Branching out, making my own.

I like making. Making what, you ask? Stuff. Really anything. I just enjoy making. I don’t feel like I’m all that creative and would probably not refer to myself as artistic (okay, I have in the past, but only because I can copy a pattern and like art). My go-to things to make are fiber art (specifically cross-stitch – which I nerdily love – and various basketry) and a range of medicinal concoctions.

Making your own anything is a really great way to cut back on plastic. The wonderful side effect of making is that, while reducing your plastic consumption, you may simultaneously reduce your chemical consumption.

I’ve mentioned before that I make my own deodorant. I’m not particularly sweaty in general, but can definitely sweat through most antiperspirants. At one point I resorted to using prescription grade stuff for about three years. I now make my own with only three ingredients that works better (seriously) than the clinical stuff.

Two years ago I started making my own sunscreen. I use both an edible sunscreen (for real! Vitamin C and D are brilliant for protecting your skin) and a homemade topical. At first I made a solid bar. Using this bar was like spreading a bar of soap onto dry skin. I used this recipe until a few months ago and then chucked the extra bars and instead made a cream sunscreen. My husband works outside and loves it! It smells amazing.

I make other health products such as salves for sore muscles or cuts and scrapes, medicinal herbal teas, etc. And now I want to branch out. I try to buy mustard and ketchup in glass bottles, but even then the container is rinsed and recycled and it feels so wasteful. Why not make my own? My best friend and I are taking a canning class this summer, another fun homesteading trick I’ve always wanted to learn but been too intimidated by.

I don’t have a phone with a data plan (or that even takes photos) but perhaps this summer I’ll also figure out how to take some photos and upload them here as I go along. Tell me what you’ve been making to get rid of the chemicals and plastic waste in your life!

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Long time, no type.

Has it seriously been this long since I’ve written anything on here? In the past two years, I’ve gotten married, moved house, gone through more education, new job, become a bonus mama (or step-mama as others call us)… So time seems to have swept past me somehow.

But I have also fallen off the wagon. I still try to live as plastic-free as I can, but my husband… well, he’s another story. I now make my own deodorant, toothpaste (and tooth powder), sunscreen (loving my current recipe). I buy all of my herbs at a bulk herb store and also buy things like oils, spices, etc, at another bulk store. I have stopped purchasing any type of make-up. My plastic purchases tend to come in the form of supplements and medications that can’t otherwise be made as well as a very few food products. (Being celiac and vegan means that most of our food is made from scratch, but I admit that the bread I’ve found that works well for me comes in plastic. I’m trying to see how to change that.)

We were making our own almond milk for a while until it frankly got to be too expensive and my husband started buying it. He likes frozen fruit (which comes in plastic). We both like our treats (sugar for him, salt for me), which means he buys treats like popsicles or chocolate bars… and then I want a treat and decide I need that bag of chips. It is so easy to forget the big picture when someone else is tempting you.

Living on a strict budget means we can’t necessarily afford the paper-wrapped toilet paper (as opposed to the 24-pack from Costco) or all the farmer’s market produce that we want.

But, my husband has come a long way and I in turn have made some new discoveries. He loves my homemade sunscreen, elderberry juice and sore muscle balm. (He does not, however, love or use my homemade toothpaste.) He absolutely loves the bulk bar soap we found at the farmer’s market and the Red Marvel bathroom cleaner we get at the plastic-free store. He uses a glass straw (when I remind him) and loves his glass and metal containers.

So now it’s my turn to get back on the wagon. I do so well in some areas and so poorly these days in others. Every week when I do our recycling, I feel like I’m failing in a lot of areas. I know I’m making more strides and cutting out more plastic (especially in terms of health stuff) but also feel like I’m slipping in other areas.

If anyone is still reading this, what are some things you do to stay in the straight and narrow?

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New projects – fermentation!

I’ve had poor luck with fermentation projects in the past, but have been increasingly excited to up the ante and get some new homesteading stuff happening in my kitchen! So, I figured now is the time to start.

Today was a beautiful day in Vancouver – lots of sun and warmth, perfect for a trip to the winter farmer’s market! My husband and I drove over there with his daughter and had a gander at all the amazing local produce, cheese, baking, honey, etc. I came home with way more than I had planned to buy (which tends to happen to me at the farmer’s market), but am ready to do some juicing, cook our favourite vegan lasagna for dinner (from the amazing Oh She Glows chef Angela Liddon) and get on with the fermenting.

My first projects will, hopefully, be “easy” ones. I’m a huge fan of kombucha and sauerkraut, so I’m starting there. I’ve made sauerkraut before, with not-so-great results (I’m happy to take tips!!) but kombucha is totally new to me. I picked up a head of cabbage at the farmer’s market, a big jar at the Soap Dispensary and a SCOBY at the Homesteader’s Emporium. (This place, by the way, is pretty amazing! If you live in Vancouver and are into anything even remotely related to homesteading, it’s a must-visit. They even sell do-rags, though what do-rags have to do with homesteading, I have no idea.)

The SCOBY was just propagated a day or two ago so it needs to sit for a week to grow a baby. After that, well… I’m clueless. I’ll do some research and fingers are crossed!

DIY is always a good way to work around single-use packaging. Kombucha, which can cost over $4 for a single bottle at the store, is generally in glass but has a plastic lid. Sauerkraut, while also sold in a glass jar, often has either a plastic lid or a tin lid, which is generally lined with plastic.

Wish me luck! I’m really excited and hopefully will have some good results so I’m motivated to keep going. 😉 Please leave a comment on your experiences making either of these fermentations, or if you have any tips I’d love to hear them!

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Aunt Flo

Men, close your eyes.

Girls… let’s talk periods.

Even when I was totally plastic-free for a few years, I still wore disposable pads. I like Natracare. They’re organic cotton, plastic-free, chlorine-free and my favourite – compostable. So as far as disposable pads go, they’re high on my list. They make pads, tampons, panty liners, etc.

I also have a Diva Cup. There’s a lot of love going around for the Diva Cup these days and I got mine many, many moons ago. But, I hate it. It just doesn’t fit properly, it’s uncomfortable and it’s a killer to get out. So, it sits untouched on my shelf. I’ve recently wanted to try a menstrual cup out again so I might try another brand. Right now the Keeper, Lunette and Mooncup (the British one, not the American one) are in the running.

Something else I’ve been wanting to try for years (but never have, due to the icky factor) is cloth pads. The Soap Dispensary, one of my favourite stores, sells a number of different local brands, but they’re not cheap! I’m tempted to buy some and then use them as a pattern to make my own if I like them.

I’m thinking a combo of the cloth pads and cup are the way to go. The research on which to choose is one thing, but how to keep them clean (and not stinky) without grossing out my husband is another thing. Here’s what I’ve found so far:

I’m thinking I’ll buy a lined, reusable, fabric-with-zipper sandwich bag to carry with me to used ones in until I get home. Before putting the pads into a bag, try to rinse them in cold water ASAP as dried blood is a lot harder to get out. Once home, you can soak them in a bucket until you’re ready to put them in the wash. Now, you can buy cleaner specifically for your cloth pads – but doesn’t that defeat the purpose of not buying plastic pads? My preference is definitely to make my own pre-soak. Cold water alone can later be used to water plants. Alternatively, put a few drops of tea tree oil in with the cold water as a disinfectant or perhaps some baking soda. Keep in mind that if you add anything to the water it will need to be poured down the drain or flushed and can’t be used on plants. Also, don’t forget to change the water daily.

(Another tip: try throwing them on the floor of the shower for a good rinse while you’re showering!)

You can then throw them into the washing machine with your towels or other laundry. If you or your roomies are squeamish, you can use a mesh laundry bag. Don’t use bleach as that will break down the fibres in the pads! As for drying – stick them in the dryer or (my preference) hang them to dry.

Voila! Any tips to share on pads or menstrual cups?

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Third time’s a charm…

Well, folks, it’s been quite the year (and a half)! I fell off the plastic-free wagon big time this year.  😦  I did pretty well with my plastic-free life up until last year (I even found a great all-natural, refillable toothpaste) but 2014 has been choppy. I did manage to plan and pull off a totally plastic-free wedding! (That was easy, though.) I did a huge move to a new home using FrogBox instead of cardboard boxes (love and *highly* recommend them). And, I’ve still been making a lot of my own bath products – shampoo (which I can’t seem to get a grip on), deodorant and face wash being the main ones.

But, I’ve found myself buying bottled orange juice on the rare occasion or not bringing my reusable take-out containers when I get sushi.

So, my plan is to go back to plastic-free in full force come mid-January (after returning from a honeymoon backpacking in South America). I’ve roped my husband into it, in exchange for joining him in a new fitness plan. He’s a great supporter of my natural lifestyle, but I just hope I can get him to quit his weekly Slurpee habit!  😉

There are a few plastic- or even garbage-free areas I never quite got a handle on, despite holding strong for a few years. These I’ll be broaching in upcoming posts. Until then, here’s to new beginnings!

(And YES, I hope to be posting again more regularly – aside from during my trip south – in order to have some accountability!)

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Dental issues

I just went to the dentist and apparently my plastic-free dental hygiene isn’t cutting it. Two years ago I started using a natural toothbrush and various types of natural toothpaste. I absolutely love my natural toothbrush! It softens up nicely over a few uses and of course there’s no plastic in it (except for the plastic wrapped around the head for delivery).

I’ve tried a few different toothpastes over the past couple of years. I’ve made my own using a variety of recipes and lately I’ve been using a refillable tooth soap.

I guess that these things aren’t making the cut and it was “strongly recommended” that I stop using what I’ve been using and get (A) an electric toothbrush and (B) regular toothpaste. So until I figure out something that works and gets my teeth clean to the standard I’d expect, guess I’m going back to a plastic-filled dental routine. 😦

Any suggestions for something that actually works??

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Back at it!

I’ve been slacking the past few months and figured that maybe getting back to my blogging might help me to get back on track! I admit I haven’t been living as plastic-free as I’d like to be. My big problems are toiletries, food and medicines.

Medicine/first aid was one of the things I was going to forgive myself for. My health needs to be above the mission. In an effort to move further away from plastic packaging (and western medicine in general), I’ve applied and been accepted to an 8-month Herbal Integration program, where I’ll study plants and learn how to use them to make various medicines and first aid supplies for my own apothecary!

Food is an on-going problem… being vegetarian, gluten-free and dairy-free (the latter two due to allergies) and the fact that I hate cooking means I’m buying a lot of things that come packaged – gluten-free pasta, dairy-free cheese, etc – that I can’t find unpackaged. I’m working on this!

And lastly the toiletries. I use a wooden/natural bristle toothbrush, refillable tooth soap (glass bottle), bar shampoo, etc. But other things have been a problem! Today I went to the Soap Dispensary and bought bulk shea butter, cocoa butter and unrefined beeswax (the latter for candles). The cocoa butter and beeswax were put into paper bags and I bought a 1-L mason jar for the shea butter. I’m planning on making body butter and shaving cream this weekend! I picked up a bunch of different containers for these things and the candles.

So! Back on the train and hopefully 2013 will be more intentionally plastic-free. Hopefully I’ll be writing some more posts and of course will post the recipes if they work out!

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Plastic money.

Just a quick post today, but I read an article tonight about Canada’s new plastic money that will begin circulating later this year. $100 and $50 bills come out in November and $5, $10 and $20 bills will come out in 2013.

I can’t say how I feel about this. On one hand, plastic bills last significantly longer than the current cotton paper bills. Australia uses plastic bills and you can’t tear them the way you can rip a Canadian bill. So in the long-run it’ll be cheaper to produce the money and therefor more environmentally friendly to produce. (Energy use, etc.)

Then again, they’re plastic.

But… is this really that big of a deal? I mean, I’m mainly complaining about single use plastics and the new bills definitely aren’t single use. Yes, they’ll eventually wear out, but things like computers, phones and appliances wear out as well. At least they’ll be used for years before that happens.

I think this time the benefits outweigh the negatives and I’m all for the plastic money. Am I the only one?

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I’m still alive!

I haven’t written in a while because (A) I’ve been insanely busy with work and (B) I have nothing new or interesting to say!

But, I’m still going on the plastic-free challenge. It’s been two months now and I had to ease up on the plastic restrictions in regards to the food I buy. Of course, I’m still trying to find anything I can plastic-free, but I have to consider my health first.

That said… I have to admit that I haven’t been as excited about the challenge over the past couple of weeks. For some reason, I’ve found myself not really caring if I buy short-term plastics or not and actually the other day I bought a hot chocolate on the way to work, complete with paper cup and plastic lid. Granted, this is the only time I’ve given in… but I don’t know… for some reason I’m just not into it as strongly as I was before.

I’m hoping this is just a by-product of the insanity going on at work over the past month, but I guess we’ll see soon…

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New products for me!

I just got home from spending the weekend in Victoria with my folks. My immediate and extended family had dinner plans for my brother’s (early) birthday last night and I decided a few days ago to go over for it.

I love Victoria because there are so many options for me food-wise. There’s a new restaurant downtown called West Coast Waffles that serves gluten-free waffles (!!) so my friend Brie and I decided to get together and check it out. It was yum!

After lunch, we walked around downtown for a bit. I bought a few things (a new German book, gluten-free black licorice), but the big stop was for shampoo! I finally finished the last of my pre-challenge shampoo and I needed to get some bulk shampoo that isn’t in a plastic container.

Lush it was! My hair and scalp are both really dry during the winter so I bought two different shampoo bars. One was made with cade oil, which reeks of camp fire initially, but thankfully the smell doesn’t stick around! (The website promotes that shampoo with the tagline, “The scent of freshly made tar.” Ha!) The other is a jasmine conditioning bar. I used them tonight and love them; I’d definitely buy more bulk shampoo from Lush and would also recommend their bulk deodorant bars, which smell awesome.

I’m normally not a big Lush fan, but for plastic-free toiletries, they’re certainly the way to go these days as I have no clue where else to buy that stuff. (That said, if you know of any place that sells bulk plastic-free toiletries, please let me know!)


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