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.
Zero Waste Solutions to Keeping Food Fresh for Longer 0
Part of being zero waste is about consuming what you do have; food included. While the compost bin is a better option than the landfill, your mouth is the ultimate zero waste destination for your food.
However, when you're looking to minimize plastics and therefore end up buying a lot of basic produce, it can become difficult to keep your food fresh and good to use. We're not even going to go into the crazy temperatures we have had this summer and how that can affect the speed of decomposition...
How to Store Food
Here are some key items in your fridge and pantry along with some tips on how to keep them and store them for maximum freshness:
Kale & Spinach
These leafy greens can really vary in terms of lifetime depending on how you keep them. Try destemming, cutting, and washing them as soon as you buy them. Then run them through the salad spinner while in a cloth produce bag and then put the entire thing in the fridge. The dampness will keep the contents fresh (don't let it be wet, just damp!)
Tomatoes in the grocery store are never stored in the fridge. Why? Because keeping them there destroys the flavour and texture as they get "mealy".
Avocados need to ripen before they are ready to eat, and most times the store sells them a little under so that they don't reach this stage until they are already at your home. Store them on your counter until they are ripe, and then move them to the fridge to maintain that level. If you open an avocado and only use half, store the remainder with the pit in either in an airtight container or wrap with a beeswax wrap (we carry Abeego in-stores).
Once cut or picked, these can be stored in a beeswax wrap or cloth produce bag in the fridge. A notable exception is basil which will turn black pretty quickly. If you keep the cut stems in water at room temperature, it slows down the process.
Best kept in a linen bread bag or at least covered with a linen tea towel. The linen allows for natural ventilation while slowing down the drying out process.
Not in the fridge please! Store in a cool, dry place for maximum lifetime. Onions can be stored like that too!
Real coffee aficionados know that the only way to enjoy a fresh cuppa joe is to properly store those beans. Once you open the bag or container that your coffee beans came in, transfer to an airtight container like a jar and keep in the fridge. If you have left over ground coffee, you can store it like that as well.
Fruit like lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruits can be stored either in the fridge or on the counter. However, for maximum juiciness, store in the fridge and bring to room temperature before consuming.
Plan for the "end of life" for your food
Of course, even with these tips, time will take its toll on your food- and that's why having a few "last call" recipes is always handy. Smoothies, salads, soups, quiches, tarts and pizzas are all great ways to use up the items which are close to expiry but can still be eaten. Don't forget the power of the freezer, of pickling, and preserving, as these are great ways to extend the life of your food and enjoy local, seasonal items year around!
Let us know your #zerowastelifestyle hacks for preserving food for as long as possible!
Is Recycling Enough? Why the Zero Waste Lifestyle is the Real Goal 0
Just a few weeks ago, CBC published an article (available here) about how recycling is not all it is chalked up to be. The system is overwhelmed with materials that are difficult and expensive to recycle and reuse, such as plastics, metals lined with plastics or other materials, or dirty yogurt containers.
It confirmed my musings and reminded me why it is so important to go zero waste rather than just fall back on sorting the garbage that we do collect over the week.
While for years municipalities and green organizations have been pushing the "3 R's" of REDUCE, REUSE, & RECYCLE", it seems that people only really got into the last one since it is seemingly the easiest option. But the other two R's is really where we need to focus our efforts. The more we reduce, the less there is to reuse and recycle.
But what exactly are we reducing?
Sometimes it's easier to think backwards.
Picture your curb on garbage day. What's there? A black bag or two of landfill trash, a blue bin with plastics and a blue bin with papers, and finally a half-filled green bin? This will vary according to your sorting practises, but take a moment to account for the sheer volume of waste that your household produced that week.
Personally, I'm not comfortable with the amount that I have sitting there, but that's just motivation.
Then it's time to think about what you had to do or consume for that waste to find itself in your home. From plastic wrapping on the produce you bought, to the diapers you threw out, to the oil jugs you're recycling and the shampoo bottle you finished off this week, it has all made its way to your curb. From food, to clothing, toys, home goods, candles, decor, and more, these come in packaging that is taxing our system and polluting our earth.
Also, let's just think about buying less.Yes, things get used and need to be replaced. However, the less we consume in general, the less waste is produced in the process. The industry now is geared towards selling many items of low quality that need to be replaced over and over again. Remember that quality might be expensive, but it's also better for the planet as fewer items need to be produced and later disposed of. That's why thrifting and buying used items can also be a great way to get a deal while minimizing our impact on our planet.
So ask yourself a few questions before buying items:
- Do I need this?
- Will I consume this? Ex. like soap, shampoo, food
- Do I see myself using this for a long time? Ex. Toys, clothes, home goods, kitchen staples
- Can I responsibly dispose of this (and all the packaging) after its lifetime? Ex. Donate, repurpose, resell, etc.
Reusing is also a great way to bring things into our homes but keeping them there instead of putting them out as waste.
From glass jars, certain clothing items, furniture, and boxes, these items can all find a new use in your home. Creativity is key here, and thankfully the internet has really been an amazing resource for inspiration on how to make things new again, or at least usable in a different capacity.
Ok, so what now?
The zero waste world is a big one, and after some reflection, the enormity of the shift that we need to make can be daunting.
But no one said that you had to do it all at once! A progressive shift towards a zero-waste lifestyle is easy to do, especially if you have the resources and the community (even if it's online) to support you in your journey.
We often suggest to start with just one aspect of your daily life, be it your personal care routine, kitchen essentials, or even just your lunch preparations. Once you get comfortable with that, you can tackle the next thing. Another idea is following along with our #zerowastelifestylechallenge that we post every week on Facebook. On Saturday mornings we announce the theme for the week, and we encourage our followers to integrate the following theme into their lifestyle. We invite you to follow along!
As for more ideas on how to go zero-waste, we are planning our next blog posts, full of tips and tricks that we have picked up over the last few years of this green living journey.
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!
Why You Should Think Twice Before Lighting that Scented Candle 0
Fall is here and who doesn't love the cozy effect that lighting a nice candle has on a room? The warm, flickering flame and pleasing scent can take any setting and turn it into an inviting and comfortable space. But have you ever thought about the impact that your little candle is having on your health or on the environment?
We did. And that's why we threw out all of our paraffin wax candles.
Paraffin candles produce harmful by-products, some of which are even carcinogenic like formaldahyde, Acrolein, Toulene, and many others. Paraffin wax is a petroleum by-product, meaning that it is oil-based and associated with all the same environmental implications that any oil product has. From habitat destruction, contamination of the environment with toxins, to increasing the level of greenhouse gases, the oil in the average candle is causing the same kind (though not level) of damage that dirty, oil-based manufacturing and transportation causes.
Scented candles are even worse as many of the "scents" are actually chemicals that can become toxic when burned. We literally pollute the air immediately around us while innocently hoping to create a more liveable environment. It's quite backwards, isn't it?
The alternative? Soy and beeswax candles don't give off the same level of toxins during burning as petroleum candles do. They are also more environmentally friendly options as they can be sustainably produced, something that isn't possible with the petroleum based paraffin wax.
Moreover, candles usually come packaged in extra plastic which gives little utility and is difficult to recycle. We choose candles that come in minimalist packaging, or better yet, in tins or glass containers which can be reused or recycled, depending on your needs. Mind you, these are also safer when it comes to the possibility of a fire, but of course that doesn't mean that they can burn unsupervised.
Hopefully now you'll think again before buying and lighting that paraffin wax candle. Here's how you can "green" your candle burning habits and make them healthier for you, your family, and the environment:
Ways to Make Your Candle Burning Habit Greener and Cleaner
Replace Paraffin Wax Candles with Soy or Beeswax Candles
Use candles only scented by essential oils rather than artificial fragrances
Buy Candles with minimal plastic packaging, instead opt for reusable pots or containers
Buy Candles made by local makers which have a small ecological footprint
We stock a number of different candle lines in our stores, including Natuur Candles, Muskoka Candle Co., Au Naturel, and Indigo Wild's ZUM Glow. All of these are soy candles made in North America (most of them in Canada), and come in reusable containers. Drop into our stores to pick up a seasonal candle, or shop online.
Keep Living the Green Life!