Update on the ‘poo sitch, and my sister’s inventions

January 23, 2009

Two unrelated things for today’s post:

1. When Miss Crunchy decided to take on the No ‘Poo challenge seriously, I decided I’d follow her lead and, instead of just doing a one-off baking soda and vinegar experiment, I stuck with it. Well, it’s been a week and three washes without shampoo and while the results are decent, I’m starting to think my scalp might feel a little itchy. Anyway, I wrote about this more formally in the pages of the National Post, where I have my regular Sense & Sustainability column — in fact, one of you erudite readers had mentioned you’d like to hear what a dermatologist has to say about not using shampoo; well, check out the article and see for yourself!


2. In non-enviro-related news, my sister has started blogging. A word of warning: She may look like me, but we are nothing alike in personality! Actually, that’s not entirely true… we’re fairly similar, especially when it comes to cynicism. But I’m definitely the older, serious, competitive, concerned-about-many-things-such-as-the-state-of-the-environment sibling, whereas she’s more into fashion and luxury indulgences. Emma is currently working as a copywriter at a Toronto ad agency, but she’s using this new blog to write about all the other ideas that pop into her head (they’re basically inventions she comes up with that are genuinely cool but she can’t be bothered to patent any of them). It’s called Emma’s Tea Shop for Old Ladies because that’s always been her career back-up plan. Oh, and another word of warning: I gave her a DivaCup for Christmas and she had some… er… issues with certain steps in the… er… process, so apparently she’s gone back to tampons for now (don’t worry, though — I haven’t given up on converting her yet!).


Three things I love about Meghan’s sprouting video

January 21, 2009

My friend Meghan, a fashionista-turned-nutritionista, has been posting lots of How-To videos on her blog, Making Love in the Kitchen. Most of them I just like to watch, rather than actually attempt myself (I’m thinking specifically of the sauerkraut demo that requires 10 minutes of massaging cabbage and the chicken soup that involves raw bones and scum). But her most recent video, called Sprout, Sprout, Let It All Out, is very cool. You can watch it here:

There are three things about this video that I love:

  1. The costume changes. On most cooking shows, if the host makes something that requires a few hours to sit or cool or whatever, she will have conveniently made a previous batch ahead of time to pull out of the fridge (and will usually say something like, “… I have one ready, here,” and suddenly presto! It’s done and there’s no actual waiting required. But Meghan has clearly produced this sprouting demo over the span of three or four days, and we get lots of variation in her wardrobe and hairstyles to prove it. Actually, I think there’s a direct correlation between the growth of her sprouts and the curliness of her hair.
  2. The I’ve Been Re-Used sticker on her kitchen soap dispenser (which I designed, and which you can order online over here. Stick them on anything you refill at the bulk store and let the world know you’re not consuming more plastic).
  3. The Sprouting! It actually does seem very easy and it’s probably the most nutritious, eco-friendly thing a Canadian girl can make in the comfort of her own home during this heinous winter.

Do you guys make your own sprouts, too? Any favourite beans or seeds?

The Dark Side of The Farm

January 19, 2009

Reader Mark just sent me the link to this hysterical Star Wars spoof, starring Obi Wan Cannoli, Ham Solo, Darth Tater and Chewbroccoli. It takes place in the aisles of a futuristic grocery store and reveals the horrible truths behind the dark side of the farm. Check it out:

From the Pantry to the Bathroom: Pee and Cinnamon

January 17, 2009


OK, first off, don’t worry — there isn’t any actual urine sitting in that bottle. But it sure looks like pee, doesn’t it? (That stuff in the bottle on the left, by the way, is baking soda and water, which refuse to interact with one another unless shaken vigorously). Anyway, this is besides the point. The point is: After one failed attempt last year to wash my hair with nothing but vinegar, I decided to give the whole natural approach to hair maintenance another shot.

Reader Melinda over at One Green Generation convinced me that her homemade system would leave my hair shiny and clean without also leaving me with an I’ve-just-spent-all-day-at-a-fish-and-chip-shop smell.

Needless to say, I was skeptical. However, as part of my new semi-regular series From the Pantry to the Bathroom, I want to make more of an effort to try new things — more specifically, new homemade things.

So I took a few minutes this morning to assemble the recipe, then followed her directions, which go like this:

1. Use an old shampoo bottle (well-rinsed) or a squeeze bottle. Mix 1 part aluminum-free baking soda to 3 parts water. Each time you use this solution, shake well to mix.

2. Squeeze the baking soda solution onto your dry scalp, then massage your scalp for several seconds.

3. Leave in for 1-3 minutes, and rinse completely.

4. In an old shampoo bottle (well-rinsed) or a squeeze bottle, mix 1 part organic white vinegar to 4 parts water. You can add essential oils or herbs if you like – I add 1 cinnamon stick and 1/2 tsp vanilla. This masks the vinegar smell, and leaves your hair smelling spicy and lovely.

5. Leave on hair for several seconds, then rinse.

I must say, it’s a bit awkward trying to pour watery liquid onto your head without having it run everywhere. The reason regular shampoos and conditioners tend to come in gel-like consistencies is so that you can squeeze a dollop on your noggin, put it down, then gradually work it into a lather until it disperses evenly. But with these mixtures, you tend to get a lot in one place and very little in others.

At least they both felt nice on my scalp, and there weren’t any major problems in terms of rinsing them out in the shower.

However, I do have long hair, so it felt like I required a LOT of this stuff. At least it was cheap.

Blow-drying my hair, I sensed it was taking longer than usual and got the occasional whiff of vinegar (this might be my fault, though — Melinda suggests using white vinegar, and I chose to stick with apple cider because I thought it smelled less offensive… maybe my olfactory senses are messed up). Still, I persevered, then brushed it out.

The result? Well, see for yourself:


Not too shabby, eh? (This is my bedroom, by the way — I was trying to get some natural light on it.) So far, it doesn’t smell at all, which is a good thing, although it’s not necessarily softer or shinier than it usually is. I think the real test will be how long it lasts — if it’s greasy by tomorrow morning, I’m definitely docking points.

Overall, I’m kind of semi-pleased with this Pantry to the Bathroom experiment. It’s obviously a better option than using chemical-heavy brand-name shampoos and conditioners, but considering I already use all-natural stuff and make a point of refilling it from the bulk store, I don’t know that this is really reducing my carbon footprint by that much.

What do you guys think? Are you into this whole no ‘poo movement or is it not worth the fuss?

Cue the Hallelujah Chorus!

January 10, 2009


All my fellow Torontonians, please note: Our fair city now recycles plastic bags and Styrofoam! While this doesn’t exactly mean you can forget about tote bags and coffee thermoses, it does mean that when you screw up, you’ll be hurting Mother Earth a little less… kind of like slapping her across the face rather than punching her in the gut.


Photo courtesy of meckleychina on Flickr.

The Grateful Homesteader

January 8, 2009


There are so many green books coming out right now, it’s kind of gross. In fact, I’m partly to blame for this (sorry). But amongst all the useless tomes about how to be eco-chic and the innumerable how-to guides are a select few books truly worth reading. What makes a green book good? Well, in my humble opinion, it has to be honest and unpretentious, funny in some ways and serious in others, and above all, it has to offer something enlightening while still being accessible.

Recently, I came across a book that captured all of this. It’s called Sleeping Naked is Green. Ha! Kidding. OK, seriously, it’s called Made From Scratch, by Jenna Woginrich (she explains it in this YouTube vid — warning: extremely cute close-ups of bunnies with twitching noses).

At first, my lingering insecurities led to envy at this author being able to accomplish such immense ecological and writerly feats at the tender age of 26, but after the first few sentences of her book, I just wanted to move into her cozy sustaina-shack and spend the rest of my days knitting sweaters from whichever sheep was closest, prancing around the organic garden with a rickety fiddle, checking in on the bee hive every now and then to see how the working girls are doing.

Jenna, who keeps a blog over at Cold Antler Farm, also appealed to me because she comes from a cosmopolitan, design-savvy background, and is more than familiar with all the pleasures modern conveniences can bring. Seeking a lifestyle that was more fulfilling, however, she leapt into this whole homesteading movement head-first, renting a cabin in northern Idaho. With visions of softly clucking chickens laying fresh eggs every morning for breakfast, Jenna promptly went out and bought some newborn chicks; long story short, they were even more promptly devoured by her two huskies. Lesson 1: Keep chickens away from dogs.

This is what’s great about Made From Scratch — Jenna screws up and she’s not afraid to talk about it. She simply picks herself up, does a bit more research, has a few more rounds of trial and error, and finally figures things out. The chapters are short and concise, and there are plenty of resources and tips for anyone hoping to follow a similar path.

My only complaint: I wanted more backstory, more romance, and more… well, just more, in general. The move from the east coast to Idaho isn’t really discussed, nor is her apparently single status and whether she ever gets lonely out there in the country (there’s just an occasional glimpse into how her social life has changed), and the narrative is a titch fragmented, broken into topics such as chickens, music, beekeeping, sewing, etc., rather than following a linear trajectory.

That said, Jenna is a fabulous writer with a natural gift for anecdotal storytelling, so hopefully she’ll continue to publish more stuff. My favourite line in Made From Scratch, though, has to be the one at the end of the introduction. I don’t have my copy of the book here with me, but I’m pretty sure she says something like this: “Find your own happiness and dance with it.” Indeed, my friend. Indeed.

Wait, is it possible to dance with a lemon tree?

Meyer, Meyer, Plants on Fire

January 5, 2009


You know a boyfriend is worth keeping when he gives you a Meyer lemon tree for Christmas (that’s it, above, sitting awkwardly in the middle of the room in order to receive maximum light).

I was so excited to receive this gift, not only because it meets all my green standards but because my mother happened to buy me an ice cream maker — so, if all goes according to plan, I will eventually be able to make 0.02-mile organic lemon sorbet.

I named my tree Meyer, for obvious reasons, and immediately starting tending to it; the main problem is that I have no idea how to tend. Looking at the two-foot-tall tree, which has one teensy, scrappy lemon growing as of now (it’s still green), common sense told me to wipe off the leaves with a moist cloth, give it some water and put it under as much light as possible. But honestly, folks, I’m nervous. I screwed up my tomato plant last summer, and I just don’t think it’ll be any easier caring for an entire citrus tree, especially not in Toronto, in the middle of winter, where it’s cold, dry, and dark as of 5 p.m.

Also, recently, I noticed some furry mold on top of the soil, and began to panic. There weren’t any bugs or anything and it didn’t seem overly moist, but I wasn’t sure what to do. Then, yesterday, a leaf fell off, and it was like some small, green, non-threatening and yet traumatizing memento mori. Last night, I actually had a nightmare that Meyer turned grey, withered, and died, and it was all my fault.

Maybe I’m overreacting. After all, the florist I went to see at the end of my street told me that Canadians often worry too much about their plants during the winter, and what they should really do is just keep it watered, give it light, and not bother fertilizing or transplanting or anything. In fact, his exact words were: “Don’t over-love it.”

But I have so much arboreal love to give! I’m a certified tree-hugger for crying out loud! Sigh. Anyway, we’ll see how it goes. I’m hoping Crunchy, who’s just brought in her Meyer lemon tree for the winter, will be able to help me out if I run into major trouble.

In the mean time, anyone got any advice?