Category Archives: being green

a minimalist in the kitchen: going plastic free with Chemex coffee

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Last Christmas I was gifted a Chemex coffee maker from a family member.  Turns out it has been one of the best gifts ever!  It’s the simplest thing, a simple glass carafe that has the ability to make delicious coffee.  No plastic, no complicated machinery, no expensive and unnecessarily packaged coffee grinds.  A paper filter, some coffee grinds and some hot water are all I need to make a delightful home brew.  I have written before about the unnecessary evils of a lot of the modern coffee machines out there on the market today.  Plastic pods, aluminum bonded plastic, and excessive packaging are being used to market a sense of simplicity to consumers.  Why on earth do people correlate creating an abundance of waste with simplifying?

Here is my beauty in all it’s glory:

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The Chemex coffee maker was invented in 1896 by German chemist Peter Schlumbohm – the company has a great deal of history and has won a ton of design awards since its creation over a century ago.  Great design lasts, as evidenced by this simple coffeemaker.  I will have to say I prefer the Chemex to the French press method of coffee making – the Chemex filter removes any bitterness in flavour from the coffee (which was an issue with the French press), and it is so much easier to clean!

What do I love best about my Chemex?  I will admit it is the simplicity of the entire process.  I also love that making pour over coffee in a glass carafe requires no plastic at all.  And the fact that it makes a delicious cup of coffee, well, that’s just the icing on the cake.

 All opinions in this post are my own and I have received no compensation for reviewing this product.

putting eco-guilt into perspective

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I’ve been trying these past few weeks to put less pressure on myself about a few things.

The pressure I was putting on myself to reduce my plastic consumption became a sort of obsession. I was spending an inordinate amount of time thinking about what I would be buying at the grocery store and guilting myself endlessly if I was consuming plastic unnecessarily.

Sometimes all we need is a little distance to put things into perspective.

We went on a weekend trip to Whistler, and while I did take my reuseable shopping bags with me, I didn’t spend a ton of time fretting over the plastic bag my loaf of bread came in.

I had an epiphany while shopping in the Whole Foods bulk section recently. I saw a lady working there who was refilling some of the giant bulk bins from tiny plastic clamshell containers. In other words, the good I was doing by eschewing plastic packaging was being undone by the fact that the store was simply creating the garbage rather than me.

Which means that some of those warm fuzzy feelings I was having about making less wasteful choices might be pointless. As were the feelings of guilt I was having over the few packaging items we don’t seem to be able to avoid.

My point? Guilting ourselves into doing anything for the greater good is not sustainable in the long term. Better to focus on the positive and do what we can with the resources we have. So no more guilt. It’s not productive or conducive to a happy life.

We’ve had a lot to celebrate this past month (birthdays, wedding anniversaries, and Mother’s Day) and we’ve been celebrating in our usual environmentally conscious fashion. We’ll continue to focus on experiences rather than stuff when it comes to celebrating special events in our lives, and do our best to reduce the amount of waste we are producing. But without the side of eco-guilt.

are you Vancouver’s greenest family?

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VancouverMom.ca is sponsoring a contest this month in honor of spring, Earth Day, and all thing eco-friendly.  Here’s my submission!

How many kids do you have?

We have two boys.

How old are your kids?

Our children are ages 4 and 7.

What municipality do you live in?

We live in downtown Vancouver, in the heart of the city.

List three small things your family does.

  • We make our own household cleaners from vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda instead of using dangerous, chemical filled alternatives.  It really is possible to clean your entire home effectively with water and these three simple items!  We also refuse chemical-laden personal care products and make our own wherever possible – this means avoiding cosmetics and personal body care items that contain toxic ingredients and making our own alternatives from simple household ingredients.
  • We use reusable drink and food containers (glass and stainless steel) to eliminate our use of single-use packaging.  Buying in bulk at the grocery store allows us to avoid unnecessary packaging and we transfer our purchases from our reusable bags to glass containers in our pantry when we get home.  I carry my own stainless steel water container and coffee mug with me everywhere I go, and my kids have stainless steel lunch boxes and water bottles that they take to school for zero-waste lunches!
  • We buy all of our clothes from thrift store (except underwear!) and donate clothes back to charity when they have been outgrown or are no longer loved – this promotes recycling and eliminates the amount of waste that is generated from the creation of new clothes.  We also recycled when it came to cloth diapering our youngest child and bought his cloth diapers used off Vancouver’s local Craigslist site- and then sold them on Craigslist when he potty trained!

Tell us about one big green thing your family does.

The biggest thing we do to be the greenest family we can be is to limit our consumption of everything – whether it is toys, clothes, and even food, we question our need for all things and buy only what we need.  We also avoid buying items (including food items) that are unnecessarily packaged, which means refusing plastic packaging wherever possible and using reusable produce bags, reusable shopping bags, and buying as much of our clothing and household items as are necessary from the thrift stores around our city.  We have even managed to limit the size of our home (our family of four lives in a cozy 800-square foot condo in downtown Vancouver), which has allowed us to limit our consumption of energy and has allowed us to minimize our environmental footprint even further.  We have chosen to stay in our small home rather than upgrade our lifestyle and our consumption levels.

How do you get your kids involved?

If you asked my children, they wouldn’t be able to tell you how we are living differently from anyone else.  They are young, and so living this way of refusing consumption and striving to be environmentally sensitive is really the only way they know.  My kids understand that buying from thrift stores is a form of recycling, and it is a bonus that money also happens to go a lot further there.  They also are involved in our grocery shopping and love picking out organic produce to put into our reusable bags.  We have successfully managed to involve our children in living a green life, and they do not feel as though they are missing out on anything by living this way.  In my family’s opinion, limiting our consumption and striving for environmental consciousness leads to a richer life, full of experiences rather than stuff.

one of our favourite things to do: hanging out at the beach

one of our favourite things to do: hanging out at the beach

learning about farming at Qualicum Cheeseworks in Parksville

learning about farming at Qualicum Cheeseworks in Parksville

Tell us what you love about living a green lifestyle.

I love meeting other people who have similar values when it comes to environmental sensitivity, and I am finding that it is becoming easier to do so now thanks to social networking and the internet.  Thankfully, many people are aware nowadays of the urgency around considering the environment when making purchases and using different products.  I particularly enjoy reading about other families who are striving to live in a way that is sensitive to our environment, as I find it inspirational and further motivating.  I also love the feeling I get when I discover new ways to limit our environmental footprint – I am truly an eco-nerd!

yes, we're goofy.  but we're also green!

yes, we’re goofy. but we’re also green!

If you’d like to enter the contest for Vancouver’s greenest family, be sure to check it out online at VancouverMom.ca.  The deadline for entries is midnight, April 24, 2013.  Best of luck!

a healthy body: detox your deodorant

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The weather here in Vancouver is taking forever to warm up.  Spring has not yet arrived, and as such, I’m spending more time indoors than I would like. Of course, more time inside usually translates to more time spent plugged in: I will admit to spending more than my fair share of time on th Internet, with a particular focus on Pinterest. I use Pinterest primarily for recipes and meal ideas, but I have recently started looking there for inspiration with regard to natural body care.

You know, like homemade deodorant and other fun stuff.  Yes, I’m serious.

I’ve tried commercially-made “eco-friendly” deodorant in the past, without much success. The product I tried literally gave me a painful rash under my arms, which led me to turf that particular product pretty quickly. That was a few years back, and I hadn’t tried again. Until recently.  I found a very simple recipe on Pinterest last week, and I simplified it even further.  Here it is:

Mix two Tablespoons of coconut oil (I like organic) with one Tablespoon of aluminum-free baking soda (I use Bob’s Red Mill) until mixture is smooth and consistent. If you like, you can add a few drops of essential oils of your choice.  Store in a clean, wide-mouth jar (for easy access) and apply a pea-sized amount to each underarm each morning.

natural deodorant made from coconut oil and baking soda. what could be simpler?

natural deodorant made from coconut oil and baking soda. what could be simpler?

That’s it! So simple, right?  Another alternative to using baking soda would be arrowroot powder, but I just happened to have baking soda on hand at home. I might try the arrowroot powder version next time. I’ve heard some people have had luck using coconut oil alone, but I haven’t tried that yet either.  Baking soda does a great job of managing bad smells and coconut oil is naturally anti-bacterial, so it’s a great combination for a deodorant, and one that forgoes a lot of nasty chemicals. I’ve been using the above mixture for the past week, and I can honestly say, it works!

Now you might be asking yourself why I would go to the trouble of making my own deodorant. Well, I’ll explain.

Most commercially available deodorants and anti-perspirants contain aluminum, parabens and phthalates.  Phthalates have been linked to increased paraben absorption by the body, while both both parabens and aluminum have been linked to increased estrogen production within the body.  Increased estrogen production can cause cancer cells to form, both in the breasts and other parts of the body.  Propylene glycol is another chemical that is found in many commercially made anti-perspirants and deodorants, and has been found to cause damage to the heart, liver, and central nervous system.  And let’s not forget Triclosan. An antibacterial agent that was first defined by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a pesticide, Triclosan is commonly found in commercially-prepared deodorants. Triclosan has also been named as a possible carcinogen.

All of these chemicals would be best avoided for everyone in as many applications as possible.  Both my mom and my grandma had breast cancer, so I am all about actively reducing my own risk for developing cancer.  Many of the aforementioned chemicals are found not only in deodorants and anti-perspirants but in cosmetics and many bath and body products, so be sure to check your cosmetics cases and under your bathroom sink for any offenders!  There is a great database from The Environmental Working Group called Skin Deep that clearly outlines the toxicity levels of nearly 80,000 personal use products.  Be sure to check it out for the products you already use and before adding anything new to your beauty arsenal.

Have you tried making your own deodorant?  Do you have any favourite all-natural beauty recipes? 

plastic project: complete yet neverending

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Last year around this time we were asked by environmentalist and filmmaker Taina Uitto, author of the blog Plastic Manners, to collect our plastic for an entire year.  We finished our plastic collection project last week.  Finishing the project was such a liberating feeling – our plastic lived with us in the bathtub of our second bathroom for the duration of the year, with a handful of pick-ups spread out over the course of the project.  As you can imagine, having several months worth of plastic staring back at you from your bathtub gives one a feeling of desperation and depression – desperation because I became desperate not to contribute any further to the amount of plastic trash we are creating, and depression because plastic is everywhere and while my efforts to limit my family’s plastic consumption were significant, we did still manage to accumulate a lot of plastic.

Here's our pile of plastic.  That's Taina bravely sitting in the middle of the pile of plastic garbage, and gives a sense for the volume of the pile.

Here’s our pile of plastic. That’s Taina bravely sitting in the middle of the pile of plastic garbage, and gives a sense for the size of the pile.

Our plastic collection was not limited to non-recyclable plastic, but included recyclable plastics as well.  Plastic is tricky – recyclable plastic is often down-cycled into inferior products and not all plastic is recycled, so ALL plastic has to be considered trash.  I feel like our family is reasonably conscious of our plastic consumption, and yet we still managed to collect 12-13 large black garbage bags full of plastic over the last twelve months.  We use our own reusable shopping bags and reusable produce bags, so there was not a lot of plastic shopping bags in the collection, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t a lot of packaging waste and a lot of garbage.  I never thought about how much of our plastic packaging isn’t recyclable.  Think of all the plastic that you toss in the bin every day that can’t even be recycled: plastic wrap on our cucumber, plastic bags on bread, plastic wrap on any food item you will find in your grocer’s freezer.  It just never seems to end.  I’m grateful that our family has been eating very little meat over the past year, as the few pieces of styrofoam that we added to our plastic collection seemed particularly offensive.

Why is plastic so awful?  In essence, anything that is plastic today will be around pretty much forever.  Plastic does not biodegrade, and a lot of plastic garbage makes its way into the oceans where it can seriously harm and even kill wildlife.  Birds and fish often mistake plastic in the ocean for food and will ingest it, which ends up being deadly.  Filmmaker Chris Jordan has created an eye-opening short film on the tragedy of wildlife plastic consumption in the Pacific called Midway : Message from the Gyre.  After watching that film, I have not been able to think of my plastic consumption in the same way.  Plastic does not go away.  Ever.  It just moves around the planet in different, and often lethal forms.

Plastic garbage from our local beach - we picked up an entire bag of garbage in less than ten minutes.

Taking action against plastic pollution!  We visited the beach recently and picked up an entire bag of plastic garbage in less than ten minutes.

What can we all do differently to minimize our plastic consumption?

Refuse plastic:  Consider the plastic you consume regularly and find non-plastic alternatives.  Use reusable shopping bags, produce bags and bulk bags.  Try to buy grocery items with as little plastic packaging as possible – this will mean spending most of your grocery dollars in the produce and bulk sections, but both the planet and your waistline will thank you!

Reduce your plastic consumption:  Reducing our consumption of plastic and asking ourselves if we really need another piece of plastic in our lives is an important environmental responsibility.  Using what we need and not a lot more will go a long way in reducing our output of plastic garbage.

Reuse what you have: Find a use for the plastic items you already own, and don’t buy any more!  One idea is to reuse your plastic bottles to contain your homemade cleaning supplies or find a soap dispensary that sells soap in bulk, and refill your cleaning bottles when they are empty.

Recycle:  When you have been refusing, reducing and reusing your plastic, you should have much less plastic waste than when you started.  Recycle what plastic you do have left to prevent it from going into the landfill or making its way into streams and oceans.

What are you doing to challenge your use of plastic and reduce your plastic consumption?  I’d love to hear from you!

striving for zero waste: Valentine’s Day is for earth lovers

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Valentine’s Day is not normally a large celebration in our household.  Usually the kids get some sort of small treat or toy, we send the kids to school with Valentines for their friends, and I might do some baking that day to celebrate with the kids.  Having spent nearly an entire year now collecting our household plastic, I will tell you that conspicuous consumption on Valentine’s Day is completely unnecessary.   There are many ways to honour Valentine’s Day without breaking the bank or polluting the planet.

Origami Valentine's heart

Origami Valentine’s heart

Tell your friends, family and significant other that you don’t need flowers for Valentine’s Day.  Roses and flowers are big business on Valentine’s Day, but not very thoughtful to Mother Earth.  Flowers purchased as gifts often come wrapped in plastic and other packaging, which is often not biodegradable and ends up in the landfill.  If you or your loved one has their heart set on flowers, consider giving a living plant grown locally or even a small potted herb for your sweetheart’s kitchen.  Even better, ask your sweetie to accompany you on a nature walk and keep your eyes peeled for flowers making their appearance this Spring in one of our many local parks.

Make paper valentines for school age children to share with their friends.  Have kids make their own valentines from paper supplies you already have one hand, or (if you are feeling pinched for time) buy plastic-free valentines from the stores.  Most years I will make valentines for the kids classmates at home, but this year we bought our valentines at the drugstore.  Luckily enough, we found some cool, fun ones that had no plastic packaging to them.

Valentine shark

Valentine’s shark – made by my oldest child at school last year, we are using this cute guy for decoration this year!

Plan for experiences rather than gifts.  Since Valentine’s Day falls on a weekday this year, we celebrated early by taking our family out to a restaurant for dinner on Saturday night.  We don’t often go out for dinner with the kids due to their early bedtimes, so it was nice to get dressed up and have a fun night out.  The kids had a lot of fun putting on their dress clothes and my youngest little guy even wore a tie!

Buy your Valentine’s candy in bulk and refuse the packaging.  No Valentine’s celebration would be complete without candy!  Or at least that’s what my kids tell me.  We are lucky to have a cool candy store just up the street from us, that sells candy in bulk.  The Candy Aisle is a cute little shop on Robson St (600 block) with lots of bulk candy options, and they even sell Mason jars and lids if you are wanting to buy your candy plastic free!  I popped into their store yesterday to ask about bringing my own jar to buy candy in bulk, and the lady working there confirmed that would be fine.  Hooray for plastic free candy!

Valentine's candy in mason jar - photo courtesy of Etsy

Valentine’s candy in mason jar – photo courtesy of Etsy

I like to celebrate most holidays and events enthusiastically – this past weekend we celebrated Chinese New Year (Gung Hei Fat Choy!) and Family Day (the first ever in BC!) without much ado and we managed to produce very little waste.  On a positive note, we made a weekly grocery trip to our local Whole Foods yesterday afternoon and after spending $80 on groceries, we came away with only one piece of plastic packaging (from the deli).  Small victories are worth celebrating too!

How will you celebrate Valentine’s Day this year?  Are you going to make Valentine’s Day a zero waste celebration?

striving for zero waste: not buying Starbucks’ $1 reusable cup

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I was in a Starbucks in downtown Vancouver this past weekend, buying a snack for my kids.  I wasn’t buying a coffee for myself, as I’d made my own coffee at home and was drinking out of my stainless steel travel cup.  As I ponied up to the register to pay for a slice of banana bread, the young man behind the cash register tried to enlighten me on the subject of Starbucks’ new reusable, $1 plastic cup.  The premise behind the cup is that customers pay $1 for this reusable cup (with lid), then the cup can be used 10 times and is to be recycled within 30 days.  The cup and lid are themselves made of polypropylene plastic (#5).  Starbucks’ suggestion is that these cups can be recycled at the local level, and that their use will limit the demand for customers who like to drink their hot beverages from double-layered paper cups, hence further limiting Starbucks paper waste.

starbucks reusable

Photo courtesy of Treehugger.com

My first reaction to hearing about this product was outright horror.

I pointed out to the barista that I already carried my own stainless steel cup with me (and have done for the past two years), as I enjoyed using it and preventing further waste as I visited Starbucks.  The barista countered that the concept of reducing paper cup waste was “amazing,” and that the fact that this reusable cup was inexpensive meant that it would appeal to a broad number of people.  He further stated that this idea was a “great step for the Starbucks company,” as it would reduce the amount of waste Starbucks produced.

I was agog.

Sure, in premise, the concept of a cup that can be used 10 times is of greater environmental benefit than a cup that is used simply once.  However, when things are inexpensive (like for example a $1 cup), we are more likely to construe them to be disposable and we are less likely to be dispose of  them in a considerable manner.  Sadly, Starbucks does not seem to recognize that not only will people purchase this plastic cup and then forget to bring it for subsequent uses, but that in all likelihood, these cups will end up in the trash more often than they will end up being appropriately recycled.

If we think of all the plastic, “throw-away” things in the world that are available to us, isn’t this plastic cup from Starbucks just another one of them?  Why isn’t the suggestion of adding plastic to the waste stream on such a large scale offensive?  While the goal of reducing paper waste is commendable for any company, to simply replace the paper waste with plastic waste is extremely short-sighted and frankly, abhorrent.

I’m going to continue to use my stainless steel, reusable travel mug whenever I frequent my local Starbucks.  How about you?

striving for zero waste: cheap and eco-cheerful at Granville Island

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There are only two more weeks left in summer vacation before it’s back to school time for the kids.  We had a summer meltdown yesterday at our house – I had to listen to my seven year old complain about how the park was soooo boring and how he had already been there twenty times this month (not an exaggeration).  However, we persevered and hit the park under the Cambie Bridge – so cool and shady under there, we stayed for three hours while the boys played on the playground equipment, played a little ball hockey, and chased some bubbles around.  I hardly wanted to leave, it was so breezy and relaxing.  I promised my oldest we would do something a little different today and offered to take the kids to the water park at Granville Island.

Before we headed out this morning, I packed my trusty stainless steel Tiffin lunchbox (from To-Go Ware) so that we could have a zero-waste picnic lunch at the park. I highly recommend getting one of these lunch containers – they are durable and long-lasting and will more than pay for themselves even though they are a lot pricier than other comparable plastic lunch boxes.  I bought my two-tier Tiffin at Choices Market for $20 just last week, and I have used it every day since I got it.

I am having a small love affair with my stainless steel Tiffin. I highly recommend you get one if you are in the market for something to carry your food around in. Also an awesome idea for restaurant take-out!

The water playground at Granville Island is awesome, complete with a ton of sprayers and even a small waterslide (get there early because the line-ups for the slide are ginormous!).  Another cool thing about this park is that since it is run by the City of Vancouver, it is free.  So you can go for a short while and not feel guilty that it cost you an arm and a leg for admission, because, it’s FREE!  The kids had fun running around for an hour or so, then decided there were too cold (how does that happen on a hot, sunny summer day?) so they changed and we headed indoors.  Before heading inside, we had our lunch/snack outside on the benches next to the water park.

Granville Island water park (photo courtesy of RuthandDave on Flickr)

After their snack, the kids asked if we could go to the Kid’s Market.  That place is a parent’s worst nightmare.  There are tons of shops, all geared toward novelty gift items and toys, and a lot of it is plastic.  I overheard one mom say to her kids today, “Mom is such an amazing shopper!  I have spent hundreds of dollars in here in the last few minutes!”  Surely something to be proud of.  My oldest promised that he just wanted to go look, but I did get quite a few requests to buy toys while we checked out some of the stores – his birthday is tomorrow and he is having a hard time deciding what he would like for a gift, and so he continues to ask for most everything that catches his eye.  In the end, we didn’t end up buying anything at the Kid’s Market but had tons of fun looking at all the toys.

On our way out I stopped in at Paper-Ya.  Paper-Ya is located in the Net Loft building at Granville Island and is home to a plethora of beautiful paper and stationery products.  I have been thinking about buying some washi tape (which is essentially decorated paper masking tape) to use for gift wrapping and an upcoming birthday party celebration – I was in luck at Paper-Ya!  I found they have a small selection of beautiful washi tape.  It’s not cheap, but it’s not plastic either.  I’ll be using it to wrap a gift for a friend and anticipate the couple of rolls I purchased will last for years.

Pretty washi tape (photo courtesy of Paper-Ya)

As we headed back to the dock to catch the Aquabus, my kids reminded me that I had promised them a treat – gelato!  I had planned to take the Aquabus back over False Creek to the downtown side where there is a little Italian cafe located a the foot of Hornby St that sells, among other things, ice cream.  But as we approached the dock, there was a sign pointing us around the corner to GI Gelato & Coffee where they make homemade gelato on site!  I bought two cones for the kids and had a few bites of theirs – I highly recommend the Lemon Lime Zest gelato!  Yum.  If you order your gelato in a cone instead of a paper cup, you can avoid having to use those adorable (but useless) little plastic spoons that you find at most gelato spots.

Yummy gelato offerings at GI Gelato & Coffee (photo courtesy of dinehere.ca)

All in all, it was an enjoyable morning and we are home now relaxing in the cool of our small launchpad apartment.  I’m sure will be heading out again later today to enjoy some more summer weather, and striving for zer0-waste then too!  We’ve become a lot more conscious with our consumption habits (which is essential for both aspiring minimalists and those striving for less waste) and although we have still managed to accumulate two more bags of plastic for the documentary we are participating in, I have hope that if we stay the course and not buying replacements for the plastic that is leaving our home that we will be in good shape.  Great shape, in fact.

Do you aspire to reduce your consumption footprint and is zero-waste a goal for you or your family?  I love to hear how others are doing in their journey toward zero-waste, so leave me a comment and let me know how you’re doing!

five things I have learned about my plastic consumption

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Our family was asked a few months ago if we would participate in an experiment.  Collect all of our plastic for a year.  A YEAR.  For the purpose of a documentary on plastic consumption, and the detrimental effects it has on our planet, and particularly, our oceans.

Plastic, plastic everywhere

Here’s a few things I’ve learned about plastic packaging in the last few months:

  • If it is designed for convenience, it is wrapped in plastic.  Fast foods, candy, chips, individual serving sized drinks and meals, take away food, it’s all wrapped in plastic.  There’s really no getting away from it, unless of course you bring your own take away containers, cook at home and vow never to drink pop or juice again.
  • If it’s processed food, it’s wrapped in plastic.  And by processed I am referring to anything that is not a fruit or vegetable.  Even things that are minimally processed (like fresh bread) are packaged with some plastic.
  • If it comes from Asia, it is wrapped in plastic.  Sometimes it’s even plastic wrapped in plastic.  To me that’s a bit redundant.
  • If it is marketable to children, it is plastic and, again, it is probably wrapped in plastic too.
  • If it is sold at Costco, it is wrapped in plastic.

If you think you don’t consume much plastic, think again.  If you had told me that our family of four was responsible for producing four large bags of plastic in the past four months, I would have scoffed at you.  How could it be possible?  I thought that because we use our own bags when we shop for food (or anything else) and we buy lots of fresh produce that there was no way we could possibly be producing that much plastic.  We even refuse to use plastic bags in the produce department and bring our own reusable produce bags (which I LOVE).

However, the sad news is that nearly everything that is not found in the produce or bulk sections of all of our favourite grocery stores is packaged with at least a small amount of plastic.  And all of the plastic we consume will be around FOREVER.  Even plastic that is recycled is not TRULY recycled, it is downcycled into other products.  So the best practice when it comes to plastic is really to REFUSE it altogether when at all possible.

A few things I’ve done recently to reduce our plastic consumption:

  • Stop using the Tassimo coffee machine that our friends loaned us – the plastic generated from using any of the single use coffee machines is abhorrent, and I just could not continue to look the other way while I made my daily morning coffee
  • Continue to eat most meals at home (no plastic take-out cutlery to deal with!) and use fresh, whole food ingredients rather than relying on more packaged and processed food items.
  • Make coffee at home or take my coffee mug with me when I know I will be getting my morning jolt at the coffee shop.
  • Drink only tap water, both at home and on the go – my kids and I all have Klean Kanteens which are great for taking your tap water with you, and an extra bonus is no one has to drink out of any suspect (yucky) public water fountains!
  • Make my own cooking sauces and salad dressings so as to avoid not only undesirable ingredients but also additional unnecessary packaging.
  • Explain to the children after caving and buying some cheap-o plastic toys that broke two days later why those purchases were a poor choice, and come to a family agreement that we will never make those type of purchases again.
  • Continue using reusable shopping bags and reusable produce / bulk food bags for our grocery shopping.  My favourite are Carebags – I even bought some for my dad for Father’s Day!

Seeing our plastic staring back at us from the confines of our bathtub (yes, our plastic lived in the bathtub of our second bathroom for four months) really opened my eyes.  There were many purchases that I would forego ever buying again – the nasty cake frosting that came encased in a plastic container, the individual-sized yogourt drinks that my kids have a taste for but that I find disgusting, and even the many plastic lids from our weekly habit for Whole Foods take-away pizza (I’ve since managed to convince my husband that his pizza habit should be a monthly one rather than a weekly occurrence).

The good news is that change is possible, and often big change starts with small change.  Buying from the bulk bins instead of choosing highly packaged alternative of the same product.  Foregoing most convenience foods – it’s healthier for both us AND our planet!  Every little bit we can do to reduce our plastic consumption helps.

What have you been doing lately to challenge your plastic consumption habits?

Earth Day 2012: simple ways to honour our planet

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It’s Earth Day today!  Although I would argue that every day is Earth Day – it’s the choices we make every day of the year that carry real clout.

Here’s just a few ideas for ways we can effect positive environmental change by making small changes in our daily routines:

  • Walk or take public transit for your travels, to the grocery store or when running errands
  • Use reusable cloth grocery bags and produce bags when shopping for your food
  • Compost food scraps or find out if there is a food scraps drop off program in your community
  • Refuse to buy products (food or otherwise) that are unnecessarily packaged, particularly in plastic
  • Wash laundry in cold water as often as possible – as an added benefit, washing in cold will not only save energy but will prolong the life of your clothing!
  • Store and then EAT your leftovers, so as to minimize food waste
  • Make coffee at home, or if you buy coffee at a coffee house, be sure to bring your own reusable mug!
  • Buy organic fruits and vegetables – organic produce uses less pesticides in production which means less chemicals and toxins are left in the earth, in humans who produce and harvest the produce, and finally, those of us who consume them.
  • Stop using single use plastic, and try avoiding consuming plastic altogether
  • Consume less meat and dairy, or go vegan and don’t consume them at all!
  • Recycle as a last resort.  Consider donating items that can be reused to charitable organization, or giving things to friends and family (if they want your stuff!)
  • Use a Diva Cup
  • Use 100% recycled toilet paper.  Contrary to my husband’s belief, recycled toilet paper is not recycled from used toilet paper. Ha.
  • Consider eliminating commercial cleaners from your home and make the move toward cleaning simply with soap and water.  Vinegar works great for windows and mirrors.  Homemade cleaning solutions work just as well as commercially prepared ones, without all the chemical toxins left behind in your air and on your skin (and not to mention in our water)
  • Get to know the thrift stores and consignment stores in your area, and get comfortable with the idea of buying clothing and accessories used, for both yourself and your family.  My kids love shopping at the thrift shop, and actually don’t have a clue that it is any different than other conventional stores.  I myself have been known to find a treasure or two in the clothing department at my local Value Village.

Happy Earth Day everyone!  Hope you made it a great day!