A DIY Upcycle: Mud Cloth Pillows 

Hey Everyone!

So as many of you already know, I am a huge DIY’er. I just can’t help myself! If I think I can do something, I’ll give it a shot and either love or hate the result, but in either case I always learn something new.

A few weeks ago I was at Value Village when I spotted a set of linen fabric napkins in great shape. We already use fabric napkins and I thought they would be a great back-up set. On my way through the check out the cashier handed me this brochure.

Value Village DIY contest

A DIY  challenge?! Why yes please! That evening I was cruising around on Pinterest  (my nightly routine-repeatedly showing Steve projects I want to do that he does not haha the man is a saint!) And I came across these awesome Mud Cloth Pillows  from Loom and Good.

Mud Cloth Pillows from Loom and Good

So, I thought to myself, that’s perfect! I have linen squares the same size as my pillows (16″X16″)! I can do this! Except I don’t know how to sew, never mind  a pillow case and I’ve never painted fabric before… so what could possibly go wrong ?! Haha…

So I started cruising around on Pinterest for a pattern or formula to follow. I opted for an envelope style rather than a zipper simply because I didn’t want to learn how to install one on my very first project. I saw this one from So Much Better with Age. I modified the pattern to match my 16×16 pillows.

Value Village DIY contest

I busted out my second hand sewing machine, spent 30 minutes trying to load the bobbin and thread it, and finally got down to work. It was actually really easy… trim fabric to size, pin, sew. I didn’t even need to make the first hems because the fabric was already finished on the ends. Flipped them right side out and celebrated the fact that I had pillow cases and all my fingers!

Next was the fun part! Painting! I again crusied online for simple boho inspired patterns to mimic. I also found a great tutorial on how to make your own fabric paint from acrylic paint from Udemy Blog. But basically it was a 1:5 ratio of glycerine and water as a thinner, then another 1:5 ratio of thinner to paint. 

Value Village DIY contest

To prevent the paint from running through the fabric, I used parchment paper to create a barrier. Otherwise I suggest that you paint prior to sewing. Also I should note that be sure to heat set the paint after it has dried 24 hours by either ironing it or putting it in the dryer. 

Value Village DIY contest

I used a block of wood and yarn to create a stamp for one pillow and a ruler and blunt paint brush to make the other. It really wasn’t about being accurate in the process, but the more irregular the better for an authentic feel.

Value Village DIY contest

I stuff the cases with inserts I had from the pillows I wanted to replace, which was just in time apparently because the cases ripped as I removed the inserts!

Mud Cloth pillow

Mud Cloth pillow

Mud Cloth pillow

Mud Cloth pillow

What do you think? I don’t think they turned out too badly! I think I’ll keep them on the light coloured sofa with the yellow throw to give it a little boost.

 What are your favorite up-cycle projects? Show me some of your DIY wins or fails in the comment section below, I’d love to hear from you.

Cheers!

Heather

Camping Hacks: Plastic Free July

Happy Wednesday Everyone!

So as promised, this week’s post is a recap of how we pulled off a Plastic Free July style camping trip. Now, a couple of readers asked me if we were completely eliminating our use of plastic for the month of July or if we were just not accumulating any additional plastic in July, so to clarify we are not accumulating (ie. buying products in plastic or synthetic fibers and we are avoiding one-time-use plastic such as straws, personal care products and coffee cup lids).

As a huge fan of the zero waste movement I am always impressed and wooed by the glass lined shelves of zero-waster pantries, glass straws and cotton hankies, but the pragmatic side of me reminds myself that it would be contrary and wasteful of us to empty our house of useful and usable items in order to replace all of them with glass or wood options all at once. Purging our home of plastic would be difficult and expensive to do in one fell swoop, so to counter this we have taken the position of steady replacement. That is, when something reaches the end of its life, we then choose to replace it with something sustainably made and of quality. This ensures that the final goal is completed, but our bank account and the environment don’t take a huge hit.

So, back to our Plastic Free July camping trip, I have to say it was a major success!

The first step to any successful project is always preparation. The first thing I did was a thorough multi-day meal plan, and for us that meant simpler the better. Some people really enjoy the process of cooking outdoors and preparing food: not us. We enjoy a lot of lounging, napping and staring off into space when camping. So, creating a simple breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks menu was essential. It looked like this:

Day 1:

  • Breakfast- at home
  • Lunch- on the road (we stopped for sub sandwiches, sans packaging)
  • Dinner- Spinach and sundried tomato turkey smokies, creamy dill potato salad, veggie sticks

Day 2:

  • Breakfast- muffins/banana bread, coffee
  • Lunch – Teriyaki chicken dehydrated meal (needed to be eaten as it was approaching its expiry)
  • Dinner- Jalapeno pineapple chicken smokies, creamy dill potato salad, veggie sticks

Day 3:

  • Breakfast- banana bread, fruit, coffee
  • Lunch- Protein bites on the road
  • Dinner- on the road (we stopped for Triple O’s waiting for traffic to die down)

Snacks:

  • DIY trail mix – soy nuts, peanuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, M&M’s, Reese Bites
  • Dried fruit- apricots, apples, bananas, dates
  • Bulk chips

Inventive dinners? Doesn’t sound like it, but that was actually the plan. By making such similar dinners, it cut down on packaging and preparation time. The potato salad came from the deli section of my grocery store, where I asked for it to be put directly into my pyrex container (which I packed as is)- Side note: I think I broke the deli workers brain when I asked her to do that. She just stared for a few seconds and said “in 22 years, no one has ever asked me to put it in their own container… but… I guess why not?! You can just serve it like that!” And that’s exactly what we did.

The notion of shopping for this trip without plastic seemed daunting at first, but once I put my mind to it, it was fairly simple. The goal was: buy bulk only, use my own containers/bags, and have the smokies wrapped in paper from the butcher (I went to Meridian Meats). Even our buns came from the bakery and I just put them directly into our Bread Armor bag at the store.

As for beverages, we opted for a 10 liter refillable water jug and limes for flavouring and our own water bottles instead of bottled water. We brought coffee grinds and our bodem instead of single serve instant coffee (yuck). And lastly we opted for bottled or canned alcoholic beverages instead of spirits which would have required soda for mixing.

Our coolers were cooled with reusable ice packs, a Bread Armor bag filled with ice brought from home and several frozen water bottles (plastic reusable ones). However, due to the extreme heat, by the second evening we were forced to purchase a bag of ice to replace our quickly melting homemade ice.

In addition to our camping food and beverages, we tried to keep the rest of our camping supplies disposable-plastic free. I recently purchased a set of metal cutlery and last year we purchased these fun plates by Zak Design made from recycled plastics last year for camping. We ditched the red solo cups for a more adult set of camping wine glasses and metal mugs with our names etched into them.

Other things we did to keep our trip environmentally friendly were to eliminate harmful detergents from our gear since they are deposited directly into the environment. We utilized the DIY Wet Wipes to clean the table and ourselves instead of buying synthetic wet wipes, swapped traditional dish soap for Dr.Bronners castile soap and used J-cloths instead of paper towels, and used sulphate free shampoos and conditioners (I personally love Alaffia products).

Overall, it was an enlightening experience! I realised that majority of our camping supplies are plastic, which makes me wonder was a true plastic free trip would look like. 
Have any questions for me? Comment below! I would love to hear from you and your personal camping hacks.

Cheers- Heather 
 

Quicky Post: DIY Camping Wet Wipes

Hey All! 

So as promised I am keeping you all in the loop about how we are preparing for a Plastic Free July style camping trip and I wanted to share a quick DIY with you.  Typically wipes are made from synthetic fibers and doused with fragrance to mask the harsh scent of the sanitizer. Well ditch the chemicals and try this recipe out, it’s a great zero waste option.

These wet wipes are great around the house as well, so don’t relegate them only to camping trips! With just a few ingredients, these bad boys remove the worst picnic table stickiness and ash smears naturally.

Wet Wipes Ingredients

Ingredients and Supplies

  • 6-10 Rags, cloths or j-cloths
  • 1 Medium mason jar with lid or water tight container of your choice large enough to hold said cloths 
  • 1 1/2 Cups Distilled Water (or boiled/cooled tap water if you’re going to use the ASAP)
  • 1/2 Cup White Vinegar
  • 2 ounces of rubbing alcohol *optional*
  • 6 Drops rops lavender essential oil
  • 6 Drops citrus essential oil
  • 2 C. Measuring Cup

Steps

  1. Mix all the liquids together in the measuring cup.
  2. Stuff your rags into the mason jar in layers, that way you can just pull one out at a time.
  3. Pour liquids on top 
  4. Screw on lid
  5. Boom! Done!

Since the ingredients are all fairly benign I don’t hesitate to wipe my hands with them to get sticky marshmallow off or dirt from my legs. These wipes are healthy for you and for the environment!

Wet Wipes Supplies

The Mom’s reading this are saying “10 Wipes! I’ll go through 5X that!” In that case don’t hesitate to upsize this recipe. If I needed more of these I would cut my rags or j-cloths in half (and increase the number of them) lay them flat in a 3x5x8 tupperware bin and triple the recipe. I think that would make enough for a large family or a longer trip.

Cheers!

Heather

Plastic Free July: Week 1

Happy Tuesday Everyone!

So as the second week of Plastic Free July gets under way I wanted to share with my readers our successes and failures from the first week. Although we already have eliminated plastic bags, produce bags, most plastic food storage, there are some challenges in buying food! Although we try to be zero-waste in our household, the average family doesn’t need to go so gung-ho right off the bat and can ease themselves in slowly.

So, our accomplishments were fairly good! We already limit the amount of prepared/packaged food from our house such as pre-cut vegetables and fruit, bagged salad, and bread products.Ways we do this are fairly simple: don’t buy things you in packages if you can. Veggie and fruit trays are a rip off. I am just going to say it. The consumer pays an inordinate amount of money for the convenience, which could easily be prevented by just cutting their own. So if you like the convenience of pre-cut vegetables dedicate one night to chopping. Store cut veggies in containers of water so they stay fresh. We have had carrots in our fridge 5+ days now and they are as crunchy as the day we bought them. This also cuts down on potential food waste and spoilage.

Carrots Stored in Water
Carrots Stored in Water

Bread is a slightly different story. Our household has a second-hand (actually I think it’s third-hand now) bread maker which produces fabulous and easy bread. I downloaded the recipe/manual from the manufacturers website and we have access to all sorts of kinds of bread now. We purchase most of the ingredients in bulk, which cuts down on plastic packaging as well. This week Steve (who is our family baker) made both sandwich bread and two banana loaves. We store our bread products in Bread Armor bags which, although they are plastic, they are completely reusable and we have had them for over a year now and they are still going strong.

Organic Banana Bread
Organic Banana Bread

Other successes included buying bakery-made buns and skipping the plastic bag and using a produce bag instead. Switching to soy milk in paper cartons to avoid the plastic milk jugs (in my region organic milk only comes in plastic or glass, which is supremely expensive.) I opted for yellow mustard in the glass jar rather than the plastic squeeze bottle which seemed like a given. Lastly I avoided a trip to Starbucks with friends by making everyone iced coffees at home using my recipe from my blog post A Cold Brew for You.  Overall there were no plastic shopping bags or straws.

Failures are inevitable, and I am using them as a learning experience for the coming weeks. For example, a late night grocery shop after work resulted in us needing to buy chicken in Styrofoam and plastic wrap packaging. This week I will be more prepared and purchase all the meat we require for the week from our butcher or deli counter.

Additionally, a few other failures including purchasing plastic clad cutlery for an up coming camping trip, some organic granola bars in the cupboard which came in wrappers and purchasing a soda stream flavor which was also sealed with plastic. As a solution for the granola bar problem, now that they are all gone, I am planning on making seed butter protein balls as replacements (I will post the recipe tomorrow) and store them in Pyrex containers for added freshness. As for the cutlery and soda stream plastics, I really ought to have just refrained from buying them! But I have learned my lesson now and will do better next week.

Plastic Free July
Plastic Free July Fails

Another hurdle was tortillas or wraps for fajitas and quesadillas which come in plastic packaging. For this I am at a loss since we don’t have a tortilla press or the right kind of grill to make them. If any of my readers have suggestions for me please leave a comment in the comments section! I would love to hear from you!

Looking forward to this week:

We are preparing to go car camping this upcoming weekend and I realised this is going to be a little more difficult. For many reasons foods associated with camping are wrapped in plastic to avoid spoilage and leaking, so finding plastic free options will take some planning.  My husbands grocery camping list looked originally something like this:

  • hotdogs
  • buns
  • chips
  • fruit bowl
  • bagged salad
  • deli potato salad
  • trail mix
  • granola bars

To compensate I modified the list to reflect some better choices which I think are great universal lessons for all of us. My new list looks like this:

  • sausages from Meridian Meats (wrapped in butchers paper)
  • bakery hotdog buns (BYOB – bring your own bag)
  • bulk crunch and munch chips (BYOB)
  • dried fruit (BYOB)
  • deli potato salad – ask them to put it into my own pyrex container
  • homemade iceberg salad sans dressing/on the side
  • DIY trail mix from the bulk section (BYOB)
  • protein balls

It would be a force of habit to run to the store and load up on these easy convenience foods, but only slightly more effort can eliminate a whole lot of plastic! And unlike at home where we recycle everything (including soft plastics and Styrofoam) all garbage at campsites have to be thrown into bear-proof containers which go to the landfill. So, in an effort to avoid polluting more to enjoy being in nature, I will do my best to pack out what we  have packed in.

This week/weekend I plan to do a series of mini blog posts in regards to how I prepare for a (close to) zero waste camping trip so you can follow along and take notes!

Cheers! Heather

 

(Note: This post may contain affiliate links. If you choose to purchase something from these links, I will relieve a small fee from these partners to thank me for sending you their way. This supports Cedar Coast Blog and allows me to create great content for you all. It will not impact your purchase price.)

Green On the Go

Hey Everyone!

Some of my followers may or may not kmow, but its Plastic Free July! What’s plastic free July you ask? It’s a campaign based out of Australia to decrease or eliminate single-use plastic waste for the month of July. You can sign up here, register and choose the amount of plastic, type and amount of time you want to go plastic free! Using social media and the tools available on their website you can find alternatives to basically everything!

plastic free loho

Our household strives to eliminate many plastic items already, however there is always room for improvement! This month I will be chronicling our attempt to be entirely plastic free, sharing with you the good the bad and the ugly. As always I try to show my readers the realities of sustainable living which includes some roadblocks and a lot less granola than one would think.

But I digress! We are here today to talk about being green on the go! Convenience is one of modern societies defining features. You can basically get what you want, when you want it, anywhere. But that of course comes with both an environmental and financial cost. Convenience packaging includes takeout containers, coffee cups, straws, ketchup packets, plastic cutlery etc etc. Not only do consumers pay the financial burden of these one-time-use-only products, but so do the companies which have to provide them as overhead costs to some extent. If there were less of them, there would be less cost all around!

Like many things in life, staying green on the go is all about preparation (like the boy scouts say!) But if you’re like me and lack those specific skills, then you may want to do what I do: stash green necessities in my vehicle and purse. That way if I need something, Boom! In the trunk of my car. Or Schwing! In my purse! So without further adieu, here are my Top 10 Green on the Go necessities:

1.) Trusty Tumbler or Travel Mug. If you’re like me and have to have coffee in hand 24/7, then a good quality stainless tumbler is a must! They don’t retain smells like plastic coated ones and a quality one like this will keep your beverage hot for hours. Look for important labels like BPA and BPS free in both the vessel and lid components. Pro-tip: if I order iced-coffee on the go I have them put it in my tumbler and skip the straw. Who said you have to see/sip your iced coffee? You know its in there…

2.) Snacks. Snacks. Snacks. Avoid those pricey cheese/cracker boxes from Starbucks or a Styrofoam cup of smoothie by packing snacks in reusable baggies to toss in your purse or backpack. I use these ones from It’s Sew Kara, which are washable and food safe. Save money on both snacks and on plastic ziploc bags.

Travel snack bags
Reusable food safe snack bags by Its Sew Kara

3.) The last straw! If you like to sip your beverages from a straw then consider getting a reusable stainless or glass straw. I have one just constantly floating around in the bottom of my purse (clean of course). Mine are plastic (not the greatest I know, but I already owned them prior to this list and they do the job). Otherwise just ask for no straw the next time you’re out for drinks! Nothing wrong with sipping from the side of the glass. Plus nothing will turn you off of straws more than the turtle video.

4.) Stainless lunch kit. One of the best ways to eliminate single-use plastics from you life is to skip the take-out lunch. Pack your lunch (or leftovers) in a stainless steel bento style lunch box like this 100% Stainless Steel Bento Food storage Container Box. Not microwave friendly, but great for salads, fruits and cold meats/cheeses on the go. I have a vintage Indian style tiffin set which has lasted me 10+ years.

Stainless Steel Bento Box
Stainless Steel Bento Box

5.) Utensils/Napkin. Personally I just pack along a set of cutlery from home and a reusable cloth napkin, but for those of you who want something lightweight and compact check out these amazing natural bamboo and stainlesssteel options! I bought my sisters Littles these fun plastic sporks from Light My Fire.

Travel Cutlery
Travel Cutlery

6.) Water bottle. Aren’t we always hearing from the health media that we should drink more water? Well, do it right with a good water bottle. I personally use a S’well bottle since it keeps water cold for an eternity and doesn’t taste like a pool noodle like plastic water bottles do.

Drink more water with S'Well!
Drink more water with S’Well!

7.) Shopping bags. This is a big one for me since I tend to pick groceries up on my way home from school or after visiting clients. Tuck a foldable one like this into your purse or throw a grocery tote in the back of your car. Chronic bag forgeter? I will actually throw my grocery bags on the hood of my car after I unload them so I can’t forget. Have your kids do it, they will think its funny!

8.) Diva Cup. Alright, this one is for the Girls. Feminine products are almost now exclusively plastic or synthetic disposable items which adds up over a lifetime of periods. Consider switching to a cup product like the Diva Cup. I will never go back again! Just set it and forget it for up to 8 hours.

Have a good period with Diva Cup

9.) Travel toothbrush instead of gum or brush-ups. I am a self-admitted overbrusher, likely because I drink coffee, so I used to use Oral B Brush-Ups (disposable finger toothbrushes). However, now I have a foldable toothbrush and travel toothpaste which I take with me one the go! When it wears out, instead of replacing it with another plastic brush I am going to buy this great travel case and use a bamboo brush.

10.) A Great Tote. This is a must have if you are a commuter or like to keep your hands free. I use this gorgeous bag from Eba Totes which is vegan and sustainably made with recycled synthetic fabrics and is waterproof! The separate compartments allow me to put last minute groceries on one side all the while keeping my tablet and phone dry on the other!

Stunning Indigo Tote by Eba Totes!
Stunning Indigo Tote by Eba Totes!

 

Cheers to you! Heather

 

 

 

(Note: This post may contain affiliate links. If you choose to purchase something from these links, I will relieve a small fee from these partners to thank me for sending you their way. This supports Cedar Coast Blog and allows me to create great content for you all. It will not impact your purchase price.)

Flower Power

Hey Everyone!

I’ve got a confession… I love cut flowers. I love them from my husband. I love them for table decoration and centerpieces. I love to give them to my Nana. Why is this a bad thing you’re asking? Well, because they are one of the least environmentally friendly ways to say “I love you” or “Welcome!”.

20170621_102704-01

Approximately 78% of cut flowers imported to North America are grown in Columbia and Ecuador where the climate is better suited for year round growing. This distance from grower to market means that flowers are not only shipped a great distance in refrigerated trucks, but also treated with a variety of pesticides and fungicides and preservatives to guarantee that the flowers arrive in the best shape possible. According to a 2007 study conducted by the International Labor Rights Forum, 20% of the chemicals used to treat cut flower crops are banned in North America and the European Union. This means that both the environment and the workers producing cut flowers are exposed to chemicals we have deemed unacceptable and dangerous. Typically workers in these industries are women and children, which historically have been the victims of workplace hazards.

Once the flowers reach their destination they are once again stored in refrigerated warehouses, then shipped to florists and then again stored in refrigerated units waiting to be arranged and sold. Are you seeing a trend here? Once those flowers are enjoyed by their owner, they then are either tossed or composted- neither of which are ideal or make up for the enormous carbon footprint they walked in with.

So, what can we do? Live life with no stunning centerpieces? (Gasp!) Well fear not, I have some green suggestions to fill the flower void.

  1. Use your existing houseplants in an artful arrangement. Mix odd numbers of plants of varying heights (3 is what I found worked best) and perhaps a tray, vases and or an interesting runner for a green alternative.

    From Mariage Original
  2. Go Silk! Silk flowers aren’t what they used to be, and now many are available in “real touch” or “natural touch” options, meaning that they not only look like real flowers, but they feel like real flowers. Available online and at some craft retailers like Michael’s. It might be an initial investment, but this long lasting option will pay itself off in no time if you are a regular cut flower purchaser.
    Silk Flower Centrepiece
    Silk Flower Centrepiece by Oheverythinghandmade.com
  3. Buy Organic. USDA certified organic and Veriflora cut flowers are available at Whole Foods and online through specific retailers. These certifications ensure that laborers and the environment are protected from harmful chemicals and that fair wages are paid.
  4. Alternative Gifts. Normally get your spouse or mother flowers? Next time head to your local nursery or online and pick out a lovely decorative flower pot and some organic flower seeds like these from West Coast Seeds. Not only can you plant them together, but they will think of you every time they water them!
    Alternative Gift
    Give a gift which lasts. A beautiful card, seeds of their favorite flowers and a terracotta pot makes this a memorable gift.
  5. Go Without (Gasp!) Have you ever walked into someone’s home and thought “geezz, where are the flowers?” I bet Never. Yes they are a lovely touch if you’re playing hostess, but in all reality, no one is going to miss them. Opt for candles instead if you feel that your table it bare, but honestly you’re guests are really just happy to see you.

In general, decorating with houseplants instead of cut flowers can benefit you and the environment by reducing emissions created by the floral industry but also by purifying your indoor air. Plants such as palms and spider plants are particularly great for filtering out household air pollution relieving asthma and allergy symptoms in many.

Increase your household sustainability by adopting one of these green alternatives to cut flowers and share with me your ideas and suggestions in the comment section below!

Cheers- Heather

(Note: This post may contain affliliate links. If you choose to purchase something from these links, I will relieve a small fee from these partners to thank me for sending you their way. This supports Cedar Coast and allows me to create great content for you all. It will not impact your purchase price.

A Cold Brew For You: DIY Cold Brew Coffee

Keeping with the coffee theme, this week I decided to attempt my first cold brew coffee of the season and decided to share my recipe and technique with you! First off making your own cold brew guarantees that you brew it the way you like it every time, allows you to choose quality and sustainability of your coffee and by making your own in a large batch, you can save it in the fridge for up to two weeks- meaning an iced coffee when ever you want!

Image from the LA Times

Cutting back on your waste by avoiding one-time-use cups and containers makes a huge difference to our personal ecological footprint. Enjoy your beverage in a reusable glass tumbler or if you’re a fan of the mason jar, check out these handy lids from Cuppow .

First off you are going to need the following items:

So the recipe is fairly simple as it is a 4:1 ratio of water to coffee. In this case I used 4 cups of room temperature water and 1 cup of coarsely ground coffee. You can use pre-ground coffee, but you will need to strain it a little more that’s all.

Step One: Grind your beans coarsely so they are easier to sift out.

Step Two: Mix water and coffee in a bowl. I actually use my large tea steeper from my David’s Tea pot.

Cold Brew Coffee
Steeping coffee grinds in room temperature water.

Step Three: Let mixture soak 8-24 hours. The longer you brew the stronger the taste.

Step Four: Take your clean empty bowl, line with paper towel or cheese cloth and pour cold coffee into the new bowl to separate the grinds from the liquid. Do this twice or three times to  remove the fine sediment. Put coffee grinds and filters into your municipal or home compost to ensure that this is zero waste project!

Step Five: Pour filtered coffee into a sterilized mason jar or glass jug with lid (I used a clean Avalon Organics milk jug)

Step Six: Enjoy! After I chill my cold brew in the fridge I use a martini shaker to mix up the coffee, a tablespoon (to taste) sweetened condensed milk and ice for a refreshing hit of caffeine. Pro Tip: Having some friends over for bevvies? Add a splash of Kahlua to the mixture for a little something special.

Iced Coffee
Iced Coffee in reusable tumbler.

I received this handy-dandy reusable tumbler as a bridesmaid gift last fall (Thanks Bec!) Looking for something similar? Check out this Stainless Steel Tumbler by D’Eco for all your iced coffee and frappe needs.

Cheers!

Heather

Mushroom Harvesting in the Kitchen

Hey Everyone! 
Just thought I’d share a few pictures from our amazing mushroom kit! In a little less than 5 days we went from having an amorphous blob of medium to edible oyster mushrooms.

Things started out a little slowly but then rapidly started growing. Within one day our oyster mushrooms doubled in size!

Day 3.Day 4. DayDay 4. EveningDay 5.Day 5. Harvest 

I will let you all know how they taste tomorrow!

Cheers- Heather 

Coffee: Please Enjoy Responsibly

Hey Everyone!

Update!

So it’s been a few months since I published this guide to sustainable coffee and I thought I would update it with some seasonal suggestions! So, as summer winds down and pumpkin spice *ahem* autumn sneaks in, I thought I would share with you some of my favorite seasonal syrups! You can go the pre-made route from Flavoragnics or you can try out this DIY recipe from According to Elle! You can swap all the ingredients to organic ones to make it more sustainable. Since I am not a PSL fan *GASP* I prefer this delicious caramel recipe from Lindsay at Tales From the Cottage. I also would take this time to stock up on your favorite bulk herbs and spices which may have been depleted over the spring and summer.

So get a jump on fall this year by preparing some of your very own syrups and ditching the disposable cups for some homemade comfort.

Homemade pumpkin spice latte syrup...I made this & it's really good! Plus, your house smells amazing when cooking it!  No petroleum, carcinogens, artificial flavors or colors in this PSL!!!
PSL Syrup from According to Elle
Caramel Syrup from Tales from the Cottage

 

So as many of you know, I have a small caffeine addiction, meaning I consume more than the Canadian Health Guide recommends… just a little more… But it also means that I need to be cognizant of the types of coffee I purchase. You see conventionally grown coffee contributes to a myriad of environmental problems including but not limited to soil and water degradation due to erosion from irrigation and the use of synthetic fertilizers which cause nitrification of local waterways resulting in massive algae blooms, deforestation of tropical rain forests, destruction of fragile habitat due to monoculture crops and social justice issues associated with poorly compensated workers and exploitative working conditions. In general, coffee is marked up by 80% by the time you pick up your latte from Starbucks with growers receiving $0.30-0.50 USD per pound of coffee.

File:Toxic Algae Bloom in Lake Erie.jpg
Lake Erie 2011, algae blooms by Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon (NASA Earth Observatory) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
So when buying sustainable coffee beans and coffee products what do you want to look for? Look for packages with the following symbols:
Related imageRelated imagefairtrade Canada logoImage result for fair trade logoImage result for rainforest alliance coffee

Organic symbols from the USDA and  Canada indicate that the foods or products sold contain a minimum of 70%- organic content, and may not contain any prohibited ingredients. Only 95% and 100% organic products may be labeled as so. Organic symbols indicate not only has the product been grown organically (not using prohibited synthetic fertilizers and pesticides), but that they have met certain environmental management requirements and undergo 3rd party audits. Fair trade symbols from Fairtrade Canada and Fair Trade Certified indicate that not only do farmers work in co-op’s and have collective agreements with buyers, but that their products receive a minimum price and a fair trade premium which in 44% of which is spent on local community improvements. Fair trade also prohibits the use of GMO’s. The Rainforest Alliance symbol indicates that the product has some of the highest standards in their growing and production on the planet. Their products are both held to very high social and environmental standards including meeting those of  Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN), Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) and Global Sustainable Tourism Council.

fairtradecoffeeinfo

So where can you buy organic and fair trade coffee? Well basically every grocery store will carry organic and fair trade coffee, but not all are created or priced equally! So here are my Top 5 Organic and Fair Trade coffee brands and where I buy them.

  1.  Ethical Bean. Lush. Bold, medium/dark roast. $16.99 CAD/ 2 lb  bag at Costco. Also available at Whole Foods, Save On Foods, Safeway, Thrifty’s and London Drugs. Organic, Fair Trade and B Corporation Certified. Canadian Company. ***Absolutely without a doubt the best bang for your buck!***
  2. Zavida Coffee Roasters. Dark roast, less bold. $16.99 CAD/2 lb bag at Costco. USDA and Canadian Organic, Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance Cert. and Trees for the Future project. Canadian Company.
  3. Doi Chaang Coffee Company. All their roasts are great! $12.99 and up. For a period of time the Costco I frequented sold it for $16.99 CAD/ 2 lb bag, but I haven’t seen it there since. Available at major grocery retailers including Whole Foods, Save On Foods, Safeway, Thrifty’s and London Drugs. USDA Organic and Doi Chaang claims they go “beyond fair trade” by investing in the coffee farmers, originally the Akha Hill Tribe in Thailand and now others. Started by a Vancouver investor, the company was originally a 50/50 partnership which has evolved beyond that after the original group became self-sufficient and sustainable business-wise. Canadian/International Company.
  4. Level Ground Trading Company. Tanzania. Bold dark roast. $14.99 CAD/ 2 lb bag at Costco. Also available at Whole Foods, Save On Foods, Safeway, Thrifty’s and London Drugs. USDA and Canadian Organic cert. Company does “direct fair trade” with co-ops and collective farmers. Very transparent price charts available. Canadian Company.
  5. Kicking Horse Coffee. All their roasts are great! $9.99-12.99/1 lb bag and major grocery retailers like Whole Foods, Save On Foods, Safeway and Thrifty’s. USDA and Canadian Organic, Fair Trade. Canadian Company.

Pro-Tip:

If you are weary of buying whole beans because you don’t own a grinder or don’t like the idea of having to grind coffee, take your beans to the bulk section of the grocery store. They usually have a industrial coffee grinder there and you can grind up your beans before you even leave the grocery store by dumping them all in and then dispensing them back into the same bag or the bags they have available. I have gotten some weird looks from the cashiers, but no one has ever scolded me … LOL

Looking for green ways to enjoy your coffee beverages? Ditch the disposables and check out these awesome Stainless Steel Tumblers with Straw and these adorable KeepCup Brew Glass Reusable Coffee Cups.

Final Words

Organic and Fair Trade certifications are great as they promote and attempt to monitor the quality, price and soundness of their products; however, they don’t come without their faults. Becoming certified requires a certain amount of financial investment and knowledge, resulting in many farmers and cooperatives being left out of the market due to their socio-economic conditions. Being cognizant of this fact will keep you open to new products which may be labeled with certifications other than the ones mentioned above such as those steps taken by the Doi Chaang Company. If you like the sound of a product but aren’t sure of the potential of greenwashing (aka deceitful marketing) do a quick google on the company and read their story. As always avoid products which claim to be “natural” or “environmentally friendly” without any explanation.

Cheers!

Heather

Grow Your Own Mushrooms

Hey Everyone! 
Just thought I would write a quick blog about this amazing little mushroom growing kit by Back to the Roots, a California based company. They are producing these organic mushroom kits in addition to aquaponic herb gardens and other DIY vegetable growing kits.

I picked this kit up at Home Sense of all places for  $11.99. 

In BC we are lucky enough to have fresh mushrooms grown right here in the Fraser Valley under Canadian requirements. However, most canned mushrooms that are available in grocery stores are actually farmed and processed in China. Although reports of Chinese mushrooms being grown in human waste is unsubstantiated (as far as I can tell), the carbon footprint associated with imported foods is enormous. So avoid canned mushrooms when possible and always (Always!) buy fresh organic mushrooms-their ultra absorbent skins make it next to impossible to wash away the pesticides used to protect them.

As always, I encourage my readers to branch out and try some new eco-habits like growing your own fruits and veggies in addition to visiting your local farmers markets!

I will keep you all posted with our mushroom growing endeavors!

Cheers, Heather 

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