Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Replacing your face wash with raw honey

It's true.  I wash my face with honey. Although I am in my 30s, I am frequently frustrated by skin that looks like it belongs to a highschooler.  Over the years, I've tried pretty much every wash on the market and haven't really found anything to help. If it cleared up my skin, then it dried out badly. I didn't dare use a moisturizer, though! Moisturizer brought the breakouts that "necessitated" the face wash in the first place!

Organic washes did nothing for me and I had a brief foray into the oil cleansing method. By brief, I mean it lasted a week... which was possibly not long enough to really get it to work, but nonetheless, I gave up. I bought another bottle of facial wash and then read that they are often filled with plastic beads that wind up in the oceans. Fantastic. Back to the drawing board!  Then, I discovered a mention of using honey instead of soap and since a friend of mine has bees, I bought an extra jar and decided to give it a try.

My skin. Oh my skin. Honey isn't a miracle cure for acne, but it's gentle way of cleansing and healing without using chemicals that won't dry out your skin. (Actually, yes, it will dry out your skin... but that's what helps with the healing of acne.) 

If you are going to try this method, give it a week. Make sure you use RAW honey. And finally rinse well. Honey sticks to everything. 

I keep a bottle of honey in the shower (next to my cinnamon sugar foot scrub and the apple cider rinse... Shower? Kitchen?  You'll never know!) and wash my face daily with maybe half a teaspoon. If my skin is extra clogged from the weather or a hard workout at the sweaty gym, I keep a small jar of honey that has partially crystallized in the bathroom as well. In this case, I use it as a mask, leaving it on for 10 minutes before scrubbing it off in a circular manner with warm water.

So now you know what I do with my skin... what do you do with yours?  What's your favorite way to cleanse your skin?

Friday, February 22, 2013

Rolling Out the Welcome Mat

From the bean of Green Bean.

Times are tough for the natural world.  Pipelines, deforestation, oil spills, pollution, plummeting wildlife populations. . .  It's enough to discourage any green-hearted guy or gal.

I don't like to stay down in the dumps - or compost - for too long, though.  After reading about the dramatically increasing loss of biodiversity, I decided to do something about it.  In addition to supporting groups that protect and restore open space, I rolled out the welcome mat in my own yard.

Wildlife Gardens for Lazy Gardeners 

1) Swear Off Pesticides - Chemical pesticides and fertilizers suck!  Big time.  Their potent cocktail is responsible for much of the decline in pollinators and amphibians if not also birds and other wildlife.  Further, run off from rain contaminates local water sources.  Check out the many organic options available or get in touch wtih your zen self.  Accept less than perfection.  A few nibbled leaves does not an infestation make.

2) Let Fallen Leaves (and Dead Wood) Lie -  You can skip cleaning up the leaves, twigs and other debris in your garden beds.  Wildlife will do that for you. Insects will help the leaves decompose, enriching your soil.  Birds will use the twigs for nests and dig up juicy bugs for food.  You end up with healthy soil and a little bit of your own backyard carbon sequestration.

The same is true for dead trees and dead branches, both of which offer food and homes for birds, insects and small mammals. If you want to go the extra mile, you do not even need to haul away cuttings from pruned shrubs and trees or chopped down trees.  Instead, make a brush pile for our feathered, furred and buggy friends.  Lazy gardeners everywhere rejoice!

3) Skip the Dead-Heading - I've been known to snip the spent heads off of my annual flowers - especially mid-summer.  By the time fall comes, though, I let the annuals do their thing.  The flowers go to seed, provide food for the birds and often replant themselves, saving me the effort of doing it in the spring.

4) Go Green, Evergreen - I am a sucker for deciduous trees - awash in the fall with their bright leaves and bare in the winter like Halloween skeletons.  As wonderful as deciduous trees are, though, you cannot underestimate the power of evergreens in a wildlife garden.  In the midst of winter, when the garden is but a graveyard, birds still need protection from predators, a place to cozy up and trees and shrubs that keep their leaves are just the thing.

5) At the Watering Hole -  Everyone needs a drink some time.  And a bath, while you are at it.  Bird baths are just the ticket.  So are water gardens, trays filled with water, ponds, you name it - so long as it is filled with clean water and a place for birds and other wildlife to perch to drink.  You can go as cheap or expensive as you like as long as you remember to refresh the water regularly and keep things clean.

Extra Credit: Finally, for you overachievers out there, think about making the switch to natives.  It doesn't need to be a full makeover of a yard.  I have quite a few natives but for the most part, I've added them a few at a time - either replacing a plant that died or filling up an empty space in the garden.  When you are planting natives, just remember that one variety of many different plants does not a habitat make.  Instead, think of adding 5-7 plants per variety so that the wildlife that come for one particular plant have several to feed on.

That is all it takes to welcome nature into your yard.  So kick back, grab some binoculars to watch your new cohabitants, enjoy the abundance of a garden teeming with pollinators and revel in the rewards of your not so hard work.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

My love for cloth pads

Julia from Color Me Green shares what it's like to use Lunapads

When it comes to my "moon time," I've been happily using cloth pads for the past three years. I know many people love Diva Cups, but I never felt comfortable wearing tampons, so I knew that wasn't for me. Back in 2010, I won a raffle on Crunchy Chicken for a full set of Lunapads. I'd been interested in trying them, but the starter kits seemed somewhat expensive ($75-125), so I was lucky to win the raffle, without which I might never have taken the plunge.

However, once I realized how well they work and how long they last, the upfront price seems worth it in the long run. I know some crafty people have successfully made their own cloth pads (see It's Not Easy Being Green), which could save you some money if you have a sewing machine - and good quality scrap fabric. Lunapads do amaze me with how absorbent they are.

As for the logistics: they offer little bags you can keep in your purse for changing fresh and used pads. Since I don't have my own washing machine and only do laundry about every three weeks at the laundromat, at the end of each day, I do a quick handwash of the pads with a little detergent in my sink, and then hang them to dry before throwing them into my regular laundry.

It's not too much of a hassle, and it's worth it to have no plastic next to my skin and no trash to send to the landfill each month. The concept of using cloth pads makes so much sense when you realize that rags have been the historic protection of choice. (Although, I do still keep a set of tampons around in case of a trip to a beach or pool.) Since it's a sensitive topic, it's not something I typically bring up to my friends, but I'm putting it out here to encourage more women to give them a try.

* This post itself is not sponsored by Lunapads - I just wanted to share how much I like them and to encourage others to explore beyond the conventional options.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Forward on Climate

There was a man hunt near a friend's house yesterday, which caused me to forget to post yesterday. And with the events from today I haven't had a chance to write anything so I will just share this video from the Sierra Club.

Anyone going to the rally in Washington DC on February 17th?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Violence Against Women and Violence Against Our Planet

EcoYogini explores the connection between feminism, violence against women and the environmental movement...

"One of the things I feel about women is that we live in a cage, but the cage is so normalized that we don't even know it anymore."- Eve Ensler interview w Grist.

I am a feminist. I don't mind the word, it means respect to those women who battled before me to give me the rights I have today. It means equality between human beings. It means strength of conviction.

In a lot of ways, this equality in power and how we treat each other as human beings relates to the current non-reciprocity with how we treat the planet.

In a recent interview with Grist, Eve Ensler, author of the Vagina Monologues and promoting the Anti-Violence against women movement, One Billion Rising, made the fascinating connection between feminism, violence against women and the environmental movement.

I agree that a crucial part of the anti-climate change (or pollution movement) is the complete and utter lack of mutual respect for our resources, planet and the environment as well as a willingness to turn a blind eye to the majority of the mainstream opinion. Similarly, there is a lack of mutual respect with how women's bodies are treated in our culture along with a strong anti-feminism, or feminism denier movement that parallel's the climate change discussions.

What these large corporations, oil companies, logging companies, huge polluting businesses, are doing can be describes as intrinsically gargantuan violation of the natural world. Ripping apart forests, desecrating natural and clean waterways and invading our air with toxic chemicals... these actions are all decided by a select few in power.

Statistically speaking, these decision makers, climate change ignorers, are men. It just so happens that we don't have a truly equal society when it comes to violence against the human person (1 of 3 women will experience violence in their lifetime), nor when it comes to political and economic positions of power.

Initially Eve Ensler's use of strong language and imagery to describe the connections she sees between feminism and our current environmental battle was shocking and off-putting. I don't usually respond well to shock tactics or emotional language.

However, after some thought, specifically in consideration with all that she has seen and the very real atrocities that are committed against women around the world, it would be remiss to shy away from the truth. Using nicer words, like 'violated' instead of 'raped' diminishes and disrespects the very reality that so many women and families experience, not only in 'far away countries' but in our very own home towns.

I do believe that in a culture and dominant society where 50% of the population remains viewed as 'less than equal' (whether in policy, practice, relationships- unconsciously or not)- we shouldn't be surprised that this same culture would treat all relationships as one-way without mutual respect, including our relationship with our planet.

Hopefully, this will mean that progress in one movement will inherently equal progress in the other.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Balancing Development and Environmental Oversight

The Climate Crusader is concerned about how we're balancing resource development with environmental oversight. 

Here in Canada, outgoing Environment Commissioner Scott Vaughan delivered his final report to Parliament this week. In it, he expressed concerns that the pace of resource development is outstripping environmental protections. This is to say, the federal government isn't doing a good job of overseeing offshore drilling, mining and hydraulic fracturing (more commonly called fracking). As a result, Canadians are being exposed to a number of potential risks.

Technology is advancing rapidly in resource development, just as it is in all fields. In 2005, new technologies like multi-stage fracturing and horizontal drilling made previously non-viable gas deposits affordable to extract. The fracking methods used to extract these resources require much higher volumes of both water and chemicals. According to the CBC, the government just doesn't understand exactly what chemicals are being used, and what the implications are.

The problem is that even as the government struggles to understand what's happening, resource development is going full steam ahead. Since 2005, 7300 wells have been fractured in my home province of British Columbia alone, and between 500 and 1000 new permits are being issued each year. This isn't surprising, when you consider the way politicians speak about domestic energy in general, and natural gas in particular. When we can tap into resources in our own backyard it has economic benefits, and provides us with energy security.

I wouldn't argue that a strong economy and reliable access to energy are bad things. I doubt that anyone would. However, as Mr. Vaughan points out in his report, things are out of whack. It isn't safe to pump hundreds of different kinds of chemicals into the ground in large volume, if we don't understand what those chemicals are and how they impact the ecosystem and human health. We need to balance growth and development with reasonable oversight.

As well, we need to consider what it means for our future to keep pulling oil and gas out of the ground and burning it. The more we do this, the more carbon is emitted into the atmosphere, and the more that we're exposing ourselves to the risks of climate change. We're already seeing severe storms, droughts and rising ocean levels. We need to be thinking ahead to carbon neutral forms of energy, instead of continuing to drill, drill and drill some more.

If you're concerned about the way that our governments currently approach energy and resource development, tell them. Join forces with groups who are advocating for change. Speak out, and share your concerns. The more of us who use our voices, the louder our message will be, and the sooner we'll be able to create a more reasonable equilibrium between development and the environment.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Reducing Plastic

Julia from Color Me Green shares her resolution to reduce plastic from her kitchen and life.

I was recently reminded by an article in the New York Times about the dangers lurking in plastic. It highlighted a study which "found that endocrine disruptors that are sometimes added to PVC plastic cause mice to grow obese and suffer liver problems"...suggesting that endocrine disrupting chemicals such as BPA and phhalates may be related to American obesity epidemics, among other health issues.

What you may not know is that these endocrine disruptors are found in everyday products all around us, from BPA in plastic water bottles, aluminum can linings, and grocery store receipts to phthalates in plastic wrap, PVC building materials, shower curtains and even children's backpacks (ahem Disney).

Meanwhile, it was promising to see another study showing how quickly people were able to reduce their levels of BPA and phthalates by avoiding them for just three days. While I try to limit my own exposure to canned foods, I have been using plastic quite liberally for food storage. I've decided that one of my 2013 resolutions is to reduce plastic in my life.

Currently, I use plastic yogurt containers, tupperwares, and freezer bags for carrying lunch to work and for storing leftovers in the fridge and freezer. I have been wanting to get glass containers for food storage, but putting it off because large plastic yogurt containers are plentiful and always multiplying in my home, and glassware is expensive. Also because plastic is lighter and less dangerous for carrying lunch to work on my bicycle. But I should just suck it up and buy a set of glass containers - or maybe metal. My two concerns are needing containers that are compact so they won't take up too much room in my biking bag and are airtight so they won't leak (being that I carry my change of clothes in the same bag to work).

I also want to buy reusable cloth bags for buying bulk goods at the grocery store and more jars to store dry goods at home. Lately, I've been stocking up on such a large variety of bulk goods that they just end up staying in their plastic bags once they make it to my kitchen cabinet. I tried to buy some cloth bags a few years ago, but they were too small and too likely to spill.

I already use a stainless steel Sigg as my water bottle. I continue to try to choose beer from the tap or glass bottles rather than cans whenever available (Which is a shame because one of my favorite breweries, Sixpoint, chose to sell their beer in cans because cans are less energy intensive to produce and transport than glass...everyone should just get BPA out of cans.)

I can also ask cashiers if they have the option of not printing my receipt, so that neither of us have to handle receipts.

One thing I'm not sure how to get around is storing slices of bread in my freezer, since I can't go through a loaf quickly enough to keep it in the bread box. This has been discussed before in the comments on My Plastic Free Life with no real solution.

I also can't talk about plastic without acknowledging that a big use of plastic in my life over the past year and a half has been storing my clothes in plastic bags  due to ongoing bed bug problems (It's standard protocol in order to keep them from hiding in your stuff and from carrying them around to other places.) It's been easier to just keep my clothes in the bags then have to reclean all of them every time the problem recurs. Some of my clothes actually have that plastic smell from being in bags for so long. It is what it is and I've had to accept it. Hopefully, I can move past my paranoia enough to take my clothes out of bags soon.

Silent Spring has some more suggestions for simple steps to avoid BPA and phthalates in food. Can you think of anything I'm missing? Are there any changes you made to eliminate plastic from your life?

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Friday Question: Much Ado About Junk Food?

Hot Cheetos: a favorite snack provided by parents at my son's school.

I'm Eco-novice. Kindergarten snack is my nemesis.

Can I gripe here for a moment?

Each day my son gets a snack, provided by a parent, at the end of afternoon Kindergarten (noon to 3:30 pm). Parents take turns bringing snacks. Originally, snack happened during class, but then the teacher decided that snack was taking up too much class time, and moved the snack to the end of the day. I think this is kind of odd all by itself. Why hand out a snack after class when each parent can just bring their own snack or take their kid home for a snack? The long and short of it is, I get to see the snack my son receives every day. He usually eats it in the car on the way home.

Yesterday he came out with a fruit roll-up as well as a bag of pink lemonade to drink. I glanced at the packaging and ingredients of the fruit roll-up:
Fruit Roll-ups: Strawberry Naturally Flavored (Fruit Flavored Snack)
Ingredients: Pears from Concentrate, Corn Syrup, Dried Corn Syrup, Sugar, Partially Hydrogenated Cottonseed Oil, Contains 2% or less of: Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Acetylated Monoglycerides, Fruit Pectin, Dextrose, Malic Acid, Vitamin C, Natural Flavor, Color (red 40, yellows 5 & 6, blue 1)
My main objections to this fruit snack are:
  1. Too much sugar, including corn syrup, which I avoid all together
  2. Hydrogenated oils
  3. Artificial colors
See, I'm not even going to address the impact on the environment of this snack. Let's just focus on children's health for the moment. Isn't that nifty how the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th ingredients are all sugar? Good thing they split those up so sugar or corn syrup wasn't the first ingredient! You know, shopping as I do almost exclusively outside conventional grocery stores, I had kind of forgotten that this type of kid-marketed junk "food" even existed.

If this were a once in a while thing, I would look the other way, as I generally do when it comes to food other people serve my kids. But almost every day he exits school with a snack like this. Never mind that school-wide newsletters often come home reminding parents to bring only healthy foods low in sugar to school for celebrations and snacks. I remember the day I watched a dad walk a case of blue Gatorade to the classroom to hand out as the kids left. Several parents have brought Little Caesars pizza. Several others have brought popsicles. I do not consider any of those things "snacks." I'm not sure if parents are trying to one-up each other or if this is a popularity contest or what. These snacks make school lunch look good.

I now have a stash of granola bars, Annie's gummy rabbits, and 100% juice drinks in the trunk of my car that I trade with my son for the snacks that are unacceptable to me. Sometimes there are willing exchanges, sometimes forced trades (and even tears shed) depending on how affronted I am by the particular snack. Sometimes I wonder what my son must think when I tell him that the snacks another parent brought are not good for his body and I'm not going to let him eat them. I worry that eventually he'll say something impolite when someone offers him the snack.

Several times, I have suggested to my son's teacher that we just eliminate the snack all together, since it's at the end of school anyway. I have also suggested that she print on the snack calendar that snacks should be as healthy as possible and low in sugar. Neither has happened.

What is so painful to me is that my son attends a school that is predominantly low-income Hispanic immigrants. I used to teach this exact population and I know the statistic: half of these kids will have type 2 diabetes by the time they are adults. My Hispanic father-in-law is borderline type 2 diabetic. I am sure that many of these kids will be overweight by the end of elementary school. How can all these parents really think these are acceptable "snack" foods for their children?

But I try to tread carefully. Because even typing this I fear I come off as an obnoxious elitist snob. I am one of two white parents in the class, and also probably one of the better educated parents in the class. I'm not quite sure which is more condescending: to blame the parents for making such poor choices, or to blame the food industry for duping parents into thinking these products are "foods" acceptable for their children's consumption. Is it unrealistic to ask parents to make better choices in the face of such poor choices? Does it promote too much of a nanny state or is it too paternalistic to say we shouldn't allow such foods to be marketed and sold? Am I overreacting to the ingredients of my son's daily snacks?

So, Boothers, I ask you:
  • How worked up do you get about junk food offered to your children? 
  • How would you handle this situation? 
  • What uncomfortable children's food situations have you dealt with?
Photo credit: Calgary Reviews


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