Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Earth Month in Closing - My Favourite Everyday Green Practices and Products

Earth Month may be drawing to a close, but environmentally sound practices should be taken to heart year-round!

Go organic.  As a nutritionist, this is my number one initiative to improve not just my clients' and my own health, but the health of the world at large.  Yes, buying everything organic gets expensive.  Learning to shop around for sales and deals, taking advantage of in-store "points" systems, and maximizing one's use of online coupons and offers, as well as knowing which vegetables and fruits are "safer" than others to buy conventional using the EWG's Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists, are all very helpful practices to make going organic easier on your wallet.
Farmers' market season is also fast approaching, and clean local picked-this-morning produce can often be found at better-than-supermarket prices.  Ask questions, shop around - and see if you can haggle a little!
And of course, try to grow your own!  If space is a concern, consider creative solutions such as aero- or hydroponic setups and "living wall" gardening.  I've seen this, this, and this popping up on Facebook recently.
 Or go small and try sprouting some organic seeds in your kitchen, either by Googling around for instructions or picking up a sprouting kit with complete instructions and materials.

AquaFarm photo from - little fishy friend,
plus homegrown veggies!  Sounds good to me.
Eat less animal produce.  It's well-known that it takes a lot of resources to produce a pound of meat or cheese than it does a pound of grain or vegetable.  The UN also urges a global reduction in animal foods consumption to help reduce the strain on resources such as fresh water and viable soil that would be used for irrigation and monoculture, respectively, of crops destined to feed livestock.  Reducing the amount of animal-based foods you eat in a day or a week has benefits for your health and helps contribute to the reduction of demand for these products, especially those coming from unsustainable factory farms.  Start small.  Consider instituting a Meatless Monday meal plan once a week.  If you are not ready or don't want to go completely meat-free, choosing more ethically-sourced, organic certified animal foods is a step in the right direction.  Again, farmers' markets can be good places to find quality local animal produce, and again, ask questions about the products you're interested in to make an informed choice.

Green your routine.  Take a look at your stash of toiletries and beauty products.  Try looking for green alternatives for your shampoo, soap, makeup, toothpaste, etc.  Green products are often biodegradable, not tested on animals and/or made with only vegan-friendly ingredients, can be free of harmful chemicals such as phthalates and parabens, and may also come in recycled/recyclable/compostable packaging.  I love Green Beaver deodorant and toothpaste, and locally-produced Purple Urchin bath products.  Live Clean has an extensive line of vegan-friendly shampoos, styling products, baby care products, body washes, etc., and can easily be found in a lot of grocery and drugstores, as well as health food and eco-shops.  If you feel adventurous, why not try making your own beauty products, such as deodorant, face masks, body scrubs, etc.?  Pinterest can be a great resource for finding DIY toiletry recipes.

Green your kitchen.  What you cook your food with, what you serve it with, how you store the leftovers, how you dispose of food waste, what you use to clean the counters and dishes... there's a lot you can do just in your kitchen.
For cooking, consider using ceramic-coated pans instead of Teflon if you want non-stick.  Teflon coatings quickly erode at high heat, releasing harmful PFCs into the air - and may make you and especially your pets sick!  Stainless steel and cast iron pans are also good options.
Try switching out plastic cooking spoons, spatulas, and even cutting boards and travel cutlery for some made with recycled or sustainable materials like bamboo or hemp.
Trade plastic containers, cellophane wrap, and one-use baggies for stainless steel, Pyrex, or silicone to take in your lunch bag.  Reusable snack bags are available in many sizes and styles for trail mix to veggies to sandwiches.  Silicone bowl covers replace plastic wrap, and are usually designed to create a vacuum seal.  I especially like reusing the jars that my nut butters, sauces, and salsas are sold in.  I keep a variety of different sizes, from small jam and spice jars to large mason-style soup jars, and I use them to store anything from homemade soups and sauces and partial contents of cans of beans, to salad-in-a-jar and fresh juice, to single servings of vinegar and olive oil dressing and protein powder for my post-workout shake.
If you cook with oil, switch out vegetable oil, which is typically made from soybean, canola, and/or cottonseed oils, as well as corn oil.  These are some of the most genetically-modified crops in the world, and are sprayed with increasing quantities of ecosystem-ravaging pesticides that many, if not most, of these crops have been engineered to tolerate.  Palm oil may be another ingredient in vegetable oils, but is available on its own.  It's also questionable due to some manufacturers' harvesting practices, resulting in deforestation and the loss of animal habitats, notably orangutans in Borneo and Sumatra.  Some companies insist that they follow sustainable harvesting practices to produce their red palm oil, but it may still be better to choose something else in order to reduce overall demand for this product.  Bonus: The Orangutan Project page linked above also gives a list of words to watch for on ingredients lists in your food, toiletries, and cleaning products to help you better avoid palm oil.
NatureMill kitchen/outdoor
composter photo from - cool
contraption makes my wishlist!
I recently saw a cool contraption at my local all-things-eco-store for converting your kitchen waste into compost at a much faster rate than just putting it out in a bin outside to decompose.  You add your compostables as you produce them, turn it on, and within a couple of weeks you have a couple of gallons of fresh compost to use in your garden.  This could be a great solution for urban gardeners who have little space and/or are concerned about maintaining a compost heap in their backyard, but don't want to toss all their scraps in the city's green bins or the trash.  It's definitely made my wishlist!

There are just so many ways to reduce our footprint on the planet beyond what we eat and how we care for ourselves.  Remember to be mindful year-round!  What are some of your practices?

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