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.

Our incredible potential for keeping waste out of the landfill

This pie chart from the US EPA represents the waste profile of a typical municipality.

Waste profile

Do you notice what I notice?

  • Over a quarter of our waste is organic (food or yard trimmings), which is completely compostable
  • Another quarter is paper, which is almost entirely recyclable
  • 8% is plastics, much of which is recyclable
  • 1% is metal, which is recyclable
  • 2% is wood, which can be composted or repurposed for fuel

Add up those numbers and you can see that if we recycled, composted or otherwise diverted everything possible, we could keep at least three-quarters of our waste out of the landfill (and that’s not including glass, which is recyclable in many places).

That would greatly reduce the need for fresh resources; and vastly extend the lives of our landfills.

So – what’s in your trash bin right now?  If you’re not diverting everything you can, why not make a commitment right now?

Take a minute to imagine the potential if we all recycled and composted everything we could – then do your part to make it happen!

The unsavory side of polyester

Polyester, once the object of fashion ridicule, is probably the most common synthetic material in clothing today.  It’s strong, wrinkle resistant and moisture resistant.

But polyester is a type of plastic, and in recent years a very significant problem has come to light: it sheds tiny fibres, especially during washing.  These microfibers are often too small to be filtered out by sewage treatment plants and thus end up in our waterways and oceans.  A 2016 study estimated that synthetic fleece jackets released 1.7 grams of microfibers every wash.  And now they’re showing up in fish and seafood too.  (Watch The Story of Microfibers here.)

What to do?

  • Where possible, avoid polyester and choose clothing made of natural fibers like cotton or wool
  • If it has to be polyester, choose high quality as it sheds less
  • Wash polyester clothing as little as possible and on as gentle a wash cycle as possible
  • If you’re up for it, contact manufacturers to express your concern and ask them to research and develop better products. Polyester shedding is a global issue, and all textile manufacturers will need to be part of the solution.

Our waterways and oceans are worth it.

A truly green thumb!

March 28, 2017

Use compostable or biodegradable pots for your spring plantings

If you’re like me, the longer days and warmer sun have you digging out seeds and potting soil.  When starting plants indoors, why not consider using compostable or biodegradable pots instead of plastic ones?  Here are a few options:

  • Peat pots: very common commercially
  • Cardboard: egg cartons work really well; so do empty paper towel or toilet paper rolls trimmed to size (picture here).
  • Newspaper: ever tried origami? With a bit of folding, you can easily make your own pots; here’s a nice video showing how.  (It’s a good idea to avoid coated or heavily coloured paper.)

Another advantage over plastic: no need to remove them or risk damaging roots when transplanting, because they’re completely biodegradable!

More and more commercial nurseries are moving away from plastic pots; so why not you and me too?

Protect your assets from climate change threats

If you think climate change isn’t an issue for investors, think again.  Climate change will bring costly extreme weather events; new rules and regulations; disruptive technology; changed buying patterns and more.

A recent report by the world’s largest institutional fund management company, BlackRock Investment Institute, states, “We believe climate factors have been underappreciated and underpriced.”  The report concludes, “We see climate-proofing portfolios as a key consideration for all asset owners.”

Are your investments and pensions protected?  Here are a few strategies to help ensure they are.

Better ways to wrap

Wrapping paper, long a part of our holiday traditions, has an unfortunate downside: it’s not recyclable.  That’s because it usually has a very high ink content, may be laminated with non-paper materials and may have plastic, ribbons and glitter mixed in.

The good news: there are MANY alternatives to wrapping paper that can be as fun and festive.  Here are a few:

  • Paper gift bags that can be used over and over; or even home-decorated lunchbags
  • Fabric bags with festive designs
  • Festive scarves, or a square of seasonal fabric from your local fabric shop
  • Newspaper, especially the comics page; or any page decorated with homemade art
  • Cans, jars, baskets or tins (my wife intercepted a beautiful, large cookie tin on its way to the trash at a recent office event!)
  • Old calendars or maps (which can be big enough to wrap just about anything!)
  • Leftover wallpaper scraps

Seasons greetings and best wishes for 2017!

santa

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!

Popcorn, beverages – and something to talk about

Have you seen Leonardo DiCaprio’s new National Geographic documentary, “Before the Flood”?  Released last month, the 95 minute movie offers a great overview of the causes of climate change (and other environmental challenges we face); and then bridges over to the solutions we need.  It features interviews with Barack Obama, Pope Francis, Elon Musk and more.

From the Obama interview, this prophetic exchange:

Dicaprio: “Somebody that comes into office that does not believe in the science of climate change – do they have the capacity and the power to dismantle everything that you’ve already worked for?”

Obama: “Even if somebody came in campaigning on denying climate science, reality has a way of… hitting you in the nose if you’re not paying attention.  And I think that the public is starting to realize the science – in part because it’s indisputable.”

Before the Flood is informative and thought-provoking – a perfect reason for a party-with-purpose.  Watch the entire documentary on YouTube here, and then get talking!

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!