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Be Green

Green Renewal

In case you're wondering, those delicious sachets in the photo are re-usable, 100% green dryer sheets available from some creative soul (ReFabulous) on Etsy. Also check out her anti-static dryer balls!

Last week we talked about replacing items around the home with greener alternatives. And there's never a better time to start doing this than when the item needs replacing anyway. So I teamed up with Jasmine Stuart (you might remember her from our piece last week) from Sustainable Concordia to pick items that you'd expect to find in most households: deodorant, fabric softener, shower curtains and Tupperware (or more accurately, plastic lunchboxes). Ready to be green(er)? Let's do it!


Let's start with lunch boxes
There's nothing wrong with using Tupperware or similar plastic boxes for your lunch. It's certainly preferable to any disposable alternative (like clingfilm or foil). However, I've noticed that my lunch box cabinet seems to be full of broken, breaking or lidless wonders and I'm in the process of replacing a goodly chunk of them. Instead of buying plastic though, I've decided to buy more glassware. Why?
Plastic isn't the best option for storing fatty foods or heating anything. Heat and oils can cause leaching of phthalates and Bisphenol-A, both compounds that cause all manner of health problems including belly fat in men and toxicity in babies.
So starting right now, my lunch box cabinet is going to be full of boxes made of Pyrex or Corningware. They come with plastic lids (I don't use them in the microwave) and are safe for use in dishwashers, microwaves and ovens. In fact, having them around has kinda cut down on dishwashing because I can cook stuff in them and use the same dish for transport. They're pricey though (usually between $3 + at Zellers and Canadian Tire), so if you have a student budget, you know what's a cheap, leak-proof option?
MASON JARS! They're the ones your mama uses for canning. You can buy 12 for about $10 at the dollar plus store and use them in the fridge and microwave. If freezing stuff in them, remember to leave enough space for liquids to expand!

There are certain cons to this approach though:
* Glass is breakable. So maybe less appropriate for young children. And use some padding in your backpack.
* Glass is heavy:

Next, Fabric Softener:
I'm grappling with this one as I strive to be green and also have some vertebrae left for when I'm older...(But if you drive, this shouldn't be a problem)

Next: Fabric Softener
If you're addicted to fabric softener, you really ought to bring over your bottle or box and google some of the ingredients. You're likely to see:
* Chloroform: probable human carcinogen
* Benzyl acetate: kidney, liver, respiratory toxicant
Plus, dryer sheets aren't recyclable (so they'll end up in a landfill continuing to leach those toxins into the earth and water). And it's been proven than fabric softener makes certain fabrics (terry cloth, velour and polar) up to 7 times more flammable. In fact, drying in a dryer itself seems to affect those fabrics in a similar way, so be careful!

Can't handle static or crave the scent of fresh laundry?

Use felted wool dryer balls or simply add a half cup of vinegar to your final rinse. It won't smell like salad, promise! If you miss the magic window, you can also soak a rag in vinegar and chuck it in the dryer. Of course, the cheapest way to eliminate (or minimize) static is to let your clothes air dry!
As for smell, you can make your own waste-free dryer sheets!

All you need:
* 5-10 cotton hankies or cloth squares
* Your favourite organic essential oils
* An air tight box (perhaps one of those mason jars or tupperware containers!)

Simply put a few drops of the oils on each cloth (you can combine them for more complex fragrances, but never add more than 10 drops: you don't want to start a fire!). Store cloths neatly folded in your airtight container. When doing laundry, just toss one in as you would a regular dryer sheet. Then collect and refresh with oils. See, no waste. Plus your home smells lovely!
A dash of vinegar will also help with static. Try it! You'll see what I mean about the smell.

Moving on, shower curtains:

If you're throwing out your old shower curtain, PLEASE PLEASE don't buy a brand new one made from PVC. (That would be most curtains on the market!). Polyvinyl chloride is terrible for the environment. While it's being manufactured, it releases vinyl chloride, a flammable, colourless gas (think new curtain or new car smell) that's a known human carcinogen. This gas also comes off a curtain for some time (off gassing). When your curtain comes to the end of its cycle, even though Montreal accepts it in green bins, chances are it ends up being incinerated. This releases dioxins. They cause cancer. Worse, once we create them, there's no way to take them back. They just hang around making us and our animal friends sick.

So what are your options:
Greener: IKEA and other stores sell PEVA curtains. They don't contain or release vinyl chloride. BUT, they may end up in landfills or at the incinerator.

GREENER: Organic cotton curtains or those made from hemp. They're pricey, though ($30 to $200). And not fun and colourful either!

GREENEST: Use an old or thrifted sheet. I use one I found at Value Village. It's pretty, it's got a reasonable thread count (the higher the thread count the more waterproof the sheet). And I can just chuck it in the washer when it gets icky. Makes for a much easier job cleaning the bathroom, let me tell ya! You might be scratching your head wondering whether water falls out: it doesn't! Unless you actually hold the shower up against the sheet pointing out, it's totally fine. If you have kids, you might want to consider canvas or perhaps two layers (much like the clear plastic and patterned outer curtain that we've traditionally used).

Smelly armpits, we're comin' for you!

Of course, the greenest option for deo is none at all. Hey, wait, come back! Okay, okay, not everyone is ready for a deodorantless existence. But what's wrong with your sweat-stick anyway?
Most commercial brands contain:
* Phthalates (potential like to cancer)
* Parabens (potential link to cancer)
* Aluminium Chlorhydrate (potential link to breast cancer and Alzheimer's disease)
* Propyl Glycol (anti-freeze--toxic to wildlife and pets--although deodorants usually contain only small amounts)

Plus, considering how many of us use these things (and how quickly), that's a lot of plastic ending up in a landfill.
So what's a green warrior to do?

Use "the rock"
I've seen it called the rock, the stone, the underarm crystal... In French, there's a brand called Deodoroche. You can find these at most Pharmacies for between $5-$10. I swear by this thing. The contents are pure mineral salt: mostly alum. It doesn't smell like anything (so you can wear perfume or use essential oils) and it keeps you unstinky way longer than anything else I've tried (even the toxic stuff). It has even worked on my husband's feet in the summer. (Babe, I love you, but them sandals were NASTY!).
NOTE: Just because this stuff worked for me doesn't mean it's going to cure you of armpit odour. Everyone's different. You might need to experiment.
ALSO NOTE: I highly recommend the solid stone. You have to wet it with water before applying it. I've had mine for more than a year and I've used maybe 1/3! And I paid $6. This also means that there will be less total plastic in the landfill when I'm done with this baby in 2011! i.e. just one casing instead of the several I might have used.

"Natural" options: There are some brands that are better than others. You really need to know that NO ONE IS REGULATING THE LABELLING. Just because something says "natural" or "chemical-free" or "eco-friendly" or anything like that doesn't mean it is. Worse, some companies double deal. You might love one product that's truly safe and green and then find that the same company has questionable ingredients in another item.
There are only a few brands I can recommend off the top of my head for safer deodorants:
* Druide
* Burt's Bees
* Green Beaver
And by a happy coincidence, they're all Canadian! Yay Canada!

Alright, I'm hungry and tired and need to go home. I'm turning the mike over to you: what products are you replacing in your quest to be green? Leave me a comment or call our Talkback Line: (514) 597-5626

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Comments (5)

Andrea N.


I enjoyed your tips tonight, especially about the shower curtain. I never knew mine was so toxic. What I would like to know is if there a place to safely dispose of such items like my shower curtain? Thanks.

Posted January 19, 2009 07:03 PM

Emily Hunt


Thanks Geeta! I love hearing about new environmental ideas :)
I also want to let other viewers know that 100% biodegradable sheets exist in health stores. They are called Eco Select Zero. Although they are unscented, I use pachouli oil when I feel like it.

Posted January 19, 2009 07:05 PM

Alison P


I have a dryer sachet that I bought in NS at a lavender farm. Its nice but it doesn't make my clothes as smelly as I'd hoped. I tried adding essential oils to the vinegar I use in the rinse but it left marks because it doesn't emulsify in the vinegar or water. The dryer sheet hankies are a cool idea...or scented felted balls....
We need to talk and maybe have a workshop.

Posted January 29, 2009 10:40 AM

Barbara Dylla


I bought the Static Eliminator back in September. For about $11, you get two odour-free, chemical-free, reusable dryer sheets that last for over 500 loads - and they're made in Canada. They work well, except when the dryer gets too hot (i.e. if you're over-drying the clothes).
see www.staticeliminator.ca

Posted February 23, 2009 01:26 PM

Stevan Todorovic


When Should Kids Use Deodorant

A few years ago my wife and I had a serious debate on whether or not to allow our 8 year old daughter to wear deodorant. Alzheimer’s runs in my wife’s family so she is concerned about the aluminum contained in most deodorants. Parabens have been linked with breast cancer which is also an ingredient in most deodorants. Propylene Glycol is a main ingredient also contained in even so called “natural deodorants” which is also used to make anti freeze. Propylene Glycol enters the skin so quickly that the EPA has warned factory workers to avoid skin contact in order to prevent brain, liver, and kidney abnormalities. So in my opinion it isn’t when kids or anyone else should use deodorant but what deodorant to use.

I have done a lot of research on when kids should start using deodorant. In my opinion if the kids are using a safe natural deodorant it should be whenever the children begin to develop odor that showering once a day will not contain. This can be 5 years old or earlier in some cases. I have spoke to preschool teachers who year after year have a large percentage students who do have body odor. I have read many conflicting articles that link or do not link body odor with puberty. I honestly think that it has very little to do with puberty at all. Instead I think it has more to do with diets. Not that an unhealthy diet will make a child smell and a healthy diet will not. I think it has a lot more to do with spices that are used in the meals. It also has to do with how active the children are.

In conclusion kids should start using deodorant whenever they need to. However, be very careful about the deodorant you choose. Find a deodorant that has no Aluminum, Parabens, or Propylene Glycol. I have found Junior Varsity’s Kids Deodorant to be a great option. You can visit their site at www.jvdeodorant.com.

Posted March 2, 2009 11:56 PM

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