Sometimes when I am researching a topic or issue for the blog or a client, I question myself if I have gone too far or not far enough? Finding that personal balance of comfort and sustainability is essential. However, there are somethings which I have come across that make me even balk at the idea of. As the saying goes “to each their own” but somethings still make me go “ummmm…. no thanks…” I spend such a large amount of time online researching my topics and scanning through facebook groups, I sometimes see the most bizarre comments or suggestions to live more sustainably, without the tongue-in-cheek answers that I would expect. So here are some of the stranger things I have read in the last 6 months which will be sure to make you cringe, laugh and cry, and what you can do instead if you’re not that committed (they did for me.)
Seeking Down Alternative – This one made me laugh and yet cry all at the same time. A woman on a Facebook group that I belong to was seeking for a replacement for her down blanket; a legitimate request especially if you have allergies to down or are a vegan and won’t use potentially cruel fibers. She questioned the group whether restuffing her duvet cover with her large dogs combed out hair would be a zero-waste and cruelty free alternative. Dog Hair. It might be because I have severe dog allergies, but this one makes me itchy instantly. So yes, I understand that many people are afraid of the potential cruelty associated with down as majority of it comes from waterfowl destined for the meat industry; however, you can’t believe everything PETA has reported (60-70% of all down comes from live plucking) while in reality only 1-3% of down is from live plucking, and primarily only in Hungary. If you buy down produced in Canada and USA, you are safe there. If you are still not convinced this is the right choice for you there are wool (new and recycled) options, recycled synthetic options and organic cotton options depending on your warmth needs. Ikea and Patagonia have strict stances on reporting the sources of their fiber products, so they are generally a great affordable place to start. If you are just itching to do something with that dog hair around your house, just compost it and cuddle with Fido to keep warm, no need to stuff your comforter with him.
Human Hair Birds Nests. In nature birds will collect natural fibers such as cottonwood fluff, grass and animal hair to weave their nests. But recently I read online that a woman was collecting not only her own hair from her brushes and drains (ew), but also her friends and family to place in a hanging basket outside to provide additional nesting material for her local birds. Great intention but it’s not necessary nor exactly healthy for the birds. Our hair is treated chemically by colorants, shampoos, conditioners, heat protectant sprays, hair spray and a myriad of other products for styling which contain synthetic chemicals like silicone and copolymers. These chemicals potentially transfer to these birds plumage and damage the natural preening oils which protect them from the elements. Additionally, birds may ingest these chemicals while trying to preen their feathers. Again, like I said above, if you are itching to do something with your lost locks, feel free to compost them, the birds will be fine without you.
Dumpster Diving Dinners. When the documentary film Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story came out, I was excited to see the second film by Jenny Rustemeyer and Grant Baldwin, creators of The Clean Bin Project. Their mission was to highlight North Americans inordinate amount of food waste by only eating discarded food from producers and grocery stores for 6 months. It sounds more disgusting than it is, I promise, as everything was still good according to their best before dates and no meats. But a few weeks ago I read about a young Zero Waste woman who has taken this to a new level, eating discarded fast food waste and was asking about discarded meat products to limit her carbon footprint. Not only is this not safe, but is potentially deadly. You know what is a killer to the carbon footprint? A month long stay at the hospital because you got listeria or even worse hepatitis which would require intensive and lifelong treatment. So before I get some hate mail, I agree that industrial food waste is an enormous problem, and that things like typos on packaging can result in massive wastage of perfectly sound foods. However, you just don’t know what you are consuming. Was is discarded because of a typo or was it discarded because a mouse got mulched up in the processor or because a worker was found to have a communicable disease rendering the lot dangerous? So if you want to cut down on your food waste here are three tips: 1.) make smaller and more frequent shopping trips- large packages of produce will spoil in the back of the fridge before you know it, 2.) buy what can fit in a hand basket and skip the cart- it will make you really think about what you’re buying because it gets heavy and full really quickly and lastly, 3.) freeze what you can’t finish- my dad will often buy a large package of cheddar, slice it in half and freeze the rest.
Breast Milk Yogurt. Okay, so I do not have children, and therefore no particular strong feelings between the “breast is best” court or the “formula for all” court. However, I did have a strong knee-jerk reaction to a question I saw asked on a local crunchy facebook group in regards to a woman wanting to make her own breast milk yogurt. Beyond my initial reaction of “WHAT?! People do that?” there are several reasons to not share your breast milk around without some due care and attention. A friend of mine who is a dietitian noted that yogurt is made from pasteurized dairy to prevent contamination and spoilage, and since breast milk is not, there is potential for food borne illness. A second reason is the potential of communicable diseases to be spread through breast milk such as HIV or hepatitis. Beyond those two points, as long as the milk is ingested in a timely manor and the containers are well sanitized to avoid spoilage, there really isn’t an issue with consuming breast milk yogurt. Just be sure to inform your friends and family if they tend to help themselves to the contents of your fridge as they might not be on board with the idea themselves… If you are looking for a cruelty-free vegan yogurt alternative, maybe check out this chia seed recipe or this coconut yogurt option.
Family Cloth.Many brands of toilet paper are produced using virgin timber, meaning brand new trees were cut down so you could have a certain level of hygiene; however, there is a new movement towards something called the family cloth. Squares or strips of cotton flannel are provided near by the toilet to replace the traditional roll of toilet paper which can be used, then deposited into a pail for washing later. The idea behind the family cloth is a good one, but as the saying goes “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”. The intention is to avoid the destruction of trees and water waste associated with toilet paper production; however, like cloth diapers, family cloth requires A LOT of post-potty processes (especially if you have a high-efficiency washer system) to clean the organic material out of the fabric. Scraping, rinsing (1 or more times) by hand, then pre-rinsing in the machine, followed by a hot wash with strong detergent, another round of rinsing and then a long hot tumble in the dryer. These steps are necessary to remove scents, stains and debris which may lead to unhygienic conditions on your family cloth. Although I couldn’t find a study to support my hunch, but I suspect that family cloth may not be as environmentally friendly as one would believe due to all the washing and drying. In addition to that, there is the somewhat obvious “ick” factor, in which not every family is prepared to be that close with their siblings or spouses. I read options for colour coding cloths, using for number 1’s only, and the installation of bidets. But for simplicity, you could opt for one of the numerous brands of toilet paper out there which are made from 100% post-consumer fibers like Seventh Generation, ECO, Caboo, Cascades EnviroSoft, Silk’n Soft Bamboo toilet paper and even “no name” brands like Western Family 100% recycled toilet paper.Granted there is again a level of processing required to make recycled toilet paper products; however, it is more likely to be an option the general population would be interested in switching to.
Greening your routine doesn’t need to be very complicated or intense at first. So if you are reading around on the internet for hints and tips and find yourself overwhelmed, don’t be. Baby steps! Don’t freak yourself out by making some big changes right away. However, if some of the things I mentioned above tickle your fancy, go for it! Don’t let my hesitations or anyone else’s dictate what you do!