Category Archives: minimalism

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? 

link love: Slow Your Home

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I’ve been reading a fabulous blog this past week.  You know it’s a good blog when you spend a few days reading the entire blog back to the beginning!  The blog is titled Slow Your Home, and the author, Brooke, hails from Sydney, Australia.

Slow Your Home is a great read,with lots of inspirational posts for minimalists with children in the family.

Start with So What is a Slow Home? An Introduction – Brooke paints a very calming and appealing picture of what life in a slow home looks like.  Organized, simplified, decorated mindfully and filled with good memories.  It’s what we should all be aspiring to for the sake of our health and the welfare of the planet.

Dear Internet, Stop Making Me Feel Like Shit – The internet can be motivating and inspiring, but it can also be anxiety-inducing and exhausting.  A lot of the reading I do daily is online, and often times the lives of others can look a lot shinier through the lens of the internet.  This blog post reminds us that we all need to take a step back, and reflect on all the good people and things that are already in our own lives.  And chances are good that we want for nothing.

Green Cleaning: Lemon + Baking Soda = Sparkly McGee!  I love handy household tips, and am particularly drawn to those that are easy on the environment.  My husband recently purchased a bottle of Drano, which I promptly returned to the store.  Armed with nothing more than baking soda and vinegar, I managed to unclog the drain in our bathroom sink!  So if you have a dingy sink that needs a good cleaning, follow Brooke’s lead and break out the ol’ baking soda and slice yourself a lemon.  With a little elbow grease, you’ll have a shiny sink and the planet will thank you.

Have you stumbled upon any great new (to you) blogs lately?  What are some of your favourite reads on the subject of simplicity and simple living?

curating your child’s minimalist wardrobe

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I’ve been busy these past few weeks decluttering my kids’ closet.  They share a very small closet (and a very small room) and because they wear different sizes there tends to always be a lot of stuff floating around in there.  I decided there was not a lot of sense in keeping clothing they don’t like or won’t wear, so I’ve been posting lots of stuff on craigslist this past month and have luckily sold quite a few items.  Their closet is finally becoming manageable, and that’s no small feat – I’m pretty sure it’s been stuffed to the gills since the time I was pregnant with my first child eight years ago.  It really was the last bastion of clutter in our otherwise orderly home.

Here’s a few tips I’ve found useful to keep in mind over the past few weeks as I clear out the kids closet and work towards keeping a minimalist wardrobe for each of my kids:

  1. Do not anticipate a need before it actually arrives.  This is probably the most useful tidbit I can offer on this subject.  Do not buy a winter coat in summer, do not buy a bathing suit in November (unless you’re going on vacation!) and do not buy shoes for your kids in sizes they are not currently wearing.  Kids body shapes change so quickly and differently that you might anticipate – your child might skip a size, or spend an ETERNITY wearing one size, and if you have neatly tucked something away for future use, chances are you will forget it’s even there (ahem, speaking from personal experience).
  2. Do not buy ahead – or if you do, keep a list.  This is something I’ve struggled with since becoming pregnant with my first son.  While I don’t enjoy shopping, I have always enjoyed the thrill of getting a good deal.  This can lead to problems.  Or ten pair of jeans in a size your child won’t be growing into for the next three years.  Buying ahead can lead to clutter, but I can appreciate that there are some savings to be had by shopping this way – so tread carefully and keep stock of what you already own before you get too carried away by the latest sale at your favourite kid’s store.
  3. Consider what your kids will and won’t wear.  I would not have guessed that my kids would be built differently and that one would grow at a MUCH slower pace than the other.  The bonus?  My youngest wears clothing for at least a year longer than his brother was able to.  The downside?  He is much pickier about his clothing choices and would choose the same shirt and pants daily if I would give in and let him.  I’ve decided to stop fighting my little guy’s natural tendencies toward comfort and have pared down considerably for my second child.  This strategy works well in that my oldest has more clothes and will not be able to wear out most of his clothing before it gets passed on to my youngest.  And then my youngest will be able to choose his favourites and we will cull the rest.  Win, win situation, right?
  4. Keep footwear to a minimum.  Buy good shoes.  But not many.  One pair of well-made runners are usually sufficient, and they may be expensive so plan ahead to buy them once a year (I like to buy them in the summer so they are in excellent condition for September.  That and they are also usually on sale in the summer months).  If your children are not school-age yet and are still growing out of shoes quickly, be sure to check thrift stores and craigslist for high-end shoes that have been worn minimally.  Prices are sure to be better than in stores.

What kinds of things are my kids wearing this fall?  Long-sleeve t-shirts on top, and jeans or casual pants on the bottom.  They each have one pair of runners and one pair of rain boots.  They also have a pair of warmer winter boots that we will be breaking out when the weather really gets cold, and one pair of sandals that they’ll be taking on vacation this winter.  In terms of Project 333, my kids could get away with much less than 33 items each in their wardrobe.  Here’s a good list of clothing that I am going to stick very closely to:

  • 10 tops (or less if you can swing it) – these can be short-sleeve tops in the summer or long-sleeve shirts in the winter, and I try to incorporate at least one dress shirt and one nice sweater to wear for special occasions or a night out.
  • 6 bottoms – shorts in the summer and pants in the winter.  Again, at least one pair of dress shorts or pants in the appropriate season for more fancy events would be useful.
  • 2 sweatshirts or hoodies, useful for layering and warmth in the Fall and Spring seasons
  • 1 seasonally appropriate jacket – either a rain jacket or a winter coat, preferably with a hood
  • 1 bathing suit
  • 3 footwear – includes one pair of runners, one pair of rain boots and one pair of summer shoes

I have gone minimalist enough in my own daily routine that finding time to do laundry daily is not an issue.  I am usually doing a load of laundry every day or two, so there is no real need to have more than a handful of clothes in rotation anyway.  Another bonus: I find my kids are less overwhelmed about getting dressed on their own when there is less clothing in their closet, which means less arguing about what to wear.  It’s true that less really is more!

Are you and / or your family participating in Project 333?  I love to hear from others who are on the path to living with less, so be sure to share your experience in the comments!

running: a sport for minimalists

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I’ve taken up running.

Such a minimalist cliche, I know.

It started out innocently enough.  My husband and I started jogging on our nightly summer walks with the kids.  The kids would sometimes run alongside the jogging stroller or alternate sitting in it.  Then we went on vacation and we ran a few times after dinner without the kids.  I discovered I hate jogging with a stroller.  Good thing the stroller is borrowed from friends and will be leaving our house next spring.

Now I’m jogging by myself a few mornings a week along the seawall while my kids are at school.  The scenery in my neighbourhood is unparalleled.  Running along the seawall and through Stanley Park gives me an opportunity to admire the majesty of the North Shore mountains and is a very scenic backdrop to my morning run.  Such a great way to clear the mental cobwebs and get some exercise in at the same time.

I’m not too concerned with gadgets and workout wear.  I just wear workout gear that I already own and use my three year old runners, and I am good to go.

What do I take with me when I run?  Not much.  As with most things, I like to adopt a minimalist approach:

  • Cell phone (yes, that 12 year old phone is still kickin’!)
  • House keys
  • Credit card or pre-loaded Starbucks card or five bucks (for post workout snack)

That’s it.  No MP3 player.  No iPhone.  No pedometer.  Certainly nothing that I would be upset if I lost or broke along the way.  I run for about 45 minutes and then I am done.  My apres run routine includes finding a healthy snack before I head back to pick my youngest son up from school.  All in all, it is a very enjoyable way to spend a morning.

Do you enjoy running as part of your exercise routine?  Do you have any particular routine or gadgets you like to use, or are you a running minimalist too?

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!

lolla-spore-looza 2012: otherwise known as involuntary decluttering

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I started to move a few things around in my bedroom closet yesterday afternoon.  I plucked a few of my husband’s suit jackets from the hanging rack at the back of our closet and that’s when I noticed… his arms of his wool suit jackets were covered in mold.  MOULD!  Lots of SPORE-covered MOULD laced the arms of his jackets where they touched the back wall of the closet.

Damn Vancouver rainy season that lasts ten months.  Damn Vancouver condos that are sealed up so tight nothing can breathe.  Damn mouldy-mould that likes to grow in damp, cool, airless conditions.  Damn damn damn.

I’ve not been paying too close attention to our level of stuff lately, probably because we haven’t been accumulating much and things are as minimal as they’ve ever been (unless you open the hall closet, then: look out).  We’ve been continuing to collect our plastic waste in our bathtub, which sure serves as a great reminder to limit unnecessary consumption, but we’ve not been living an austere life.  We’ve been enjoying the summer weather, and have spent time travelling within our beautiful province, hitting the beach, visiting our local parks and even frequenting touristy venues for which we have memberships.  All in all, it’s been a great summer.

So perhaps the time was right for the mould to take hold.  My husband had not been wearing any of his jackets during the spring and summer months.  I’d been ignoring the last few bins of stuff hiding on the closet floor.

But let me tell you, discovering that mould was like lighting a fire under my ass.

I spent a few hours last night throwing mold-ridden clothing away and salvaging two suit jackets of my husbands that just had a tiny amount of moldy dust on them from the other jackets that were harder hit.  Then I felt the urge to purge.  I purged an additional two large garbage bags of clothing in good condition (most  of it was from the kids’ closet, which is in a separate room) and took it all to donation this morning.  I feel better, but still icky.

The thought of mold in our house was enough for me to consider for a fleeting moment a desire to get rid of everything.  My husband’s reaction to having to throw away hundreds of dollars in mould-covered clothing was telling – he asked if anything could be saved and we threw the rest away without a moment’s thought.  As soon as we knew that mould was involved, it took us half a second to make the decision to part with the stuff.

Why don’t those impulses fire as quickly when there’s not an immediate threat?  Why do we wait until there’s a crisis to deal with something?  The decision is much easier then, I suppose.

I’m grateful that this incident was limited to a few wool jackets.  I’m grateful that it wasn’t worse, and I’m so thankful we caught this problem while it was still small.  We’ll be painting the back wall of our closet with mould resistant paint and see what happens.  What we won’t be doing is replacing any of my husband’s lost clothing – he’ll be wearing the two remaining jackets in his closet, because two jackets are enough.  Minimalism for the win!

Have you ever struggled with mould in your home?  I know it’s not a savoury topic, but comments are welcome!  

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?

project 333: shrinking waistline, growing closet

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Confession:  I’ve been doing some shopping lately.  And the size of my wardrobe has increased.  I’ve changed my lifestyle considerably in the last few months – I’ve lost ten pounds, and I hope to lose a bunch more.  Losing extra weight is a great feeling, but looking like a frump in my clothing was not doing a whole lot for my self-esteem or motivating me to lose more weight.  So I went shopping.

And then I forgot to stop.

While I have been very good about giving away the clothing that was too big and no longer looked good on me, I will say that perhaps I did go a bit overboard in the shopping department.

Like 12 tank tops kind of overboard.

Whoops.

Cute tops I found at the mall. Did I mention I bought those sandals too? Double whoops.

I got so excited last month when the summer weather looked like it might make an appearance in Vancouver.  And then… here we are, walking in the rain.  I’m still wearing the same clothing that I wore last fall, and have worn my rain boots more than a couple of times this week.  The tank tops in my closet look at me forlornly every morning when I walk into my closet (okay, they don’t really but it feels like they do!).  I plan outfits in my mind around my recent purchases, and then I don’t get to wear them because the weather is such crap.  Such is life.

So I’ll be holding off on updating my Project 333 page until the summer weather ACTUALLY arrives – until then, I’ll be dreaming of all the bright colours that summer brings and looking forward to any opportunity to wear some of my cute new tank tops that are hanging in my closet.  And when I get the urge to buy anything else for my wardrobe, I’ll be reminding myself of the 12 tank tops I already own.

Has anyone else been tempted by the rainbow of colours that have been appearing in stores lately?  Or have you been on your best behaviour and staying out of stores altogether?

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!

link love: becoming vegan

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I’ve been spending the last couple of months absorbing a ton of information about eliminating meat and dairy from my diet.  I came upon the decision to begin avoiding meat and dairy after reading the book Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal, by investigative journalist Eric Schlosser.  Fast Food Nation explores the industrial food production system in the United States and how it is intertwined with the fast food industry.  It is a fascinating read, but be prepared to read about some ugly truths about the meat and dairy industries in the United States (I’m sure that the industrial meat and dairy production systems are similar in Canada, but the book only tackles the US).

After absorbing the information in Fast Food Nation and deciding to eliminate meat and poultry from my diet, I stumbled upon the documentary Forks Over Knives.  A good friend of mine had actually recommended it to me months earlier, but after we’d discussed it, I didn’t think about it again.  Then, within a week of finishing reading Fast Food Nation, I came across the complete Forks Over Knives documentary movie online and watched it in one sitting.  The premise behind Forks Over Knives (by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn) is that consuming a plant-based diet can prevent and reverse heart disease.  Dr. Esselstyn recommends a diet free from meat, dairy, oil and sugar, and he has done a lot of research and testing on his own patients over the past 25 years to support his claims.  After finishing watching Forks Over Knives, I became convinced that I wanted to continue trying to overhaul my diet and make conscious choices to eat better for my own health and well-being.

Here’s some sources from which I’ve been absorbing a ton of information about the benefits of adopting a vegan lifestyle:

How It All Vegan - A fabulous vegan cookbook with some additional information on making this lifestyle change.  What I liked most about this cookbook is that the recipes are very simple.  Since I don’t believe in complicating things unnecessarily, I appreciated the tone of this book.  How It all Vegan contains a chapter on vegan recipes that might appeal to children, which I thought was helpful.  I also particularly appreciate the authors take on considering the environmental impact before “veganizing” your lifestyle – like consider using what you have  and wearing it out (leather shoes, leather belts, etc.) before making additional vegan clothing or lifestyle purchases.  One of the authors of How It All Vegan currently runs a website that includes a blog and an online store too (from Victoria BC) if you are interested in that sort of thing

The Kind Diet – Alicia Silverstone is a celebrity vegan, and she has written her own book, The Kind Diet.  You can also check out Alicia’s blog, The Kind Life – she tackles lots of other subjects in addition to veganism, like environmentalism and conservationism.  Be sure to read her timely Earth Day post for lots of great ideas on how to be kind to our planet!

Skinny Bitch – Ignore the sensationalistic title, and read this book!  While the title might be misleading, the information contained in this book focuses on the benefits we can derive from eliminating meat and dairy from our diets.  It is written in a “girlfriend-conversation” style, which I find makes it pretty light reading.  There are some facts about the horrors of factory farming, but for the most part, the content of this book is a lot of common sense interspersed with dietary facts.  This book is a great reference for those looking for other titles on the subject of veganism – peppered throughout the book are titles of other suggested reads on the subject.

Eco-Vegan Gal - I first discovered Whitney’s informative video posts on YouTube, and skipped over to check out her website.  She has lots of great inspirational videos on her YouTube channel, with additional posts about veganism and reviews of vegan products on her website.  I would recommend Eco-Vegan Gal as a good resource for anyone looking for other voices in the discussion on veganism.  Whitney also writes about eliminating gluten, soy, oil and sugar from her diet, so there are posts on those subjects as well for those who are interested.

Loving Simple Living is another recent discovery for me.  Blog author Lorilee Lippincott posted recently over at Rachel’s blog The Minimalist Mom about simple living with children.  I enjoyed reading Lorilee’s post and skipped on over to her site… to discover that she is also a vegan!  I spent some time exploring her site and she has some fabulous, kid-friendly vegan recipes.  Lorilee also eloquently writes about how simple eating dovetails nicely with simple living.

Oh She Glows - I’ve been a fan of Angela’s website for years.  Hers was the first vegan cooking blog I read that made vegan food look so amazingly delicious.  Her recipes are awesome, and she even shares her inspirational journey to healthful eating and living.  Plus, she’s a Canuck!  Lots of inspiration and recipe ideas at Oh She Glows, and I think Angela may even have a vegan cookbook in the works for the future.

Hungry Hungry Hippie - I’ve just started reading Hungry Hungry Hippie, but I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read so far.  Lot of great, simple food recipe ideas – even though Elise doesn’t describe herself as vegan, a lot of her recipes are free of meat and dairy products.  I recommend her seitan recipe – I made seitan (or “wheat meat”) for the first time yesterday using her recipe and it was a hit, even with my six year old son!

I’ve also subscribed to the Facebook feeds for Fat-Free Vegan and Engine 2 Diet - they provide inspirational recipe ideas daily, and it is to know where to find a community of people striving for the same goals.

Watch Forks Over Knives here.

I feel like I’ve read and learned so much about going meat-free and dairy-free in the past weeks, and I’m coming out on the other side – I’m no longer overwhelmed by the amount of information out there on the subject, and it feels great to know there are a TON of resources on the internet just waiting to be discovered.  If you’ve ever considered not eating meat or dairy, I encourage you to try one recipe at a time – there are vegan recipes for literally EVERYTHING your heart might desire.  I’ve lost 10 lbs in the past month, and the only changes I have made are dietary.  My goal is to lose another 20 lbs, and I am hoping that by eating healthfully in this manner my goal will be a lot easier to attain.