zero waste

How I use soap ends

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.

Veganism

My favourite vegan dining options in Halifax Regional Municipality, 2020

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.

M&J’s Eatery: Separate omnivore and vegan menus.

Copper Branch: Serving our community whole foods, plant-based, good for you and our planet.

The Nook: Several vegan options.

G-Street Pizza: Several vegan options for pizza, donairs, burgers, and appetizers

Syd Delicious: All vegan sweets. Amazing cinnamon buns

Recipes, Veganism

Navy bean spread

Ingredients

1 cup dry navy beans, cooked

Finely chopped green onion

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

Salt, to taste

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

Water, as needed

Assembly

Place all the ingredients in a food processor and blend. Add as much water as needed to make your desired consistency. I like a thick consistency that can be spread on bread or crackers.

Adjust seasoning, lemon juice, and nutritonal yeast to taste.

Recipes, Veganism

Tofu ricotta

Ingredients

1 package extra-firm tofu

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

Dried basil

Salt (and pepper)

1 teaspoon white miso paste

Water, as needed

Method

  1. Place all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth
  2. Add a little water, if necessary, if the ricotta is too dry
  3. I don’t like pepper, but feel free to use it if you do.
  4. You could add some garlic to the ricotta; I prefer not to, I like the more delicate flavour without it, which is closer to the taste of original ricotta.
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.