Q & A with La Coco Bella

The world Hair Care product industry is a huge global business, having generated nearly $49 billion in 2010 and expected to reach $58 billion by 2015.* That’s a lot of product literally going down the drain!
And what exactly happens to the ingredients in the products after they wash down the drain? The ingredients don’t just go away. We know that there are toxic chemicals in cosmetics that interfere with hormone function which may cause cancer. We already know that these chemicals are harmful to fish and other wildlife. All in the name of beauty?
The good news is that there are simple, toxic free ways to groom oneself. Aquarian Bath is an ecologically friendly business, running their website on just 3 Watts of solar power. They only use natural ingredients and promote plastic free alternatives. They are an example that it is possible to provide a safe and effective product in a sustainable way, while considering all the details from start to finish.
I began to wonder about this $50 billion industry. Each country has its hair care specialty geared to different ethnicities encouraging assimilation in order to sell more product. Is there really such a difference in hair types that require all these different gels and balms, sprays and so on? Over the years I have been somewhat aware of the different products available for African hair but because I don’t have African hair I never delved into learning about it. However, upon experimenting with natural shampoo bars for me and my family, I began to wonder if everyone could get accustomed to shampooing hair more naturally, like this, thus on a global scale, reducing the need for plastic bottles and cutting down on the amount of harmful chemicals we unwittingly expose ourselves to on a daily basis, which in turn pollutes the very environment we depend upon.
And so began my quest for deeper understanding. I came across Lauren’s blog: La Coco Bella and decided to ask her some questions. She seemed like the ideal person to ask because as she explains on her site, that after years of chemically treating her hair, she made the transition to natural hair products. From reading her blog and watching the video “You Can Touch My Hair”, it became clear to me that there is a lot more to African hair than all the work that goes into managing it.
Which begs the question: Why are we spending all this time managing hair? What is the big idea behind ‘managing it’ and the need for chemicals and ‘treatments’ to transform ones hair into something it isn’t. And I think this goes for a lot us…wanting the opposite of what we’ve got and fighting nature tooth and nail to get it. Poor nature.

Kathryn – Q: How long have you been using natural shampoo bars?

La Coco Bella A:  I’ve been using natural shampoo bars and products for about 2 years now. I don’t see myself ever changing that :o) The first brands I ever used were Bobeam Naturals and Henna Sooq bars.


 

Kathryn – Q: Do you make your own hair products?

La Coco Bella A: I haven’t quite delved into the realm of making my own products consistently but I have experimented here and there with a few raw ingredients like butters, oils, essential oils, etc. I do enjoy doing DIY hair treatments though! I hope to some day make and perhaps sell my own products because I have realized that the simplest, most natural products are the most effective and I don’t need to rely on large manufacturing companies to help me maintain healthy hair! For now, I’ve been sticking to small business/boutique vendors.


 

Kathryn – Q: How did you learn to make your own products?

La Coco Bella A: I was inspired to play around with a little mixology by paying close attention to what ingredients were in products I love and then checking out YouTube and Google for recipes to get the right measurements. Again, I am no pro and most of my “products” were just mixtures of different raw ingredients! Oh and coconut oil is a MUST have for anyone interested in healthy hair!


 

Kathryn – Q: How did your hair feel when you switched to natural shampoo?

La Coco BellaA: Since I had been using shampoos and conditioners that contained silicones, sulfates and other synthetic ingredients, my hair had to go through a brief detox stage because synthetic ingredients leave a coating on the hair. Natural shampoos break through all the synthetics and can take a few washes. I first switched the natural shampoo by using Terressentials Mud Wash and followed their protocol for detoxing.

I think the term detoxing freaks some people out but it’s really not as harsh as it sounds lol, its just that your hair can feel rubbery or straw-like during the detox stage. Natural shampoos open the hair cuticle so you have to ensure to properly condition it afterwards to close and seal the cuticle back down. Your hair usually feels amazing right away! The key is to be patient in the transition process and you will soon see how healthy, strong and shiny your hair becomes! Another MAJOR benefit I have found from natural shampoos is how well it cleanses and clarifies my scalp. When you have a healthy scalp, you create a healthy environment for hair to breathe and grow!


 

Kathryn – Q: Was the positive effect on your health and environment part of your decision to stop using chemical products?

La Coco BellaA: The positive effect on the health of my hair was the main decision for me to switch to natural hair products but if it helps the environment while I am at it, then hey, even better!


 

Kathryn – Q: What made you switch to natural shampoo bars and hair products?

La Coco BellaA: I started to educate myself by doing research online and seeing what the benefits of individual ingredients did. I also researched on the negatives of synthetic ingredients. This helped open my eyes and dispel a lot of the “myths” major hair product companies have been putting out there. I realized that the simplest, most natural ingredients were the most effective (and consistent!), not the products that had the best marketing ploys or cute packaging. God put everything we would ever need on this earth before man created chemicals in labs so that fact was more than enough for me to completely give up on synthetic hair products.


 

Kathryn – Q: I don’t know very much about African hair. Can you briefly explain the difference between African hair and other types of hair?

La Coco BellaA: I love that God created His children so uniquely. We all come from the same roots but we do have physical differences, our hair of course being one of them, so I don’t classify hair by race or ethnicity. Women of African descent can have thin, fine strait hair to super thick, dense, course hair. Hair also comes in difference textures, densities, porosity, thickness, etc. but women with thick, textured, curly hair, like myself, have to battle with dryness and breakage. Our main concerns are typically keeping our hair moisturized free of frizz. Curly hair in general is especially prone to dryness because it is harder for the natural oils from our scalp to reach the length of our hair. This means we have to take extra care in supplementing moisture by washing less frequently, sealing in moisture with butters/oils and doing deep conditioning treatments often. But when it all comes down to it, all hair types and textures really need the same basic essentials and natural hair products can cater to every type of hair regardless of ethnicity. The beauty of nature :o)


 

Kathryn – Q: I love how you explained that – to “not classify hair by race or ethnicity.” Which completely knocked the wind out of my next question: Does African hair require different care from other types of hair? What I have learned from you is that really curly hair has different needs from straight, wavy or mildly curly hair. I find it so interesting and equally disturbing how industry invents a market.

La Coco BellaA: Just like any ethnicity, everyone’s hair has different needs and requires different types of care but women with thick, course, textured hair tend to need more moisture. There are lots of factors when it comes to the needs of any type of hair. Things like porosity (the way your hair absorbs and retains moisture) play a major role as well, so it can be a bit hard to pinpoint particular needs. I guess it boils down to becoming intimate with your own hair and being in tune with how it responds to what you put in it. The more you learn about your hair, the more you will be able to discern its needs. This means spending more time in your own hair rather than paying someone at the salon :o)


 

Kathryn – Q: Thank you so much for sharing your hair wisdom with us. I have been thinking about that last sentence, which makes perfect sense: “Spend more time in your own hair rather than paying someone at the salon”, which is the same way I think about one’s body when it comes to exercise or healthy eating.

Do you have a page on your blog where people with very curly hair can follow a step by step program to wean themselves off of the chemical processing? Do you have a FAQ’s page as well?  

La Coco BellaA: I don’t have a step by step page or FAQs but I do have a page about my regimen as of last year. Although my current regimen is a bit simpler than what appears on my site, it does contain in depth descriptions of what works for my hair type. Also, I give lots of tips and information in my product reviews so readers can use the search tool on my site to see if I touch on any particular topic, ingredient, etc.


 

Kathryn – Q: How long did it take you to transition to natural products. Was it gradual, or did you do it all at once?

La Coco BellaA: I pretty much switched to all natural products all at once because I had detoxed my hair and didn’t want to revert the effort I had put in lol I didn’t see it as a huge, earth-shattering change, it was more of a hey, this looks cool, let me give it try! I just started buying all natural products and have ever since. Experimenting is the fun part! I also get giddy reading and learning about the benefits of all the yummy ingredients in natural hair products lol


 

Kathryn – Q: Now that you have been natural for a couple years, I imagine that you would have some pearls of wisdom to share with people who are just starting to contemplate this change for the better in a variety of ways? Are there one or two points that, if you could go back in time, that you would do differently? Some advice that might save someone from getting turned off the concept?

La Coco BellaA: I would recommend for anyone interested in improving the health of their hair to not be afraid to try all-natural hair products, I wish I had sooner! It can be a bit intimidating because there are so many options out there but just start with a couple items and build up your regimen. You really don’t need a bunch of different products, that’s the beauty of it! Because once you nourish your hair to health, it requires less maintenance.

Also, stick with products that are pure and organic, they all work well together so you don’t have to worry about chemicals reacting to each other or anything like that. It’s like nature’s chemistry is perfect.

Give your hair some time to adjust to the change and don’t be discouraged if you don’t have AMAZING hair overnight (although you just might!). You will be glad you made the change and will wonder why you hadn’t sooner, trust me :o)


 

If you have any questions for La Coco Bella,  you can leave her a message on her site.   

 

Related Video

“You Can Touch My Hair”

“You Can Touch My Hair Part 2”

*Statistics by MarketLine

What to expect when using Natural Shampoo Bars


Since using natural solid shampoo bars over the last four months, my hair dries much faster and is nearly completely dry after washing, needing only two minutes under the dryer; unprecedented for my nearly waist-long hair! I used to spend a very long time drying my hair. The same effect has occurred for my daughter’s hair, which is well beyond waist length.

A few questions surfaced as I started to explore making changes to my hair washing routine. If this is your first time visiting you may be wondering what Shampoo has to do with a food blog? Click here to read part 1.

  • Why didn’t my hair feel smooth and silky when I rinsed out the shampoo?
  • What about conditioner?
  • How do I control those unruly hairs?
  • What happens when I go to the hair salon? Do I bring my own shampoo bar?

When I first started using natural shampoo bars…

Initially my hair would feel squeaky clean upon rinsing out the lather. You know, that kind of soap clean feeling, which makes it difficult to run fingers through? I would wring out the excess water and notice that my hair actually felt nearly dry! That was interesting, because with all the professional salon shampoos I had used in the past, my hair would remain soaking wet and would actually take very long to dry, even with a handheld hair dryer. Summer months excluded; my hair wouldn’t take as long to dry in the summer but regardless of the season, I had never experienced such a low water content remaining on my hair. I consider this a good thing. I spend less time damaging my hair further with the hot air from a hair dryer thus spending less overall time on my hair grooming routine! However I see now that it may have more to do with the dehydrated state of my hair. Everyone’s hair will respond differently to shampoo bars and to different shampoo bar formulas: self-discovery required.

As my personal experiment continued, I noticed that my hair started to adapt nicely to the shampoo bars and that my hair became softer and bouncier. I also noticed that my hair appeared cleaner longer, therefore not requiring as frequent washings, now that I wasn’t loading my follicles up with styling aids.

Professional salon or drug store varieties use additives to synthetically coat the hair strands, which gives hair that ‘artificial’ shine. It all comes down to what you want. Do you want to spend a lot of money on products to turn your hair into something it isn’t thus becoming chained to the products or would you rather work with nature and enhance the untapped natural unique beauty your hair actually is? Which is what I think all of these synthetic products are claiming to do…hmmm.

What about conditioner?

When I was going through my transition phase, I kept wondering about conditioners. Aquarian Bath didn’t sell any conditioning bars at the time (but said she was working on a formula because customers new to shampoo bars had been asking for one). I have gone through the last four months not using any conditioner or any leave in hair product for styling, just to see how my hair would react. I like the results. But admittedly, I like change – I like experimenting and I really like the idea of using fewer products especially the ones that come in plastic with too many unrecognizable ingredients (toxic for me and the environment).

I have done some research on various sites and have found that for people (with any hair type), who are transitioning to ‘natural’ shampooing, generally pre-condition hair once per week, prior to shampooing. Pre-conditioning would consist of applying an oil, such as coconut oil or olive oil to either just the ends of the hair or the entire head and letting it rest for half an hour (or overnight) before shampooing.

The biggest lesson I have learned is to start spending time experimenting with my own hair. And that a grooming routine should be a flexible guideline that changes based on the fluctuating factors that come with simply being alive. Much like how I view food and exercise, each of us is an experiment of one.

How do I control those unruly hairs?

I have unruly hairs. Do you? I seem to have wavy, straight and kinky hair all over the place with no symmetry. Every hair is doing her own thing. On top of that, many of my hairs are now turning silver and those ones seem to want attention; they tend to be the short, kinky extra coarse ones that shoot straight up…there was no controlling my hair unless I wanted to douse my head with chemicals and only then is the control temporary! Lately, I have started applying about six drops of organic jojoba oil (bought in bulk from The Soap Dispensary in my own reusable blue glass bottle with dropper). This seems to do the trick. But I don’t use it every single time I wash my hair. But what I have noticed is that my hair is retaining moisture much better and my kinky hairs are becoming smoother. I think that my hair has been so chronically dehydrated, even though I had been diligent over the years -to no avail – with using ‘professional salon’ products to correct the problem. So far, the underside of my hair which always held more moisture is now looking so much healthier and my natural waves and curls are starting to emerge with some kind of unity – as if to say “We knew you’d figure it out sooner or later”. I am very curious to see what the texture of my hair will be after a few more months of this experiment.

Well, it’s only taken me twenty years to listen to my hair, as opposed to listening to the experts who keep pushing new and improved formulas. My favourite quote from Alan Cohen rings true:

“If what you are doing isn’t working, doing more of it won’t work any better.”

I have a feeling that the more I embrace the quirkiness of my hair and explore what it naturally wants to do…the best years are yet to come.

What happens when I go to the hair salon? Do I bring my own shampoo bar?

I did that once. I took my own shampoo bar. My stylist, who I have been going to for thirteen years, was not amused. Partly because I didn’t tell him that I had asked his assistant to wash my hair with my own shampoo bar. I was curious to see if he would notice the difference. He could tell the difference. Because my hair used to become so dry after washing he was not accustomed to the texture and his comb could not get through. His fist reaction was “What have you done to your hair? It feels stripped!” The particular shampoo bar that I took to the hair salon that day was made by a different local company than Aquarian Bath. Controlling the bubbling chuckles brewing inside of me, I told him the shampoo bar was called Dreads…he was aghast! He graciously put up with my experiment but had to keep spraying my hair to keep it wet. We got through the appointment and we now know how to prepare the hair for the next cut. We talked about the possibility of him carrying a line of natural shampoo bars though I’m not sure he is ready for that (especially with what I put him through that day) but he is happy to hear about my results. 🙂

What I have learned about shampoo bars

Shampoo bars are not all created equally. Each formula will react differently for each individual. What might result in a smooth finish for one person may not have the same effect for someone else. I notice this all the time between me and my daughter. Over the last four months I have amassed a nice collection of Shampoo bars for experimenting until we find which bars work best for our individual hair types. But I keep an open mind and am always willing to retry a bar I didn’t particularly like at first, because now that I have started to truly re-hydrate and eliminate synthetic additive from my hair, these shampoo bars are working even better.

If you google Shampoo Bars you will notice many on the market. Look for small batch makers with a business philosophy like Aquarian Bath. Avoid bars that contain:

  • SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate)
  • SLES (Sodium Laureth Sulfate)
  • Triclosan
  • Parfum
  • Parabens
  • Petrolatums
  • DMDM Hydantoin, Diazolidinyl Urea, Imidazolidinyl Urea, Methenamine, Quarternium-15
  • P-Phenylenediamine
  • Cyclomethicone, Siloxanes
  • DEA, MEA, TEA, PEG
  • BHA, BHT
  • Dibutyl Phthalate

How we use solid shampoo bars in the shower:

  1. Wet hair.
  2. Wet shampoo bar and rub bar directly onto hair to lather. (A little goes a long way).
  3. Keep shampoo bar away from water when not in use as it dissolves quickly.
  4. Turn off water allowing shampoo to rest in hair. (And conserving water in the process).
  5. Lather body with shampoo bar or body bar.
  6. Turn water back on rinsing hair and body.
  7. If repeating shampoo, do it now.
  8. Rinse and squeeze excess water from hair.
  9. Place shampoo bar in a dry place. Allow shampoo bar to air dry.
  10. Dry and style hair as usual.

How to Pre-Condition Hair

I have started to experiment with pre-conditioning my hair with Raw Coconut Oil, because that is what I already have handy from making my own solid lotion bars.

Once per week I take about one Tablespoon of Coconut Oil and massage it into my hair, starting at the ends working my way up to my scalp. Because I have a lot of unruly new growth silver hairs I found that applying the oil at my roots helps to soften the coarseness of those hairs. I have left it in anywhere from 5 minutes to 30 minutes before washing my hair with a shampoo bar. Then style as usual without the need for any additional products.

La Coco Bella

 

Next Post: Q & A with La Coco Bella

RELATED Articles: 

Sustainable Shopper’s Guide to a Dirty Dozen Ingredients to Avoid in your Cosmetics. by David Suzuki Foundation

How to give your hair a fresh start or transitioning to shampoo bars by Cory Trusy

 

Solid Shampoo Bars

What does shampoo have to do with a food blog?

Consider for a moment that skin is our largest organ, and it absorbs what we put onto it…

As you know, it is NOT easy to always do the right thing; it can take a lot of work and advanced planning. But what is the right thing anyways? Of course doing the “right thing” varies for each individual and it takes time for everyone to find their own way in this regard. But the sad truth, and perhaps an inconvenient truth, is that we are running low on time. Our planet, environment, beings and ecosystems are no longer able to bounce back from disasters and diseases as they once did. Our natural state of homeostasis is being overburdened by global pollution. Most of us are so busy getting through our day, dealing with our long list of duties and demands that we have fallen victim to the very notion of an easier way of life. We tend to do what is convenient for our life and not able to see how our disposable actions and choices affect the very fabric of our world. We have succumbed to living for the moment as opposed to learning to expand or stretch time to live in the moment.

Heavy…I know.

But there can be light. And I have got another really cool solution for you:

SHAMPOO!

All natural Shampoo in the form of a solid bar. Therefore, no bottle or cap required to dispose of or reuse and best of all no more clutter in the shower or tub! Water, lather, rinse, repeat if necessary. Voilà.

Shampoo Bar

When I shower away from home, I take my shampoo bar with me. I simply wrap it in a clean dry wash cloth and bring it home in the same clean dry wash cloth. I then unwrap it and let it air dry. Easy. I do the same with the body soap bars too. An interesting tidbit to know is that you can test out the shampoo bars on your body and clean both hair and body with the same bar. Double easy! However, I generally use the body bars for my body. AND I have a selection of bars which I use on a rotation, because I treat the outside of my body the same way I treat the inside of my body; by eating foods on a rotation therefore, attempting to not eat the same foods two or three days in a row.

Like with any transition there is a period of adjustment. And there is definitely an adjustment period when transitioning from shampoos loaded with chemicals. (More about the transition in an upcoming post). I have been experimenting using exclusively natural shampoo bars since December 2013. It is now just the end of April 2014 and my hair feels the best it has felt in years! With having very long hair, I used to use all the expensive salon formulated-clinically-tested shampoos; being sold on the idea that I needed to add other products that would hydrate my hair, even though I would cut it every nine to twelve weeks to keep the ends healthy. Interestingly, even after all these years of using different high-end products loaded with ‘formulas’ that would supposedly hydrate my hair etc., my hair was always getting a lousy report card (if it wasn’t the product that was flawed it was that I wasn’t using the products properly or often enough) and I would convince myself to try other products that the stylist would be raving about at the moment.

“If what you’re doing isn’t working, doing more of it won’t work any better.” -Alan Cohen

Suddenly, after four full months of only using these solid shampoo bars, the natural oils from my scalp have finally had an opportunity to be restored and do what they do best – protect my hair and keep it healthy without chemicals.

Oh, the irony. Adding chemicals to our hair to make it soft and manageable meanwhile polluting our body and waterways? And it seemed to me that by using those “professional products” only made me need to use them more. My hair needed to be washed more often as a result. Now my hair can go longer without needing to be washed and seems to look better with each day as my natural oils do what nature intended. The only reason I wash my hair every two or three days is because I swim, otherwise I would wait longer.

The first ever shampoo bars that I tried are made by Cory Trusty, in Florida USA at Aquarian Bath. If you visit her site you will see all the other products she makes. These bars lather very well and can last. I haven’t counted how many washes I can get out of a bar, but it is a lot, when *stored properly. My kids tend to hold the bars under the shower which causes the bars to disintegrate quickly; it’s not easy getting kids to follow instructions especially where water and bubbles collide.

I have tried all of these Aquarian Bath products: body soap bars, solid lotion bars, tooth powder, solid deodorant balm. I am so satisfied with the quality, ingredients and results that I have even started to make my own solid lotion bars from a kit (recipe included) that Cory sells on her site.

Be a spark | Inspire change | Give each other time to find our own way.

Here are some photos of my hair having only been washed with a natural shampoo bar. My hair dries much faster and is nearly completely dry needing only two minutes under the dryer during winter months. It will be interesting to see how my hair responds during warmer more humid weather.

3 days since

3 Days since last hair wash

After

Same day, after hair wash

After

2 days later

There is a lot to describe about hair texture during the transition to natural bars, and so on…but I will save that for another post. Think you are ready to try Shampoo Bars for yourself? Aquarian Bath is giving away 2 Shampoo Bars to one lucky person in any country. Read Terms & Conditions.

Congratualtions to Paul

Wins 2 Shampoo Bars generously provided

by Aquarian Bath!

Contest is now OVER a Rafflecopter giveaway to enter to win

2 Vegan Shampoo Bars from Aquarian Bath

(Carrot Top Shampoo Bar & Key Lime Eucalyptus Shampoo Bar)

*How to store solid shampoo bars? Don’t leave them in a wet or humid environment where water will cause them to disintegrate. Use cedar soap decks. Once my bars have air dried, I store them in an open box. I love it, it keeps my shower floor free from the clutter of bottles. Ah! Minimalism.

Related Article:  How to wash your hair without shampoo Explains what store bought shampoo is made from and what it does to your hair.

Next post: What to expect when using Shampoo Bars

Coming Soon: Q & A with La Coco Bella

Reusable Kitchen Strainer-Bags

Nut Milk Bag

I like the idea of finding ways to reduce the amount of single-use anything I use each day, with the hope of not contributing to our already overburdened landfill destination.

Did you know?

Not only does it take a lot of energy (human and fossil fuels etc.) to transport our garbage to landfill but also an enormous amount of resources to maintain landfills; in some places for as long as thirty years. New landfills collect the global warming greenhouse gasses: methane and carbon dioxide, that are produced from the slow decay of garbage with the intention of using them for industrial/energy purposes. Collecting those hazardous gasses is a big job, perhaps if we all did our part it could be a job that need not exist.

Landfills are configured with special pipes that collect leachate*. If leachate seeps through liners, or from developing cracks, the leachate eventually finds its way into surrounding ground water, wet lands, rivers and lakes. Thus polluting the natural resources our entire ecosystem depends on.

Did you know that most old landfills did not prevent leachate from entering our environment?

Knowing this is definitely depressing, but realizing that we CAN, at an individual level make a difference each day by not contributing to landfill is very uplifting!

A simple reusable item is the Strainer-Bag or Nut-Milk Bag. I have a few which I dedicate to certain jobs in the kitchen.

  • For making Nut Milks (the same bag for Almond Milk, Coconut Milk, Hemp Milk, Rice Milk)
  • A different bag reserved for making Soy Milk
  • For straining stocks (the same bag for Chicken or Beef Stocks)
  • A different bag for straining Fish Stock
  • A different bag for straining Vegetable Stock

I don’t always use the strainer-bag every time I make stocks, and on those occasions, I will simply run the stock through a very fine wire mesh sieve. The strainer-bag/ nut-milk bag ensures a very clear stock.

I don’t use plastic strainers/ sieves or nylon bags because I don’t like the idea of the food I am eating to be in contact with those substances. If I am to bother going the distance to prepare organic homemade food, milks and stocks, I think it is wise to consider the quality of the utensils and cookware used in preparing the food as well.

I also don’t like the idea of using paper-based products to strain my stocks, because there is a lot of chemicals that are associated with paper products, besides the fact that they are a single-use product.

 

*Leachate is a liquid that forms from the collection of “rainwater that trickles through a landfill [combining] with harmful chemicals and other particles from the rotting waste.”  Source: EcoKids

 

Envirothreads is a Canadian company based in Lindsay, Ontario. They make their products from various cotton textiles including certified organic cotton, unbleached and printed cottons, hemp as well as bags made from post consumer polyester (made from recycled plastic bottles).

 

Related video: Unwasted. The Future of Business on Earth (Full length documentary)

Businesses around the globe produce nearly as much waste as they do product — almost 110 million tons annually in the US alone. Washington State spent more than 500 million dollars on waste disposal, recycling, and composting in 2009. But what is the real cost to business and the community?

Filmed between Spring and Summer of 2011, “Unwasted” is a look at businesses and organizations in and around the Puget Sound who are leading the way toward a less wasteful, more profitable and environmentally sustainable society.

Sage Environmental Services is pleased to bring this project to you. For information on screening, obtaining a copy or learning more about the project & the team behind it, visit: http://www.sagebug.com

 

Rubber Bands

Big & Little Rubber band balls

What do you do with all the rubber bands you collect in a day? Maybe you have never thought about rubber bands before? In an attempt to cut back on what I put into landfill, with each day I become more aware of all the very minute details which contribute to the ‘stuff’ I throw away.
The rubber bands that I inadvertently collect, are generally from the grocery store, holding my organic produce together or sometimes the newspaper that is delivered to the house has one (or two?) to keep it folded; when its not sealed in a compostable plastic bag. I can’t think of any other instances whereby rubber bands sneak their way into my home.

Lettuce w/ rubber band

I can always find a use for something with elastic properties. I have used wide ones around stubborn lid caps to get a better grip in order to open them. However, I’ve lately turned to using my rubber kitchen gloves for that job.

So, while at this point I haven’t been able to completely eliminate rubber bands from entering my life, the one thing I can do is to make sure that they don’t go into the landfill while they still have a use. Over the years I started wrapping them into a ball and keep them in a handy kitchen drawer. I remember the day I showed my two young kids at the time, my super bouncy rubber-band-ball; with wide eyes they were speechless for the two seconds it took the ball to bounce on the ground and soar into the air, followed by shouts of joy and pleads to do it again. That was a great moment!

Here is story about Zack Hample who has been building his rubber band ball since the age of four. Now, after 32 years of adding to his ball it has grown immensely and weighs in at over 250 pounds. What probably started as a use for household or found rubber bands, turned into a lifelong hobby. Though it appears as though he purchases new rubber bands for adding on to his very large rubber ball.

Little Rubber Band Ball
Here are some ways to reuse or recycle rubber bands:

  • Donate Rubber Bands to a local school
  • To grip a slippery surface (jar lids, or put around shampoo bottles etc. making them easier to grip when wet).
  • Add rubber bands to hangers
  • A temporary fix for a leaky pipe until a plumber arrives.

How do you reuse your rubber bands?

 

 

Essential Kitchen Tool: Washable China Marker

KAT_3421

How can a washable China Marker be essential to the kitchen, you ask?

Eliminating single-use plastic from my life is a serious on-going challenge. Remembering to bring my reusable cloth grocery bags to the grocery store was the first step; how many times did I have to experience the pang of ‘doh’ as I would reach the checkout before my behaviour changed?

Oh, how one thing leads to another. From there I moved on to eliminating plastic food storage containers from my kitchen, pantry and for keeping leftovers. Simultaneously, I suddenly became aware of how the foods I chose from store shelves were packaged; almost all in plastic, even the ones contained in nice ‘earth-friendly’ boxes had plastic sealed sleeves. There were moments when I felt frozen in time, standing there in the grocery aisles, as shoppers would go whizzing around me grabbing items for their carts. I realized that I couldn’t just grab and go like I used to. I am now at a point where I don’t even bother going down certain aisles based on packaging. Funny, it used to be I only avoided products because of the listed ingredients. One change sure does lead to another. Back then, a part of me had woken up to the effects of the choices I was making — the short-term and long-term effects on my health and the health of my family. Before then, my focus had been so narrow, I was so caught up in cautiously selecting the most nutritious and organic ingredients, that I had been oblivious to the effects single-use packaging would have on the product contents (and thus ironically on our health) and on the health our planet, both in production and landfill/ waterways.

Healthy beings require healthy soil, air, oceans and planet in its entirety.

We cannot have one without the other.

To make a long story short(ish), one of the most essential kitchen tools that I have come across is the China Marker. It simplifies my effort in repurposing glass jars or using air-tight stainless steel food safe containers in the kitchen. In my transition to being less wasteful in the kitchen I started writing labels and dates on bits of masking tape and re-using them until I got annoyed with that solution; realizing that it wasn’t much of a solution because the masking tape eventually ended up in the garbage. I knew that there had to be a better way and that is when I happened to see it mentioned on Life Without Plastic’s site. Next was to track down the China Marker, which was easy: art supply store. It is wax based, and writes especially well on the outside of warm leftover containers prior to refrigeration. It doesn’t mark as well on cold jars, it helps to first warm up the writing surface with the heat of your palm.

IMG_9171

And when it comes time to wash the writing off, simply soak in warm/hot soapy water and rub. It generally won’t just wash away in the dishwasher.

Do you have any kitchen tips to share that can help us to reduce or eliminate daily single-use plastic waste?

Fish Soup

Homemade Fish Soup

This delicious fish soup recipe was adapted from Elise Bauer’s blog Simply Recipes. As I try to mention on each page of this site (and you may be tired of hearing this) but my kids and I have food sensitivities/ intolerances to a variety of foods. Over the last nine months we have had to eliminate foods for a measured period of time before reintroducing them. It is the best thing we have ever done. You can read about it here. As a result we are re-learning how to nourish ourselves and in the process working towards diminishing our sensitivities and intolerances. All thanks to the ALCAT test and my friends who told us about it!

As if it isn’t difficult enough to find appealing recipes, but then I have to consider which ingredients I can safely omit without destroying the heart of the recipe. Remarkably, the few recipes I’ve reworked from Elise Bauer’s site seem to adapt brilliantly.

So in the meantime, I have to rework a lot of the recipes that I come across. Some of the time I fail miserably (not so bad that I can’t eat my flop’s, it’s just that no one else will) and other times I am genuinely surprised when my kids and husband give me five stars and proudly announce that a certain dish is restaurant quality. Blush.

Here is my version of Fish Soup:

  • 2-3 TBSP. Olive Oil
  • ½ to 1 Cup finely chopped leeks  OR 1 Cup finely chopped sweet onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced not pressed
  • 1 – 15oz can diced San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1 TBSP Tomato Paste
  • 6 – 8 Cups Homemade Fish Stock (pre-heated on the stove in another pot)
  • ½ Cup dry white wine (I keep 1/2 cup amounts in the freezer for cooking)
  • 2½+ lb. fresh fish fillet cut into 2-inch pieces (I used Halibut, Grey Cod, Sockeye Salmon)
  • Pinch of dry oregano, Tabasco, thyme
  • Salt to taste

1) Over medium-high flame, heat olive oil in a large soup pot. Add chopped leeks (or onions) and garlic; sautée 4-5 minutes. Add tomato and tomato paste, cooking gently for approximately 10 minutes.

2) Add dry white wine, allowing to simmer a few minutes before adding the cut fish pieces, gently stirring to cover with the tomato sauce, followed by adding the pre-heated fish stock. Simmer uncovered for a minimum of 10 minutes. Add seasonings.

Note: Other fish that I like to use are Turbot, Sole, Red Snapper, Tilapia.

We eat too much. And produce too much waste.

“Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants.” – Michael Pollan

I have started to practice thinking about everything, all the time. It’s great fun!

Cause and Effect

I practice thinking about the consequences of how all my actions, decisions and choices impact everything – literally from start to finish (from inception to decomposition). It seems a little odd to announce this doesn’t it? Especially since it should be a commonly practiced characteristic. Sadly, somewhere along the way of improving and making life easier we have been hypnotized by fast food (including healthy fast food!) and convenience merchandizers to believe that we are just too busy to think for ourselves…they want to think for us – and they have been. The result has been a disservice to our health and planet. Using the power of subliminal messaging via visual media and sound bites, we are being convinced of what we want and need.

From real product labels:

“Knowing the busy lifestyle of today’s families and the difficulty to make confident healthy food choices, [name withheld] brings these READY-TO-USE cooking stocks to Canada.”

It is so easy to make homemade stock which don’t require single-use disposable packaging.

“I know it can sometimes be challenging to eat right, especially when you’re on the go. That’s why I’ve created my line of healthy foods – so you can enjoy wholesome, tasty snacks even with your busy lifestyle…”

That come in single-use disposable plastic packages.

Thinking about cause and effect – from start to finish.

It seems to me that when we do something or create something, for the sake of our planet and for the benefit of all inhabitants that we need to consider in detail, from inception to decomposition the consequences of our actions.

Wind Turbines

For example: The incredible wind turbines. 537,000 Birds died at wind farms last year (including 83,000 raptors) in the U.S. alone and additionally it is estimated 888,000 bats were killed.

Were the details from start to finish properly or efficiently taken into account when designing these wind turbines? Perhaps the only consideration was how to create natural energy.  Producing clean power is fantastic, but causing hundreds of thousand deaths in the process is like blood energy.  How to create clean power without blades? Perhaps someone should ask James Dyson.

James Dyson

Yogurt fiasco? Whey Too Much: Greek Yogurt’s Dark Side

Greek yogurt’s acid whey by-product that is toxic to the environment and kills aquatic life has nowhere to go. Large-scale manufacturers are shipping it to farmers who feed it to their cattle (though the cattle can only tolerate a certain amount in their feed). Maybe we need to rethink the necessity of this yogurt rather than working on ways to turn the by-product into something else to ingest. Do we really need another sweetener syrup and would you really want to feed your baby infant formula made from this?

Cooks make meals from real food. Food scientists make ingestible substances disguised as food from by-products. By-products are the waste generated from processing. Think about what you are eating. Choose breast milk for babies. Choose naturally grown produce and if you eat meat, eat it in moderation from farmers who don’t feed their animals by-products! Grocery aisles with more meat than will be bought covered in plastic just for our convenience. We need to fix this.

I think of Marcella Hazan whenever I walk through the meat section at the grocery store. She was a self-taught American-Italian cook who having grown up in Italy had never stepped foot in a grocery store and prepared farm fresh poultry. When in American supermarkets, she came across chicken wrapped in plastic; she said it was unnatural, like they were in a coffin.

So many questions surface from such simple inquiry. Simple things such as buying milled flour, packaged in plastic.

flours in plastic

  • How does the plastic negatively affect the flour that I will be consuming?
  • How is the plastic package made in the first place?
  • What is the environmental impact that goes into making the plastic?
  • Where does the plastic wrapper go once I’ve used up the flour? Landfill? Waterways and ocean?
  • Where does the plastic wrapper go if I choose to recycle it with other plastic bags?
  • How much energy and water does it take to recycle plastic in the first place?
  • What does recycled plastic get turned into?
  • Isn’t turning recycled plastic into more plastic pointless?
  • I think I’d rather mill my own flour or buy from local farmers who package their flour in paper.
  • Paper packaging uses a lot of natural resources too, but it’s a step in the right direction.
  • Maybe I should re-think what I need flour for?
  • Am I eating more food than my body requires for optimum health?
  • Do I really need to make this much food?
  • Do I really need a treat? Especially every single day?

And so on…

I am trying to live a more Proactive Life. Being proactive is defined as: creating or controlling a situation by causing something to happen rather than responding to it after it has happened.

 

 It is easier to prevent disease than it is to cure disease.

This example would apply to both human and environmental disease.

These are some questions I have started to ask myself daily about everything in which I come into contact (not just flour!). I think about clothes, shoes, cars, bicycles, athletic gear, art, dishes, appliances and the list goes on.  How these items are manufactured and what will go into maintaining these items? Dry cleaning? Can the items be repaired when broken? How long will the items last? Where will these items end up when either they break or I don’t need them anymore? And yes, at times thinking like this has a somber effect on me, which is all the better, because that’s when I know that I can change. That’s when I wake up a little more and become more aware of my actions. The sadness I feel when I come to the realization: “What have I done? And “What am I contributing to?” This daily activity towards becoming proactive has helped me to come up with more constructive answers, which sit better with the person I effort to become.

“Do no harm & leave the world a better place than you found it.”

– Patricia Cornwell

I think about where my food comes from. Do you eat foods that are processed, which require opening a factory sealed bag or container to eat or cook with it?

I think about buying products from local farmers. But I take into account how those local farmers relate to the land; are they practicing sustainable agriculture? Do they practice food safety, equitable employment? Do they consider their environmental imprint from start to finish? How is their product delivered to store shelves? What’s the point in buying organic produce if it is covered in plastic?

Simultaneously, I think about how I cook the food that I buy. What kind of waste do I create in the process of making meals? How much aluminum foil do I use? I’ve read that cooking with foil at certain temperatures is not safe because the aluminum leaches into the food! I have cut down on re-heating food in the microwave and never use it for cooking.

“Think, think, think.”

– Winnie-the-Pooh

 

Eat Food.

Not Processed or By-Products. Not Packaged.

-Kathryn Palumbo

 
 
Note: I wrote to Bob’s Red Mill asking if they would consider repackaging their products in paper. In the meantime I am buying local flours that come in paper or from bulk.
 
 
 
 

Savory Breakfast (or anytime) Waffles

Savory Breakfast Waffles

When I woke this morning, while I lay in bed completing my bed stretches another part of my brain was configuring my breakfast plan. Once I got down to the kitchen and opened the fridge to see what I could combine, my breakfast waffle experiment came together.

Since having a couple years of trial and error with pancake batter, I decided that I could muddle my way through a savory waffle. Here is what I did.

Prepare vegetables:

  • 1 small carrot peeled and cubed
  • 1 small yam / sweet potato peeled and cubed
    • Place carrot & sweet potato/yam into pot of water. Boil until soft. Set aside ½ Cup.
  • ¼ Cup fennel, chopped, pan-fried in olive oil, until soft. Set aside
  • ¼ Cup scallions (green onion) chopped. Set aside.
  • 2 TBSP frozen spinach OR handful fresh washed leaves. Set aside.

Purée all the above prepared vegetables in small food processor; only ½ Cup combined softened carrot & sweet potato. Add 2 – 4 TBSP (or more) liquid from boiled carrot/sweet potato pot to facilitate mixing. Set aside.

Dry Ingredients:  Combine dry ingredients in a medium sized mixing bowl.

  • 2 TBSP Organic Millet Flour
  • 2 TBSP Organic Quinoa Flour
  • 4 TBSP Organic Soy Flour
  • 4 TBSP Organic White Rice Flour (or brown rice flour)
  • 1-2 TBSP Nutritional Yeast
  • 1 scant TBSP Soy Protein Isolate
  • 1-½ tsp Baking Powder
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground Sea Salt

Wet Ingredients:  Combine wet ingredients in a medium sized mixing bowl.

  • 1 Large organic egg, beaten
  • 1-Cup Organic Homemade Soy Milk
  • 1 TBSP Olive Oil

Method:

  1. Pre-heat waffle iron. Wipe or spray a lightly with olive oil (not extra virgin).
  2. Prepare vegetable purée. Set aside.
  3. Combine dry ingredients. Set aside.
  4. Combine wet ingredients. Set aside.
  5. Pour wet ingredients into bowl with dry ingredients and incorporate well.
  6. Add vegetable purée and combine well.
  7. Add more soy milk if necessary. But better to keep the batter on the thicker side.
  8. Pour batter onto pre-heated waffle iron following appliance directions.

Savory Waffles on ironExtra waffles can be frozen (after cooling) and re-heat very nicely in the toaster.

I enjoyed mine with a spot of unsalted butter, which melted nicely on the hot waffles, and they tasted equally good without any butter.

What I’ve been up to…

As a courtesy to those who have subscribed to my blogs, you may have noticed that I don’t just publish a post for the sake of publishing a post. I know that your time is precious and I do my best to write down my thoughts with as much care as possible. I hope you will recognize my integrity and take the time to read my infrequent but often long posts.

I have a post coming that is on the long side. Believe me, I am working at condensing my thoughts into manageable blurbs, but I admit that I just have so many streams of thought that relate to each other that I am having little success. If you are like me, you will scroll down to the end of a post determining whether or not you have the time or the desire to read it in its entirety. So, I have resolved to start with the following introduction. You will see the connection once you read the next instalment.

Homemade Hemp Milk

What I have been juggling:

  • January 2011 – March 2013

Following Eat Right For Your Type eating plan for each member of my family. Each of us is a different blood type. This meant that I often had to make four different meals. Lucky for me, my husband wasn’t really following the plan and he was happy to eat whatever I made for any blood type.

Amazing how quickly I was able to adapt to this theory. Within three months I felt like I had a good handle on it. Quite the good mental exercise; I was able to almost memorize each of our lists. We are more capable than we sometimes give ourselves credit. The trick is to persevere. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

  • March 2013

I started orthodontic treatment. I have been walking around with metal braces on my teeth which has been significant! Eating, talking, teeth shifting, soreness, cleaning, did I mention eating? I have adapted to the adjustment and quite like my braces. I think that I will miss them when they are taken off. I have learned a lot about my habits and self-discipline in the process.

  • April /June 2013

My two kids and I did The ALCAT blood test to identify specifically which foods we have intolerance and sensitivity to. After eleven years of observing my kids I had a vague idea which foods caused them problems. I was tired of guessing and I found the ER4YT program to be too generalized; it was a good starting point though, like a good warm up. But in following the ER4YT program, we ended up over-consuming the beneficial foods, all healthy, but perhaps those beneficial foods weren’t necessarily beneficial for us. In doing the ALCAT personalized blood test, we were given individualized food list and discovered some similarities and discrepancies with ER4YT. The results from this test taught us to add more variety to our diet as well as to space out these healthy foods. In doing so, I have noticed that we don’t over-consume any one product any more. I don’t have an overstock of food ‘staples’ in my pantry. And my kids are learning to have a real healthy and thoughtful relationship with food.

  • April 2013 – present (October 2013)

I have been really challenged with feeding my kids and me; each of us has very different intolerances. I am making most meals from scratch. I am making my own chicken and beef stocks. Making stews and soups and freezing portions. Going to a restaurant was really difficult initially, but since we have been gradually reintroducing the less intolerant foods, going out to a restaurant from time to time has become a real treat, not the frequent indulgence that going out to restaurants has become for many households. But I must admit, the more I cook and bake at home the more I prefer my own cooking.

My son’s most severe intolerances include ALL sugars (cane, maple syrup, agave, honey, hfcs) as well as wheat and other gluten grains, not to mention almonds, asparagus, celery, clam, crab, ginger, pecans, parsley and basil! My daughter has to avoid dairy and wheat, raspberries, bay leaf, artichoke, grapefruit and kidney beans. And my most severe intolerances include apple, fig, flaxseed and white potato. But the upside is that this is not forever. The idea is that if we eliminate these severe intolerances for twelve months and gradually reintroduce them, and by only eating those foods on occasion we should have no negative reactions.

After the initial shock wore off, I pulled myself together and got to work at designing dishes that we could all eat. That became very challenging, so I started making multiple dishes. I’m still standing, six months later! I am here to announce that anything is in fact possible. And I am becoming more accomplished each day with the challenges. Of course I have those days where I completely crash and nothing seems to go and so those are the days my husband rescues me and we go to a restaurant! Imagine just changing your personal lifestyle 180 degrees then go ahead and imagine working on shifting three lifestyles simultaneously. It all comes down to The Want; if you want something badly enough you will and can make it happen.

I have also been working on:

  • Specifically not eating the same foods again until four days have passed! Give that one a try. For example: if you have carrots today, wait until four days have passed before you have carrots again. Can you do that with your morning coffee? Most of us eat the same ten to twenty foods on a regular basis!
  • Learning to use less single–use plastic by reading Beth Terry’s book one chapter at a time.

Homemade Rice Crackers

  • Making my own flour, crackers, soy milk, almond milk, hemp milk, oat milk, rice milk etc.
  • Designing recipes based on acceptable foods from the ALCAT test following the 4 -Day Food Rotation
  • Cleaning my own house, in even a more environmentally conscious way
  • Raising kids and caring for a geriatric dog
  • Taking care of my own body maintenance
  • Volunteering at my kid’s school
  • Finding time to write down my thoughts before I become overwhelmed with content and freeze.
  • Stay on top of my hobbies
  • Etc.

Dog Ruby

This post ended up longer than it was supposed to be…I’ll keep trying until I get it right. Until then, thanks for reading.

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