Guilty Pleasure: Paper Towel


One of the items I’ve been having a hard time giving up are paper towels. I will use it for all kinds of things and go through several sheets a day. One of the things I use it for frequently is as a napkin.

My family used almost exclusively cloth napkins at home when I was growing up. I like them because they tend to be a lot more sturdy and useful than paper ones and definitely look a lot nicer on a table than paper ones. I know there are some arguments about whether they are actually greener because you still have to wash them which uses water and electricity (unless you’re like my parents, in which case propane).

According to this blog at least though, cloth napkins still use less energy and resources than paper napkins (even recycled ones). As I will be graduating and moving soon I think I may have to wait until I reach my new destination to invest in cloth napkins (the less stuff I have to move right now, the better), but it would be nice to have a cloth option again. Hopefully it will help me cut down on my frequency of use for paper towels, and maybe it would even encourage me to keep up with my laundry more.



Practicality of Green

So one of the things I’ve found as I try to buy more thoughtfully is that I don’t always get the same usefulness out of the products.

A good example so far is groceries. I’ve been trying to buy larger and more local products, especially in produce. I can get bagged apples and carrots from maritime sources and have switched to buying whole mini hams instead of sliced deli ham to reduce processing and packaging. Unfortunately, buying more bulk quantities means that I’m not always able to use everything before it goes bad. I only cook for myself so there’s no real need for me to buy so much, though the smaller quantities are more processed and not always as local. I haven’t been able to figure out how to adjust my food purchases in a way that reduces the environmental impact while at the same time providing me with the right amount of food.

On the other side, I have found buying more “green” general house products has been fairly beneficial overall. I mentioned the dish soap in the previous post, but I have had positive experiences with other things as well. Just yesterday I went to buy some new toilet paper and was glad to see that there was a budget green option for it instead of just name brands. There’s an option here called “Green” (or “Vert” for the French) which is made by President’s Choice. It is more expensive than non-green products, but still cheaper than name brand green options. What I liked about this one was that is 100% from recycled sources. I’ve been learning a lot lately about the issues with various “stamps of approval” and thought going for a straight recycled product would help cut out some of the issues with misrepresentations. I’ve also been very glad to see cheaper green options becoming more widely available.

So far changing my buying habits has had some unexpected consequences, but hasn’t broken my budget either which is encouraging. I’m looking forward to seeing what other green products I’ll be able to purchases in the future.


Product Review – Clorox Green Works Dishwashing Liquid

IMG_8528I didn’t imagine I would be writing this when I first bought this product, but I’d like to share my experience so far with Green Work’s Dishwashing Liquid.

Clorox’s Green Works dishwashing liquid was one of the few more environmentally friendly options (and personally I remember it being the only greener option, though maybe I just didn’t look hard enough) available at my small Save Easy grocery store.


It wasn’t available in a bottle that was as large as others but when when compared across price per mL it was only slightly more expensive. It claims to be 98% “naturally-derived” (though, as many other blogs have pointed out, this is an undefined, unregulated term) and the ingredients list does do a good job at making you feel like you can understand what’s contained in it. They definitely want you to know that it’s a Clorox product too, with the brand prominently on the front and mentioned several times on the back. They do have a minor spelling mistake on the label though where they say “Not be tested on animals”. It also has an endorsement icon on the back from “U.S. EPA – Recognized for Safer Chemistry” (not pictured). The packaging is also recyclable.

I hadn’t realized until I was thinking about buying this product that I too had been conditioned to think that “green” products might not be as effective as others. I worried that it wouldn’t clean my dishes properly, and since my roommate and I frequently cook meals from scratch we tend to have a lot of dishes, pots, and pans that need to be scrubbed. I bought it to help work through the idea that I “couldn’t afford” to be green as a student, and I have to say, about half a bottle in, I’m glad that I did.

My previous choice had honestly been the cheapest, biggest, off-brand, “lavender”-scented, purple dishwashing soap. In my use of it though, I feel like the Green Works product has worked a lot better. I haven’t been going through it as fast as I thought I would as you don’t need as much to get the dishes clean as the other product I was using and the dishes come out very clean. Personally, I find there’s also less residue on the dishes and pans too. Overall, I’ve been impressed with the quality of the usefulness of the product. Though, some of this might just be the difference between buying cheap soap and name brand soap.

I’ve done some research about it online, and it is generally considered a better environmental alternative to regular soaps, though there are still some concerns about it. Some of their “naturally derived” ingredients, such as coconut oil and corn based inputs have issues with unsustainable farming practices for example.

As a company, Clorox appears to be competing against other companies such as Seventh Generation on the basis of both price and mainstream brand equity. Green Works is sold at a lower price than its main competitors in the green market and prominently features its parent company, which has a strong mainstream affinity. There was issues of trusting the brand however when it first came out because it was from Clorox, but it appears to be more widely accepted now.

I think Clorox holds a very interesting position where it can not only cater to those who want to be “green”, those who want to be green but can’t or won’t pay a whole lot extra for it (like me), and those who are more mainstream customers not necessarily focused on being green but could be pulled into the green market with a strong brand they recognize. Seventh Generation’s CEO was quoted as saying he welcomed increasing competition because he felt it was the only way for the industry segment to increase in size and attract more customers.

Overall, I would probably buy Green Works products again, and more seriously consider other greener options for cleaners as well now too. Which I suppose makes me the ideal customer in some ways for Clorox (repeat buyer, long customer lifetime potential, willing to recommend to others, etc.) but I’ll try to put my business courses away for now and enjoy the product.

If anything, I think I would recommend that people do spend the little bit extra and try buying a “green” cleaner of whatever kind they need from whatever brand they think would be good. I definitely think its worth a try, even if it is just to start to dispel some of our own hangups about green products.


Pros and Cons of Tangibility

I’m a fairly tactile learner, and while there are still plenty of textbooks to buy for my courses, there’s a fair amount of required reading that is virtual. Mainly journal articles, new paper reports, etc.

I do support using less paper by making things more virtual but when it comes to things I need to read for school, it’s hard to give up the tangibility of being able to highlight and mark comments on real paper. I don’t find I keep track of my thoughts as well without having the kind of interaction you get with being able to circle, mark, highlight, draw, etc. on the text itself. I do like to use editable PDFs of articles when possible, but not all come in such a useful format, so when it comes to studying the temptation to print out my 10 to 20 page articles out is pretty high. I also just finally got new printer ink which isn’t helping.

I wonder if there will be any widely available technology soon that begins to bridge the gap a little closer between tangible and intangible reading. I suppose at some point tablets will become as common as laptops which might make even textbooks start to disappear from school backpacks. Right now though, I am really not sure if it’s technology that needs to adapt more to my needs or I need to learn how to adapt to more modern processes. I think for tonight I’ll try to be a bit greener and adapt to technology.



Sunset from the Train

– Sunset from the Train: Water, Mountains, and Urban Living Merged

So I recently got back from a school trip to Japan. I was taking classes there for a week as part of an international exchange program. This was an amazing trip in so many way, but there are definitely some sustainability aspects that I feel are noteworthy.

This was probably a low point in my own personal sustainability. I took six flights to get there and back and throughout the trip had to eat mostly prepackaged food, whether on the airplanes or when I got there. I flew mainly Air Canada this time and noticed that their food offering didn’t seem to include as many recyclable and reusable parts as Air France had. Also, the flight from Tokyo to Osaka was definitely not full which is a bit of a waste of capacity (I found out later on that there are constant flights between Tokyo and Osaka and some people actually use it as a way to commute to work if they don’t have to go to work every day, the flight is about an hour long).

Some differences between India and Japan:

  • Street trash: Most all aspects of Japan seemed very clean. Their was very little garbage anywhere that I could see, and lots of sorted garbage bins around, unlike India where there seemed to be little organized trash collection and lots of trash in the streets.
  • Electricity use: One of the things I found surprising was that my hotel in Japan didn’t have the light switch card reader feature (where you put your room key into a slot in the hallway and it turns on the power to your room) which my room in India had. I found it was actually fairly difficult to remember to turn off all the lights before I left because our room, especially when I was in a hurry and I wonder how much more electricity is lost without using one of these kinds of systems. I also wonder if it’s because of India’s inconsistent and limited electricity that they would have more safe guards set up around it than in Japan where I imagine electricity access is not an issue.
  • Food: Obviously there were more places like groceries stores and convenience stores to get food from in Japan than in India where I saw mostly open stalls or small specialty stores. I found though even when I was buying food at the grocery store in Japan, and especially in the convenience store, that there seemed to be a lot of packaging in Japanese food. There were a lot smaller portion sizes and snack packs and just various other products that had layers of packaging. Indian food did not seem as prepacked, though that isn’t necessarily a good thing either food-safety wise.

While there were cars in Japan, the public transportation seemed very good and most people don’t seem to own cars. We were able to use public transportation or walk where we needed to go most all of the time we were there but did use private buses for airport transportation and class field trips. I know it must get old pretty quick, but I really liked the 10-15 minute walk to school in the mornings, it was really refreshing, especially since the weather felt like a crisp fall day most of the time. The air quality felt clean too, as opposed to India where it could be a lot more dusty and smokey.

One of the things that struck me the most, and this might just have been my lack of experience in more metropolitan type areas, but there seemed to be so. much. shopping. I had honestly never seen shopping malls so big, and such large department stores (we went to an 8 story department store called Loft in Umeda which seemed to have anything you could possibly want that would fit in your house except clothing and food). It seemed like everything was for sale (Star Wars light saber chop sticks anyone?). I got a really distinctive impression that at least the area I was in was very consumption focused.

The things I did while I was there to help limit my impact were things like walking to school instead of taking the bus, buying groceries at the grocery store instead of eating out or getting food at the convenience stores and trying to limit my gift purchases and buy locally made products.

The whole trip was pretty amazing though and the people I got to get to know while I was there were great. I am very glad I got to go.

But now I’m back in one place again for the next couple months so that should help with improving my sustainability efforts.