Showing posts with label water. Show all posts
Showing posts with label water. Show all posts

Sunday, November 17, 2013

House Hunting and Arsenic in the Water

Thirty minutes ago Andrew and I signed a piece of paper accepting a counter offer to a house...

SQUEE!!!!!! (photos will have to wait until it's a done deal and we're moved in... which wouldn't be until early January 2014)

After almost three months of looking, we finally found a home that may meet *most* of our needs. That and it has a yellow door that I absolutely love... and three peaks. I really like peaks.

It's honestly been a bit of a whirlwind, despite the fact that we've been looking forever. The house came up on the market Wednesday evening. We asked our realtor to book a viewing asap; which equaled Saturday morning. Yesterday we looked at the home, fell in love and put in an offer an hour later.

I am dreaming of the zero-VOC paint colour palate, my childhood piano placement and getting my dad to make me a long lasting clothesline. Visions of bird feeders, a small vegetable garden and having friends and family gatherings around a fantastic open kitchen fill up my mental landscape. It's a fun and exciting time!

And a bit of an overwhelming time. This process also involves quite a bit of testing. Home inspection will happen as well as septic and well water testing since this home is outside of municipal septic and water.

The scary part is that we already suspect there is arsenic in the water as the current homeowners have a reverse osmosis system installed for the drinking water in the kitchen. Nova Scotia actually has a problem with arsenic in the water supply, more so in the areas of bedrock (which is where "our" (future hopefully!) house is).

Nova Scotia (and the Government of Canada) have set acceptable guidelines to 10 micrograms per litre... but we all know how well the government is at setting guidelines based on health research (ie, terrible). Health problems from arsenic are quite severe (which makes sense since it's a poison), ranging from vomiting to cancer.

Although it's mostly drinking water that is the main concern, bathing, showering, brushing my teeth, washing the vegetables, cooking- having arsenic in the water would make me nervous. My ultimate goal, if there was arsenic in the well water, would be to install a point-of-entry treatment system (treating all the water in the house as opposed a point-of-use which is currently installed in the kitchen). Those treatments can be costly; so we'd have to save up for it.

Does anyone else have arsenic in their water? How do you treat it? Point-of-entry system thoughts?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Hypocrisy of the 'Yoga Cruise'

Wanna go on a 'Yoga Cruise Ship'?

(a typical sight in our harbour every summer, these ships are seen above most buildings.) 
(Photo from 'Cruise Halifax')

Yep, the Yoga Industry machine has reached new levels of irony and hypocrisy with this trend, touting 'holistic' and 'sustainable' which are utterly negated by the following word: 'cruise'.

All summer Halifax receives a weekly change up of various, disgustingly large, cruise ships from around the world. I watched them come in, spewing black clouds of pollution, larger than McNab's island, every week from my office window. I heard the ridiculous 'When You Wish Upon A Star' horn from the monthly Disney cruises. The shear pollution that each ship represents is staggering and disgusting.

Small Floating Cities... of Pollution:
Cruise ships are like 'small floating cities'; and the waste and pollution they generate are comparable as such. In one week, a typical sized cruise ship generates around 210,000 US gallons of sewage, 1 million US gallons of gray water, 130 US gallons of hazardous waste, 8 tons of solid waste and 25,000 oily bilgy water (wiki and EPA). Except these cities pass the same path of ocean over and over again all season long.

Sewage dumping:
Cruise ship waste control regulation is flimsy, poorly regulated and filled with loop holes. Unlike the air travel industry, cruise ships are allowed to dump waste water, sewage, runoffs into the ocean. How ironic that these same cruises depend on the beautiful, clean ocean waters to attract customers while they pollute each time they pass through.

Increasing the Dead Zones:
Some steps have been taken to help regulate waste dumpage, but it's far from ideal and food waste is still a free for dump (David Suzuki, 2010). As Dr. Suzuki explains, at about 10,000-25,000 leftover meals being dumped each day, the food decomposes and acidifies increasing nutrients that starve the ocean of oxygen and help create 'dead zones' (scary 'dead spots' in the ocean where nothing lives, these spots are growing).

3x Carbon Emissions:
Then we have those monstrous, black smoke spewing stacks. According to a 'Friends of the Earth' report by Dr. Ross Klein, cruise ships tend to discharge 3 times more carbon emissions that airplanes, trains and passenger ferries. Certain cruise lines (for example Alaska) are attempting to decrease sulfur air emissions by a laughable 0.1 percent.

All this just for ONE WEEK of vacation.

Yoga Cruises?
After reading all the damage a cruise does to our environment, oceans and planet health, the phrase 'Yoga Cruise' is almost laughable in it's irony.

Instead of tag lines like 'Holistic Holiday at Sea', 'Gourmet vegan meals' and 'meditate in a quiet serene environment' they should read:
'Come practice asana while beneath you tons of raw sewage is being dumped into the ocean'
'Meditate on how we're all connected while the black sulfurus clouds reach all others'

Seriously? Who are they kidding? 

If you really want a Caribbean get-a-way, consider an eco-resort and offset your flight's carbon emissions. Or put on some fabulous Caribbean music, make some delicious organic fruit trays and chill in your flip flops at home. Whatever floats your non-cruise boat.

article copyright of EcoYogini at

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Hand washing vs Dishwasher

When Andrew and I moved in together after one month of dating we decided on "chores". I am a neat freak and was determined that we would have roommate rules with regards to cleaning. We've mostly stuck with them four and a half years later (thank goodness). One of Andrew's chores is washing the dishes. (I hate washing the dishes).

Sadly, we haven't had the luxury of a dishwasher in the four places we've lived in the past four years. We always had dishes on the counter- either waiting to be washed, waiting to be put away or both. After our wedding we were gifted with some money at Sears.... and a dishwasher shopping we went.

We considered apartment sized washers, but they were more expensive, wouldn't hold half of our larger bowls and cooking stuffs and appeared cheaply made. So a large, hook up to the sink dishwasher it is. And we LOVE it.

The plus side? A dishwasher is better for the environment than hand washing the dishes.

According to a study at University of Bonn, dishwashers use half the energy, one sixth the water and less soap than washing dishes by hand. New energy star dishwashers use 25% less energy than basic models (our dishwasher is an energy star).

This study tested 113 hand-washers in seven European countries (for variation in handwashing styles) vs modern machines. The average person used 103 litres of water, 2.5 kWh of energy and 79 minutes' time. The machines used 15 litres of water, a bit over 1 kWh of energy for a full load. (Ecoholic, 2006, Ecoholic Home 2009). WOOT!

Features to keep in mind if you too find yourself in a fortunate monetary moment:
  • Make sure you have an air dry button (or just open the door the moment it's done!)
  • Energy Star... all the way. It assures that the dishwasher uses 41% less energy and less water.
  • Read the EnerGuide papers in the washers when looking. We did- and based our choice on the one that used less energy.
  • Run full loads and scrape instead of double washing. I mean, if your brand new dishwasher can't handle washing your dishes..... ahem.

Okidoki, we got the basics covered- what about detergent. I was SO happy with our dishwashing liquid, and I really really hate the little pre-wrapped tab dealys. From what I had read on Crunchy Chicken that the best out there was truly Ecover. Which sucks because I'm not a huge fan of the company. Thank goodness for Adria Vasil of Ecoholic and her new book- Ecoholic Home. I adore this book, as it actually RATES products....

Bio-Vert, a Canadian company, was the hands down winner- against Ecover, Attitude, Seventh Gen and Nature Clean (woo!). I adore Bio-Vert, awesome clean products, their dish liquid and laundry detergent are fabulous too. Made in Quebec, mixed sources Forest Stewardship Certified packaging. The sad part is the pre-wrapped tabs, which they say are recyclable... but with no number on the package and restricted to recycling #1 and #2 plastics in HRM it's annoying.

My solution? If the dishes aren't that dirty we cut the tablet in half (which is most of the time). And you know what? I don't notice a difference. The dishes are spotless and perfect every time. The cheapest place to buy Bio-Vert in HRM is, weirdly enough, at Zellers in Bayers Lake. Yep, big box store... but money is money.

We adore our new dishwasher and although Andrew still has dishes to wash (like the bamboo stuff) the minimal amount means less water, less soap and money saved.


article and photographs copyright of EcoYogini at

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Ferry Ride instead of a Car Ride

Since January 2010, I have been mostly car-free for work. This was an essential step in decreasing my dependence on petroleum in a big way. With climate change happening and the point of no return approaching like a freight train, the point isn't to replace our disposable lifestyle with an eco-friendly version but to adjust to a reusable life.

All through winter and spring I walked 35 minutes to and from our apartment to work. A few days were particularly memorable... including the snowstorm that involved walking in two feet of snow (sidewalks weren't plowed), and a rainstorm that left me soaked to my drawers.

In July we moved into our new place which meant I was only a 15 min walk from work! Which was so fantastical, especially in the 40 degree humid heat we had (celcius).

Now I can say that I've been granted a new three year contract and actually have my own office! With a window overlooking the harbour!! Yay office plants!!! The catch... it's across the harbour in Dartmouth. Walking all the way around on the bridge isn't really an option, so I decided that I would bite a small fee and take the ferry.
waterfront warf
view of the street up to Citadel Hill this morning
Unlike Halifax's terrible bus system (seriously, catastrophically unreliable and non-user friendly. And they wonder why more people don't use it), the ferries are a well-run, consistent and reliable transportation option. Never late and rarely canceled you can depend on the ferry really being there on schedule.
"gotham city" or the oil refinery across the harbour in Dartmouth. I get to watch the flames all day from my office window
About a 20 minute walk from our new apartment and five minutes away from my work at the Dartmouth side, the ferry was a doable option. My very first day I was pretty nervous. I mean, I've never taken the ferry before, I had no idea how to pay or what the social etiquette for ferrying was.

The walk to the terminal was picturesque and peaceful. I'm so looking forward to beginning my mornings with a walk along the waterfront. It's almost empty of tourists, quite and smells like the Atlantic ocean (no poo-smell which is ideal).

As per my usual awkward self, since I had no idea what I was doing I just marched up to the first official looking dude and announced that "This is my first time on the ferry and I have no idea what to do". Thank goodness the dude was an older man who reminded me of an older version of my dad. He even announced that I better locate the paddles on the boat. 

It was so peaceful. I took my earbuds out (I always listen to French cbc podcasts on the way to work) and just breathed. 

The mouth of the harbour into the Atlantic ocean
the MacDonald Bridge and part of Halifax "skyline"
As it gently took me across the harbour I was surprised by just how peaceful and quiet the trip was. Compared to driving or hurriedly walking and avoiding being hit by terrible Haligonian drivers, this was paradise. Listening to the waves against the boat, the smell of the salty ocean and the seagulls cawing away it was instant meditation.  Even on the ride home people were quieter, were hushed.

The other ferry, identical to mine!
As the editorial in Grist points out: we are running out of time. Instead of waiting for sweeping governmental changes, together we can make a difference and protect our planet. As Peak Oil has most likely come and gone, we'll be forced to deal with a fuel shortage in a few short years. It's time to make the change.

How will you take (or are taking) the steps to decrease your transportation use?

article and photographs copyright of EcoYogini at

Friday, November 20, 2009

Decrease Stagnation; Glass water bottles rock!

My friend H. came across this awesome company this week and I thought I'd share it with everyone here! We all know that plastic bottled water is a terrible concept, both ethically and environmentally. Clean water should not be a commodity to be bought and sold, nor should our local water sources be controlled by huge corporations bent on sucking it up and selling it.

We know that the plastic leaches chemicals into the water and as a result into our bodies. No matter how much we recycle, each bottle is made from virgin plastic which means more petrochemicals. Recycling plastic also downgrades the plastic, making it less viable for reuse each cycle. For more information on plastic recycling, please visit Beth's Fake Plastic Fish.

What is an eco-yogi/ni to do? Obviously a reusable water bottle is the ticket. Since nalgene is plastic (and all plastic actually leaches BPA) stainless steel or aluminum it was. However, aluminum requires a coating, which SIGG has recently demonstrated could contain BPA or other chemicals. Klean Kanteen was our choice and we adore our stainless steel water bottles. (image from here)

However, stainless steel is quite energy intensive and not always great for the environment. All stainless steel bottles are manufactured in China which is not ideal, what with carbon from shipping and manufacturing. Although Klean Kanteen seems quite transparent on their website, I would prefer less mileage on my bottle... Also, just the process of mining steel is quite damaging to the environment, along with the actual manufacturing the steel into bottle shape (please read here for more details). Although the end result of amount of plastic bottles saved by using the stainless steel bottle a few hundred times balances the scales, I have wondered if there was a more gentle approach.

Enter glass. Glass is a fantastic product, easy to produce and extremely versatile in recycling with virtually no downgrading of the product. I've seen glass water bottles at Chapters, but they seem so fragile and thin... not exactly something I'd want to actually carry around. I am a hand talker and pretty darn clumsy... might be a messy situation.

Tap Water Bottles , on the other hand, look pretty fantastic! They appear to be made from thicker glass and have a more practical bottle shape. I also love the nifty, attached stopper which is perfect for a missed-placed type gal like myself. It would seem that they are made in Canada as their retailers are all in Toronto and they were created by a Canadian... but I'm not entirely sure as their website doesn't say. They would make a pretty snazzy holiday eco-gift though :) (image from here)

My favourite quote from their site:

"Tap water is constantly moving, staying fresh and never stagnating."

I do believe that if you're a periodic, or gentle water drinker (i.e. you like to bring water with you to work, the park or to the library) than a glass water bottle would be much less environmentally damaging than a stainless steel water bottle. I much prefer glass it requires much less energy and chemicals and hasn't scoured our Earth in mining. However, if you bring your water hiking, bicycling or are extremely clumsy and might drop the bottle... and you know you'd save hundreds of plastic bottles, a stainless steel might be best.

Thank you very much for the link H.!! :)

Happy Weekend and many Blessings!

article copyright of EcoYogini at

Friday, August 28, 2009

Toilet Greenification- Apartment Style

Living in the city, in an apartment, makes certain eco changes difficult. Urban living does makes it easier to drive less (unless you live in Halifax, where the public transportation is SO abismal), access farmer's markets and I guess these tiny compacted apartment living stacked one on top of another results in leaving more Earth untouched. However, making changes like having alternatively sourced power and hydro, having a garden or replacing appliances for energy efficient alternatives are impossible... or highly unadvisable in case your landperson would get slightly cranky. (view of the Atlantic in Hubbards Nova Scotia that I took pre-yoga class)

We do our best, Andrew and I, in our infinitesimal box we call home and Wednesday we did the unthinkable. We tampered with our toilet.
(the culprit and if you look closely... my red socked-foot)

Living surrounded by the ocean my entire life (except for those few dry years stranded in the middle of the Okanagan) has resulted in some weird, obsessive attachment to water. I love water, I LOVE the ocean. Perhaps as a fisherman's daughter I've also grown up with a keen understanding of just how ruthless and powerful She can be. Many fathers, brothers, sons and even a few friends in my fishing community have been taken throughout the years.

Our oceans are our Earth's life and all Her inhabitants, every single last one, may thank the ocean for our existance. The ocean is where life began and the water cycle continues to nourish and sustain our world. As North Americans we are so wasteful with water, as if it has an unending supply that we can use and pollute.

According to Ecoholic, up to 65% of the water we use in our homes happens in the bathroom (Ecoholic 2006, p.156). One third of that number is from our toilets. If we had our own home, and could save some moolah, Andrew and I would totally invest in a low flow or two flow toilet. Unfortunately, swapping our current beaut and leaving it to hang out in the hall might ruffle a few feathers....

Our lovely toilet uses 13.2 litres with every single flush (3.5 gallons). Wow. Seems a bit excessive, especially for pee. Andrew and I both figure we flush the toilet about three times each a day (erring on the side of caution... we do often "let it mellow"), so in one year that would be 28 908 litres (7636 gallons). Whoa, twenty eight THOUSAND litres a year of water. As letting it mellow isn't always an option and pooing less is also not really an option, and buying a new toilet isn't up... what to do?

A water bottle! Vanessa from Green as a Thistle inspired us to make this eco-change. I know it's weird, but I was a little nervous about altering any appliance that wasn't "ours". The idea, place a filled water bottle in your toilet tank so that it displaces water, giving your tank less water to accomplish the flush. Bricks are a no go as they may eventually break down and damage stuff (I've heard differing opinions on this one, but since we don't have any spare bricks laying around it wasn't really an issue).

I gotta admit, it took a few months of thinking about it before following through. The main issue, we don't buy bottled water or bottled anything. Hardly ever. Strangely enough, I have this aversion to plastic bottles... So I was struggling with WHAT exactly to place in the toilet. Should bottled water for this one change? Andrew, being the practical guy that he is, picked up an stainless steel water bottle and announced our victory. It had been a "gift" from my job, but it's ugly, made by a no-name company in China with our company's name painted on the side. Who needs to be reminded with every drink where they work? So it's been hanging out in our cupboard for about three months.

And now it is in our toilet- WOO!

Andrew assured me that it wouldn't rust, break anything or spontaneously combust (he's so nice) so we filled it with water and (he) found the perfect spot. It's only a 500ml (16fl oz) bottle which changes our toilet to a 12.7 litre toilet. Which in a year will save 1095 litres. I can't even tell the difference when I flush, in one way a good thing, but a little bit of a let down. SO I'm considering (if it can fit) to put the OTHER stainless steel water bottle (600ml) I got as a present from a client in there as well. If I can make it fit- toilet tanks are pretty darn minimalist. Combined that would mean 1.1 litres less per flush which would more than double my water savings in a year!

Other options include buying a "toilet dam", costing less than ten dollars and can save up to 3 litres per flush or a water bag (the "toilet tummy"- seriously, who came UP with these names??). Because I'm lazy, it made more sense to simply use something we already had in the house (plus it means cheaper, and less eventual waste). I'm not sure how anyone could fit an entire 1 litre juice/milk jug in their toilet tank though... Also, I have read filling the receptical with sand or rocks may help it sink.

The next step: shorter showers.... gah.


article and photos by EcoYogini at

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Way to go Ambiguous-Keywords-"doesn't leach" SIGG

As you may have heard, there is quite the SIGG controversy going on in the "ecosphere" right now, and although I was going to blog about my toilet (don't worry- that post is coming!!), SIGG drama kinda trumps my throne greenification (just barely though!).

Over the past few months Andrew and I have made huge leaps in the water bottle usage area. Prior to this spring, I was NEVER a water drinker, least of all from a water bottle. I'm not sporty and don't enjoy drinking water. I drink coffee. YUM. In any case, I decided a while back that it was time for me to jump on the water bottle bandwagon for my yoga practice. I did some research and basically found this:

SIGG although made in Switzerland (not exactly local!) and very pretty, required a coating (as aluminum is toxic) that is sprayed on at extremely hot temperatures which is created from a substance that, on their website at the time, they indicated was a "trade secret" which was not disclosed. SKETCHY. (check out my whole post here).

As a result, Andrew and I both bought Klean Kanteen Stainless Steel water bottles; a North American company that has third party certification monitoring the production of their bottles in China... and seemed much more transparent.

In the past few weeks SIGG has been found out: that "trade secret" lining in their bottles pre-2008? Yep, definitely contained BPA. As water drinkers and yogis cry out in dismay about their "trickery", SIGG claims that they have never claimed that their lining was BPA free...only that it doesn't LEACH BPA. As of 2008, they claim to have transitioned to BPA-FREE liners and that previous information regarding BPA in liners was available to the public. Check out the CEO's statement for more details.
I have to say that for a company whose jump in popularity has been the result of the BPA scare, claiming that they honestly believed they weren't being misleading is a joke. Consumers can see clever marketing and semantics when they read it, and implying that it's the consumers' own fault for falsly interpreting obviously vague wording is insulting. Further, making information available to the public and this information being readily accessible are two completely different things. Due to all the greenwashing going around lately, trusting the information provided so that consumers can make informed decisions is essential.

A spark of light... supposedly SIGG is offering to replace all pre-2008, BPA-lined water bottles for free. Although I couldn't find any information directly on their website, an article in the claims that if you send in your old SIGG bottle (you pay the postage) they will replace it. Seems like a fair solution... if you'd like to continue trusting a company who dodges responsibility for obviously ambiguous marketing.

Regardless of the "nice-factor" (re: damage control) of their offer, what are they going to DO with all those returned bottles? As there is no official information regarding this volunteer return program on their website, and the standard form email response doesn't mention anything, how do I know that the returned bottle was recycled? And honestly, how can I recycle a SIGG water bottle myself? Due to their "special" liners (the new and the old) are they accepted in local recycling facilities? I'm assuming that in order to appropriately recycle the aluminum, you'd have to separate the liner... which a SIGG water bottle differs enough from a beer or pop can.

Andrew and I LOVE our Klean Kanteens and I have actually been drinking 800ml of water... a day! There is no "metal" taste (which SIGG claims to happen with stainless steel bottles), they are super easy to clean and not at all heavy. Check out their response to the whole debacle. I am a fan of my Klean Kanteen and I know exactly what it's made of.
(our pretty water bottles hanging out with the strawberries, mine now has a sporty cap which makes a fun sqeaking noise!)
Ok, mini-rant aside, toilet greenification will be coming up shortly! Perhaps some calming Moon Salutations tonight...:)

Blessings and happy Tap Water Drinking!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Eco-Newbie Yoga Primer!

A while back Mel, From Clutter To Shine, requested that a sort of Yoga-Newbie-Eco-Guide be posted for a quick reference of the essentials for an eco-yogi/ni. What a fantastic idea! Since she gave a quick primer on 'unschooling children' (awesome post- check it out!) then it's only fair I follow suite!
(yoga in the park in May!)

Eco-Yoga Newbie Guide

*N.B. The best first step in "greening" your practice is to decrease your consumption. Buying something new just because it's "green" and throwing your old mat/gear into the landfill/dump will not make our Earth happy. If you do have valid reasons for investing in new yoga products, then please check out this post on some ideas on what to do with your old mat and enjoy! :)

Yoga Mat!
Currently there are a zillion different kinds of yoga mats claiming to be "green"- so how is a yogi/ni to see through all the greenwashing and make the best choice?
Currently, one of the most eco-friendly products (other than keeping your own) that has the best performance is natural rubber. So far it's a toss up between Manduka's Eko natural rubber mat and Jade's natural rubber mat. Prana also has a natural rubber mat- but it's 90$ American... ACK. My advice- while visiting a class, check to see if they have any of these mats for you to try out during practice.
Also, if you are sensitive to strong scents, smell smell smell before you buy!
If you'd like more indepth mat info that I've accumulated so far please check out the yoga saga links on the right :)

Yoga Mat Bag!
I LOVE checking out etsy for handmade yoga mat bags... and if I didn't already have one that's probably where I would go. Don't you love this beautiful recycled Obi-Yoga Mat bag? If I had 120$ Another option is making your own from fabrics you already have! Check out this fabulous how-to!

Yoga Prop!
As a bendy-challenged person, blocks and straps are very useful in my practice. The best "eco" option I found currently has been cork blocks. I have the Halfmoon cork block and LOVE it. With all the drama right now surrounding bamboo and how it may be harvested (check out this post for more info on
bamboo and eco-concerns) I feel better circumventing the whole issue with cork. Cork is heavier (less movement and helps with strength building) and softer.

Yoga Clothing!
I admit; I own mostly Lululemon yoga clothing; old school before it was outsourced and made in China. However there are definitely other options out there:
- wear whatever you are comfortable in! No new clothes bought :)
- Karma Clothing: made in Canada and has bamboo options (not ideal...)
- Skyler Clothing: made in Canada, pro-women/mother's rights (hires mothers to work from home)
- Gaiam: has organic cotton yoga options... all made in China (boo)

My first priority: Made in Canada, then I look for eco-fibers like organic cotton, hemp, soy, bamboo.

If anyone knows of other great companies I'd LOVE to hear about them :)

Yoga Bottle!
Bringing your water to class is essential and you care about what is leaching into your eau... Unfortunately there is no easy option, but so far the best choice is Stainless Steel. I LOVE my Klean Kanteen and Andrews hearts his too! They are easy to clean and very durable. Although nice and light, aluminum requires a "mystery" coating to protect your water from toxins leaching from the aluminum. Check out my post here for more info on options and all the fabulous things Klean Kanteen does for the planet! (our klean kanteen bottles posing in the strawberry plant- I am so artsy!)

Yoga Mat Cleaning Supplies!
lemon juice+water. Really that's it. You may want to try some tea tree oil for disinfectant or vinegar. All those little Josha wipes etc etc are extra waste and unnecessary. Careful with your rubber mat however, as quick dunks in the tub could actually make it slippery for the first few days!

Some helpers to make your practice more eco-friendly:

Home practice
Instead of driving to class every week, try upping your home practice. Yoga Journal has awesome sequence builders and there are many fantastic dvd's (I like Seane Corn) and online podcasts. It will help deepen your understanding of your own practice, save the planet and save you money!

Walk/bike/bus to class
Now that summer is here (in the Northern Hemisphere) walking and biking to yoga is a great way to continue your connection with Earth and your practice. Find out local bus routes and encourage your studio to post them!

Practice Outside
Regular readers know I LOVE outside practice. Such a quick and obvious way to emphasize our connection to our planet and tune ourselves to Nature.

Eat "green"
Try a "meatless Monday" to decrease your impact on our Earth through your meat consumption. Try buying the Top Ten Dirtiest Offenders produce as Organic to keep your body and our planet happy. For a list see here.

Be present, be happy!
By recognizing our interconnected and dynamic relationship with Earth and Her residents we can begin to notice small ways to change how we interact and behave with each other and the environment. Our planet is not "other", we are it. :)

Hope this was helpful, and I'd LOVE to hear any other suggestions or options you have!


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Shower Filters: Eco-Option or Eco-Much?

After another stab at "hot yoga" (update soon!), I was reminded (while in the shower) of a comment left by Julie regarding using a shower filter. I had never heard of using a filter for your shower and my first reaction was: do we really need it? I'm a firm believer that our society is much much too afraid of "germs", resulting in overuse of antibacterial soaps and cleaners which can be damaging to our health instead of "protective". That being said, I also recognize that exposure to increasing amounts of pollutants has been corrolated with increased instances of respiratory and other illnesses. So, I had to look at the why before considering whether it makes sense.

Shower filtering companies will inform you that installing their product will filter out a whole slew of nasty chemicals, the big one being chlorine, that cascade onto your skin while you enjoy your shower. By reading their websites you could quickly become fearful of all the horrible pollutants you are exposing your skin while you bathe. Take a step back, and we remember that North American public water systems are tested and monitored much
more stringently than say; bottled water. According to the David Suzuki Foundation (along with many other non-biased organizations) tap water in North America has been shown to be safer and healthier than bottled water.

Upon further inspection however, we discover that public water systems are disinfected with chlorine, which according to the Canadian Health Authorities is at a minimal and safe level with virtually no affects to our health. It is known to be extremely effective at eliminating the E.Coli virus in our water supply. The David Suzuki Foundation, on the other hand, has a different perspective. Although tap water is more stringently regulated than bottled water, research is still divided on whether long term exposure to chlorine is "safe". In the past several decades, respiratory illness have increased dramatically. Health Canada estimates that 5,700 people in eight of the largest cities per year die prematurely as a result of air pollution. Canadians are also likely to spend 90% of their days indoors, with indoor air pollution being higher than outside levels. We as a society, are becoming increasingly sensitive to environmental (read VOC's) irritants and longterm studies on daily, synergistic chemical exposure has not been appropriately investigated (A Prescription for a Healthy Canada: Towards a National Environmental Health Strategy; 2007).

Considered in isolation, chlorine is a toxic gas that is a skin and respiratory irritant (brittle hair and dry skin sounding familiar?). It's uses have ranged from disinfectant to weapon of war (think the Nazi gas chambers...). Chlorine may also react with other chemicals or bacteria that may be present in the water supply and has not been found to be effective at eliminating protozoans (unicellular organism, like an amoeba) that can cause inflammation of the intestines. According to David Suzuki, between 1978 and 2001 there were 288 outbreaks of Giardia, Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, Norwalk-like viruses, Salmonella and hepatitus A (all results of protozoan infection). Also, the federal Canadian government estimates that contaminated drinking water results in 90 deaths 90,000 cases of gastrointestinal infections annually. Finally, chlorine can form with naturally occuring organic compounds in the water; creating trihalomethanes (three of four hydrogen atoms of methane are replaced by halogen atoms). They have been found to be environmental pollutants and many are considered carcinogenic. (Protozoa, isn't it cute?)

We filter the water we drink, but most of us spend on average of 15 minutes a day inhaling and absorbing chlorine through our shower. There are more effective ways to disinfect our public water supplies such as ultraviolet disinfection. For a multitude of reasons (I'm sure political and economical play a part), this process, although relatively simple has not taken off here in Canada. 

Ok, wow that was a lot of information. Ultimately, I think this one depends on your situation specifically and although information is key (and important to know during times of voting and water regulation processes), stepping back is essential. Knowing your water chemical levels will help you make informed, non-hysterical choices. What are the chlorine levels like in your water? Do you live in an area that has frequent water boil advisories? In Vernon we had water boil advisories twice sometimes three times a year due to water run off from the mountains. Do you have environmental sensitivities, respiratory illnesses or sensitive skin? (me and "flat stanley" on our dock in Vernon- check out the beautiful, freezing, glacier Kal Lake! It was turquoise and clear all the time).

If you have high levels of chlorine (check with your municipal water system to see what levels are considered "safe" or maximum for your area), suffer from respiratory illnesses/sensitives than perhaps a shower filter may benefit your health and could lessen the amount of chemicals you are exposed to each day. If I had to choose, a VOC-free shower curtain would be my first step in the "eco" shower journey. Shower filters are expensive, ranging anywhere from 50$ to 200$. Filter replacements typically cost 50-100$ every 6 months. Also, most shower filtration devices use carbon and as a result should not be considered disinfectants. Finally, recycling the filters would be tricky as I'm pretty sure Preserve wouldn't accept them as part of their Take Back the Filter program.

This was a fantastic journey and I've learned so much about chlorine and our public water supply! I know that currently I can't justify a shower filter (we don't have high levels of chlorine or any environmental sensitivities) but it does solidify my resolve to either have a well-system in my "big girl" house (someday) or install a shower-filter. :)


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Showers; Sans Doomsday Devices

Yoga, for me, makes me sweat. A lot. As my only form of real exercise... I should hope so. When an irate doctor asked me what form of exercise I got, and my answer was yoga, her answer was: "no I mean REAL exercise". My answer was: "It is REAL exercise". Dr: "Well, does it even make your heart rate increase?" .... lol "It sure does, I even SWEAT". Sigh, some family doctors are interesting. (pretty purple flowers at our cottage that I like).

In any case, a shower is important, at least the following morning or... eww, if I don't shower prior to morning yoga... (ack!). Taking a nice, cleansing shower after an invigorating practice, with Green Beaver eco-body wash and shampoo, breathing in the wonderful particles of Polyvinyl Chloride...Mmmmm. PVC yummy goodness wafting up into the steam being breathed in from the shower curtain. The majority of people have a shower curtain liner and have spent at least 10 minutes a day breathing in the wonderful chemical treatment of polyvinyl chloride.

Polyvinyl chloride or PVC is the third most common polymer used and according to Wiki, will amass to 40 million tonnes in 7 years... The most common way to make PVC is via suspension polymerization.
Here's a quick run-down for non-chemies like moi:
Ingredients needed: monomer vinylchloride, water, chemical additive soup mix
Supplies: polymerization reactor and polymerization initator or "Doomsday mixing device".
Instructions: mix ingredients into "doomsday devices", continuously mixing with water addition to cool resulting "doomsday" product. Degass (inappropriate giggle), pass through centrifuge to remove access water and blow dry with giant hair dryer. Tah Dah! PVC created by a hugely energy intensive process. (wiki)

PVC requires plasticizers, phthalates to keep the the plastic soft and flexible. Able to move and fold like a shower curtain. These phthalates have been found to mimic human hormones and react with fish and amphibian biochemistry. Depending on the type of phthalate, risks range from cancer, birth defects to hormone disruption. Also, other nasty chemicals like fungicide are often added to shower curtains to help prevent mildew growth (as if that would ever work anyway). That new shower curtain smell (similar to new car, new rug or new couch smell) is the doomsday chemicals evaporating and "off gassing" into the air and being inhaled into your lungs and bloodstream. (hemp field in Manitoba)

According to the David Suzuki Foundation, as many as 100 harmful chemicals are released into the air from a PVC shower curtain and vinyl plastic waste accounts for 1.23 million tonnes in the U.S. alone (and remember, plastic lives forever!)

Okidoki, after detoxifying and cleansing my body with yoga, filling my lungs with hormone disrupting doomsday chemicals is not really the way I want to complete my experience. So what are the alternatives out there and do they really work?

1. Hemp Shower Curtains:
These are ALL the rage and you'll see them touted as THE most eco-friendly option. All industrial hemp grown in Canada is GMO-free. Hemp has also been found to be resistent to mildew and is a strong, sturdy fiber (Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance). It is also pest resistent and requires little to no pesticides to grow and has been found to reduce 
pests in other crops when grown in rotation. Check out the Ontario Hemp Alliance for more information on the eco-benefits of hemp.

These shower curtains are beautiful, but pricey and cost on average 80-100$ per curtain... Currently in Halifax P'lovers carries hemp shower curtains and they are around 95$. I definitely cannot afford one of those. Also, I have read that despite claims, they will grow mold and require frequent cleaning. Since we use coin laundry, filling an industrial washing machine and paying another 1.50$ to wash my shower curtain just isn't practical. If you do have the money- please make sure to check where the hemp was grown (Dream Designs shown here is made in Canada and is 89$ on the site).

2. Bamboo Shower Curtains:
Now these are paraded as similar in values as hemp; supposedly "sustainably" grown (but we know that a TON of chemicals goes into changing bamboo into a cloth fiber) and mildew resistent. Same issues apply here; the high cost and need for frequent machine washes with the added greenwashing "sustainable" aspect.

3. EVA plastic shower curtains:
Ethylene vinyl acetate, or EVA, is a form of plastic that has little to no odor which is the result of less off-gassing of harmful chemicals such as phthalates. Although still a plastic, this shower curtain is easy to clean with a quick scrub, won't release the above mentioned chemicals and is CHEAP (think 2-7$). This was my stop-gap until I can figure out how to justify saving 100$ for a shower curtain. However, these "eco" options are still plastic, will still last forever and have a long scary, sludge spewing life before they grace my zen bathroom space. (our EVA shower curtain, had to sit waaay back on the counter to get far enough away to take the picture. Our bathroom is TINY).

4. No shower curtain liner...
Ok- I need a liner. I am sure, however there are others that are less type A than myself and will be fine (as they should) without one. I admire your strength.

So next steps for eco-fying my shower include: taking shorter showers, placing a little bucket to keep me company and save some plant-water and find the perfect "eco" shampoo. I am on a mission.


Sunday, May 3, 2009

Tap Water+Scuzzy Taste= Brita Filter

Growing up in a tiny village probably created my love affair with Nature. My mom tells me she used to point out and gush with me at all the trees, grass, flowers etc etc when I was little, instilling a deep love for our Mother Nature.

Living in such a small community (think no sidewalks and population 500) also meant that I had a different relationship with water. Our family has a well (at our cottage and our house) and we always, always drank water straight from the tap. Our well only went dry once that I remember and the water tastes fabulous. No chlorine or fluoride in our water and my hair is always happiest after being washed at home. (River near our cottage at the end of the summer)

Whenever we went to restaurants in "town" all the "villagers" (giggle) always grumbled and snarked at the "townie" water that tasted so disgusting. Poor townies that had to drink gross, municipal water with the zippy chemical taste. 

It wasn't until I moved out into various cities on my own that I came to realize that most city/town dwellers never drank from their taps for that very reason. My hair and skin changed from being exposed to the hard water. No way was I going to drink that chlorine flavoured water. I bought my first Brita Pitcher pre-University move and kept it in a fridge in my tiny dorm room and still have the same Pitcher in our apartment today. 

Carbon based filters like Brita use carbon, a porous substance, to absorb and filter specific impurities like lead, PCB's, chlorine by-products, certain parasites, radon, pesticides and herbicides some bacteria and some VOC's (National Geographic Green Guide). Fortunately city water systems are tested and treated more rigorously than water bottle companies or well water. However, there is that taste... the city water taste. So even though I know that tap water is safer in Canada to drink than bottled water (especially with all the 
phtalates leaching in from that plastic AND the fact that water is a human right... ok off the soap box lol), I hate the taste. (Atlantic ocean and view of windmills just off the shore in front of my parents house)

Unfortunately carbon filters also come with their own eco-issues like their packaging; a box containing plastic wrapped filters made of plastic going in a plastic pitcher. All these years of using a Brita I have been throwing my filters every three months into the garbage. Take away summers spent at home during University, and that leaves 27 filters over the past 8 years. Blegh. 

After spending lots of time looking through Preserves' website for my fun recycled toothbrush I discovered something awesome: Preserve in partnership with Brita Filters are now fully recycling all plastic Brita filters in Canada and the States!! WOO!! So no longer do any more Brita filters need to pile up in the landfills! Here's how to recycle your Brita Filter in Canada:

1. Dry the filter by shaking off excess water and setting it aside to dry for at least three days.
2. Wrap the filter in a plastic grocery bag (hmm wonder if there's an alternative for that? I would keep the plastic wrapper it came in) and pack it in a box (both plastic and boxes will be recycled). Send multiple filters at a time to save on emissions and packaging.
3. Mail filters via ground shipping at:

Brita Canada Corporation
PO Box 140 STN LCD Malton
Mississauga Ontario
L4T 9Z9
(similar process for the states, just different address)

Not sure about international recycling, but on Take Back The Filter they report that U.K. vs U.S. filters are made differently allowing them to be recycled in the U.K. but not as easily in the U.S. Also, that Brita was initially a German company that had recycling plants in the U.K. but the North American division was sold to Clorox in 2000. According to Brita's UK website all filters used in Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, France and Switzerland can be sent to the dealers and then recycled by Brita. I guess it's just North America that's falling behind on the recycling boat... no surprise there! (picture curtosy of Take Back The Filter)

One other tiny anecdote about tap water city vs country:
While in Montreal I visited an Aveda store (pre-break up) and was trying to problem solve with a consultant on how to get my hair back to it's smooth beautifulness it used to be at home at the "village". When we started talking about water hardness, I said that I wasn't sure as we had a well. She looked at me like I had four heads... "A WELL?? Like a hole in the ground?"  Me: "well, essentially yes".  Her: "Like in the movies?? Wow that must be so difficult, you have to turn the crank and bring the bucket up every time you need water??"   Me: "......."     LOL. I'm pretty sure rural Quebec has well-water communities and that not all city dwellers view well water this way, but it was funny nonetheless. 

Blessings and love that Tap Water :)