Two hundred and ninety-seven

Canned goods

Campbell soup cans, made famous by Andy Warhol in 1962 - from hybridideas.ca

I remember when I still lived with my parents how I loved the days when mom would say we needed to go through the cupboards to collect canned goods for whichever charity was coming by to collect that week.  It was fun and hilarious to find old cans of diced tomatoes or thirteen boxes of Lipton’s soup (see post about my mom’s stockpiling habits).  And it always felt great to give the stuff away that we will never use.  It was a purging and a giving experience.

Now that I live on my own, I keep a lot less canned goods in my house.  First, there really is not that much space in Toronto apartments.  Second, I definitely don’t have the stockpiling ‘gene’ in me.  As part of my month of good deeds, though, I wanted to revisit this tradition of giving food to the food bank.  Although I gave a significant amount of money to the Daily Bread Food Bank last month, I still wanted to give non-perishable goods too.

I knew the Metro near my house has a donation bin at the exit.  I always thought I should buy a few extra things and put them in there on my way out (I am a little ashamed that I don’t do this on a regular basis already).  Yesterday I did just that.  I tried to buy healthier optioned non-perishables.  I bought soup, natural peanut butter, oatmeal, multigrain crackers, and cinnamon tea.  Sometimes when I saw an item on sale that I was buying for myself, I’d pick up a second one to put in the bin.  On the way out I emptied my one grocery bag into the donation bin.  It felt pretty good.

According to Daily Bread Food Bank’s 2011 Profile of Hunger in the GTA, the number of client visits to all food banks in the GTA was just over 1 million.  Out of those food bank clients 46% of them have not eaten for an entire day due to lack of money.  After rent and utilities, the average food bank client has only $5.67 left per day for food.  That’s not very much to eat three meals with.  That also leaves a lot of food that needs to be donated by those who have the means.  I’m glad I could help out and I’m going to try and buy at least one extra thing every time I go to the grocery store to put in the donation bin.  If everyone who can did this, there would be a lot more food to fill those over 1 million visits.

Two hundred and seventy

Black Friday and Buy Nothing Day

Two holidays that couldn’t be farther apart.  One of the biggest shopping days of the year and a protest against it.

Black Friday

From the Huffington Post slideshow: "Black Friday Sales: The Funniest Faces In The Frenzy" (click on image to see rest of slideshow)

One of the biggest shopping days of the year.  I just read on the Globe and Mail that two people were shot in armed robberies and 15 people pepper-sprayed last night and this morning during Black Friday madness.  People are serious about their shopping!  In other years shoppers have assaulted each other or even been trampled during the mad rush to get into the stores (one 34-year old employee of Walmart was trampled to death in New York in 2008).

Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving in America (and in recent years starting the night before, or very early in the morning), where retailers offer huge discounts on items and turn a profit, or go “in the black”.  It is said to be the start of the Christmas shopping season.  People line up for hours to get the best deals.  A little too claustrophobic for me!

Many Ontarians head south of the border for the good deals, often spending the night and making a mini-vacation out of it to avoid duty and taxes.  There is a push, though, to keep consumers in Canada.  Many Canadian companies are also offering Black Friday discounts today and this weekend.  I did a little video I mentioned yesterday for the Toronto Star and a photo shoot for a photographer friend of mine, to promote local shopping.

Me modeling for the Toronto Star - photo by Keith Beaty

Buy Nothing Day

Buy Nothing Day is an international day of protest against consumerism, over-consumption and the extreme amount of waste that comes along with this.  Started by Vancouver artist Ted Dave in 1992, it was promoted by Canadian magazine Adbusters and now has campaigns in over 65 countries.  It is typically celebrated the same day as Black Friday in North America and the following day internationally.

This year Adbusters has combined their efforts of the Occupy Movement with Buy Nothing Day events.  #OccupyXmas will “put the breaks on rabid consumerism for 24 hours… Historically, Buy Nothing Day has been about fasting from hyper consumerism – a break from the cash register and reflecting on how dependent we really are on conspicuous consumption. On this 20th anniversary of Buy Nothing Day, we take it to the next level, marrying it with the message of #occupy…”  Events include mall sit-ins, consumer fasts, credit card cut-ups, and whirl-marts (participants silently steer their shopping carts around a shopping mall or store in a long, baffling conga line without putting anything in the carts or actually making any purchases).

 If you don’t want to go to that extreme, but still want to participate in Buy Nothing Day, then just buy nothing for the day.  As BuyNothingDay.orgputs it: “If we buy nothing for just one day, perhaps we’ll realize the true value of watching HOW we spend.” And as Adbusters puts it, it “isn’t just about changing your habits for one day” but “about starting a lasting lifestyle commitment to consuming less and producing less waste.”So, two different holidays with completely opposite views on the same day.  Buy lots to support the businesses.  Or buy nothing to support the environment. (A little more complicated than that, but you understand)  

Two hundred and twenty-one

The question from my friend Chris:

“Have you found any places that actually say what these toxins are? I’ve wondered about ‘detoxes’but haven’t been able to track down anywhere that has actual evidence of these toxins, or that your kidneys and liver can’t remove them naturally.”

What information I could find to answer:

Sifting through the sometimes conflicting and vague information about detoxes on the internet has been a bit of a challenge.  It seems that research about the chemicals and toxins that are absorbed into are bodies are at the preliminary stages.  But from what I can figure out, are bodies have been absorbing harmful toxins since birth.  Some of these toxins come up the food chain and we ingest them (why a vegan diet can be consider a form of detox or eating organic fruit and vegetables).  Some are contained in the products we use everyday – like nonstick pans, shampoo, cleaners, flame-retardants in airplanes or on the mattress you sleep on.  Some have been passed on from our mothers during pregnancy and breast feeding.

These chemicals range in how harmful they can be and depend on the amount of them in your system.  Some are naturally removed by your liver, but an excess of toxins can cause your system to work over-time and not be able to cleanse properly, having the chemicals stay.  A detox helps this process of cleansing.

I asked a friend of mine who studied naturopathy and is an advocate of cleanses and only using natural, organic products.  She sent me the link to Renew Life: “This company specializes in cleansing and other daily health products like fibre, probiotics, good fat….they also have this great product called Intestinew.  Great for anyone who has had long-term digestive problems.  Anyway, they’re my favourate cleanse company, they cover specific cleanse and educate stores that carry them in detail.”  Taking a Stand on Toxins covers many of the toxins found in everyday products we use and discusses the process of biomonitoring currently being used by a number of organizations to map the effects of toxicity throughout the world.  She also sent me Detoxification: Mainstream Medicine’s Blindspot, highlighting the reasons to use a detox.

I also found What is a Body Burden on chemicalbodyburden.org – very informative of the burden our body takes being exposed to harmful chemicals since birth.

My favourite article and worth a read if you have time, is The Pollution Within by David Ewing Duncan at National Geographic.  Duncan had himself tested for 320 chemicals he “might have picked up from food, drink, the air I breathe, and the products that touch my skin—my own secret stash of compounds acquired by merely living.”  The article covers a lot of the topics concerning our ‘body burden’ and how his blood tests reveal many of the chemicals he’s come in contact with from when he was a child to present. (And he refers to himself as “journalist-as-guinea-pig”, a term I can relate to!)

Duncan also suggests there may be a link to the rise in certain illnesses recently:

Yet even though many health statistics have been improving over the past few decades, a few illnesses are rising mysteriously. From the early 1980s through the late 1990s, autism increased tenfold; from the early 1970s through the mid-1990s, one type of leukemia was up 62 percent, male birth defects doubled, and childhood brain cancer was up 40 percent. Some experts suspect a link to the man-made chemicals that pervade our food, water, and air. There’s little firm evidence. But over the years, one chemical after another that was thought to be harmless turned out otherwise once the facts were in.

He goes on to state specific cases and might answer more of the questions of where chemicals are coming from.

I know this is a bit of a tangent from being vegan, but I’m interested to find out the reasons why my body reacts in certain ways.  I’m always in the frame of mind that I’d rather know and knowledge is power (and makes it less scary – this applies to all cases but the porn cinema I went to during Out of My Comfort Zone month!).  This is what I learned: by my elimination of meat and dairy from my diet and generally eating less processed chemical-filled foods by doing this, my organs are finally able to catch up and are expelling the chemicals from my system resulting in the headaches and fatigue (I’m also slightly allergic to dairy, like many people are, which also explains the detox symptoms).

In the larger picture, from what I understand, although going on a detox can help in the short-term, trying to limit our chemical intake in the long-term is more important.  We should be paying more attention to what products we are using and consuming.  I don’t think everyone will go on a vegan diet or do a cleanse (actually I’m positive none of my family will ever do that), but I do think everyone should read the labels of products more often and learn what chemicals are surrounding them outside and inside of their bodies every day and try to minimize those.

I hope that sort of answered your question Chris!

Day nine

Amazing Shoppers Drug Mart shop today!  I usually can’t go in there without spending $50 on things I don’t need.

This is what I bought today (and what I saved!):

Gillette Sensor Razors – regularly $10.99, on sale for $7.99, plus $2 off coupon = $5.99 (I actually had to buy the guy razors because of my coupon, but they can’t be that different from the girl ones, right?)
Advil Tablets – I forgot to check, but I think they are regularly around $5, on sale for $3.99, plus $2 off coupon I got online that expired today = $1.99
Degree antiperspirant – regularly approximately $5 (I forgot to check too), on sale for $3.49, plus $0.50 off coupon given to me by my friend Sarah = $2.99
Lindt Petits Desserts – regularly $5.49, plus manager coupon found in store for $2 off = $3.49

I also had a $20 off gift card/coupon that I got for free a couple of weeks ago for using my Shoppers Optimum Card (their loyalty points card) and spending over $50 (Shoppers has many deals like that if you use your card – including bonus points, free gas cards, gift cards to restaurants, etc.  Keep your eyes out for the deals in their weekly flyer.  They are usually only available for one of two days and you have to spend a minimum amount to get the deal.)  I used this $20 to buy things I didn’t have coupons for, but needed or wanted (in the case of the chocolate):

2 x Oasis Orange Juice – on sale for 2 for $5 = $5
Brown eggs – $2.99 (Shoppers has great prices for eggs, although they don’t have free range eggs which concerns me as I don’t enjoy eating tons of hormones – but if I want eggs this month I just have to suck it up and eat these!) = $2.99
Nativa Organic Chocolate Bars – regularly $2.79 each, on sale for 2 for $4 = $4
Birthday card for my friend – $3.69 = $3.69

Total before savings including tax: approximately $47.44 (approximately because I don’t know the exact before-sale prices of some of the items)

What I paid after sales, coupons and $20 off free gift card: $13.86!

Total savings: $33.58!

Yay!

On a relevant note, I got my Cineplex Scene card in the mail today.  It’s Cineplex’s rewards program that you can earn points for free movies, music, and other things online at scene.ca.  You get a hundred points for every movie ticket you buy, and with 1,000 points you get a free movie ticket – that’s one free movie every ten tickets you buy.  And you get 10% off concessions (which is great, because movie concessions are so ridiculously over-priced!).  It’s free to join too.  I sound like I’m on their publicity team, but I really am excited about it.

If you generally shop at the same places, loyalty cards are great ways to get free things.  And everyone loves free things!

Day three

Success!  I made it through my first shopping trip of extreme couponing month!  Last night I made of list of things that I needed that I had coupons for and looked online at flyers to see which stores around me had the best deal.  I figured out that you can use a coupon on a sale item, so the best thing to do is find out where the product is on sale or which store offers the best price and go there to use your coupon.

My first stop was Walmart.  I really do hate Walmart – all the people, the lineups, the horrible fluorescent lights, the fact that I’m supporting a giant corporation – but they had a couple of great deals that I could use my coupons for.  I had a coupon for a free 325mL bottle of Vaseline Intensive Care Lotion I ordered from save.ca and one for a free bottle of Clairol Nice ‘n Easy Foam hair dye that i got for “like”ing their Facebook page (a lot of companies are giving out free products for becoming a fan of their company’s facebook so keep your eye out).  Then I also had a coupon for 75 cents off pasta that was only $1.47 to begin with.  So I spent 72 cents total on three products worth $14.41!  Pretty good I must say, although the experience itself was far less satisfying.  The cashier took ten minutes looking at the coupons, ringing the items through, voiding some of them, and looking me up and down.  The man waiting behind me was shooting daggers with his eyes through the back of my head.  I ended up with three receipts – one for each product – and a flushed face from all the evil looks being sent my way.  I couldn’t have left Walmart any faster.

My second stop, Metro, was a little better.  I had nine coupons, a plan of attack, and found a couple of extra coupons from tearpads in the store (who knew these were there – I have never noticed a tearpad before!). I saved $7.50 on a $37.83 bill, which is pretty good considering a few of the items were also on sale.  And I had to stop myself many times from picking up random items and throwing them in my cart, which I think saved me the most money!  Going to the checkout ran much smoother than Walmart, especially because it was the late afternoon and there was no one waiting behind me in line.   However, I was still a little embarrassed to be handing the cashier a small wad of coupons.  I better get over this fear, as I have a long month ahead of me if I don’t!