For years now in my own home, I've been trying to replace conventional cleaning products with less harmful products. The phosphates and surfectants commonly used in conventional cleaners are terrible for our water system, and I doubt they're good for me. Thankfully, increasing consumer demand for environmentally friendly cleaning products has made safer alternatives more available. What I've noticed, though, is that, as more products become available, it gets harder to determine which products are legitimately environmentally friendly. There's lots of pretty blue-and-green-with-fluffy-clouds packaging out there, but to be really sure you're getting a safe product, you have to read the ingredients carefully and know what you're looking for (or not looking for).
In my experience, legit environmentally friendly cleaning products are a little more expensive than their conventional counterparts. In many cases, I'm willing to pay. I've also begun to realize, however, that I can take some matters into my own hands with natural ingredients I have in my kitchen cupboards. And my latest favourite discovery is the one I rebelled against as a kid each time my Mom asked me to clean the bathroom.
I got most of these ideas from an early incarnation of the Reader's Digest book Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Things, which I picked up at a used bookstore years ago. It's a very handy book and lists a zillion other uses for vinegar.
Now, I'll admit: cleaning with vinegar doesn't smell awesome, and I definitely crack a window while I'm cleaning. But I so much prefer it to the cough-inducing scents and mysterious nasty air particles left by commercial cleaning products.
(I saved the thick wire staples for another project.) I also used the dismantled crate pieces to add extra shelving to some of the crates. Hopefully the photo gives you an idea of some of the things I did. As you can see, my little orange crate shelving system has allowed me to store a lot of beads! And I get a kick out of the fact that my studio has some upcycled storage.
I have used orange crates in other ways for studio organization, but I'll save that for another day. I don't want you to get over-excited!
Valentine's Day is next week, and people who are much nicer and more romantic than I am will give gifts to their significant others. So this is as good a time as any to talk gift wrap.
I'm ambivalent about wrapping paper, gift bags and other gift wrapping stuff. It's so nice and spirit-lifting to get a package beautifully and thoughtfully wrapped. The moment ends, however, as soon as you tear apart the wrapping paper or yank the tufts of tissue paper out of the gift bag. All too often, the lovely packaging ends up in the garbage. Some conscientious gift-receivers carefully unwrap their presents, being extra careful to pull the tape off without tearing the paper, and then neatly fold it for another use. But let's face it: lots of people don't.
I have a few gift wrap ideas that are cost-effective and perhaps more eco-friendly.
If none of the above mentioned ideas strike your fancy, you could try any of these: reusable shopping bags, tote bags, newspaper or comics pages (recyclable), teacups, mugs or photo boxes. There are lots of ways to make your presents look pretty without spending much money or creating much waste.
Today in Canada, we say good-bye to the humble penny. I think a lot of people are probably happy to say farewell to this piece of copper (or copper-plated zinc or steel since 1997) that clutters up our wallets, gets stuck in the washing machine and gets swept up with the crumbs and fur balls from the floor.
I feel a little conflicted today. I am one of those people who never had much use for the penny: as a unit of currency it has never made much sense (cents - ha!) to me. It has made the ridiculous .99 prices possible, after all. But the history buff in me - the person who's sad we don't send letters anymore, who loves old stamps and typewriters - is a little sad. It's similar to the sinking feeling I had when the Royal Canadian Mint phased out the one and two dollar bills, but this time it goes deeper. The penny, the one cent, which has been around since before Confederation, will no longer be part of Canadian life.
Think about how the penny has been part of our cultural fabric: "a penny for your thoughts", penny loafers, "a penny saved is a penny earned", a lucky penny, throw a penny in a fountain and make a wish, penny sales and penny drives. These will now be things we used to say or do. I think what I'll miss the most, though, is the sense of history you get when you study a penny or run your thumb across its surface. When was it minted? Which maple leaf design does it have? Or is it a 1967 penny with Alex Colville's rock dove design? Is it round or 12-sided? Each one has its own shade of brown patina and history of pocket-dwelling and changing hands.
Maybe I'm being over-sentimental about a little round piece of metal. But, as much as I'll be glad to carry a lighter wallet, there's a part of me that feels sad to lose a piece of history today.
Jane Hogeterp Koopman
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