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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 :)