Scoop: BulkBarn allows BYOC at its Liberty Village store

Good news! BulkBarn recently started a concept test at its new Liberty Village location: the store is now allowing customers to bring their own containers to fill rather than the usual disposable plastic bags.

BulkBarn is a chain that proposes mostly food items in bulk, free of plastic packaging. The advantages for the customer are mostly savings. Yes, packaging and marketing come with a cost that is always transferred to the final product (economics 101).

For eco-conscious consumers who try to reduce the amount of waste they produce, it is also a great solution to avoid multiple packaging that weigh a lot on our landfills. In the past, BulkBarn has been reluctant to allow its customers to bring their own containers. Hygiene and safety reasons were mentioned to justify a policy that many customers questioned. I also found the brand’s arguments not compelling when many markets (St Lawrence included) were already allowing BYOC or when other safety “threats” appeared more real (children snacking from the bins?).

The chain changed its mind and recently decided to allow the practice in Liberty Village. The concentration of Millennials (supposedly more opened to change) in this area of Toronto convinced the chain to try the concept there.

Today, I decided to go and see by myself. The concept is easy: Clean, weigh, scoop, pay.

20161030_144801

I brought my own boxes and had them weighed first. After a quick inspection, the cashier put a little sticker on them indicating their weigh, so that I pay only for my food. I came back a few minutes later with the boxes filled with pasta and beans, paid, and voilà!

I think it is great that BulkBarn allowed the concept and I hope it will help raise awareness of the practice and foster conversations about reducing waste. When the cashier started putting my boxes in a plastic bag and I had to say no, she looked surprised (if not shocked). When I asked about the adoption of the concept in her store, she told me that so far people haven’t been bringing their own containers a lot. Let’s hope that curious consumers will question why fellow shoppers bring their containers and be tempted to try. I am convinced that a financial incentive, even minimal, would help. Humans are like that, our brains are just wired to love rewards.

Time will tell how the initiative is received but for now, let’s talk about it and ask other BulkBarn(s) to follow!

(update 26/11/16: Other BulkBarns have followed the Liberty Village example since I published the post and are now also proposing BYOC!!)

 

Good Food For Good

I am thrilled to introduce a social enterprise whose approach to nutrition and sharing totally needs a space here.

The origins of a social entreprise

Having worked for the conventional food industry for many years, Richa Gupta started to feel increasingly frustrated by the poor quality of food sold in the market. Food that is very high in calories and poor in nutrients. Food that is “made of ingredients” instead of being the ingredient. In fact, westerners have never had so much food in terms of calories intake and paradoxically, so less nutrients.

Richa questioned the status quo, only to find out that selling better, qualitative food wasn’t at all a priority for decision-makers in the food industry. Tired of working for products she didn’t believe in, she left and created her own company, GOOD FOOD FOR GOOD in 2013.

A reminder of what food is

She lived through again as she started making fresh, locally-sourced, organic, vegan, and gluten-free sauces inspired by Indian and Mexican cuisine. These sauces can turn any preparation into a sophisticated and delicious meal. Her “ketchup” sweetened with dates is also an astute alternative to sugar-bombs regular ketchup.

Richa also blends delicious turmeric teas. They nicely provide a daily intake of this highly beneficial root in our diet. Turmeric is a great anti-oxidant, thus helping cancer survivors heal. But, as Richa explained to me, people are also increasingly interested in turmeric as a preventive approach to diseases. For more information on its benefits, you can read this interesting post Turmeric, the golden root.

As her own CEO, she regularly had to make tough decisions that implied choosing between quality or easier profits. She never compromised on the quality of her products, regardless of people’s advice. For instance, she fiercely resisted adding preservatives to her sauces, and tests revealed that they actually didn’t need them.

Good news! We can now buy Richa’s products in many stores in Toronto. You can find the list here . Even my Longos sells her Ketchup.  Good job, the Bro’s.

 

IMG_20160813_143538

Richa (2nd from left) and her team at Toronto Vegan Fest (08/13/2016)

Food that fights hunger

Feeding Canadians with real, nutritive food, was not enough for the entrepreneur. Fascinated by the One for One example of TOMS’ shoes, she decided that a percentage of each purchase would be donated to charities in India. This amount offers a meal to a child in need in India. For these kids, the perspective of being fed a meal is an incentive to go to school. And because hunger is not a reality in India only, GOOD FOOD FOR GOOD also partners with Food Banks Canada. I read on their website that a daunting 13% of Canadians live in a state of food insecurity, meaning they have no access to safe and nutritious food in sufficient quantities.

Lastly, if Richa is so inspiring to me, it is because like too many of my friends today, she used to be dissatisfied and unhappy with her job but decided that things could be different. It takes a lot of courage. And, as she humbly recalls, a lot of support too. But where there is passion, there is a way. That’s what she told me over a big batch of turmeric tea one day.

Captain Jamie’s

Gabi Star

She couldn’t meet on Monday because she was rescuing a cat. So we postponed our meeting.

I met Gabi Star at The Backyard Farm and Market (Mississauga) earlier in June, where she sells her cosmetic products and co-manages the market. On that day, I was volunteering at the Eco-Kitchen but I managed to escape and roamed around her stall, asking to test her natural sunscreen. She intrigued me, as well as the name of her brand, Captain Jamie’s. I decided that I needed to meet her again.

Intuition seldom misleads me. Gabi answered enthusiastically that we should definitely meet. A rescued-cat later, we met at the Thrive Organic Kitchen & Café in Etobicoke.

A Captain behind a brand

Why “Captain Jamie’s” was one of my first question but she answered before I could ask. The Captain is a man who survived many storms, (as beautifully stated by Gabi), including two cancers, and whom Gabi seems to deeply admire and respect. He talked her into exploring her creativity at a deeper level. After making first soaps that were not exactly successful, she persevered and decided to create her own body-care product line, entirely based on natural ingredients. Offering gentle and safe products for fragile people is also what pushed her to undertake this project. The vision behind Captain Jamie’s product line is simple: “to promote a healthy lifestyle, create awareness and inspire”.

Product line

Among other things, Gabi makes sunscreen creams, lip balms, deodorants, body scrubs and soaps. She uses only natural components and none of the harmful ingredients found in conventional cosmetics. (Parabens, aluminium, fragrances, to name a few). Nature provides Gabi’s ingredients. Her favourite spots to forage are secluded places in Toronto and Niagara Escarpment. There, she finds the lavender, peppermint, geranium, chamomile, strawberries and other treasures that end up in her products.

Gabi 3Gabi 2

After testing the sunscreen she gifted to me this morning, I am in deep love with it and can confirm its total efficiency (I am editing this article after a summer spent using it). The texture is amazing and I had to refrain from eating the cream right from the pot. Ingredients? Coconut oil, shea butter, apricot kernel oil, mango butter, aloe gel, beeswax, essential oils and zinc oxide. (If you are interested, here is an article that explains how zinc oxide works).

More products are to come to complete the line, but she can’t tell me what yet, as she herself doesn’t know. She “goes with the flow” and mostly, listens to what people need and answers their needs.

Quote

The soul of a Shaman

At the market, Gabi Star became a doctor to many, though she insists that she is not a dermatologist. But people keep asking her how to treat their skin conditions, and from their questions she draws enormous motivation to keep learning about the healing power of plants. But how does one become some sort of a modern shaman in a city like Toronto, today?! I’m glad I asked, because it turns out that her grandmother was herself an Aboriginal shaman and a healer in Moldova, where Gabi grew up. She taught her that Nature has to be listened to and has treasures to offer if we love and respect Mother Earth. The wisdom and knowledge of Aboriginal peoples is also a deep source of admiration for Gabi, namely for “their ability to feel the oneness”.

Speaking of which, she explains to me that the intention she puts in creating her products, which is all love, will be felt by the persons who use them. Because we are all connected. I could feel what she meant by that. As if I was stretching my arm to grasp this oneness concept I have heard about, but it was just an inch too far away. But I guess you need to experience oneness to really understand it. Like you need to ski to understand the feeling of skiing.

Message in a bottle

“Choose a better way. Choose a better path” is the message that Gabi and the mysterious Captain send to people who want to use safe, affordable and authentic cosmetic products. After trying them, I’m on board!

Haute Goat

From Cleopatra…

« C’est le bain de Cléopâtre, bain limpide et parfumé… la la la la lalala … ».

Do you remember that, Frenchies? Of course you do, and I bet you’re singing it out loud now. I guess I owe some explanations to my Canadian friends… In the cartoon adaptation of one of our most famous comic books, Astérix et Obélix , the Pharaoh Cleopatra is depicted taking a milk bath. It’s a long ceremony during which her servants sing for her while she bathes her “alabaster body” with the precious milk. (here for nostalgia).

So, what is the secret behind the goat milk (or asses’ milk) she used to bathe with? If goat milk was used thousands of years ago as a skin elixir, why not use it today too in our cosmetics?

Ok. You’re failing to see the relevance of this weird introduction? Let me start my story.

…To Haute Goat

We are back to 2016. Haute Goat is the adventure of a couple who moved from Toronto to a farm in Northumberland County to raise goats and celebrate “all things goat”. It is how Haute goat was born in 2013, from the love of this passionate couple for goats. Debbie was the one in love first, but quickly converted her husband Shain to her little furry friends, if I believe the interviews I’ve read. Among the products they sell, a range of moisturizing creams based on the babes’ milk. The Nigerian Dwarf Goats is a breed whose milk has the highest butterfat content. As a result, their milk is extra moisturizing. I tried one cream: it smelled delicious and was indeed very moisturizing but with a non-sticky texture. The essential oils they use add really enchanting smells, like grapefruit. On top of moisturizing creams, their skin care products also include lip balms, a facial cleanser and a wide variety of soaps, and all their products can be bought online.

With Haute Goat, don’t panic if you can understand all the ingredients’ name on your cream.

Haute goat

I have to say I didn’t buy a moisturizing cream from Haute Goat at the Green Living Show, where I discovered the brand. The reason being I still had (and have) a very big Vaseline cream bottle at home. But reading more carefully the ingredients at the back makes me feel increasingly ill at ease. That’s what it takes to educate myself … I don’t want to do something stupid (?) like throwing my Vaseline away because I suddenly discovered that methylparaben, propylbaraben and PEG-100 are not exactly the most beneficial things to spread over my body. And after all, I’ve been doing that for almost 27 years now… ouch..

Whichever cream I buy next, I’ll make sure it doesn’t contain anything from the “Dirty dozen“.

Now, our two goat-lovers also have mouth-watering edibles like salted caramels, goat milk caramel corns and butter fudges…

Lastly, if you want to visit the farm, Haute Goat has just opened its doors (since April 30th and till October) and it’s only one hour east from Toronto. The farm tour itself lasts around one hour, but the Northumberland county seems to have a lot to offer too. A week-end get away to consider?

Miik

Tonight, I am going to introduce a guest star in the universe of sustainable fashion… Miik!! Make some noise!

But before that, I thought I would quickly summarize the most urgent problems linked to the way our clothes are produced today. Promise, I’ll be quick. The point of the blog is to focus on solutions rather than problems.

-Growing cotton is VERY water-consuming (obtaining 1 kilo of cotton requires an estimated 3,800 liters of water) and pesticides-intensive.

-The garment industry uses toxic chemicals that are not well regulated i the countries of production, causing dramatic health and ecosystems hazards.

Labour conditions are still terrible for workers in countries where most clothes are produced.

-The clothes we buy are of very poor quality. They don’t last, fray, and quickly loose shape.

Do you agree to call that the paradigm of lousiness?

Thankfully, imaginative people with entrepreneurship spirit are proposing alternatives. Miik is one of these companies. And guess what? It’s Canadian! And guess what (bis)?? It’s eco-friendly AND sexy!

In my opinion, some eco-friendly fashion brands compromise on elegance and style. So I held breathe before landing on Miik’s homepage and… there it was. Colourful, feminine, modern. Bingo!

Key facts about the brand:

-Miik garments are made of eco-friendly fabrics, like bamboo and linen. If you take bamboo for example, it is an incredibly sustainable material for making clothes because it grows very fast and self-propagates. On top of that, bamboo doesn’t need pesticides, fertilizers or watering to grow.  And yes, it feels good on your skin: it’s soft and very comfortable! (tested and approved).

-After the yarn is shipped to Canada, everything is made locally in Ontario. Miik is very transparent about its fabrication process and gives many details about it. The only thing I had to ask is where the bamboo threads come from. I received a quick and friendly answer explaining that it comes from China. The yarn is delivered in Bolton and transformed into fabric. It is then dyed in Agincourt. The dyes they use are Oeko-approved (Oeko is a demanding textile certification granted by independent third parties). Lastly, the designs are sewed in Markham and downtown Toronto. On top of curbing CO2 emissions, this approach also fosters the local economy and allows the brand to keep control over its supply chain.

-Finally, their pieces are made to last. The quality is such that Miik’s clothes can be worn year after year and still look good. So ok, the initial price first seems high but it is the price of quality and good design. Remember Grandpa’s saying? “I’m too poor to afford bad quality”. Think about it next time you come across a tempting 12-dollar T-shirt! Personally, my new strategy in terms of buying clothes is to either buy second-hand clothes, swap or buy new ones, but only if I’m sure they will last at the very least 10 seasons (or more).

Where in TO?

Here is a list of retailers in Canada, (including Toronto) where you can find Miik’s garments. I have only been to Logan and Finley on Queen Street West. (670 Queen Street West). The service was very nice and helpful there, and they have a selection of other eco-friendly brands. You can also buy online.

Before going, take a look at this video introducing the spring collection!!

I’m telling you. You won’t like it, you’ll love it.

b.good

Does fast food have to be synonymous with poor-quality raw materials, health issues and high environmental costs?

For best friends Anthony and Jon, the answer to that question is a clear No, the No that led to the creation of b.good in 2004. They tell the story of how Anthony’s uncle used to feed them excellent meals when they were kids and how later they combined a love for fast food and qualitative food in… b.good!

How is it better than traditional fast-food chains?

-First, their ingredients are all sourced locally. Concretely, it means your beef hasn’t traveled in a private jet from Argentina or the US just because it is cheaper to source it from there.

All the raw materials used in the menu, from the potatoes to the bread, come from Ontario’s producers. Cheddar cheese? From Bright Cheese and Butter, in Bright. Turkey? From Hayter’s farm, in Oashwood. All their restaurants have a big map where they show the exact locations of their partners / producers.

Now, there is another thing I like about the idea of local, apart from the benefits in terms of CO2 emissions. I like that it reconnects us with the farmers who feed us. When I went to b.good on Queen West, I spent some time reading the book where they introduce all their providers, showing their pictures, the pictures of their farms…It was a healthy reminder that supermarkets don’t feed us! These people do.

-b.good also serves seasonal food. Quite logically, their menu adapts to the seasons and to what nature has to offer during each season. We got used to fast-food chains serving the same invariable food all year round and it became normal to us.

-Last thing I like about them is that they communicate openly about nutrition facts. Their website displays a very clear and visible tab of nutrition facts for all their meals.

You may also wonder at this point: is their food actually good and tasty? It definitely is. From all the times I have been there, I have never been disappointed.

But I’ll be totally frank. When I go to a fast food, I want fat. I want to feel the fat in my mouth and enjoy a ten-minute little death that will leave a more lasting print in  my body.  There, the fat lovers in us will be less satisfied for sure. What it means is we need to work on our addiction to fat, salt and sugar and to reeducate ourselves.

Where in TO?

For now, b.goo has 3 locations in Toronto:

-100 Front Street East (just behind St Lawrence market

-573 Queen Street West

-10 King Street East