personal care


Written by Denise Deby.

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There’s an upside to the seemingly endless winter we’ve been having. It’s that I’ve had the chance to try several products that help ease dry skin—the kind that results from cold weather and dry indoor environments—and I’m sharing this with you.

Granted, I tried only a few of the many eco-friendly products available now in Ottawa, but here are three that worked well (depending on one’s skin and hair type, of course):

Purple Urchin Winter Hand Balm was very effective in calming my dry, cracked hands. It contains natural ingredients and has a piney-lavendery scent. (It includes almond oil–I mention that in case nut allergies/sensitivities are an issue–and you’re advised not to use it if you’re pregnant.) It isn’t billed as a hair product, but it gave my hair shape in the way a texturizing creme or styling wax would. I picked it up at Westboro Organics, but you can find it at other places around town including Ottawa-based Purple Urchin itself.

worldBuzz hair (and body) dressing, made by Toronto-based WORLD, contains just beeswax, jojoba oil, coco crème and olive wax. Just a small amount works like a pomade or wax—but without the parabens, phthalates, sulfates or fragrances that many conventional products contain. It’s great for dry skin, too. I found WORLD products at terra 20.

Coconut oil is a great all-round moisturizer for skin and hair. When not warmed up, it’s in solid form, but quickly melts in your hands. As with the other two products above, a little goes a long way. (I picked up some Now solutions “100% natural” vegan unscented coconut oil ages ago at Whole Foods, and still have half a jar left.) You can find organic, non-GMO coconut oil in many stores, from Kardish to Bulk Barn to Loblaws, too.

Bonus tip: olive oil and argan oil also work well for both skin and hair.

In general, look for products without harmful chemicals: take along a guide to the “toxic ten” or “dirty dozen” substances to avoid, and check ingredient lists when you shop. Often, the fewer ingredients the better.

Written by Denise Deby.

Clothes - D. Deby

If you’re clearing out stuff you don’t need, and think someone else could use it, consider these options:

Agencies in Ottawa are co-ordinating to collect clothes and household items in good shape for refugees and residents in need. Councillor Rick Chiarelli has posted a handy map here of drop-off locations and links for Ottawa Neighbourhood Services, the Salvation Army, St. Vincent de Paul and other organizations.

Helping With Furniture collects used furniture and household goods from certain parts of the city for delivery to refugee families. See details here.

Matthew House operates a Furniture Bank for people in need.

Organizations such as the Ottawa Mission and Cornerstone that provide shelter and services to people sometimes accept clothing and personal items, but check first to see what they need.

Dress for Success and Suits His Style provide professional work clothing to women and men who are economically disadvantaged.

Clothing and other donations to the Youville Centre go to young mothers and their children.

The Snowsuit Fund makes winter jackets, mitts and other outerwear available to kids who need them.

Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore accepts furniture and e-waste.

St. Mark School is hosting an Electronic Waste Collection Depot this weekend. Find them on Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016 from 12-4 p.m. at 1040 Dozois Road in Manotick. (They’re also collecting gently used clothing.)

Alternatively, take your e-waste to EnviroCentre or another official centre or event near you.

You can consult the City of Ottawa’s Take It Back program to find out where to recycle or discard used clothes, household goods, electronics, hazardous materials and other things, or use their “Waste Explorer” to search for where to take a specific item.

There are lots of donation boxes around the city, but if you use them make sure they belong to a legitimate charity.

Remember to recycle only things in good condition that someone else will want—don’t use these services as a way to get rid of junk.

Recycling used items is good, but it’s also good to donate cash (or volunteer) for causes you care about, and/or groups helping people stay out of poverty and conflict in the first place.

Written by Denise Deby.

Spruce needles by AKuptsova on Pixabay CC0 Public Domain https://pixabay.com/en/spruce-needles-tree-macro-branch-847388/

Spruce needles by AKuptsova on Pixabay CC0 Public Domain https://pixabay.com/en/spruce-needles-tree-macro-branch-847388/

In this busy season, we often worry about doing enough—seeing everyone we want to see, making enough food for holiday meals, finding just the right gifts for family and friends.

Of course, the most important gift this time of year—or anytime—is time.

Sometimes, though, you do want to give a little something to people. If you’re still looking for those last few gifts, why not consider thingless giving, or other ways of giving sustainably?

Or how about a sustainable gift that gives twice? A few examples:

Gifts that donate: Through USC Canada’s Gifts That Grow, you can send your loved one a card while supporting a farmer or school gardens. UNICEF Canada, the Nature Conservancy of Canada and many other organizations have similar arrangements for contributing to sustainability on behalf of someone else.

Gifts that reuse: Recycled gifts, chosen with care, can be a great option. Right now, when you purchase used clothes, toys, Christmas decorations or other items from Ottawa Neighbourhood Services, you’re contributing to their work to make needed goods available to low-income, refugee and other people in Ottawa. Ten Thousand Villages has good fair trade items, like ornaments made from recycled paper, or jewellery made from reclaimed materials. Ottawa has lots of other places to find art and crafts made from upcycled materials.

Gifts that support local: When you buy local, sustainable products, you’re substituting earth-friendly for mass-produced “stuff,” while supporting local businesses. How about terra20’s suggestions of Winter Hand Balm from Purple Urchin, vegan soap from saaboon or recycled glassware from Out of Ruins or Artech Studios? Check out Planet Botanix, Rainbow Foods, the Natural Food Pantry, Whole Foods, Green Tree Eco-Fashion, Twiss and Weber and other shops for eco-friendly local goods.

Buying someone a CSA share—i.e., a weekly delivery of local produce from an area farm—is also an investment in the sustainability of our food system.

Gifts that support sustainable causes: Ottawa has quite a few social enterprises that support social and environmental good. For example, when you buy jewellery, toys or other items through Operation Come Home’s Repurpose store, you’re buying upcycled as well as supporting artists who are youth at-risk or homeless. When you buy Beau’s beer, which is sustainably made from organic ingredients, you’re also contributing to the causes they support with their profits. A purchase of greeting cards of Ottawa scenes from Causeway supports employment programs for people who are disadvantaged. (I picked some up at the Westboro Pharmasave.)

Keep an eye out for companies that donate to environmental causes. For example, when you purchase art at Studio Sixty-Six during December, 10% of the proceeds will go to the Ottawa Riverkeeper.

Have a wonderful holiday season!

Written by Denise Deby.

Here’s a way to try out some health and wellness products, hear some excellent music and support a good cause: The Babes4Breasts and Ottawa Integrative Cancer Centre’s silent auction, concert and CDs.

The silent auction runs October 1-31, 2015. You can bid online for any of the items, which include:

  • An organic fruit and vegetable box from Goodfood2u, delivered to you;
  • Personal care product baskets from Bee Real, Lilou Organics and Green Beaver;
  • Passes to Empower Me Yoga;
  • A studio d yoga tunic;
  • A basket of goods from Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company;
  • A glass art frame and drinking glasses made of recycled materials from Out of Ruins;
  • A “Babes4Breasts Superfan Package” that includes five Babes4Breasts CDs, two T-shirts a concert poster and more.

Other offerings include yoga CDs, sport and therapy passes, grocery and restaurant gift certificates, culinary lessons, health products, spa packages, family portrait sessions, vintage art, framed photos, handmade quilts, Ottawa Grassroots Festival passes, Ottawa 67’s tickets, a signed hockey jersey, ski lift tickets, hotel stays and more. Check out the auction items here: http://oicc2015.eflea.ca/view.

The Babes4Breasts Annual Benefit Concert is Saturday, October 24, 2015 at St. Albans Church (King Edward at Daly). It features Ana Miura, Oh Susanna, Amanda Rheaume, Jeremy Fisher and Sarah MacDougall. Tickets have sold quickly, so check out availability here. Even if you can’t get to the concert, you can buy the CDs here.

The Ottawa Integrative Cancer Centre, a non-profit centre of the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, provides research, education and complementary therapies (such as nutrition counselling, massage, exercise and yoga therapy) that work alongside conventional treatments (such as chemotherapy, radiation and surgery) in an integrated approach to wellness. The OICC’s Head Start Program, supported by Babes4Breasts, helps women who’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer—a scary, overwhelming time—and helping ease anxiety and treatment side effects.

Babes4Breasts are Canadian recording artists who use music to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer prevention, education and support. Since 2007, they’ve made lot of good music and donated more than $125,000 to breast cancer charities. That’s music to the ears!

Written by Denise Deby.

Water footprint by Tom Magliery on Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic https://www.flickr.com/photos/mag3737/2844541743/in/photostream/

Water footprint by Tom Magliery on Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic https://www.flickr.com/photos/mag3737/2844541743/in/photostream/

Today is World Water Day, a reminder that water is central to life.

The choices we humans make—the water we drink, the food we eat, the products we consume, even the way we vote—all have consequences for water and the earth.

Here are some ways to make a difference, starting today:

1. Get to know the water around you. Visit one of the city’s rivers. (Did you know that the Ottawa River, the city’s main drinking water source and an important recreation site, is home to more than 300 bird and hundreds of other species?) Learn more about Ottawa’s water and sewage systems and how you can help reduce run-off and sewage overflows (at home, and through the Ottawa River Action Plan).

2. Use environmentally friendly household products.  (Did you know that you can make your own cleaning solutions using vinegar or baking soda?) Avoid household and personal care items that contain toxic components such as triclosan, found in some cosmetics and toothpastes, for example. Keep harmful substances from going down the drain and getting into the water system.

3. Check the “water footprint” of commonly-used household items with the help of Ecoholic Adria Vasil and journalist Stephen Leahy’s Your Water Footprint. (Did you know that it takes 400,000 litres of water to make a car, and more than 15,000 litres to produce 1 kg of beef?) Buy secondhand and recycle whenever possible.

4. Speak up about how water is managed, and how industry is allowed to use water:

5. Learn more about the right to water and how to ensure that everyone has access to safe water and sanitation.

(Here’s more about World Water Day and Canadian Water Week.)

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Guest post from Carol Burnup, EnviroCentre.

Photo courtesy of EnviroCentre

Photo courtesy of EnviroCentre

Carol Burnup at EnviroCentre asked Green Living Ottawa to help get the word out about the earth-friendly products available in their recently renovated boutique.

She says EnviroCentre’s products are intended “to help people conserve energy, reduce waste, or assist in increasing sustainable transportation usage. They are also, where possible, upcycled, minimally packaged, locally or domestically made and functional.”

Here are some of her gift or stocking stuffer suggestions:

1. Pure Beeswax Candles: Handcrafted in Ontario from pure beeswax by the artisans at Pheylonian Bee Works, beeswax candles make a beautiful and functional gift. Beeswax burns with a bright and hot flame producing none of the toxins associated with paraffin wax candles.

2. Mohair Socks: Made just outside of Ottawa, these socks are warm and comfortable with cashmere-like feel. Theromhair Mohair is not wool and those with wool sensitivities can enjoy these premium quality socks. Great for outdoor enthusiasts, as well as those with poor circulation or diabetes.

3. Organic Cotton Bath Sets: Glo-organics offers the finest quality cotton bath products for your gift giving pleasure. Made in India where cotton has a long history of cultivation, Glo-organics uses only certified fair-trade and organic cotton ensuring that both worker and the environment are respected.

4. Wool Felt Dryer Balls: Wool Felt Dryer Balls from Didi Bahini allow you to give the gift of savings and better health. The David Suzuki Foundation reports energy savings as high as 50% (of dyer energy use) through the use of dryer balls. Our wool felt dryer balls come in a set of four balls and are stored in an attractive crocheted style cotton bag.

5. Abeego Food Wraps: Abeego reusable beeswax food wrap products are made in Vancouver from hemp, cotton, beeswax and tree resins, Abeego food wraps can be used many times and eliminate the use of petroleum based, non-recyclable food wrap. Abeego wraps keep food fresher and are a functional gift that you can give with pride.

The boutique is currently open longer for the holiday season and holiday hours of operation and location are on EnviroCentre’s website: http://www.envirocentre.ca/enviroboutique/

Here’s more from Carol about EnviroCentre:

EnviroCentre is the go-to source of practical services and programs that help individuals and organizations conserve energy, improve environmental health and act more sustainably.

We have three main areas of focus:

Building Energy Efficiency: We offer energy assessments and energy retrofit solutions for your home, business or property.

Sustainable Transportation: We offer workshops, tools and incentives to help you or your organization discover the benefits of transit, biking, walking, carpooling or car sharing.

EnviroBoutique: We sell environmentally-friendly products related to energy efficiency and sustainable transportation and are an e-waste drop-off centre.

For more information on the services and programs we provide, please visit envirocentre.ca.

 

Written by Denise Deby.

D. Deby photo

In my quest to find healthier and more sustainable personal care and household products, I’ve come across a few that I’d like to tell you about.

As you know, many of the soaps, shampoos and cosmetics available on store shelves contain substances that have been documented as harmful to human health and the environment. According to Bruce Lourie and Rick Smith, authors of Slow Death by Rubber Duck: How the Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Life Affects Our Health and Toxin Toxout: Getting Harmful Chemicals Out of Our Bodies and Our World, synthetic chemicals such as phthalates and parabens are among the toxins that find their way from consumer products into our bodies and our ecosystems.

Fortunately, healthier alternatives are becoming more widely available. Here are three that I’ve discovered recently:

Oneka shampoo, conditioner and shower gel. By happy circumstance, I received an Oneka gift pack after entering a contest on the website of local writer Tudor Robins. (Tudor blogs on writing and occasionally on environmental and community issues–check out her website here. She’s a wonderful writer, with an engaging young adult novel called Objects in Mirror, and a second novel, Appaloosa Summer, out this spring.) Thanks to Tudor and Oneka, I’ve tried out Oneka’s angelica and lavender shampoo, unscented conditioner and goldenseal and citrus shower gel–all great.

Oneka’s products are organic plant-based, paraben-free and sulfate-free, vegan, biodegradable and not tested on animals. Some are unscented, a must for those of us with scent sensitivities. The company, located southeast of Montreal in Frelighsburg, was founded by Philippe Choiniere and Stacey Lecuyer, who’ve had sensitivities themselves. You can find their products at Market Organics and sometimes Rainbow Foods, or order online.

Purple Urchin soap. Purple Urchin is based right here in Ottawa, and makes handmade natural, biodegradable and vegetarian–some vegan–products, also not tested on animals. I picked up some of their soap at terra20. Purple Urchin bar soaps come in a variety of ingredient combinations (think “Luscious Lemongrass” or “Coffee Bitters,” for example) but I went for the unscented Goat’s Milk bar, which is nice and creamy without being oily. Purple Urchin’s soaps, shampoos, facial and other products are available at their shop (884 Somerset St. W.) and quite a few other spots around town.

Purelygreat deodorant. I have to say this is an amazing discovery. Many “green” deodorants aren’t very effective, but this one works really well. It was recommended by a customer service staff person at terra20 in Wellington West, who told me it works even for her hockey-playing brother. It’s an unscented, cream deodorant, containing only sodium bicarbonate, zea mays (corn) starch and glycerin. You have to stir it on opening, and you apply it with a finger—but don’t let that stop you; you get used to that quickly, and it’s not much different than applying some other cosmetics. Purelygreat is located in Toronto; several Ottawa shops sell their deodorants.

You can even make deodorant yourself, if you’re so inclined—check out the recipes on the A\J blog.

Have you found any other great personal care products? Please let us know in the comments section.

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