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Tuesday, 2 July 2013

BPA - an education

I have been trying to eliminate single-use plastic from my life to cut down on my waste production and product consumption - but another reason to limit my (and my family's) exposure to plastic is BPA. This chemical is also known as Bisphenol-A and is present in a host of items. But before I list them and some alternatives, let me summarize what the problems with this chemical are.
1. In many animal studies "BPA has been shown to be a reproductive, developmental, and systemic toxicant, and it is a known endocrine-disruptor." (Plastic Free, Beth Terry, p.20) This translated means that it is linked to breast and prostate cancer as well as developmental disorders such as ADHD. (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
2. The highest levels of BPA are found in children whose bodies are still developing. This is due to the contact they have with the chemical concerning food and food packaging. The exposure combined with the smaller size of a child creates a higher ratio and can affect sexual organ development.
3. Finally, it is well hidden. Many plastic items that come in contact with children's food can now be created and labeled 'BPA Free', but BPA is not just in water and baby bottles! BPA is present in plastic cutlery, plates, reusable Tupperware, plastic wrap, coffee makers and other kitchen appliances, some plastic mugs, soda cans, food cans, plastic toys, dental composites, menstrual pads, book covers, water bottles and jugs, linings of metal lids... the list goes on! 12 Ways to avoid hidden BPA are listed on the Queen-of-Green's blog through David Suzuki's website.

Another hidden source of BPA is thermal paper - the kind that receipts are printed on. "the total mass of BPA on a receipt is 250 to 1,000 times greater than the amount of BPA typically found in a can of food or a can of baby formula." (BPA Coats Cash Register Receipts, Sonya Lunder et. al.) This not only gets on the cashier's and your skin, but then can be tossed into the recycling bin and made into new products like toilet paper. Do you really want to expose THAT area to a reproductive toxicant?

Finally - one last word of caution. Just because a plastic item is toted as being a safer alternative because it is BPA free - does not mean it actually is. Many of these formulas have not been sufficiently tested to see their effects on animals or humans. Some products have just replaced one nasty chemical for another and the new ones can produce more 'Estrogenic Activity' than their counterparts.
"It's not enough for us to know what's not in a plastic product; as citizens, we should have a right to know what is in it." (Terry, p. 20)

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Plastic in Bulk

One of my strategies for cutting down on my single use plastic consumption is to limit or eliminate plastic packaging - especially that which comes in contact with my food. I THOUGHT I'd be able to visit my local Bulk Barn and bring in my own containers and fabric bags. However - this is not the case. My last visit ended with a terse conversation with the teller who informed me I couldn't use my bags because of the risk of cross-contamination. I know she was only doing her job - and I tried to remain polite throughout our conversation - but at the end of the exchange I let her know that I would not be able to shop at Bulk Barn again if I had to use their plastic bags to transport my goods. I also felt frustrated that this policy of not bringing in one's own containers was not adequately signed in the store so I was unaware of the rules until I was subjected to a lecture. I have been a customer of bulk stores since University and I appreciate how they provide variety as well as healthy and organic items. I decided to write a letter to Bulk Barn to encourage them to regain my patronage. Feel free to copy/paste/adjust/and send your own copy. Sometimes companies who already seem to promote environmental choice are more open to going that extra green step.


Bulk Barn Foods Limited
Corporate Office
55 Leek Crescent
Beaver Creek Business Park
Richmond Hill, Ontario
L4B 3Y2

To Whom it may concern,

I have been a long time customer of the Bulk Barn and appreciate your business model that allows customers to purchase only the amount of items they need in minimal packaging. I also admire your offering of products and how you have expanded your inventory to include organic, vegan, and gluten free merchandise. However, I am writing to ask you to go further with your environmental initiatives as that is/was one of the primary reasons I shopped at your store. I realize you are concerned with cross-contamination so you don’t allow patrons to bring their own bags – but by banning this activity you discourage customers from limiting their consumption of single use plastic. This is a primary concern of environmentalists as plastic does not degrade and contributes to landfill, leaches toxins, and can be consumed by wildlife. Therefore, if you will not allow customers to use their own clean containers – could you at least provide paper (biodegradable) or biodegradable plastic bags?

Also, I was shopping at your establishment this morning and witnessed the stocking of bins and shelves. Many products (bulk or otherwise) came encased in plastic, which was discarded once the product was poured into another plastic filmed container. Any used plastic was then placed in ANOTHER plastic bag and when I asked the employee what happened to that packaging he informed me that it was thrown out. Could you please look into recycling this material? It is possible – some grocery stores take back plastic bags and companies such as Terracycle have a send-in program.

I would love a response to this letter. I maintain an environmental blog – and will be posting this communication on it. Any response you send will be posted as well and I’m sure my readers would be interested in your position on these requests. In the meantime, I will be shopping at other bulk establishments in order to lessen my environmental footprint.


Andra Kelly

Monday, 10 June 2013

Seasonal Treats - Rhubarb!

One of the best things to do for the environment is eat local, eat organic, and eat in season. I am SO happy that the sun is making longer and longer appearances and I finally got my veggies in (a future post - I promise) and one of my favourite vegetables (masquerading as a fruit) is now in full throttle. Rhubarb! Not only does this wonderful plant grow without any need for pesticides in my neck of the woods - but it is also chock full of great things like vitamin K, fiber, and calcium. It is in season NOW so no need to contribute to global warming transporting this goodie to the table. Finally - it is easy to freeze - so if you have too much or don't know what to do with it now - chop it up for later! Here's a recipe that I adapted from Deb Perelman's Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. I was able to make it gluten free and vegan friendly for my friends (though the dough becomes more sticky and requires some patience) and the effort is well worth it.

Rhubarb Hamantashchen
(I call them rhubarb triangles.)
4 cups rhubarb - chunked, 1 cup sugar

1/2 cup almond meal
2 cups Gluten Free flour (I use Bob's Red Mill)
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
8 tablespoons vegan margarine spread
2 tablespoons almond milk
Egg Replacer to = 1 egg (I use PaneRiso brand)
1/8 teaspoon almond extract

1. Make Filling

Trim leaves (which are poisonous) and any rough ends from rhubarb. Chop into 1/2inch segments and place in a med. saucepan with sugar. Stir to combine and heat covered at med/low. Cook for around 15min. REmove cover and cont. cooking with stirring for another 15min. or so until running a spoon across the bottom of the pot leaves a clear line. Remove from heat and let cool.
(You MIGHT be tempted to add water but DON'T! This way your compote will stay thick)

2. Make Dough

Mix ground almonds, flour, sugar, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Work margarine spread into mix until it resembles cornmeal. Add almond milk, egg substitute and extract. Work with a wooden spoon and knead until uniform. You can add more moisture if needed.

3. Shape the Cookies

Place parchment paper on counter and have a generous bowl of gluten free flour at the ready for dusting. Put 1/3 of the dough on the paper and another piece of parchment paper on top (you don't have to do this but it helps with the sticking). Roll with a pin until dough is approx. 1/8 inch thick. Use a wine glass to cut out circles to place on parchment papered cookie sheet. Dollop approx. a teaspoon of compote on the centre of each cookie and fold edges up in three places to form a triangular cookie. Pinch seams together to form corners. Bake cookies for 15-17min. at 375 degrees. Place on wire rack to cool.

Saturday, 1 June 2013


This is an action I am proud to say I was doing before doing it was cool - BRING YOUR OWN BAG.

Plastic bags are an awful invention. The price of this convenience is incredible. They are made from ethylene (a byproduct of petroleum or natural gas) and create environmental havoc from the beginning to the end of their life cycle. The production of plastic bags emits environmental waste, the bags themselves leak chemicals onto food and people, and the bags never biodegrade sometimes trapping biodegradable material forever. Finally,
plastic bags are so lightweight and aerodynamic they are easily picked up and carried by the wind. They can escape from trash bins, recycle bins, garbage trucks, and landfills, and end up littering the landscape. (Beth Terry, Plastic Free - How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too,49)
Here they cause harm for a very long time and can be ingested by wildlife. I have been using cloth bags for my groceries for a long time now. However - there are three areas where I was still using plastic bags that I have recently replaced with great reusable substitutes.

1. My Credo Bag Ecoshopper.
This bag is made of nylon but I decided to invest in it as its strength and water resistance ensures it will last MANY years. It folds up to be stashed in its own pouch, the size of a wallet, so it fits in my purse ready to be used any time. Credo Bags are a Canadian company who produce most of their products in Canada (not the ecoshopper though) and have bags available in a variety of eco materials such as organic cotton, hemp, and bamboo.

2. Reusable Muslin Bulk Bag.
I bought two of these from a great etsy store called ThisChild. They are quite pretty and I use them when I go to the bulk barn instead of using those flimsy plastic bags you rip from a roll. I love the draw string and there's a ribbon tag to attach any stickers or hand-tags a store provides to mark the items encased within.

3. Reusuable Eco Friendly Cotton Produce Bags.
Another area where I was using those rip-from-a-roll plastic bags was when I bought produce from a grocery store. I hate unnecessary packaging - so I tried to not use these bags - but sometimes I cringed and had to keep food from bruising or falling out of the cart. Not any more! I got these beauties (as well as some with rabbits screen printed on them) from another etsian ohlittlerabbit. They took eccobags and screen-printed their designs on the front. I find the funkier my bags are the more proud I am to show them off. Maybe they will inspire others?

However, IF you live in my area and find yourself with plastic bags we do have a plastic bag recycling program. Of course it is better if you and I can eliminate bags all together, but nobody's perfect, and I still have a stash that needs to go.

One last bit I couldn't resist sharing: The MARCH AGAINST MONSANTO last week went well and my daughter participated in her first protest. Here she is chanting with me :)

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

March on Monsanto

This Saturday at 2PM I will be in Oshawa marching with my daughter (if she can stay awake) against one of the scariest companies on the planet - MONSANTO.
I first became aware of this company after watching the incredible film Food, inc. They are a seed and pesticide (among other things) company that have taken over corn, soybean, and cotton production crops - just to name a few. GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are plants/animals created through gene splicing and merging DNA from different species. The concept of GMOs started out as a good idea with supporters touting how they could create bigger and better crops and be the solution to world hunger. Instead, bugs and weeds that were supposed to be blocked by GMOs and their partner pesticides and herbicides have evolved to super strength so farmers have to use MORE chemicals to beat them.

Another issue (that is more ethical than environmental) surrounding GMO seed is the idea of patents. Before GMO seed farmers would save seed from year to year to start their next crop. This is a practice that has been going on since humans started to plant anything! Now companies like MONSANTO own patents to their seeds and require farmers to sign contracts that prohibit saving and re-planting seed. This restricts biodiversity AND makes the farmers beholden to the company for their livelihoods. Since 2001 the price of Monsanto GMO soybean and corn seed has more than doubled. Cases have gone to court (like Bowman vs. Monsanto where patents have successfully been defended at the expense of the 'little guy.'

Finally, many companies that patent GMO seeds also "develop and patent the pesticides and herbicides to which the unique seeds are resistant. Monsanto is the largest seed company in the world and owns about 86% of GMO seeds sown globally. It is also the parent of Roundup." (, Queen of Green, Understanding GMO) So once the farmer pays through the nose for the seed, signs the contract, and ensures that approximately. 70% of their inventory is from the same supplier (to avoid cross pollination), they then need to spray continuously with Roundup (what the seed is genetically modified to withstand) which is owned by the same parent company! I love farmers - especially ones who are independent and want to grow good food for me and my family. So not only am I marching for the environment and against big corporation on saturday - but I am also marching for that farmer who is trying to do a good job. Join me and find your closest march by clicking this link: occupy monsanto.

P.S. The Non-GMO Project is a great organization/site to visit if you want to learn more about GMOs and how to avoid them. They have an excellent search engine where you can verify products and see which ones have earned their third party verification seal:

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

What's that Garbage coming outta yo' Mouth?

All small changes can have an impact. I am on a quest to eliminate all single-use plastic from my life. This includes plastic wraps, bags, packaging etc. One area I have found particularly needling to my conscience is the life of take out garbage.

I wish I could stop myself from ordering take-out all together - but I'm far from perfect and sometimes I really want that burger/drink/sweet treat. I avoid contact with styrofoam at all costs - preferring to go without than contribute to that waste stream - but cutlery and straws have required a little more effort. Rather than accept that plastic utensil (sometimes wrapped in MORE plastic to keep it sterile in a take-out bag) with my order, I now say a polite "No Thanks, I have my own." This is my Reusable Bamboo Utensil Set that I bought from a company called To-Go Ware. The utensil holder is made from RPET - a fabric made from recycled plastic bottles, and the utensils themselves are bamboo - an incredible renewable resource. The pack comes with a fork, knife, spoon, and chopstick set. It's great for tossing in my purse before I head out the door.

Another piece of disposable plastic that comes in contact with your mouth are straws. Usually they are also individually wrapped in paper or plastic and are tossed without a second thought. Me? I'm switching to stainless steel! Once again I went to one of my favourite online shops, Life Without Plastic, and placed and order for four stainless steel straws that come with their own cleaner. Unfortunately they were made in China and were incased in plastic packaging - but if they stop my straw garbage for the rest of my life (and my kids too) - I think they're worth it.

Now even though my work colleagues are pretty good at bringing their own utensils for lunch - I did get a bit of teasing about my set. (mostly because it looks like it could attach to your belt or fanny pack) That's o.k. - I feel better stopping my plastic consumption and decided to provide them the opportunity to avoid plastic consumption with me. I easily found extra stainless steel cutlery at my local re-sale shop. So I bought a bunch of forks and spoons and left them in the office for 'that day' when a person forgets their cutlery or we're having a particularly messy treat day. They are there for anyones use - and I'm not constantly promoting or tracking it. I really try not to harass people about environmental choices so as not to turn them 'off' or away. So - although I could continue this post with the sad impact plastic cutlery can have on one's self and the environment - I'd rather let you read that (if you wish to do more research) by clicking on this link to a great and comprehensive article by Andrew Bernier: Living the Life of a Plastic Fork.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

I love this company

Have you heard about the company TERRACYCLE?

This is one of my new favourite institutions. I read about it in Amy Korst's "Zero Waste Lifestyle" and I couldn't believe my eyes! It's a company that strives to find uses for and/or recycle the pieces of waste that your local waste management department can't. Here's how it works:

1. Go to Terracycle's website and click on the subheading "send us your waste." A grid of brigades will pop up. Here you can scan for waste streams that you contribute to but can't recycle or repurpose in your own hometown. I currently am a member of the diaper packaging, cereal bag, and coffee bag brigades. I want to do more - but I'm trying to start slow so I don't bite off more than I can chew.

2. Sign up for the streams you wish and start collecting! I collect my own waste and some from my daughter's daycare as well as donations from my work colleagues. I set up some 'pink boxes' in the staff room and let my fellow workers know that they could put their 'junk' in the 'boxes' any time they felt like it. I was quick to let them know that the 'size of their junk' didn't matter - it's what they do with it that counts :)

3. Once I have enough 'junk' I just log into my account at and request a shipping label to be sent to my e-mail. They PAY for me to ship them my collection!

4. Finally - as if curbing waste isn't enough of an incentive to ship to terracycle - they credit my account with points that can be turned into a donation to a charity of my choice! Once I have enough I'm donating to the David Suzuki Foundation. The environmental benefits just multiply!