Back To Our Regularly Scheduled Programming…

Hello Everyone!

Sorry I have been MIA for much of this year, especially after our Japan trip. A lot has happened in the last 10 months, all of it good and very exciting. As many of you know I am a Jill of many trades and rarely satisfied doing one thing for too long. I get antsy. In a past life, I worked at Garden Works Garden Centre for many years. During this time I absorbed as much knowledge as I could and realised I had a passion of gardening and plants. I also have a passion for writing (obviously) and photography (comes with the part of being a photographers daughter.)

In March of this year, I had one of those light bulb moments while falling asleep. I had been struggling with the regular antsyness that always seems to creep up on me when I have been doing something for a long time. I had been happy with writing the blog, consulting here and there and doing photography. But there was this itch I needed to scratch. I wanted to combine all of my passions and talents – writing, photography, social media, plants and the environment. But how? This light bulb moment had me up on my computer at 1:00 am writing a proposal to numerous garden centres who perhaps needed someone to write their blogs and manage their social media for them. I worked at this proposal for a week and eventually sent it out – not even telling Steve about it for fear that he would think I was crazy.

Long story short, someone actually emailed me back! So for the better part of this year I have been working as a contractor for Amsterdam Garden Centre in Pitt Meadows, BC as their Digital Media Manager. I promote their business on social media, write their blogs and event built their website. They had a lot of faith in me and took a chance taking on a stranger into their family business. You can see my work on Instagram and Facebook and read my bi-weekly blogs on their website. Mike Lascelle is their Master Gardener, and he writes the blogs the other 50% of the time.

The bonus of this company is that it aligned perfectly with my values of environmental sustainability and supporting small businesses. Amsterdam exclusively uses organic fertilisers in their greenhouses and are always striving to make their company greener. Started by Jason’s parents, Amsterdam turned 40 this year and has been family owned and operated ever since.

Example of the photography I do for Amsterdam Garden Centre

Working for Jason and Lindsay Kok (Owners of Amsterdam Garden Centre) has been an amazing opportunity, so when the second big change of the year was to come, I was extremely nervous. Steve and I had been talking about moving to Kelowna for several years, so when the opportunity for him to change companies arose we were both excited and nervous about making the change. I had just settled into a great job and our townhouse was surrounded by amazing friends and community.

But you guys know me, the call of change, the itch to move has always plagued me. So I approached Jason and Lindsay again, and again asked them to take a chance on me – to let me work remotely from Kelowna for them. So far, a almost two months here, it has worked out! Many people have asked how I manage it, but my method seems to be solid. I stockpile photos for the month during a week long visit to the coast, come home, organize and format them. Then I have numerous phone meetings with the staff and managers to make sure we are all on the same page. It takes an exceptional amount of organization, but I love it so far.

Our new neighbourhood in Kelowna

The bonus of working remotely is that I have a tiny bit more time here to actually get back to my baby the Cedar Coast blog! I have so many ideas, plans, projects and renovations to share with you in the weeks and months to come. A usual, environmental sustainability is at the forefront of our lives and we plan on continuing that here in Kelowna.

So thank you all for sticking with me during this silent period and I am sorry to the followers who may have given up on me. But I am back and thank you all for reading this! I plan on writing once a week again, sharing our green lives. If you would like to follow Amsterdam Garden Centre on Facebook and Instagram and subscribe to the blog and newsletter, we would appreciate it! If you are in Metro Vancouver or the Fraser Valley, I highly recommend you take a trip out to visit them. It is truly a beautiful place to shop and just hang out.

Cheers – Heather Youl

Greener Travel: Japan Part 2

Hi Everyone! I am so so so sorry for my tardiness getting this second post about Japan out! I have had a very uncharacteristically busy spring so far with my product photography and a new writing gig. Whew! Anyway, this upcoming month things should be settling down, so I should be able to write more frequently and consistently. Thank you for your support as always. So, just a quick recap, in this Part 2 we will be discussing our take on the transportation situation in Japan, our struggle with tiny hotels, too many complimentary hygiene products, and lastly I answer the question “Where is all of the garbage?”.

Transportation

Before heading to Tokyo the hubs did a fair bit of research into the various types of public transportation available for us. We knew we didn’t need to rent a car simply because where we were going was connected wholly by public transit – Tokyo, Osaka, & Kyoto. If we were heading further south, it may have been more beneficial time-wise to rent a vehicle, but in our case it did not make sense. This also meant that we could cut down our carbon footprint by using mass transit.

We pre-purchased a Japan Rail Pass. These passes are specifically for tourists visiting for 7 days to 21 days. A 7 day pass starts at $263.00 and you must be registered as a tourist.

Japan had a combination of high tech bullet trains and vintage trains like this little “grape”


Temporary Visitor entry status, according to Japanese Immigration Law, allows a stay in Japan of 15 days or 90 days for “sight-seeing, etc.” If you apply for a “stay for sight-seeing” when you enter Japan, entry personnel will stamp your passport as “Temporary Visitor,” as shown below. *In order to receive or use JAPAN RAIL PASS, your passport must bear this stamp or sticker.

Japan Rail

The cost of the pass was nothing compared to the cost of a single one-way trip from Tokyo to Kyoto, and considering we rode the bullet train a total of 3 times, and dozens of inter-city trains, it was well worth it.

This pass was good on all JR routes, the Hikari bullet train and other municipal transit systems owned by Japan Rail. For other routes and trains, we purchased the Suica pass, which is a refillable card (much like Vancouver’s Compass Card). This allowed us to fill the gap the JRPass left.

Traveling around Tokyo was fairly straightforward despite the complicated looking route maps. We simply used Google Maps App to find our destination and it detailed our trip indicating which rail line to take, what platform number, and even what colour the signage to look for. I was very apprehensive to travel alone (while the Hubs was working) but I easily made my way around the city using this method. Yes, it did require that I paid for a travel data plan; however, at just an additional $91.00 I feel like it was an expense I was happy to incur.

Google Maps Example

On two occasions we took a taxi and an Uber because we were traveling with my husbands large and heavy tool box. This was both time consuming, expensive, and difficult as the tool box barely fit in the taxis trunk, the roads were busy and we traveled a fair distance. Both the Hubs and I agreed that it would have been easier to take transit, despite all of our baggage being cumbersome.

While traveling on the trains, I made sure I packed my Mason Jar Merchant tumbler, a bottle of water, and a snack in my Eba Tote. This allowed me to be relatively hands-free and have somewhere to stow my jacket once I went inside to my destination. Additionally, it provided somewhere for me to put my garbage until I could find a receptacle. This was an interesting aspect of Japan that I spoke about last time. Having few places to throw out our garbage meant that I had to carry it with me for a long time. It made me highly aware of what I was consuming and where. I would recommend this as a experiment to try at home to show yourself and family just exactly how much garbage you may generate in day! A good reminder of our lifestyle choices!

Accommodation

I joked with my husband that hotels in Japan were not made for people of his stature… I myself was okay at 5′ 2″, but his 6’1″ frame was a bit over-sized for the rooms. Our hotel in Kyoto was so small that he could almost touch both walls at the same time. Tiny! However, this is beneficial because I noticed that even in he smaller cities, they used every spare inch of real estate. This isn’t because they have used up every piece of land on the islands, since there is plenty of farmland, but because it is just well planned. Why have an unused alleyway? I appreciated this smart urban planning.

The small hotels rooms were also a reason I was grateful that we packed carry-on bags only, as there were hardly any spaces for our luggage in any of the rooms, and no closets to stow or hang anything either. At our last hotel in Tokyo, the Hubs had to keep his suitcase open, but tucked under the bed because there simply wasn’t anywhere else for it.

Citadine Hotel – Largest hotel room – Steve stayed here alone for work after I left.

Many of the hotels noted that rooms were not cleaned on a daily basis (just our hotel in Tokyo did). This was because they wanted to reduce the amount of laundry to be done in an effort to lower their water waste. Additionally, every hotel we stayed at had a bidet. Not common in North America, these cleansing toilets are popular in Japan, Europe and other nations and as a result reduce the amount of toilet paper that is required per capita. In fact, the United States is the number one consumer of toilet paper in the world. If you would like to know more about the water and energy costs attributed to producing paper towel (similar to toilet paper) check out my post here.

Hotel Rinn Gion in Kyoto – Image Via Hotel Rinn Gion

I think the largest waste of resources at our hotels were their generous use of one-time-use personal hygiene products. Although many rooms had large refillable shampoo and conditioner items, many of the providers left “beauty kits” of packets of moisturizer, facial oils, makeup removers, combs, hair brushes, dental floss, toothbrushes, toothpastes, hair clips, hair elastics, cotton swabs and much much more. They often came in a tiny branded travel bag. At first I thought it as a novelty, but by the 4th hotel, I was irritated by the large amount of disposable “stuff” offered to me. In the end, I left them untouched because I didn’t need any supplies.

Hotel Gracery in Tokyo – Image Via Hotel Gracery

In an another effort to reduce our waste, the Hubs and I avoided ordering room service, fast-foods and take-out. By eating in restaurants we were able to order exactly what we could consume (there weren’t refrigerators in our rooms for leftovers), use metal cutlery or reusable chopsticks and avoid plastic convenience food wrappers.

As I previously mentioned in my last post, the hotels had very few breakfast and coffee amenities. I was so grateful for our Mason Jar Merchant tumblers because they provided us with coffee making receptacles on more than one occasion, preventing us from needing to stop at a vending machine for a can of coffee. Yes, hot coffee comes in cans… LOL

Japan’s Waste Problem

Although Japan falls short on the recovery aspect, as they only recycle 19% of their waste, while Canada has a recovery rate of 24% (as of 2013) they make up for in a slightly different way. Japan incinerates their garbage and many recyclables as a source of energy; in fact 71% of collected waste is incinerated in the 7200 facilities to produce energy for the nation, leaving only 9-10% to go to their landfills compared to Canada’s 74%.

So, although our recycling rate is higher, we are losing out on potential energy gains, especially since modern incinerators have drastically reduced their ash, dioxin, NOx, SOx, HCI, HI and CO emission rates. Many of these new incinerators double and triple burn their off-gases to reduce their overall emissions, which is better than burning coal, kind of. Depending on the facility, type of technologies used to “scrub” gasses, some incinerators may be less efficient and more polluting when compared to coal.

However, a study by Columbia University found that “emissions of sulfur dioxide, particulate matter and nitrogen oxides were lower from waste-to-energy (WTE) facilities than from coal-fired plants. Hydrogen chloride emissions are higher in WTE flue gases. Emissions of cadmium, lead and mercury from WTE and coal-fired plants are nearly the same. ” If you want to know more about the future of WTE, I highly suggest you read this article on plasma converters – I know it sounds dry, but its not that bad I promise.

The Take Away

So where does this leave Japan in the world of recycling, waste reduction, and garbage? Well, it is still pulling its weight when compared to the average US and Canada citizens who produce 1600 lbs and 1450 lbs respectively each year per person. This is in comparison to 875 lbs by each Japanese citizen. I think it is almost a North American past time to point fingers at nations with large populations or who’s economies are based in manufacturing and say “they pollute more, so I can keep polluting”. Let’s stop that nonsense and just get on with solving the problem.

The problem is consumption and North Americans are bloated when it comes to over indulging in clothing, electronics, furniture, etc. I think it was eye opening for me to travel to Japan simply to see the size of the homes that these families live within. They just don’t have the space for that much junk. So, I guess the take away for me on this trip was that you don’t need to have a huge home to live large, and Tokyo definitely embodied that for me.

Thanks again for tuning in – Heather

Waste-Less Wednesday: A vampire in your home

Vampire Electricity Use

Happy Wednesday Everyone! Today for Waste-Less Wednesday, we are going to talk about something a little scary… I hate to break it to you, but you have a monster lurking in your home. It is a master of disguise, an unexpected fiend, a treacherous vampire. It is the dreaded energy vampire, also known as standby power.

Old tube TV sucking electricity

This monster of many names (standby power, energy vampire, and phantom load) is both a drain on your power bill and your wallet. But what is it you’re asking! Well simply put, it is anything that is left plugged in while not in use. This includes your toaster, microwave, laptop/desktop computer, cellphone chargers, DVD players and game consoles, televisions, AC units, air purifiers, fans etc. You get the picture. A good test to know if your electronic device has been sucking power while not in use is to touch it. If it’s warm, it has been sucking energy.

On a daily or even weekly basis, this energy cost doesn’t add up to a lot of money; however, over the lifetime of the appliance such as a microwave, it will likely use more energy sitting in standby than actually warming your food. According to BC Hydro, up to 10% of a homes electricity bill can be attributed to vampire appliances.

In the average U.S. home, 25 percent of electricity use by home electronics occurs while the products are off  – David Pogue, NY Times

But don’t worry, you’re not the only one with a monster in your home. I in fact had 12 items unnecessarily plugged in, just zapping energy and money from the walls. Prior to writing this, I walked around my house and unplugged all of these hidden monsters which included the toaster (we use it maybe twice a week), my photography lights, air purifier, fan, cellphone chargers, laptop for the TV, printer, heating pad, and dust buster charger.

So what is the solution? Well like all things in life, a good place to start is admitting you have a problem. The second is to exorcise the house of its demons. Do exactly what I did: spend 5 minutes walking around the house and unplug items that you deem unnecessary. That old tube TV sitting in the basement for when the grand kids come over? The desktop computer collecting dust while you use your tablet? Toaster or blender? Cell phone charger? According to BC Hydro, in 2017 30 percent of households still had a VCR plugged in somewhere in their house. VCR’s?! For real?

I prioritized items which had digital clocks or had programmed timers in them like our coffee maker, microwave, and alarm clocks on the nightstands (yes, we still have alarm clocks…) The ones we rely on, or are a pain in the butt to reach were granted a pass for convenience sake. But items like my photography lights and accessories I plugged into a power bar as this allowed me to turn off the whole lot of them with one simple click. This is also a great solution for electronics chargers and home office supplies. Another solution is to change the settings on your computer from screensaver to sleep mode.

So go forth and free your home of its demons! Then reap the reward of a cheaper electricity bill.

Thanks again guys- Heather

Mix It Up Monday: Reusable Tea Bags

Loose Leaf Tea

Hey Everyone! After a small hiatus of Mix It Up Monday, I am happy to say that it will be back along with Waste-Less Wednesdays. For those of you who are unfamiliar with MIUM, it is just a short blog post about something you could try out to increase your household and personal environmental sustainability! This week’s MIUM is reusable tea bags.

For those of you who are tea lovers, you are likely to be familiar with tea balls or baskets which are an excellent option of brewing loose leaf teas. The problem that I have with my tea ball is that it is too large to fit in my travel mug. Yes, I could probably buy a travel mug which had a basket steeper in it but I truly couldn’t fit one more mug in my cupboard. So, for those of you who are in my predicament, I present to you reusable tea bags!

Reusable cotton tea bags
Fox Run Tea Ball Infuser
Traditional tea ball

These little guys allow you to use your favourite loose leaf tea in any vessel of your choice. Simply fill and use like a standard tea bag. Afterward, turn it inside out and empty the contents into your compost bucket, rinse and wash by hand, hang to dry!

So next time you stop in at your favourite bulk loose leaf tea provider, keep your eyes peeled for these little guys. Simple swaps. It is the way we at Cedar Coast like our sustainability!

Cheers – Heather

Greener Travel: Japan Part 1

Traveling to Japan, pack your bag!


Hey Everyone, thanks again for joining me here for the social experiment which is my life. Some of you may know from my IG account, that last week I had to opportunity to travel to Japan with the Hubs for work. I always have an internal conflict and discussion with myself in regard to air travel and my personal carbon footprint. Flying to Tokyo from Vancouver is essentially my entire transportation CO2 budget for the year (it is more because I don’t drive a whole lot), so there are significant impacts on my carbon footprint. However, I love to travel. I love experiencing other cultures because I find it cultivates a greater level of understanding, empathy, and connection within me for Others. Being insular culturally leads to biases and assumptions which are not helpful or constructive in these divided times.

Fushimi inari temple in Kyoto.

So, to combat this increase in CO2E, I find travel encourages me to live an even greener life when at home and abroad. This trip was no exception! I decided that in this blog post I would share with you guys the tips and tricks that I use to reduce my waste while I am abroad to offset the carbon costs of traveling. There is a lot to cover so stay tuned for a part 2.

Packing Light

Packing is ESSENTIAL for a waste reduced trip. Having an international flight means I had the opportunity to check two pieces of luggage. However, I was only going to be away for 8 days and I believe that (even if it is a minuscule amount) that if we all packed lighter, the plane would be more fuel efficient because it would be lighter. Therefore, I carefully packed a single carry-on bag, as did the Hubs. Not only did this come in handy on the plane and in the airport, but it was extremely helpful navigating public transportation and the busy streets of Tokyo. There wasn’t a need to rent a car, call an Uber or a taxi.

Packing light for my trip to Japan was my very first goal for traveling greener.

Pack the Essentials

The focus of my packing was on creating a capsule wardrobe with pieces that could be mixed and matched to create several different outfits. Examples of this was a striped t-shirt and jeans worn during the day with a hoodie and a pair of runners for cruising Osaka, then taking it from day to night, could be worn with a blazer, necklace and heels for a chic casual evening look. That same blazer, necklace, and heels could be then paired with a casual daytime sweater dress on a different evening, elevating it once again. If you want more information on creating chic travel capsule wardrobes, there are no shortage of them on Pinterest. A great place to start is here at EverydayEcoLiving.

Channeling my inner Marie Kondo, I always roll my all my clothes keeping them wrinkle-free and packable. My clothing included 15 items plus socks/under-roos and 4 pairs of shoes.

My Mason Jar Merchant was an essential part of packing for my trip to Japan.
  • Striped T-Shirt (from thredUp)
  • White T-Shirt
  • Black T-Shirt
  • Patterned Blouse
  • Yellow Blouse
  • Sweater Dress (from thredUp)
  • Green Tunic
  • Black Long Sleeve
  • Leggings
  • Light Jeans
  • Dark Jeans
  • Black Jeans
  • Black Blazer
  • Jean Jacket
  • Black Sweater
  • Socks & ‘roos
  • Heels
  • Flats
  • Boots
  • Blundstones

In addition to slimming down my outfits, I also slimmed down my makeup and toiletries. This is because taking a carry-on means you can only have so much liquids and gels, but also because I wanted to keep it down to the essentials. I packed my trusty Ordinary brand moisturizers since they are small and come in great reusable and recyclable containers.

Additionally, I utilized refillable travel sized containers for my Pacifica face wash, Carina shampoo & conditioner. As for cosmetics, I only brought organic Physicians Formula tinted moisturiser and mascara, Pixie by Petra eye shadow duo and eyeliner. All of these items fit amazingly well in my new favourite Mason Jar Merchant travel tumbler. I knew that I wanted to take a travel tumbler with me to Japan as I knew caffeine was going to be essential for me to battle jet-lag. It is amazing what I could fit inside the 24 oz tumbler!

*Tip* Nesting items within other items is a great trick for traveling lighter! I fit all of my cosmetics in my Mason Jar Merchant tumbler, which prevented them from getting squished and eye shadows from crumbling. Additionally, I pack my socks and under-roos in my shoes for extra space savings.

Waste Reduction Strategies

Traveling with a greener conscious is fairly easy as long as you apply your existing green habits from home while you are away. The first thing I knew I wanted to pack was a travel mug. I opted for my Mason Jar Merchant West Coast is the Best Coast tumbler as it can handle both hot and cold drinks easily. I love this local Surrey-based company as they create adorable travel mugs and decor items from mason jars. Additionally, they sell essential zero waste mason jar accessories and vintage jars. The love that they put into their work is undeniable! Mason jars are tough suckers, so I had no concern packing it in my luggage.

I also made sure I packed the matching straw and Cuppow mason jar drinking lid. So not only did my tumbler act as my cosmetics case, it also doubled as a cup. The Hubs packed along the smaller Mason Jar Merchant Botanical Quartet Seeds tumbler for his daily cuppa as well. This was super fortunate because, it turns out hot coffee is not big in Japan. In several hotels, we were given these interesting fold-out coffee sachets which needed to be held over a cup or a mug. Unfortunately, they only provided us with disposable plastic cups! Tumblers to the rescue! These hardy little guys handled the job of brewing our morning coffees perfectly. Instead of using the tiny one-time-use creamers, we learned to call down to the front desk to ask for a fresh cup of milk, so we didn’t create plastic waste.

Additionally, when out and about we opted to ignore the thousands of cold-coffee vending machines and stopped at local cafes having them make cold-brew coffees in our tumblers. As always, the Japanese workers were polite and took our cups without a second glance. The smaller of the two easily fit in my purse, and we were able to easily take it with us while site seeing

Eating at restaurants was inevitable in Japan as none of our hotel rooms had kitchens. Therefore, we were careful about where, what and when we ate. I had previously thought about bringing my own reusable chop-sticks; however, I thought they may think I was being rude by not using theirs. In a culture that is so proud of their heritage and graciousness, I thought better of it. However, I was pleasantly surprised that most restaurants used reusable plastic or wooden chopsticks! Only on several occasions at more fast-food like places did I use disposable wooden ones, which I didn’t mind.

Ordering intelligently was also imperative as I was concerned about having leftovers that we couldn’t store. When ordering food, we made sure not to over-indulge and get too much, ensuring that we finished everything that was brought to our table.

Tokyo side street between high rise buildings.
Tokyo Side Street in the entertainment district… How is that street so clean?!

Snacking was difficult in Japan, as they do seem to have an affinity for single use/wrapped snacks and convenience stores. On the opposite side of the coin, is that there is a distinct lack of garbage cans anywhere. Heaven forbid you have a tissue you need to throw away, because you won’t find a trash can anywhere. This was the interesting aspect of Japan for me, as there didn’t appear to be anywhere for their garbage cans or dumpsters to be. The alleys between high rises in Tokyo and Osaka contained more restaurants, not dumpsters. I kept asking the Hubs “Where is all their garbage?!” Upon returning home, I did some research into Japan’s recycling and waste rates.

Small alleys in Osaka Japan. No dumpsters!
Every single space seemed to be used in Kyoto.

So how does Japan deal with its waste? Well you will have to tune in next time, because it is an interesting story – I know I know, you just can’t wait to hear me discuss their waste system.

In part 2, I will be covering transportation- trains, Uber & taxi’s, micro-hotels, consumer cultures, and how I kept my sustainability goals in mind while being bombarded by the lights and excitement of Tokyo and Osaka! Additionally, I will be discussing how Japan uses Waste to Energy systems and where they stand on the world stage for waste recovery.

Cheers – Heather

*This post contains affiliated links. By purchasing items through these links Cedar Coast can keep creating great content for you! *

Happy International Women’s Day!

Happy International Women’s Day! Today I wanted to just share with you guys a brief post about one of the most influential female environmentalists who has inspired me through my entire degree and career.

Rachel Carson – Image Via Wikipedia

Rachel Carson famously published Silent Spring in 1962 which described the indiscriminate use of pesticides and their impact both on the environment and human populations. Her research on the effects of aerial distribution DDT and other pesticides mixed with fuel oils in the 1950’s was unlike any other at the time. It was integral in unveiling the problem of developing resistant strains of pests, damage to bird populations, and the concerted efforts of the government and producers to cover up the long-term consequences of such projects. Eventually her research and book would influence the formation of the EPA, lead to important court rulings on environmental protection, and was an important role model for many women who would join the environmental movement in the decades to come. Posthumously she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson – Image Via Wikipedia

Beyond publishing Silent Spring, Rachel Carson was an accomplished Marine Biologist and author of award winning books such as The Sea Around Us and The Edge of the Sea (reissued as Under The Sea Wind). She was one of few female environmentalists of her time, and navigated the male dominated field making way for female scientists, scholars, and environmentalists in the future.

Her research has gone on to inspire many female scholars who study a huge array of topics of sustainability and environmental protection. These include the ways in which environmental destruction and race, poverty and gender intersect, how pesticide/fungicide resistant insects and fungus are developed by overuse, and how chemical agents effect both the environment and human populations.

So if you want to know more about Rachel Carson, I highly suggest you get a copy of Silent Spring – I especially like this edition as it has some of her essays and notes. Additionally, if you want more information on environmentalists who are making waves, check out this great list by BET of 16 Black Environmentalists You Should Know.

Thanks again everyone – Heather

thredUP: Is An Online Thrift Store Too Good To Be True?

thredup

Hey Everyone, hope your week is going well for you during the doldrums of winter. I feel like no matter how many sunny days we get, it is not quite enough to chase away the rainy day blues this time of year… I am starting to understand Snowbirds… So to comfort myself I did a little retail therapy on thredUP!

Anyway! I was recently on IG and an add popped up for an online thrift store called thredUP. Now this wasn’t the first time IG has shown me ads for consignment stores, but normally those are smaller independent ones from my area. They have thousands of brands, varying qualities and all the “latest” trends according to them. But I am totally into a thrift store option that doesn’t require me thumbing through hundreds of racks of clothes searching for that one perfect piece… I have never been a treasure hunter, just a green shopper.

Facts

According to Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association (SMART), 81 pounds of textiles per person are thrown away annually, and nearly 95% of used clothing and textiles can be reused or recycled. That is almost 15 million tons of used textile waste in the US alone, and they aren’t even close to other nations who’s economies are largely based in garment production. If you would like to know more about how textiles are recycled and reused, I highly recommend reading through the FAQ page on SMART’s website.

thredUP homepage

So, I spent some money for us so we can have an unbiased look at this service that thredUP offers which claims to reduce textile waste and make consignment shopping easy. They do have an ambassador system, but you know me, I won’t put my name behind something unless I have tried it.

The Process

I have fully documented the process for you all so you can see what I am talking about. This includes screen shots of the website, items I chose, and how a description of how to go about using thredUP.

So how I did this test is that I set a $100.00 budget – which didn’t turn out to be $100.00 in the end, and you will see why at the end. Nonetheless it wasn’t too bad.

Shopping

The thredUP website is much like any other online retailer except in one respect. In order to limit how much scrolling, you need to do, they ask you to sign up for an account which keeps your sizes on file. This mini survey asks you top, bottom, and shoe sizes then pre-filters all the clothing in your sizes.

Then like with regular online shops you narrow your field to different types (shirts, sweaters, dresses, etc.) or by colour, by brand/designer, skirt length, neckline, material, and even by level of wear/condition (new with tags, like new, gently used, signs of wear). They also have a premium section which has brands like Prada, Vince Camuto, Michael Kors, Armani, & Kate Spade. In this section it’s not uncommon to see a $1300.00 dress on sale for $350.00. The most expensive items for sale in the premium section today was a $7760.00 dress by Roberto Cavalli on sale for $1784.00 and a Tom Ford coat originally $9900.00 on sale for $2499.99. So, if you think thrift shops are for poor people, think again.

Premium items on thredUP

Personally, I chose to shop for the most part by brand and need. I chose to shop by specific brand because it would ensure that I would know how the item would fit more or less. For example, I know I typically fit a size small top, 27 pant, 6 shoe, and 4 dress from Banana Republic, so I was comfortable ordering items from those brands. The brands I targeted were Anthropology, J. Crew, LOFT, Banana Republic, PrAna, Lululemon, Nike, The North Face, Patagonia. Brands I didn’t find were PACT, Aritzia, and Encircled.

LOFT t-shirt from thredUP

For the test I did my best to order one thing from every category condition. I ordered 6 items: a unbranded jumpsuit (signs of wear), Banana Republic knit dress (gently used), PrAna capris (like new), We The Free/Free People sweater (new with tags), Banana Republic blouse (like new), and LOFT t-shirt (like new). Prices were fairly reasonable, and the “new with tag item” from Free People was labeled $69.99 and I only paid $18.99.

List of thredUP items

In total, I spent about an hour shopping. It was easy to find things I liked, and the one thing I didn’t order that perhaps I should have, was a pair of jeans. However, those are so difficult to fit for my body that I didn’t feel like taking on that struggle – oh the woes of doing too many squats. I did agonize over a silk Anthropology top, but I decided that I can’t own nice things like silk, so I declined it.

Once I paid for my purchase it said 5-7 business days. For signing up I received a 20% discount and paid a whopping $26.00 in shipping. They calculate the shipping based on weight of the clothing, so it isn’t a flat fee. The fine print also said that it may be subject to duties, but I ignored it… and was unpleasantly surprised to know that I owed $22.00 in duties when the package arrived yesterday. So, I did end up going over my budget unfortunately and I still don’t really know how duties work, because it seems like roulette whether if you must pay it or not…

The Box

thredUP box image by Photography By Marlow

So, like I said, although I like the second-hand economy for it’s environmental and economic benefits, I hate the way thrift stores smell. Can’t. Stand. It. So immediately upon opening the box I braced myself and took a large whiff. I am so happy to report that it didn’t smell like thrift store at all- just kind of like laundered clothing that was put in storage for the winter.

All the clothing was nicely folded and wrapped in tissue paper, making it feel like you were shopping from one of your favourite retailers. All the clothing inside seemed to be well pressed or ironed and none of it had any significant wrinkles.

Results

Alright, so how was everything? Fairly great to be honest. I would say the quality or condition of the clothing was significantly better than I expected. The unbranded jumpsuit was the “worn” item and it was in great condition. All the buttons were present, the fabric was solid, and didn’t show any signs of significant wear other than being prone to wrinkling. I am also not sure what kind of fabric it is as the tags are missing, so I have no idea if it is supposed to look like that.

The grey cotton Banana Republic dress did have a very minor coffee stain on the skirt, but I washed it with regular detergent, and it was almost completely gone when I pulled it out. I showed it to the hubs and asked him if he could see the stain and he reassured me that it wasn’t visible. Beyond that, the fabric of itself is in great condition without pilling or stretching. The close-up image below is before washing it.

All the other items labeled as “like new” were exactly just that. Looked new just without the tags on it. Additionally, I tried on all the items and they fit well.

So, was it too good to be true?

Well, I think it is good option for those thrift-store-phobes like myself are looking to add some pieces to your wardrobe. With most pieces 70-80% off, it is easy on the pocket book and the styles available were current and trendy. I recommend that either you shop with intention, meaning you know you need a specific piece like a blouse for work. Or if you are more of an inspired shopper, dedicate a little time to scrolling or utilize as many filters as possible. This is because there isn’t any shortage in choice, which is both a blessing and a curse. I will be definitely be shopping on thredUP again, especially for specific items like dresses for weddings, tops and dresses for work, and perhaps I will try their accessories one day!

Tell me what you think! Will you try out thredUP? Have you already? Let me know what your experience was like.

Cheers and happy shopping guys!

Heather

A Greener Period? Is it possible?

Hi Everyone!

This post is mostly for the ladies/femmes, but if you boys want to know more stick around. So, periods are a topic I have been asked to write about for the past couple of years but always balked at. Mostly because I just was a little turned off from the zero waste menstruation products that were on the market. Period panties, diva cups, and lunapads oh my! It was just so much to take in. This post is going to be a frank look at what works, what doesn’t, and what to expect. Can you really have a greener period?

Microfiber Reusable Menstrual Pads and Silicone Cup

Menstrual Cups

Last year I finally took the plunge and bought my very first product, the Diva Cup. This menstrual cup is sort of the gold standard of cups. They come in three sizes- 0 (for those under 18 years old), 1 (for those who haven’t conceived) and 2 (ones for those who have had children). I chose the 1 for obvious reasons.

These silicone cups are quite flexible, have a small pull tab at the bottom for removal and measurement lines on the sides.

The Pros:

So what did I think of the cup… Well, I’ll tell you honestly: it’s great and kind of a pain all at the same time. Why is it great? Well like the old TV infomercials used to say “You set it and forget it!”. For real. The cup can stay in for about 12 hours, but I’ve only pushed it to 8.

The other thing I love about it is that once you get it in position it’s comfortable and you don’t even know it’s in there. Also, it doesn’t matter if it’s a heavy or a light day the cup does it all without any painful removal.

The upside, is once you have mastered inserting the diva cup, it is really so much better than tampons or pads. Not only are you not creating waste, but you’re not subjecting your body to an assortment of chemicals which are found in those other products. Chemicals found in tampons commonly are dioxins, fragrance, aluminum, and drying alcohols. All of which you don’t want absorbed into the body.

The Cons:

Alright, the down side is that changing your routine is hard and this calls for a change. You need to spend some time learning how to insert the diva cup which requires a fair bit of silicone origami and toilet yoga. Once you get it though, it’s like riding a bike and I haven’t had a problem in months. Another thing is that it needs to be emptied, which is difficult in public bathrooms, homes which are not your own, and, heaven forbid while camping. Trying to not drop it in the toilet is literally my biggest hurdle.

The other thing is that it needs to be appropriately sanitized between uses- that means at night and in between periods. They make a special wash for the cups which is safe for the silicone, but personally I wash it with plain water and then boil it for 5 minutes to really clean it.

There are many different companies who make different kinds of cups now as well which will be suited to different body types. So it’s best to read reviews about specific cups if you think you may need one.

The cost is fairly reasonable for something that you can use for years. Diva Cups are $37.00 and their competitors range from $25.00 to $40.00.

Microfiber Reusable Menstrual Pads and Silicone Cup

Reusable Pads

But you can’t wear a cup all the time since you are still at risk of toxic shock syndrome still, like with tampons. So what do you do then?

The Pros:

Well I purchased my very first Lunapad when I bought the Diva Cup, and it’s still going strong. Made in Vancouver, this company designs pretty good reusable pads in varying levels of absorbance and lengths. There are now hundreds of companies who make these products now, so there isn’t any shortage to choose from. The anatomy of the pads is fairly standard- an absorbent section with two wings which clasp together with a snap.

Microfiber Reusable Menstrual Pads

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Again, the upside is that you’re not creating waste and they are fairly comfortable. I personally don’t wear them during the day, just at night because they are a bit bulkier than your standard disposable maxi pad. They do produce various sizes as well ranging from pantyliner to regular to maxi, so they are accommodating for most needs. I think I will be adding a few pantyliner’s to my roster this year.

The Cons:

Additionally, like your cup, there is a certain amount of maintenance. They need to be wash daily/nightly and have a small arsenal of them on hand for this reason. I wash mine by themselves, in the washing machine on hot/warm and then hang to dry. The Luna Pads I have are black, so there isn’t any unpleasant staining though I have seen some companies who only use natural cotton for theirs.

Bonus:

So, I also started a little experiment for you all. I ordered 8 Bamboo Reusable Pads from Wellwear on Amazon and were EXTREMELY affordable. 8 pads for the price of just one Lunapad… These were made in China, so not local whatsoever, but they are said to be made with organic bamboo liners, charcoal for odor neutralization, a waterproof membrane, and colorful exterior patterns. I will test them out, rate their usefulness, and durability and write an update for you all. I haven’t had a chance to use them yet, so stay tuned for this in the future!

Have some thoughts you want to share with the group about your zero waste period routine? Leave a comment below! We would love to hear from you. Also,want to read more about green and sustainable products I have tried? Click here for my Top Product Reviews.

Thanks again everyone,

Heather


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Review Round-Up: Green Product Reviews

Green Period Products


Hi Everyone! This blog post is going to be a little different than most . I have had a couple requests from readers for a post round-up of my green product reviews, so we are going to call this the Review Round-Up: Green Product Reviews. Instead of making you all search through my various posts I thought I would put them all up for you here to access! Everything from natural hair care, to tin foil, and cleaning products.

You can find all (or most) of my green product reviews here. Later this year I will also be posting a review on natural and reef safe sunscreens, my favourite vegan and cruelty makeup brands, body lotions, sustainable online clothing retail companies and a few more for the men-folk including men’s deodorant and anti-aging serums. I will be updating this post regularly and I think eventually pin it to the top of the page, or perhaps even make a dedicated page to this… But for now I will stick with this post. So have a look through the list and see what tickles your fancy!

  1. Natural Hair Dyes: swing and a miss or a home run?
  2. Don’t let Aluminum Foil, I mean Spoil, Your Day
  3. A Hairy Situation: AG Natural Review
  4. A Hair Situation Part 1
  5. A Hairy Situation Part 2
  6. Grow Your Own Mushrooms
  7. Laundry Day
  8. Reusable Freezer Bags
  9. It’s The Pits: A Natural Deodorant Review 
  10. A Greener Period **coming soon

There are more to come, so stay tuned! Also, if you have any requests or suggestions let me know. I often get texts from friends asking for reviews on products I have tried and think “I need to write a post about that…” So leave a message below or send me a DM on my Facebook or Instagram pages!

Thanks guys,

Heather

Don’t let aluminum foil, I mean spoil, your day.

Parchminum aluminum foil replacement

Happy New Year Everyone!

This year I have decided to try and make sure that I post more consistently about my everyday sustainability. I hope this will help inspire you guys to try and achieve daily sustainability, rather than view it as one or two time events to do throughout the month or even year. Sometimes I take it for granted that I already live a fairly green life and that perhaps even the small things we do in our household may help you guys reach your sustainability goals.

Some of these are gadgets for the kitchen, garage, and garden. Over the past couple of years we have accumulated a sizable cache of reusable and zero waste items which help us create less waste. One of my favorite items has been the Cookina Parchminum tin foil replacement. This is a tinfoil like silver sheet which we use as a liner for our baking sheets and pans. It’s non-stick but not Teflon, oven-safe, and even dishwasher safe (though we don’t do that). It comes with a ring for storage and a scrubber. I also want to mention that this isn’t a sponsored post, I just really like this product!

This sheet is fantastic! The food just slides right off and even stubborn things like burnt cheese just wipes off. Cookina also makes a BBQ safe liner as well (the black one pictured) which is excellent from grilling salmon, small vegetables like asparagus, and pizzas.

Over the past year we have only purchased one roll of tinfoil and it hasn’t even been 50% used. This $14.99 purchase has saved us money, time, the energy and resources that are needed to produce tinfoil and the energy needed to recycle it.

It might seem like a simple change, but one that over time will reduce our carbon footprint. 316 million Americans regularly use aluminum foil still in their kitchens, amounting in 2.4 million tonnes of foil ending up in landfills in 2015, up from 1.5 million tonnes in 2012. So as you can see, we aren’t getting any better at recycling nor reducing our consumption of such a high value material.

So check these handy sheets out on Amazon, at Canadian Tire, and Superstore the next time you’re there. You won’t regret picking one up!

Cheers,

Heather

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