Category Archives: product reviews

Zero Waste Beer

Living zero waste isn’t about deprivation; it’s about living with less and figuring out better solutions that just happen to not involve disposable packaging. And it’s about time we talked about beer.

growlerBeer is one of Grant’s very favorite things, and in Canada, all the major domestic brewers (Molson, Sleemans etc) refill their glass bottles. It’s a carryover from before the age of cans, and luckily it has stuck with us. We also have excellent take back programs (known in the US as bottle bills). That 10 cent deposit we pay on every beer can or bottle seems like a little thing, but it really works. The National Brewers Association reports that Canadians recycle 99% of their beer bottles  – nice work everyone!

Of course the metal caps and cardboard boxes are recyclable, but if you’re looking for a truly zero waste option beyond brewing your own, your best beer bet is to buy from a local microbrewery.

We recently visited Bridge Brewing in North Vancouver where we discovered that the owners Leigh and Jason are kindred souls in zero waste.  They are a microbrewery in the truest sense of the word, recently upsized from a garage hobby to a full fledged business with a tiny tasting bar squeezed into a little industrial strip near the Second Narrows Bridge.


They mill their own grain and compost it when they’re done, they wash caps for reuse instead of trashing them, and they’re looking for options for their grain sacks beyond recycling. They mostly sell growlers; large refillable glass jugs with reusable screw caps that hold just under a six pack of beer with no disposable packaging whatsoever! bridge brewingLeigh, who sports the awesome title of Director of Consumption, says she doesn’t like folks using plastic cups, so she even has a stock of glasses she lends out if you’re buying a keg. It’s this kind of customer service that makes me think that Bridge is going to be around for quite a while.

capsMicrobreweries mean you’re buying direct from the source – supporting the local economy, and getting a fantastic, package-free product to boot. If you’re near North Van, swing by Bridge, and if not, post your favorite brewery that refills growlers in the comments!



Filed under food, interactions, product reviews

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

Cutlery in the Compost

I have some cutlery in my compost right now.  And no, it’s not that bioplastic stuff (although I have been “testing” a supposedly compostable, but  suspiciously plastic-looking, cup in there for nearly a year with very little progress).

No, this cutlery is the real biodegradable deal. It’s made out of wood. Scrap wood that would otherwise likely be burned on the cut block.  Scrap wood from right here in British Columbia!

Wait a minute, you might be thinking, isn’t it better to avoid disposable cutlery in the first place? Continue reading


Filed under food waste, product reviews