Thursday, November 18, 2010

Laundry Service.

I read, on another blog, recently about the hidden toxicities of fabric softener. I came away feeling a little proud of myself, because I don’t use fabric softeners, but it didn’t take me long to think of the following:

If this is okay to put into fabric softeners, and sell to the public, what’s okay to put in fabric detergent?

So I looked at the back of the bottle—no ingredient list. I checked the company websites—no ingredient list.
Perhaps I’m distrusting, but typically, when people hide things from me, I figure it’s because me knowing is not in their best interest.

I spent the day on-line. Sadly, I found a whole lot of nothing, and wikipedia turned out to be the most generally informative.

According to wikipedia, all laundry detergents are made up of three main components: builders, bleaches, and enzymes.

Builders are basically water softeners. They make up close to 50% of any powder, and their main purpose is to combat calcium in the water.

Bleach, well, we all know what bleach is.

Enzymes occur naturally in the body. For example: protease is a broad category that encompasses five types of proteases that are essential to the every-day functioning of your body. Protease is added to your detergents to break down protein based stains—as is the job of most enzymes that have been artificially added into a circumstance they don’t naturally occur in.

Now days, most detergents promise whiter whites. This is achieved with something called optical brighteners. Optical brighteners are dyes that collect, and re-emit ultraviolet light in the “blue” region of the light spectrum. Because dried body oils often look “yellow” on your clothing, adding blue balances it out for your optical nerves, leaving you with the sensation of a cleaner object, because blue-white appears purer than yellow-white, to humans.

Other ingredients include perfumes, and we’ve already discussed the dangers of natural perfumes.

Now… perfumes, alone, creep me out. The reasoning is quite simple: if it all rinses away, how is it supposed to leave that smell?

The truth is: if it all rinsed away, it wouldn’t.

Now that we’ve determined, with a little common sense, that these chemicals don’t completely rinse away, let me scare you some more… you wash your clothes in this. You wash your sheets in this. You wash your towels in this. You literally never go more than five minutes without the residues of these chemicals on your skin!

Are you scared yet?

Consider the following: if someone tells you they have a rash or they’re itchy or uncomfortable, everyone always thinks to ask if they’ve recently changed their laundry soap—so, essentially, we all know it. We think about it first when something’s wrong with our skin--our largest organ.

What can you do to combat the bioaccumulation of these chemicals and excess enzymes? Hopefully, by now, you’ve had time to try out the organic soap recipe I gave you, because we’re going to use a bar today. Unfortunately, going green will mean that some stains will just be more stubborn, but the average adult doesn’t accumulate a whole lot of stains to begin with (at least we should hope not).

Simple Laundry Soap

• 2 gallons Water (hot)
• 1 bar of Basic Vegetable Soap (grated)
• 2 cups Baking soda

Step 1 Melt grated soap in a saucepan with enough hot water to cover. Cook on medium-low heat, stirring frequently until soap is melted.

Step 2 In a large pail, pour 2 gallons hot water. Add melted soap, stir well.

Step 3 Then add the baking soda, stir well again.

Use 1/2 cup per full load, 1 cup per very soiled load.

Optional: Since we’ve determined that no detergent will ever completely rinse out, you can add between 10 to 15 drops of essential oil (per 2 gallons) to your homemade laundry detergent if you really desire a fresh scent. Add once the soap has cooled to room temperature. Stir well and cover.

Essential oil ideas: lavender, rosemary, tea tree oil

Friday, August 13, 2010

Butter Bean, Tomato and Pesto Soup

Serves 4

2 x 14 oz cans butter (lima) beans, drained and rinsed
3 3/4 cups vegetable stock
4 tbsp sundried tomato puree (paste)
5 tbsp fresh pesto (preferably home-made)

Put the rinsed and drained beans in a large pan with the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and stir in the tomato puree and pesto.

Cover, bring back to simmering point and cook gently for 5 minutes.

Transfer the beans into a blender or food processor in multiple batches, remembering to add a couple of ladlefuls of liquid for easy processing. Process until smooth, then return to the pan.

Heat gently, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Season if necessary with salt and pepper. Ladle into warm soup bowls and enjoy.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

On the Soap Box.

Have you ever really stopped to think about what’s in the soap you wash with day in and day out?

Every time I grow curious and investigate these things, I find myself paramountly offended by the blatant lengths companies are willing to go to in the hopes of making a dollar—often at the expense of the common man.

It’s often been said that this is the most expensive time to live in, because the cost of everything is externalized. The real cost is never displayed—and really, it can’t be. Would you pick up anything, even if it was $4.99, if it also said Caution: use of this product supports poverty, and extended use of some of these ingredients is suspected to cause cancer and respiratory difficulties.

You’d cringe and pass it up, wouldn’t you?

As you should! Consumerism is the ultimate service industry (as in serve us). Now, most of the time, the industry tries to tell us what it is that we should want, so we have to show them that we already know! We will be given what we demand, so it’s time we start demanding some things.

Naturally, some soaps are better than others. Before you buy (because chances are you still have some at home), use your trust camera phone to snap a picture of the ingredient label, head home and fire up your computer. Check out everything on that label. If you cringe even once—next!

I live with some non-greeners, so I’ve taken over facilitating the purchases of a lot more of the household items—I’ve discovered they’ll go green if the stuff is readily available, but in general, they’re not that inclined to do the research themselves—recently, I found the not so eco-friendly packing of their last bulk-soap purchase, and I decided to try something:

Pentaerythrityl tetra-di-t-butyl hydroxyhydrocinnamate is probably the biggest offender, as well as the one no one will even attempt to say. It’s an eco-toxin, and triggers broad systemic effects, at large doses, in forms of life. If you think the doses you’re getting aren’t large enough to be worried, I have one word for you: bioaccumulation.

Titanium dioxide is another offender. Studies have shown that it causes genetic damage in mice—leading scientists to classify it as a carcinogen.

I used an ingredient list from Irish Spring, so the following is a colourant:
Chromium oxide greens is, again, guilty of bioaccumulation. It’s an eco-toxin that is readily absorbed by the skin. It causes cancer and organ system failure.

A good rule of thumb is to avoid anything with a heavy colourant, and avoid things where all you get for the smell is “parfum”—lord knows what chemicals the smell comes from.

Basic Vegetable Soap

This is a simple soap without any additions, so you can practice this recipe a few times until you feel confident enough to add perfume, nutrients, and color. Be prepared for the odd failure; very few soap makers get it perfect on their first attempt. If your first batch or two don’t work and you have to throw them away, at least you haven’t wasted oils and nutrients, which can be expensive. This soap is also lovely to use and is especially suitable for people with sensitive skin, as there is no fragrance or color—and it will be an excellent thing to use for our next post!

• 16 oz (455gm) distilled water
• 6 oz (170gm) of caustic soda
• 12 oz (340gm) coconut oil
• 12 oz (340gm) light olive oil (not extra virgin)
• 20 oz (567 gm) soya bean oil

Step 1 Place the water in a lye- and heat-resistant container with a good pouring spout. Wearing rubber gloves and safety glasses or goggles, slowly pour the caustic soda into the water.

Step 2 Gently stir the mixture until all the soda has dissolved, being careful to avoid splashing. The temperature of the lye will soar to well over 100°F (38°C) , so leave to one side to cool.

Step 3 Place the coconut oil, olive oil, and soya bean oil in a lye-resistant saucepan and heat gently, stirring to mix thoroughly and to evenly distribute heat. When the temperature is approximately 99°F (37°C), remove from the heat.

Step 4 Keep measuring the temperature of both solutions, and adjust if necessary by using a water bath. When both solutions are exactly the same temperature, ideally 97°F (36°C) Although anything between 95°F and 100°F [35°C-38°C] should work), slowly pour the lye into the oils. You should pour slowly but steadily stirring gently and often.

Step 5 Once all the lye is combined with the oils, continue to stir constantly but slowly; avoid creating air bubbles. Be sure to mix thoroughly enough to incorporate the two solutions.

Step 6 Watch carefully for signs of tracing--when the mixture turns opaque and thickens. As soon as this happens, pour the soap into greased molds. Seal the mold with plastic wrap, cover with blankets, and place in a warm, dry spot for 48 hours.

Step 7 After 48 hours, remove the plastic wrap. You now must assess the soap. Remember to wear rubber gloves as the soap is not yet cured and is still caustic.

Step 8 Gently touch the surface of the soap. If it is still quite soft, leave it to sit unwrapped for another 48 hours. If the soap is firm to the touch, but still soft enough to leave an imprint, then unmold the soap carefully.

Step 9 If you used one large mold trim off any rough or uneven edges, and place on waxed paper to cure. When the soap is quite firm to the touch and pressing on it no longer leaves any imprints, it’s time to cut it into individual bars. Start checking after a week.

Step 10 If you used individual molds, once the bars are removed from the molds, place on wax paper to finish curing.

Step 11 In both cases, you need to leave the bars of soap to finish curing in a dry, draft-free place for two to three weeks. After the final curing period, the soap should be hard, just like a commercially bought bar of soap.

Step 12 Scrape off any surface ash that may have come out and trim the bars of soap to make them neat. The soap is now ready to use.

Time for some chemistry:
Measure carefully! Measurements need to be as close to exact as possible or you won’t get the desired chemical reaction and the recipe won’t work.
You need to be careful what you use as the vessel to make the soap in because you are combining an acid (oils) and base (lye). The two must be the same temperature when you mix them, or they will cool at different rates and partially separate, causing uneven tracing and often, a soap that just won’t set--use a thermometer if at all possible. Both the oils and the lye can be harmful on their own, so please, please, please do not use an everyday cooking pot/bowl! Invest in two pots/bowls to be used exclusively for soap making. They can be really cheap, it doesn’t matter, because they don’t have to withstand high temperatures.
Note for step 6: when making soap, make sure you have all day. Tracing can take between 15 minutes and a couple hours, depending on the oil to lye balance. They say tracing can take up to 48 hours, but as a rule of thumb, I use the 5 hour mark, just because any longer starts to get to the point where it’s really not feasible to stand and mix. (Family is starting to prepare dinner, you have to go to bed, whatever the inconvenience may be.) After five hours, the chances it’s going to trace are slim, so don’t waste with a mixture that has decided not to work. Wrapping the mold in blankets slows the cooling process and stops the oils and lye for cooling at different rates and separating. (Your lye heats fast and it also wants to cool fast, causing it to fall from the mixture and leave sediment. This is also the reason for the ash described in step 12.)
Water bath: an basin of room temperature water that you can lower the lye or oil vessel in to cool them, drawing the temperature down to the desired 97°F so that they can be mixed.
Also: when you feel confident enough to use additives: warm your additives, cold additives can shock the soap mixture, and fall out, or even ruin the entire batch.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Asparagus Soup

Serves 4

1 ½ cups filtered water
2 cups chopped asparagus
½ avocado, peeled and chopped
¼ cup chopped celery
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp nama shoyu
2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tsp minced onion
1 tsp minced garlic
Leaves from 1 thyme sprig
1 ½ tsp fresh tarragon leaves
Pinch of freshly ground cayenne pepper
Celtic sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To serve

4 asparagus tops, sliced lengthwise
A dollop of natural yogurt

In a high speed blender, combine the water, asparagus, avocado, celery, olive oil, shoyu, lemon juice, onion, garlic, thyme, tarragon, and cayenne and purée until smooth.

Pass through a fine-mesh sieve and season to taste with salt and black pepper.

Once ladled into soup plates, garnish with a dollop of yogurt. If you want an artistic design, run a knife tip through the top a few times to send white veins through the soup and top off with the lengthwise-sliced asparagus.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


Recently, I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus. I’m a creature of vanity, so I’ll call it a sabbatical. I did some reading, lounged around a bit, made some changes, and now I’m back.

As humans, we tend to run around with the blinders on, committed to the appealing ideal that ignorance is bliss. Every once in a while, we need to take the blinders off, lift our heads, and reassess our surroundings. We need to be ever aware.
I know that, personally, I get tunnel vision. I get so focused that all else fades away.

With all my head clearing, I found the time to watch Speak, a movie in which an awkward Melinda Sordino says the following:

“I think you should know what you stand for, not just what you’re against. You should be able to show how things can be better.”

Needless to say: it struck a chord.
So I gave it some thought. What do I stand for? What am I against? How do I show it can be better?

I’ve said before that I’m an environmentalist. Inherently, that’s a form of activism. In fact, I often think it’s the most difficult activist topic, because it’s the culmination of so many topics.

An activist can always tell you what they’re against.

I have a difficult time seeing myself as a conventional activist. I come from a family that plays by the government’s rules—even when the government does not. I don’t participate in protests because I find them counter-productive. I lead by example. I write. I lobby.

I’m not saying protesting is bad. In fact, I have many friends who participate in them. However, the act of protesting is intrinsically flawed: people do not listen when all you have to show them are the things that are wrong.

We know our way of life is broken. The problem is not that realization.

Another flaw is that protesting often brings out people who don’t particularly care about your cause. They’re often just looking for a riot, and as soon as a riot breaks out: you lose all your credibility. This is becoming harder and harder to avoid as governments of countries, left, right, and center, are being found guilty of “purposefully provoking” riots, with the intended end of debunking “rightful protests”.

I aim to be a different kind of activist. Let me tell you a little bit about that...
Being an activist is a bit like having split-personality disorder. You need to be a million people. You need to be a student. You need to be a teacher. You need to be a politician. You need to be a warrior. You need to be a professional. You need to be a visionary. And you need to be a sales-man.

Being an activist essentially boils down to trying to sell someone else on your lifestyle. You’re trying to activate them. You can’t sell somebody on something that looks unattractive to them. We all want something shiny—it’s our inner hunter at work—and we all want something easy. Nobody will follow you into a lifestyle riddled with hardships. It’s not in our programming.

Conscience will only get people so far!

Your best option is always to lead by example. If you look like you’re having fun, and thriving, people will follow.

Let me define “thriving”: you cannot look like your lifestyle change has caused you to either greatly lax your personal standards, or it has caused you to fall apart. Nobody will follow a slob.

Mainly, you have to show people that their choice to change would benefit them somehow, or cause them very little inconvenience.

(Personally, I’m a fan of the historically successful “bait and switch” tactic.)

That’s where being a teacher and a politician comes into play. The offensive play of an activist is to tactfully show people something that should offend them (not PETA style) or to charismatically remind them that they are offended.
Here is where we can spotlight Melinda Sordino’s words again:
You should be able to show how things can be better.

Every time you say don’t, have a do ready in the wings, to follow it promptly. Your solutions should accessible—and that is, unfortunately, where I tend to falter. I get people to the point where they ask “what can I do?” But my reflex answer is often subject to government action, such as solar panels and wind farms, or simply unrealistic, such as become a vegetarian (which is often considered by people to be a tremendous inconvenience) or build a house out of waste material (even I can’t afford to do this yet.)

So, how can the average person realistically make things better?

Carpool. There are 900 million vehicles on the roads of the world.

Eat 1 less meal with meat during the week. Becoming a vegetarian is unrealistic for you? It takes 100 liters of water to make 1 kilogram of potatoes, and 13 000 liters of water for 1 kilogram of beef. To break that down into a more tangible number for you: dinner took 6 months worth of showers. Carbon output: if everyone ate 1 less serving of meat a week, it would be the same as taking 5 million cars off the roads.

Buy less new. Your phone/MP3 player/computer still works? Use it. Studies show that less than 1% of the things we buy are in rotation (or use) as little as 6 months later.

Reassess the way you use paper. The demand for paper has gone up 5-fold in the last 50 years. How can you trim your paper use? First, ask yourself if it really needs to be printed. Yes? Narrow the side-margins, along with the head and foot margins, of the paper that you send through the printer. More words per page means less pages. Use both sides of the paper. Handwrite notes? You know that blank space at the top of the paper meant for titles but is dead space on all subsequent pages? Use it.

Use your grey water. Grey water is the water you use to cook. You rinse vegetables. You strain your noodles. Save the water and use it to water your potted and garden plants. There’s no need to use double the water if you don’t have to. If you can, use grey water to flush your toilets.

Compost. Vegetable skins and cores, once biodegraded a bit, would be lovely for that garden I just told you to water with grey water.

Put a stone in your toilet’s water reservoir. Each flush will use less water.

Be a green consumer. Buy bar soaps and shampoos. Shower lotions and conventional shampoos come bottled in plastic containers that are either un-recycle-able in your area or can never be fully recycled—and buy recycled goods when you can. The grain of the paper may be a little coarser, but no new trees from the (toxic to foreign plant life) eucalyptus farms went into it.

Change your light bulbs. Depending on where you’re reading from, you might have seen the Every Kilowatt Counts campaign. The truth is: every kilowatt does count. Low energy light bulbs, from as little as 13 watts, can be the light of your life.

Learn to sew. I’m not talking about learning to fully clothe yourself (although, if you can: why not?), I’m talking about learning to mend seams so that a simple tear doesn’t send you out to the stores for new clothing.

Bring your own utensils. Fast-food is never green, that’s a given, but sometimes, with our lives, they’re simply a matter of convenience. Ladies: keep a set of utensils in your purse. You can even go out and buy one of those camping tooth-brush cases to transport them.

Say "no" to receipts. It's that simple. Unless you're claiming them on your taxes, you don't really need them.

Eat wild oats for breakfast on busy days. How does what you eat for breakfast affect your ability to be green? Like this: oats fill you up. You’re less likely to need that fast-food pick-me-up throughout your day. They also settle nerves, anxiety, depression, and are a good source of protein (a plus for vegetarians). Keeping a level head is much easier when you’re not combating unnecessary external forces.

Develop a personal style. It doesn’t sound green, but trust me, having your own look or style will help you to not be swayed by all that glitters in fashion magazines and store windows. It will help you cut down on your consumerism.

Speak up. Talk to others. Share what you’ve learned and take in what they’ve learned. We’re all students.

Being an activist is about your ability to speak. Your ability to affect change. You need to communicate the desire, the means, and the need for others to choose to speak up and affect change.

Show them things can be better.

Otherwise… we’re just blowing hot air.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Being What You Eat.

It’s a famous phrase. We’ve all heard it: You are what you eat. It’s true, by extension in many different facets, and comes back to the famous need for education.

(I think, by now, an official disclaimer is needed: I preach very heavily on the need for green education. I fact, I think the only way to save the planet, by making the global shift to green lives, is to implement programs as young as elementary schooling, grinding green into the brain gears of the coming generation. The main argument for inactivity is lack of options. Most people falsely believe that living a greener life will take too much time, effort, and simply be a huge imposition on their part. It doesn’t have to be, everything has a simple green alternative, and we can make the shift back just the same as we made the global shift forward into industrialism: by educating the future.)

One of the most important ways to green your life is with what you eat. Today, I’m not going to talk about vegetarianism, or factory farming, I’m simply going to talk about the importance of nutritional education. Your body is a planetary microcosm. It may self regulate, but it is still vastly affected by what you do to it.

If you put junk in, your body’s performance will reflect that and give you junk right back!

This doesn’t only mean removing junk foods and sugars from your diet—it means actively educating yourself on the chemical needs of your body. Your body functions best on a slightly alkaline pH alignment, but most foods that are readily available to us are acidic! Making it hard for us to properly nourish ourselves! It has come to the point where one needs a university degree to understand how to properly feed themselves, and that is not right!

Everyone has the right to be healthy.

Nutrition Prescription, by Dr. Morgan, is a book specifically written to help people with 50 of societies most common minor ailments understand the changed chemical needs of their body. There is no magic right number for everyone when it comes to vitamins and minerals, there is only a healthy range within which our body performs optimally at—and for each ailment taxing the human body, the amount of those vitamins and minerals you need to intake changes. Dr. Morgan outlines what you may need, and what are the best sources to get it from.

Invest in a good herbalism guide. Peppermint tea, when prepared as a proper tincture, can be as effective as popping two Tylenol. Chamomile can help calm you, and eating cherries before bed can help raise your dopamine levels, resulting in a deeper and more restful sleep! An apple will wake you up more than a cup of percolated coffee, and oatmeal is the soundest breakfast you can have because of its carbohydrate content—it will literally be your nutritional ‘ground zero’ all day, making it especially good for those with blood sugar control problems!

A little education can always go a long way. These are only some ideas, a direction if you will. Once you start reading, you will wonder how the art of nutrition was ever such a daunting task!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Eggplant Cannelloni

Serves 4

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 large shallots, sliced
4 cloves garlic
2 jars (12 oz each) roasted red peppers, drained
1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (juice of 1 orange)

2 medium eggplants, cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch slices
olive oil cooking spray

4 oz goat cheese
4 kalamata olives, pitted and minced
1 teaspoon capers, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Cook shallots and garlic until soft, about 1 minute. Reduce heat. Cook until golden, 3 to 5 minutes. Add peppers and juice; bring to a boil. Lower heat; simmer until peppers are soft, about 5 minutes. Cool. Puree in a blender. Pour into a 9" x 13" baking dish.

Coat eggplants with cooking spray and broil on a baking sheet until golden on both sides, about 15 minutes.

Heat oven to 400˚.

Mash cheese, olives, capers and 1 tbsp of the parsley in a bowl. Place 1 tbsp of filling at the end of each eggplant slice; roll up. Lay seam side down in dish. Bake 10 to 15 minutes. Top with remaining 1 tbsp parsley.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Serves 4

1 cup dried chickpeas or 16 oz. can of chickpeas or garbanzo beans.
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons of fresh parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon cumin
2 tablespoons flour
Oil for frying

Place dried chickpeas in a bowl, covering with cold water. Allow to soak overnight. Omit this step if using canned beans.

Drain chickpeas, and place in pan with fresh water, and bring to a boil. Allow to boil for 5 minutes, then let simmer on low for about an hour. Drain and allow to cool for 15 minutes.

Combine chickpeas, garlic, onion, coriander, cumin, salt and pepper (to taste) in medium bowl. Add flour. Mash chickpeas, ensuring to mix ingredients together. You can also combine ingredients in a food processor. You want the result to be a thick paste.

Form the mixture into small balls, about the size of a ping pong ball. Slightly flatten.

Fry in 2 inches of oil at 350 degrees until golden brown (5-7 minutes).

Serve hot.

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Green Read

Life requires education. It is like everything else. It must be taken with a grain of salt. When information is not readily available, you must exercise your due diligence as a human being to remain informed on the things that can affect you. From human laws, to human nature, one must remain in a state of constant education.

I have long prided myself at able being to disconnect from the global fascination that is the grotesque swelling of celebrity, but I must risk my credibility by spotlighting a few that I do actively follow. (Why do I follow? Well, celebrities read and inform themselves just as we do. The only difference is, they are in a position with global attention and often share their findings with those for an ear to listen.) Natalie Portman is one of them. She is secretly the reigning queen of the vegan world. In 2007, she launched (and unfortunately went under) a vegan shoe company. She puts her foot down at fashion shoots and on movie sets, refusing to wear anything that has been derived of animals.
Another stone maiden of the vegan world is the lovely Olivia Wilde. I follow Olivia for her green lifestyle more than her diet. The set of House did not recycle before she got there. She remains unwavering on set and at publicity shoots by famously demanding that there not only be vegan options at every meal, but by also demanding that everything they put to her skin is green—and she makes them prove it to her. Plus, she simply gets points for having grown up on a bus.

I am not a vegan. I am a vegetarian. I eat eggs, cook with milk, and sweeten my food with honey—not sugar. My theory is simple: if it can be obtained without hurting the animal and if it’s not factory farmed, then it’s okay—how do I ensure it’s not factory farmed? I hop on my bike (cheekily dubbed my greenmobile) and I bike to local farmers markets. I wear wool, but not leather. And in my realm of vegetarianism, fish count as animals.

That is my personal view, and I know that there are varying levels of commitment to every lifestyle.

That being said, I thought I’d share some of the places where I get my green life education!

James Lovelock’s brilliant book on the coined ‘Gaia Theory’ was truly visionary, and to me, made the most scientifically arguments on why to go green, that I could no longer, in good conscience, do nothing. It’s one of the most important arguments anyone will make, and is slowly stirring the world of science into awareness.

I came across the following book while I was checking up on the happenings around Natalie Portman. The author is a friend of hers. There is no real collective way to address the topic of meat. It is not so very cut and dry. Each farm farms differently. Each slaughter house slaughters differently. It is not a clear case for vegetarianism, but rather, a book with the goal of informing, so that the case is made to you and you can decide your varying commitment.

“Sugar is poison, and I won’t have it in my body, or in my house.” These are the famous words Gloria Swanson spoke to William Dufty upon their first meeting, and it sparked the frighteningly truth about what sugar does to the human body. Just imagine: When sugar is refined, the discard that does not make it into the sugar bag must be discarded as toxic waste! So, just what are you putting in your body?

Parabens in creams. Talc in powders. Lead in lipstick. Mercury in mascara. If you only knew what you put to your skin in the quest for beauty, you’d be disgusted, and you’d be angry. While it’s true that these are minute amounts, consider that you wear these minute amounts everyday, for eight hours a day. That’s a third of your life!

Olivia Wilde is quite particular about the effects of her living space upon her. She once went on record saying that her house would even be painted with organic paint. I found that statement not long after discovering this book:
These simple recipes will keep your house looking beautiful without adding to toxic output. You will be astounded by the difference in your health you can make just by decorating your house green.

I’ve stressed before the importance of building green. It’s healthier and cheaper! This book is a beautiful how-to manual, making the idea a little less daunting.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Chilled Almond Soup

Serves 4

150g really good quality day old bread
225g shelled almonds (in skins)
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1½ tbsp sherry vinegar
220ml extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
372ml ice-cold water (approximately)

To serve

1 perfectly ripe fig
1 tbsp rose syrup, or extra virgin olive oil, to drizzle
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley (optional)

Remove the crust from the bread, then cut into cubes and place in a bowl. Add cold water to cover and allow to soak for 2-3 minutes, then squeeze out excess water and set aside.

Drop the almonds into a pan of boiling water and leave for a minute or two, then remove. When cool enough to handle, slip the nuts out of their skins. (This is not enough to cook the almonds and will only serve to loosen the skins, leaving you with all the nut's nutrients.)

Put the garlic, almonds, bread, sherry vinegar, and extra virgin olive oil into a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Then, with the motor running, slowly pour in the ice-cold water until the soup is the thickness of double cream. Discard remaining water.

The consistency is very important—too thick and it would feel cloying, too thin and it would be unsubstantial. Pour into a bowl, cover and refrigerate for an hour or longer, until really well chilled.

Ladle the soup into soup plates. Cut the fig into thin wedges and lay two of these in the center of each bowl. Drizzle with a tiny amount of rose syrup, or extra virgin olive oil if you prefer. Scatter over some finely chopped parsley to serve.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


It’s a deep, dark secret of mine that I one day hope to live in a house I built myself. Why is that deep and dark? Well, it’s no secret that I’m no architect, and I’ve been known to come up with some pretty out-there house designs, as I’ve been refining plans since the tenth grade. I’m also a bit of a space-cadet. I know what I like and that’s final. The only problem is it’s rarely what the rest of the world likes. Where I live will inevitably be a reflection of the things I’ve loved from my intercontinental travels. I will have to battle with resale values and inevitably leaving my house to somebody in my will when I die at the ripe old age of 100—but I can always dream green until then.

Whether building or up-fitting your home, green is always the way to go!

For the methods I’ll spotlight in today’s post, I will be working from the ground up.

Warm Foundation.
No matter the project, the foundation must come first. If planned from the get-go, you can incorporate radiant floor heating. I love this heating style for many reasons:
• it is a more efficient form of heating than baseboard, radiator, and circulated air heating methods. More efficient means less energy is needed to keep your home at the temperature you like it to be.
• it works without circulating air, eliminating many air-born toxins, making in hypoallergenic.
• it is a globally accepted law of physics: hot air rises. Heating the lowest point of your home helps to distribute heat evenly.

Concrete Floors and You.
Your foundation floor is concrete no matter what you do. If you’ve been a good little bunny and used radiant floor heating, the idea of leaving your floors unadorned seems a little less daunting. Polishing concrete floors can leave them with a beautiful finish similar to that of marble, but at a fraction of the price.
There are benefits to this method too:
• finishing your floors without a top level makes it hypoallergenic. There are no carpets to collect pet dander, or to stain, for that matter.
• no carpets means no replacement cost. Added floor coverings don’t last forever and typically need to be cycled every ten years. By honoring this method, you’ve reduced your home’s cost of upkeep for years to come!

Little Piggy’s Straw House.
We all know the famous story of the three little pigs, each with their houses of straw, sticks and bricks. Given the choice, I’d like to build on the first of the three!
The only place the famous little piggy went wrong is finishing. Straw bale houses would not last very long without finished walls. Straw is traditionally considered a waste material, and finding a use for waste is among the greenest things you can do. Little piggy would have found that his house was healthiest of all three if he’d only lime-plastered the walls!
Lime plastered walls facilitate a sort of air exchange. Fresh air outside travels in and the air inside your home travels out. Plastered straw bale walls function on a similar principle as your winter coat: it keeps you warm by insulating with a pocket of air around you. The air exchange keeps the air that travels into your home clean, without the use of an air purifier, and the natural fibers help regulate indoor humidity.

Realizing Natural Light.
Strategically design your home to get the most light out of day time hours.
Do a little bit of research to find out where you are with reference to the zodiac (the sun’s year long path through the sky.) Will large north-facing windows help cut down on your heating costs? It’s worth the investigation. The less you have to manually and intentionally harvest energy, the better—for both you, your pocket book, and the planet.

Flax for Rescued Wood.
If you’re like me, and think of a loft as a way to create rooms in an open-concept living area, we now have to talk about a green material for this new floor that you need to build. The answer is rescued wood. I love rescued wood because, for me, it stands for beauty and old world charm. They remind me of my little childhood town in Germany, where timber frames abound.
Rescued wood need not be an item that forces you to cringe, because it can be re-planed to achieve the even surface that may have warped over the years.
Hardwood cannot go unfinished for long as it will discolour and splinter as it continues to lose moisture. Artificial sealing agents are harsh and prevent the wood from doing what it naturally wants to do, so use flaxseed oil (also known as Linseed oil.) Linseed oil particles are naturally a hundredth of the size of the smallest crevices in a plank of wood, meaning it is able to permeate deep into your hardwood floors. Because the wood already naturally has something in it, filling up all its empty spaces, the wood will not absorb excess liquids. While spills still need to be cleaned, there is no need to worry that your unsealed floors have been ruined.
Also, linseed oil is anti-static, meaning that dust will not cling to, and collect on your beautiful green floors. Hypoallergenic and easy to clean.

Your home should be your calm and safe place. Consider adding a couple drops of an aromatic oil like lavender or juniper to your floor’s linseed oil treatment and you will be imparted with a lovely lingering scent, ready to calm you down whenever you come home, that’s a whole lot more natural than an air-freshener.

Raising the Bar on Roofs.
I am an avid fan of the concept of living off-grid. Setting up solar panels on your roof could make an impact on your carbon footprint. Store the energy you collect in batteries and insulate your roof well, so that your house holds onto the heating energy it does need. Even a cloudy day provides energy!

Green Gardens on Green Roofs.
This is a practice I fell in love with in Europe—converting roof space into a garden!
Keep a modest vegetable garden or grow your herbs! Part of being green is using the space you have to alleviate your load on the planet.
Earth is one of the greatest insulators, making this an excellent way to top off your very own green house!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Upcycle, she said.

The global push to be more ecologically conscious has led to many seemingly green options. From organic cottons, to soy protein fabrics, the world presents us with new things everyday to fill our closets with shamelessly, while seemingly satiating our consciences. But a problem remains: What to do with all that ‘stuff’ we bought before?

I’ve often maintained that the greenest thing you have is the thing you didn’t have to buy, so while I must offer my unadulterated congratulations to the brilliant minds that made corn, soy, bamboo, and wood pulp into wearable fabrics—we have not healed the planet long enough to go on consuming, green as these alternatives may be. As a society, we must slam the brakes on ‘new’ consumerism entirely, because all those things we throw away still choke the planet. We must use what’s already here and we must use it to its fullest extent.

The answer? Upcycle.

My first major ‘upcycle’ project was at the tender age of 18—sure, I had turned pants into shorts before then, but the first big project was epic… and in retrospect, probably not the right place for it. I made a dress for a black-tie event out of a bed sheet—yes, a bed sheet.

It was a surprising hit and I don’t think I ever bought a dress for a black-tie affair after that. The question became not “where did you get your dress?” but “what was this before you wore it?” I’ve made dresses from bed sheets, old drapery, belly dance veils, factory ends; shirts from scarves, older shirts, and cottons that I’ve dyed myself. I’ve unraveled poorly sized knit sweaters from Value Village and reused the yarn to make projects from pictures I’ve seen in magazines.

It’s really not that hard.

The rules of fashion are simple and finite: Fashion changes. Plain and simple. What’s in today will probably be out tomorrow, and for a fashionista: keeping up can be a daunting task. However, the odds are in your favour! Solomon said there’s nothing new under the sun and the world of fashion is no different—it’s all been done before, giving you far more options than you may think!

Consider the obvious: Everything was originally made by somebody.

You can easily make the drab ‘fab’ all over again, simply by learning the basics. The global shift to peasant tops makes this a fantastic time to try updating something. Success means one less item in the land fill.

I hope you’ve been good over the years and stocked up on cotton, because cotton is the secret weapon of any upcycler! It gets points for universal versatility, is easy to maintain and has one of the lowest skin-irritability rates of any fabric.

One of the main reasons I love cotton is that it can easily be stripped of dyes and redyed. You can use things you never would have suspected, to get some of the most beautiful dyes, without ever compromising on being green! Experiment with spices to see what colours you can come up with—brilliant mustard yellow, cinnamon stick brown, paprika and chili powder reds. Here are some dyes traditionally sources from various roots in Tibet.

Use a worn part of the material that you will not be reusing to do test dye swatches. Consider keeping the swatches labeled neatly in a book afterwards, you’ll soon learn what colours you like and what colours to not bother testing.

I can’t say I love Kristen Stewart, but the girl’s got style, and she lends her red-carpet looks well to this topic. I always make a point on finding out what she wore to the award shows, because sometimes you get gems like these:

She’s practically a fabric printer’s fashion dream in these two dresses!

Fabric printing is brilliantly easy, and once you get the hang of it, it’s hard to leave fabric alone.The example above is done with ink blocks and paper, but the principle is easily transferable to fabric. Always remember to pin your fabric in place, and lay a piece of board between the layers so the dyes don’t bleed through to the next layer of fabric.
Personally, I find using a water soluble dye (root dye) for the base colour works best, and I often layer vegetable-oil soluble dyes (spice dyes) to print over my base. You can use paint brushes to brush on a root dye to achieve a look similar to Kristen’s second dress, where the pattern center is left white.
Colour fasting can get tricky when using these dyes. I like to do it in a few steps. First, I mix vinegar and salt in a spray bottle, and spray down the project, leaving it to air dry. How many times I repeat this step varies based on how contrasting the colours I’ve used are, whether I’ve left any virgin material on the project (dye-free areas), and how much colour I’m willing to lose over time. Step two is quite simple: submerge the dyed article in vinegar and leave for a few days, changing the vinegar every 48 hours.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Spicing up your life.

When you’re a vegetarian, you learn to use spices for all they’re worth. We fill our cupboards with them relentlessly, but did you know these wonderful powders and seeds can do so much more than just add flavour to your food? In fact, the news I’m about to impart you with may make your spice cupboard your long-overlooked best friend!

I shared before that I am a huge advocate of Indonesian jamu--now it’s time to make you a fan. Be prepared to stock up on the likes of cinnamon, clove, black pepper, rosemary, thyme, peppermint, ginger and cardamom, because they’re not only good for your taste buds and your winter runny nose, but they’re also year-long warriors for your skin!
I stand around 5’7” and tip the scale at about 110lbs (that’s about 50 kilos flat). I belong to the 10% of the population the bikini was designed for, and even I, with my yoga regimes and sugar-free diet, used to have problems with stubborn fat and cellulite. When people ask my secret, I tell them: “Buy black pepper, cinnamon and peppermint in bulk, drink lots of water and green tea and invest in a stiff-bristled brush.

To try this treatment, you can start by using omega-3 oil capsules, which are readily purchasable at many local pharmacies. You can worry about other oils later; first, it’s most important to be in a routine.
Your daily routine can look something like this:

Puncture the oil capsules to get to the oil inside and mix with finely ground black pepper and cinnamon. (I always suggest these first because most of us have them readily available in our cupboards.) In the shower, scrub trouble areas, then proceed to washing your hair, giving the mixture time to do its job. It’s going to tingle, that’s a good thing. This tingling sensation is actually the capillaries under your skin expanding and increasing blood flow to the area. The thermogenic effect boils down to one thing: more blood in means more toxins out.
Rinse the scrub off and continue washing as per your usual daily routine. When you’re all done and you turn the water off, it’s time for your trusty body brush!
With swift strokes, starting at your feet, and moving in a circular manner around your limbs, brush up towards your heart. Start with your legs, continue to your arms, then come back to your torso. This will not only loosen dead skin cells, but it gets those toxins a-moving! When you’re all done, continue on to moisturizing with the green-favourite organic coconut oil. (As this becomes a bigger part of your daily routine, you’re notice you need less and less moisturizer.)

As with anything in the beauty world, we need to set some time aside for the more heavy duty aspects, but this will never seem like a burden once you get into the habit of setting time aside. Ideally, this should be done twice a week. Try to aim for a Wednesday evening and a weekend, because it’s spa-time!
This particular spa experience is directly based on the Indonesian practice of lulur. Lulur originated in the palace and would last for forty days, preparing a princess for marriage. Today, it’s a highly rejuvenating and pampering practice. It’s bi-weekly use should leave you feeling soft, supple, green, and simply royal.
Start with a good body brushing this time, because the idea here is for a full body detox. Add some thyme and a bay leaf or two to a much larger portion of scrub than you would use for daily use. Thyme is fantastic for boosting energy—perfect for those drab winter months—and bay leaf combats depression and promotes a sense of well being. If you want, you can finely grind (then soak) rice granules for a more effective body scrub.

Grapeseed oil is a much better candidate for your full body scrub than your daily-use omega-3, simply because of sheer amount and viscosity.
Finish off with a relaxing soak in jasmine and ylang ylang bath water. Moisturize and rest, because beautiful skin needs its beauty sleep.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


I’m not a terribly difficult person to understand. In fact, I’m the opposite: I’m very simple. Something it never takes anybody very long to learn is that I’m obsessed with Asian culture. Generally speaking, I just like culture, and we’ll eventually cover all the things that have caught my attention, from vegetable and tea dyeing tribal-inspired tunics, to the spice based spa teachings of Indonesian “jamu”—which, by the way, I heavily advocate.

Today, however, we return to the green principles everyone knows as “the 3 Rs”, as always: taking care of the planet while taking care of yourself!

There are many things my mother unknowingly taught me that lend themselves well to a green lifestyle, even though she is far from green. My mother taught me to be creative with food; as a vegetarian raising two children, she needed to find interesting alternatives to cucumber sandwiches—and voila! My dedication to the bento box was born.
Colourful combinations of carrot sticks and rice, with what, to this day, I only know by the name of “mopple”, set me apart at school lunchtime and it simply stuck.

“Bento” is simply a term that means boxed lunch. You can buy bento boxes online or at Asian specialty stores. They come in a variety of shapes, styles and sizes—from sleek and utilitarian, to cute and colourful. Most have inner partitions for food groups. I love them because they’re reusable, and are traditionally wrapped in a scarf that doubles as a napkin or place mat; and in this scarf-wrapping, you can (gasp!) pack your own utensils!

Typically, a bento meal consists of the following:
• rice
• protein (meat, tofu, or eggs—depending on your diet)
• vegetables
Making for a balanced meal. Sometimes a bento box also carries a sweet dessert. ♥ Desserts can range from simple cupcakes or scones, to one of my favourites: honey and sesame fried pumpkin.

But, by no means, limit yourself to this, or even to Asian cooking. I often pack my bento with colourful Indian foods. One of my favourite examples of what might go into a western bento box was in the new Nancy Drew movie.

Explore different food styles so as not to get bored! Because I am gluten-intolerant, a lot of rice goes into my bento boxes, but I never get bored because I’ve discovered many different varieties. I never use “Uncle Ben’s”, and it’s nothing personal, I simply find it very bland. I use a lot of sushi rice, as well as “Lundberg” rice blends. I love their “wild” blend and even more so their “black japonica” blend, which once cooked has a beautiful mahogany colour!

There’s nothing better than a beautiful and colourful lunch waiting for you to keep you dining in!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

\'grēn 'ha(ə)r\

If my first post wasn’t a clue, you will soon learn:
I’m a D-I-Y greener.
I will provide recipes on bath, beauty, and beyond—with, of course, food here and there. I will always provide the names of stores or websites that provide suitable alternatives to the homemade kind, because not everybody has time, and that’s okay.

Today’s post is dedicated to everyone’s mane event. I figured since I spotlighted solid shampoo in yesterday’s post, I should teach you how to make it. But first, let’s cover why choosing a green shampoo is so important and why the one sitting in your shower probably isn’t.

Most people associate washing their hair with luxurious bubbles and intoxicating smells. All around, it’s expected to be a very sensual experience. The problem is: that foam of bubbles is created by sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) and sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). These ingredients can be absorbed through the skin and can cause ocular degeneration (blindness)—that’s why they tell you to avoid contact with eyes. If that’s not enough to scare you, consider this: they damage the hair follicle by stripping your hair and scalp of natural oils that your body produces to repair your hair! And the strip away the colour of your hair, leaving it limp, lifeless, and dull! But never fear, the same companies that provide you with these shampoos are ready and standing by with volumizing formulas and shine serums.
Sounds suspicious to me.
They also contain silicone. (This will appear on your bottle as anything that ends in –icone.) Silicone does provide and instant shine, but it coats the hair and weighs it down—resulting in the need for even more of their volumizing formulas.
That can lead to quite the build up!

So, what can you do?

This links back to yesterday’s post about becoming an informed consumer, and doing your homework. You can endlessly read bottles, or you can make your own…

Solid Shampoo Bars

• 16 oz Coconut 76 Oil
• 16 oz Olive Oil
• 4 oz Wheat Germ Oil
• 4 oz Castor Oil
• 5.9 oz Caustic Soda *
• 15 oz Distilled Water
• 2 oz Any Fragrance or Essential Oil **
* Caustic Soda may be sold under the name ‘lye’, although this term is only true when the soda has been dissolved in water.
** We’ll touch on appropriate additions based on hair colour and needs near the end.

Equipment you’ll need
• Two plastic pitchers, 2-3 qt. size
• Scale that weighs in pounds and ounces
• Large one-gal. stainless steel or enamel pot
• Safety goggles
• Two kitchen thermometers
• Hand stick blender (optional but recommended)
• Freezer paper or plastic garbage bags
• Rubber gloves *
• One large plastic or wooden soap mold with lid or smaller soap molds with cardboard for a covering
• Two wooden or plastic spoons (one for the lye and one for the oils. Use these spoons only for shampoo making)
* Lye is caustic! It will burn.

Find a clean and clutter free working space to make your solid shampoo bars. A kitchen counter near the sink is your best bet, but a kitchen table will also do. Cover your work space with a plastic garbage bag and a few layers of newspaper to protect the surface from spills.
Step 1 Next gather all your ingredients together, double checking that your have everything that you will need ready and at hand.
Step 2 Put on your safety gear, including long sleeves and long pants, shoes, eye protection and gloves.
Step 3 Now weigh out your caustic soda using your scale and place the lye into a plastic container.
Step 4 Weigh your water and place that into another plastic container.
Step 5 Now very slowly and carefully pour the caustic soda into the water (never the water into the soda!) and mix thoroughly until the soda is completely dissolved. It has now become lye.
Try to avoid splashes as the lye is caustic and will burn anything it comes into contact with. If your skin comes into contact with the lye mixture, immediately rinse with cool water. Surface spills should be wiped up immediately.
Step 6 Now place the lye and water mixture aside. It will have become very warm and will need to cool to between 90 and 100 degrees before using. Place one of the thermometers in the mixture to monitor the temperature.
Step 7 You will now be melting and mixing your oils. Weigh out your coconut, olive, caster and wheat germ oils (not the essential oils) and place them into your large pot which is placed on the stove. Heat until the coconut oil is just melted. You will want your oil mixture and your lye mixture to be the same temperature (between 90 and 100 degrees) before blending. Place the other thermometer into the oil mixture to monitor temperature. If need be you can adjust one or the other's temperature by placing them in a sink filled with cool water until the desired temperature is met.
Step 8 While you are waiting for the two mixtures' temperatures to regulate, you can ready your essential or fragrance oils and soap molds. Weigh out your essential or fragrance oil and have it ready to go. If you are using one large wooden soap mold for your solid shampoo bars, line the mold with wax paper for easier shampoo bar removal later on. If you are using individual molds for your solid shampoo, double check that they are clean and free of any debris.
Step 9 Once the lye mixture and oil mixture have reached the desired temperatures, slowly and very carefully pour the lye mixture into the oils, stirring continuously. Continue stirring using a wooden spoon or stick blender until the mixture has thickened (a stick blender will speed up the process) and you see "tracks" where you have just stirred. This is called reaching "trace" and you must achieve this stage before continuing with your solid shampoo bars.
Step 10 Now that you are at the "trace" stage you can add your essential or fragrance oils and colorant. Pour in your fragrance and colorant and continue to stir thoroughly.2
Step 11 Your solid shampoo bar mixture is now ready for the mold. Carefully pour the mixture into your mold(s) and cover either with the mold's lid or wax paper and a piece of heavy cardboard.
Step 12 Wrap your molded shampoo bars in a thick blanket and store, undisturbed, for 18 hours.
Step 13 After the 18 hour time period is up remove the blanket and lid and allow the solid shampoo bars to sit for another 12 hours.
Step 14 Your shampoo bars are now ready to be removed from the mold(s) and cut (if necessary). Put on rubber gloves (the soap is still somewhat caustic) and place an old towel onto your kitchen counter and carefully place the mold(s) face down on the towel. Tap gently a few times to remove the shampoo bars. If they don't come out easily, place the mold(s) in the freezer for about an hour and try again.
Step 15 Once you have your soaps removed from the mold they are ready to be cut (if the shampoo bar is one big block). Use a sharp knife to carefully cut small, hand sized bars of the solid shampoo.
Step 16 Your solid shampoo bars now need to cure for a minimum of two weeks before using. Place the shampoo bars on a drying rack or in a large box, making sure the soaps do not touch one another.

After two weeks your solid shampoo bars are ready to be used, but leaving them longer will make them milder and harder (which means they will last longer) If you can, aim for a month. Store your solid shampoo bars in a cool, dry place until ready to use.

Essential Oils
Always remember to spot test your essential oils for skin irritation. Place a single drop on the inside of your arm and leave it for 24 hours. It no irritation arises, feel free to use them.
Dandruff Sandalwood, lavender, bergamot, and tea tree oil
Dark Hair Rosemary
Light Hair Chamomile
Dull Hair Kelp and beech tree extract, jojoba and carrot oil
If you shower in the morning, experiment will invigorating scents like peppermint, if at night, try something calming like lavender.

And if you simply don’t have time, or would like to try out solid shampoos before investing is their creation, see the beautiful people at Lush Cosmetics or Susan Soaps.



Tuesday, January 26, 2010

\'grēn 'līf\

Let’s face it: there’s a global push to go green. Everyday, we learn about new ways, but often see them as bothersome. Well, there are ways to unleash your inner green and still live like a diva.

The Simple Rules of Green Life

Don’t do it over night. The greenest thing is the thing you didn’t buy, so learn how to rock what you already have! You’ll be surprised. Going green is a life choice and takes time and dedication. The only green reason to go out and buy something new is if it’s continued use will harm either you, or the planet. Regardless of its material or origin, use what you have until it has significantly filled its use, when it is truly time to replace it, choose a more eco-friendly alternative.

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. We’re all familiar with the 3 R’s, but there’s even a green way to approach them. Here are a few:
• Buy a bike. (yes, I just gave you the license to purchase) If you’re not convinced you need one, keep a diary of the car trips you make. This will help you where you can reduce or omit car trips, thereby lightening your carbon footprint on the planet.
• If you can: walk, or bike to shop for groceries. If this is not possible, do your groceries on the way home from work—and preferably on the way. This will further alleviate your carbon footprint. If you bike or walk, consider buying less, but more often. Part of being green is taking care of your body. You can buy fresh when you do this, which is more nutritious, and the omission of frozen foods from your diet not only benefits you, but also the environment, because you can retire your freezer!
• Reduce the amount of things you have to recycle. Read the paper online to reduce your paper waste. Buy bar soaps to eliminate packaging, and check out solid shampoo bars, available through the brilliant people at Lush Cosmetics.
• Reuse things! Bring a cute mug to work, and carry metal utensils. Some takeout restaurants will let you bring in your own containers. It never hurts to ask!
Don’t like the potentially hideous portable mugs for sale? Check out the cute and brilliant (and decorate-able!) reusable porcelain and silicone mug at:;14;15&productID=763
Knit a sleeve, paint, and decorate to your heart’s content.
• Share. Ladies, listen up: especially you fashionistas. Yes, I’m talking directly to you. You want to retire your purse, but it’s still good? Ask around and pass it on. Just because it no longer fits your style, doesn’t mean one of your friends doesn’t secretly love it. The purse you pass on is one less purse that needs to be purchased.
And finally:
• Up-cycle. Sometimes, the things we own just need a little pick-me-up. Consider changing the buttons on a coat rather than buying new. Something that’s getting old and tired may benefit for a re-assignment. Use the material from an article of clothing you can no longer wear to make a purse.

Be brilliant. Do your research and know what you’re buying. Become a conscious consumer. Look for products containing natural substances—and avoid products that claim to be natural under the claim of ‘minerals’! The minerals used in mineral makeup are naturally occurring—in gasoline.
Also, try to buy products that were not tested on animals. Humans react differently to ingredients than animals do. Animal testing is essentially useless with finer-grade allergens, not to mention cruel.

Don’t just be it, wear it. We’ve all heard the famous saying you are what you eat, but the fact of the matter is that your skin is your largest organ. Once you’re brilliantly educated about the contents of what you’re putting on your skin, ask yourself if you would put said product directly on your liver? If the answer is no, then it shouldn’t go on your skin.
I hear the universal cry of what do I do now? Hush! I would never leave you high and dry. Here are some natural (and easy) swaps to be made:
• Swap your conventional body moisturizer for organic coconut oil. Coconut oil is not only green, and cheaper, but it’s better for you too! Containing naturally occurring vitamins like vitamin E (the anti-free-radical vitamin) in its natural state—which is the easiest way for your body to absorb it—it also boasts a natural spf value, meaning you can go easier on the sunscreen, if not forgo it all together. Coconut oil is solid up until 24 degrees Celsius, making it a mess-free application if you leave it out of the shower and apply it when you first turn off the water. Summer months will take more care to be mess-free.
• Facial moisturizers can be swapped for organic grape-seed oil, which, like coconut oil, boasts many of the naturally occurring vitamins that your skin needs, but in a lighter formula. The amount you apply to your whole face and neck should be smaller than a dime.
The only thing closer to the composition of your skin’s natural oils is jojoba oil, but it comes with a larger price tag and is more difficult to find.

Be kind to your mane asset. Hair dye is toxic as are silicone based shampoos. I, however, understand that we are especially vain creatures, so if you find you must change the colour of your tresses, opt for a henna based dye (also available from the wonderful people at Lush Cosmetics). Henna is a natural conditioner, making your hair healthy and shinny and nourishing it with anti-oxidants. Henna, I must warn you, does not agree with the chemicals used to perm hair, so it is one or the other.
Set down the blow-dryer—you’re damaging your main asset. Hair cannot withstand the torture of being cooked everyday. Comb your hair while wet with a wide toothed comb and allow to air dry. Never pull on wet hair, as it is fragile, and may break. Work out tangles from the bottom up.

And always remember: Tomorrow is another day to be one step greener.
Green is a journey.