More soap!

I’m rather perplexed sometimes. How can I be the organic, eco-friendly, make-all-my-food-from-scratch, use-a-bare-minimum-of-beauty-products, DIY kind of person that I am and I ONLY ventured into soap making last summer?!

I simply cannot understand why it never occurred to me years ago. I love it. Even though I’ve only made soap 3 times so far 🙂

My first 2 batches of hand and body bar soap just came to an end after 5 1/2 months. I really can’t complain despite the bars being softer and disappearing quicker than the conventional soap I’d been using. My homemade soap is organic and that’s a main objective for everything I purchase in regards to the food I consume (or grow) and bath and beauty products.

By making my own soap, I avoid parabens, colors, fragrances, sulfates, phthalates, PEG’s, triclosan (a pesticide), petroleum products AND MORE. There are so many nasty ingredients out there! It takes serious research to know what you’re exposed to and what you should steer clear of.

Last night, because I’m out of shampoo, I made a different type of bar. A shampoo bar! From 100% organic, coconut oil, water and lye. I used an easy recipe from http://www.mommypotamus.com

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I was hopeful, and also apprehensive, about using shampoo made entirely of oil. I’d read reviews from other people who’ve made it and they ranged from “my hair is awful” to “my hair feels fabulous”. I’m happy to say I’m on the fabulous end of matters. And I couldn’t be more thrilled.

I now make my own deodorant, toothpaste, household scrub cleanser, laundry soap, hand & body bar soap AND shampoo! Dish soap is next. I have the supplies but don’t know how to make a substitution in the recipe. . . . . the woman of the blog where I found the recipe has never answered my question.

If you’ve ever considered making your own soap, I highly recommend it. The most important thing is to know all of your lye safety! I can say, from the many sites I visited, where I either read text or watched videos, there is a lot of misinformation about lye and most people don’t offer enough information. Lye can be dangerous but if you have respect for it and use proper precautions, you’ll be fine. And you’ll have awesome homemade soap 🙂

Apples!

One of my favorite fruits is apples. Not Granny Smith. Not Macintosh. Gala apples to be specific. If I don’t have them in my fridge for a while, I end up craving them. I love finishing off a meal with a cold, crisp, juicy apple. I want one right now!

I recently made apple sauce using the crab apples from the tree in my front yard. It was the first time I’d ever made apple sauce from crab apples and the results impressed me enough to find someone else’s crab apples to pick although I still have plenty of my own 🙂 007

I’ve gone slightly apple crazy.

For the past several months, organic apples have been hard to come by in the grocery store and when they are there, the price is the highest I’ve ever seen! Over 7 dollars for a 3 pound bag!

All of these free apples have been wonderful to discover for multiple reasons; they’re organic, no packaging, no shipping to get them to me, they’re fresher than anything I’d buy in a store and I’m saving what would otherwise go to waste. And they’re FREE. (I had to mention it again because it’s so awesome). I can eat ’em, juice ’em and make apple sauce galore!

I’m in apple heaven.

I found more than my one, lonely tree to harvest from. Only they weren’t crab apples. While still significantly smaller than store bought, these are much larger than my crab apples.020

I have no idea what variety they are but there are 2 different kinds. One is red and the other is the palest, barest shade of yellow. I was picking the red ones, ignoring the yellow, until a bird flew out of the tree and scared the bejesus out of me. I’m sure the neighbors heard me screech 🙂

I wasn’t sure if there were more birds in the tree, and not wanting to disturb them, I moved on to the other apple tree. The one with the oddly pale apples. I’d assumed they were unripe perhaps. I tasted one to see if it was any good.

And was thrilled with how perfectly delicious it was!! Like OMG delicious!

I’m going back for more later today. Crisp, juicy, sweet. Perfect. BIGGER than my dinky, ‘get-a-cramp-in-my-hand-from-cutting-them-up’ but still lovely crab apples. 032And they have full approval from Charlotte as well 🙂

I can’t ever get away with sneaking an apple around her. She appears magically and waits for her share.

I wish I could identify these ones.

And I wish the person who allowed me to pick them wasn’t selling his house. . . . . Three years I’ve known him and just this year I discovered his apples!!

Observation skills definitely lacking.

024Those two red apples are mine. You can clearly see why I’m so excited about these other apples. If I don’t eat all the yellow ones, they’re going to make the prettiest, sweetest apple sauce.

I’ll pick some for my sister too. She’s lucky if they actually make it to her place! 🙂

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Coconut Craze

Not that long ago (June 14 to be precise), I published a post about the palm oil industry. I try to be a careful and considerate consumer. I have years of thoughtless buying to make up for! Nowadays, rather than simply saying, “Okay, it’s organic and it’s vegan, that’s all I need to know”, I’ll research the company and even contact them if I have questions. I’ve learned that just because a food product is vegan, it does not mean the making of that product is safe for animals. http://www.onegreenplanet.org/lifestyle/guide-vegan-products-and-palm-oil/

It’s why I stopped using Earth Balance Organic Traditional Spread.

I’d e-mailed the company, after reading on their site about their “by the end of 2015 plan”, and heard back almost immediately. I’m always very impressed with speedy replies. However, I was given regurgitated information and it wasn’t the answer I was seeking. I e-mailed a second time, rewording myself much more specifically. I didn’t receive a speedy reply or an answer I was satisfied with. They were unable to tell me how their “plan” was progressing. What sounds, and looks, fabulous in written form on their site is just words. Not good enough for me. Or the orangutans! Less than 6 months away from their goal, they should have definitive answers for their customers.

Palm oil production has a very real, devastating impact on the orangutan population and I want no part in it. Although I’m a vegan, I went back to using cow’s butter. I easily justify it by saying it’s organic, made here in Canada and only 2 ingredients. Sounds good, yes?

I’m certain NO orangutans were harmed, or killed, in the making of it. These brilliant creatures are facing extinction!

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Of course, like any subject you delve into further, it’s more complex than that. Even organic dairy cows eventually end up “6 feet under”. I have to ask myself if I’m okay with that, just to satisfy my desire for butter? I don’t think I am. I don’t need butter in order to live, it’s purely a taste thing, a habit that can be broken.

So, I’m currently butterless, non-dairy or otherwise. I’m researching how to make the animal-friendliest version at home. Or do without. It would require some adjusting but I’d survive. I’d definitely learn to eat less toast.

In my recent post, I also mentioned the coconut industry.

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Coconut is everywhere these days. In hand and body lotions. In shampoos and conditioners. In water. As flour, flakes and chunks. Coconut oil. Coconut butter. Coconut milk and cream. Coconut aminos.

The list is far longer than this. I’m really only referring to items I’ve experienced.

My personal fave is coconut oil. Coconut flakes and then milk would be next. As a vegan, I’ve learned to use these extensively in the kitchen. Plain, old oil as a moisturizer is amazing. Coconut and baking soda make the best deodorant! I couldn’t say enough good things about coconut.

But I’ve often wondered how the increased demand for it is effecting the environment. Similar to the palm oil industry, coconut is grown and produced in a tropical climate. Wildlife we never see here in Canada is at risk from unsafe and careless production. This insatiable love for everything coconut eventually has to exceed the supply.

According to one article I’ve read (and it was written a year and a half ago), http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/14/coconut-demand-production_n_4276372.html, it already has. Surely this means more farms, which means more deforestation, which means more harm to the environment and the wildlife.

It bothers me.

So, similar to my recent decision to stop using Earth Balance Organic Traditional Spread, I’m going to begin removing coconut from my home. It won’t be easy may be easier than I think. Despite purchasing strictly organic, anything not also marked ‘fair-trade’ is an automatic toss (No, I won’t really toss it. I’ll use it up and won’t buy again). Although this isn’t enough to ease my mind 100%, it does offer me a small measure of comfort.

Unfortunately, organic and fair-trade or not, the “cost” of bringing coconut products into Canada and the US will never go away. I read about this in an article I’m sharing with you. I encourage everyone to be more conscious of how our food choices effect this planet we live on. Future generations depend upon us..

http://www.onegreenplanet.org/environment/is-your-obsession-with-coconuts-harming-the-environment/

All of this leads me to more questions. Sure, I can give up palm oil and coconut but where do I stop? I also eat mangoes, pineapples, bananas, avocados, Spanish almonds, Brazil nuts and cashews (to name a few). Obviously, none of these are grown in Canada.

Is it simply the world we live in today, where we eat food from every continent, and don’t think twice about how it arrived upon our plate? Or do we omit the foods we can manage without and keep the ones we can’t? Are we hypocrites for choosing one over the other? Should we to be applauded for being conscious of these issues and at least trying? Isn’t partial success better than none at all? Or is it pointless trying to make a “dent” in such a massive industry? Do we ignore matters unless they’re in our very own back yard?

I told you, any subject you delve into further, invariably becomes more complex. I guess, in the end, we make decisions we can feel comfortable with and that will differ from person to person.

I also stopped using my favorite brand of peanut butter. Peanuts can be, and are, grown in the US. The pb I like is from a US company. I e-mailed to ask if it was made with US peanuts. You’d think it would be! And it should be! They couldn’t say for sure as they use both domestic and imported peanuts. I was disappointed to learn this. Now I need to find another brand. It’s not daunting actually. It’s very similar to my conversion from conventional food to organic.

One step at a time, one food product at a time. I’ll get there 🙂

** Here are some other articles I found interesting. Just remember to take everything you read with a grain of salt:

http://business.time.com/2012/12/05/why-the-coconut-craze-isnt-helping-farmers/

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/24/coconut-oil-teff-and-quinoa-increased-superfoods-demand-hits-the-south-in-the-guts

http://www.cnbc.com/id/101870661

OOPS. I was saving this as a draft. . . and published it by accident :)

I’m a vegan. In simple terms, it merely means I don’t consume animal products. And the topic could end right there.

However, being a vegan means more than that for me.

I can’t just go out and buy a vegan alternative and never think twice. I wonder how the making of that product impacts the environment. The coconut industry and the palm oil industry are massive and these 2 ingredients are in a great deal of vegan products.

I’ve struggled with using cow’s butter versus non-dairy butter ever since I became a vegan. I’ve jumped from one back to the other. And I’m debating it once again. Why?

Because of the orangutans.

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I’ve learned that although a product may be vegan, it’s not always friendly to the planet or the animals that live on it.

Orangutans could face extinction in the next 20 years!

In my opinion, that would be incredibly sad. They’re highly intelligent creatures who construct elaborate sleeping nests each night. They spend most of their time in trees. They can live 30 years or more but do not reproduce until around 14 or 15 years of age. Females have an 8 year interval between births!

We need these beautiful animals to live long and happy lives! If they die young, they’ll eventually all be gone.

I’m a strong believer in, and supporter of, the organic industry. I have no doubt it led to my eventual interest in becoming a vegan. So when I Google a particular product, let’s say coconut palm sugar, and the website of that product offers NO information on safe manufacturing practices, I’ll stop using that product. Or I’ll email them directly and ask questions.

It’s like Skin Essence Organics, http://www.skinessence.ca, a Canadian company that makes and sells skin care products. Any company can say they don’t test THEIR products on animals and that’s great. But the real question is whether or not the companies they buy their ingredients from do any animal testing. Skin Essence Organics does not purchase products from companies that do animal testing. I asked.

The other company I was looking into couldn’t be sure.

Needless to say, I didn’t go with the other company. I try to be responsible. It’s difficult. It’s also necessary.

And that’s why I struggle with non-dairy butter. The brand I prefer has palm oil in it. Organic cow’s butter made here Canada is 2 ingredients, cream and salt. No rain forests were clear cut because of it. No orangutans, or cows, were harmed because of it. The non-dairy butter I like has 11 ingredients and I’m just not satisfied it doesn’t in some way harm the orangutans.

Until I have 110% assurance, it’s back to cow’s butter.

Coconut is a tough one. I use it in baking. I make coconut butter with it. I use coconut oil. I use coconut palm sugar. I drink coconut water. But I worry about it’s production impact on the environment as well. It’s such a HUGE industry! It has to be having a negative impact. And of course it is. There are too many people who don’t care about anything but the almighty dollar.

What seems like a simple subject becomes very complex. Maybe I can pretend I’m allergic to coconut. Are the products I replace it with any better?? Sometimes I wish I didn’t consider these things. I haven’t always. It’s evolution I suppose.