Archive for May 30, 2012

Biodegradable bike oil

A sure sign of aging is when all your friends start buying expensive road bikes and swearing that joint-friendly biking is a superior form of exercise and really very, very fun.

In my mind I will never succumb to the road bike craze, but time will tell. I am, though, an avid cyclist, but purely for functional reasons.

I bike the kids to school. I bike to work for as much of the year as I can bear (one of the biggest knocks against living in Ottawa is the 3-4 month period when only crazies take their bikes out: there are a lot of crazies in Ottawa). And I bike to the shops whenever possible (I am not shy about accosting friends and neighbors in the supermarket and asking them to drive watermelons and other heavy weekly specials home for me: my own special type of craziness).

In the harsh Ottawa climate, bikes require love and attention. Mostly I forget that, but one item that I do always have at hand for a quick squirt is Pedro’s Go! (yes, the exclamation mark is part of the name), a biodegradable chain lubricant.

Go! is made from 40% renewable vegetable oil. The rest is made up of a proprietary biodegradable synthetic oil and about 1% bio-based additives. Pedro’s also markets a product called Chainj (50% renewable vegetable oil) a chain lubricant for wetter riding conditions.

Not being a true bike enthusiast, I am not really qualified to rate Go! relative to other chain lubricants. However, it works for me and for my local bike shop (though they did say that it gets stickier a bit quicker than synthetic oils so you might need to apply more frequently). By way of due diligence, I have also checked out on-line reviews and found happy customers.

Both these Pedro’s products biodegrade up to 73% in 28 days (the figure for all-synthetic bicycle lubricants would be under 60% and possibly as low as 15-25% over the same time period). With the tiny amounts in use, maybe this is not a critical issue. But in my view, all things being equal, biodegradability has to be a good thing.

Pedro’s sources its bike lubricant products in the US (Massachusetts, not too far from me) and, as company, is conscious of finding ways to improve its environmental footprint. It no longer warehouses goods (shipping them direct to customers reduces transportation costs/emissions) and uses recyclable PET bottles for most of its products. And, of course, employees are encouraged to bike to work… Not a profoundly ecological company but one that is certainly trying to move in that direction.

So when you have finished your current lubricant and your dry and squeaky bike calls out to you, give Pedro’s a try. Many of the bike shops in Ottawa sell Pedro’s products so I assume that is the case in other cities too. It is also available internationally (here is a UK source) If you can’t find it locally, there are also a number of on-line sources. It retails for about $10 for a 120ml (4 fl oz) bottle, no more than your average chain lubricant.

Green toys: Natural cosmetic kits

As the mother of four young girls, I am constantly battling dollar-store lip-gloss – hidden in party loot bags – and fluorescent bath products laden with chemical nasties.

As the girls get older, I have no doubt it will prove harder for the eco-warrior in me to maintain the upper hand. But I am doing OK thus far.

One of my big allies in this battle is an award-winning Canadian company, Kiss Naturals, that sells kid-friendly make-your-own cosmetics kits.

The kits save my children from following in their mother’s footsteps and learning the hard way that if you squeeze rose petals and place them in a jar with pretty much any other liquid or cream, the whole thing fairly quickly goes rotten, sludgy and stinky. No amount of pretty calligraphy on the homemade cosmetics label can counter this inevitability.

There are several kit options. So far, in our household, we have tried the lip-gloss, lip balm and bath fizzie kits. All have worked very well, though my connoisseur middle daughter tells me she likes the lip balm kit the best. The price range is $17-$25 depending on the kit.

Instructions are simple (six year olds might need help, but ten year olds don’t) and I like the fact that there is enough material in each package to make several items: this is a gift that keeps on giving (in the best sense).

All the ingredients are demonstrably natural (so lava lip-gloss consists of two types of base oil, glycerine and natural colours/flavours). Packaging for the kits themselves is minimal (and recyclable) but the folks at Kiss Naturals suggest you repurpose and make it into a memory box after.

The products that result look quite professional (so, for example, proper roll-on dispensers are provided for the lip-gloss). Even fashion-forward kids are satisfied. Last but not least, several bulk and refill items are available on the Kiss Naturals website (which also has an informative FAQ section).

This famiy-run company is based in Quebec and all the kits are assembled there. They are sold quite widely in Canada and the US and by Amazon.co.uk (prices are a bit higher in the UK). For a full list of stockists – including my favourite Ottawa option, Bloom Artisansee here. You can also order on line direct from Kiss Naturals (prices are the same as in shops but shipping is extra).

I wholeheartedly recommend these kits as gifts. Unlike some of the craft sets that come into my household, everything we have tried has been actively used and appreciated.

And the good news is that some of you have an opportunity to try a kit for free. When I contacted Kiss Naturals to ask for some photos for this review, Marie kindly offered a giveaway for my readers.

(This will be the first time I have done such a giveaway, though they are relatively common on other blog sites.)

I have six kits to give away. If you are based in the US or Canada and would like to try one, email me your name, address and choice of kit (see the website). What do you have to do in return? Two things.

The first is to help me with my site. By that I mean encourage your friends to subscribe to my feed (tell me who you have signed up in your email) or send me some product review suggestions: which eco products do you find really work? The second is to like the Kiss Naturals Facebook page.

On May 31st, I will pick the top six most helpful people and Marie will send them a kit of their choice. Hooray!

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