best for custards, as it thickens well (almond milk for example, does not), and does not impart a strong flavour (unlike oat milk or cashew milk, for example).
  4. Stir the cocoa powder and sugar gradually into the soy milk. I find a balloon whisk works well for this.
  5. Add the vanilla extract, to taste. I like to use a full teaspoon.
  6. Add the cornstarch paste.
  7. Whisk the milk until boiling point. It’s important that you stir constantly, as you don’t want any lumps to form.
  8. When the milk boils, remove from heat.
  9. Pour into individual containers of your choosing. The custard will continue to thicken.

My preference is to eat the custard when it’s still warm and a crust has formed, but it’s equally good cold. It will be thicker when cold.

zero waste

Tru Earth Laundry Strips

I have had my eye on the Canadian Tru Earth Laundry Strips for a while. Each strip contains concentrated and hypoallergenic detergent that works in all types of washing machines, and in all water temperatures. The strips are vegan. A package of 32 strips comes in a small paper container, which is about the size of a large envelope. The product is made in BC. I’ve been waiting to see whether any local stores would carry it, as I don’t like the thought of having the strips shipped from BC. To my delight, the Luminate Wellness Centre in Bedford starting carrying the strips today.

I just did a load of laundry with one strip. I placed the strip in the soap dispenser of my HE front-loading machine, as the company suggests. I use only cold water for all my laundry. The clothes came out clean and, I noticed, softer than usual, so I wonder if the strips have a softening agent. The clothes are drying on the indoor clothes rack, and so far, I’m very pleased with the results. I used the unscented strips and the clothes have no scent whatsoever.

The strips are more expensive than other eco-friendly laundry detergents. The package of 32 strips cost $13.99, so you if factor sales tax (15% HST), the cost per load is 44 cents pre- tax and 50 cents with tax. There’s no question that the liquid laundry soap I buy from the refill centre is cheaper per load. The environmental cost of the liquid soap, however, is higher, as you have to factor in all the water that is used to manufacture the soap, plus the much higher cost of packing the soap and transporting it. The strip packets are very lightweight and thin, so the shipping costs alone must be much lower. This is a trade-off I’m willing to make, especially since I don’t spend any money on all-purpose cleaners ( I simply grate the soap slivers from my bar soap and dissolve them in hot water). I will still need to have liquid detergent on hand to hand wash certain items such as my dresses, but this means that a small bottle will last me a very long time.

Veganism

Health benefits of tofu

Image source

I’m a huge fan of tofu and eat it almost daily. When I was first introduced to tofu many years ago, it was the silken kind, which I hated. I convinced myself that I didn’t like tofu until I came across the firm and extra firm versions; it was love at first bite. This article discusses some of the primary health benefits of tofu. The article discusses as well some of the potential concerns about food processing, although it provides no citations to support these statements, which I take with a pinch of salt. I think there is a lot of misinformation about GMOs in general, based often on scare tactics and an assumption because something isn’t “natural” it must automatically be bad for you. Many GMO foods are perfectly harmless and also nutritious; their sale is regulated in Canada. This same fear is often extended to all processed foods, even though they are not necessarily harmful. Ultimately, it all comes down to balance. This article provides the nutritional breakdown of 100g of tofu and its role in helping to reduce levels of LDL cholesterol. This article discusses the potential impact of tofu on Type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis.

Tofu is an important source of protein and calcium for me, and adds substance to green salads, rice dishes, and so forth. My favourite way to eat tofu is to marinate it in a simple sauce, usually teriyaki, and then to saute it. I also like to grill it with barbecue sauce. This site has some suggested vegan tofu recipes.

Minimalism

Minimal skin care

Image source

In my efforts to pare down my possessions, I’ve been looking to keep my skin care products to the bare essentials and, if possible, to use multipurpose products. I’ve honed in on a routine that meets these criteria and, most importantly, works for my skin. I have fair, sensitive, and dry skin that is very easily irritated, especially by fragrances, exfoliating products, retinols, glycolic acid, sunscreens, and so forth. I’ve tried many expensive creams and serums over the years, most of which have been too irritating, and which resulted in burning, stinging, eczema, or contact dermatitis. I’ve learned that I need to keep my skin care as simple as possible to avoid irritation. I’ve pared my skin care routine to four products.

In the morning, I rinse my face with warm water and pat dry with a small microfibre towel. I find most cotton towels to be too rough on my skin. This microfibre towel dries very quickly and is ideal for travelling, as well. I use my all-purpose cream (discussed later) around my eyes. I learned a very long time ago that specialized eye creams are a complete waste of money and that many can do more harm than good, especially if they tighten the skin. During scarf season, I will use my all-purpose cream on my neck; in other seasons, when my neck is exposed, I wear my sunscreen.

Sunscreen is absolutely non-negotiable. I avoid sun exposure like the plague and have done so since I was in my teens. I wear an SPF 60 on my face every day, regardless of the weather or the season. The product that works best for me is La Roche-Posay Anthelios Fluid Lotion SPF 60. This lotion is very light on the skin, is fragrance-free, non irritating, and moisturizing.



In the evening, I cleanse my face with sweet almond oil, which I buy in bulk from a local store. I’ve tried many gentle cleansers over the years, but they always made my face feel very dry afterwards. I massage a few pumps of the oil on my dry face, then wipe clean with a wet Erase Your Face cleansing cloth. I use this cloth to remove my eye makeup as well (no cleanser is needed). I rinse my face with warm water then dry with my microfibre towel.

The final step is to apply my all-purpose cream, which is highly recommended by many dermatologists. I’ve been using this product for the past two weeks and love the results: CeraVe Moisturizing Cream. I had been using a much more expensive product for the past few years, but I was going through it like water. Further, I wanted a product that I could use on both my face and my body, as it’s one less thing to buy. The product works better than the expensive cream. What’s even better is that I use the Shopper’s Drug Mart dupe for CeraVe: The ingredient list is identical, but I get a 453g tub for under $20.

This cream has no fragrance or irritating ingredients. It’s rich and moisturizing, but absorbs quickly and is non-greasy. I use this cream on my face and neck, and around my eyes. It doubles as my body cream as well and, even more importantly, as my hand cream. I’ve always needed to by separate hand creams, as body creams have never been moisturizing enough, but this one product does the trick.

I use bar soap exclusively to cleanse my hands and body. The richest soap I’ve found is L’Occitane’s Shea Butter Soap. I use a dry body brush to exfoliate my body. I avoid exfoliating my face as much as possible, as I find it too irritating. I occasionally use a paste made by wetting some kaolin powder, but I do this only every two weeks or so.

zero waste

Rethinking my dish washing routine – again

I’ve been reconsidering my dish washing routine. Although I have a dishwasher, I use it only about once every two weeks, as I prefer to wash dishes by hand. I know that some argue that dishwashers use less water, but this does not apply to the way I hand wash dishes.

Rather than fill my kitchen sink with water, I use a dish washing tub. This method isn’t very common in Canada, but I grew up using one. A tub is designed to be the size of a dinner plate, so you use a lot less water. I also never use running water to wish dishes, as this wastes a lot of water. I use the tub featured below:

I’ve decided to go back to using a bar of soap to wash dishes with, as I have done in the past. I recently switched to liquid dish soap, as I found two stores in town where I could buy this soap in bulk, using my own container. Although liquid dish soap is certainly more convenient, I did find that I was going through it more quickly than was the case with bar soap. I’m concerned as well that liquid soap requires more water to produce, and is still transported in plastic containers.

So, I’m back to using bar soap. My preferred soap is a 1 kg bar of Savon de Marseille, which I buy from a company in Quebec. This bar lasts a very long time, is much more economical than liquid dish soap, and does not require plastic or as much water. Using bar soap for dishes has recently become more popular mostly, I think, because of the Vegan Dish Washing Block produced by No Tox Life, which is making the rounds in many zero waste communities and shops.

The Dish Washing Block works well, although I find my Savon de Marseille to be more budget friendly, as you get a larger bar of soap for about the same price, and does not leave the same soap residue as the Block. Another household bar soap that I’ve used is made by the Montreal company Faveur.

As you can see from the image on the top of the page, I use a wooden brush that I wet, then swipe along the surface of the soap. It’s then a simple matter of using the brush to clean the dishes. Bar soap can be used as well to clean counters; you simply pass a wet cloth across the soap and wipe the counters. This can leave some soap residue, which is why I prefer to grate a little of the soap and mix it with hot water in a spray bottle. I use this solution to clean all surfaces, including the toilet. For floors, I use a combination of household-cleaning strength vinegar (which I buy in bulk in my own container) combined with water. I sometimes suffer from the magpie effect when new products become available, but I usually find that the old methods often worked better.

zero waste

New zero-waste options in Bedford

I visited the newly-opened Luminate Wellness Market in the Larry Uteck section of Bedford a few days after it opened. The store contains a large selection of natural products, as well as some unpackaged organic fruits and vegetables, as well as refrigerated natural foods, such as vegan cheese. The store has a bulk area where you can take your own containers and refill them. What I particularly like about this section is that you tare your own containers. I wish that more stores did this, as having to go to customer service to have them tare your containers makes for a longer shopping experience, as this means you may need to stand in line twice. The store owner told me “we trust our customers.”

The Refillery contains liquid shampoo, conditioner, hand and dish soap, as well as an all-purpose cleanser. You can purchase empty glass bottles, as can be seen in the image above. This section also contains a section of locally-made cloth bags, wipes, and reusable kitchen towels. All the refillable products are Canadian.

The store has a large selection of shampoo bars and sold conditioners, as well as cosmetics from Canadian company Pure Anada, which is what I use. The second half of the store contains shelves of packaged natural goods, as well as the fruits and vegetables.

The store has an in-house Naturopathic Doctor, a certified Nutritionist, as well as an acupuncturist and massage therapist. I was attracted most by the refill station, of course. The selection is smaller than The Tare Shop, but it’s a good alternative for those who don’t want to go downtown. I can get to both stores via public transit, so I’ll do my best to support both.

It’s very gratifying to see more zero-waste options in the city, and hope that more budget-friendly options will become available, as most of the goods in these stores can be quite pricey.