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Eco FAQ

You may call it "going green" or becoming more eco-conscious, environmentally-friendly or nature-loving. Regardless of what you call it, and whether you're doing it for the health of your family or the health of our planet (or a bit of both), here are some ideas to help you edit your lifestyle.

You can begin by changing behaviours or habits that aren't consistent with a green lifestyle. This is a great place to start especially if you don't have a big budget and it may actually help you save for some eco-friendly purchases down the road. Keeping reusable bags on hand for groceries and other shopping, turning off lights when you leave the room, reaching for a storage container instead of plastic wrap - all simple things we can do everyday.

Next, tackle your list of planned purchases and make them as eco-friendly and sustainable as possible. Can you do without the purchase? If it's something you need to buy, look for more durable options that won't need to be replaced and avoid "cheap" plastic that will only end up in the landfill prematurely. Also, consider if there locally or ethically produced options available.

Now that you've started to replace the plastic in your life with eco-friendly materials such as stainless steel, bamboo and glass, what do you do with all that plastic? Perhaps some items can be given a second life to keep them out of the landfill. Old plastic storage containers are great for use around the house to organize craft materials, toys or tools.

Regardless of how you decide to live greener, every small change counts. It can be a slow process but you can feel good that you are doing your part to tread lightly and live healthily.

ECO MATERIALS FAQ

When we decided to launch pure | simple LIVING, one of the things we had to consider was how to qualify products as earth-friendly. Surprisingly, or maybe not, there are lots of opinions as to which raw materials are truly environmentally sustainable.

For us, sustainable means products made from highly renewable resources that are naturally hearty and can be grown without the use of chemicals and do not require intensive processing. It also means products that are durable, not disposable, and products that can be reused indefinitely.

The products we offer for sale are made from bamboo, organic and natural cotton, hemp, or stainless steel. Let's consider each of these materials separately.

Bamboo - why or why not?

Whether or not bamboo can be considered a sustainable material probably draws the greatest debate. On the one hand, bamboo as a crop is fast-growing, extremely hearty and not susceptible to many serious diseases, which means less (or no) pesticide use. Bamboo's fast regeneration makes it a great alternative to hardwood products and bamboo forests also generate far more oxygen than a hardwood forest of comparable size. As a fabric, it is touted as being naturally antibacterial and odour repelling.

On the other hand, to turn bamboo from a woody plant to a usable end product can take quite a bit of energy-intensive manufacturing and can involve the use of harmful chemicals (for example, the manufacture of bamboo flooring is a complex process involving steaming, drying, pressing, and often formaldehyde adhesives). The dominant process of creating bamboo textiles requires a high degree of chemical processing; in fact, the plant fibres are turned essentially into a synthetic (man-made) yarn or viscose, which is then woven into a fabric.

So what's our take on bamboo? As an alternative to hardwood, we do think it is a sustainable material. We carry the bambu line of products, which are made from certified organic bamboo grown without the use of chemicals or pesticides. bambu also practices fair trade and its products are proudly handmade by local (Asian) craftspeople.

We are also keeping an open mind on bamboo fabric products as there are ways to produce bamboo textiles in an environmentally conscientious way; we look for textiles manufactured in an ethical manner and in accordance with certified organic standards.

What about organic cotton?

Conventional cotton is one of the most widely grown crops in the world; it is also one of the most chemical-intensive crops in the world. Certified organic cotton is a huge step in the right direction, eliminating the use of chemicals and pesticides in the growing process. While organically-grown cotton is still a relatively small percentage of global cotton production, the increasing awareness of the environmental and human impact of chemical and pesticide ensures that organic cotton production is a growing industry.

There are still a few points to be aware of in terms of assessing just how sustainable organic cotton fabrics are. We've seen it described somewhere that cotton is a "thirsty" crop. It is estimated that more than 13,000 litres of water is required to produce one kilogram of cotton, enough for a T-shirt and pair of jeans (source: New Agriculturist). It is also important to note that the process of colouring cotton can also be chemical intensive; but there are alternatives, such as natural colour-grown cotton (shades of cream, pale green and light brown) and the use of vegetable dyes.

We think that organic cotton products, especially if they are manufactured in accordance with fair trade practices, are indeed sustainable, and we keep an eye out for certified organic products in particular.

Is hemp the answer?

Hemp may be the ultimate sustainable resource, a panacea for our environmental troubles. To paraphrase and borrow from The Go Green Blog and the Hemp Industries Association, hemp can be grown completely without chemicals, it is hypoallergenic, it is 100% biodegradable, and it is a natural weed suppressor because of its fast growth. Hemp can also be used to replace conventional plastics; fibreboards made from hemp are stronger than those made from wood; and hemp makes a wonderfully (and naturally) soft, absorbent, and flame-retardant fabric. Furthermore, hemp seeds are a very nutritious food source; hemp can also be used as a bio-fuel and can be made into paper that is much superior to wood pulp-based paper.

One thing to note about hemp textiles is that they will soften naturally over time with washing; it is not necessary to chemically-softened the hemp fibres during the manufacturing process, although some companies do it anyway.

Essentially, there is nothing not to love about hemp! Our plan is to focus our research on finding more responsibly grown and manufactured hemp-based products to fit your green lifestyle so you can feel good about the materials with which you surround yourself.

And stainless steel?

Yes, stainless steel is a very green material. The raw material for making stainless steel products consists of 75-80% recycled material from steel scrap and stainless steel itself is 100% recyclable (source: Specialty Steel Industry of North America). Of course, the manufacturing process itself involves energy and water-intensive processes, and does pose potential air emissions problems; most of the larger stainless steel manufacturers maintain stringent environmental management systems and follow environmental best practices, such as in-house recycling and reclamation of waste materials.

While we like to focus on stainless steel products for their naturally hygienic properties and durability (because a stainless steel water bottle will likely outlast us despite the dents and scratches it may collect over time), we love the fact that the material itself is so highly recyclable. We give stainless steel a 5-star rating on the sustainability scale!

Summary

As our goal is to help you live a greener, more sustainable lifestyle by bringing together the most eco-friendly and practical products we can find, we think we're going in the right direction by focusing on hemp, organic cotton, and stainless steel products, as well as selective products made from bamboo. We also like to ensure that the products we carry are manufactured ethically and where possible, we look for locally-made alternatives to reduce transportation costs and support the local economy. We hope that by looking at the whole product life cycle as well as the social and economic impact of our purchasing decisions, we can be part of the solution for living more harmoniously with our environment.

As always, your comments are appreciated and we'd love to hear from you!

THINGS WE LIKE

- Take part in a journey to "go green": Greener Path Products

- This is a great directory of ethical and environmentally-friendly businesses: Ethical Directory