2017 holds some exciting developments for Waste Not, and the most exciting one is…. we’re opening up our project to include Melissa Nygren and Reuben Ditmars, AND we now have a facebook community blossoming HERE.
This is a group for Saskatoonians who are seeking to be conscious about their impact on and relationship with nature, in part through waste reduction. Small, collective action has big impact. We will be posting monthly zero-waste challenges with sweet, locally sponsored prizes to get the ball rolling, so check back often!
CHALLENGE NUMBER ONE
For 7 days, bag and keep your household garbage (rather than putting it in your black bin), and take a picture of the result!
The purpose of our first challenge is to start to simply notice how much packaging and waste is involved in our average day-to-day, and how easily we can take it for granted. We suggest bagging it and storing it somewhere cold like a back porch to see how much your household generates over a 7 day span.
PRIZE: Donated by the amazing Green Tree Beauty, Woods Body Goods’ Paddock Wood Beer soap (fully recyclable packaging, locally created) and all-natural deodorant, two Brush Naked (fully biodegradable) tooth brushes, Green Tree Beauty’s custom coconut oil lip balm, and Northlore’s Lowlands Body Oil in a re-usable glass bottle. Total value of $75.
TO ENTER: post your picture of your 7 days of garbage in the Waste Not group, and then share Cass’ original challenge post from the group onto your own timeline. The winner will be randomly selected on the morning of February 1st!
Recently, I had the happy fortune to bump into Jennilee Cardinal-Schultz over at Alchemy Clothing and Salon (if you haven’t checked out this badass crew of women yet, you’re missing out!), and was pleasantly surprised to hear that she had been following my and Jesse’s Waste Not adventures! Jennilee told me about her new project, Green Tree Beauty, and wondered if I’d be interested in trying a few samples. Interested? Yes. Very yes.
Jennilee has really started something special here. Her products are all vegan, toxin/paraben-free, cruelty-free, with natural ingredients. An extra degree of care has been put into the packaging choices for her products (obviously something we really look for with Waste Not). AND! She’s planting a tree for every product purchased through the company. Reading all of this, I was really excited to check out the products she gave me.
I immediately recruited one of my closest friends, Kathleen Kelly to help me test out the Green Tree goodies, as Kathleen is both passionate about eco-friendly options, and much more make-up savvy than I could ever hope to be. We divvied up the supplies, and took them home for a thorough trial run. Short answer: we loved everything, and will definitely be buying more through Green Tree. Long answer: read on!
#1 Brush Naked Bamboo Toothbrush
I loved this little toothbrush. A few stats: the handle is biodegradable. The bristles are recyclable (unlike a lot of other bamboo brushes, my other one included), and it comes in 100% biodegradable cello wrap. It’s bristles were lovely, and after two months of use are still neat and tidy and doing the job. I’ll definitely buy another when this one gets tossed in my compost bin!
We both tried and enjoyed this lovely cleanser! It didn’t dry out our skin (which is great – both Kathleen and I really struggle with our dry prairie winters!), was non-foaming, and was super gentle on our eyes. It’s vegan, and made from all-natural ingredients in Vancouver. It came in a glass and bamboo bottle that could easily be reused, and the box would need to be recycled. Personally, I don’t usually use much for soap/cleansers on my face, because I find that just water washing works best with my natural oils, but if I find myself in need I would buy Viva again. Glass packaging is a major plus, because it stands up to reuse much better than plastic.
Viva Organics has a massive line of beautiful skin-care products, which I would recommend checking out HERE.
#3 Sweet LeiLani Foundation
This vegan, and paraben/fragrance-free foundation provided really beautiful coverage. I used this product primarily as a concealer, and it had great staying power, blending perfectly under my usual matte powder. Kathleen used it for full face coverage under her usual powder, and found it to be very light and easy to work with. This brand also has an amazing mission, as they state on their website: “The foundation of Sweet LeiLani Cosmetic Lounge was built from a desire to help women, men and children who suffer silently from the effects of Cancer, Burns, and Scarring through the power of Makeup and Paramedical Tattooing procedures.” More on that, and their full range of products HERE.
As far as packaging goes, the metal tin that it comes in would likely be possible to recycle, but less practical to reuse due to size. I would use this product as a concealer, and only go through one every few years, and I really do like all of its other characteristics.
#4 Elate Cosmetics Pressed Eye Colour
This was by far my favourite product that we tested out! Elate really takes their minimal packaging to the next level. The bamboo palette is reusable, and the pressed eye colour is packaged in seed paper which you can either plant to grow flowers, or compost. Total waste: a cubic inch slip of plastic, and the little piece of metal that the eye colour is pressed into (likely recyclable). The products are all vegan, cruelty-free, and toxin-free. I loved the colour and shine to these earthy neutrals, and Kathleen felt that they were much better than their Arbonne/Body Shop counterparts. In comparison to pricier make-up like Urban Decay, Elate was almost as pigmented, and lasted just as well (for a fraction of the cost, and a much better ecological footprint). Bottom line, we both loved Elate, and are really excited to check out their other products including mascara, lipstick, and matte powder.
Check out all that Elate has to offer HERE.
Overall, we are both really excited about Green Tree Beauty, and what it means for sustainable products in Saskatoon! Admittedly, some of the products were still a bit heavy on the packaging side for me, but even then, they’re all much better than their drugstore counterparts which typically come in layers of packaging and plastic. Kathleen and I are both happy to find such a reliable source of ethically sound makeup and skin care; it’s refreshing to find a retailer who is doing all of the background checking for us, rather than us needing to check everything and spend time researching on our own. And again, it doesn’t get any better than Green Tree Beauty planting a tree for every purchase made!
Waste Not yxe is definitely a Green Tree customer.
Holy cow, guys! It’s been a WHOLE YEAR since we embarked on our Waste Not project! This past year has been truly transformative for us both, and there’s still so much more that we continue to learn and adjust as we go. We just wanted to take a moment to say THANK YOU for reading our blog, weighing in when we ask for help (or when we think we have it all figured out and it turns out we don’t), and generally being along with us on our journey.
We are super excited to keep sharing what we find with you all, and have a few fun posts planned for the upcoming weeks. So stay tuned! ❤
A couple of months ago I set out to replenish my supply of socks with ones that would be repairable and not end up in the garbage when they wore out. I also wanted to see if I could acquire them through non-monetized exchange (see Charles Eisenstein and his book Sacred Economics for more on that concept). With a little bit of effort on Facebook, I eventually had a friend come through with a set of wool socks that her grandmother had made, and in exchange I gave her a mix-tape of a bunch of music that I’ve been liking lately.
Last week came the fateful day when these hand-me-down socks succumbed to the forces of entropy and needed to be darned. Here is my story:
I started out by heading to Prairie Lily Knitting to pick up some yarn and a darning needle. (I have dreams of eventually collecting our dog’s shed hair and getting someone to spin it into yarn… but for now the commercial variety will have to do). Having managed to squeeze my way out of the conversation in which the middle aged woman behind the counter congratulated me on not getting my mom to darn my socks for me, I made it to the car with my new implements in hand and my pocket four dollars lighter.
After a little bit of informative Youtube-ing (ahhh, so relaxing…), I was ready to begin. It is not a complex process. You basically turn the sock inside out and stick a tennis ball in it. Then stitch horizontally across the hole, then vertically going over under over under, then I went ahead and did a diagonal stitch as well just for good measure.
The pictures are perhaps a little difficult to parse. But watch the relaxing Youtube video above and you’ll know everything you need to in about 3 minutes. It’s definitely not rocket science.
So there you have it! Now my sock is as good as new… Or indeed probably better than new in the place that it’s darned! Here it is turned back right side out, and ready to encase my foot.
After this I even went ahead and darned a couple of other socks because I was on a roll. My pair of woolies worked fine, and even my thin dejected Walmart socks patched up very nicely. My friends this is the Promised Land… and the socks are warm and cozy.
The WasteNot project continues to evolve our approach to feeding ourselves, and the last couple of weeks have had some interesting new developments. The most obvious of those has been a big batch of home-brewed apple cider. Let me tell you all about it!
My friend Jordan called me up asking what I was up to that afternoon, and if I was interested in harvesting a neighbour’s apple tree with him. Which of course I was. One interesting side effect of this project has been an open-ness to spontaneity that I didn’t have before. This kind of zero-waste food comes in what I like to call “inconvenient abundance”. In order to take advantage of it you need to be willing to drop what you’re doing and jump on the opportunity. Plus… It’s fun!
So the two of us put in a couple of hours with bags and a ladder and hauled away about as many apples as the two of us could carry (maybe 150 lbs?). After a summer of community apple abundance our freezer is already *full* of apple sauce and frozen apple slices, so I decided that with this batch I wanted to attempt a new (or rather, very old) preservation method. I wanted to juice the apples and ferment them just enough that they would keep over the winter without being refrigerated. I’m relatively convinced that the collapse of civilization is imminent, so the idea of obtaining and preserving food in a low-tech, DIY manner has becoming more and more central to my existence of late (more on that later?).
Once I got them home, I spent about a week slowly plugging away at getting the apples processed. Jordan and I chopped them and froze them (to break the cell walls), and after they thawed we created a makeshift apple press out of a couple of buckets and a ratchet strap. The resulting juice was a glorious deep red, and already a little bit fizzy from the fermentation that had begun to take place. The mostly dry pulp went into my newly built second compost bin.
Here’s a picture of the juice in it’s bucket after a few more days of fermentation. The formation on top was a mixture of the wild yeast doing the actual fermenting and the foam springing from the resulting bubbles of carbon dioxide.
My next move was to skim that gunk off of there and transfer the juice into a bunch of growlers that I had kicking around. I picked up some airlocks from Harvest Brewing Company who were super friendly and helpful with all of the questions I had.
The airlock prevents oxygen from getting at the juice, which keeps the bad bacteria from proliferating and allows the yeast to eat all of the sugar and make alcohol. Once this process is finished I’ll likely need to syphon the fluid off of the remaining fruit sediment, but that won’t be for a while yet.
Now these growlers are sitting on top of our fridge. I’m keeping an eye on them to see when the airlocks stop bubbling so I can put a lid on them and get them into our cold room. It could take a few weeks, it could take a few months. The process is unpredictable because I’m relying on the wild yeast instead of industrial champagne yeast, but I’m pretty all right with that. Life if unpredictable and I figure it’s probably best to be able to roll with the punches, so to speak. Ultimately, if the end of the world as we know it is indeed at hand, who knows if industrial champagne yeast will be available?
Here’s me sharing a few glasses of the pre-growler, very-mild, mostly juice-like cider with some friends. Group consensus was favourable all around. I’m really looking forward to trying out the finished product 🙂
I’m not sure that I’ve said it in as many words before, but our Waste Not project is incredibly empowering, in so many ways. One of those ways is coming to understand my purchasing power – the ability to affect change simply by choosing where and how I spend my money.
In the past, I wasn’t too concerned with where my goods were coming from, or how durable they were. Oftentimes if I needed something I’d simply drive past Walmart on my way home and grab whatever was cheap (only to replace it down the road because of said cheapness). It was easy for me to distance myself from basically every ethical concern, from sweatshop labour through to shady corporate practices taking a toll on our ecosystems, instead prioritizing my “need” to have something immediately.
Our Waste Not project has helped me to redefine a lot of things for myself; my sense of what qualifies as a “need” rather than a “want” has certainly shifted, and my understanding of “cost” has broadened to include more than just the price tag on an item. The result is that I buy a lot less, more thoughtfully, and more proactively (though there are still those “oh crap, I need this thing, and I need it now!” moments every once in a while!).
Initially, I was more paralyzed than empowered by my new-found sense of ethical responsibility. I literally wandered around barefoot for a few weeks in the summer when my old flip flop sandals fell apart, because somehow that seemed easier than actually researching where to find sandals that weren’t made in a sweatshop. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all of the many options, opinions, and factors to consider in the conscious purchasing process, so I try to make a bit of a plan when I need to buy things now, so that I’m not indecisive and panicked when I get to the checkout.
Here are a few things I like to keep in mind when shopping these days:
1. Buy or Trade Used
This one is an easy answer to most of my immediate needs! I like to check out Value Village or the Village Green (on 20th Street) when there’s something I need. I also like to know a bit about the thrift shop I’m supporting; some are privately owned, some are run by a non-profit, and sometimes it’s a simple as taking advantage of a yard sale, clothing swap, or hand-me-down opportunity (My sister Sam usually checks if I want any of her old clothing before donating it, and that’s pretty sweet.)
Back in early summer, I bought an old mountain bike from a friend and began my new life as a bike commuter (more details on how AWESOME biking is will be in another blog post). The bike needed some repairs, and I discovered the Bridge City Bicycle Co-op. A yearly membership costs $20, and gets you the experience and assistance of their knowledgeable volunteers to help you learn how to fix and maintain your own bike. Parts are available by donation. What a beautiful system!
2. Read the Label
What material is your shirt made of? Where was it made and how far did it travel to get here? What brand is it, and what can you find online about that brand? There are many sites online that have so much information on the environmental and human impact of various brands, and it feels really good to enter a store knowing that they carry a brand that meets your criteria!
I love shopping at the Better Good, because they have an absolute wealth of Canadian-manufactured goods, and are committed to sustainable consumer solutions. I’ve had great luck with toiletries, clothing, kitchen items, and cleaning supplies there so far! I also really love the brand prAna (available at Outter Limits) – many of their products are made with hemp (arguably the best environmental option for textiles on the market right now), and they are beautifully structured garments. When I finally solved my sandal dilemma, I ended up purchasing a pair of Sanuk sandals from Clothes Cafe (the banner picture for this post), which are ingeniously crafted from recycled yoga mats! They are as comfortable as you would think.
How many things do you own that you use once, or seasonally, or actually not at all, but you keep it because Aunt Martha gave it to you? This particular tidbit is probably in lots of other peoples’ wheelhouses, but it was new to me! I’ve been able to lend and borrow quite a few things over the past few months (from tools we needed for renovations to a massive projector that we needed for a show we were putting on at the Academy), rather than purchase. The net result? I save money, there’s no need for me and my neighbours to own duplicates of everything, especially if we’re not consistently using them, and I’m forming relationships through interdependence with the people around me. Again, probably not news to many of you readers, but “old me” definitely would have just gone and bought a projector.
Ultimately, my foray into being more intentional with what my money is supporting has been very empowering. It also reminds me that in order to live, one will impact everything and everyone around them. So it’s not really about not spending money, and not having the things you need (or even the things you want), it’s just about remembering that there are a lot of industries that benefit from telling you that your dollar is only one dollar, and has very little impact – like a drop of rain in the ocean. But they are wrong, and the tide is shifting. 😉
Have I told you about my new favourite Facebook group? Well, yes I have in this post here, but I’ll tell you again because it’s just THAT GOOD!
Basically if you have an apple tree (or other food producing flora) in your backyard, and you don’t have time to harvest it’s bounty you post to Out of Your Tree in Saskatoon and your neighbours will come and take some of your excess fruit/veggies/berries off your hands.
Last week I happened to see a post about an overflowing pear tree, and was super excited because we’ve been talking about planting pears in our backyard. I am increasingly in Love with the idea of cultivating fruit trees and I was pumped to see one in action. After a couple of messages back and forth, my friend Mark and I arranged to go and harvest some pears from a home in the North end of the city. When we arrived we were not disappointed.
The pears were literally falling off of these two trees, like juicy sweet manna from heaven. Mark and I took turns shaking the various branches and gathering the fruit that rained down onto the owner’s trampoline. It was a glorious sight, let me tell you. We spent about an hour picking and loaded a big plastic tub with probably about 60 or 70 pounds.
* This tub was full when we left, the picture was taken after much sharing had already taken place 😀
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Any fruit that grows in our frigid Saskatchewan climate has got to be small and hard and sour and awful, but these pears are anything but. They’re small yes, but they’re probably the sweetest pears I’ve ever tasted, and the bland woodiness that you often encounter with supermarket pears is completely absent with these little guys. So far I’ve made a big batch of *delicious* pear sauce, dropped off bags of pears to half a dozen friends (looking forward to the pear mead one friend now has on the go), and Cass and I have hand eaten about a thousand of them. There are still a few pounds left in the fridge and they’re keeping nicely.
One of the things that really excites me about these pears, and the idea of cultivating food in general is the notion of a “10 mile diet”. I start to be able to imagine a food system that is decentralized, informal, and non-commodified. I start to be able to picture neighbourhoods, and communities being able to feed each other better than the waste-happy, nutrient poor industrialized system is able to. I think about the bonds that are formed when people exchange gifts, particularly gifts as important as food. And I think *a lot* about how the money in our current financial system is intrinsically scarce but how the things we get for free are often so abundant that you have no choice but to give them away. I think about these things, and I eat a pear that my neighbour gave me, and it feels like things are looking up.