Archive for November 20, 2012

Quick: before Christmas comes

I love Christmas: the coziness, conviviality and the kids’ joy. But, like many of you I suspect, I hate the excess and the pressing need to identify unmet needs (amongst people who really have none) just so I can fulfil my gifting obligations.

Personally I love giving experiences, but I have yet to persuade my four kids that a stocking full of promissory notes and gift cards to the local coffee shop really cuts it. Small indulgences are required: preferably ones that can be wrapped, used and then disappear leaving a relatively small footprint.

One thing that will be in the stockings of the young Foxes this year is a selection of products that I have received over the past two months in my regular package from the Natural Beauty Box (T.N.B.B.).

T.N.B.B. is one of a number of companies operating in the monthly cosmetics and skincare subscription space, though by no means all companies offer natural products. You sign up for anything from one month to one year and then wait to receive a nicely-packaged goody-bag of natural cosmetic sample sizes (not sachets) through the mail. They even throw in some full-sized products from time to time.

Samples are guaranteed to be at least 95% natural and 50% organic. This may not satisfy complete purists, but it is good enough for me (especially in comparison with some of the horrors my kids have been known to bring home).

Inside your pretty gift bag you will also find coupons in case you like the samples (reminding you that this is, of course, partly a marketing exercise).

T.N.B.B. does not tell you what you will receive in advance, but that is half the fun. Who doesn’t love getting an indulgent surprise in the mail from time to time?

So I have been saving up my precious bottles to scatter amongst my girls’ stockings. For me this is a great solution to the pre-teen lotion love (which I remember so well from all those years ago).

Yes, there is excess plastic (think little bottles) but, on balance, I am not too worried as I am not channelling toxic fragrances and chemicals to my kids.

Here in Canada, subscriptions vary from $15.75 to $20/month – shipping included – depending upon how long you sign up for. And the really good news is that subscriptions are available not only in Canada but also in the US (same price), the UK (OK: same price in pounds as in dollars, but UK folks are used to that…), and worldwide ($32/month).

And if you are looking not for stocking-stuffers but for a more substantial one-off Christmas present, you are also in luck. The Natural Beauty Box is selling a December Deluxe Beauty Sac stuffed with at least five full-sized products and five samples.

The cost for this is $49.99 (inc. shipping). I just ordered one for my niece: fingers crossed. My only gripe is that there appears to be no ability to include a gift message when you place the order (or did I miss it?).

Another gifting option, of course, is to be more generous than me and instead of splitting the boxes, give the one you love their own subscription. Voilà, the gift that keeps on giving.

Green veggie bags

I seldom extol the virtues of plastics, but there are always exceptions. I am a long time user of various types of green plastic ‘stay-fresh-longer’ produce bags to store my vegetables in the fridge.

The special thing about these bags is that they contain zeolite which absorbs ethylene gas…which is supposed to make your veg last longer. Looking on line, there is a wide range of opinion about whether this is true or not. Some people swear by them, others are less impressed.

Me: I am equivocal. I have used them so long that I no longer know what the counterfactual is.

So why do I like them if I am not convinced by the freshness claims?

First, I do worry (a lot) about food wastage. In western societies we waste a huge amount of food which is a big greenhouse gas problem. If you think of everything in your fridge as embodied carbon (for transport, processing, production) you may feel less inclined to waste it. Then think about the methane (a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon) that is released when wasted food ends up in landfill and your concern should grow.

So, bottom line: I hate to waste food and am attracted to anything that may limit food wastage.

Second, these bags are green. Green in colour. Colour coordination in my kitchen is important, of course, but the primary benefit is that I know these are reserved for veggies and veggies alone. So I reuse them with confidence.

Third, these are tough bags. They wash and dry very well. The Debbie Meyer site suggests that the bags are reusable 8-10 times. I suspect each of mine has been used hundreds of times. I like that longevity.

Fourth, knowing I have a bunch of these back home removes any temptation to help myself to a flimsy plastic bag off the roll in the grocery store. I always mean to have my reusable produce bags with me, but I do sometimes forget.

Fifth, the extra large bags are long enough for celery, and that’s nothing to be sneezed at!

I really believe that these bags have reduced my plastic use (and hopefully my food wastage) considerably over the years. Even though I swore, as a kid, that I would never, ever wash plastic bags (my most hated job was hanging wet bags on the clothes line), I do now. All the time. And I feel good about it.

My first bags were bought over a decade ago in the UK at Lakeland. Lakeland bags are a proprietary product made in Thailand. In north America there are a few choices: Debbie Meyer, Peak fresh, Evertfresh and I am sure some others. I can’t tell you which works best, but I can tell you that they are worth a try. I’d be interested to know if you agree.

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