Greening the Cottage | Easy Swaps to Minimize Waste and Environmental Impact 0
Nothing makes you think about your ecological footprint like a stint in the great outdoors. You breathe in the clean air, take a dip in the cool water, and hope with all your heart that future generations will also have the privilege to enjoy this.
However, camping and traveling can often take us into "convenience" mode, where we don't mind the extra plastic, the disposable cutlery, and the lack of recycling options. Let's challenge this mindset this year and make this the summer of the #greencottage. You'll see that a lot of the times, the switches we make benefit both us and the environment, and there will definitely be less on your conscience when you sit to enjoy the beautiful sunset on the dock in the evenings.
Invest in Reusable Items
You might be shocked to find out that many people use disposable plates when camping or cottaging. Or, you might have done that yourself in the past. It's true that it means less washing up, but it also means a lot more garbage! Instead of bringing stacks of the disposable stuff with you, invest in a set for the cottage or for camping. They can be something as simple as old plates and cutlery from the thrift store, or recycled plastic versions from ReplayRecycled. In the long run, this will also be better for your wallet, as you won't have to keep dishing out for the trashy stuff.
Get a Compost Bin
The smelliest kind of garbage is usually the kind of waste that should be composted: items that rot. So instead of collecting it and driving it to the local dump on the one day a week it's open, or, even worse, having to drive home with it, set up a composting system on the cottage property. This will also mean less waste to deal with in general, something to consider if the dump charges you per garbage bag. An extra consideration, however, might be how your food scraps might attract animals. Be conscious of it being properly sealed and safe from little (or big) paws. Bonus: next spring, you might have some soil to use for an herb or pollinator garden!
Refill When Possible
Before you go up to your home away from home, refill on all of your favourite snacks, soaps, cleaners, and more. With recycling being an issue in some remote municipalities, refilling what you already have for the season is a better use of containers and then less hassle when it comes to disposal. Using glass or seal-able metal containers for foods like pasta, rice, flour, and more also keeps them safe from little critters and bugs who like to take up residence in our cabins when we're away. Pro tip: have some cottage mates that like indulging in beer while vacationing? Fill up your growlers with your favourite craft beer before you leave or being your growlers along to fill up at the local brewery.
Use Natural Products
It doesn't take much to connect the thought of putting chemicals in your water, on your surfaces, and on your plants with the thought of it ending up in the ecosystem that surrounds you, especially when surrounded by nature. In the city we tend to forget, but with everything reminding you of intricate (and sensitive) systems in place, the motivation to switch to natural should be there. From sunscreens, bug sprays, through dish soaps and shampoo, consider what you are putting into the environment when you engage with it. Make the switch from harsh chemicals that don't do good for you or the planet, to products that are biodegradable, derived from nature, and do little or no harm.
Get a Water Purifier
When camping or when at the cottage, we often doubt the quality of the water that comes out of the faucet, especially when we plan on drinking it. Instead of bringing packs and packs of bottled water, come up with a plan that engages a smaller footprint. Some ideas include refilling those big water jugs at the grocery store in town and using that to fill personalized water bottles. Alternatively, use a filtering pitcher to clean the water that comes from the well. Lastly, there are more and more options for bottles that filter water. That might be something worth exploring if you are moving around a lot during your outdoor adventures and wouldn't be able to refill from a big pitcher or bottle, ex. Backpacking trip or portage.
Reuse What You Have
While you can definitely invest in a set of beeswax wraps or silicone zip lock bags to keep your kitchen as waste and plastic free as possible, be resourceful with what you have. Finished the jam? Use that jar to refill with snacks when you go into town or use it to store leftover noodle salad from lunch. Finished off the orange juice? Use that container to bring up as much kibble as you need for your pet. Be more conscious of what you do bring with you, planning to either keep it there as an addition to your resources available, or to bring it back.
These are just some of the ideas that we came up with that would make the average cottage a little greener this year. What do you do differently when vacationing in nature?
Why "Paper" Coffee Cups Aren't as Innocent as They Seem 1
"It's just a paper cup- it's no big deal!" is a phrase everyone has once said or at least thought at some point in their lives. We like to think of paper as a friend, eco-friendly and easily recyclable.
However, what most of us don't realize right away is that disposable paper cups traditionally used to "coffee to-go" are not just made of paper. To keep the cups from leaking and falling apart as they transport your hot beverages, they are coated on the inside with either a waxy or plastic substance, which makes recycling these cups very difficult.
Well how big of a problem is this?
With brands like Tim Hortons, Starbucks, and MacDonalds making coffee to-go an easy convenience, walking into work or school with a cup of hot joe (or tea) in your hand has become part of the identity of Canadians. It has been estimated that Canadians put between 1.6 and 2 BILLION coffee cups in landfills every year.
As mentioned, due to the addition of the waterproofing layer, the breakdown period of the cup (not to even start on the polystyrene lid) is more than just a few months. Now think of how many cups like that you see everyday.
The positive note is that bringing along your own mug or tumbler has never been easier. There are really high quality products that do a better job keeping your hot beverages warm and tasting great, and coffee vendors have started adapting as well. Some cafes (even Starbucks) will give you a discount on your purchase if you provide your own cup or mug!
Though we like to think that business is on our side in this eco-war, we can't expect them to change if we don't show them that it's important to us. Here are some ways that you can minimize your use of disposable cups and encourage the industry to shift their values.
Bring Your Own Cup
This is the basics. By bringing your own cup, you're not just refusing to use a disposable one, and therefore minimizing waste. You are also signaling your values to the employees at the coffee shop, who sometimes are surprised, and other times actually excited to see someone caring this much. During the summer, when your order includes an ice coffee,, bringing your own tumbler and straw is key as well, just remember to tell them when you're ordering that you have your own cup (especially important when going through the Drive-Through).
Make Your Own Coffee
Support fair-trade coffee companies and save some money by brewing your own coffee at home or work. No paper cups, and the quality of your coffee will be likely higher than what you would get at many of the chain coffee joints anyway!
Lead by example and educate others as they ask. When doing a coffee run, ask people if they have cups that they want you to use, and insist on them using yours if others are offering to pick some up for you. Start a campaign at work, gift them to family and friends, or join a challenge like our #reusabletastesbetter week. When you share about it with others on social media and when interacting with them, it creates awareness and might spark something in someone you know.
So next time you are tempted to try your chances with Roll up the Rim, remember that the planet loses every time you play. A true win is stepping up to the counter with your Corkcicle tumbler or KeepCup and asking that your double double be poured in it.
Using Vinegar to Clean Your Home 0
While the chemical industry has been spending millions of dollars on research & development and advertising a year, people have been rediscovering the power of their kitchen pantry when cleaning. People have stopped resorting to sprays and scrubs full of harmful chemicals, which have negative effects on people using them, the individuals exposed to them, and the environment. Instead, many are resorting to simple concoctions made from a few, well-known ingredients to get the job done.
And when it comes to cleaning naturally, there's no greater hero than white vinegar. Its acidic nature helps in breaking down greasiness, cutting through grime, and killing a lot of germs. Used with other powerful ingredients, it can create amazing natural cleaning products that you can make yourself, keeping your home more natural and keeping your waste levels down.
Here are some easy DIY recipes for household cleaners that use Vinegar:
All Purpose Cleaner:This is a great recipe for those who aren't a fan of the "pickling smell" that comes with use of vinegar in household cleaning.
- 1-2 cups of white vinegar
- The peel of two lemons (a great way to use leftovers)
- 1 tsp Castile Soap (like Dr. Bronners or the Green Beaver)
- 20 drops of Lemon or an alternative essential oil
Put your lemon peels in a glass jar and cover them with the vinegar. Screw the top on, give it a shake, and leave the jar in a sunny place to infuse for at least 2 weeks. After this time, strain the vinegar to remove all the lemon pieces and pour into a spray bottle. Add the remaining ingredients and you're ready to go! Just give your solution a swirl before using and you have a fresh smelling, natural, and effective all purpose cleaner.
Glass Cleaner:No more streaky mirrors and windows! Just 3 ingredients and you have your own DIY version!
- 1 tbsp vinegar
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup rubbing alcohol
Combine the ingredients in a spray bottle and get cleaning! Use with a soft cloth that won't leave lint on your surfaces. Store away from heat as the alcohol is flammable.
Combine equal amounts of vinegar and lemon juice in cup or bowl and then transfer into a spray bottle (or not!). With a small, clean cloth, softly rub the solution into your furniture to polish. Wipe away any remaining moisture with another dry cloth. This solution doesn't store well, so you'll want to prepare a small amount each time you intend to do some polishing.
Toilet Bowl Cleaner:
Pour a cupful of vinegar in your toilet bowl, let it sit for a few minutes, and scrub with a toilet brush. The vinegar will lift any stains that remain and neutralize the smell. If you have some stubborn discolouration or stains that don't react to just vinegar, throw some baking soda in there first, and then add more vinegar. It will cause a fizzy reaction and the by-product is an acid which is effective in fighting grime.
Add a cup of white vinegar to your load of laundry for some extra softness. It also helps with restoring your whites to their former glory without threatening your colours. Don't worry about the vinegar smell- it will be masked by the laundry soap or add some essential oils to your wool dryer balls to impart a different scent.
White Vinegar vs. Household Vinegar
One thing to be careful with is what kind of vinegar you are using in your cleaning products. While you are welcome to use the white vinegar that you find at the grocery store, many DIY'ers like to use household vinegar, a more potent option with less water in it. In stores we offer refills on the Unscented Company Household Vinegar which is 12% acetic acid instead of the regular 5% that you would get in the grocery store. This means that you can cut down on at least half of the vinegar amounts listed in the above recipes if you are using household vinegar. This high acidity vinegar can be great for spot treatment, tough stains, and cutting through thick grime, giving you more options than regular vinegar.
As you see, there's no need to stock up on new cleaning products this month- just refill the containers with ingredients you can easily find around your home!
(Image credit: Quentin Bacon)
All Natural Stain Removers | Remove Tough Stains Naturally Without Fear 0
"Nonsense, it can't be done!"
What's that you're talking about? How you can actually remove stains naturally with strategies that don't include using powerful and harmful chemicals?
We know, we know. You have crazy stains to deal with, from paint on your toddler's clothes, soiled cloth diapers, or even wine stains on your linen following last week's dinner party.
But when we make natural and safe laundry a priority, it means that we have to get creative with how to best remove these tough stains without pumping our water full of chemicals and keeping hazardous materials in our homes.
It's taken us a while to hone in on what works best, but we are now ready to share our favourite products and tricks to attain clean, fresh clothes without resorting to powerful bleaches which are neither good for the earth or for us.
BunchaFarmers Stain Remover
This all natural stain remover is easy to use in multiple ways. It comes in a stick which you can apply directly to stains or cut off pieces to add directly to your load of laundry. It's not a detergent- it's a soap (read more about the difference here), and safe to use all around the home, even on walls, carpets, and appliances. Just dissolve a bit in hot water, put into a spray bottle, and you're ready to go. We like using this on colour loads since it fights stains without fading the fabric.
Molly's Suds Oxygen Whitener
You've probably heard of oxygen bleaches and here's the natural version! This oxygen whitener uses sodium percarbonate and other natural ingredients to combat stains and overall "dinginess" which hard water can leave on your whites. You can either use it as a pre-wash soak, add it to your white laundry loads, or even use it around your house on carpets or even toilets! There's no ammonia, no bleach, and no fragrance oil to be afraid of!
Bummis Whitening Powder
Those who have kids in cloth diapers know that these stains are not easy to keep at bay, especially if you are just washing them like you would anything else. We carry Canadian-made Bummis diapers in store, and they have a recommended washing routine to help make your diapers as clean and long-lasting as possible. If you are finding that the diapers are still not the colour that you would like, even when following the recommendations, add some of this whitening powder to the short cold wash cycle. It should help lift some of the stains and help with overall whiteneing.
RLR Laundry Treatment
This packet might look like a blast from the past, but the reason that it's still around is that it works! Just add it to your laundry cycle to remove stains while preserving the colours of your clothing. Many find this particularly good for cloth diaper loads, and with its small individual packets, you can give it a try without committing to a large bag.
Baking Soda and Vinegar
If you have a particularly tough stain that's not coming out despite multiple washings, try making a paste of baking soda and vinegar and rubbing it in with a toothbrush. This is an all-natural, home made stain remover that I have used successfully a number of times. As these are pantry staples, you don't have to worry about being stuck with no stain fighting measures while that offending substance continues to soak into your fabrics.
This bathroom staple is especially effective on plant-based stains like grass stains, berry juice, vegetable stains, as well as blood. You can apply to directly to stains with a Q-tip after testing on an inconspicuous spot. Rub gently and watch it disappear. If it's a greater area, spray or pour the hydrogen peroxide directly and leave to soak for 10 minutes before laundering it as usual. It's also great for removing bacteria-caused smells from items like towels or athletic equipment. Soak these items in hot water containing up to half a cup of hydrogen peroxide or add a greater amount of the peroxide to a full load's worth.
Treat stains quickly
As soon as you notice that there's a stain, it's time to spring to action. Even if you can't immediate treat it as you would want to, at least dab off any excess of the offender, wet it, or better yet, soak it in warm water.
Sun It Out
Ever notice that your patterned curtains turn a different colour after being in direct sunlight, or your kids' sunhats look a bit lighter after a season of constant use? That's because the sun is a natural bleacher! If you hang or lay your whites outside in the sun, they will benefit from this whitening hack. This is especially helpful with tough stains on cloth diapers.
Perfecting your natural laundry and stain removal techniques will take time, and some trial and error. After a while, you will develop your own preferences and favourites that work for you and your family's needs. Don't be afraid to share your natural stain removal secrets with others- it's part of preserving our earth and making this a healthier world for everyone!
Share your tips in the comments!