Friday, February 13, 2015

Simple, green skin care

Although I've always loved skin lotions and creams,  I've honestly been fairly lazy when it comes to skin care. Soap (most of the time), moisturizer (sometimes) and sunscreen (always because I'm a ghost). Despite being so transluscent that you could map my circulatory system from a good five feet away, aside from a bit of blotchiness, I don't think my skin looks too terrible. So I've never really bought into the idea that I need 12 kinds of product to look decent. As a teen, I loved to spend my babysitting money on St. Ives masks and different kinds of creams for fun but never really kept up a serious skin-care regimen.

About 7 years ago I started to break out in hives after using my moisturizer. I switched to something more "natural" which I now realize was more expensive, but more or less the same. Very quickly, I became unable to use anything with fragrance and most drugstore skin care brands were off-limits. My dermatologist then told me that most eye creams, wrinkle creams and the like are pure bullshit - its about making money and doesn't make any appreciable difference to one's appearance.

Since then, I've become really interested in (actual) natural skin care. Coconut oil was the gateway drug - luscious and moisturizing, plus the BEST eye makeup remover I've ever tried. A few years ago I added shea butter, for areas that need a bit more moisture. Recently I've started using rosehip seed oil on my skin at night, jojoba oil on my legs after a shower and argan oil on my freshly washed hair.  It doesn't have to be complicated. I've even heard of people using pork fat and ghee as facial moisturizers, believe it or not (my dogs would lick me to death).

I'll do some posts on natural skin care in the near future with some recipes and ideas. Suffice it to say,  you can use bulk goats milk or olive oil soap and pure oils and have lovely skin. As well as a fatter wallet and less crap on your face.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Living Our Values in the Day-to-Day

It is so very easy to lose sight of the big picture, particularly when it comes to making mundane, daily decisions in an ethical way. Budget, convenience, location, aesthetics, all of these factors have interfered at one time or another with trying to live our lives in a more sustainable way. There's also the fitting-in factor; its not uncommon to see people towing their groceries by bike in the city but it sure is weird out here in the suburbs.

As I reflect on the past few years of our life as a family and focus my energy on the forthcoming year, I find myself feeling sheepish at how much we've slipped away from our intentions. Its an ebb and flow, really, and we're not totally lost. Our ideals are still there, the intentions, the discussions - the foundation is solid. Its in the day-to-day that we really screw up.

I took the trash out two weeks ago and was gobsmacked by how much we had accumulated in one week. We're some of the most "sustainable" people we know and yet we throw out so.much.crap. I stumbled upon zero-waste blogs through an article about a Paris capsule wardrobe and I've gone down the rabbit-hole. I cannot stop thinking about ways to reduce our waste and remove poorly-made, disposable or shortly-lived items out of our lives.

I read somewhere that the practice of sustainability is like a table, held up by concepts like frugality, simplicity and some other good stuff that I cannot remember for the life of me now but I'm sure I agree with. Reading the article, I thought "yesssssss". Gardening, permaculture, and the big picture concepts are what turns Jay's crank when it comes to "greening" our lives. For me, its the smaller details that get me going: buying less and buying with quality in mind, choosing fair trade and ethical products, thinking of how our daily choices impact the earth and other people. That $5 t shirt is a bargain for me, but it sure costs a lot to the earth and the person who made it. Minimalism and simplicity appeal because life with young children is chaotic and my brain naturally hums along at a good clip; I crave space and peace and time not spent consuming or cleaning what has been consumed. Jay and I will each play our part in holding up our sustainability table, by focusing on what we are naturally drawn to. That's a comforting thought.

I've been furiously "Pinning" and scribbling notes in my notebook as I come across ideas, blogs and articles. I've decided to organize my thoughts a little bit. Going forward, here are some of my areas of focus (noting that its all connected, buying less is minimalist but its also frugal and sustainable)

1. Making our upcoming renos more sustainable. Some materials have already been purchased from big-box stores, but other purchases can be made more mindfully while staying in budget.

2. Slowly moving away from plastic and disposable items. We've done without paper towels for a few years now (which people think is SO WEIRD when they come over), but there's so much more we can do. Kiss your Spider-man toothbrush goodbye kids, its going to be bamboo from here on out.

3. Buying less, buying in bulk, buying second-hand and buying items with non-toxic ingredients. Buying only what's needed, repairing what we can, making what cannot be purchased frugally, mindfully or fair-trade.

Daunting? Perhaps. Inspiring? Hells to the yes.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Bulk Barn Hates the Earth

 bulk food
Lately I've been inspired by reading blogs and articles focusing on low and zero - waste. Its a lofty goal, to be sure, but there are certainly easy ways to reduce superfluous plastic and garbage from our lives.

And so it was this weekend, when I needed cinnamon and some peanut butter, that I decided to gather a mason jar and a spice tin in a reusable cloth bag and head to my local Bulk Barn.  From what I had read, one simply asks the cashier to weigh the containers before filling them and subtract the weight from the final price.  Simple.


Not at Bulk Barn. A smirking cashier at the first location told me it was not hygenic to use my containers as they couldn't be sure how clean they were. She was not amused by my "oh, are the plastic bags you have here sterilized?". I said it sweetly, while smiling, I swear.

Nonetheless, she sent me on my way. Sadly, I don't like to be told "no" and so I drove to the next nearest location (the irony of driving two places in the pursuit of sustainability is not lost on me, by the way) to give it another shot. This time, the employee I asked looked downright offended. He said (loudly) "the Health Department would NEVER allow that!". I asked what the specific health concerns were and he said (loudly, again) "Look, I don't make the rules. Y'know what, you'll have to just call corporate headquarters ok? I have no idea". People were honestly staring at this point, that's how loudly he was speaking. I thanked him for his time, put my items in the appropriately spic and span plastic containers available at the store and went to the check-out.

He found me. Again, speaking at a volume that was clearly intended to get the attention of other people, he said "I just though of something else, how do you expect us to weigh it all?". I explained he could weigh my jar empty and subtract that from the final weight, which caused him to throw up his hands and scoff "well, I don't KNOW. I don't make the rules! Call head office!".


Upon further Googling, it seems that Bulk Barn has a corporate policy to not allow reusable containers in their store. In fact, you are not allowed to wash and re-use their own containers either. Despite the fact that many other bulk retailers are able to get around this issue and the Big Bad Health Department's rules, Bulk Barn cannot.

Or should I say, will not.

I do plan to write an email to corporate head office, though from what I've read many others have done so to no avail and in fact without receiving so much as a reply from the company.  I probably will not shop at Bulk Barn again, hopefully finding another bulk store close by with a commitment to environmental stewardship and customer service.

In the meantime, I'll dream of shopping here.