Monthly Archives: June 2011

Buttery Goodness with Zero Waste House Guests

We recently played host to some friends and fellow zero wasters who were visiting from Iqaluit. I have to say, living in the extreme north, they definitely have a harder time of it finding low-packaging food, but, armed with a pantry of bulk food, they’re doing an amazing job!

After enthusiastically taking full advantage of all Vancouver has to offer in terms of restaurants, we got together for a home-cooked meal. It turned into a collaboration in local food; we picked greens from the garden, boiled spot prawns, and, most excitingly, we made butter from scratch.

I’ve made butter a couple times before, but I realized I hadn’t posted on it. It’s dead easy, and definitely worth a try. It’s especially fun in a group or with kids because you can all take turns shaking. All you need is a jar and some whipping cream.

Put the cream in the jar.

Shake shake shake until the cream turns to whipped cream. . .

which in turn becomes a solid lump of butter in a watery liquid (buttermilk).

You can salt it if you wish.

Drain the buttermilk to use for baking or making pancakes the next morning.

That’s it!

Quick note – if you are storing your butter for awhile, you have to wash the remaining buttermilk out of it or it will go rancid.  Ours never stays around long enough, so we skip this stage, but I gather that you either put it in a strainer or just knead the lump of butter in your hands while running it under cold water.

PS – If you’re still wondering how you can live zero waste in the Frozen North, check out  subzerowaste (the name of which cracks me up) .



Filed under DIY, food

Sun(burn) Style

sunscreen fail – can you tell I was at least wearing sunglasses and a hat?

As a fair-skinned redhead who spends a certain amount of quality time outdoors (think cycling across Canada for three months) I go through my fair share of sunscreen.

And then I saw the movie Chemerical and started thinking about toxins in my products. Why the heck would companies put known carcinogens in products meant to be slathered on our skin and therefore absorbed into our bodies? I visited the skin deep cosmetic database and found out that my favorite sunscreen ranks 4 out of 10 on the unsafe scale. Not bad, but I was  thinking I ought to give some of the other guys a try. So here’s my non-scientific sunscreen review:

1) Coppertone Oilfree 30 SPF. 4/10 on skin deep. I have been committed to Coppertone oil-free for awhile now – it doesn’t make me break out, it goes on silky smooth, it smells good, it’s waterproof, and dammit it works. Unfortunately, it’s also flagged with concern about neurotoxicity (from aluminum starch octenylsuccinate) and endocrine disruption ( from oxybenzone).

2) Burt’s Bees 30SFF. 4/10 on skin deep.  Last summer I tried my first “natural type” alternative; I love Burt’s lip balm, and their products smell good, so I figured it was worth it regardless of the slightly hefty price tag. After the creamy absorption of Coppertone, I have to say that Burt’s was an adjustment.  It went on like paste, left a chalky residue, and I ended up getting burned which defeats the whole purpose of sunscreen. Don’t let me turn you off though – maybe it’s just my skin type.

3) ECO logical 30SPF. 1/10 on skin deep. We went to the Farmer’s Market in Newport Beach and there was a stand selling ECO sunscreen; it was nice to have a face to face conversation with the actual business owner, and we bought a tube. Initial review is that it goes on smooth-ish; not as smooth as standard commercial brands, but smooth enough to absorb. It smells like nothing much, it’s biodegradable, it’s made with organic ingredients, and it works (we were warned to reapply if we are sweating lots or swimming).

Now, onto the waste part. I have yet to find package-free sunscreen.

Some tubes are PET 1 or 2, so you can recycle them which is better than nothing. We chatted with ECO Logical folks for awhile about what they could do to reduce plastic packaging. They’re using recycled plastic for their containers, but we’d like to see bulk sunscreen pumps at stores and refillable containers. The problem is that sunscreen expires. It must be stored in an airtight container out of direct light, and that poses a problem to having it around in bulk.  If anyone has a good solution, please let me know.

A secondary waste issue is the sunscreen itself. I had never thought about it, but apparently “5,000 tons of sunscreen are washed off people and into the oceans each year”. That is a lot of sunscreen! And the accumulation on coral and the sea floor as well as the addition of toxins to the food chain is a really big deal.

I wish I had a real answer in terms of zero waste sunscreen, but for now, here’s a few lower waste tips for the summer:

-wear a hat and long sleeves to reduce your need for sunscreen if spending lots of time outdoors

-pick sunscreen that comes in a bottle you know you can recycle

-opt for sunscreens that are biodegradable

-visit the EWG Sunscreen 2011 page to see how your sunscreen ranks and find the safest options

If you have any great sun tips or any favorite sunscreen options, I’d love to hear them!


Filed under Hygiene, product reviews