Monday, July 20, 2015

Clean Drinking & Bathing Water: Why We Use a Berkey

Image Source: Google Images
For years, Husband and I felt (very) uneasy about drinking and cooking with our tap water. We didn't feel comfortable ingesting the chemicals added to our water by our municipality (chlorine and fluoride to name a few), and were nervous about metals and other potentially harmful materials leaching into our water from the pipes that transport it from the water processing plant to our home.  Although not directly impacted by the Walkerton Water Scandal of the 2000*, we were well aware of its occurrence at the time and it left us feeling more than uncomfortable to consume municipal tap water knowing that errors can and will occur.  

*[An E.coli outbreak occurred  in May 2000 when E. Coli bacteria contaminated the water supply of the community of Walkerton, Ontario, Canada and the water supply was not effectively filtered/purified before consumed by the town's residents.  Several people died and thousands became ill as a result.)

We used a Brita for a while, but knew that it wasn't filtering enough to solve our concerns, make us comfortable, or healthy.  

Then we turned to water jugs purchased at the grocery store, and even looked at having a water service.  This solution wasn't effective and didn't last long for several reasons, a few of them being: 1) our water tasted like plastic, 2) the harmful chemicals that were probably leaching from the plastic into our water and therefore into our bodies, 3) the waste created by the plastic jugs.

We looked at getting a home water filtration system, but to be honest, as important as our health is to us, it was beyond our financial means.  

A little over 6 months ago, the answer came to us in the name of the Berkey Water System.

We researched a few similar to this system, but after reading reviews and doing our homework, we decided to purchase the Travel Berkey Water System.  Berkey offers a comparison review on their site as well. Click here to view this comparison. 

There are several different Berkey sizes and models. Underestimating the amount of water we consume, we purchased the smallest (Travel Berkey), and in hind sight should have purchased the Big Berkey or even the Royal Berkey. 

Photo Source:
This blog has done a review on the Berkey as well, so you may be interested in giving it a read as well.
We REALLY like our Berkey.  It's a counter top gravity fed water purification system that takes up very little space in our kitchen, and is easy to set up and use.  It was cost effective, and most importantly, it filters out all of the impurities we were concerned about and more to a higher degree than most of the other comparable systems (viruses, bacteria, micro-organisms, inorganic materials such as chlorine, heavy metals, etc.) (click here for more info on this from the Berkey site).  Berkey also offers the option of adding a fluoride filter, which we did add since fluoride is unfortunately still added to our municipality's water.  In addition, we wanted to be sure we were still getting the necessary minerals from our water, so have added alkalizing mineralizing stones to the lower reservoir.

The Berkey system covered our drinking and cooking water needs, but what about bathing?  I have read plenty on the harmful effects of bathing in chlorinated water and all those other water 'contaminates'. Our skin is our largest organ and is very absorptive. What we put on our skin matters, I know this.  So those 'relaxing' showers were less than relaxing for me knowing that we were absorbing all of those potentially dangerous chemicals through our skin.  When we had son and bathed him in this same chemical filled water, my feelings of discomfort increased exponentially.  

I needed a solution for clean bathing water as well. When I discovered that Berkey also offers a shower filter that easily connects to your existing shower head, I was truly relieved.   We installed our shower filter at the same time that we purchased and started using our Travel Berkey and are thrilled with both of these systems.

Please note that I am not receiving any payment or perks from Berkey or any related company for that matter for writing this article.  I am simply sharing my family's experience with the brand.  I encourage you to consider using a similar water filter and doing the research just as our family did.

If you do decide to get a Berkey, and live in Canada, we purchased our Berkey through Conscious Water in Collingwood Ontario.  Their prices were very reasonable, shipping was fast and free.  My experience with them was great and I am happy to refer you to them as well. (Nope, I don't know them. I'm only passing on info on my positive experience.)

Friday, June 5, 2015

Going Plastic Free - Part 2 to my Plastic Free Goal

If you have been following my blog, you know I have a very strong dislike for plastic.  Yes, it's convenient, inexpensive, and in some cases important.  But our world seems to have gone overboard with the use of disposable and recyclable plastic.   I recently watched an incredible documentary on Netflix called Addicted to Plastic (2008, Directed by Ian Connacher). 

I strongly recommend that EVERYONE watch this documentary.  Perhaps you will understand my disdain for plastic when you watch this documentary and see the garbage patch in the eastern gyre of the Pacific ocean - a toilet bowl landfill of plastic debris floating around for years, decades and even more; watch a scientist extract crazy amounts of plastic pieces of all sizes from the bellies of sea birds from all over the world (90% of the birds had 0.6 - 20g of plastic in each of their bellies and digestive systems), or visually witness the mountains of unrecycleable plastics that get thrown out around the world only to be discarded in landfills and to leach their poisons into the surrounding environment which will trickle through our food chain. This documentary further fueled the anti-plastic fire burning inside of me.  I honestly feel like I'm drowning in plastic.  Everywhere I look in my life I am surrounded by plastic.  I firmly believe that this unbiodegradeable, often unrecycleable, carcinogenic, environmental poison will ruin us.  If you think I'm taking it too far, watch this documentary and then tell me what you thinnk.  

So, while it has been a while since I posted part 1 of this 2 part blog on going plastic free, it is not because plastic won me over. I dare say, plastic will never win me over. After watching this documentary, my need to eliminate plastic from my life intensified.  I also feel that it is incredibly important for all of us inhabiting this earth to wake up to the effects of plastic on our earth and our bodies and to eliminate if not limit our use of plastic in our day to day lives.
In Part 1, I worked through suggestions 1 - 50 by on how to go plastic free.  There are a few things my family had already started doing, a couple things I would like to do, and one or two things we've put into place since writing part 1.  Below you will find the final 50-100 items suggested by Beth Terry of My Plastic Free Life on going  plastic free with a little commentary here and there from this Gluten Free mom trying to go plastic free.

51. Switch from a plastic razor to a second hand safety razor.
I have used a safety razor in the past and can see myself switching back to this type of razor in the future.  If I remember correctly, it's a bit of an art to use a safety razor without nics and cuts, but it can be done and is 100% plastic free.
Image Source: Google Images
52.Use less plastic tooth paste/powder, toothbrush and floss.
I currently use coconut oil and baking soda with Young Living's Thieves essential oil.  It's easy, inexpensive, and does not contain any harmful ingredients.  I keep it in a little glass jar in the bathroom and refill as necessary. I have also seen bamboo toothbrushes.  This might be an option for my quest for a plastic free life.
Image Source: Google Images
Image Source: Google Images
53. Coconut oil lube.
I'll leave my comments to a minimum on this one, except to say that I have read that oil and latex don't go well together.
Image Source: Google Images
54. Choose toilet paper that is not wrapped in plastic.
I have never, ever seen toilet paper that is not wrapped in plastic, except that which is ordered by the hospitality industry and is wrapped individually in paper.  If going this route, you would have to buy in bulk, which may represent a big money savings as well.  The other option, which our family did for a time and I would do again, is to use family cloth.  
Image Source:

55. Use plastic free feminine hygiene products.  
There are several reusable options such as mama cloth and menstrual cups such as Diva cup. 
Image Source: Google Images
Image Source: Google Images

56. Look into plastic free sunscreen options.
Plastic free life offers several suggestions here: , including Balm! Baby and Avasol.  There are also several recipes available for sunscreens on the internet, usually with a base of oils such as coconut or shea and zinc oxide and carrot seed oil.  Our family will be making the switch to a homemade sunscreen very soon.

57. Choose a plastic free wooden hair brush.
I have had my (plastic) hair brush for 20 years.  It still has all (most) of it's bristles, but when I look to replace it, I'll look for a wooden brush with natural bristles.  The thing is, as much as I don't want to be using plastic, I don't want to be throwing it out before I have to either.
Image Source: Google Images
Image Source: Google Images
58. Find do-it-yourself alternatives for over the counter remedies.
There are many recipes to be found on the internet.  Our family has turned to Young Living essential oils to heal what ails us and have had good great success. 
Image Source: Google Images

59. Use handkerchiefs instead of paper tissue.
Like My Plastic Free Life states, tissue boxes always have that plastic window.  Besides tissues are so very disposable and create a lot of waste.  Reusable tissues can be made from up cycled cotton material. Use them and toss them in the wash.  If we come down with a doozy of a cold, I can see us using tissue, but for the tissues that can stowed in purses and pockets just in case...we could switch to cotton for sure.
Image Source: Google Images
60. Bring your own water bottle on your travels.

61. Bring your own snacks on your travels.
When buying food out and about, it is often served in non reusable, disposable plastic packaging. By planning ahead, you can package your snacks in reusable packaging while saving yourself some money.
Our family still uses reusable plastic containers, but we have also started incorporating other non-plastic snack packaging options like this cotton snack bag.  This one was motivated by part 1, and if you've been following my blog perhaps you have seen my tutorial for making these little cotton bags.
62. Bring your own utensils on your travels.
Those plastic utensils you get with takeout food are handy...but they are plastic.  And to top it off, they aren't even recyclable. By keeping a reusable set of utensils handy you will eliminate the need for the flimsy plastic disposable ones.  
Image Source: Google Images
63. Bring your own travel mug on your travels.
Image Source: Google Images
64. Bring your own headphones when you travel.
On every flight passengers are given a brand new individually packaged (in plastic) plastic earphones.  Instead of using these (disposable) headphones, bring your own (reusable) headphones.
Image Source: Google Images
65. Bring your own personal care products when you travel. 
Those little guest sized items are always packaged in plastic and depending on the plastic used, may not even be recycleable. This one was easy enough for us. I already create all our own personal care products to avoid unnessessary chemical exposure from the questionable/toxic ingredients found in manufactured personal care products.  While packing all those extras when you travel can take some time, I find that having a ready to go travel bag with all our bathroom items saves a lot of time and hassle.  

66. Refuse the mini-bar when you travel.
67. Choose natural cat litter that comes in a paper bag.
68. Choose pet toys/furniture made from natural materials instead of plastic.
69. Avoid plastic pet bowls.
70. Buy second hand pet supplies instead of new.
71. Learn to make homemade pet food.
72. Repair plastic items when they break rather than replacing them. (i.e. appliances, vacuums, etc.)
73. Buy used items instead of new.

74. Request zero plastic packaging when ordering online.
Plastic product packaging is one of my big pet peeves.  There's nothing quite like ordering something only to find that it has been wrapped in what seems like 50 layers of plastic.  I understand that companies want their customers to receive their purchases in one piece and that plastic packaging is sadly less expensive than the non-plastic alternatives...but it's still annoying.

75. Get off mailing lists to reduce plastic envelope windows.

76. Make your own glue.  
My plastic free life shares a recipe for wheat paste.  That doesn't work for our gluten free home, but I'm sure there is a recipe for a gluten free alternative out there somewhere.

77. Avoid disposable plastic pens.
78.Look for secondhand electronics, games, toys.
79. Choose refurbished equipment.
80. Take care of what you have already.
81. Avoid buying new CDs and DVDs.

82. Learn to recycle old disks.
Donating them to charities like Goodwill and Value Village works for me.  These days, with companies like Netflix, we don't purchase DVDs, reducing our plastic footprint.

83. Choose healthier electronics.
My Plastic Free Life suggests that when you have to buy new electronics to try to buy ones that have less plastic, no plastic, and/or are packaged with less plastic.

84. Find DIY solutions for techno needs.
My plastic Free Life suggests pulling on your crafty pants and making things like covers for iPod and iPads by sewing or crocheting.

85. Learn strategies for green gift-giving.
86. Consider giving charitable gift cards - plastic free ones of course.
Image Source: Google Images
87. Request plastic free gifts for yourself.
Yes please!

88. Find ways to wrap without plastic tape.
Gift bags work well. I have also recently made the switch to kraft paper tape.  While it isn't clear, it does seem to hold well when packing my boxes for shipping. Cotton string also works well.
Image Source: Google Images
89. Bring your own beverage container & utensils to parties and events.
Think potluck.  Rather than using the styrofoam plates and plastic utensils, bring your own reusable ones.

90. Throw a zero waste party.
Image Source: Google Images
Image Source: Google Images

91. Re-think your Christmas tree. 
My Plastic Free Life suggests selecting a real, sustainably-grown and harvested tree. 
This one is tough for me.  While I don't like the idea of having a plastic Christmas tree, the thought of a cutting down a perfectly good tree only to dispose of it a few weeks later doesn't sit well with  me. Hmmm.  What to do?

92. Skip holiday plastic stuff. (i.e. plastic easter eggs, valentines hearts, etc.)

93. Choose natural fiber clothing. Avoid polyester, acrylic, lycra, spandex, nylon.

94. Shop thrift stores.
Yes. This I do and will continue to do.  Why buy new when you can find gently used second hand clothing.

95. Make your own clothes.
If you're crafty enough, sew up your next outfit.  Knit. Crochet. Weave.  Craft away.

96. Look for plastic free shoes. 
Somehow I feel like this might be a more difficult task. Definitely something to keep in mind when shopping for shoes though.

97. Choose ethical underwear.
My Plastic Free Life suggests looking for brands that contain a high percentage of natural and organic fibers. Yay for cotton!
Image Source: Google Images

98. Choose plastic free camping equipment.
99. Stop buying plastic water filter cartridges unless necessary.

100.  Avoid the worst plastics.
My Plastic Free Life indicates that the most important plastics to stay away from are:
-Polyvinyl Chloride (#3 PVC)
-Polystyrene (#6 PS)

Okay. That was a long list. But did you make it through it with me?
There are many items on the list that are attainable by my family. Some will be more difficult if not unattainable/unaffordable.  
Rather than try to do them all at once.  Adding one new plastic free lifestyle changes at a time can make this change a little easier and less overwhelming.   
What changes can you and your family make?  It might seem like a drop in a bucket but together we can make a huge impact.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Earth Day Message brought to you by Prince Ea (Richard Williams)

I admit it. I am not a rap fan.  But I recently watched a few videos by rapper and American Activist Prince Ea and was impressed by his messages. 
Today, being Earth Day, I thought I would share with you this video by Prince Ea, Dear Future Generations: Sorry.
How will we redirect this?  Today is Earth Day, but if we are going to alter the story of our earth's destruction we must treat every day as earth day. It is up to you, and you, and you, and me.  It is our responsibility to change our habits, stop accepting what has become the norm for the purpose of ease and profit, and demand more from our actions.  Take a stand so that future generations can enjoy the earth as we do rather than being burdened with the near impossible task of reversing the damage we caused to our earth or at the very least let happen.  This is within our control.  
How will you redirect this?