Green Your Lunch

I started back at college this month, and as decades of poor college kids before me, I need to pack a lunch – usually leftovers from last night’s dinner.

Packing a lunch has made me more aware of the disposable and reusable products we use in our lunch bags. Plastic wrap and plastic bags are lunchroom staples, but what are the best alternatives to those disposable, oil-based products?

Aluminium foil: Foil has a higher resource cost than other options on this list. The majority of aluminum foil ends up in landfills, so if you pack your lunch using it, at least toss it in a blue bin when you’re done. Better yet, rinse it off (or throw it in the dishwasher!), fold it up, and reuse it a few times before recycling.

Wax paper: Before the rise of plastic wrap, wax paper was a common way to wrap up sandwiches. You can wipe the paper clean and reuse it several times over, but many brands of wax paper use paraffin wax, which is an oil by-product. Paper coated with natural waxes like soybean are a greener option.

I pack tacos for lunch fairly often, and I love to wrap my tortillas in wax paper. At lunchtime, the paper doubles as a surface to assemble and eat on.

Cloth sandwich bags: Zippered cloth bags are best alternative for people hung up on plastic sandwich bags. They are perfect for sandwiches, crackers, and other dry goods. Iron-on vinyl lining make them easy to clean with a damp cloth. I wrote a whole blog post about them here.

Plastic/glass containers: Containers are the only way to pack a lunch destined for the microwave. But be warned that many container brands like Tupperware have special coating that make them unrecyclable. Glass containers with plastic lids do the same job, but reduce the amount of plastic.

Mason jars: If you or anyone in your family has done some food canning in the past, used mason jars are great for packing thin foods like pickles and carrots, as well as diced food that can pack down, like diced fruit. They screw tightly shut, so you can also trust them for packing beverages and other liquids like salad dressing, milk (for cereal), or soup.

Whatever alternative you choose, you’ll take more pride in a lunch that has zero-waste. See how much plastic waste you’ll reduce in a month, and be amazed.

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As 2016 rolls out, many of us have made resolutions to improve ourselves by exercising, reading more books, or spending less time on social media. Healthy eating is another popular choice among resolutionists, but there’s a new diet emerging for eco-friendly folks who don’t want to give up meat – entirely, at least.

The New York Times published an article on the top new food words of 2015. Among them was a word “climatarian”. The article defines it as follows:

“CLIMATARIAN (n.) A diet whose primary goal is to reverse climate change. This includes eating locally produced food (to reduce energy spent in transportation), choosing pork and poultry instead of beef and lamb (to limit gas emissions), and using every part of ingredients (apple cores, cheese rinds, etc.) to limit food waste.”

This new term grew in popularity this year as people are becoming more aware of the effect their food choices have on the environment, partly thanks to mainstream exposure from documentaries like Conspiracy (which I plan to discuss in an upcoming post).

This year, I’ve resolved to greatly reduce my beef intake. I love jerky, meatballs, burgers, and burritos, so it won’t be easy, but I’m determined. I also want to phase out as many oil products as I can, including cling wrap, products that use paraffin wax, and many of the plastic products that dominate today’s market.

Do you have any sustainable resolutions for 2016? Let me know in the comments. Let’s inspire each other to make positive lifestyle changes this year!


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Farewell, For Now

Topical Sav is going on hiatus until the new year. I just finished my first semester of college this week, and I’m ready for some much deserved R&R.

I genuinely want to thank everyone who’s encouraged me along the way these past few months. The whole purpose of this blog was to open minds (including my own) to new, greener ways of living, and I believe I can go into my winter break at peace, knowing that I’ve accomplished that goal. Your kind words and will to change have inspired me.

I look forward to exploring sustainability with you again in 2016. Until then, have a warm and wonderful December.

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My Personal Brand

In my advertising class, we recently had to outline what our “personal brands” are. It was a bit of a soul search, and what I found surprised me.

Sustainability turned out to be a huge part of my personal brand. I knew it was a passion of mine, but when I had to sit down and critically think about things like my “brand vision”, I realized that this topic touched many aspects of my life and who I am.

On one hand, it makes me feel like a bit one-dimensional. I don’t want to be known for only one thing. But on the other hand, I think being environmentally conscious is less of a hobby/passion and more of a way of being, so I identify why it’s become such an integral part of my personal growth.

It’s also comforting to know that although I don’t know what the future holds, I know myself. Take a look at my personal brand slideshow on Prezi.

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Which second-hand stores have the best prices?

This week, I was published for the first time in the college newspaper. Eleven of us went after seven stories for the Arts & Culture section, and I happened to luck out and get a story on something I was interested to research: second-hand shopping. The angle was a price comparison between different second-hand stores in the city.

Long story short, there’s a correlation between price and selection. Value Village is definitely more expensive than it used to be, but their selection trumps any other second-hand store in the city. The Salvation Army is a good middle-road choice in terms of price and selection; they are less expensive than Value Village, but more expensive than Goodwill. Goodwill has some of the cheapest prices, but their selection on clothing, shoes, and glassware is significantly smaller than their Value Village counterparts.

You can read the full story on The Projector’s website here.



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Greener Alternatives: Deodorant

If you could only use three hygiene products for the rest of your life, what would they be? After thinking long and hard, I decided that my choices would be toothpaste, soap, and deodorant.

Although information has circulated in the past stating that the aluminium compounds in antiperspirant cause cancer, no research has actually made that link. Even so, I’ve been looking into switching to a more natural deodorant because I don’t like the idea of aluminum plugging my sweat glands.

It was my original intent to try out a recipe for homemade deodorant, but I’ve been preoccupied with school. While I was at a Winnipeg Etsy Street Team event a couple of weeks ago (read my blog post about it here) I found a table selling all sorts of natural beauty and hygiene products, including deodorant. The ingredient list was eerily similar to the recipe I planned to try, and with a $5 price tag there was no reason for me to not buy it.


The deodorant is made by a Winnipeg-based Etsy shop, Mellow Crafts. After using it for a couple of weeks, I’m mostly satisfied with it. It’s has a bit of a slimy quality that I’m not crazy about, and the tea tree oil scent isn’t for everyone, but to its credit it actually works. I might try a different DIY recipe next time to find what works best with my body, but I’m happy about making the switch. Who needs aluminium anyway?


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Why I’ll Never Use Tampons Again

Feminine care is a massive industry. They make billions of dollars by selling disposable products to consumers who need the product they sell. Don’t even get me started on tampon tax.

Last year was the first time I’d ever heard of menstrual cups. To those that haven’t heard, menstrual cups are small, hospital-grade silicon cups that women insert into their vaginas during their periods. They operate under the same idea as a tampon, except instead of cotton soaking up menstruation, menstrual cups collect it and need to be emptied periodically throughout the day.

What struck me about menstrual cups the fact that they’re reusable. As a woman trying to reduce her environmental footprint, one of the huge changes I can is cutting out my use of disposable menstrual products.

The maximum number of hours that a woman can wear a tampon for is eight hours, but they’re usually changed more frequently. That adds up to anywhere between three and six tampons going into the trash everyday of a woman’s period. For women who wear tampons and pads at the same time, the number can double.

In just one menstruation cycle, a single woman can add dozens of disposable pads and tampons to the world’s ever-increasing landfill. Now think about the planet, populated by billions of women who will have a period every month for several decades. The amount of garbage is staggering.

The DivaCup is one of the menstrual cups available in Canada. About six months ago I invested in one for about $40. Compared to the price of tampons and pads, this can seem pricey, but the reality is that a menstrual cup will pay for itself many times over. The DivaCup lasts for 10 years. Imagine 10 years of feminine care trash being removed from landfills for just one woman. Now imagine it for 1000 women, or 10,000…

It’s not all milk and honey though. Menstrual cups are definitely a more “up close and personal” way of getting through your period. It’s fairly reliable against leaks, but if you let it overfill things can get messy. It can also take a few cycles to nail how to insert and remove the cup. After you get the hang of the cup and know how it works with your body it becomes second-nature, and as easy to use as traditional products. The only difference? Zero waste!

As women, we should be able to have an open dialogue about our bodies. I tend to be a private person, but when it comes to singing the praise of menstrual cups, you can hear me from the rooftops. For more information on The DivaCup, check out their website. Change your world.

Note: I have not been paid in any way to endorse The DivaCup




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The Dismal Science

Today in my advertising class, we had a discussion on consumerism and economics, known as “the dismal science”.

Consumerism is an ideology that encourages people to continuously buy goods, implies that buying goods will improve your life, and equates the amount of goods we have to our personal success. It’s a disturbing thought, but it’s a common experience in North American culture.

Within consumerism is the concept of “compulsory consumption”, which refers to buying items you think you need, but actually don’t. A city dweller buys a car because he thinks he needs one, when he lives within quick access of public transportation. Now he needs to make many other purchases because of the car: tires, oil changes, repairs, and insurance.

When we break our “needs” down into the absolute basic elements, the list is short: shelter, food, weather-appropriate garments…

The list doesn’t include the latest iPhone, bigger and bigger televisions, or (the best example from class today) a jetski. You don’t need any of these things, but oftentimes we get it in our heads that we do.

Always remember, the economy wins when we lose. Divorce? Buy a new house and all the stuff to fill it! Sick? Buy cold and flu medicine! Death in the family? Buy a $25,000 casket!


Before you make your next purchase, ask yourself whether you’re buying it because you need it, or because owning it will make you feel more successful or better about yourself. There are many ways to make yourself more successful or happy, and none of them should require a jetski.

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Curated Vintage, Handmade, and the beauty of Etsy

At this time of year, I like to start thinking about what to buy for my loved ones for Christmas. Like many people, I usually do the majority of my Christmas shopping at a mall. This year I’m trying to avoid buying new items as much as possible, and that raises some challenges around the holiday season.

The opportunity to start my holiday shopping presented itself to me through Facebook. The Winnipeg Etsy Street Team is hosting a curated vintage and handmade sale this Saturday. Anyone familiar with Etsy knows that it’s a great website for buying handmade and antique items from around the world. The Handmade and Vintage Sale this Saturday runs from 11 a.m to 5 p.m on 290 Dubuc Street, and local Easy sellers will be bringing their online goods to sell in-person. The event is a chance not only to buy items created by local artists, but the chance to meet the people who made them.

All the information about the event is posted on W.E.S.T.’s Facebook event. There’s a $2 admission and free parking. If you have nothing going on this Saturday, you have nothing to lose by going to check out! I’ll update my blog over the weekend to share the treasures I find!

UPDATE: I bought an upcycled necklace for my mom made out of old blue china, and an upycled pendant for myself made from a domino and illustration from an antique dictionary. Neat!

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No-Buy Halloween Costumes

I think of Halloween as an outlet for coming up with original costume ideas. I’m a firm believer in making my own costumes, not buying them. It’s even more true this year, as I curb my spending on non-essential items.

In the past, I’ve repurposed cardboard boxes for my costumes, like when I made a Jeopardy! contestant booth. This year, I threw a zombie costume together with pieces from previous costumes I’ve worn. I challenged myself to put my costume together without buying anything new. I used to participate in the Winnipeg Zombie Walk before they cancelled it, so I had a couple items that fit in well.


This last-minute zombie outfit includes:

  • A top I bought at Value Village for a costume in 2013
  • An old camisole I ruined for a costume in 2013, after wearing for years
  • A jacket I’ve owned for three or four years
  • Worn out jeans I cut up for a costume in 2012
  • A pair of tights I ripped up (they had a massive run anyway)
  • A pair of Converse

I have a good stock of Halloween makeup to pull of this look, so I won’t need to buy any of that either. I’ll be sure to add a photo once I wear this costume tomorrow!

If you’re against the idea of rewearing a costume, you still have options.

  • Buy a second-hand costume. Value Village has plenty, but it’s a real treasure hunt to find something you like. Kijiji also has a lot of options, especially at this time of year.
  • Borrow from a friend. This could be a whole costume, or a specific piece like wings or a wig. You could hypothetically build a whole costume from borrowed odds and ends (I might challenge myself to try this next year).
  • Repurpose. Turn old clothes you don’t wear into costume, either by sewing them into something new, or in my case, shredding them up for a tattered, zombie look.

Happy Halloween! Wherever you end up this weekend, have fun and be safe!

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