Deodorants

I used to use antiperspirants from the drug store. It was what I grew up with and the only option I knew about. But, I hated them. Forget all the cancer scare stuff, antiperspirants stink of manufactured perfumes, irritate my skin, and don’t seem to work all that well in the long run.

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When I first learned about other options, I tried a couple but, at the time, I couldn’t afford to keep trying until I found something that worked. So, I went back to regular antiperspirants.

Years later, when I started walking to work, I struggled with antiperspirants even more because I would get super sweaty from the walk and that sweat turned to stink. Even if I cleaned my armpits and reapplied antiperspirant when I got to work, I would still have days when my pits smelled bad. I was worried that I might have a serious odour problem and started researching what the cause could be. When I couldn’t find an obvious cause (my diet was already good, I showered daily, etc.), I started to consider the possibility that I would need to buy industrial strength antiperspirant.

But, one morning, I forgot to put on any antiperspirant and didn’t realize it until I was most of the way to work. I dreaded the consequences, but it ended up being a good mistake: when I got to work and cleaned my sweaty pits, I noticed that I didn’t smell quite as bad as usual. On a whim, I decided to see what would happen if I stopped putting on antiperspirant before I walked to work. It wasn’t ideal (I still had armpit odour), but it didn’t seem to be as bad as before. It occurred to me that the odour from my sweat was probably being trapped and retained by the antiperspirant. It is, after all, a pasty substance.

This led me to trying rock crystal deodorant, which was the only non-pasty option I knew of at the time. It wasn’t ideal and I had to reapply throughout the day, but I found that I had significantly fewer days when my armpits smelled like something had died in them and my skin wasn’t as irritated or dry. Still, there were some days when the stress or busyness of the day made me regret not using something stronger. I eventually decided to use antiperspirant as needed. This was a mistake because I was back to having problems with the odour lingering in my armpits. There always seemed to be some residue left over from the antiperspirant and I think that trapped the odour.

I was determined to find a better solution and in a position where I could afford to try lots of new options. I did my research, I tried natural and “natural” options, I scoured the drug stores, I spent hours reading product ingredients, I tried random homemade options, and I did countless Google searches. There are far more options now then there were even a couple years ago: Kaia (Canadian) and Native (American, but ships to Canada) are just two of the brands that are similar to standard stick deodorants or antiperspirants. There are countless other options that you can buy from indie online shops, etsy, and your local eco store. A lot of them don’t work for me.

After trying more options than I can remember, this is what I discovered:

  • Baking soda works, but I can’t use it long term (ex: daily) because it irritates my sensitive skin too much
  • Gooey or pasty products (pretty much every stick deodorant or antiperspirant) don’t work for me as they seem to stick to my skin and trap the odours from my sweat
  • I’m really resistant to most floral scents, but naturally derived scents are so much better than manufactured ones (I already knew this, but trying deodorants was a good reminder)
  • Natural doesn’t mean that they haven’t been a bit heavy handed with the perfumes
  • Spray deodorants don’t leave a goey residue and you don’t have to wait for them to dry
  • There are no perfect options and it’s OK to use more than one product to cover all your needs

What I found was that the rock crystal and some deodorant sprays work well enough for most of my needs: they’re fine for quiet days, they wash off my skin or out of clothes with water, they don’t leave a residue on me or my clothes, and I can easily add my second deodorant over top. I’m currently using Green Beaver’s Lavender Natural Deodorant Spray (Canadian) or Lafe’s Soothe Natural Deodorant Spray. Neither are plastic free, unfortunately, and the Green Beaver spray deodorant has something in it that bothers my nose and lungs. It has more additives than the Lafe’s deodorant, and I assume it’s one of those that bothers me. Nonetheless, I have it and I’m going to try and use it up – I just hold my breath when I spray it on.

On days when I need a little extra help (lots of meetings, lots of stress, etc.), I use Schmidt’s Lavender + Sage deodorant (I’ve also used Routine, which is a comparable Canadian brand). The Scmidt’s deodorant is a baking soda deodorant, so I can’t use it every day, but the formula isn’t goey, so it’s easy to wash off and doesn’t leave a residue. It also smells amazing. It can be annoying to apply because you have to use your fingers, but it comes in glass jar that can be re-used. It also comes with a little paddle to get it out of the jar, which is plastic, unfortunately.

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I had hoped that I would find the perfect solution, but perfection doesn’t exist. I’ll keep looking for zero waste options (for example, I could make my own baking soda deodorant), but I’m happy with what I have now because they’re better for my skin, more in tune with my priorities, and both products are from indie companies.

There are lots of other options out there, but some of them can feel pretty pricy compared to the cheap drug store brands. But, if natural products, zero waste or low impact living are priorities for you, it’s well worth the money if you can afford it.

 

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Fall had come early

Unusually cool weather has meant that fall foliage is here and the whole river valley is quickly turning mustard yellow.

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I don’t own any bamboo cutlery, and that’s OK

All the Instagram and Pinterest pictures suggest to us that we need to have fancy bamboo cutlery or a custom made travel spork to be zero waste or low impact, but we don’t. Just use your regular cutlery.

This is what I use:

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You shouldn’t have to buy things to be zero waste!

I own “fancy” cutlery because I inherited some silver plate cutlery, which isn’t really fancy or worth anything. But, it is pretty. Tarnished because I’m too lazy to polish it, but pretty. I take whatever cutlery I need with me, straight from my cutlery drawer. This is usually just a spoon because I eat soup at work pretty much every day. I toss my cutlery in the bottom of my lunch bag. Some days, I may wrap them in a napkin or put them in a reusable snack bag, but I don’t own one of those custom cutlery wraps.

I don’t use chop sticks. Yeah, they’re cool and all, but I fail at using them with any degree of grace and feel no need master them.

I do have a couple stainless steel straws (a gift), but haven’t used them. I honestly can’t think of when I might use them. I never use straws and I’m not against drinking smoothies without a straw. I’m told that makes me weird, but I’m OK with that.

I also have one of these Cuppow drinking lids (found at a local eco store) that turns a wide mouth mason jars into a sippy mug style container. I use it when I make iced tea because I can safely make the drink in a mason jar (they can handle temperature changes from hot to cold) and it means that I can drink it without ice cubes freezing my upper lip. It’s a bit of a luxury item for me and you don’t need it to enjoy iced tea!

I own this spork-like thingie because, several months ago, I got sucked into the “buy to be zero waste” nonsense.  The spork goes with a napkin designed to wrap up into a tiny travel kit. It was an impulse purchase that I haven’t used yet, but I think it could be useful for travel because then I don’t have to worry about losing my day-to-day cutlery. Instead of a fancy spork, you could just pick up a few extra pieces of cutlery from a thrift store or a yard sale.

I used to own a bamboo cutlery set, but I quickly realized that they were redundant. I gave the bamboo to an acquaintance who wanted some lightweight cutlery for camping.

I own linen napkins because I grew up using them and I love how useful they are. I found these dark blue ones at 10,000 Villages a year or two ago and bought them because my old linen napkins were falling apart. Again, use what you have or make your own. [Side note: in this case, I will recommend looking for linen and not that polyester or mixed fibre nonsense you usually see in kitchen/decor stores. Linen softens over time and it’s more absorbent. You can often find linen napkins at thrift stores. But, regular cotton fabric is fine (though it doesn’t absorb much), flannel works, and even an old shirt cut and stitched into squares will work. I opt for dark colours because I’m too lazy to deal with stains.]

I don’t have a Swell brand water bottle or whatever is on trend these days. Heck, I still use a plastic water bottle. At home, I have some re-purposed juice bottles (glass) that I use for water. But, plastic water bottles are super convenient for travelling or hiking. Plus, I already owned it.

I also have two insulated hot beverage mugs. I keep one at work to use as my water glass and tea mug. The second one is typically only use for hikes, travelling or days when I want to keep some hot tea insulated at home.

I also have a bunch of stainless steel food containers. I mostly use glass jars (mason jars, washed out condiment jars, etc.), but I decided that it would be nice to have a few light weight containers for lunches. I bought these because I needed to replace some old plastic lunch containers, not because Instagram told me they were cool. Though, they are pretty awesome because I saved up for some leak proof containers from Life Without Plastic.

I still have plastic containers, too. I will use these until they are no longer usable, then I’ll save up for some light weight metal containers because the idea of taking glass to the market makes me nervous.

The point of all this is to show that you don’t have to buy stuff to be zero waste or low-impact. You can buy things, but unless you’re replacing something that you need and use, it’s better to go without. It’s also better to keep using what you already have, even if it’s plastic, to get the full life out of the items before sending them to the landfill (bonus points if you can find a secondary use for the items, like using old plastic containers to separate things in drawers). When they need to be replaced, either buy second hand (even if it’s plastic) or look for eco-friendly options.

I made the mistake of buying a few things that I didn’t need, but now I’m more thoughtful about what I buy and more creative about finding alternatives, like washed out jars. When I go grocery shopping, I often think about packaging and how I can re-use it later. For me, buying a slightly more expensive bottle of mustard is worth it if it comes in a glass jar that I can easily re-use. The only issue I’ve had is with some spicy or strong flavoured things, like tomato sauce, which permeate into the lids. But, I try to use those bottles either for similar types of food (ex: left over pasta) or non-food items (ex: to hold rubber bands).

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Book review – The Art of Frugal Hedonism, by Annie Raser-Rowland & Adam Grubb

9780994392817When I found out about The Art of Frugal Hedonism, I was intrigued because that sounds contradictory – hedonism, the pursuit of pleasure, is something typically associated with having lots of money to spend on all the greatest pleasures in life: the best food, the most exclusive wine, the softest fabric, the rarest gems, etc. But, the authors argue that there’s a sweet spot between penny-pinching and over consumption. They also maintain that it’s entirely reasonable and appropriate to ignore the typical 40+ hours a week rat race and focus on earning just enough, instead. Combining those two thoughts (having just enough money and working only as much as you need) with a healthy dose of frugal living is something they strive for. In other words, they have a roof over their heads and can feed themselves, but they don’t over indulge and they bargain for goods and services where they can.

One of the great things about this book is that they don’t tell you to drop everything and start being frugal this instant. Instead, they explore different options and explain how these options might work for you or have worked for people they know. Each chapter touches on another aspect or another option, so you get a pretty broad look at all the possible ways you can be frugal and find great, but cheap, pleasures in life, like potlucks with friends or long walks in nature.

Overall, I think that they had a lot of good ideas and great intentions. My one complaint is that I felt that they were very insular in their thought processes. While I don’t expect a book to represent all possible options, I was frustrated by a few things. For example, I felt as though they implied that frugal living was easy to start and to maintain, when in fact it may require a big shift in habits and may even require developing skills that some people would find very uncomfortable. As an introvert, I can assure you that bargaining and community building is not as easy as “just asking” – it requires at least a little bit of courage.

Another thing that I took issue with was a bit of fat shaming. I know that I can be a bit over sensitive to this because of my bad relationship with my body, but I was hurt when these seemingly nice people who seemed to embrace people for who they were and not their physical traits suddenly described seeing gym goers by saying “…the desperate pumping of blobby limbs spied through the gym window.” Based on the context, I believe it was meant as a witty remark, but the implication was negative and it nearly put me right off the book. But, I reminded myself that I can be overly sensitive and kept reading. Sadly, I was disappointed again when they made light of mental illness, implying that it was something that frugal hedonism could cure: “…have you heard about the therapy bills those ‘enviable’ types with designer lounge suites and private pilates instructors are racking p? Choose patchy purchasing for mental and fiscal health today!!

I nearly quit again, but I resolved to finish reading it because I always try to read as much as I can when I intend to do a review. Thankfully, I didn’t find any more overtly offensive remarks. At the end of the day, I think that they were, as mentioned above, just trying to be witty. But, they were ignorant to the possibility that fat people or people who need therapy might be reading the book. While I’m disappointed by this, I don’t think that the remarks were intentionally hurtful and I believe that the book has a lot of good information in it that could help people who want to try to be a bit more frugal. Personally, I won’t be quitting my job to live the life of a frugal hedonist any time soon, but I have taken some of their ideas into consideration and I’ve referred to many of the resources they provided at the end of the book (books, online resources, etc.).

I think that this book could be very useful and interesting to a lot of people, especially people who are looking for cheap ways to have fun, new ideas for living frugally, or options that they could incorporate into their lives as they embark on long term travelling or living in a van (van living seems to be very trendy these days).

So, yes, I was a bit offended by a few things they said, but, overall, I think this is a good resource and I’m glad that I read it.

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Reading update – August 2018

I seem to be continuing my trend of reading a lot of non-fiction

These are the books I read:

 

How to be a Wildflower – This is part art book (the author is an artist that I’ve admired for a while) and part nature book (prompts to get out and engage with nature). It’s delightful and I enjoyed it enough to add it to my shelf (admittedly, it will probably linger in my art section as a collection of her work, instead of a nature section).

5-minute Sketching: Landscapes – I think the 5-minute sketching series of books is a pretty great idea. Each spread of pages provided a few tips for dealing with issues relating to a particular aspects of sketching or issues relating to the overall theme. There’s good info and lots of great examples, but I did find that there was a lot of repetition. About a third of the way through the book, I started skimming and focused only on the new-to-me information. That said, it’s a good resource and worth finding at your local library. There’s also one for sketching people and one focused on architecture.

The Prince and the Dressmaker – This was cute. It was a bit dramatic and cheesy for my taste, but I was delighted to find a nice graphic novel that tackles the idea that boys should be allowed to wear dresses. I will always be happy to find LGBTQ+ books and graphic novels because, let’s be honest, it’s a community that still gets treated like “weirdos” and we’d all be happier if we could just be who and what we wanted without judgements relating to silly gendered stereotypes.

Notes on a Nervous Planet – I was really impressed and inspired by Haig’s previous non-fiction book, Reasons to Stay Alive (about depression and anxiety). Notes on A Nervous Planet continues the conversation by looking at how the busyness and constant distractions of modern day life (app notifications, more TV shows than you could watch in a lifetime, etc.) are affecting our mental wellbeing. It’s an interesting read and a good reminder to walk away from your phone on occasion, or maybe even reduce the digital distractions in your life. It actually inspired me to delete  few accounts, sign out of others, and significantly reduce my online interactions.

New Minimalism – This book focuses on decluttering without having to get rid of everything. I enjoyed the common sense approach to minimizing and the practicality of the author’s advice. The only problem I had was that I didn’t fit in any of their archetypes (general groups of personalities and how/why they keep things). I’m used to not fitting entirely in a group and the authors were careful to note that readers don’t have to be all one archetype, but the way they defined the archetypes felt too narrow and left me feeling a bit alienated. But, that said, this is a good resource and I would recommend it to any aspiring declutterers who think that Marie Kondo’s “find joy” approach is a bit too woowoo.

The Year of Less – I read this in February and it really helped me to put a lot of things into perspective. It also made me think a lot about simplifying and decluttering (hence a couple relevant blog posts in March). The Year of Less is Cait’s memoir about the year she implemented a spending ban. She talks about spending, consuming for comfort, decluttering, and re-evaluating priorities. And, though she didn’t set out to create a “how to” book, her insights made me think a lot about where I was and where I wanted to be in my decluttering and simplifying journey. IN August, I re-read it after listening to a podcast in which she was interviewed and I was surprised to find that I got more out of it the second time around. It’s inspired me to re-examine some of the things that I have kept and whether or not they really are things I need or if they are things that hope I’ll need (see my previous post about hope bringing things).

The Word is Murder – I was lucky enough to win this from the publisher a couple months ago, but it arrived right before my summer reading slump. I finally picked it up in the last couple of days of the month and devoured it. It was incredibly amusing and a great mystery with lots of interesting characters. My favourite thing was that the author wrote it as if it was an autobiographical story, where he tags along with a detective while the detective tries to solve a murder. It was great fun!

August felt like a good reading month, though I continue to start and quit books on a weekly basis. I’m glad that I’m not making myself read things, but it feels weird to quit so much. Hopefully, it’s just the usual summer slump. And, really, even if it isn’t, I’ve been really pleased with the books that I have finished.

While I don’t have any specific reading plans for September, I think that I might focus on my unread books (which have been being ignored due to an unusual influx of library holds). I’ve picked up a new Anthony Horowitz mystery (which I won from the publisher) and, despite only being a chapter in, I’m already hooked. I’ve also been slowly working on a book about climate change which is both interesting and a little depressing, but I’m keen to read it (and already underlining so much!).

Also, I might see if I can find some time for a few book review posts because I would genuinely like to talk a bit about some of the books I’ve read in the past two months.

 

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Sketchbooks and such

Despite several years of not being able to find the right thing, I keep clinging to the idea that there’s a perfect book out there that works as a sketch book, a wet media book, and a journal. But, everything I try misses the mark. The paper is always too thin or too rough, too starkly white or two creamy yellow, and too flimsy to handle wet media or so thick that I only get a couple dozen pages in one sketchbook. Then there’s the binding, which is always too tight to open flatly or poorly done. And, don’t even get me started on how much I hate cheesy cover designs or having to pick from half a dozen colours I don’t like that much.

They never seen to quite meet my needs. But, today, I’m going on record to admit that the perfect book doesn’t exist and that it’s OK to have more then one book for all of my needs: one to write in, one to sketch in, and one to paint in, when the mood strikes me.

Honestly, I should have just accepted this last year when I had to make the difficult decision to toss an old sketchbook that made me upset every time I looked at it. The sketches were worth saving and the only reason I’d kept the book. But, I’d also used it for journaling during a very frustrating few months. It was full of bitching, whining, and turmoil that I needed to out of my life. So, I scanned the sketches and tossed the book, vowing to never mix bitching with sketching again. [Side note: I also took a long, hard look at how I journaled and realized that I was mostly just using it as an excuse to whine and perpetuate my frustrations, which just made me unhappy. I journal differently now. For example, if I need to bitch, it goes in a digital document that I then delete.]

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Some of the scanned images from my doomed sketch/journal book.

Now I have a multi-book system. For writing, I prefer something with lines. I use this mostly for brain storming ideas, writing about things that I’m still trying to work out, writing about new ideas that have inspired me, or taking notes from books. These days, it’s mostly notes from books and things that have inspired me because I’ve been reading a lot of non-fiction and I like to make notes or copy quotes from the books. This allows me to process what I read, but it also helps me to let go of the book when I’ve finished reading it. In some cases, it also helps me to avoid buying a book – I used to be in the habit of borrowing books and buying a copy as soon as I thought I needed to underline something. I can’t tell you how many times I ended up wasting money just to underline a few lines!

My preferred book for writing is a lined A5 (5.8 x 8.3 inch) Leuchtturm1917, but I’ll use anything that’s A5. I currently have two on the go: a gridded Leuchtturm1917 for most things and an un-lined Ciak for art related notes. I use the Ciak for art notes because the slightly thicker paper means that I can draw or paint samples to illustrate the notes.

For watercolour, I have a couple of options, including a Stillman & Birn multimedia book, Carolyn Gavin multimedia sketchbooks, Moleskin watercolour books, and a Global Art book. We can discuss the fact that I have a stupid number of extra sketchbooks another time! I’m going to use my Moleskin for now because Fog and Swell recommended the brand the last time I whined about not being able to use watercolour in whatever book I was using at the time. The thick paper handles wet media quite well and the smooth surface will be good for my fountain pens.

And, then there’s the daily sketchbook. Usually, I’ll use just about anything that agrees with my fountain pens (good quality, smooth paper), like most of the extra multimedia books I mentioned above. But, sometimes I like to buy something pretty and special, even if it doesn’t handle fountain pen ink that well. That’s when I head over to Sprout Press Handbound Books. Her books are beautiful, but I’m not a big fan of her paper choice as it’s a bit thin for fountain pen ink or wet media. If I’m writing, I’m OK with the bleed through of the ink. But, it’s harder with sketching because I get annoyed and distracted by the bled through. One of these days I’ll plan ahead enough to ask for a custom book with different paper, but right now I really wanted something beautiful that would make me want to pick up my sketchbook each day. Life has been frustrating, and I knew I needed to get back in the habit of doing daily sketching, so I opted for beauty over function to give me something to be excited about each day. And, the book I picked is freaking beautiful. The cover is hand-dyed paper in one of my favourite colour combos – white and blue. Carolyn used blue paper and fancy binding to make the spin look stunning. And, there are a few pieces of brown paper in the book, which brings me great joy because I love white ink or coloured pencil on brown paper.

This is definitely a luxury item – it was not cheap, but even with the thin paper, I think it’s well worth every penny I spent. I’ve only had it three days, and I’ve already fondled, oogled, and been delighted by it a dozen times. And, I have a standard ball point pen that works just fine for sketching on the thin paper.

This is definitely a situation where my attempts to minimize and simplify back-fired. I need multiple books and I’m much happier being able to separate my journaling and sketching. When I’m using a sketchbook that handles wet media, I won’t need a separate wet media sketchbook, but I’m OK with needing a third book. Heck, maybe it will help me to experiment a little more with my watercolours.

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Reading update – July 2018

I read quite a bit this month … but I quit most of the books that I picked up. I blame it on the summer heat. Being hot and sweaty saps joy out of curling up to read.

Also, I just didn’t have the patience for most of the books I picked up.

According to my notes, I currently have 37 unread books:

  • 21 unread paper books (read 1, removed 1, added 3)
  • 4 unread ebooks (removed/quit 5)
  • 12 unread audiobooks (no change)

I think I’ll stop tracking the numbers. I don’t have that many unread books left (compared to when I started, anyway) and I have them separated from my other books, so it’s easy to see if the pile is expanding or depleting just by looking at it. I’d still like to reduce the number down to just a handful, but I’m comfortable with my current rate of reading and I know that I’ll read more once it stops being so hot.

These are the books I read (they all have fabulous covers!):

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1. Birds Art Life – I’ve been reading this since … I dunno … January? I always wanted to wait until I had time to really focus on it, read it slowly and consider everything. You don’t need to read it like that – it’s a lovely and easy book that would be great on the beach or during those last few minutes you have before bed. The author muses on art, writing, family, birds, and life throughout the a year. It’s quietly delightful, if that makes any sense.

2. How to be an Explorer of the World – This is one of those books that presents a bunch of ideas for fostering creativity and exploring life (not just going on adventures, but also stopping to admire things in your own neighbourhood). It’s got a lot of neat ideas. And, though written for adults, many of the ideas could easily be done with kids, if you want to show your children different ways to explore their world. The ideas range from collecting treasures on a walk to considering treasures you already have (for example, comparing and contrasting all you favourite pieces of beach glass).

3. Simple Matters – This is a re-read. I bought this book when it was first published a couple of years ago and I really love. As I said on Instagram:

“Sometimes, the best way to recalibrate is to go back to the first book that brought everything together for you: simple living, eco friendly options, and a generous helping of realistic advice. Simple Matters by @readtealeaves is one of my favourite books and one of the few non-art books that I’ve kept during my simplifying journey. I’ve been following her blog for three years and her “life in a tiny apartment” series is what inspired me to move into a smaller space (about half the size of my old place). This book is lovely, encouraging and well balanced (none of that “toss everything” nonsense). I highly recommend it.”

 

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4. The Art of Frugal Hedonism – I have mixed feelings about this book – mostly positive, but with a few bits of scorn. On the whole, this is a friendly, laid back exploration of how to be frugal while still finding great pleasures in life – sunsets, long walks, good friends, savouring a juicy nectarine (what I’m doing while I write this), and so on. Most of the advice is good and realistic. The problem is that they are focused on their own reality made a couple insensitive assumptions that I just couldn’t seem to get over. I know they were just trying to be fun and jolly, but it really felt like they hadn’t considered readers who might be fat, have mental health issues, or live with people who might not support a frugal life.

I have no reading plans for August. I’m just going to keep plugging away at what I’m currently reading and whatever I fancy.

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Plastic Free July – end of month check-in

Plastic Free July went as expected: not bad, but I still need to work on changing some habits.

After some adjustments to accommodate my lack of interest in taking the garbage out and the summer heat, I think that I’ve settled on a garbage bag free scheme that I can live with (see below). I just need to get better about taking the garbage out as needed instead of waiting for the garbage can to be full. I never let it get bad enough to have a smelly apartment (I live in a small space, so I refuse to live with bad smells), but there were times when I pushed the limits and ross things grew in my garbage can.

But, here’s what seems to be working:

As I mentioned in my kick-off post, my bathroom garbage doesn’t accumulate smelly or gross things. Mostly, it’s just a place to dump my dental floss and all the dust and such that I sweep up. It gets dirty from the dust, but it’s not decaying or rotting, so it’s fine and doesn’t require a garbage bag.

In my kitchen, I did have some problems with rot, decay and food sticking to the bottom of the can (which meant having to soak and wash the can before using it again). Because of this, and because it’s summer, I decided to default to freezing everything food related. It’s still been a bit annoying, I miss garbage bags, and I miss being able to just toss something in the trash instead of having to open the freezer, taking a container out, etc. But, it works.

I did try a few other options over the month:

  • I tried to convince myself to empty the garbage every couple of days (2-3), but that will require a fairly big habit shift or maybe storing my garbage bin by the door (not ideal – I prefer not having to look at it and I live in a small space). Again, I know it seems silly, but it’s not like I’m just walking to the end of the garden (I’m several floors up and have to open a dumpster, which can smell really bad in the summer).
  • I tried lining my bin with flyers to keep food from sticking to the bottom. It was certainly better, but not by much and I would still have to empty the garbage more often. Also, that still requires extra resources (flyers).
  • I considered using plastic bags I had on hand (from things like frozen foods that I could only get in plastic), but I worried that this was just one very tiny step towards spiralling back into either buying garbage bags or using it as an excuse to allow myself to buy more things in plastic. Not to say that I’m completely plastic free (I still buy frozen peas), but I’m trying to avoid plastic.

This is definitely something that I still need to work on to find a solution that works best for me, but I have some large yogurt containers that I could use for perishables. I’m considering keeping one on my counter until it’s full and allowing myself to accumulate a couple containers in the freezer before taking the garbage out. I’ll still use the garbage can for non-perishables and plastics.

Speaking of plastic, I’ve been tracking my plastic consumption these past few weeks to see where I can make improvements. It’s been an interesting project and I’m pleased to say that my plastic consumption has reduced in the past few months.I still have room to improve, but I’m happy with the progress.

Here are a few examples of the kinds of things I had:

  • Labels from jars that I wanted to save. A couple of thelabels were made of plastic. Needless to say, I’ll try to remember to always look for non-plastic containers with non-plastic labels.
  • The mesh and label from a package of garlic because I could not find it un-packaged that day, despite trying more than one store. Usually, I’m well stocked with garlic, so this is rarely a problem.
  • A chip bag (or two). I like chips on occasion, but I know I can find good enough options (like bulk pretzels or popcorn bought in bulk, made on the stovetop, and flavoured with herbs or with bulk flavouring that you can get at the Bulk Barn). This was a case of letting a bad day supercede my good intentions.
  • The packaging from frozen peas. I’m just not ready to give them up yet and bulk peas from the market are expensive, if you can find them. I do try to buy the largest bag possible (even if it means separating them out into a couple of containers in the freezer to keep them from getting too freezer burnt).
  • Odds and ends of things that were small but represented other areas I need to work on. For example, plastic from a package. I could have bought that book with less waste overall if I’d gone to the store when the book was published instead of pre-ordering it online.
  • A wrapper from a chocolate bar. It was fair trade chocolate (yay), but it still came in plastic (boo). I could stop eating chocolate (as if) or I could just get off my lazy butt and go to the grocery store that has really great bulk.

Despite not being plastic free yet, I think that the Plastic Free July challenge was incredibly helpful and a useful challenge. It allowed me to recommit to the idea of living a low-waste life and allowed me to finally give up something I’d been really resistant to giving up (who knew garbage bags were so important to me).

So, Plastic Free July was a success for me and I’m taking some new ideas and habits into August. My intention is to continue to be low-waste and work towards being as close to zero waste was I can.

Did you try giving up any plastic for July?

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Plastic Free July – bamboo toothbrushes

Lately, the big buzz has been around banning straws as if banning just one thing will make the plastic problem go away. Well, what about all the other plastics we use? Disposable utensils, to-go cups for drinks, produce bags, tooth brushes, etc.

We have a long way to go (well beyond just reducing the number of straws we use) and in some cases there are still limitations that make it difficult for some people to switch to a plastic free or reusable alternative. I’m not even going to pretend that I can speak to the needs of people who are low income or who have disabilities – we should listen to them and make sure that they are still supported in whatever way we can (including allowing them to use disposable straws). But, I can share a bit of insight from my own experience with some alternatives, like bamboo toothbrushes.

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Toothbrushes have always been an issue for me. I have gums that are prone to receding and I’m a bit heavy handed when I brush. It’s hard to break out of a lifelong habit of being heavy handed, so I’ve always bought toothbrushes with soft or (preferably) ultra soft bristles. This, of course, seems left to the brand’s imagination – what some brands call soft is what I would call medium or even hard.

When I decided to switch to bamboo toothbrushes, I knew I’d continue to have issues, but I didn’t think that it would take me 2 years to find something that worked. I have tried every brand of bamboo toothbrush that I could find, including some that I had to order from out-of-country and as many variations as I could find (soft, children’s, etc.). These four are the most recent ones that I’ve tried.

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  1. Brush with Bamboo

This is a standard, generic bamboo toothbrush. I’ve tried a couple of brands that were just like this and they typically only had one bristle option (medium to hard). Their children’s toothbrushes are the exact same, but smaller. I would rate the bristles are being equivalent to medium. If you don’t mind the standard toothbrush bristle stiffness, this would be a very good option to start with as this brand is relatively easy to find (even in Canada) and relatively affordable. They’re not perfect (the bristles are part plastic), but they are one of the better options available. In a 2016 post, Kathryn discusses some of the benefits, including the sustainable and pesticide free bamboo sourcing for the handles.

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For the record, this toothbrush looks dirty because I was trying charcoal toothpaste at the time (this Canadian made brand). It’s nice toothpaste, but it was messy and it stained the bamboo.

  1. Senzacare

I bought this one specifically because the bristles were “ultrasoft”. While softer, I don’t know that the bristles rate as ultra soft. But, it’s a good option if you like a softer toothbrush. I used this for longer than the recommended 3 months and found that it stood up well to my rough use.

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  1. Redecker

I decided to try this because it uses natural fibers (sterilized goat hair) for bristles. I should have done a bit more research before buying this one because I assumed it would be soft-ish or maybe medium stiffness. I was wrong. The bristles are hard and I found them to be painful, even after soaking them in hot water for a couple minutes. I would rate these bristles as hard or very hard. I love the idea of a fully compostable toothbrush, but I could use this to scour my grout or pots!

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  1. Truly Bamboo

This was something I found by accident and immediately went to the website when I saw the tapered shape of the bristles. The last couple of plastic toothbrushes I used had the same bristle shape and I found them to be perfect for me – they clean well without damaging my gums. I ordered a box of 4 (they had a sale at the time, but I would have purchased them for their normal price, which his still fairly affordable for a bamboo toothbrush).

They’re from a company in the States, but they do ship to Canada. The bristles are nylon free (made of activated charcoal and bamboo). The bamboo is sourced responsibly and the bamboo handles are carved (i.e., not mulched bamboo fibers glued together).

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From top to bottom: Brush with Bamboo, Redecker, Senzacare, and Truly Bamboo.

While they’re becoming more affordable, bamboo toothbrushes will continue to be unattainable for some people because of the price. If you can afford it, I highly recommend switching to bamboo to eliminate a bit more plastic in your life. In all cases, you can either compost the whole brush or at least the handle (just use some pliers to pry out the bristles). Either way, that’s still a heck of a lot less plastic.

Here are some things to consider when looking for the bamboo toothbrush:

  • What are the bristles made of? You may need to remove them before composting the handle
  • How is the handle constructed? The carved handles will last longer and have a lesser environmental impact simply because they don’t require glues. They can also be used in your garden (as plant stakes or labels) without disintegrating too fast.
  • How is the bamboo sourced? Most companies use sustainable, pesticide-free bamboo, but it’s worth checking to ensure that you’re supporting sustainable practices.
  • Can I source them locally? It’s always better for the environment if you can buy something that was shipped in bulk.
  • Does it work for me? If a particular brand isn’t working for you for any reason (ex: the bristles are too hard), find the next best option. Finding an option that’s sustainable for you is just as important as choosing an option that has a low impact on the environment.

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For the record, here is my current dental care routine and products:

  • I brush twice daily and floss a couple times a week. I also visit the dentist regularly (currently twice a year because my dental hygiene routine seems to be keeping my teeth fairly happy).
  • I’m using the Truly Bamboo toothbrush and loving it. These are supposed to last up to 6 months, but I’m really rough on toothbrushes, so I’ll be happy if it lasts 3-4 months (which is typical for me with standard toothbrushes)
  • I use silk floss (it’s expensive, but something I’ve worked into my budget). I’m currently using Senzacare floss, and I have some FlossPot floss to use next. I also have a standard nylon floss at work that I’ll use up before replacing it with silk floss.
  • I don’t use mouthwash. The advice I’ve always been given is that good brushing and flossing habits trump any benefits you might get from using mouthwash. Mind you, I’ve always lived in cities with fluoridated water (in Edmonton, it’s fluoridated to the Health Canada recommendation of 0.7ppm). If fluoride isn’t a concern for you and you still want to use a mouthwash, there are a lot of simple homemade recipes on line (most of them involve a bit of baking soda in water).
  • I’m currently using up the tail end of a somewhat-locally made toothpaste. I like it, but I found it to be fairly flavourless, so I typically add a few drops of a minty locally made tooth oil. The toothpaste is also in a plastic tube, so I won’t buy it again. I did enjoy the charcoal toothpaste I tried previously, despite the mess (bonus, it comes in a small reusable glass tub). And, I also like the tooth powder I recently purchased to replace my current toothpaste. I’ll probably switch to a homemade tooth powder eventually (like this one).
  • I always have mints on hand. I haven’t found a really great zero waste option, but I always get ones in metal tins that I can reuse. Currently, I’m loving wintergreen VerMints and I also have the Simply Gum brand mints. Both were add-ons to an online order, but I typically get something I can buy locally, like Altoids. I don’t use them daily, but they’re handy when I have a meeting after lunch.

 

If you know of any simple tooth powder recipes, please let me know. And, for the record, this post was not sponsored by any of the brands mentioned or the shops I linked to – I simply wanted to share my honest opinions and at least one option for where Canadians can buy them (but, always look for them locally to support your local businesses and economy).

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Book review – The Crossroads of Should and Must by Elle Luna

22859551I read The Crossroads of Should and Must back in April, took loads of notes, had many thoughts, and then couldn’t seem to bring myself to write a review because it required doing some hard thinking about my “crossroads” and whether or not I truly believe that it’s as easy as picking a “must” over a “should”.

I’ve always struggled with the idea of something – a calling or passion – that I should be doing. It’s a thing that we’re taught in movies, books, and ads – everyone has something that they’re exceptionally good at or that will make them happy for the rest of their lives. It didn’t help that I also knew a number of people who seemed to be exceptionally good at some things and exceptionally passionate about following some areas of interest. I, on the other hand, was a generalist – I was pretty good at pretty much everything I put my mind to, but not particularly fantastic at any one thing. I wanted to be. It seemed like it would be so easy if there was some magic career or life choice that would make me eternally content. But, years of wanting to believe it and feeling that it was my own fault for not finding my “passion” nearly ruined me by making me feel like I might be a failure. There I was in a job that didn’t reflect my interests, much less my “passions” – Where did I go wrong? Did I make bad choices?

It took several years before I was able to see that life is complicated, people are complicated and some of us don’t have “passions” or the temperament to deal with the potentially unpredictable life that might come with turning our hobbies into jobs. Personally, I like having a steady paycheck with a pension, I like not having to be my own boss, and I like having hobbies that are allowed to just be for fun and not be the thing that I have to rely on for my rent.

I’ve become pretty pessimistic about the whole “find your passion” mind set, so I almost didn’t read this book. In fact, I’ve been avoiding books that try to tell us that it’s as simple as picking your passion over a boring office job because I think that it’s bullshit and an unfair dream to promote. Yes, many people have or feel that they have found their passion, but many more are people who are generalists (good at a little bit of everything) or people who need steady jobs, whether it’s because they prefer the stability or because they have a family to feed.

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” (Howard Thurman)

All that said, I did end up reading the book because I decided that it’s useful to learn about fostering our passions, even if we don’t necessarily want to turn them into a career. You can have a boring office job while still being a passionate hobbyist!

The premise of the book is that everyone has a calling (our “musts”) and everyone also has to deal with family or social expectations (our “shoulds”). Luna argues that, where reasonable, we should choose our “musts” over our “shoulds” as much as possible. She suggests that we’re at our best and happiest when our job/career aligns with our calling, so that our work life and passions overlap and blend together. In other words, someone who’s passionate about art should be an artist or works in the arts.

One of the most useful things about this book is the discussion about our “shoulds” and how they can limit us. Luna notes that we have to understand why you aren’t free and what keeps you from being free before you can break free. If nothing else, we should be aware of any “shoulds” we have inherited so that we can keep the ones we value and discard the others. Luna suggests identifying them, asking where they come from (society, family tradition, ourselves, etc.), determining if they’re true or useful for us, and looking at if they’re holding us back.

Regardless of whether or not I believe that we all have a calling, I’m a firm believer in continually examining our lives and our beliefs as that fosters growth. Plus, I’m a bit of a rebel who likes to question cultural expectations. So, I found this part of the book to be especially interesting and useful.

I also appreciated that she was careful to note that choosing our “musts” does not mean taking risks that could harm us – uncertainty and risk are fine, but being impulsive isn’t helpful. It’s important for us to remember that life changes may not be easy for us (or other people) because we may not have the same degree of privilege as others (money, time, support) or we may need to consider other factors (like taking care of a family or our mental health). Luna explores some ways that we can make changes without necessarily taking risks. She talks about how to find and foster your passion, how to make room (physically, mentally and financially) for your passion, how to get started, and how to work through roadblocks (including fear).

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I think that a lot of people would really appreciate and benefit from reading it. So, despite my pessimism about “passions”, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone, especially people who feel that they do have a passion or calling that they want to pursue.

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