Saturday, May 31, 2014

Ethical Clothing

As part of the local food challenge, in order to support my love for clothes, I also resolved to spend the year buying locally made and/or ethically produced clothing. This was a particular challenge for me as I am incredibly thrifty (read: cheap).

In my mind, ethically produced means ethical wages to those producing the clothing and/or fabric that the clothing is made of. This can create a conundrum when combined with the locally made option - is it still ethical if the clothing is locally made but the fabric is made from cotton picked by small children? For simplicity sake, and because the market isn't exactly saturated with ethical options, I decided to go with locally made OR ethical wages but not necessarily both. (note: on top of this there are the environmental ethics that one could consider - impact of creating fabric/garments on environment etc., but I decided not to focus too strongly on this one as ethical wages stood out as more important to me.)

So all in all, finding ethical stuff became a really time consuming process. "Yes, this clothing is made by a local designer, but the tag says made in Thailand..."  Much research was required. Ultimately I learned that unless a store explicitly held the ethical values I was going for, going out shopping was time consuming and I always came away empty handed.

So what did I end up doing? Buying used. In my mind this dealt with the majority of my ethical quandaries - I'm not supporting labels/companies with unethical practices as they are not getting my money, AND I'm supporting the environment by recycling resources. I found a real gem in the Newmarket Value Village and go there ridiculously often. Because Value Village is such a large company I did some research and, while they are a for-profit company, there is nothing blatantly unethical about their business practices that I came come across and, despite rumours, I don't believe they are actually owned by Walmart.

So for those of you who aren't so keen on rummaging to make up your wardrobe - here are a few shops I found that fit somewhere onto my "this counts as ethical" scale:

Freedom Clothing Collective (Toronto)
  • Designed AND made locally
  • Eco-friendly sourced merchandise
Preloved (Toronto)
  • Designed AND made in Canada
  • Recycles old garments to make new ones
Workshop (Ottawa)
  • Products are a combination or locally made/designed, fair traded, and/or sustainable
Belle et Rebelle (Montreal)
  • Products are a combination of locally made, designed, or fair traded
 Gaia Conceptions (online - located in North Carolina)
  • All products are hand-made by a handfull of local (to the business) employees
  • All fabrics are either made from locally grown/harvested cotton or fair trade certified fabrics
  • All fabrics are certified organic
 Faeries Dance (online)
  • All products are manufactured in the US or internationally in non-sweatshop/living wage settings
  • All products are organic
Etsy (online)
  • An online marketplace full of handmade products
  • There a bazillions of shops but generally clothing tends to be manufactured local to the shops by one or two individuals (often the designers)
    • I recommend checking out where the shop is physically located and reading their policies to double check for ethical status

So...two years later....I think this finally summarizes my experiences/findings from the year (read: 9 months) of local eating/shopping. My biggest lesson? I suck at remembering to blog. Seriously. I wrote this post three months ago and forgot to post it.  I will blame it on pregnancy brain cause I can. All future blogging lapses will henceforth be blamed on baby brain (cause yeah, p.s. I had a baby).

Up next for the blog (if I remember) I'll share my findings and experiments in environmentally friendly personal care and household cleaning. And maybe post a picture of my baby. Because: cute!

    Monday, February 17, 2014

    Commitment issues?

    In 2012 I managed to write five blog posts. It's now 2014. Impressed? Not so much. Now I am never going to get famous.  

    It appears I have some blog commitment issues. Sorry blog, it's not you it's me. Maybe we can be friends.

    As a sign of my commitment to our friendship, I am going to start writing in you again. Why you ask?  I like writing, and I think I’m not bad at it. And I would like to get good at it. Maybe even very good (novel by 40, anyone?). So I am going to try and breathe some life into our stale relationship and start posting again.

    First, let me start with a recap: The year of 2012 was resolved to be a year of local eating. This lasted until September of 2012. Then we moved to Keswick and I lost the will to live. I mean blog. I also lost access to local food for the most part. Keswick has lots of awesomely affordable grocery stores, but unfortunately affordable and local don't go well together. What with buying a house and trying to set up a house, I had no energy for long distance driving in order to finish the resolution. But I am proud of the nine months of local eating we accomplished.  It's like we made a local food baby.

    Out of this local food baby also came interest in other ways of living sustainably, healthily, and ethically. I spent a bunch of time thinking about/researching sustainable energy use in the home, environmentally friendly personal care and household products, healthy/balanced diets, and more. I have made some inroads on these topics, and will use this blog to document and share what I have found on this mission. I will also conclude last year's resolution (which included buying local/ethically made clothing) with a blog post or two sharing what I found while attempting this. 

    Also, speaking of locally grown, Chris and I are currently producing some locally sourced offspring (local, in this context, means my uterus). I imagine this will also lead to some blog posts. So stay tuned for that as well!

    And therefore, it is with renewed blenergy (blogging energy), I commit to writing more often. So... blog, ...can we be friends?

    Thursday, August 30, 2012

    Bloops, Blapathy

    Remember that time I had a blog? Apparently I didn't. Well that and I had a bad case of blog apathy, or blapathy if you will. So my apologies to all of you who have faithfully been checking every day for more of my blog brilliance (brilliog?). Next time I encourage you to start a petition. *cricket sound, cricket sound*

    Ahem, anyway. So where are we? We do in fact continue to survive based on the sustenance of local food. The spring and summer have flooded the grocery stores with local produce, and the farmer's markets have popped up green (and orange and red and yellow) everywhere. Grocery shopping became infinitely easier and I ate way less (read 0) cabbage soup.

    My absolute favourite local treat was peaches. Despite the concerns about local peaches not surviving due to the weird weather patterns in early spring, I did not have trouble finding them (and to my delight, the stores are still well-stocked with peachy goodness). I also discovered Ontario apricots. And then learned that I do not like apricots..........but yay peaches! I even made peach ice cream with local dairy products. MMmmMMmm.

    I do not look forward to the fall. Not because it isn't pretty or because the crisp fresh air isn't lovely, but because my beautiful plethora of local produce will dwindle. And not that cabbage soup isn't delicious...but I will miss my variety.

    So what next with the blog? I think it's time to start writing about part 2 of The Resolution - Buying locally made clothing, or alternatively, used or ethically made. Stay tuned for the next post "The Ethical Brassiere", it promises to be brilliog.

    Monday, April 02, 2012

    North of Steeles

    HellooOOooOO.......I write to you from North of Steeles. Can you hear me? (non Torontonians, look at handily included map for clarification).

    So as you may be able to gather from the artistic rendering above, Chris and I have moved....North of Steeles. We now officially live in Markham. So you may be thinking: "What does this have to do with local food?", "You realize Toronto is a cold, hard, soulless place, right?" and "Why are you trying to be cool like Allie Brosh??". Well I will tell you. A) Allie Brosh is hilarious and has a Wikipedia entry, why wouldn't I want to be like her? B) You may think Toronto is a cold, hard, and soulless place, until you live there and then are torn from her eclectic concrete bosom. My pain, she is both self-inflicted and real! And, C) most relevant to you, moving means we had to find all new places from which to retrieve sustenance.
    So, more on that?

    Actually first a confession. Immediately before and after moving we did not have access to our dishes and cooking utensils so we had to buy our food premade and finding local premade food is pretty much impossible. The night we moved in we ordered in chicken fingers and poutine. And ate them. In bed.
    Judge all you like, it was HEAVEN. *cough* We also ate chinese and thai food.*cough* Confession done.

    And back on track - Here are some great places we have discovered since leaving my lover, Toronto.

    Ambrosia Natural Foods - This place is particularly exceptional as we can walk there in under ten minutes. If you have ever lived in the suburbs you will understand how awesome this is. In terms of actual produce and foods, I wouldn't say they have fantastic selection, but you can definitely find enough to put some meals together. We particularly enjoyed their local tofu.

    Highland Farms - Apparently I had not lived in Toronto long enough to become familiar with this local chain of grocery stores. I was very impressed. They are HUGE and stock an amazingly varied amount of local products. Their meat counter is larger than some grocery stores in Toronto (point 1 Markham) and the majority of their meat is from Ontario! You can buy a bazillion different cuts of meat and there is a good pre-packaged section as well. I bought Ontario Lamb bones last week and made a ridiculously good broth. They also had the best selection of local veggies I have seen, but I don't know how related that is to the time of year that I discovered this mecca of food awesomeness.

    Nature's Emporium - This place is just seven minutes up the road from where I work and is an organic haven. I've only been once so far and they didn't have a great variety of local produce, but that was also in the middle of the winter. I think this is an excellent grocery store, much like the Big Carrot in Toronto (sniff), but much larger and with way more organic options. However, they don't carry a great deal of local products in general and their meat is very expensive. I should say that their meat is all organic, small farm, and ethically raised, so you know you are getting quality animals that were treated well, but I'm not convinced it's the best price for such products out there.

    We have also officially set up our weekly veggie box with Fresh City Farms. We have been getting it for three weeks now and the produce is primarily local, with supplements here and there. Given that we are supporting a local business who supports local and/or small farms businesses, we are fine with that. Soon we will switch over to eating produce from Chris' farm which is currently in planting mode!

    Blog done.

    Oh yeah, last time I said Chris would be writing a blog about beef. He says he will still do that. If you see him, bug him to do that. Thanks.

    Sunday, February 12, 2012


    Hello internets!  No we have not perished due to local food induced starvation. We are just bad at blogging.

    So how have we managed to not starve? Here are some discoveries/compromises we have made:

    Completely locally sourced bread, to date, seems to be impossible to locate. While ACE bakery originally had seemed like a good option, I learned that they are owned by Weston, the people who own Loblaws, so supporting them went against the whole, "support small local business" plan. So now we are buying bread and bagels from small local bakeries. Sourcing local flour overall has been a bit of a challenge but, with some guidance from a friend, I found The Healthy Butcher, and they carry Ontario flour, woo!

    Crackers! Even more difficult to find than bread as it's not something a lot of bakeries do. This is why I was very excited to discover Vicky's flatbread (available at the Big Carrot). Not only is it locally made, but the majority of the ingredients are local as well! 

    Finally, in the grainy department, I also found locally made granola which I like to eat with local yogurt for breakfast. MMM.

    On a saucy note, Chris and I love to have spaghetti so we were distressed to discover that using canned tomatoes might become tricky. We were both very excited to learn that Unico sources all of their tomatoes from Ontario. Win!  Finding local pasta is another story...however, we have a ridiculous stockpile from before our hopefully that will hold out for a while!

    Since this resolution began I have been making lots of soups as I find it's a good way to use the random Ontario vegetables I find at the grocery stores. The only problem is broth. We have been lucky(?) to have some definitely-not-local chicken broth powder (from dollarama, AH!) which is still holding out, but I wasn't feeling great about using it with all my tasty local ingredients. So I've also started making broth! I've made chicken broth a few times and just found some locally grown beef bones on sale and plan to make beef broth today.

    And I will end my foody updates there for now. I am excited to see what our diet will look like as the seasons change!


    Coming to you in our next blog:

    Perhaps you have heard of the pig of happiness? (he is soooo happy).  How about the cow of happiness? When Chris first started talking about local food he talked a lot about how farm animals are treated very differently on smaller scale farms than large commercial farms. So I got into the habit of asking whether the milk or beef he bought was from happy cows. While it may sound morbid that I prefer to eat happy cows, I must say I am quite pleased with the fact that that is what we are doing now. Want to know more about happy cows? Chris will be posting his first blog soon and it will be all about local beef and dairy. Stay tuned!


    Tuesday, January 10, 2012

    Blogeth the 2nd

    So it has been a week and a half since the resolution commenced. To help immerse you in my experience, please enjoy this brief dramatic retelling of:

    Grocery Expedition the First!

    Tobi (on her way to the grocery store): Tralala, I am going to go grocery shopping and will buy only local things from Ontario because I am conscious of where my food comes from and am therefore a good person. <Insert more self-important thoughts here.>

    Tobi (entering the grocery store): How exciting, I am like a pioneer! I will use my excellent literacy skills and read some labels to learn where my food comes from.

    ~20 minutes later~

    Tobi (leaves grocery store carrying.....beets).

    What was learned as a result of this expedition:
    1. It is going to take a lot of research to figure out where food comes from.
    2. How to make borscht.

    So I exaggerate my story slightly. I also came home with a squash, a bag of carrots, and some apples. And that was seriously it (I also really made borscht!).  So, point being, while the produce section labels the source of the vegetables and fruit, this is where it ends. I suppose this probably isn't be very shocking, but the optimist in me was disappointed. Ok, I'm still exaggerating a bit. Dairy products and eggs tend to have pretty good labels as well. It's mainly items that have more than one ingredient that are tricky.

    A new approach was necessary in order to be able to eat a balanced diet and not die of the opposite of scurvy. Instead I decided to make a list of what I would like to eat and track down the items one at a time.

    These were items that made it onto the list: sugar, spices, sunflower seeds, bread, fruit (other than apples)

    We can have juice!
    You may note that the majority of the items on the list are things that don't tend to be grown in abundance in Ontario, let alone Canada. Some googling was quite successful on the sugar, spices, and fruit front, however, and I discovered the following websites which provide or list locations where these items are available fairly-traded:

    Bread is turning out to be more tricky. After contacting several local bakeries I have learned that ACE bakery is the closest to having nearly all local ingredients. This is a excerpt from the email they sent: "We cannot make a  claim on having 100% Ontario ingredients because our salt is from the United States and our yeast is from Montreal.  Also, part of our flour comes from Hard Western Spring Wheat which is from the prairies." They are, however, the only bakery that I've found, so far, that uses Ontario flour at all, so (unless I suddenly get the desire to track down Ontario flour on my own and makes copious amounts of bread all the time) this is likely where we will be getting our bread from this year (which is extra awesome because their baguettes are delicious!)

    Sunflower seeds continue to elude me

    And now I think I've inundated you all with enough information this round.

    Stay tuned for more adventures!

    Sunday, January 01, 2012

    The Resolution

    Things You Should Know
    1. I’ve never tried this New Years Resolution thing before.
    2. Agrarian means “of the land” ( also tells me it means: a person who favors the equal division of landed property and the advancement of agricultural groups. Since I'm not quite sure what "equal division of landed property" implies, for now I will go with "of the land").
    3. Chris endeavours to be a farmer. (Look, Chris' farm!)
    4. Chris and I have spent a lot of time talking about sourcing local.
    5. Buying local supports independent business and reduces negative environmental impact. 

    The Resolution
    Spend one year buying only regionally local food and clothing. (ie. We live in Ontario, so we will buy Ontario products – the closer to home the better.  If traveling we will buy locally within that region). Where we can’t purchase local, we will purchase used or fair trade.

    The purpose of this resolution isn’t to push ourselves to extremes, but to see what we are able to find and to document our progress and what we discover. 

    1. We like eating out with friends, and because local sourced restaurants are more expensive, we will follow our friends’ leads in these circumstances.
    2. Free coffee from work and gifts will be accepted (please note: gifts are ALWAYS accepted).
    3. I expect this list will grow as we discover limitations to our plan.

    1. I love discount clothing shopping and in order to indulge this vice I went to an outlet mall in the states and shopped me some great deals because I knew with my resolution I would not be able to do this for a year.
    2. I am not well researched on the topic of buying local and the resultant environmental impact but generally think it's a great idea. As I learn more I will share more and avoid getting on a soap box. Chris knows more than me, and I will try and keep him off the soap box too!

    Wish us luck! Tips on local finds welcome!!