Spring cleaning, 2017 edition

As I have stated before, I actually enjoy doing housework. I’m a tidy person who hates clutter, and I find housework to be soothing. Most people think I’m odd in this regard, but I’m not bothered.

I weed my house on a regular basis; most people like use to the term “de-clutter,” but I prefer the term that is used by professionals in my field. Because I weed about twice a year, it’s never too onerous a task. I rotate my clothes twice a year, and have been paring down my clothing considerably. My love of shopping is no secret, but I’ve made huge dents in this practice over the past two years. I am reducing the number of clothes that I wear, preferring to rotate a smaller number of good-quality items, rather than have a large number and variety of clothes. I do not intend to buy any new (or used) clothes for the spring and summer. Capsule wardrobes are very popular right now; I’ve been working on mine for the past four years and have made good strides. I’m not normally one for trends, but since I have hated clutter since childhood, this trend suits me perfectly.

It’s amazing how much one still manages to accumulate even with regular weeding. This month I focused on the kitchen, only I was more ruthless this time around. I got rid of small appliances that I had not used in at least a year: A juicer, a food processor,  a bread maker (which had stopped functioning properly), and a soy milk maker (ditto). I’ve tried juicing, but never embraced it fully; I much prefer to eat my fruit and vegetables, as juicing removes all the fibre. If I do feel the need to juice, I can use my Vitamix, which juices the whole vegetable, rather than separates the juice from the pulp. My Vitamix has replaced the need for my large food processor. I have a two-cup mini food processor that I use to make my laundry soap, dice onions, etc., so there was no need to keep the large one.

As I explored my kitchen cupboards, I found at least four containers of rice in different places. I have a weakness for storage containers; this comes from being a very organized person. The problem, however, is that I had simply too many storage containers in different places; as a result, I would forget that I had these containers, and would buy more rice, etc., from the bulk store. I now use the cupboard that housed the small appliances as my pantry so that I can see all my storage containers with dried beans, pulses, pasta, rice, and so forth. I got rid of a lot of mugs that I don’t use. It feels good to see empty shelves, and I plan to keep them that way.

Using simply cleaning products such as vinegar, water, and liquid castille soap, I washed the walls and baseboard, and painted the kitchen shelves and use shelf liners to protect them. The biggest challenge was re-painting the baseboards. I enjoy painting, even if my knees complain from all the bending; the problem, as I found out, is that my companion felines Atticus and Calpurnia like painting as well. I now have two Pepe Le Pew cats, only their white stripes are not quite as symmetrical.  Fortunately, the paint does peel off.  I intend to re-paint all the room and closet doors as well; I’m sure some cat whiskers will be embedded in the results.

As I continue to weed my home (laundry room and bathrooms this week), it bothers me to generate such waste. I will donate some items to charity shops, but the fact that I have produced such waste still bothers me. I fully appreciate the irony that a proportion of this waste consists of storage containers that are meant to help keep everything organized. The problem with buying storage containers is that you buy things to fill them with. My approach over the past two years has been to buy something only to replace an item that I need. So, for example, I keep only a very small number of mugs (I am not one for entertaining much at home; I’m too introverted for that); no matter how many beautiful mugs I might come across, I will buy one only to replace a mug that has broken or become chipped.

I have made great strides in reducing my shopping habits; in my various travels over the past two years, I have purchased only two dresses, three scarves, a crucifix, a rosary ( I collect rosary beads), and a bracelet (a birthday present for me on behalf of my mother). Travelling with only carry-on luggage helps reduce what  I can buy but, frankly, I’m losing the interest in buying anything. I still like to window shop and admire good-quality items, but I find myself applying the “do I really need this? What do I need to discard to make room for this?” approach. My single biggest challenge is to not buy handbags; it’s my biggest achilles heel, but I have improved considerably.

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Better Eating International

I have been part of a Kickstarter campaign to fund a non-profit organization, Better Eating International, which wants to create videos to help people learn about, and transition into, a plant-based diet. The idea behind these videos is to educate people about the abuse of factory farmed animals, as well as to highlight the benefits of a plant-based diet. The organization does not intend to use shock value in these videos but, rather, animation to make its points. A lot of people can’t bear to watch the often graphic depiction of how animals are treated, thus the message can get lost; the idea is that a gentler approach might be more effective in reaching a larger number of people. As an educator, I appreciate the organization’s wish to educate, rather than to shock. The campaign overreached its financial target, which means that the project should go ahead. I look forward to the results.

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.

 

 

Vegan cheese: Made in PEI

This article discusses the success of a new business in Prince Edward Island, called Fresh Start Fauxmage, which makes a variety of vegan cheeses using cashews and almonds. I very much hope that this company will continue to be successful and to grow large enough to sell its products more broadly. I will certainly encourage my local health food stores to consider carrying these products. I will stock up the next time I am fortunate enough to visit Charlottetown.

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.