Category Archives: DIY

Freshmaker

I am the first to admit that my homemade toothpaste is nothing spectacular. I mean, it cleans and all, but it doesn’t  foam or give you that minty fresh feeling (which, in my opinion, is part of the point of using toothpaste.) I actually taught a DIY household products class the other night at the rec centre, and I was a bit embarrassed to even include the toothpaste.

But I’ve recently found a recipe that makes everything ok. It’s mouthwash!

I had looked into homemade mouthwash previously, but was intimidated by the specialty ingredients (aloe vera juice anyone), but then I found a recipe that only included things I already had around the house.

It’s minty, it’s super ridiculously cheap, and it doesn’t leave me with the plastic bottle guilt or the burning mouth sensation of commercial mouthwashes. Why the heck didn’t I try this earlier?

homemademouthwash1 cup water
1TBSP baking soda
2 drops peppermint oil
1 drop teatree oil (optional, but slightly antiseptic)

Store in an airtight container.

Next up, I might try this spearmint tooth gel.

PS, if you missed the 90’s and hence the term “freshmaker”, you might want to watch this mentos commercial.

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Attention Wannabee Urban Homesteaders

I am so so sad that I’m going to miss this, but I figured I could at least pass it on. The Homesteader’s Emporium is a new shop in Vancouver dedicated to all things urban farmy. Think bee keeping, chicken raising, cider pressing, flour grinding, and rainwater harvesting. I don’t buy too much “stuff”, but when I do, this is the type of thing I drool over. It’s like a super duper DIY store, and we’re pretty excited it’s in our general vicinity in East Van.

The grand opening is this weekend, and although we’ll won’t be there, I felt compelled to pass it on. They’ve got cool workshops for three days straight! Everything from “Keeping and Baking with Sourdough Starter” and “Growing Mushrooms at Home” to “Basic Soap Making” and “Stamp Crafts”. Check out full schedule and details at http://www.homesteadersemporium.ca/events.html and have a great weekend!

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More Things I Never Thought I Would Make: Eatmore Bars

When I was a teenager, I used to babysit for a family down the street that had a candy drawer. It was, just as it sounds, an entire drawer full of candy. After dinner, if it was a weekend, the kids could each pick one item out of the drawer. And once they went to bed I would settle on the couch with a selection of  licorice, gummy worms, and various chocolatey treats and devour them until my teeth ached.

I remember this particularly because back at my house, we definitely did not have a candy drawer. To be fair, I probably didn’t have enough self control to have a drawer of candy, and we did have a cookie jar filled with homemade goodness, but as everyone knows, cookies aren’t candy.

Whether it was the lack of a dedicated drawer or my naturally ravenous sweet tooth, I have great nostalgia for candy. Most of it centres around the following:

  1. The obvious annual Halloween bonanza.
  2. The customary giddy anticipation of corner store candy purchases where I could spend my allowance however I wanted (generally a box of nerds, a ring pop, or a lick-a-stick because they lasted the longest and I have long been a girl who values a good deal).
  3. Skittles. My Dad would occasionally come home with a coveted package of these shiny fruity wonders. I associated Skittles so closely with being a “Dad candy” that I was actually surprised years later when I realized that anyone could just walk into a grocery store and buy them.
  4. And finally, the eatmore bar. At some point in my later childhood, after she went back to work full time and we started packing our own lunches, my mom began buying bulk packs of eatmore bars. Usually we had granola bars, but when the eatmores were in the house, each of us kids were allowed half of one in our lunch. It was the ultimate treat: soft and chewy, salty sweet, peanuty goodness, and it’s something I’ve missed since we headed down the zero waste path and stopped buying things like plastic wrapped candy bars. (I told you I was nostalgic about this stuff)

Anyway, today I unexpectedly discovered that my Whitewater cookbook had a recipe for eatmore bars in it. Even after all my do-it-yourselfing it never even occurred to me that I could MAKE them. And now, after all of 5 minutes, I have a whole pan of candy bars in the house.

If only I could figure out how to make skittles, I’d be set. . .

PS-If you want to try eatmore bars for yourself, there’s a similar recipe here

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Hot Chocolatey Goodness

I haven’t made hot chocolate in a long time. Sure, I’ve had it at cafes (I’m a pretty big fan of rich chocolatey goodness), but I haven’t made it in my own house.

The last time I bought a canister of hot chocolate was something like 3 years ago when we started the zero waste thing, and I’m embarassed to admit it, but it never crossed my mind that you could make hot chocolate without hot chocolate mix, so I’ve done without ever since.

Until yesterday. Yesterdayday it snowed, and then the sun came out, and it became just the sort of gorgeous wintery day that beckons to you to grab a book, curl up at the window seat, and sip hot chocolate. And then it hit me. I had cocoa, I had sugar, I had milk; by golly, I could make hot chocolate.

Of course, after my “breakthrough”, I checked online and found out that I was far from the only one who had ever done this. Obviously people used to make it before Carnation and Nestle stepped in with pre-packaged mixes. In truth, just about everything we buy at the store can be made from scratch. Well, maybe not Kraft Singles, but you know what I mean.

What’s something that you used to purchase before realizing it was nearly as easy to make it yourself?

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Memories Not Garbage

Like it or not, the holidays are soon to be upon us, and like it or not, people are going to give gifts. I know there are some who have successfully removed themselves from decorating their homes with frivolous festive trimmings and giving “things” to their loved ones, but I’m guessing that there are many many others who want to give something; it’s just that they’re tired of the same old crap that gets used for a few months and then tossed.

Our regional government is actually running a campaign this year encouraging people to “Make Memories, Not Garbage”, meaning giving gifts of experiences or material goods that are good quality and meaningful (if you go to their site and scroll down, there are some great gift ideas and ecards).  So, in that spirit of giving, here’s my two cents on low impact gift options.

Wrapping

  • reusable fabric gift bags
  • furoshiki
  • table cloths, dish towels, napkins or towels
  • reused wrapping paper, newspaper, or kraft paper
  • reusable mesh produce bags
  • boxes from shoes, oranges, scotch, etc
  • lunch containers or travel mugs (works well for gift certificates and jewelery)
  • rafia and twine or quality, reusable cloth ribbon
  • gift tags made from reused Christmas cards

Gift Ideas

  • tickets: theatre, music performance, movie, theater sports, comedy club
  • passes: rec centre, gym, museum, aquarium, science centre, yoga studio
  • classes: art, dance, craft, cooking, language, theatre
  • outdoor experiences (this might be an organized tour or a promise to do something together): snowshoeing, horseback riding, cycle trip, camping
  • health and wellness experiences: massage, haircut, housecleaning
  • consumables: preserves, crackers and fancy cheese, coffee in a tin, cookies, gift in a jar, etc. Or even better, a share in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) or a few months of deliveries from a local food company (thanks for the idea Anna)
  • secondhand items (almost anything can be found lightly used  – it’s just cheaper and has less packaging): books, housewares, clothing
  • homemade items: calendar, consumables, ornaments, etc
  • zero waste helpers (yes, they are things, but they’re really good things): compost bin, travel cutlery and containers, mesh produce bags, plastic free shaving set, package-free toiletries
  • Services! (thanks to Beth for the addition via twitter): Clean their bathroom, organize their digital photos; plant bulbs in their garden

Yes, if you’re wondering, we have actually given a compost bin as a Christmas gift before.

As an additional note, we’ve found that if you’re giving experiences, it’s best to actually sign them up to lock in a date rather than just give a gift card that could well be forgotten. What are some other low impact gifts you’ve given or received?

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Gumboots and Soup

perfect handmade soup mugs from http://www.mugrevolution.com

Yes, it’s that time of year. My mystery volunteer squash that threatened to overtake the garden have been harvested. The raised beds are looking a little bare, save for a few remaining carrots and beets, a scrawny row of last minute radishes, and the over-producing kale and swiss chard (Grant was done with kale back in June).

The wet weather has blown in. In short, it’s soup time.

My friend Keith called and insisted we go hunting for wild mushrooms. Dreaming of mushroom soup, I grabbed a few containers and we headed out to harvest a local and zero waste meal. Turns out that the mushroom patch wasn’t, as I’d expected, in the forest. It was right downtown. On the edge of a large grassy median in the heart of Yaletown (which, if you’re not from Vancouver, is a pretty fancy pants area).

And that is how I ended up in my gumboots harvesting mushrooms on a median in downtown Vancouver at rush hour as streams of business people walked by. (Never one to draw attention to myself in a public place, I found it a tad embarrassing). I was a little worried about the toxic traffic fumes impregnating the mushrooms, but Keith insisted he’d done this before.

In the end, we had wild, urban, shaggy mane hungarian mushroom soup for dinner (hungarian mushroom soup courtesy of The New Moosewood Cookbook – that recipe alone is worth the price of the book); zero waste, local, and pretty darn fun.

 

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DIY Baby Shower

You’ve maybe noticed that I haven’t been around this here blog much lately – partly because I’m been busy over at www.cleanbinmovie.com – but that doesn’t been I haven’t been thinking and doing zero waste.

Case in point: one of my very good friend recently had a baby shower. No, I didn’t push my mandate on the hostess . . .she was right on board, and it worked out really well!

Food: The Mom-to-be’s Mom made all the food from scratch, including quiche, salads, cupcakes, and appies – right down to the fig jam! (we offered to help, but she said she was under control). Sure there was some packaging, but nothing like what you’d expect from a standard gathering, and they had bins for compost and recyclables (hurrah!)

Dishes: I have a case of wine glasses  (a souvenir from my cousin’s backyard wedding) that I keep in a kitchen cupboard for events, and her Mom rented real plates for only a few dollars that could be returned dirty to the rental company, making cleanup super easy.

Games: Yes, yes, what is a baby shower without games? One of our friends planned this portion, and she managed to avoid  gimmicky plastic oriented shower games altogether! We had to remember baby animal names (anyone know the technical term for a baby monkey?), guess the circumference of the Mom-to-be’s belly (with compostable cotton string), and guess the number of jelly beans in a baby bottle (which was then given to Mom as a gift). We also had a clothespeg game with wooden clothes pegs which the guest of honor took home for her new clothesline.

Decorations: This was my category, and I manged to do it DIY (and free). Grant had photographed a wedding that week, and the bride had handmade hundreds of pink tissue paper pompoms. I knew the sister of the groom well enough that I could ask about whether the decorations were headed to the landfill.  Turns out that the bride was ecstatic that her creativity would be given a second life at the shower, so I went home with a pack full of pompoms.  To balance the overwhelming pink theme, I also made a couple of fabric banners (way more time consuming than expected) out of scrap yellow, blue, and green fabric I got at the free store with the word “congratulations” in felt letters also made from scrap. The decorations were snapped up after the party for yet another shower.

Wrapping Paper: Ak! There was a lot of it. All I can say is that we salvaged what we could for reuse, and recycled some, and luckily there weren’t too many plastic bows or that sort of thing.

Gifts: My lovely friend is the practical sort, and I have to give her A+ because this was the first baby shower I had ever been to where second hand gifts were given the ‘ok’ right on the invite. She ended up receiving loads of lovely, quality gifts (some new, some preloved) that I think she will really use.

And while we’re talking DIY, one of the gifts I gave her was a pair of baby booties made out of felt I already had at home. I forgot to take a photo, but luckily Kim remembered her camera (thanks Kim).  I got the pattern from Heather Bailey (http://www.heatherbaileydesign.com/BittyBooties.pdf)

So cute, aren’t they? I was so stoked about how my “bee booties” turned out that I promptly made two more pairs (with different designs) for future babies.

So truly, it was a group effort (with double points awarded to the Mom-to-be’s Mom), and we really did produce hardly any landfill garbage.  Whether it’s because of thrift or concern about waste, if you have more ideas on how to do a low impact party, please put them in the comments!

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