Archive for January 16, 2012

Safe (and pretty) food covers

I admit it. I have a thing about food storage.

I am endlessly writing about containers (glass, stainless, silicone, thermos) for left-overs or lunchtime delicacies. I fear food that is inappropriately dried up/soggy/plastic-tasting and am scarred by childhood experiences of malodorous tupperware tumbling out of badly organized cupboards.

My friends seem to have cottoned onto this and so, for my birthday last year, I was given a Lily Pad.


Not a real lily pad, but a delightful silicone lid in the shape of a lily pad that can be used in the fridge, freezer, microwave (though I am not a microwaver so can’t vouch for that) and even the oven (up to 500 degrees). It can be washed in the dishwasher (without even a `top-rack-caution’).
(NB. See this previous review for more details on silicone).

Being of French origin, the Lily Pad is well-designed and nice enough to hang on your wall from the built-in loop.
It creates a great seal on ceramic, glass or metal bowls, making it a good replacement for plastic wrap (for those of you who are still using this).

A quick word about plastic wrap: there is nothing good about it. Originally plastic wrap was made from PVC, `the most toxic plastic‘. PVC off-gases terribly, plasticizers in it are probably carcinogenic (just ask those lab rats), poisonous dioxins are produced in its manufacture and it is not recyclable. In belated recognition of these hazards, wrap is now increasingly made from low density polyethylene (LDPE). This makes it less clingy and arguably a less effective food wrap, but it is somewhat safer. It still can’t be recycled.

Anyway, let’s assume that you want to avoid plastic wrap and that you don’t always have to hand a lid of the perfect size to fit the salad bowl/mug/casserole that you wish to place in the fridge or oven.


Just reach for the Lily Pad. The Pads come in 3 diameters: 4″ (10cm), nearly 10″ (25cm) and just over 11″ (about 29cm). They are designed by a French company, Charles Viancin, though made, of course, in China.

The drawback? I have not found a source in Canada. All sizes (plus other neat Charles Viancin cookware) are available on Amazon (prices are between $5 and $14). However, they are sold by third party vendors who do not ship to Canada.

So, for the moment we are Lily Pad-less, as a nation. Is there anyone out there who can solve this problem for me? My food cries out to be covered.

Greening your cat

Happy New Year! I hope you are not too overwhelmed by the excesses of the holiday season….lots of room now for (eco)-resolutions. We are going veggie at home for January, to kick things off. I’ll let you know how that goes.

But on to more serious matters.


If you have read Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom, you will be aware of the carnage wreaked by domestic cats on the American songbird population. One solution is to keep your cat indoors. I am afraid mine roams free most of the time, but when it is cold, cold, cold (as it is now) we keep him in at night. This raises the thorny problem of cat litter.

There is no perfect solution here.

Clay-based litters still dominate the north american market. Indeed, about 85% of all the clay mined in the US is used for cat litter. A majority of clay-based litter is now of the clumping type: this means that it is made from, or contains, a substance named sodium bentonite.

The advantage of this type of litter is that it sticks together and reduces the amount of material that needs to be discarded. The disadvantage is that sodium bentonite is mined in a scraping operation, close to the surface, resulting in significant landscape destruction. There are also concerns about cats ingesting litter or litter dust and clumping taking place in their digestive tracts.

A better solution is a plant-based litter. I use The World’s Best Cat Litter(with a name like that, need I say more?).

cat litter

This is made from whole-kernel maize. It clumps (just like the clay litter), is dust-free and easy to manage and is available in most pet stores. (It costs between $8-13 for a 7lb bag and $24-$30 for a 17lb bag….the higher prices are to be found in Canada, of course).

I have used the regular `flavour’ for a while and been very satisfied with it. I was sent a sample bag of the scented, odour-control formula, which contains natural lavender oil. The scent is pleasant enough, not over-whelming….but odours are not a big problem for me with one largely outdoor-living cat, so I cannot judge whether this extra twist is worth it (or would annoy me if my litter tray were not in the furnace room).

The bag claims that the litter is flushable and I do, indeed, flush small amounts of mine with no problems. But I am not sure I would flush on a regular basis as I appreciate the cost of a blocked toilet.

If you live in California, you will know that flushing is prohibited, because of problems with sea-otter deaths (strange, but true). A parasite in cat feces, toxoplasma gondii, appears to be responsible for killing sea otters (it is not eliminated in the wastewater treatment process). The parasite can also end up in storm drains after al fresco cat poop is washed away.

If you don’t flush, what do you do with your waste? In most place, including sunny Ottawa, pet feces is banned from the city’s green bin/compost collection. So that leaves the regular garbage. That is fine, except it challenges the claim of biodegradability. The dirty secret of many items that are sold as biodegradable is that they only decompose adequately in the presence of oxygen….and there is not much of that in land-fill. In an anaerobic environment, things break down only very slowly and not enough to meet the scientific requirements of biodegradability.

Scented_Bag_Transparent copy

So, there you have it. Plant-based litters win, from an eco perspective. But they are not perfect. Maize monoculture does nothing for our landscapes and carting heavy cat litter around the continent for our cats to poop on is not exactly green. But ….pets are good for us in many other ways and we all love them, so, for now, let’s all learn to love corn too.

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