The Mindful Merchant

Shop – Eat – Live – Mindfully

Two Green book Suggestions December 17, 2009



Looking for a little green inspiration for 2010?  I received two great gifts last year that you might want to check out.  These books are suited for someone thinking about making greener changes in their life, or already trying. These are NOT suggestions for a anyone that has eliminated toilet paper, lives off the grid, and grows their own food.  Just sayin’




My first suggestion is “Sleeping Naked is Green” by Vanessa Farquharson, a reporter for the National Post. It is a funny and self-deprecating account of her attempt at making one green change every day for a year. This diary style paperback is suited for women…my husband would call this a ‘girly’ book because Vanessa happens to fall in love during the process. I laughed my way through this book.  Some of the changes are silly, but I suspect that comes from having to think of 365 days of green ideas. Many of Vanessa’s ideas are inspiring, realistic and attainable for the average person. (Except eliminating toilet paper…that one I cannot wrap my head around yet.) Unlike many green books, this one is cheerful and makes you want to make changes, even if it is in small ways. If you like a little entertainment with your education then this is a book for you.






bookCoverCan My second suggestion is another Canadian book with what I suspect has the longest book title in the world. It is “Your Guide to the most environmentally friendly information, products and services in Canada – ECOHOLIC [When you’re addicted to the planet]” by Adria Vasil. She is a writer for NOW magazine. The layout is similar to many green guides, food, beauty, clothes, gardening, cleaning, baby products, and pet sections. More examples of topics include eco-tourism, rebates for your home, ethical investing, renovating and even greening your sex life. Oh yeah!

What makes this book stand out is it provides research, background information with vocabulary explanations, and a detailed  provincial green resource guide.  I like that her research includes Canadian facts and statistics. I also love the helpful tips provided for every topic. This is a good book for anyone trying to make smart environmentally friendly changes.

Boy I wish I had it when my children were born. I find it hard to read some sections without guilt. Adria’s writing is cheeky, but the startling information, health concerns and environmental realities keep me awake some nights. What can I say?  I am a worrywart.  Be assured this is not a ‘You suck and we are all going to die negative-angry-finger-pointing book’.  It is more of a ‘This is the reality/concern; and here is better eco-friendly, healthy suggestions you can try’ kind of read. Ecoholic is an excellent resource book that every home should have.




If you are looking for a green book to inspire you for 2010, a green gift idea, or a good read over the holidays these are my picks.    Happy reading!






Laundry Loyalty October 29, 2009



Last summer my cousin-in-law Gregor asked me to suggest a good environmentally friendly laundry detergent. I could not.  (Cue the sad violin music)  I have been experimenting with many natural laundry soaps and have dull looking t-shirts and a linen cupboard full of faded towels to show for it. This slow search made worse by the fact that I always had to finish a product, even though it was a dud. My frugal side always wins in these situations. Dull clothes < spending money. Frugal runs in my family.

We have two busy, sporty, messy children. Did I mention they are girls? This means multiple wardrobe changes per day. I also have a sporty, messy, sweaty husband who fashions his gym workouts after Lou Ferigno. (don’t ask)  Me? Well, let us just say I am in the midst of a natural deodorant experiment that is not going well. I think you have a clear understanding of my qualifications and expertise with laundry. I live laundry. I know laundry.

Here are the criteria I am looking for in a laundry detergent. It has to be safe for my family, non-toxic, phosphate free, cruelty free, environmentally responsible and effective. Many companies comply with most of that long list…however it was hard to find one that really got our clothes clean.

My sister-in-law Tig introduced me to Seventh Generation Natural 2x Concentrated Laundry Liquid during a visit this summer. It is suitable for high efficiency washers as well as standard machines. She uses the Free & Clear detergent and likes it because it is hypo allergenic as well as non-toxic and biodegradable. It is free of phosphates and optical brighteners and does a very good job. I became a fan after using it for the week.   Since that visit, I tried the Seventh Generation 2x Ultra with Blue Eucalyptus and Lavender scent but have found the White Flower & Bergamot Citrus to be my pick of the bunch. I like my laundry to have a light subtle fragrance…and this one is my favourite.

I just love the company slogan quoted on all Seventh Generation Products “In our every deliberation we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations” Wise words. Marketing aside, it is worth mentioning that for over 20 years this company has been committed to manufacturing safe, environmentally responsible products for the home. In an industry where cleaning products are unregulated, Seventh Generation is one of a few companies that provide detailed product information on packaging, the web and brochures. We should question any “green” product that does not share any information about its ingredients.

Now Gregor and Cindy (a friend who recently asked)  know where my laundry loyalty lies. Please try to conserve water and only run full loads. Switching your laundry soap is a good step to keeping toxic chemicals out of the environment.




let’s Dish September 13, 2009


I would rather pick cat hair off our old wingback chair than wash dishes. I really dislike washing dishes. Yes, I have tried using protective gloves but wearing them gives me the willies. I consider the clean up involved when choosing a meal for my family. Roast beef? Forget about it! I cringe at the thought of scrubbing the pan after that cooking process. Luckily, my husband is great about helping in the dish department. Love ya honey!

I have stumbled upon an all-natural dish soap that I am happy to use in our home. Another excellent product by NatureClean called Mandarin & Grapefruit Dishwashing Liquid. It has a nice fragrance without being overbearing in a migraine inducing way. It is non-toxic, and manufactured without dyes, phosphates or, parabens. Fantastic!

One of my big complaints with natural dishwashing liquid is the lack or absence of bubbles. Despite being SLS, (sodium laureth sulphate) free this product manages to produce an ample amount of bubbles in the sink. SLS is an ingredient often found in soap, detergents and shampoos.  It is a suspected carcinogen. Although there is contradictory information regarding the health effects of  SLS, I have decided to avoid it, when possible.

Ingredients aside, this is a good product.  Bonus – it is a Canadian company!  You can buy it at health food stores, big supermarkets across Canada or or on line.  It does a super job on dirty pots and pans…and yes, it even works on a Sunday dinner roasting pan.

Now what to cook for dinner tonight…



Mrs. Meyers I want to be your friend August 31, 2009

MM_LEM_APC_72[1] I recently professed my love for Mrs. Meyers Surface Scrub.  One day my pal Heather gave me a present.  She knew how much I liked the Surface Scrub and surprised me with a  bottle of Mrs. Meyers All-Purpose Cleaner lemon verbena scent. (vacelmpt)  Isn’t that thoughtful?  

I was happy to try another product from this company.  It is  non-toxic, all natural, and very effective. Mrs. Meyers, you know your stuff girlfriend!  It does a great job all around the house, not just the kitchen. It makes everything smell fresh, clean and lovely. I especially like to use it to clean after cooking something pungent because it helps get rid of the smell.

I like the big 946 ml (32 fl oz) concentrate. Just recycle the Mrs. Meyers Countertop Spray Bottle or another bottle of choice; add a small amount or concentrate and fill with water. For heavy duty cleaning you can use it full strength. I have not found a need for that since the diluted cleaner does such a good job. It might seem pricey at first glance, but it will last forever. Armed with the All Purpose Cleaner and the Surface Scrub I can clean most of my house top to bottom without a lot of fuss. I should mention that all Mrs. Meyers Products are cruelty free. 

There are still other products from this company to try but so far, I am a fan. Mrs. Meyers, I invite you to come for tea sometime. You can meet my friend Heather…call first please so I can tidy.



FanTABulous! August 30, 2009


I am a sucker for labels, logos and hopeful Zen-like inspirational quotes on the packaging. There are many reasons to mock that statement, so go right ahead. I am starting to smarten up about that.

One of the many problems with mindless shopping is that I ended up with dishwasher tabs that were very ineffective, unhealthy (containing toxic chemicals) all under the guise of being “environmentally friendly and green”.  You cannot convince me that the neon pink tabs that smell like Asian pears and Patchouli in a big pretty plastic tub is good for me, or the environment. I will not tell you how many times I rewashed our coffee and tea mugs after they had a turn in the dishwasher.  This carried on until useless detergent purchases were finally finished. Boy those were bitter days. What a waste of water, energy and time.

Luckily, my green-goddess-sister-in-law Tig listened to me rant (because that’s what dear friends do) and suggested a product that is a winner. A company called Ecover makes very effective dish tabs. All packaging can be recycled and it cleans our teacups the first time round. No harsh chemicals, no heavy perfumes, biodegradable, and safe for septic systems too. I try not to run the dishwasher every day, but when I do, I use Ecover dish tabs. If you are looking for a good green alternative, I think you might like them.



We all have a “thing”…don’t we? August 15, 2009

MM_LEM_Scr_72[1] I have an amazing, wonderful, loving Mother…bless her heart. My Mum has a “thing” with toilet bowls. The day of my sister’s wedding, we realized she was missing for the photos. I found her looking beautiful in Mother-of-the-bride blue, emotional and a wee bit stressed, scrubbing a toilet. Perhaps it is best not to analyze… but from that day forward, I realized Mum really appreciates a clean crapper.

One of my “things” is a clean, sparkly kitchen sink. I like the sun to shine into the sink and blind anyone that passes by. I even use an old toothbrush to get into little crevices around the drain (oddly satisfying, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it). One natural, safe and effective way to clean a sink is baking soda. However, another one of my “things” is that I like something to smell good after I have cleaned it. All that hard work should result in a fresh lovely scent in my opinion.

My sister in law Tig introduced me to a great environmentally friendly product line called Mrs. Meyers. I find the Lemon Verbena Surface Scrub to be not only effective, it smells like a breezy summer day (in a retro looking shaker can). It does a good job, a little goes a long way, and my kitchen sink smells fresh and clean. Shiny, sparkly and satisfying. There are a multitude of uses for this product. Any time something calls for a little scouring action (stained tile grout, hardened ketchup on the counter etc.) I haul out the Mrs. Meyers and gently scrub the nastiness away. It works on nasty pots and pans and I once used it to get sun baked bird poop off patio furniture.

The instructions say “If you are facing a difficult stain, sprinkle our powdered scrub on a wet surface, lightly scrub and let sit for a few minutes. Make yourself a cup of coffee, finish reading the paper and then return for a final scrub. Your worries & stains will disappear.”

She speaks the truth. What a wise woman!



Stain in the Butt August 12, 2009

OxyStainRemover I think it only fitting to start with the most recent drama in my life…stain removal.    Now that I no longer use the standard brand names for conquering stains, our laundry has suffered…big time.  I have been experimenting with many of the natural, environmentally friendly stain removers on the market only to be very irritated at the money wasted on products that were ineffective. I expect “green” products to do the job I need them to do, like getting rid of big grass stain knees – and yes, I had tomato sauce for lunch, thanks for noticing.  For years, I have found comfort in the mantra “People will not judge me, or my child, by the spots on our clothing…it’s what’s INSIDE that counts”.   Well…whatever works.

Recently my daughter celebrated her birthday.   Six little girls, pottery and cake were the highlights.  I chose to wear white cotton Capri’s and felt great about the wardrobe selection.  By the time festivities were over the Capri’s were spotted with clay, chocolate and some odd coloured stain I sat in and frankly, do not want to identify.  With cautious optimism, I picked up a new laundry enhancer/spot remover hoping for a miracle.

Read the instructions and made a paste with water and the powder. (I recommend wearing gloves as the mixture got disconcertedly warm in my bare hands)  Let it sit for an hour then ran it through the regular cycle with a few extra scoops thrown in for good luck. Voila – good as new!  These past few days I’ve tested the product on really old, set-in stains and have been doing the fist pump shouting “YEAH!” when I retrieve laundry from the washer.  Call me crazy, but this makes me happy.

I hope that you have a neater lifestyle than I do.   If you are in need of a stain remover and are interested in going the “green route”, I have had good luck with this one…Nature Clean Oxy Stain Remover.  Bonus – it’s a Canadian product!