Second-hand Sustainability

Recently there has been a movement or an understanding that if you buy something second-hand, that it is inherently sustainable or ethical. It’s actually a lot more complicated than that. I am here to shed a little more light onto this complex topic.
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I think one of the most crucial things I would love everyone to understand is that we need to limit the amount of clothing and accessories that we purchase. Just because there is a sale or an opportunity to go and buy things, does not mean that we need to be buying things. We need to decrease the number of things we buy and stop chasing after trendy items. Instead, we need to invest in high-quality timeless items that will remain stylish and intact for decades to come. When it comes to shopping, it needs to be done in moderation and it needs to be well thought out. We need to stop our over-consumptive lifestyles and adhere to a more responsible and environmentally-friendly approach.

Last year I decided to make a pact with myself to never purchase another item of clothing that was composed from synthetic fibres. Included in this pact were these rules: think about the item before I choose to buy it – this includes thinking about if it goes with a lot of other things I already own, if it truly fits well, and if I would actually wear it a lot. This resulted in me being able to cut down on unnecessary purchases, and to build a wardrobe consisting mostly of natural fibres and high-quality garments. Now, in no way am I claiming to be perfect either. I still have garments that are composed from synthetic materials which I had purchased years ago – I am slowly replacing them with more sustainable options, which will be discussed later on in this post.

There is no doubt that buying items second-hand or thrifting is more sustainable than buying new. Thrifting or buying something second-hand is a better option because additional resources are not being used to produce the item, as it has already been created. Giving an item a second life is important. It is also important to know that you can shop at thrift or consignment stores, however shopping at local vintage shops or participating in local clothing swaps is also incredibly important.

However, let’s examine the meaning behind sustainability. Sustainability is the process in which the exploitation of resources, among many other things, is in harmony with and enhances the current and future potential to meet human needs and aspirations. Sustainability operates on the precept that we need to meet present demands without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. The only way in which sustainability can occur, is through healthy ecosystems and environments. Healthy ecosystems and environments can only endure, develop or recover with reduced negative human impact.

Let’s break this down: if a thrifted item is truly sustainable, it must be made of natural materials, it must be high-quality and it must be able to be machine washed/hand washed.


Natural Materials
Whenever clothing that is made from man-made materials or synthetic materials is washed, they release plastic microfibres into the waterways. These synthetic materials include polyester, nylon, elastane, lycra, polyamide, viscose, spandex and acrylic, to name a few. These plastic microfibres pass through filters and sewage treatment plants, and pollute rivers, lakes and oceans. These synthetic or plastic fibres will never decompose.

Now, plastic pollution is not just an aesthetic issue; plastic has the ability to negatively change ecosystems. Also, over 60% of plastic pollution is from plastic microfibres from clothing, and microfibres are responsible for over 85% of shoreline pollution. Plastic microfibres, alongside other plastic waste, is composed of chemicals that significantly increase concentrations of endocrine disrupting chemicals in the environment (I discussed a little about endocrine disrupting chemicals here). Plastics also have the ability to attract and absorb harmful chemicals, bacteria and persistent pollutants, and when plastic pollution is smaller, the surface area increases and allows it to absorb even more chemicals and bacteria – making plastic microfibres an incredibly devastating pollutant.

Ingestion of microfibre plastic by humans and animals is now virtually unavoidable. What has to be understood about plastic microfibres is because of their size, they are able to enter into the food chain in very early stages and in every stage thereafter. Zooplankton are ingesting plastic microfibres as they mistake them for food, so plastics are continuing to maintain their presence throughout the entire food chain. Sea creatures do not even have to eat chunks of plastic to be affected, as they are continually processing ocean water containing toxic leachates through their gills, stomachs and other membranes. Higher trophic level organisms are exposed to highly enriched concentrations of contaminants due to bioaccumulation. You might be thinking “well I don’t consume sea food, so I don’t have to worry about this”, and this is problematic thinking for multiple reasons. First, you need to consume water to live. Most water that we drink is contaminated with plastic microfibres that are invisible to the naked eye – and no, drinking bottled water is not any safer. Also, more than 3.5 billion other people depend on the ocean for their primary source of food, therefore consuming toxic waste through the consumption of sea creatures. If you aren’t swayed or dismayed enough by the harmful effect on humans, plastic pollution annually kills more than 100,000 marine mammals plus millions of birds and fish.
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It is time we take responsibility for our actions and accept that man-made materials are devastating and harmful. Plastic contamination does not only harm ecosystems and animals, but it also directly harms those who are responsible for it, create it and consume the products made from it.

Another thing about man-made materials or synthetic materials is that they were created through an industrial manufacturing process which uses fossil fuels (a non-renewable resource). I have been very troubled whenever I see a product that is made from recycled plastic, or manmade materials, and is labeled as a sustainable product… this is what is referred to as “greenwashing” a product. Clothing made from recycled plastic releases even more plastic microfibres than non-recycled materials. As you read above, there is absolutely nothing sustainable about man-made fibres or materials, especially when they have to be washed. Therefore, in reflecting upon the definition of sustainability, garments composed of synthetic fibres do not even come close to passing as a sustainable purchase.

So, what are safe materials that are made from natural sources and will not release plastic microfibres? Here are a few of them. I must add that each material in this list is more sustainable than synthetics, but there is no material that is completely sustainable, either in the way it is grown or raised or in the way it is produced into a fibre. Choosing natural materials is a decision that will have less negative impacts on ourselves and on the environment both when it is being worn and when it will eventually have to be disposed of (after having being carefully cared for and donated of course). So, here are some natural plant and animal derived fibres – please note that many of the animal derived fibres listed here can be attained, either by brushing or shaving, with no harm to the animal. The leather options are sustainable if the leather is a byproduct of the food industry and is dyed using vegetable dyes instead of the traditional toxic dye process.
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Better Quality
One of the most important things to understand when thrifting or buying something second-hand is that if it is not high-quality, it is not worth it. Also, if you cannot repair it, restore it, or reimagine it, it probably isn’t worth it either. Focusing on the quality of the item is the most important aspect when shopping. This leads me to fast fashion brands or cheap big label brands. Most clothing produced as a by-product of fast fashion is cheap – both in material and make. Therefore if you purchase a fast fashion brand second hand, it will probably not last as long as a better quality garment would. This will probably lead to the garment having a shorter lifespan, requiring you to replace it relatively soon after purchasing. Therefore this second-hand purchase may end up in the trash quicker and result in even more consumption – which is quite unsustainable.

Also, some big label brands produce poor-quality garments and then slap their logo on it, and in the end you’re basically just paying to wear the logo. Always pay attention to the material the garment is made out of and the quality of the item before purchasing. Don’t let brand names sway you.
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Also, another troublesome factor about buying fast fashion brands or unsustainable big label brands second-hand is if someone likes what you are wearing and sees or asks for the brand name, it no longer matters that you purchased it second hand, as you are basically advertising for the brand and giving it positive exposure. This usually leads to the person who asked, believing that you support that brand, going to the store themselves and purchasing that unsustainable brand, brand new. I think the most important thing here is to take a moment while thrifting, pull out your phone and quickly search “is this brand sustainable” and give yourself the time to find out if your second-hand clothing is sustainable & guilt-free. Just because something is being purchased second-hand, does not magically erase or revert the unsustainable or unethical practices used to make it.

Another critical factor to consider is that many of the most unsustainable and unethical practices of fast fashion brands is that they use slave labour to manufacture the items. A way around this tricky situation is to avoid fast fashion brands as they will probably not last, the quality will be poor and it will encourage the purchasing of new fast fashion garments. Also, very importantly, avoiding the purchase of these items will decrease the demand for them which will certainly decrease the need for the slave labour that is required to manufacture these items for the cheap price they are retailed for.


Machine washable / hand washable Garments
First of all, dry cleaning is expensive. You spend money on the actual garment itself, then you have to pay to have it cleaned as well. Second, dry cleaning involves chemicals which are dangerous to our health and the health of the environment. The chemicals used in dry cleaning have even been classified as carcinogenic, and severely toxic to fish, marine life and plants. Some cities may have “green” dry cleaners, but it might be best to avoid purchasing items that need to be dry cleaned, if possible.
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This being said, it is actually quite possible to hand wash some garments that have “dry clean only” on their label, just ensure that you do your research on the proper technique before thrifting so you can save yourself money and the environment in the long run. Usually only wool, silk, cotton and linen can be washed at home and garments composed of suede, leather, or fur should be taken to a dry cleaner. Washing at home usually includes placing your garment into a laundry bag (use a cotton pillow case if you do not have one), and washing with a mild natural detergent and cold water.


Proper Washing Techniques
I am sure that even if you stop purchasing all clothing that is made from synthetic fibres right now, you will still have some items in your closet made from synthetics. Until you can afford to replace those items with more high-quality & sustainable items, here are some tips and tricks about proper washing techniques.

It is actually unnecessary to wash some of your clothing after only one wear. Items like jeans, cardigans, sweaters, and more, can be worn 2-5 times before being washed. When it is finally time to wash items composed of synthetic fibres, fill up your washing machine to ensure there is less friction between clothing. Make sure to only wash them for a short duration, on a low rev cycle, on a cold water setting. Another factor that helps to cut down on unwanted friction is to make the switch to liquid laundry soap – my favourite is being able to bring a reusable container to bulk stores and fill up with liquid laundry soap (to cut that plastic pollution even more)! Also, always throw dryer lint into the trash and never down the drain. There are even new products emerging to help control the amount of microfibres being lost into the waterways like GuppyFriend! I am going to purchase one and let you all know what I think, either in an upcoming blog or Instagram post. Of course, the takeaway should always be to avoid cheaply-made fast fashion clothes altogether and opt for natural fibres, as plastic fibres will never biodegrade, breakdown, or go away.
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So the next time you are purchasing clothing, keep in mind that a single purchase can have a worldwide impact, and it is up to you if it is a negative or positive impact. We all need to change in order to sustain the only world we have to live in. Consumers have the greatest impact and whether we choose to spend our money on sustainable second-hand goodies, or on new brands that are working hard to be as sustainable and ethical as possible, we will be able to get the message across that we are over the age of plastic pollution and that action is needed now!

Tiara

DIY Gummies

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I have been diagnosed with IBS, leaky gut & possible candida overgrowth & SIBO for several years now, alongside stage 4 Endometriosis. The healing process has been beyond difficult. I have made very few advances, despite multiple specialist appointments. In fact, it feels like no matter how I approach this situation that I always encounter setbacks instead.

I have found that adhering to a very strict diet has been one of the only things that has helped, even though it is very difficult and time consuming. I used to feel like I was going to puke every single day and my intestines ached so severely that my mobility was negatively impacted. This was occurring even after I eliminated all gluten and dairy from my diet. So, I decided to pay for a Food Sensitivity and Reaction Blood Test that measured the amount of antibodies my body made per individual food (aka which foods were causing more inflammation in my body). The list was very long, I was restricted to a few vegetables, even fewer fruits, coconut & meat.

I have now been following that strict anti-inflammatory diet for almost 3 years. I do feel better, I don’t feel like I have to puke at all anymore, however my intestines are still quite sick. This summer, I have been trying to introduce more items into my diet that will help them heal. Grass fed & pasture raised gelatin is one of the things I have introduced. Gelatin (as long as it is grass fed and pasture raised) is good for your intestinal health as well as your joints, hair & skin.
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I decided to try making my own gummies with gelatin because it is a very easy way to introduce more gelatin into my diet (in a very delicious way). Here is how I make my own gut-healing gummies:


DIY BLUEBERRY & LEMON GUMMIES
AIP/Paleo/Autoimmune diet approved
(discovered on the Primal Palate)

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup fresh organic lemon juice
  • 1 cup fresh organic blueberries
  • 4 tbsp grass fed & pasture raised gelatin

Instructions

  1. add the lemon juice and the blueberries into a sauce pan over medium heat
  2. stir often and cook until the lemon juice is steaming and the blueberries are plump and have turned the juice dark purple
  3. remove from the stovetop and let cool for a few moments
  4. add into blender and blend until smooth
  5. add in 4 tbsp of gelatin into the blender and blend again
  6. pour into a glass and use a food pipette to fill the molds OR pour into a flat glass container and set in the fridge (either 1 large container or multiple small ones)
  7. after about 1-2 hours, remove the gummies from the molds OR cut them out of the glass container and put them into a glass container to store them in the fridge

DIY STRAWBERRY COCONUT GUMMIES
AIP/Paleo/Autoimmune diet approved
my own recipe

Ingredients 

  • 1 can of organic coconut milk (with no fillers)
  • ~1/2 cup organic strawberries (cut in halves)
  • 5 tbsp grass fed & pasture raised gelatin

Instructions

  1. add the coconut milk & strawberries into a sauce pan over medium heat
  2. stir often and cook until the coconut milk is bubbling slightly and the strawberries are soft
  3. remove from the stovetop and let cool for a few moments
  4. add into blender and blend until smooth
  5. add in 5 tbsp of gelatin into the blender and blend again
  6. pour into a glass and use a food pipette to fill the molds OR pour into a flat glass container and set in the fridge (either 1 large container or multiple small ones)
  7. after about 1-2 hours, remove the gummies from the molds OR cut them out of the glass container and put them into a glass container to store them in the fridge

These are then good for about 3-4 days in the fridge (trust me, they do not last that long).
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These gummies make an excellent snack, just ensure they stay cool (keep them on an icepack if you are removing them from the fridge) as they will melt if exposed to heat. I am now eating them with every meal in place of dessert – they are just so delicious. My favourite are the coconut strawberry gummies! I bought my molds off of amazon & ensured they were food-grade safe silicone, 100% BPA-free, FDA approved and that they came with pipettes/droppers!
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Hope you love these as much as I do!

Tiara

DIY Compostable Face-mask

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What is in this little jar? This is the newest sustainable practice I have added to my beauty regime. I have started to make 100% compostable face masks. The idea came to me when I was cleaning out the fridge and I had some blueberries that had gone bad and some raw coconut that I did not get around to eating soon enough. These items were headed for the compost, however I figured before I put them into the compost, I would get some use out of them (please avoid or cut off any mould before hand)! There are a plethora of different fruits & veggies that are incredible for use in a face mask, so your options are not limited. I added blueberries, raw coconut and honey into the blender and I got a nutrient-rich face mask that will not pollute the water, does not contain toxins or plastic & the only packaging would have included the packaging the food came in (if any at all).  If you have any left over, put it in a jar and store it in the fridge. When it is cold from being in the fridge, it is the most refreshing to use. You can use it each night until it is all gone, just give it a stir and pat onto your face.
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Here I am without any foundation on, only eye makeup. Every few days after I wash my face, I examine it to see if there is any areas that need special attention. Usually I struggle with dry patches or redness. There are so many products on the market right now for skincare that it is overwhelming, however the toxic ingredients used in the majority of these products is even more staggering. Switching to an all-natural skincare regime has given me the best skin I’ve ever had in my life.
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Now, I may look crazy however what is even more crazy is that most face masks say right on them not to apply them on your lips or around the mouth. This is due to how unsafe or toxic the ingredients are to ingest, yet people put it on their skin – which is being absorbed into the body! With this face mask, you don’t have to ignore your lips as all the ingredients are, strictly put, just pure food. Make sure you put on some older clothes for this face mask application, as depending on what & how much you blended, the consistency might get messy. compostfmRFB4
I left my face mask on for about 15 minutes, if you have more time you can leave it on for 30 minutes for maximum benefits. When I was done, I wiped it off into a jar with my fingers & ensured that none went down the sink.
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This is my face after rinsing with water! Look at how moisturized and even my skin tone is! My skin felt amazing. Again, I am only wearing eye makeup. I believe that the compostable skin mask has an indefinite amount of possible mixtures you can create based on what fruit or veggie has spoiled in your fridge. Now, the whole point is to use food that has gone bad and please try hard to eat the food before it goes bad – however we aren’t perfect and sometimes don’t get around to eating something before it spoils. This is the food that we can turn into a useable product before the compost! I would recommend always adding locally-made honey into your face mask as honey does wonders for your skin!
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Here is the end result. Food that would have just gone straight into the compost was utilized and then turned into compost.
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Composting is so important because food that gets thrown away creates methane (a very strong greenhouse gas) in landfills as it is not able to break down properly due to the lack of oxygen. If you do not have a compost, there are so many different sizes and forms of composters for any living situation. I highly encourage you to start composting if you do not already!

Tiara

Sustainable on the Inside & Out

It is finally July, which means it’s time for Plastic Free July! Do you want to avoid landfill waste, reduce your eco-footprint, protect the ocean and reduce toxin exposure to the environment and yourself? I sure do! There are many tips for reducing the amount of plastic you use, and I hope that this post helps you as well! I purchase most of my lovely sustainable and safe cosmetics and personal care products from Green Tree Beauty! Most of the items I have pictured here are all made sustainably, packaged in safe alternatives and contain natural ingredients that are not toxic, all found at Green Tree Beauty.
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The present consumer lifestyle, fast paced and highly consumptive, seems to have finally caught up with us. Plastic, single-use items and packaging has found its way into every store, every home and now every part of the planet. Plastic is created by using non-renewable products, plasticizers, additives and chemicals. Many of the ingredients in plastic leach out into the product the plastic is containing, which leads to a dangerous toxic effect when we apply the product on to our bodies. Some of the toxins that are within plastic are endocrine disruptors, which negatively impact the health of animals and humans. Animals are prone to eating plastic litter, as it resembles their food. Each year, studies have shown that millions of animals die due to their direct or indirect consumption of plastic. Plastic does not only harm ecosystems and animals, it directly impacts humans as well. If we consume anything that was contained in plastic or apply anything on our skin that was contained in plastic, our risks of toxin absorption increase. Recycling plastic is not a solution to this problem, as most plastics cannot be or won’t be effectively recycled in the first place. The best route for success is to reduce the amount of plastic and unnecessary packaging we purchase and use and discontinue purchasing products that involve plastic. As consumers, we have the biggest impact on the earth. We have the power to change the world for the better, and that is an inspiring thought.

A current statistic is that people, more commonly women, put on an average of 515 synthetic chemicals on to their bodies every single day. These chemicals absorb into our skin, especially if there are additional chemicals in the product that increase the absorption rate. Scientific studies show that these synthetic ingredients found in every-day products can be linked to neurotoxicity, reproductive harm in both men and women and chronic diseases. The reason companies are allowed to create such products with devastating ingredients is because the ingredients are rarely tested or regulated before they are allowed to be sold to the public & the consumer drives the demand. Most of the general public is simply not aware or chooses not to care about this information. I hope that after reading this you are both enlightened and inspired to avoid unnecessary packaging and toxins when it comes to cosmetics and personal care items.
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First things First, the Packaging

What are most of your cosmetics and lotions packaged in? A popular answer is always plastic. Hard plastics, soft plastics, there are actually thousands of different plastics and each plastic has its own composition and characteristics. Plastics are persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic as they serve to concentrate and transfer even more toxic chemicals, which end up in the marine food web and ultimately in the human diet (Engler 2012). Various household products including pesticides, cleaning agents, personal care products and plastic, are all listed as toxins in the home (Gilbert 2012). In fact, modern living has introduced more than 17,000 chemicals in the home (Gilbert 2012). Some of these items are acutely toxic and will have an immediate negative impact to your health, however constant contact with plastic results in chronic exposure, leading to chronic effects. Chronic exposures can occur through repeated use of a product. The reason plastic is toxic is because many of the chemicals that make up plastic are endocrine disruptors.

The endocrine system is the body’s communication system, using hormones to communicate instructions to the organs or muscles. Hormones are incredibly important as they regulate and influence almost all functions of life. Endocrine disruptors mimic estrogen, cause decreased fertility, cause changes in brain function and behavior and can impair immune systems. They can cause thyroid dysfunction, endometriosis and cancer. They negatively impact hormone levels, sexual characteristics, reproduction and development in humans and animals. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals can interact with the endocrine system at very low levels of exposure (Gilbert 2012). The permanent changes that toxins from plastics are able to do to the body result in adverse health effects and persist continually, as these dioxins bioaccumulate. This means that the dioxins & toxins are able to accumulate in our bodies and be passed down onto the next generation. Over time, the amount of these toxins continually increases if exposure is continued.

The only way to reduce our exposure to these toxins is to choose less-toxic products. Every single day, we are unavoidably exposed to a wide range of synthetic endocrine-disrupting chemicals – why expose ourselves to even more by using plastic-packaged cosmetics or products full of toxic ingredients? Most sustainable companies are aware of how devastating plastic is to both the environment and to animal and human health, so they have safer packaging options. These options usually include stainless steel, glass and paper products. These products are ideal because they can usually be reused, can be more efficiently recycled and ultimately if they are not recycled, they will not leach nearly as many or any toxins at all into the environment. There are also ways to skip packaging altogether. Replace your regular shampoo and conditioner with bar options and store them in a tin. Replace your hand wash, body wash and face wash with specifically formulated bars of soap as well. Most of these options (should) be package free or nearly package free!
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Within the Packaging

Ah yes, what you usually buy the item for in the first place, the actual product itself. The lotion, the cream, the eyeshadow, the foundation, the list of options goes on and on. The claims that the product promises to deliver may be enticing, but what are those ingredients actually doing to your skin? If you repeatedly expose your skin to synthetic chemicals, the toxins accumulate in your body and can lead to dermatitis, eczema, irritated skin, allergies, chronic fatigue, hormonal imbalances and/or infertility. I have switched to a mindset of “If I cannot eat it, it should not go on my skin.” My eyes were opened to how many toxins are in personal care products when I got the app Think Dirty. I highly recommend this app, it allows you to scan your products and it breaks down every single ingredient for you in an easy to read format. They rate your product from dirty to clean. My favourite part is that they also have an “our picks” section that they recommend similar products to which you have scanned and that are very safe to use.

We are faced with a very complex problem, however the message is clear. As consumers, we need to stop buying our products if they are packaged in plastic or in other single-use alternatives. As consumers, if we start to demand more sustainable and long-lived products, companies and industries will be forced to start providing what the consumer wants so that the companies remain successful. Also, investing in products with reusable packaging will help to save the consumer money in the long run as these (glass or steel) containers can be washed and reused without any toxic substances leaching out of them. These containers make great storage options for a multitude of things, even your own DIY cosmetics and personal care products that can be made from ingredients found in your kitchen! It is crucial that as a consumer we remain conscious about purchasing plastic items and our purchasing habits can result in a decrease in the amount of plastic and single-use packaging altogether.
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– Tiara


REFERENCES

Engler, Richard. 2012. The complex interaction between marine debris and toxic chemicals in the ocean. United States: Environmental Science and Technology.

Gilbert, Steven. 2012. A small dose of toxicology: the health effects of common chemicals. United States: Healthy World Press.

DIY Zero Waste Car Kit

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The whole “zero waste” concept has been (finally) gaining popularity in 2018. Living zero waste means to live in a way that all things that are consumed or used by you on a daily basis can be reused, so that no trash is created & so the only end products are compostable or items that can be continually reused. Switching to a more zero waste lifestyle is crucial, as it is not only a more sustainable way to live but a more economical & efficient lifestyle. Some argue that living a more zero waste lifestyle is too difficult – so I made a “zero waste car kit” to show & encourage you all that living sustainably is not only quite doable but also easier than it seems. You can also take this idea and make a “zero waste bike kit” or a “zero waste purse kit”!

To create my zero waste car kit, I looked through all of the stuff that I had already and then made a list of what I still needed. Then I visited some local thrift shops to purchase anything else that I needed. Any specific item that I didn’t already have or couldn’t find while thrifting, I then researched companies that pride themselves in making sustainable products & ordered away!
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Almost every outing involves picking up food or drink – and with this we are usually given the item in single-use options (plastic straws, plastic cups, plastic lids, paper cups, plastic utensils, plastic water bottles, styrofoam takeaway containers… the list goes on and on). Most of these single-use items are not recyclable and the ones that are recyclable usually are thrown away or cannot be recycled due to other variables. We need to ditch this throw-away culture that we have come to accept as normal and realize that these single-use items go on to pollute the environment for centuries. When these single-use items are used then disposed of, the toxins from the plastic and other garbage continually leach into the environment. This creates a devastating effect which impacts the entire food chain (plants and animals alike).

So, how can we reduce our dependence and usage of single-use items? Bring reusables that replace them everywhere you go! Using reusables is a lot easier than it may seem, just use them and wash them then return them back into your car kit! When it comes to creating your kit, focus on creating a plastic-free kit that involves stainless steel items, glass items, or products made from natural sources (cotton, bamboo, etc).

Items to include in your kit: 

  • reusable straws (like this or this or this)
    • make sure that the straws you purchase come with a little brush to clean out your straws!
  • cotton/linen cloths (like this or this)
    • use to replace napkins or wrap your clean utensils & glass jars in)
  • large stainless steel water bottle (like this or this
    • use to avoid buying plastic water bottles out of convenience – so many places will fill up your water bottle for you if they don’t already have a water fountain!
  • stainless steel tea/coffee mug (like this or this or this)
    • can also be used for cold beverages
  • glass mason jar (like this)
    • to store left-over food or when purchasing items in bulk
  • stainless steel utensils (thrifted)
    • to replace all throw-away options
  • reusable cotton bags (like this and this)
    • plastic bags kill over 100 MILLION animals each year… it is time that we take responsibility for this and switch to reusable bags.

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Here is the easiest thing to switch to, reusable bags! Reusable bags need to be washed frequently. Since these bags need to be washed so often, choose bags composed of a natural material, so when they are washed they do not release harmful microfibres into our waterways.

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Now, here are some important items to keep in your car that might not be all that zero waste, but safety and health are arguably just as important, so do not deny yourself a first aid kit! Since I live in Saskatchewan and we experience incredibly cold winters, I have a survival candle and matches as well. I also have a multi-tool in case of emergencies.

I hope this posts helps to inspire you to live a cleaner & more sustainable lifestyle!

– Tiara

Living with Endometriosis (part two)

On Thursday November 2nd, 2017 I went into surgery to have a Laparoscopy to remove multiple cysts, endometriomas (chocolate cysts) and scar tissue which resulted from severe stage 4 Endometriosis. This has been a difficult time in my life. I decided to write about my disease, with the hope that I can provide an informative read for those who might also have the same disease or know someone with it. I hope that it can help others to feel more informed about the procedure so they can mentally prepare more than I was able to. Part one can be found here.


THE WEEK BEFORE SURGERY

The week before my surgery date, I went to my doctor to fill out a pre-op form. There was no prep for this surgery, except I was suppose to stop eating and drinking at midnight before my surgery. I also had to make sure not to take any ibuprofen or supplements with willow/salix a week before surgery, as they are blood thinners. I had no idea what to expect or how to mentally prepare for this procedure.


HOW TO PREP FOR SURGERY  

  • remove all nail polish.
  • remove all jewelry and piercings.
  • go makeup free to the hospital
  • wear loose and baggy clothing to the hospital, ensure no high-waisted items are worn (very low-rise underwear and sweat pants).
  • buy cough candies (as your throat will hurt and get dry after surgery due to the tube they insert down your throat and the last thing you want is to have to cough after surgery).
  • ensure that you have lots of pads on hand (you cannot use tampons for a month afterward – nor will you want to. I recommend Natracare).
  • buy a laxative, as the medication and surgery will make it really difficult to go to the bathroom after, I recommend RestoraLAX as it is really gentle.
  • have lots of food around that is gentle on your stomach and high in liquids (soup, applesauce, smoothies, etc).
  • practice with the person who will be taking care of you how to help you in and out of bed – they should put their arm behind your back to lower you slowly with all your weight on their arm and then they should put their arm out when you want to get up so you can use your arm strength only to pull yourself up and then they will have to help you lift and lower your legs – basically find something that works for the both of you that requires no abdomen muscles. (If the surgery is just a searching procedure you probably will not need this level of help, however after having an invasive surgery I definitely needed someone to help me in and out of bed for 2 weeks after surgery).
  • have a bag full of stuff you’ll need, like a phone charger, soup, etc. ready for the day of surgery.

THE DAY OF SURGERY

The day of my surgery, I had to be at admitting at 8:00am. I was given my own bed in a room with someone else awaiting surgery that day as well. I was given a dress and a robe to change into – no bra or underwear allowed. Ask the nurse assigned to your room to provide you with a container or a bag to place items that need to be with you up until the surgery if needed (like eyeglasses). I had blood-work taken, then I laid in bed until 11:45am, when I was finally called for my surgery. I was so tired and hungry that this wait passed slowly, I recommend bringing a book or some form of entertainment. I was walked into a room right outside of the operation room where I had multiple professionals come and talk to me and ask if I had any questions. The whole time I was trying to suppress my emotions and rising anxiety as they explained the procedure and the risks associated with it. I had to sign some forms then I was walked into the operating room.

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  • SURGERY PROCEDURE

At this point, they removed my glasses so everything gets a little foggy (literally). I had about 8 people in the operating room to assist the surgeon with the procedure. I had an IV inserted then an oxygen mask placed over my nose and mouth. Everyone was very friendly and helped to make me feel as comfortable as I could possibly feel. They covered me in a heated blanket and then I was out.

For this next part, I am summarizing the operative procedure report that I received after surgery – just a warning, it gets pretty graphic.

After I was given a general anesthetic, I was positioned properly, sanitized and compression stockings were put on my legs. A catheter was inserted into my bladder and a speculum was placed into the vagina as the cervix was grasped with a tenaculum, then the cervix was dilated. A uterine manipulator was then inserted through the cervix and into the uterus. Then they inflated my uterus and lower abdomen with gas. 4 incisions were made, one in my bellybutton, 2 on my left side and one on my right side. The smaller incisions were about 5mm large, and the bellybutton incision was about an inch long. From here the surgeon inserted a camera and the tools they needed to manipulate the organs and remove the disease.

First the surgeon mobilized my bowels out of my pelvis, which helped to examine the organs. Here it was noticed that I had bilateral endometriomas and extensive adhesions tethering my ovaries to my pelvic sidewalls. My ovaries were observed to each be bigger than my uterus due to the endometriosis wrapped around them. My ovaries were mobilized and drained large amounts of endometriosis fluid which they suctioned out. Two ovarian cystectomies were performed. My cysts (that ranged from 6cm in size and smaller) were pierced and excised. The surgeon continued to cut out all of the endometriosis that tethered my organs to each other and my pelvic wall. Then very thick and nodular endometriosis was removed off of my bladder and ureters by blunt and sharp dissection. The surgeon then removed lots of endometriosis off of ligaments, internal cavities and made multiple other dissections to try and access and remove everywhere that the disease had spread. The surgeon had to use coagulation and Interceed in many areas due to the extensive amount of material that was removed. There is about 2 more pages detailing the rest of the procedures that were performed, however this is because I had a very severe case of endometriosis – so I will skip them. Then, the surgeon found a 2cm nodular cyst on my right bowel that she had to leave because it will require another surgery and a diverting colostomy, however she was able to remove the rest of my disease. Normal surgeries are 1 hour long, however mine was about 3 hours.


  • AFTER SURGERY

I remember waking up in recovery and getting asked how much pain I felt, on a scale from 1 to 10. It was definitely 10 but I said “6 or 7” because I knew that the amount of medication that they would give me would only make me feel worse later (more nauseous and groggy). I was in and out of it for a while. The next thing I remember is waking up back in the room, with the nurse giving me a cup of water. It was 4pm. My surgeon had left a handwritten note for me to read, which I greatly appreciated during that time. I slowly drank some water then fell asleep again. I woke up about an hour later and the nurse wanted me to try to pee. I cannot imagine what my face looked like as I looked up at her but I was horrified at the thought of having to move. I also knew I wasn’t going to be able to pee, however she was persistent. She put out her arm and I used my ARMS ONLY to get into a sitting position, which then she let me sit and told me to do some deep breathing. After 30 seconds, she helped me stand and I shuffled over to the toilet. I could not sit down due to the extreme pain so she had to lower me onto the toilet (at this point a burp just burst forth and she laughed and said that was normal and a good sign that my body was trying to expel the gas that was pumped into me). I could not pee, however there was a lot of blood. She gave me a pair of hospital underwear and a pad and helped me back to my bed.

The pain I felt after moving for the first time I will never forget. I have been through multiple surgeries in my life, and had to deal with severe endometriosis pain for 5 years, but never have I felt pain like that. I couldn’t help but cry out in pain after. It felt like someone was mixing my abdomen up with a knife then repeatedly stabbing it. This is the part I wish I could have mentally prepared for – I would suggest sitting down with yourself in front of a mirror a week or so before the surgery and just saying “I will be in extreme pain, but I will get through it, I will heal” or something… because that was hell. I laid still for some time and tried to eat some soup. Make sure that you only eat VERY LIGHT FOOD for the first 2-3 days after surgery. Lots of liquids and soup. This will ensure that you do not vomit and also will help to get your bowels moving again as well. At 8pm the nurse woke me up again and helped me to pee. I was finally able to pee, so I was sent home. The first few times you pee, you will feel a terrible burn – this is due to the catheter that was stuck up into the bladder. The drive home was painful (if you are the driver try to drive slow and avoid bumps). If you are helping someone who just had this surgery, please be gentle with them and be patient… I am going to say it again… patience is greatly appreciated during this time. 

I got all set up in my bed, I had about 6 or 7 stacked pillows so I could lay like I could in the hospital bed (you’re going to want to do this, as lying flat is not recommended for about 1-2 weeks after surgery). At 9pm I just laid there with tears falling down my face – I was having such a hard time processing everything, all the pain, all the fear and how much I felt like I couldn’t get through this. I stayed like that for about 3 hours, I think I was in shock and it was my body’s way of trying to cope.

Make sure while you are in a good state of mind that you (or someone else) writes down and organizes all of the times you need to take medication and the pain killers and set alarms ahead of time because you do not want to fall behind on taking them.

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WEEK 1 AFTER SURGERY 

Let me tell you, the entire week after my surgery was hell. It seemed like there was no improvements whatsoever as each day progressed. I want to reinstate the fact that I had a severe case and a lot of work done, so not everyone’s experience will be this bad. However, the take home points are:

  • do not sit up or lay down yourself, get someone to help you.
    • do not use your abs whatsoever, only use your arms to get you up and down.
  • When sitting up, or sitting in general, do not lean forward or crunch your stomach or hunch over in any way.
  • for the first week I only wore a nightgown and hospital underwear, so ensure that you have baggy t-shirts or a loose dress with loose underwear that you can wear for maximum comfort.
  • you will bleed for about a week after surgery, due to the uterine manipulator being inserted during surgery. As long as it is not very heavy, you do not need to worry (if you are filling a pad/hour go to your local emergency room).
  • While I slept, I would lay on my back and tuck my hands under my bum – just so there was no chance that while sleeping I would roll or that my arms would hit my incisions.
  • your body will try to get rid of all of the gas that was pumped into it, however it is way too painful to expel gas, so the only way you can help yourself is in-between napping, walk around for 5 minutes (I paced my living room) then I would sleep for a few hours and repeat. It helped to get the gas moving and it was easier to deal with when standing/walking.
    • speaking of gas, you will experience pain in your shoulders and shoulder blades, as that is trapped gas. Again, walking around very slowly is about all you should do during the first week – it will help.
  • take your medications on time.
  • Do not feel guilty about resting. Sleep as often and as much as you can. Lay around – as boring as it is. Do not push yourself – I got bored during week 2 after surgery and started to do things I should not have been doing and I herniated my bellybutton incision – a painful experience that I don’t want to happen to anyone.

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WEEK 2 AFTER SURGERY 

After 10 or 11 days I ran out of morphine to take, and my body went through a withdrawal period for 3 days afterward. I was really scared that I had gotten an infection, however I monitored my actual temperature and it stayed at 36.8ºC. I felt very cold then very hot, very nauseous, had bad headaches and got very angry and short tempered – it took 3 days for that to wear off.

Two weeks after surgery is when I came off a lot of my medication and I felt a little more raw. The pain and the emotions were more noticeable. I started to feel very sad, abandoned and lonely. The friends and family I thought would reach out to me didn’t, and I felt utterly and completely forgotten. I would just lay in bed in pain and wish someone would talk to me – I was so miserable. I think that maybe some people did not realize what I was going through, so they did not understand – however if you know someone who is going through this surgery – please reach out to them and ask if you can get them anything, or hang out with them, or even call them. It will be greatly appreciated as this time is a very emotionally draining experience.


WEEK 3 AFTER SURGERY

Standing for long periods of time was very difficult and walking was a slow procedure. I tried going to class for the first time and I found sitting very difficult and uncomfortable – I would come home and lay in bed for the rest of the day as I was so exhausted from that minimal activity. I still felt pain and was still a little bloated/swollen. I was so exhausted during this period that I was not myself during the times I had to be out or in class – I was grumpy and irritable and had little patience. I was so uncomfortable and tired and had no motivation to be involved with anything at this point.


FIRST PERIOD AFTER SURGERY

The first time I got my period after surgery, I was so upset because for the first time I was starting to feel a tiny bit better – then my period knocked me out for a week. Expect a very heavy flow with lots of clots (TMI I know…but apparently it is normal). It was very painful, and the pain actually spread into my hips, thighs, abdomen and chest. The first 2 days I actually could not go to school. It lasted 9 days and I spent most of it lying in bed with a hot pack and extra-strength Tylenol.


3 MONTHS AFTER SURGERY

Here I am, writing this three months after my surgery. I am still insanely exhausted and my immune system is very low. My surgeon told me to expect waiting 5-6 months after surgery to get my energy levels back. I am finally able to move around more and wear jeans. I have started physical therapy twice a week because the surgeon and physical therapist discovered that after my surgery, my body went into shock and my organs went still and all of my surrounding muscles freaked out as well. I see two physical therapists each week, one who specializes in working with my uterus and pelvic floor health and another one who helps me with everything else (correcting my posture that I had adapted to feel less pain, learning how to properly use my muscles in the surrounding areas, and ensuring safe movement with my hernia). Physical therapy is a HUGE help – highly recommended (but expensive – so save up before surgery).

Every night I put some oil on my incisions and gently rub them – this is to make the scar tissue more malleable. I do the gentle exercises my physical therapists have told me to do each day and I try to sleep as much as I can. I still sometimes feel pain or an uncomfortable feeling in my abdomen, which is to be expected. School is difficult as my energy levels are still quite low, but I am managing. Each week I heal more, and each day I realize how proud I am of myself for getting through the most difficult thing I have gone through in my life.


CURRENT TREATMENT

The current “treatment” I am on is to take CYCLEN every single day until I reach menopausal age. Taking this pill every single day is suppose to stop me from getting periods ever again – however, instead I have been spotting every single day for the past month and a half. I also think this is the worst kind of “treatment” because women with Endometriosis have too much estrogen in their bodies and there is nothing being done too deal with this excess amount of estrogen. I am worried about this treatment – it troubles me daily. I will make sure to write up updated post if/when my treatment changes.


Here is the end of this very lengthy post – if you have made it to the end, thank you for taking your time to read this. It is my hope that awareness is spread about this disease and that a better treatment is found. Part one of this post can be found here.

– Tiara

The Miracle of Dry Brushing

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Having soft, luxurious and glowing skin year round, yes it is possible!

Let me introduce you to Dry Brushing, the relatively cheap phenomenon to achieve your best skin yet! I know that you have probably come across articles about dry brushing multiple times, as the secret has been out for a long time. So instead I decided to blog about some of the tips and tricks I have discovered.

I have been dry brushing, every day, for over a year now, and I’m not afraid to say its the best thing I have done for my skin.

Here’s a quick rundown:
– Start dry brushing at your feet and work upwards, using long strokes on limbs and smaller circular motion for ankles, knees, elbows. Brush counterclockwise on stomach.
– Always brush towards the heart.
– Avoid cuts or skin irritations.
– Shower and fully cleanse body.
– Massage an oil (with essential oils if possible) all over body and allow it to soak in before dressing.
The Benefits:
– Dry brushing stimulates the lymphatic system, which helps our body to eliminate toxins.
– Dry brushing removes dead skin cells, and helps with cell renewal.
– Dry brushing requires a brush made with natural bristles.
– Dry brushing improves circulation.
– Overtime, dry brushing can reduce cellulite.
– Dry brushing exfoliates and is great for ensuring no more ingrown hairs form.
– Dry brushing can improve digestion.
– Dry brushing is invigorating and is a great way to reduce stress.
– Dry brushing regularly helps to achieve glowing, soft and smooth skin.

Here are some tips I have learnt:
1. I have eczema, and I thought that if I dry brushed my eczema patches and hands that it would remove the dry skin and make my skin smoother… please do NOT do this. This will only irritate and make your situation more painful. What I do recommend is avoiding dry patches and eczema while dry brushing, but pay more attention to those areas when applying the oil, and really massage the oil into them, ensuring it soaks in. This will not only improve but may even clear up most skin problems!

2. If you are new to dry brushing, or want to start, then it is very important that you do not over brush your skin. For the first two weeks, I just did a quick and gentle brush of my skin, until it got used to it. Once it starts to feel good to brush your skin, then you can increase the amount of time you spend brushing it.

3. My favourite thing to do is dry brush (in the shower so the dead skin can be easily washed away) then apply an oil and wait about 5 minutes to let it soak in. Then while I shower, my skin is protected from the hot water and is also able to absorb in more moisture due to the steam opening the pores. I will finish up with a natural and delicious smelling body wash. (Do not apply a lot of oil before the shower, just enough that can easily soak in as you do not want to make your shower slippery). Then after drying off I will apply a good quality body oil in place of a lotion.

4. Do not dry brush your neck or face, as the skin is thinner and more sensitive. However there are dry brushes made specifically for facial use.

5. Wash your dry brush after every use. I run mine under water and wash it with a mild tea tree soap, then leave it to dry for the next morning.

6. Since dry brushing is a bit more abrasive then your normal routine, it is very important you keep your skin hydrated by drinking lots of water and following up with good body oil or lotion.

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In conclusion, I have found that dry brushing regularly has completely eliminated any bumps on my skin, and has made my skin soft and smooth. I have found that in combination with dry brushing and using body oils afterward, that my scars have faded quickly as well! It is also a healthier alternative then slathering on lotions full of artificial perfumes and chemicals! I encourage you to give it a try!

xoxo,
– Tiara