Minimalism, Slow living, zero waste

November in review

I thought I would start a new series that reflects on my monthly efforts on slow living and personal care.


Reading has been an essential part of my life since I was very young. Unlike most bibliophiles that I know, I don’t collect books anymore and haven’t done so in a while. I rely heavily upon borrowing books from the public library, which is something I’ve been doing since I was five years old. I also have a Kobo Plus monthly subscription, which allows me to read an unlimited number of books per month. I prefer e-books, as my e-reader is much easier to carry around, and I’m never afraid of running out of something to read when I’m outside of my home. When I do buy books, I prefer them to be e-books, as I don’t want the physical clutter of books in my home. I’ve been slowly whittling my collection of physical books; this past month, I let go of all my cookbooks, save one. I used to collect cookbooks and had over 40 of them at one point. I never got much use of my cookbooks, as I am an intuitive cook and don’t often use recipes. I keep a small collection of recipes on Pinterest but, frankly, I rarely reference them. The one cookbook I’ve kept is Veganomicon, as there are one or two recipes there that I use regularly. This allowed me to repurpose the bookshelf I used for the cookbooks, which now resides in a bedroom closet to better organize my linens. This is much safer than the older way I stored the linens on the top shelf of the closet. I’ve lost count of the number of times the storage bins fell on my head when it was time to change the towels or sheets.

Books I read in November:

  1. A billion years: My escape from a life in the highest ranks of Scientology, by Mike Rinder – Kobo purchase
  2. Inside Scientology: The story of America’s most secretive religion, by Janet Reitman – public library
  3. Hollywood ending: Harvey Weinstein and the culture of silence, by Ken Auletta – public library
  4. Cleopatra: A life, by Stacy Schiff – little free library


I’ve been a cinephile for most of my life, so films are an important component of my slow living. I do own a lot of films, since I rewatch them regularly. I transferred all my DVDs to sleeves and decluttered the jewel cases, so my hundreds of DVDs now fit into three cases. When I buy films now, they are in digital form. Films I have watched this month:

  1. The Batman – Rental
  2. Top Gun: Maverick – Rental
  3. Lady Chatterly’s Lover (2022) – Netflix
  4. Batman (1989) – Owned
  5. Spider-man: No way home – Rental (will likely purchase)
  6. Ghislaine Maxwell: Filthy rich – Netflix
  7. Jane Eyre (2011) – Netflix

Minimalism and Zero Waste activities

In addition to decluttering my cookbooks, I gave away most of my collection of stemware, including wine glasses, brandy snifters, and water glasses. These glasses were rarely used and, since I stored them in a chrome and glass trolley, collected a great deal of dust. I’ve narrowed my glassware to a very small collection of stemless glasses, that can be used for wine, water, soft drinks, etc., and two cut-crystal tumblers. I don’t entertain much, as I’m a hermit, so I simply didn’t need all those glasses. What’s left occupies one shelf of my trolley, which makes cleaning so much easier. I so love seeing empty spaces. I’m not fond of single-purpose items, so I’m very happy to be left with only the stemless glasses.

Since my cats have free reign over all items of furniture, I have a lot of throws in the house, as I want to keep the cats comfortable and also protect my furniture. I had a few knitted and crocheted throws that I had made that were rather bulky to store, so I donated them.

I needed to buy a new stainless steel water bottle, as my old one was becoming very hard to clean and was very dented. After a lot of exploring, I purchased the LARQ Bottle PureVis, which has been on my wishlist for a long time. It’s an expensive purchase, but I have no regrets. It is self-cleaning water bottle and water purification system. It uses PureVis technology to eliminate up to 99% of bio-contaminants such as E. coli from the water and bottle. This is particularly useful when I don’t have access to filtered water. I find the water tastes much fresher, likely because of the regular self-cleaning cycle. I have learned from experience that I take much better care of items if they are expensive, so I’m hoping this bottle will better survive my clumsy ways.

Elate is now using a glass bottle for its mascara, which I purchased this month. I’ve been using their bamboo-packaged mascara for a while, but glass can recycle much better. I bought some new cloth toilet paper from a Canadian vendor on Etsy, to replace cloths that were starting to fall apart. I bought the mismatched set, as it’s a lower price and is more whimsical in nature. These cloths last for years (the ones I decluttered were over 5 years old), so they are well worth the investment. I also found some excellent vegan lotion in a cardboard tube on Esty.

Personal care

November was a particularly stressful month at work, and it took a heavy toll on my physical and mental health. Towards the end of the month, I went back to taking regular doses of CBD, which help me manage my stress levels as well as chronic pain caused by old injuries and widespread arthritis. I’ve been working with a dietitian, as well, to help me manage a health condition with which I’ve recently been diagnosed. I am taking rather more specialized oral supplements than I’m used to, but they are helping. The challenge for me is to take these items regularly, as I’m notorious for forgetting to do so. I’ve always been very stubborn about not acknowledging health limitations and simply powering on (e.g., continuing rigorous martial arts training when I was injured. Hello, arthritis), but the older I get, the less I can get away with this for too long. I’ve scheduled an appointment with an osteopath for next January; this will be a new experience for me, but I’m willing to see if it will help.


I cook most of my meals, but I do like to treat myself to treats and prepared foods occasionally. Food items I’ve enjoyed this month:

  1. Magnum Vegan Ice Cream Bars
  2. Violife Vegan Feta
  3. Violife Vegan Parmesan Block
  4. Earth’s Oat Nog (delicious in latte)
  5. Have Fun espresso beans
  6. All the vegan goodies at Halifax VegFest
  7. Syd Delicious vegan cinnamon buns


I needed to fill some gaps in my winter capsule wardrobe, so I added a pair of dark cream corduroy trousers and a black corduroy skirt, both sustainably made, from locally-owned Sattva Boutique. I’ve rarely found corduroy clothing that I’ve liked, but these two items are a rare exception and I have enjoyed wearing them. I also added a chocolate brown velvet blazer, which I simply could not resist, from The Social Boutique, a local consignment store, which supports the Dress for Success Halifax, a non-profit organization that offers programs free-of-charge supporting women looking to enter the workforce and gain financial independence.

zero waste

Embracing frozen vegetables

Vegetables form an essential component of my daily life. My typical meal consists of one part grain (usually rice or quinoa), three types of vegetables, and a vegan protein (e.g., tofu, legumes, etc.). Half my plate consists of vegetables. I used to insist on using only fresh vegetables, but I’ve recently been embracing frozen vegetables in an effort to combat food waste. I’ve recently been given a medical diagnosis that affects what vegetables I can eat, how frequently, and in how much quantity, which means that I can’t get through the same amount of fresh vegetables as I used to. I found that I was wasting a lot of fresh vegetables as a result; as an example, where before I would eat a much larger portion of fresh squash, I can eat only very small portions at a time now, which means that a fresh squash once cut open, can’t be consumed at the same speed as before and often goes bad.

I was rather a snob about frozen vegetables, as I assumed they would be tasteless, mushy, and not as nutritious. I’ve consulted a number of resources to help me have a better understanding of frozen vegetables, and have been very pleasantly surprised. Because vegetables Because vegetables are usually frozen immediately after harvesting, they generally retain many of their nutrients. Frozen vegetables can be cheaper than fresh vegetables and have a longer shelf life, which could save both money as well as food waste. Frozen vegetables allow me to eat off-season vegetables throughout the year; this is particularly important during the long Canadian winter months, when the variety of these vegetables can be low. Blanching and flash freezing can cause a reduction in water-soluble vitamins, such as C and the B group, but this will happen also with fresh vegetables if you boil or steam them. Raw vegetables are off my list at the moment, per medical advice, so this will be a factor for me whether the vegetables are fresh or frozen. Fresh vegetables lose nutrients while they are stored, so frozen vegetables may actually retain more of their nutrients.

I typically either steam frozen vegetables, or cook them in the air fryer; this latter technique helps reduce the further leaching of water-soluble nutrients. If the vegetables are headed for the soup pot, I simply toss them in frozen. I buy frozen vegetables that have no salt, sauces, spices, etc. My usual assortment includes broccoli florets (I can’t digest the stems well), brussels sprouts, green beans, and edamame beans (yes, I know, it’s not a vegetable). I buy a California mix that I use in soups. I do buy fresh carrots, as they can last a long time if I store them in water, as well as fresh zucchini, as the latter don’t freeze well with their higher water count. I will be experimenting with frozen squash soon.

The downside to frozen vegetables is the plastic packaging, of course. I counter this by using the empty bags to collect cat litter waste, so at least I’m re-using the bags and eliminating the use of another bag. I think this makes for a better balance, especially when I consider how little food I’m wasting using frozen vegetables. While I would always prefer fresh foods, my existing medical situation makes frozen vegetables a better and more sustainable option.

zero waste

TANIT oral care

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I take dental care very seriously. This is an area where I struggle to find low waste solutions. I still use a commercial fluoride toothpaste that comes in a plastic tube, as I’m not willing to sacrifice my tooth enamel in the name of avoiding plastic. Recently, however, I have added some low waste products to supplement my fluoride toothpaste.

Although I use my fluoride toothpaste twice a day, I have been using TANIT tooth tabs in the afternoon after lunch, and in the evening after dinner. These tooth tabs contain nHAp, which is known to help remineralize tooth enamel. I’m not comfortable relying on only nHap, so I’m keeping my fluoride tubes, but in this way, I’m not replacing the tubes as often. I’ve tried different brands of tooth tabs before and was not impressed: Most contained a high amount of baking soda, which is very hard on my gums and can damage enamel. I’ve also found some of the other brands of tabs to be difficult to crush into a soft powder, which served to further aggravate my gums. The TANIT tabs break down very quickly to a soft powder and I’ve experienced absolutely no tooth or gum sensitivity after using them twice daily for nearly four months.

I received the new TANIT mouthwash tabs yesterday, which also contain nHap. I like to use mouthwash to provide an extra level of protection to tooth enamel, as well as to make sure that all toothpaste and food residue is completely gone. Commercial toothpastes all come in plastic bottles and usually contain a lot of artificial colours and flavours. I’ve never been able to use the alcohol-based mouthwashes, as I found them very unpleasant. I like to use mouthwash after I drink coffee to help cut down on staining the teeth; yes, I could use simple water, but it never feels quite the same. I was delighted to try the TANIT mouthwash tabs; you simply crush them between your teeth (like the toothpaste tabs, they break down very easily), take a sip or two of water, and swish for 30 seconds. The tabs have a pleasant minty taste and contain grapefruit seed extract and spearmint; in addition, they contain xylitol, which is an effective anti-bacterial agent.

Both sets of tabs come in glass jars with bamboo lids. Refill tabs come in a compostable package. The icing on the cake: TANIT is a vegan Canadian company based in Quebec.

Sustainability, zero waste

Canadian sustainable cleaning products

I’ve done a good job of minimizing the products I use to keep my home clean. A few years ago, I used to make most of the products myself, but I quickly learned that this option is not always the better one, as I often bought three products to make one cleaner, which creates more waste than I liked, not to mention the extra storage space these products would require.

For most household cleaning tasks, I use the all-purpose concentrated cleaner from The Unscented Company, which is based in Montreal. Their products are vegan and the company is Leaping Bunny certified. TUC is also a Certified B Corporation, and women owned. TUC provides refilling options: You can buy their refills in large cardboard boxes, which are lined with plastic, as they contain liquids, but this still cuts down a large amount of plastic waste. You can also find refill stations in local retailers, such as Luminate in Bedford, which is close to where I live. The only downside is that the all-purpose concentrated cleaner does not come in refillable boxes; the regular all-purpose cleaner does, but I find concentrates to be a more sustainable and economical option, as you can use them at different concentrations for different cleaning tasks. I buy the very large plastic bottle of all-purpose concentrated cleaner (3.78 L), which comes with a pump. I mix one pump with about 500 ml of water and keep a spray bottle in the kitchen and both bathrooms, and use it also in my refillable spray mop to clean the floors. I’ve had this large bottle for about six months now, and I’ve hardly made a dent in it. The product cleans very well, leaves no residue and, of course, is unscented. TUC sells a number of its own products, as well as other sustainable household goods.

All-purpose cleaners are not particularly good for cleaning mirrors and glass doors. I used to make a DIY spray that consisted of one part water to one part isopropyl alcohol. While this spray worked very well, I was going through a fair amount of plastic bottles of the alcohol. Vinegar is a popular product for cleaning glass, and I can buy it in bulk, but I am not comfortable using vinegar to clean my glass shower door, as I don’t want vinegar to come into any contact with grout, as vinegar can be corrosive. I also have marble counters, which can be damaged by any errant vinegar. Finally, I’ve always found that vinegar leaves some streaks. I’ve recently switched to using tabs (pictured at the top of the post) made by Tanit, which is also based in Quebec. Tanit products are all vegan and cruelty free. They sell a number of products that come in tabs, including a degreaser, an all-purpose cleaner, and toothpaste. I use the unscented glass and mirrors tab. You dissolve the tab in a bottle filled with 500 ml of warm water; the tab dissolves in about five minutes and the product will stay incompletely dissolved until the bottle is empty. The tabs come in a compostable paper package. Tabs are very environmentally friendly, as they cut down on so much water, which also means that the products are lighter and cost far less to ship.

Another Tanit product that I’ve enjoyed using is their tab toothpaste. As I’ve mentioned before, I will not give up my fluoride toothpaste, which I use in the morning and evening, but for the rest of the day, I prefer to use a less wasteful option to clean my teeth. I’ve tried a number of toothpaste tabs over the years, but I’ve found them to be too harsh on my gums, especially since they did not always dissolve well and often contained a lot of baking soda, which can be very harsh on tooth enamel. The Tanit tabs dissolve very well and contain Nano-Hydroxyapatite (nHap), which is a calcium phosphorus compound found naturally in our bodies. Research has indicated that nHap can help demineralize teeth. I use the tabs after lunch and dinner. The tabs come in a glass jar and you can buy refills in compostable packaging (I am subscribed to the four-month plan). Tanit makes several other products for skin, hair, and household care.

Minimalism, zero waste

Do I need these zero waste swaps?

Today I would like to discuss items we often purchase in the name of sustainability that we don’t actually need, and which could contribute to further waste.

Reusable bags

At first blush, there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with reusable bags; after all, they help us avoid using single-use bags. The problem is with the sheer number of reusable bags that we accumulate. How many times have we accepted reusable bags at conferences, for example, trade shows, and so forth? Reusable bags require a lot of energy to be manufactured, and most cannot be recycled (ironically, plastic bags usually can). You have to use reusable bags many times to mitigate their environmental footprint. During our latest COVID lockdown, I’ve been purchasing my groceries online from local vendors; in some cases, they have delivered the goods in their store-branded reusable bags, for which I have no use. I’ve now taken to adding a note in my cart to say “please do not put the merchandise in reusable bags, as I have enough of them. Paper bags are fine.” I have one set of BagPodz that is easy to carry and lightweight, and that can be washed very easily. I also refuse any swag or bags at any events. Seriously, how many pens do you need?

Reusable water bottles and travel mugs

This is another area where it’s so easy to accumulate a lot of duplicates; reusable water bottles and travel mugs are often included in swag, as well. I’ve been guilty of buying stainless steel bottles over the years, to the point where I have rather too many. One water bottle and one travel are enough. I’m divesting myself of duplicates as responsibly as I can, but I need to stop myself from buying or accumulating more of them.

Travel cutlery

I’ve been guilty of buying more than one set of travel cutlery. My first purchase consisted of a bamboo set; I quickly found that I hate the feel of bamboo in my mouth. I can’t stand dry, raspy textures (hello, microfiber cleaning cloths). I’ve purchased two different sets of stainless steel travel cutlery; I use one in the office, so at least it’s not wasted, but honestly, a set of cutlery from my kitchen would have been sufficient. The other “it’s so cute” set turned out to be too small for normal-sized hands. I’ve kept it very simple by buying a travel spork, which works well and hasn’t yet resulted in any accidental loss of blood, which did happen when I tried to carry my kitchen cutlery in my bag. This spork also doesn’t set off any alarms at the airport.

Matching mason jars

It’s very tempting to buy beautiful mason jars or glass vacuum sealed jars (let’s face it, Weck jars are beautiful) in order to have a sense of symmetry and beauty in one’s kitchen cupboards. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I love both symmetry and beauty, but it’s so much easier to simply reuse glass or even plastic containers that previously held food. All my glass storage jars were formerly food jars (e.g., salsa, vegan mayonnaise, jams, etc.). They may not look pretty, but they work, and I use them to store dry goods such as legumes, leftovers, cleaning concentrates, as well as to freeze food. I’ve invested in two sets of plastic mason jar lids, since the standard metal ones rust very easily.

Reusable straws and their brushes

Again, there’s nothing wrong with reusable straws; it’s more a question of how many we actually need. You can buy reusable straws in multipacks, and they often come with those tiny brushes for cleaning purposes. Those brushes strike me as so wasteful. It’s so easy to simply run soap and water through the straw to clean it; if you’re very germophobic, you can soak the straw in boiling water. I put my stainless steel straw in the dishwasher as well. I do use a stainless steel straw at the office and at home, mostly to keep lipstick off my glass of water, but I don’t need more than two. Again, it’s the quantity of these items that we accumulate that is wasteful.

Minimalism, zero waste

Household items I don’t buy

Image source

A popular topic in many zero waste social media sites concerns common products that people do not buy. I don’t particularly like following trends, but this topic is of interest, as it allows me to reflect on my progress in my sustainable lifestyle, and may inspire others to reconsider some of their shopping habits. In this post I will focus on common household items, related mostly to cleaning products and food storage.

Liquid dish detergent: I haven’t used liquid dish detergent for years. I use a 1 kilogram bar of Savon de Marseille to hand wash my dishes. For the dishwasher, I use earth-friendly dishwasher tabs that I buy in bulk from a local store.

Sponges or brushes: I use a Swedish dish cloth to wipe kitchen counters and cupboards. These cloths last several months, can be washed, are biodegradable, and can be placed in the compost once they become too worn for use. I use a locally-grown luffa to hand wash dishes; I simply wet it, swipe it over the bar soap, and clean the dishes.

Plastic wrap: I hate plastic wrap with every fibre in my body; it’s wasteful, frustrating to use, and unnecessary. I use my grandmother’s method of placing a plate on top of a bowl to store food, or use glass containers from jam, etc.

Plastic zip bags: I use the same methods as mentioned above under plastic wrap. I use glass jars to freeze food.

Aluminium foil: I use a reusable silicone mat to line baking and roasting dishes. I’ve used this mat as well to cover items in the oven (e.g., lasagna).

Paper towels: I use my wet Swedish dish cloth to wipe surfaces, and linen dish cloths to dry them. For messy spills, including cat vomit (cat guardians will understand), I used dish cloths that are very old and soiled, or simply rags made from old t-shirts.

Toilet paper: I use a hand-held bidet and small cloth towels. I’ve always thought that toilet paper was unhygienic and ineffective. A good way to think of it: If you smeared peanut butter on your arm, would you simply use a tissue to wipe it off? I have individual toilet rolls that I buy unpackaged from a local store for guests but I need to buy them only once a year.

Liquid soap and body wash: I’ve always disliked liquid soap and body wash, as I find them very wasteful. People generally use up far more liquid than they actually need. Instead, I use good old-fashioned bar soap.

Liquid shampoo and conditioner: I use solid shampoo and conditioner bars made in New Brunswick, and available in some local stores.

Liquid laundry detergent: I’ve been using Tru Earth laundry strips for a year now and have never looked back. So much space and water are saved.

Fabric softener and dryer sheets: I’ve never seen the point of these products. I air dry most of my laundry, including my bed sheets. I use the dryer only for the mattress pad.

Chlorine bleach: I don’t see the point of this product either. I’ve never been obsessed with sanitizing surfaces, as this lasts for only a few minutes. To whiten laundry, I use baking soda.

Specialty cleaners: I use Sal Suds concentrated cleaner to clean all surfaces. I simply mix a little bit of the concentrate with water in a spray bottle. Sal Suds is safe for all surfaces (and floors), including stone, marble, and granite. I clean windows and mirrors with a solution of 1 part water and 1 part isopropyl alcohol (which doubles as a disinfectant for cuts and scrapes). I use a simple combination of olive oil and lemon juice to nourish and polish my wood furniture when it needs it.

Bin liners: I don’t use bin liners in any of my kitchen or bathroom garbage bins; I simply toss items in the bins, then empty the bins weekly into one central garbage bag. I wait until this one bag is completely full before I toss it in the building waste container.

zero waste

Updated oral care

Oral care is an area where I find it a little more challenging to keep waste to a minimum. I refuse to use DIY toothpaste, which normally consists of a combination of baking soda and coconut oil, which is much too hard on tooth enamel. I’ve been told by people “but isn’t baking soda used in commercial toothpastes?” Yes, it is, but at much lower concentrations than one finds in DIY versions. Both my dentist and dental hygienist have warned me against using DIY toothpaste, as they say they’ve seen the longterm damage to teeth and gums in patients who use these products. I’ve tried dental tabs, but I found them too harsh on my teeth and gums as well. Most importantly, I’m a firm believer in using fluouride to protect my tooth enamel, and I’m not about to sacrifice the health of my teeth in order to save a few plastic tubes of toothpaste.

I use two types of toothbrushes. I use an electric toothbrush twice a day (morning and evening); it has a two-minute timer so that I can ensure that each quadrant of my mouth is cleaned properly. The replacable brush heads aren’t recyclable, but again, tooth health comes first. For during the day, I use a manual toothbrush after I eat lunch and dinner. Unlike most zero wasters, I do not use a bamboo toothbrush for a few reasons. I have tried bamboo toothbrushes, but I simply don’t like them. I hate the dry, raspy texture of the bamboo in my mouth, and the handle gets drier with use. No matter how many times I clean it, there is always some toothpaste residue on the handle, which makes the texture even worse. Second, since I replace manual toothbrushes every three months, I find that bamboo toothbrushes generate a lot of waste. I tried an experiment with burying a bamboo toothbrush in soil; four months later, the brush still hadn’t decomposed, so I can’t help but wonder how environmentally friendly this option actually is, as it can take years for one toothbrush to decompose. I found as well that most bamboo toothbrushes don’t last three months, as the bristles fray very quickly, which means putting more than 4 toothbrushes a year in the compost.

I prefer to use a manual toothbrush with replaceable heads, which is something I’ve used for years. My previous model was made by Radius; I had one for a few years until the handle (made from recycled plastic) cracked. The replacement brushes came in a plastic and cardboard container, which is not ideal, and the brushes could not be recycled. I have now switched to the Canadian Grin toothbrush, shown in the image above. The brush handle is made from aluminium, rather than plastic. I love the design of the handle, which ensures that the toothbrush never rolls over; it’s also a very sleek and elegant design. The handle comes in a variety of colours; mine is the slate grey shown above. The replacement heads can be recycled. I have enroled in the subscription program: I’m sent an email reminder every three months to replace the brush head, and four new brush heads are shipped out every year. Everything is packed in cardboard. You can send the used brush heads back to the company, which will recycle them. l like the smaller and sleeker brush head, as I find it does a better job of cleaning my teeth, especially as I have a small inner mouth. Customer service is outstanding, as the owner of the company reaches out to ensure that you are happy with the product and is very quick to respond to any questions.

I don’t use dental floss, as this generates far too much waste for my liking. You can get refillable dental floss, but the floss itself has to be thrown out. I tried compostable vegan floss, but it was a disaster, as it kept breaking whenever I used it. My teeth are packed very tightly (small inner mouth again), and I need to use a waxed floss to ensure that the floss can fit between my teeth. Waxed floss can’t decompose. Instead I use a Waterpick cordless flosser, which does a superior job of removing tartar and plaque. I’ve had this flosser for over two years and am very happy with it; further, it does a much better job than floss, which is the most important factor to consider.

zero waste

Trying an indoor gardening device

I live in a condominium, so I don’t have access to a garden. I don’t have a particularly green thumb and I have to battle a cat who nibbles on plants and greens. I regrow vegetables such as green onions and garlic, but the problem is finding a sunny spot that Calpurnia cannot reach.

I’ve considered indoor gardening devices, but have sat on the fence for a while. The ones that come without LED lights won’t work for me because of Calpurnia. I also want to support a Canadian company. I have found a solution that I think will work. I’ve ordered the Jardin device, shown in the image above, from Qu├ębec company Vegehome. This is the smaller model that contains 9 seedling pods; they have a larger model, the Oasis, that holds 28 seedling pods. Because of the LED lights, you can store the device in shaded and high areas, so this should help keep Calpurnia at bay. I’m experimenting with the smaller device for now to see if I am successful; if I’m happy with the results, I will likely invest in an Oasis model as well. Most of the pods are for greens and herbs.

I look forward to seeing the results, as I would like to grow my own herbs and greens without having to deal with a very feisty and determined cat. I’ve given up on container gardens in the balcony, too, since she likes to sit there in the summer; her son Atticus does like the odd nibble, as well. This garden will grow things all year, which is another bonus. Buying pods online is not ideal of course, but unfortunately, most of these devices don’t work with your own seeds. I am hopeful that I can find similar pods in one of the local gardening stores to save on future shipping. It’s another small step towards a more sustainable lifestyle.

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.

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.