Animal welfare, Travel

Animal attractions and holidays


Image source

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

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.

zero waste

Low-impact oral care


Image source

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.


zero waste

Back to the olive oil drawing board


Image source

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.


Le Marché, King’s Wharf

Screenshot 2019-02-26 at 7.11.07 PM.png

As I had a car rental this past weekend, I decided to visit the King’s Wharf community in Dartmouth. I discovered a new local store, Le Marché, which sells a nice variety of mostly-locally made food products, including fresh bread and produce, as well as some natural cleaning and beauty products. I treated myself to some unpackaged white Lebanese olive oil soap bars, as well as to a bottle of Splash blood-orange olive oil. The store has a small, but good collection of olive oils stored in vats; you fill glass bottles with the oil, and can bring the bottles in for a refill. It’s the same concept as the larger Liquid Gold stores in Halifax. It’s a nice little store that I will make a point of visiting again.


Real Fake Meats



Real Fake Meats is Halifax’s first vegan butcher store. I have been there a few times since it’s opened and plan to be a regular customer. I don’t generally buy too many faux meat products, as I prefer to use vegetables and grains, but I am very partial to seitan bacon. Although I can make seitan at home, it can be a long process, so I do like the convenience of buying it ready made.

The store has a variety of plant-based deli items such as turkey, seitan bacon, donair meat, cheeses, and desserts. There is a rotating deli menu as well; there isn’t a lot of seating in the shop, so most people take the food to go. The image above is of the Philly cheeze sandwich, which is delicious. The seitan bacon is divine, and I’ve never managed to make it home before eating any of the desserts. Also worth mentioning is the tofu feta, which is fabulous.

My one concern about the store is the plastic packaging used: The cheeses and desserts are packed in lidded plastic tubs, while the meats are in vacuum-sealed plastic bags. Happily, however, I spoke to the owner about whether I could bring my own containers, and she said they would be happy to oblige.

Whenever I’ve been there, which has been in winter so far, I’ve seen a few people come in wearing down coats or leather bags, so the clientele does not consist of only vegans. The staff told me that, in fact, many of the regular clients are omnivores who are looking for vegan alternatives as a way to reduce their consumption of animal products. Naturally, I was delighted to hear this, particularly since it’s a way for omnivores to understand the many delicious plant-based alternatives available to them.

zero waste

Lush Naked skincare

Annotation 2019-02-05 073131

Image source

Lush is expanding its inventory of Naked products; 35% of its products are now completely package free. I have been using a number of their package-free body products, such as the King of Skin, for several years, but in the past week, I’ve tried their new Naked facial care products.

My facial skin is dry, delicate, and easily irritated. Most skin cleansers, no matter how gentle, dry out my face. I’ve found that using olive oil to cleanse my face, and wiping my face with an Erase Your Face cloth, has cut down significantly on skin irritation. Oil cleansing has become very popular. The most common method used is a combination of two parts castor oil to one part olive oil. You need to remove this oil with a very hot wash cloth, as castor oil is very viscuous. This method dried my skin out, as I found the hot wash cloth too harsh. I’ve had better luck with using plain olive oil and warm water. I was interested in trying the new Lush Naked Like a Virgin cold cream, which is an oil-based solid cleanser. The key ingredients are olive oil, jojoba oil. I apply the bar to my damp face, massage into the skin, and wipe off with an Erase Your Face cloth soaked in warm water. I then rinse my face with some more warm water and pat to dry. The bar does a good job of removing makeup, and my skin doesn’t feel dry or irritated. The only thing I don’t like about this product is the addition of fragrance which, sadly, is something that Lush insists on using for most of its products. The fragrance consists largely of Limonene. Fortunately, it’s a very mild scent and doesn’t stay on the skin once the oil is rinsed off.


I have been using facial oil for a long time; I make my own oil that consists of jojoba oil as the base, to which I add argan oil and rosehip seed oil. I use this facial oil at night in lieu of a serum. I find serums to be far too harsh on my skin, especially since many of them contain what they call anti-aging ingredients, which often serve to exfoliate the skin. My face can’t tolerate exfoliants. I find these serums to be both too irritating and drying. I layer a rich facial balm over the facial oil at night, as the oil isn’t enough. Travelling with facial oils can be messy, as I’ve had a few spills from the high altitude in a plane, so I was interested in trying one of the Naked facial oils. I was given a sample of Banana Oil, whose main ingredients are murumuru butter, banana, grapeseed oil, and mango butter. I’ve used the sample only on my neck so far: No irritation so far. I will try some on my face tonight, now that I know the cold cream doesn’t cause irritation. I am a little concerned about the fragrance, as this product is not washed off, so I’ll keep my fingers crossed.


While it’s easy to make my own products, I do need to buy a lot of separate items; for example three oils for my facial oil, versus one Lush naked bar. The bars would be very good for travelling, as well, as they would not count as liquids.




zero waste

Easy zero-waste dish soap

I have been  using a very easy zero-waste dish detergent over the past week. I simply take 4-5 soap nuts and place them in a glass bottle that used to contain passata. I add hot water to the soap nuts, and give the bottle a good shake. I pour about a 1/4 cup (I never measure) into the sink and wash my dishes. I use either the wooden brush or the luffa, both pictured above, to clean the dishes. While I’m filling the sink with hot water, I top up the bottle. I keep doing this until the soap nuts stop producing saponin, at which point I put the soap nuts in the compost and put new ones into the bottle. Soap nuts do not lather, but the dishes come out sparkling clean. You can use this same method to make an all-purpose cleaner. I buy soap nuts from The Bulk Barn, using my own glass container.


Pure Anada cosmetics

Image source

My hunt for a high-quality, zero-waste, and vegan makeup line might have come to its end. I have been using mineral makeup for years, and find it works very well with my skin, which is very sensitive and easily irritated. I have used a number of different products over the years. I had narrowed the products to three companies. The first company, Cosmic Tree Essentials, is locally made in Nova Scotia. The products are of good quality, although I have not liked all of them, especially the lipsticks, which tend to be too “glittery” for my taste. The makeup products come mostly in plastic packaging, and the selection of products in local stores is rather limited. It’s possible to buy the products with reduced packaging from the farmers’ market in Wolfville, but since I don’t own a car, I can’t get there too often, and when I have, it’s often been a little hit and miss as to whether the stall for the company is available. Ordering from the website  is not the best experience, as it does not provide clear swatches for the eye colours.

I very much like the ZuZu Deluxe pressed mineral foundation, but I am concerned about the plastic case it comes in, complete with mirror. The company does sell refill foundations that you can insert in the case but, sadly, these refills are not sold in local stores, and buying the refills online from the US retailer is prohibitively expensive.

The leader of zero-waste vegan makeup in Canada  is Elate Cosmetics, which is well known internationally as well. Many of their products are sold as refillables;  the eye colours and pressed powders, for example, come in metal pots that fit into a refillable bamboo container, as shown below. The individual pots come in a compostable paper container.

The Elate products are generally of good quality, although I’ve been very disappointed with the Bamboo palettes, as the hinges are very fragile, and have broken in two of palettes I have purchased. The pressed foundation comes in limited colours, and I haven’t found one that suits me. I need a shade between the two lightest shades, as one is either a little too light, while the other a little too dark. I sound like Goldilocks. The eye shadows and blushes are perfectly fine, and the mascara is excellent.

I have lately been using Pure Anada, another Canadian product that I think has been around for longer than Elate. Pure Anada sells many of its products in refillable containers; you can buy pressed foundation, eye shadows, and blush in small pots that fit into a palette. Even better, you can buy refills for loose mineral powder, which is something not many companies do. Another bonus is that Pure Anada products are about half the price of Elate.  There are different palettes available at very reasonable prices. I’ve had a lot of success with their products, as explained below.

annotation 2019-01-29 074255

Pressed foundation. Pure Anada has three light shades. I wear the second lightest, which is called Very Fair. This shade is warm toned, which is perfect for me.

Loose powder.  I like to carry a small travel pot with loose powder in my handbag, as it takes up far less space than a compact. There is a good selection of shades; I wear Ivory Chinook, which is very fair in warm tones.

Eye shadows. I own only two shades, as I like to keep things simple. You can get loose shadows or pressed. I prefer to use pressed, as I find that loose powder can sometimes get into my eyes when I apply it. I use Ecru and Clouded. The shadows have good colour saturation and stay on all day.

Mascara. I am very pleased with the mascara, which gives good definition and lasts all day. I like the thinner and curved wand, as I find it easier to apply. I’ve poked myself in the eye too may times with chubbier wands.

Once my Elate blush has run out, I will switch to Pure Anada. I will try a few samples of their lipsticks as well.

Pure Anada makeup products are vegan and cruelty free, of course.


zero waste

Making use of soap ends

Image source

I stopped buying liquid soap many years ago. Liquid soap normally comes in plastic containers, and even if you buy refill packs, this generates a lot of plastic. Further, I have always found that I used far too much liquid soap and thus went through a lot of it. I have been using bar soap exclusively for several years and make sure I buy it package free. My favourite bar soap is Savon de Marseille. I use the 300g bar for personal use, and a 1kg bar in the kitchen for washing dishes; I simply swipe my wooden dish brush along the surface of the soap and clean the dishes with it.

Once the soap bars have reduced to nubs, or ends, I cut them with a knife and melt them in boiling water, thus making liquid soap. The Ikg bar of soap in the kitchen is too bulky to use as hand soap, so I fill the stainless steel SmartBar below with my DIY liquid soap. This container helps remove any food odours such as garlic, as well.



I use the DIY liquid soap as an all-purpose cleaner by diluting it with tap water in a spray bottle. I find this method works just as well as commercial all-purpose cleaners I used to buy.

Old-fashioned bar soap is an effective and low-impact way of cleaning both your body and your home.  Using the soap ends means that nothing goes to waste.