Toothpaste, soap and a moisturizer/fragrance

A few years ago, our family went on a four week backpacking vacation.  If you’ve ever backpacked, you know ounces count – so one of our weight-saving strategies was to limit our toiletries to one tube of toothpaste, a small bar of soap, a bit of moisturizing cream and some sunblock.  Light and simple, they suited our needs perfectly.

Akamai, a new personal care company, suggests that most of us could live on just three personal care products: toothpaste, soap (for skin and hair) and an oil spray for fragrance and moisture. So that’s all it offers.

Akamai’s motivation isn’t weight in your backpack; it’s sustainability and simplicity.  In the words of the co-founder, “Typical personal care product companies want you to consume more of their products, so they say wash your hair and body every day.  We have been led into this false sense of what is required to have healthy skin, teeth and hair.”

Plus – more products mean more chemicals, water, packaging and transportation.

So why not consider simplifying your toiletries cupboard?  Good for you, good for your wallet, good for the environment.  And, if you travel, good for your back!

Handwashing with cool water is just as good for killing bacteria

For years we’ve been taught that, when washing hands, we have to use hot water to effectively remove bacteria.  But a new study published in the Journal of Food Protection has found no difference in washing effectiveness when hands were washed in water that was 16, 26 or 38 degrees C.  (Note: for reference, 16⁰C is a bit warmer than the water coming out of your cold water tap, but it’s colder than you’d want to swim in.)

The implication: in the words of one of the study’s authors, “We are wasting energy to heat water to a level that is not necessary.”

So – something to think about the next time you wash your hands.  Cool water is much more comfortable in summer anyway!

PS: interestingly, the biggest factor in washing effectiveness was washing technique; antimicrobial soap had little effect.

Be light on the planet this vacation

Want the best vacation with the least impact on the planet?  Here are five tips:

If flying:

  • Travel as lightly as you can; every ounce that doesn’t travel with you saves fuel (and notice how baggage charges are starting to reflect that reality?)
  • Consider offsetting your air travel with carbon offsets; not perfect, but the best in the here-and-now

And whether you’re flying or not:

  • Walk, bike, paddle or use public transit as much as possible at your destination
  • If possible, choose a hotel that has a sustainability certification like Green Key, Green Seal or Green Globe (there are others too)
  • Choose local food and bevies (often much better tasting too!)

Thanks to Bullfrog Power for these tips; read more here.

Bottled water? Just say no.

Oops… during a presentation to a high school audience last week, I let it slip that one of my greatest environmental frustrations is bottled water.

Why bottled water?  Because:

  • Most bottled water is not natural spring water, but merely filtered tap water.
  • Most bottled water is not local; it’s trucked long distances and has a huge transportation footprint.
  • The Maritimes have plenty of clean, clear water; surely it’s the last thing we should be sending our money out-of-province for!
  • Most empty water bottles are not recycled; instead, they end up in landfills, roadsides or waterways. A recent study warned that the world’s oceans may contain more plastic than fish by 2050.  Yuck!
  • The water bottles that are recycled don’t come back as bottles; they’re ‘downcycled’ into products like carpet, which eventually end up in a landfill anyway.

You can make a difference, with one simple choice: seek out a tap or fountain, and, whenever possible, just say no to bottled water. On the tree of environmental solutions, it’s hard to find lower hanging fruit.

If you’re going to have green beer, why not make it local green beer?

If your community is like mine, you’re seeing an abundance of new microbreweries producing a full spectrum of traditional and not-so-traditional types of beverages. It’s an exciting time for anyone who enjoys sampling new takes on old favourites.

Here are two more reasons to enjoy local beverages: they employ people in your own community; and they have a small transportation footprint because the distance between points of production and consumption is short.

St. Patrick’s Day – one of the best excuses for celebrating life, whether or not you’re Irish – is this Friday.  So, if you’re planning to raise your glass with friends, why not make sure what’s inside it is not only refreshing, but local too?

Blankets for your windows

February 14, 2017

Blinds and drapes really make a difference!

Sitting in my home office on a cold evening last week, I happened to look over at my window and the blind that was pulled down over it.  Out of curiousity, I reached over to check the temperature of the air behind the blind – and noticed right away how cold it was, even though my office was toasty warm.

It was proof of the difference curtains and even simple roll-up blinds can make in reducing the amount of heat that is lost through a window.

So – if you have drapes or blinds, be sure to pull them closed at night; they’re blankets for your windows, and they’ll help you save on your heating bill!

(You may want to keep blinds on the shady side of your home closed during the day too, especially if everyone’s away anyway.  On the southern, southeastern and southwestern sides of your home?  It’s probably best to leave blinds open on sunny days as you’ll likely gain a bit of heat from the sun.)

Two thoughts, many possibilities

I recently read a piece where the author confessed that her most vivid memories of childhood Christmases were not of gifts, but of people and traditions.  The author of another piece wrote that her own transition to a minimalist Christmas was prompted by waking up on too many boxing days with the sinking feeling that somehow, in the flurry of consumerism, the very best of Christmas had been missed yet again.

Two good reasons to aspire to a ‘less stuff’ holiday, and here’s a third: all that stuff isn’t very good for the planet either.

So here are some ideas to help you edge toward a stuff-less holiday:

Happy stuff-less holidays!

Post your own sign to help remind people not to idle

On the tree of emission reduction possibilities, perhaps there is no lower hanging fruit than reducing unnecessary idling.

Natural Resources Canada estimates that if every Canadian driver reduced their idling by just three minutes a day, we would reduce emissions by 1.4 million tonnes a year – the equivalent of taking 320,000 cars off the road.  We would save 630 million litres of gas a year – over half a billion dollars worth.  Just by reducing idling, a simple habit change!

Here’s what you can do:

  • Idle less: limit idling to 30 seconds for the first start of the day and 10 seconds for subsequent starts, with a little commonsense leeway in cold weather
  • Skip drive-thrus: sadly, coffee shops and fast food joints have become idling ‘centres of inexcellence’
  • Post a sign: you can find simple, non-confrontational sign designs on the internet to post at your workplace, school or business! We did at our home, and it works – visitors and customers for our free-range eggs {shameless plug} no longer idle!  Just email me if you’d like a copy of our sign..

noidling

 

Why not use alternatives to glow sticks?

In recent decades, glow sticks have become popular, especially at parties, dances, concerts – and Halloween, of course! It’s no wonder: they’re simple sources of short-term light, available in a range of fun colors.

But the post-glow reality is that they’re really not very eco-friendly:

  • They’re not recyclable: besides the color-producing chemicals, glow sticks contain chemicals to keep the plastic flexible, and those same chemicals make the plastic unsuitable for recycling.
  • We use an awful lot of them: 100 million a year, according to one website on the subject
  • Some end up in the ocean: where they may be eaten by marine life or float for a long, long time.

What to do?

  • Reduce, the first R: strive to go without when possible
  • Use alternatives: for safety, consider reflective strips; for visibility, use an LED flashlight or headlamp. (For bonus points: power them with rechargeable batteries!)

Have fun and be safe for Halloween or your next social event – but strive to do it without glow sticks!

More ideas about less stuff

September 13, 2016

Simple strategies for buying less stuff

From the Better World Handbook: “Everything you own owns you.  Everything you buy, you must maintain, store, repair, clean and perhaps insure.  Our stuff quickly becomes a psychological burden.”

Phew!  And a financial burden too, requiring more money – which means more work and less time for family, friends and fun.

Here are a few more tips to help you buy less stuff:

  1. Fix broken things instead of discarding them: a challenge, I know, in a world where more and more things are designed to be thrown away and replaced. But at the very least, it will be a learning experience!
  2. Figure out ways to reuse stuff, even things designed to be used once. For example, plastic containers and milk bags are great for freezing food.
  3. Borrow things you’ll only need rarely, like tools, movies or trucks. Get to know your neighbours and your library.
  4. Ask yourself: do I really need it? The honest answer is often no.
  5. Take a shopping list, and stick to it; don’t fall prey to clever advertising, fancy displays or colourful packaging.
  6. Avoid impulse purchases because you’ll often regret them later. If you feel the urge, promise yourself you’ll buy it next week – if you still feel the urge.

Less stuff is good for our well-being, our wallets and the planet!