Goth toothpaste

img_4213-2I thought that my teeth were looking a little dull lately, so I explored some options for tooth whitening. I had no interest in using any whitening strips, as they create far too much waste. I tried one of those dual-tube products, where you brush with the first tube of toothpaste, then with the second tube of whiteners. I tried a sample, and was horrified with the results. The whitening product contains a lot of hydrogen peroxide, and it bleached my gums, not to mention hurt them. No, thanks.

I came across a glass jar of a natural toothpaste that contains activated charcoal. The product is made by Nelson Naturals, located in Nelson, B.C.; the company makes only toothpaste. The toothpaste makes your entire mouth black when you use it; I look like an extra in a Goth film. It’s actually rather fun to see the effect. The toothpaste is messy (the jar warns you about this), but I’ve been impressed with how well it works. My teeth look whiter since I started using it Saturday. I brush with it only once a day.




Earth-friendly spring cleaning, Canadian style

I am one of those odd people who enjoys doing housework; I am particularly fond of ironing, which I find very soothing. Because I do some housework every day, I don’t find the need to do spring cleaning as such, but for those who do, I thought I would share some Canadian cleaning products that are earth friendly, and whose companies have a long-standing commitment to the environment (i.e., no greenwashing). I make my own cleaning products, but for those who are not inclined towards DIY, and who want to use locally-made products, the list below might be of some use:

Bio-Vert: Bio-Vert environmentally-friendly cleaning products are manufactured by Savons Prolav Inc., a family owned and operated company based in Laval, Québec.  They use only recycled plastic containers, and sell refills. An interesting fact is their use of square-shaped containers, which allows them to fit more of them on shipping pallets, and thus reduce transport costs.

Nature Clean: Their website is being overhauled right now, so I can’t determine where these products are made, but if memory serves, they are based in Ontario. Their products are all scent-free, which I very much appreciate.

Gentle Earth: This company is based in Victoria, BC.  They sell products at both the retail and wholesale levels.

Eco-max: These products are made in Oakville, Ontario. The company uses Bullfrog Power to make its products, which are EcoLogo certified.

Attitude: These products are made in Montreal.  The company uses renewable energy sources, is EcoLogo certified, and makes only vegan products.

Sapadilla: These products are made in Port Coquitlam, BC.  Their products do contain fragrance, but it’s derived only from essential oils, and are phthalate-free.

Effeclean: These products are made in Toronto.  The products are all plant-based, and the company does a very good job of explaining all the ingredients that it does not use.

Down East:  The products are made in Dartmouth, NS. Their cleaning products were the first in Canada to be EcoLogo certified.



Cleanser-free cleansing

I have been working hard to pare down the number of personal care products that I use. My skin is dry and sensitive, so I have always cleansed my face with cleanser in the evening only, using only warm water in the morning to remove any residual night cream. Even though I am careful to use very gentle cleansers, my skin still tends to feel tight afterwards, and I certainly can’t use exfoliating products, as they are all too harsh. I bought a product the other day that can help me cut out one more personal care product. The product is a facial cloth called Erase your Face. You simply wet the cloth in warm water, then wipe your face and eyes. I am amazed by how well the cloth works: All traces of makeup were gone, including mascara and eyeliner. No tugging of any kind was necessary. Removing eye makeup has always been a challenge, as there is always the possibility of irritation, even though I have typically used only sweet almond oil. Using only warm water is not only environmentally friendly, but economical, and much easier on my skin; I did not need to use a cleanser afterwards. I used the tissue test on my face, and there was absolutely no residue left. The cloths wash out very well; I simply wash them in the sink with a bar of Savon de Marseille and hang to dry. I bought the cloths at Bed, Bath, and Beyond; it’s an excellent investment of $14 for a product that should last a very long time.



Animal welfare, Uncategorized

Why zoos should be closed

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I despise zoos. I have written about this topic before. I have never supported the arguments that zoos help educate people about animals which, in turn, leads to better animal welfare. The continued horrific treatment of animals around the world does not correlate to increased education. Another argument is that zoos can help preserve species that are close to extinction; I doubt the price of captivity is worth it. I would rather see animals go extinct while living their lives in their natural environments than doomed to an existence of living in cages, no matter how large. In her article, Catherine Bennett discusses the state of zoos, and particularly the efforts of zoo keeper David Gill, who has culled 500 animals.


Embracing a new skill: Sewing

I have toyed with the idea of sewing for a while now. I have spent most of my life focused on developing the mind and, frankly, dismissed most crafts as being too stereotypically female. Even as a child, my interests lay in intellectual pursuits, rather than learning how to sew or knit: I considered these activities to be too “girly.”  I still face these biases today, to be honest, but I have approached crafts from another perspective, namely that of reducing my carbon footprint. For the past 5 years, I have made all of my own cleaning products, and most of my personal-care products. I am quick to point out that I don’t do so to avoid “chemicals” as is, sadly, a myth that so many people perpetuate. Water, for example, is composed of chemicals, as are many “natural” products that we use every day, such as baking soda. I do, however, strive to use ingredients that have reduced environmental impacts; further, I wish to avoid buying unnecessary packaging. Yes, some of the ingredients I use, such as vinegar, do come in containers, but I try to buy most products in bulk, using my own containers. Nothing can be truly zero waste, of course, since bulk products come in packaging, need to be shipped, and so forth, but I do what I can to reduce my use of packaging.

My DIY products are as follows:

  • All-purpose spray cleaner
  • Laundry soap
  • Dish soap
  • Floor cleaner
  • Dusting spray
  • Fabric spray
  • Deodorant
  • Hand cream
  • Face serum
  • Lip balm
  • Face tonic
  • Leave-in conditioner

I try to use single products for several applications; for example, I use a 1kg bar of Savon de Marseille to handwash clothes, to clean counters and sinks, and to make laundry and dish soap. I use vinegar and isopropyl alcohol for all-purpose cleaning sprays and floor cleaner. I used to make my own toothpaste, but I noticed that it did not remove plaque as effectively as commercial toothpaste and, further, I have no intention of giving up fluoride, as there is plenty of scientific evidence to show its positive impact on reducing tooth decay. I use shea butter as a lip balm and night cream.

I knit and crochet household goods such as face cloths and dish cloths. I’ve made some scarves as well. I don’t tend to wear sweaters, and find that hand-knit sweaters take up too much closet space. I’ve pared down my wardrobe considerably, so I don’t want to add to what I have.

Sewing is the latest way in which I wish to reduce my environmental impact. I realize, of course, that sewing machines and their accessories are not carbon-free. Still, I embrace sewing as a way to make my own products, particularly if I can reuse materials. I prefer to learn on my own, so I am finding videos online to help me learn. My first projects have been simple: Handkerchiefs (I have not used tissues for nearly 20 years), cloth bags for the bulk store, a small pillowcase for my mini-buckwheat pillow, and a pouch to store nightwear. I  will move on to tablecloths, large pillowcases tea towels, and so forth. Eventually, I hope to make my own clothes.

I still have to deal with my years of associating crafts with stereotypical attitudes towards women. On the other hand, I find great pleasure in creating something physical, especially as this activity stands in direct contrast to the largely intellectual pursuits that have shaped most of my life.



Mediterranean chickpea salad

I made the following salad for a potluck dinner. As usual, measurements are very approximate.



2 cups cooked chickpeas (I cook mine from dry, but tinned are OK)

Sliced Kalamata olives

Sliced artichoke hearts. Use hearts marinated in olive oil, as the ones marinated in water don’t have enough flavour.

2 diced potatoes, roasted in olive oil, oregano, and thyme. I did not peel them

Salt, to taste.


Olive oil

White balsamic vinegar

Mustard of choice.  I used a black olive mustard, because one can’t have too many olives.


Mix all the salad ingredients, except the potatoes, and toss with the dressing to coat. Refrigerate for a few hours to let the flavour blend.

Before serving, add the diced roasted potatoes, and mix well. If you add the potatoes too soon, they will get soggy.



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)


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.


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.


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.


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.


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:








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:






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.








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.







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.

Recipes, Uncategorized

Root vegetable and greens soup




  • 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


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.


Recipes, Uncategorized

Navy bean and kale soup

20160223_125634 1I needed to use up quickly a bunch of kale that was starting to wilt, and what better way to do so than via a soup. I used my electric pressure to make this soup, but it can easily be made on the stove.


  • 2 leeks, diced. Regular onions will work, also, but I prefer leeks
  • 1/2 cup dried navy beans, soaked. You can use prepared beans, just cut down on the cooking time for the soup.
  • 1 bunch kale, chopped. I used the standard green curly type.
  • 4 cups (or so) of vegetable stock
  • Frozen corn (I didn’t measure, so just go with what you like).
  • Crushed tomatoes. I used about 1.5 cups.
  • Dried tarragon and sage, to taste
  • Salt (and pepper, if using) to taste


I simply put everything in the pressure cooker, put it on the soup setting, and cooked for 30 minutes. With cooked beans, I would adjust the cooking time to 10 minutes. I use the natural release method to bring the pressure down. You could saute the leeks before placing in the pressure cooker, but I had only a few minutes to prepare this soup, so I didn’t.

If cooking on the stove, then certainly saute the leeks. Cook until the beans are cooked to your liking.