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?
Top 6 Alternatives to DEET: Natural Tick and Mosquito Repellents 0
Insects are an inevitable part of spring and summer in North America. While an important part of our ecosystem, they can also pose a threat to the health of our families. With pest-transmitted diseases like Lyme Disease becoming prevalent in our communities, it's become imperative to practice bug-safety, just like we protect our skin from the sun in the summer or the cold in the winter.
However, more and more studies show that the traditional bug-repellents don't just harm mosquitoes and ticks, they also can be harmful to those who wear them. DEET, the active ingredient in many of these agents, has negative effects on the nervous and endocrine systems, especially on children who have a smaller surface to volume ratio than their parents. It has also been known to cause allergic reactions to those with sensitive skin.
While we want to protect our families and ourselves from potential diseases and bothersome insect bites, we don't want this risk to limit the time that we spend outdoors in nature. That's why it's important to adopt habits this season that will minimize our chance for bug bites.
We have a large family ourselves, so we spent a lot of time researching and looking for the best there is in terms of natural tick and mosquito repellents.
Citrobug Mosquito Repellent Oil for Kids (+ Outdoor Cream)
Shown to be one of the most effective products in its category in Canada, this spray is comparable to competitors that contain up to 25% DEET. However, it can be used safely as the active ingredients are a combination of essential oils including lemon, eucalyptus, pine need, geranium, and camphor. It also comes in an Outdoor Cream Version which doubles up as a moisturizer. Bonus: it's hypoallergenic
Druide Citronella Insect Repellent Spray Lotion
Druide is a favourite of Canadian outdoor fanatics, and their citronella line is loved by many. Citronella essential oil has for years been appreciated for its insect repelling qualities, and this specific blend includes other plant extracts to boost its effectiveness. However, this formulation is not recommended for children under the age of 2.
Take a Hike Outdoor Joose
With an ingredient list that you can fully read and understand, you will love the additional refreshing and moisturizing qualities of the aloe juice in this formulation. Can also be used on pets' coats!
Care Plus Icaridin 20% Deet Free Insect Repellent
The active ingredient, icaridin, also know as hydroxyethyl Isobutyl Piperidine Carboxylate, is an odourless and nearly colourless liquid that is a known bug deterrent. This makes it an attractive choice for those who are sensitive to scents or come in close proximity with those who do. Studies show that Care Plus Icaridin at a 20% concentration can be as effective as solutions containing 30% DEET for protecting again mosquito, tick and black fly bites.
Atlantick Outdoor Spray
This product was developed by a Canadian family with a personal story associated with Lyme Disease along with researchers at Acadia University. Atlantick spray contains ingredients like witch hazel, lemongrass, jojoba oil and ocean water to protect families from bug related situations.
Many natural insect repellents enlist the help of essential oils to keep bites to a minimum. If you already have a collection of oils, you might already have what you need to make your own repellent spray. We like to dilute DoTerra Terrashield with Witch Hazel at a ratio of 10 drops to 1 fl. Oz. and keep the mix in a small glass spray bottle.
Hopefully one of these products will work for your family's preference! Remember, that what's good for the earth is also good for us, and by taking care of our bodies with natural products, we also keep toxic chemicals out of the ecosystem.
The Pains of Living Plastic Free and How to Fix It 0
Who likes the idea of living plastic free?
If you're here, it's likely that you do.
Plastic has an obvious detrimental effect on the environment, but also has been researched to have a negative influence on our health. It was seen as a "wonder product" when it was first discovered, and only now we are fully understanding the consequences of using it to the degree that we do.
However, getting rid of plastic in your life, or at least single-use plastic, is a much taller order than you would initially think. So many foods are packaged in plastic film, the entire frozen food aisle is covered in it, and even normal household products are most readily available in plastic from cleaners, to garden soil, even kids' toys.
While just making a conscious effort to choose plastic-free can make a big change in your lifestyle, there are lots of "sticking points" that are thorns in our sides. Here are some common problems we find that people struggle with and how we can get past that.
Plastic Packaging at Grocery Stores
This is one that we know is a killer for many, especially in seasons when farmers' markets and stalls are not an option. While in the harvest months, shopping package-free from farmers or producers can greatly decrease your plastic wrapping, there aren't as many options in conventional grocery stores. There's often one kind of cucumber and it comes in plastic, or the peppers on sale are the quad-pack that come in a plastic bag.
The most we can do in the winter is choose plastic-free when possible, or shop at smaller stores that make un-packaged goods available to their customers. In the warmer months, we can shop from producers, pick our own produce (berries, beans, fruit, etc.), or grow your own. Items like bread can be picked up from bakeries and many other pantry staples can be bought in bulk. Bring your clean jars and bulk bags to your local bulk or refill shop, or else Bulk Barn.
Of course, remember to bring your own produce and shopping bags to avoid the single-use plastic bags!
Meat and Deli
These usually come packaged in plastic for freshness, but you can ask for them to be put in your container if there is a designated counter at your store. Bring your own rezip bags or reusable containers, ask for them to be tared and then filled with the fresh meat or deli meat of your choice. The same goes for seafood and cheeses. Many farmers' market vendors will also allow you to do this, though they won't advertise it.
Take Out Meals
This takes some research- some restaurants won't put their meals in your containers for fear of "contamination" or some other legality. A lot of the time it's about the inconvenience on their end. If you don't want to be disappointed when you arrive, call before hand and ask this restaurant if they will use your containers as you are trying to minimize waste.
When they do allow it, make sure that you communicate your appreciation and support them on social media, within your friend circle, etc., so that more restaurants feel motivated to do the same. If you are feeling especially frustrated and know that this fast food restaurant serves their "for here" customers on reusable plates, order it that way and transfer it to your container yourself. Sure the plate is dirty, but it will get washed, not thrown into the landfill.
Though this is changing, even a lot of "natural" household cleaners and detergents come in plastic jugs, bottles, or containers. From dishwasher tabs, laundry detergent, to scouring powder, many of these are now available package free or as refills at specialized eco or "refillable" shops. Now you can reuse those containers hundreds of times or refill a dedicated glass one. Otherwise, make them yourself from bulk ingredients! Baking soda and vinegar can get you very far, are cheap, and readily available.
Body and Skin Care
You'll be surprised what you can refill on nowadays, from shampoo, body lotion, nail polish remover, witch hazel, oils, and more! Companies are starting to let their stockists offer refill options, and there is more interest in making your own clean options from simple ingredients. Others run their own container recycling programs where your product containers are sterilized and reused down the line. It takes some research and some time, but many find this switch very satisfying. If a refill center is not accessible to you or you are lacking in time, always choose glass or reusable containers over ones that cannot be repurposed in any way or properly recycled.
If we really want to see a shift in the way that plastic is used in our society we need to ask for it. Voice your displeasure, write letters to the store managers, support small businesses that are making the changes, and make those "strange requests" when ordering food, products online, and more. It will be uncomfortable, but it's what will make employees, owners, and policy makers stop and think.
At Mrs. Greenway we are increasing our refill options because we see that you are using them! For businesses, it's often a risk to make these changes, but seeing that people are voting with their dollars and voicing their appreciation, makes them more comfortable investing in a shift towards more sustainable living! Stay tuned on more news on our refillery, and in the meantime, if you have any specific requests, feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
What do you struggle with or what "hack" has helped you? Comment and let us know!
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.
Eco-Lover's Take on Greeting Cards 1
While you might feel like you can get away with just posting a cute family photo on Facebook rather than send a card to all your family and friends for Christmas, Valentine's Day still requires at least a few little notes, especially if you still have school aged children.
However, if you are striving towards the zero waste lifestyle, is buying a greeting card against your eco-morals?
Everyone has their own view on this topic, ranging from a strict ban and transition to digital e-cards, while others are willing to bend the rules to make a meaningful and timeless gesture.
I mean, all in all, it's just paper and totally recyclable, right?
Yes and no.
Many greeting card/envelope combos come wrapped in a plastic sleeve that is to protect them from getting dirty or separated. While practical, it's not a recyclable type of plastic, and it's better to stay away from this kind of card wrapping. Some companies offer a compostable sleeve, so look for that or nothing at all.
BLINGWhile some cards might capture your attention with cute addition of glitter, confetti, foil, or metallic writing, do your best to resist. These additions render your card non-recyclable and it will inevitably end up in the landfill.
All papers are not created equal. Look for stamps certifying that your card is made from sustainably farmed and harvested wood. This can put your mind at ease that you are not directly contributing to deforestation and biodiversity loss.
POST-CONSUMER RECYCLED PAPER
One step up is paper that is at least in part made of recycled paper. This uses fewer new resources and creates a market for recycled goods, giving them more value.
Some companies even go the extra mile and encourage people to compost the paper in their own gardens by using "seed paper", that you can bury and get plants out of. Or give something other than paper like with Gift-A-Green where you gift a package of microgreen seeds that can be directly sown in the pouch and then eaten!
Research your greeting card companies. Some of them have a pledge to plant a tree for every x number of cards they sell or do something else to offset the effect of their business on the environment. For example, Wilder, which we carry in stores, makes their cards using 100% renewable energy in addition to putting strict restraints on themselves in terms of sustainable paper, ink, and packaging.
Over the years you have surely collected enough cards and craft supplies that you can give a new life to items in your home and transform them into unique signature cards. This way, you avoid the plastic sleeves, you can control the "recyclability" of your creation, and you're already extending the time something stays out of the landfill.
So what are you doing this Valentine's Day and the sweet words you want to share with your love? Will you pen them down in a greeting card?
Happy Valentine's Day to all!
Traveling Zero Waste No Matter the Destination 0
The travel bug hits a lot of Canadians in the winter. After months of short days and cool temperatures, we feel the need to fly the coop and relieve some of the cabin fever (or frostbite) we have been experiencing at home. And while travel is a wonderful way to relax and gather inspiration, it's also poses it's own challenges when trying to maintain a #zerowaste lifestyle.
The real key to living zerowaste is 1) being aware and 2) being prepared. If you are reading this post, you have at least brushed on number 1, but remember that the place you are traveling tomight be lacking. And it's much easier to be prepared when you are living at home and have an orientation of your day to day. When you have limited baggage and living adventurously, it's not as easy.
So here are some of our tips for keeping #zerowaste in your travels!
Find "bar" alternatives for your toiletries.
Traveling with liquids like soaps, shampoos, toothpaste, etc., is not only precarious, but all come in containers (most of them plastic). Avoid issues at airport security and wet luggage by replacing what you can with bars and powders. There are now shampoo and conditioner bars, soap bars, toothpaste powder, and even solid colognes and lotions.
BYOC for Food & Drink
"Bring Your Own Containers" for food and drink for your travels. Some basics include a straw, cutlery, a drinking vessel, and some sort of container that could hold leftovers or street food to avoid using disposable plates and containers. Even if you are going to an all-inclusive resort, many of them offer plastic cups at certain bars, and a reusable cup would be a much more "earth-friendly" alternative, especially as you look out into the ocean. Maybe someone else will be inspired?!
Bring Your Own Bag
You might want to do some shopping while you're out exploring. And that's when a string bag, or a tote that folds small, really shines. You can fit a lot inside, it's light, and when you aren't using it, it doesn't take up much room or weight in your suitcase. It can also double up as a beach bag or even something for gathering sea shells during the low tide.
Look Up Sorting Policies Before You Go
Before you leave for your destination, research the policies about garbage disposal. Take pictures of the different signs and explanations so that you will know how to sort garbage at your destination. If you are visiting a place that doesn't seem to have developed policies, make a point of suggesting it at your hotel or place of lodging. You never know, maybe your concern will spark an internal program.
When choosing souvenirs to bring back home, continue to look through the zerowaste lens. Is it repurposed? Second-hand? Is it something that supports the zerowaste life? How is it packaged? What is it made of?
If you challenge yourself this way, you're more likely to end up with something that you will actually like and use, not something that will eventually end up at a dump?
When traveling, there's a good chance that you'll be offered some "offenders", be that on the trip or at your destination. From airplane food wrapped in plastic through little shampoo bottles at your hotel, remember that you have the right to refuse these. This of course is easier to do when you come with your own zero waste alternatives, like snacks packed in stainless steel containers or your own reusable cutlery.
In addition to these tips, there are others that are location-specific, and depend on the method of transportation. Remember that waste is in part the legacy that you leave, so think again before traveling the world and leaving a negative impact on the places you visit.
How are you planning to travel this year? How are you going to keep it zerowaste?
Image via: The Rogue Ginger