Monthly Archives: June 2012

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?

minimalist in the kitchen: creamy vegan caesar salad dressing

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I’ve been enjoying lots of delicious salads this month, and I recently discovered the joy of making my own salad dressing.  I grew up eating salad every night with my own family, but my parents never strayed from the standard “oil and vinegar” dressing.  Well, my husband hates oil and vinegar salad dressing, so a little creativity was in order.  There  are plenty of vegan caesar dressing recipes on the internet, but I am not a huge fan of tofu or miso (unless it’s soup!), so I adapted several recipes to create a simple dressing that includes ingredients I always have on hand.  This vegan caesar dressing is so easy to make – toss the ingredients into a blender and wa-laa!  Delicious creamy caesar dressing, vegan style.  This recipe is vegan, soy-free and gluten-free – I have not tried making it without the oil, but you might be able to skip that ingredient too given the nuts in the recipe.

Without further ado, the ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of raw almonds (you can substitute walnuts here if you like)
  • 1/2 cup of raw cashews
  • 1 Tablespoon of nutritional yeast
  • 2 Tablespoons of olive oil (or your favourite vegetable oil)
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 2 cloves of garlic (you can use one if you are not as in love with garlic as I am!)
  • juice of one lemon, organic if you can!
  • salt and pepper to taste

I like to pre-soak the cashews and almonds for a minimum of 30 minutes – the nuts will absorb some of the water and that way they turn out creamier in the blender than had they not been soaked.  Soaking will also help loosen the almond skins, so if you prefer your caesar dressing to look more like a standard caesar dressing then by all means remove them.  If you don’t care, feel free to keep the almond skins intact for a little bit of extra fibre and nutrients in your dressing!

After you have soaked the nuts, place all ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend until you have reached a smooth and creamy consistency.  You can use this dressing immediately, but I find it tastes even better the second day.  This caesar dressing will keep for several days in the fridge, so if you don’t use it all right away (good luck with that one!) you can enjoy it for a few days afterwards.

Toss this dressing on your freshly washed Romaine lettuce, or take a walk on the wild side and throw it on some kale and enjoy your caesar salad, guilt free!

Adapted from recipe at Oh She Glows.

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?