Archive for July 31, 2012

LOL: Lovely Organic Lollipops

Having just spent the week with friends who don’t do dessert, I am painfully aware of my unhealthy love of sugar (and my children’s fixation on the second part of dinner). That said, I would like to sing the praises of Yummy Earth lollipops.

These are an established part of plane travel in my family and are top of mind for me today as I am writing this post in an airport. My kids are heavily invested in the belief that without lollipops their ears will explode on takeoff. So I always try to remember to throw some Yummy Earth pops into my bag. Happily, they come in packs large enough that nobody notices when I sneak a few myself…..after all, they only have 22 calories each.

Yummy Earth makes lollipops (with or without extra vitamin C), hard candy drops, gummy bears, sour beans and sour worms. Not only do the candies contain all organic ingredients (no nasty synthetic colours of flavourings), they taste really great. The company subscribes to a third party list of acceptable ingredients – the trunatural list – so you can be pretty confident there is nothing nasty hiding inside. And the packaging is very upfront about what the lollipops don’t contain, if you are worried about allergies.

Lollipops come in lots and lots of fruit flavours, all of which have intense flavours with just the right balance of tart and sweet. My kids have different favourites – Wet Face Watermelon and Too Berry Blueberry – but I do not discriminate myself: love them all.

Yummy Earth is a US company so I was a bit surprised to see that the candy is made in Mexico. But this is apparently because one of the founding partners is originally from Mexico. The website stresses that quality control is intense, with samples regularly sent to US labs, and that good wages are paid to workers. You can see a neat video about how the lollipop are made on the site.

Being Mexican-made does make the carbon footprint a bit higher, but the video notes that they source sugar from local mills, so that cuts down on emissions a bit (and suggests that they are aware of the energy use issues around their product). Being individually wrapped, there is a fair bit of packaging associated with the product, but this is true of most lollipops….and at least the stick is made of paper (good for removing tartar after sucking all that sugar and fruit acid).

Yummy Earth products are available pretty widely. I bought a pack last week in a grocery store in rural Nova Scotia. I often buy the large packs (previously 40+ lollies, now 50+) at the discount stores, HomeSense or Winners, so they are great value.

If you are at a loss you can always order them from the Yummy Earth site in the US or Canada or from iHerb, where you can currently get the 50+ packs for $6 which works out at a paltry 12 cents each, not much more than I remember paying for lollipop when I was a kid. And I am sure these are much better for me.

Lip balm minus the plastic

There have been huge strides in the worlds of eco lip balm over the past decade. It used to be tough to find products that did not contain petrolatum and paraffin (yukky thought these sound, they are standard in products such as Blistex) and/or did not go rancid in short order.

Now we are spoiled for choice in health and green stores and can chose between beeswax, shea butter and other more tasty-sounding things to slather on our lips. All seem to be pretty shelf stable and can be flavoured with delicious natural oils.

Even when we are strapped for time and in the super-market or mainstream drug store there is usually a Bert’s Bees product that will lubricate without the use of hydrocarbons.

Despite all this progress, one annoyance still remains. It’s the plastic that is used to package and dispense all those nice-sounding oils and waxes. If you look at the bottom of your purse or on the pocket of your winter coat, you will surely find one or two dying lip balms, just waiting to be cast into the land fill where they will wait ….and wait ….for several thousand years.

How happy was I, then, when I found Sweet Leaf Bath Co., an Ontario company that sells its lovely fair-trade beeswax lip balm in compostable paper tubes. Though these might sounds less than robust, I can assure you that they hold up really well. But they also feel like they really will decompose (apparently within 15 days), unlike some ostensibly compostable products.

The one thing that you can’t easily do with the paper tube is the equivalent of `winding down’ the lip balm in the plastic tube. Once it has been squeezed out, it stays out (unless you manually push it back in, which can get a bit messy). But, on the plus side, it is not that easy to over-extend the lip balm in the first place. I can assure you of that since my kids help themselves to my balm whenever they pass my desk and they have not yet caused any damage.

The lip balm comes in 3 lush flavours: peppermint, chocoberry and pomegranate. I like the mint best but the fruity pomegranate is also nice. I have not tried the chocomint. The website gives full details of all the ingredients.

The lip balms are available from the Sweet Leaf site at $5.50 each (payment through Paypal). Unfortunately because these are small items, the shipping and handling costs seem high relative to the item cost if you buy just one balm ($5 will cover between one and six balms). But you could purchase other Sweet Leaf products (they have a bath line too) to offset the shipping costs. However, I can’t vouch for these, having never tried them.

Another option is to buy them through one of my current favourite eco merchants, Jess’s Crunchy Shop where you can combine your order with other items and get free shipping if you exceed C$79. Or hope that you live near one of the Canadian retail locations listed under the our Company tab on the website.

And if you are feeling sore about the shipping cost, don’t forget the good news: a paper tube holds about 30% more product than a standard plastic tube. We are talking long-lasting lubrication.

(I should mention that I was sent samples of this lip balm by Sweet Leaf, but I am reviewing the product because I love it.)

 

Terms of Entombment: Keeping your cool without air conditioning

This is a guest post from Amélie Crosson

I grew up in Washington, D.C.: a sweltering soup from June-September. My husband grew up in Ottawa: a sweltering soup from time to time in July. It’s normal that we should have different approaches to summer living — and air conditioning.

As far as I’m concerned, living in Ottawa is like inhabiting a binary universe: a city of Winter and Not Winter. So when summer finally comes I expect Ottawans, including my husband, to welcome and relish hot weather. Yes, it’s hot. Isn’t it great?

Um, No.

While most Ottawans are uniquely stoic about -30C weather, when it comes to +30C, not so much. Some people retreat to their lakeside cottages, a very sensible approach if available. Others retreat indoors and turn on the air conditioning.

Both my husband and I hate air conditioning. I hate the artificial chill, the smell and the roar of it. I’m as likely to sigh in bliss exiting an air-conditioned building as others are entering it. His objections are environmental. So we both agree that air conditioning is a technology of last resort, to be used only when octogenarians are visiting, children disappear for extended periods to friends’ air-conditioned houses, or night three of no sleep threatens to push our cranky quotient toward marital break-up.

To delay the moment, my husband has a house cooling strategy that is meticulous in its execution. His first line of defence against heat and humidity is to lock them out. We adopt a vampire-like existence. Doors, windows and blinds are only opened at night and closed back up in the early hours before the sun burns off the coolness of morning. His usual admonishments about turning off lights take on a sterner tone. Without even realizing it we speak with hushed voices as if our breath might heat up the house. Use of the stove and oven is discouraged in favour of whatever can be grilled outside.

It can be a harsh regime: no one likes living in a tomb, especially when it feels like you’ve just emerged from the long, dark life of enclosure imposed by winter. Can’t we just be hot? And how are we supposed to cook pasta on a grill? Entombment is one thing, carb-deprivation is a sacrifice of greater magnitude.

But his approach is undeniably effective. Our house, through entombment, lots of insulation, a thick canopy of mature maples and ceiling fans, is a delightfully cool oasis. And at night and in early morning, with the windows thrown open, we can hear the cicadas, the cardinals leading the birdsong chorus, and squirrels chittering their strategy to lay waste to our lilies once and for all. They are the beautiful sounds of summer, unless, of course, they are drowned out by the drone of the neighbour’s air conditioner…

Ant invasion

It’s summer. It’s hot. And I don’t know who is happier: me or the ants.

Though I am known for my love of heat and humidity, it is possible that the ants would take the prize – were it not for the new ant remedy that I am zealously employing. Together with a tube of caulking, it seems to be keeping the nasty little things under control. The cat’s bowl is no longer a feasting station and even my outside ants have moderated a bit.

So what is the secret? Sweetness and borax.

There are several recipes on various websites for home-made ant killer. The one I am using is quick, easy and cheap to make. It consists of:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons of borax

You just boil everything together for three minutes and then place in suitable containers (lids, pots with holes) in your trouble spots. I actually make half quantities as it goes a long way and lasts well in a jar. 

I am not quite sure I have the consistency right. Some websites suggest dipping cotton balls in the solution and leaving these out, but my gloop is too syrupy to do that. And I don’t see hoards of ants sucking it down as others claim to do, but it still seems to do the trick. So far my cat does not seem to have been tempted to chow down on it.

In case you are wondering what borax (sodium borate) really is, see here. It is a `salt of boric acid’ that comes from dried up lake beds. It is not generally very irritating to humans but, nonetheless, it is not something that should be treated casually. Within the last two years the European Commission categorized it as a substance of very high concern for its possible negative effects on fertility. And Health Canada warns against its use in cosmetics, as I mentioned in my posting on moisturizers.

It is typically sold for laundry and cleaning purposes and is marketed as an eco product, despite its toxicity. If you are still comfortable with using it (I have to admit that, in the battle against ants, I am), it is available in bulk in a number of eco stores or, in Canada, through the well.ca website for $10.79 for 2kg (that would kill a lot of ants).

FYI: most commercial ant traps use boric acid as their weapon too. They just charge you more to put very tiny amounts of it in dinky metal or plastic containers that will end up, sooner or later, in the land-fill.

 

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