Love-Hate Relationship

Have you ever been entwined in a love-hate relationship? I find myself caught up in the web of one such bond at present…with my Keurig coffee maker. Yes, you heard right. The convenience and speedy delivery of coffee to my body makes me swoon with pleasure while the environmental and health impacts trouble me greatly. So much so that I have shunned my Keurig brewing system in favour of slow-mo brewing techniques. Again.

 

If you’ve been around here long enough or are a friend or co-worker (which makes you and automatic friend) of mine, you are very aware of my deep-rooted desire to be constantly caffeinated with the strongest and fiercest cup o’ heaven I can get my mitts on. Before the K-brewer of Evilness was dropped on my lap a few Christmases ago, I immersed myself in the process of making a perfect cup of coffee each and every time. I think the beverage was originally more about the ritual than the drink itself. I did away with an automatic coffee pot and opted for a French press, a cone filter-drip doo-da for on top of my single cup, and a stove-top espresso pot. I adore each system for different reasons. Then I was swept off my feet by a handsome new stranger; his name was Keurig. He gave me everything I wanted and all of the things I didn’t really need. My friends and I joke about resorting to dragging around IV poles to keep the coffee flowing into us 24/7 and Mr. Temptation (Keurig) was the closest I was going to get.

 

 

 

Image found on imgfave.com

Image found on imgfave.com

 

 

 

Before Sir Hotness landed on my kitchen counter I had considered the pros and cons of introducing another brewing system in my home. I had decided to forego said machine due to its wasteful nature while looking longingly at it every time I was in ones vicinity. Here’s the flip side of this passionate vortex of quick caffeine supply…

 

I don’t know which is worse, the fact that hot water is blasting through plastic, leaching particles of nastiness into my coffee to be absorbed by my body or the horrific amount of waste from the stack of K-cups that accumulates. There’s a lot of buzz at the moment in regard to convenient brewing systems such as the Keurig and Tassimo. I highly recommend doing some personal  research for yourself on this. As far as my research has concluded, there is no recycling program for K-cups other than the Grounds To Grow On program through Keurig themselves. This program appears to be a step in the right direction but is limited as far as access goes, is expensive to utilize, and depending on your opinion may not be a viable form of plastic aftermarket utilization. I struggle with the notion that burning plastics as an energy source is acceptable. The Green Mountain Coffee Co. has a target of making 100% of K-cups recyclable by 2020. For more info see the sustainability report here. I have a few options as far as disposal of the single use cups go.

 

1. I can toss it in the trash bin which makes me feel guilty at creating excess and unnecessary waste for the landfill.

2. I can save the used K-cups and become an episode of Hoarders until a recycling option becomes available.

3. I could take apart each K-cup myself and compost the coffee grounds, recycle the foil liner, and re-purpose all those pesky little plastic cups somehow.

 

 

 

None of these options are particularly appealing. I have purchased a reusable My K-cup to use my own ground coffee in a wire mesh basket inside a plastic case. There is yet another issue…more plastic. It seems like a never-ending cycle, doesn’t it? In my constant quest to “do the right thing” I have been hunting down a stainless steel reusable My K-cup. I have located such a thing on Amazon (of course) with a price tag of $19.99 Canadian. Do I want to shell out another $20 so I can brew coffee in single cups? I actually loathe the refillable K-cups for one reason only; I use a gigantic cup in the morning and need to refill the cups twice. It is not fun trying to dump the used grounds into the compost bin when they are piping hot and I have not yet consumed any of my beloved liquid gold. I am a patient woman but this tests my limits most mornings.

 

 

Besides the disposal of these little cups of enviro-doom there is the issue of how they are made to begin with and the environmental impact before use.

1. Made from plastic that may or may not be heat-grade and/or food grade, plastic is a product of the oil industry which is an environmental nightmare.

2. The amount of energy used to manufacture and fill the mass amounts of individual sized cups is wasteful.

3. The cardboard boxes that the K-cups are packed in. Although recyclable and occasionally made from a percentage of recycled paper themselves it is still unnecessary excess packaging.

 

 

I have only touched on the notion of health risks due to heat and unknown plastics coupled with an acidic element such as coffee.  This is a topic for further research before I can have an opinion other than, “why risk it on a regular basis?”  I don’t claim to be the picture of perfection as far as my environmental footprint is concerned but I always strive to do the best I can to reduce my impact. Every little thing each of us does makes a difference and it adds up. I have returned to my original love of perfectly, and sometimes leisurely, brewing techniques that produce a far superior cup of coffee.  Even if it means letting go of express coffee consumption! Egad!

 

 

 

 

“And Man created the plastic bag and the tin and aluminum can and the cellophane wrapper and the paper plate, and this was good because Man could then take his automobile and buy all his food in one place and He could save that which was good to eat in the refrigerator and throw away that which had no further use.  And soon the earth was covered with plastic bags and aluminum cans and paper plates and disposable bottles and there was nowhere to sit down or walk, and Man shook his head and cried:  “Look at this Godawful mess.”  “~Art Buchwald, 1970

 

 

 

 

 

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Toxic People Test

Lately I seem to be bombarded by people off-loading toxicity. I would ask why but sometimes it’s just best to not let it eat up too much head space. To this I just shrug my shoulders, walk a LOT to breathe in fresh air, and spend more time with the friends that I know will make me laugh and help make sense of human stupidity and arrogance. There are certain instances where I know without the shadow of a doubt that people spew their garbage in my direction simply to get a rise out of me. I’m not sure they really want my reaction because it may never come. I have worked on my level of tolerance over the last ten years or so and have become a slow smolder, but there is a distinct threshold to my patience. I’m no mouse when it gets to this point. A lover, not a fighter is my true nature however there is fire in these veins.

 

 

Yesterday I was at the brink of popping someone. Yes, me. It felt like the negative bus had pulled up and offloaded an angry mob at my doorstep. To make a long story short, I worked through it with a few laughs along the way…but mostly a whole lot of working out, fresh air, journaling and loud tunes. I can’t hold a grudge or stay angry for long. After a few hours it just seems pointless and over-thinking kicks in. My bubbly nature tends to create waves again and I’m over whatever was bugging me. Moving on!

 

 

Feeling invigorated this morning and looking forward to spending time with a close friend, I had an upbeat attitude and a smile on my face. Even my hair was cooperating this morning!

 

I arrived at my local Starbucks to meet my friend, ordered my coffee and snagged a couple of comfy chairs at the window to enjoy the warmth of the sun. While waiting for said friend to arrive, I was within the auditory sphere of a group of ladies I have noticed here before. They were taking up a lot of space and dragged a bunch of chairs around a table, spilling over into the space of other customers. I waited patiently in my seat, minding my own business and trying not to overhear any of their bizarre conversation about the faults of one friends’ face and how said woman should do something about it. Good grief. As my friend was getting out of her vehicle, another woman came in to the coffee shop and joined this gaggle beside me. Only problem was, this woman dumped all her stuff on the chair I was reserving for my friend. I politely said, “Excuse me. This seat is saved for the person I’m meeting.” Well, you would think I woke a demon! The woman that was ever so sweetly pointing out her friends short-comings turned her wrath on me. “YOU CAN’T SAVE SEATS HERE!”, she snarled at me. What the heck? She proceeded to hiss at me that her friend had back issues and needed that chair. Then she told her friend to pull the chair up to their table! (Didn’t she just say her friend had back issues? Why was she not helping her friend with the chair?)  I was dumbfounded. Inside I chuckled to myself thinking how lucky this woman was that she didn’t try to steamroll me yesterday. Today she was dealing with normal me; whatever normal is. I kindly reported that I would move, since her friend was in need of that chair due to her back issue. You would think I had told her to go f*ck herself. She huffed and puffed like the wolf trying to blow down the little piggy’s house! I just grabbed my stuff and moved, whilst shaking my head. Weird.

 

Of course, my friend had walked in to see me moving seats and wondered what was going on. I let her in on the kerfuffle and was rewarded with a kind response about how tolerant I am of other people’s rudeness. That’s exactly what this boiled down to. Severe rudeness on this woman’s part and a sense of superiority. I was not going to be immature and argue over a seat, but clearly she was doing exactly what she told me I wasn’t entitled to do. What makes people think it is ever acceptable to speak to people like this? This is where every day dealings go off the rails. When we start speaking to others in such a way and with the tone that someone is worth less than another, issues arise. Not only is it rude, it displays a total lack of class. I would never think twice about giving up my seat to someone that genuinely needs it or asks politely, but bullying is pure toxicity. I will always use manners first and foremost. My parents taught me well that when you are kind, you are usually repaid with kindness. I only wish everyone had learned this wise teaching.

 

 

I think this was a test for me today…and I passed with flying colours.

 

 

 

“Anytime anybody is rude, it makes me double- check my own behaviour to make sure I don’t do that to other people.”  – Patricia Heaton

Sunscreen Dilemma

Lately, I have been thinking a LOT about sunscreen. To wear, or not to wear…that is the question.

 

 

The scale inside my brain is balancing slightly to the side of “not to wear”. Here is my logic as to why there is some confusion. My entire life I have not had a great track record of gorgeous tanned skin. A few folk refer to me as Ghost Girl because I have an extremely pale skin tone. I scare even myself in fluorescent lit change rooms with the blinding whiteness that is not my arms, neck and face. Fluorescent lighting is extremely unforgiving. As you have probably gathered, I am a rather health conscious individual that questions every product I allow into my home or on my body. Of course, I make a few exceptions here and there but only after knowing what I am dealing with. I am not paranoid but I choose to be informed. I question why sunscreen usage increases while skin cancer rates continue to climb. Should the outcome not be that skin cancer rates drop as sunscreen use increases? Therefore, sunscreen and all its pros and cons weighs heavily on my radar.

 

 

 

I am not interested in dealing with skin cancer. Let this be known. I knew someone when I was a teen that had part of both ears removed due to skin cancer and this really scared the ever-loving out of me. It made me aware of the risk factors that I am dealing with as a pasty, white girl who historically turns lobster red after 30 minutes in the sun. I slathered on sunscreen like nobody’s business through my 20’s, making myself even whiter than I’m naturally predisposed. Not a good look.

 

 

 

Unluckily for me, I am in a medium to high risk group for skin cancer.

 

Fair Skin  Having less melanin in my skin gives me less protection from UV radiation. Not only do I have fair skin, I also have light blue eyes, freckle easily, and burn easily. Strike one.

 

 

History of Sunburns  Childhood sunburns that resulted in severe burning and blistering. Yup, had a few of those. Strike two.

 

 

Excessive Sun Exposure  I spend a considerable amount of my time outdoors in the sun at work. I do try to find shady spots whenever possible but that isn’t always an option. Strike three.

 

 

Sunny and/or High Altitude Climate  I can scratch this off my risk list. Phew! Yes, it is sunny here in southern Ontario but not like it is closer to the equator that’s for sure.

 

 

Moles  I have my fair share of freckles but no moles. Another all-clear.

 

 

Family History  Another risk factor bites the dust.

 

 

Weakened Immune System  I work hard at keeping my immune system strong through healthy eating, stress relieving meditation, fresh air and supplementation.

 

 

Exposure to Certain Substances  Substances such as arsenic and certain pesticides. These aren’t always as easy to avoid as we would like. Even being vigilant within my own home, there are still those in our communities that don’t take these risks seriously and put everyone else at risk.  This risk factor is a tricky one.

 

 

How do you rate on the risk factor list? Do you take the risk of skin cancer seriously?

 

 

Now that risk for skin cancer has been determined I find myself reaching for a 50+ UVA/UVB sunscreen only to stop mid-reach to question the efficacy of such products.

 

I question the ingredients in each sunscreen. Yes, there are harmful ingredients in many sunscreens on the market. Just because it is on the store shelf does NOT make it unquestionably safe. It is when we start to question the safety of ingredients that the world of hidden substances starts to become apparent. Think back a few years to when it became a talked about subject that oxybenzone in sunscreen may mimic estrogen. While both sides of this argument have a valid point, I always cringe when I hear the FDA or medical community say “there is no solid proof to suggest it is not safe.” Um, I am curious where the solid proof to suggest its complete safety is then. Another questionable ingredient is retinyl palmitate. This is used as a stabilizer and has anti-aging qualities but can make skin more sensitive to the sun and may actually promote skin cancer. Like other consumers, I find this confusing and frankly, quite maddening. Isn’t the whole point of sunscreen to protect?

 

 

What about the fact that some researchers say sunscreens with octinoxate, oxybenzone, parabens, or camphor derivatives are killing hard corals which could negatively impact biodiversity and reef ecosystems? I don’t want to inadvertently cause damage to marine life while trying to protect my skin! There has to be a better way.

 

 

 

26 seconds

 

 

 

UVA/UVB Issue  UVA rays are present all year round. While UVB rays are responsible for sunburns, UVA radiation damages the underlying skin cells to cause premature aging, sun spots, and that leathery looking skin that honestly, who would want? So although sunburns are no treat (and I know from numerous experiences), premature aging due to cell damage is very unpalatable as well.

 

 

Chemicals + Heat = baked in exposure! Not only does everything you put on your body’s largest organ (that’s right, your skin) get absorbed within seconds but combine that with the heat treatment from the sun and we are literally basting ourselves with chemicals or unknown substances.

 

 

Skin Function  Our skin is an amazing organ. I am curious as to how well it performs its job of heating/cooling effectively, ridding our body of toxins and being receptive to detecting threats such as pain or insects and other assaults due to numbing our sensors (hair and follicle reception of unwanted things) while slathered in goop and the hair stuck to the skin.

 

 

Discomfort  I can withstand some discomfort in the name of safety and wellness but seriously, try to slather on a second (or third) application of sunscreen to skin covered in grass clipping, dirt, and mulch bits and sweat.

 

 

 

I continue on my quest for the perfect solution to the sunscreen debate. I now wear coconut oil on my face mixed with a tinted moisturizer made with organic ingredients. This keeps my face from drying out and/or becoming seriously sunburned. As for the rest of my exposed flesh I struggle with the idea of slapping on a product that I am uncomfortable with. I go between a few sunscreens that I am alright with but I still question long-term safety. I will always be on the lookout for an optimal skin protection regime and question, question, question everything I come across. It’s in my nature, I can’t help it.

“I was raised with the notion that it is OK to ask questions, and it was OK to say, I’m not sure.” – Peter Jennings

Indoor Air Quality

When I was young,  air pollution was a hot topic for environmentalists. I still remember the first time I heard the term acid rain. I was in the school library in grade seven and I was overtaken with fear. Why did I not know about this before now , I asked myself. I had visions of people being burned by hot acid falling from the sky. I had a very vivid imagination, I know. I remember thinking that I needed to know more. To educate myself on this atrocity that had instantly shifted my thoughts to outside of myself. It was like a light bulb being switched on.

 

 

 

There was a major downfall though. The environmental sciences were not for people like me…or so I was led to believe at that very impressionable time in my life. Topics like acid rain were for the “smart people”. I was an artsy girl who was more interested in the creative side of life. I had been pigeon-holed by myself as much as those around me. If I could step back in time and meet myself I would seriously kick my own butt! I had allowed others to dictate what my role was going to be  throughout my high school life from that one moment in time. I led a secret life inside my head for years longing for more information regarding the impact we have on our planet. How we need to co-exist and make positive changes to our environment. And most importantly, filling my brain with info on what acid rain really is. The first time I drove by large steel factories and seeing the plumes of smoke billowing from the chimneys and the dead trees surrounding the area I immediately thought of acid rain. Over time and with the maturing of my thought processes I realized that there is so much about ourselves and our environment that is closely linked in ways most people don’t consider. There is a precarious balance that we must maintain and help to keep stable. The minute details in our every day actions shift the balance either in favour or against our relationship with the natural environment. It is bigger than those few steel factories…it is the billions of homes around this planet of ours and what we do within them, outside of them, and our connection to the natural world around us that makes an enormous impact.

 

 

 

Now that I’ve been stuck indoors for a couple of months, not outside in the garden I am starting to feel the lack of sanctuary that the outdoors seems to provide. The air outside seems to be so much more full of life to breath in. You can feel the subtle differences with the changes of the season as well as change of location. Indoor air pollution is a huge issue that isn’t getting the attention it deserves on a personal level in each of our homes. I seem to get the impression that most people just assume that their home is exempt from the air pollution issue because they keep their house is “clean”. Here in lies the problem. Those chemicals labelled as cleaning products and air fresheners are what is most likely the major pollutant in your home. What you don’t know can hurt you. Let’s look at a few statistics on indoor air pollution and cleaning products, shall we?

 

 

  • the EPA reports that only a fraction of the 81,000+ registered chemicals in cleaning products have been tested for health concerns

 

  • approximately 9 out of 10 poisonings occurs within the home. Household chlorine bleach is the number one offender in household poisonings.

 

  • pollutants inside the home are often 2 to 5 times higher than outside the home

 

  • we spend on average 80-90% of our time indoors where there is not proper air ventilation from outdoors

 

  • asthma, allergy and chemical sensitivity rates are soaring. Childhood asthma rates in children ages 5-14 years has skyrocketed and the rate of death from asthma almost doubled between 1980 and 1993.

 

  • off-gasing of products such as traditional paints, carpets, flooring, glues, and flame-retardants causes high levels of VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) such as benzene, formaldehyde, and flame retardants – PBDE’s. If you can smell it, it’s going into your body. That new car smell isn’t as glorious as we all once thought!

 

  • chemicals in traditional cleaning products can be found in the bloodstreams of newborn babies and have been connected to varying health concerns (over 287 different chemies, to be exact, including pesticides, garbage waste and flame retardants)

 

  • air “fresheners” do not get rid of a smell, they mask smells with potentially toxic chemicals such as di-chlorobenzene, phthalates, formaldehyde and other nasties. If something smells locate the culprit and clean it don’t try to mask the smell!

 

  • many all-purpose cleaning products contain petroleum-based surfactants that can mimic estrogen. Hormone disruption can be a very serious issue as these chemicals accumulate.

 

  • body burden is a term used to explain the amount of toxins our body has accumulated. Scary that this term even exists.

 

  • most chemicals sold as conventional cleaning products have not been tested either long or short-term for toxicity in humans

 

 

 

 

Due to the Clean Air Act  first implemented in 1963, a decade before I was even born, the air outside hasn’t become more polluted in many areas while our indoor air quality has declined substantially. We are the ones making our homes sick, which in turn makes ourselves carry a larger toxic burden. I’m not talking about processed food, lack of exercise, or germs here although those are essential topics to great health. I am referring to the chemicals we bring into our homes, thinking we are creating a clean environment for ourselves and our families. A clean home does NOT need to smell like fake pine trees, bleach or a weird synthetic lemon smell. No smell  indicates clean!

A few things I ask myself and others:

– would you need to call poison control if you ingested any cleaners in your house?

– would you eat off your kitchen floor after cleaning it?

– could you water your plants with any products you use for cleaning?

– is breathing while you are cleaning important to you?

– do you need to wear rubber gloves to use your cleaning products?

 

 

Having a healthy and clean home is incredibly simple. The hardest part is to dispose of the myths our minds have been impregnated with in regard to what clean should smell like, that if it’s harsh it will clean better, everything needs to be sterilized beyond belief, and most importantly we need to kick the notion to the curb that if it is sold on a store shelf it must be safe. It’s time society grew a brain and realized that household chemicals are meant to kill things. That is their purpose. We are not immune to their abilities to eradicate – super heroes we are not. The human body is a miraculous thing but when we inundate ourselves repeatedly with toxins, our system can only do so much to detoxify itself. If we start to detoxify our homes by using safe, natural cleaning techniques it is a huge step to not just our own well-being but that of the planet. Simple things make a huge impact if enough of us make those simple changes. Choosing appropriate products/items for a cleaning job will take equal to or less time and/or money than conventional toxic products.

 

 

 

A truly “green” or environmentally safe cleaning product is one that is made from natural ingredients, does no harm to you, your children, your pets, the environment inside or outside your home and is fully biodegradable.  If a product is safe enough to use outside without damaging but actually invigorating the eco-system it’s a great fit for inside my home.  I whole-heartedly recommend the products at the Live Love Be Green website link at the right side of this page. If you are interested in what made me choose this product line over all others, read the post that started it all.

 

 

I am very passionate about the beautiful planet we all call Home. As my mission statement for this blog states, I am making my world greener one day at a time. This starts each and every morning when my feet touch the floor…in my home.

 

 

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