Go Vegan! For the Planet

Over the last two years at Grassroots, we’ve had several vegan converts amongst the staff. It was kind of inevitable. Our store manager Magenta has been vegan since the 90’s, and she just makes such a convincing case for it! I came around to the idea in the fall of 2014 and was followed in short order by former omnivore Kayla and longtime vegetarian Linda. Our reasons were carefully considered, and I’d like to share some of them with you today.

The Vegan Society defines veganism as “a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.” This is a good example of the animal rights perspective, which is probably the best known reason for ditching animal-based products. It’s definitely an important one for us Grassroots vegans. Simply put, we believe that animals are beings with a right to life, and since we can live happily and healthily without harming animals…let’s do that!

Go Vegan!

Source: Cowspiracy

If that doesn’t feel right for you, there’s another perspective: that of the Climate Vegan. Climate Vegan is an organization in Toronto that works to raise awareness that “the most impactful way to combat the climate crisis, the biggest threat to our planet, is to adopt a vegan whole foods plant based lifestyle.” An increasing number of people are choosing plant-based diets for this reason. Animal agriculture requires a ton of resources that our planet is ill-equipped to offer, especially given world population and consumption rates. From Climate Vegan’s site, here’s a breakdown of a vegan’s daily environmental impact:

Each day, a person who eats a vegan diet saves:

  • 1,100 gallons of water
  • 45 pounds of grain
  • 30 sq ft of forested land
  • 20 lbs CO2 equivalent
  • 1 animal’s life


Interested in learning more? Watch a documentary like Cowspiracy (available on Netflix!) and check out sites like Climate Vegan, Consider Veganism, and The Vegan R.D. When you’re ready to get cooking, try recipes from blogs like Simple Veganista or Oh She Glows. And don’t forget to stop by your library and borrow one of my go-to’s like Veganomicon, Get It Ripe, or for nutritional information, Vegan for Life.

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Send a Valentine – In the Mail

This time last year, I made the case for a broader definition of the valentine. I argued that Valentine’s Day is an opportunity to let anyone and everyone in your life know that they matter. I gave you some gift ideas too – if you missed it, click here.

I still stand behind my everyone’s-a-valentine statement. But this year I have a new (old) idea for you: send out valentines. I mean, actual, physical, paper valentines. I mean, mail them. Yeah, it might sound old-fashioned, but that’s precisely what makes it special.


The mailboxes at Danforth and Chester love you!

Not too many people write letters anymore. I can’t really blame them; email and social media make it so easy to stay in touch without stamps and paper. Most of us are used to checking the mail and finding only bills and flyers – Grassroots’ “No Junk Mail” stickers have never been more popular. So imagine what a thrill it would be to receive a hand-written note for Valentine’s Day!


ChocoSol has adorable new Valentine’s Day labels.

It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. The gift you’re giving is letting loved ones know that you took time out of your day to sit down and tell them why they’re special to you. You can make a card, buy a (plantable) card, or just write a letter on lined paper. If you feel a little nervous about what to write, just be honest! Think of three things that you love about the person you’re writing to. It doesn’t have to be super deep, either. “Your hair is gorgeous!” would make a lot of folks just as happy as “You’re so generous and kind.” Think of it kind of like a thank-you card for being awesome. (And of course, a little chocolate never hurts.)

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What We Love: Locally Made

locally madeIt’s been mighty cold and windy of late. Let’s warm up (our hearts, anyway) and talk about all those locally made things that we love. First up is Matter Company. These geniuses are based in the GTA and offer several lines of natural body care products, including mom favourite Butterfly Weed. Matter’s facial care line in particular is gorgeous, filled with simple plant-based goodies to cleanse, tone, and moisturize your mug. Lately I’ve been obsessed with their Neroli facial mist, which smells like heaven. It really does the trick for calming down redness and irritation, plus it makes my moisturizer absorb better.



locally madeSigrid Naturals is another skincare saviour, with a line of moisturizers and creams that will blow your mind. Sigrid and her team wild harvest and grow powerful plants and herbs, in addition to keeping honeybees. All of this leads to beautiful creations like the Nurture Nature face cream and the Calendula Healing Ointment. Nurture Nature is a light, unscented shea butter based moisturizer that’s a real treat for any skin type, though I recommend it most often for extra senstive skin. The Calendula Healing Ointment is just plain magic. Anything that makes you go ouch is easily fixed with a swipe of this stuff; it speeds healing and, in my experience, helps prevent scarring too!


locally madeMoving beyond skin care, Buncha Farmers is an Ontario business that does soap better than anyone else. Their Manuka honey hand soaps are amazing, but my number one will always be their stain remover stick. It easily erases any “mishaps,” and since it smells like eucalyptus and litsea cubeba, it makes laundry feel like less of a chore. I’ve seen this work on blood, ink, bike grease, and even turmeric. I don’t know why other stain removers even exist anymore.




locally madeLast, but definitely not least, is natural cream deodorant by Purely Great. This is our best-selling deodorant and a staff favourite, too. Based in Peterborough, Ontario, Purely Great uses baking soda, corn starch, vegetable glycerine, and essential oil blends to keep us all smelling fresh. The citrus scent is a big hit, but lavender and patchouli aren’t far behind. As if all that wasn’t enough, it’s all packaged in reusable glass jars too.

What are your tried-and-true locally made products?

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Zero Waste Living

Remember the three R’s? “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” There’s a movement that takes them even further, promoting zero waste living. My introduction to zero waste was Bea Johnson’s fantastic blog, Zero Waste Home. Bea take the three R’s and expands them, adding two more: Refuse, and Rot (compost). Her tips come from years of practicing zero waste living with her family, and her story is truly inspiring. If you’d like to try it out, we can help!

At Grassroots, there are lots of ways we encourage zero waste living. One way is giving you the opportunity to “Refuse.” We have a policy of not printing paper receipts unless they are requested. We always ask if a receipt is needed, rather than wasting paper and cluttering up your wallet! We offer paperless receipts via email, for people who need a record of their purchase but want to go paper-free.

zero waste

We also encourage folks to bring their own re-usable shopping bags. For people who may have forgotten theirs at home, rather than offer new plastic bags we give used grocery and shopping bags that have been donated to us. (Or you could always pick up one of Credo’s sturdy and colourful bags, pictured above.)

zero wastezero waste

The biggest tool we offer for zero waste living, however, is our bulk section. There, you can use your own containers to re-fill things like laundry liquid, dishwashing soap, baking soda, cleaning vinegar, and more. We’ve even got shampoo and conditioner!

bulk 3

This is an easy way to reduce your consumption of plastic containers and shop local, since most of our bulk products are made in Ontario. You can bring in any container you like – mason jars are popular, but we see a lot of re-used yogourt containers too. Bring your empties to the counter first, where we’ll weigh them before filling. This ensures you’ll only pay for the weight of your soap, not your container. Once you’ve filled up, we’ll weigh them again and you’ll be on your way!

How do you do zero waste? Share your favourite tips and tricks in the comments!

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6 Natural Ways to Deal with a Cold

I’ve heard some sniffles around the shop lately. It seems that all this crazy back-and-forth weather has caused more than a few colds. In the spirit of nipping this in the bud, I thought I’d share some natural ways to deal with a cold.

6 natural ways to deal with a cold1. Go old-school. Hankies will save your nose! Disposable paper tissues chafe and irritate the skin around your nose when you’re blowing it constantly, plus they’re kind of a nightmare for the environment. Organic cotton handkerchiefs are baby-soft and can be washed and re-used for years. If you’re too sick for laundry, try to use tissues made from recycled paper.


2. Tea. So much herbal tea. All tea, all the time! I’m a fan of ginger and chamomile when I’m ill, but peppermint can be just as soothing. I shoot for about 5 or 6 cups of tea per day, plus water in between.


6 natural ways to deal with a cold3. Benefect is the best disinfectant ever. When I’m sick, this is how I keep my germs to myself and away from everyone at the store. Benefect is a thyme oil-based disinfectant that is simultaneously a hardcore germ-killer and gentle on skin. Give a spritz to your phone, keyboard, and anything else that might have picked up what you’re puttin’ down. For hands, I like a sanitizer that includes glycerine for moisture, like Dr. Bronner’s.


6 natural ways to deal with a cold

4. Speaking of Dr. Bronner’s, their peppermint castile soap is basically perfect. Since it’s made from saponified oils, it’s mild enough for frequent use without drying your hands out. Plus, the peppermint scent is really refreshing when you’re in that cold-induced brain-fog.




5. Hot, veggie-filled soup. There are lots of great recipes online, like this hot and sour soup or this slow cooker white bean soup, for minimum effort. But there’s no shame in just throwing whatever’s in the fridge into a pot! I find garlic and ginger indispensable for this kind of thing; garlic’s super healing and the heat from the ginger clears up a stuffy nose like nobody’s business. If you can enlist a roommate or significant other to cook for you, so much the better.


6 natural ways to deal with a cold6. Flax packs! Heat ‘em up or pop ‘em in the freezer, depending on what your body needs. I like them warm when I’ve got a cold, but they work wonders on a migraine when chilled. Either way, you can’t beat these li’l guys and their adorable designs.

Now go forth, my friends, and sniffle no more!

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Natural Winter Skincare

It took long enough, but winter has finally arrived. The snow was a welcome sight, the dry air and cold winds…not so much. For one thing, they wreak havoc on my skin. I turned to my fellow Grassroots-ers for advice on some natural winter skincare. Here are their secret weapons:

WSNMagenta is a huge fan of Watershed Naturals B.C. Glacial Clay mask. Her skin tends to be dry, so finding something that cleanses and exfoliates without causing irritation is important. This clay mask does the trick, and even hydrates the skin. “It made me feel like I had a whole new face!” she says.

Miriam is in love with Watershed’s other mask, the Lavender Seaweed Moisture mask. With a heavenly lavender scent and a light, jelly-like texture, it’s a great way to re-set tired winter skin. And Miriam says it’s true to its name: “It’s super moisturizing!”


natural winter skincareLinda has sensitive combination skin, so choosing the right products can be a bit of a chore for her. Her favourite night cream these days is Sigrid’s Queen Bee. A little goes a long way, and ingredients like comfrey and chamomile calm and soothe redness. Plus, says Linda, “I looooove the smell!”



natural winter skincareFor Rachael, the Herbal Lip Therapy by Priya Means Love is indispensable. She particularly likes the tinted version, which gives a subtle, buildable berry colour while protecting lips from the elements. And because the natural oils and beeswax give it great staying power, she rarely has to re-apply.




natural winter skincareJacks’ pick is Butterfly Weed’s Nappy Rash Ointment. A bit unconventional, but don’t let that put you off! The moisturizing oils and soothing extracts like marshmallow and calendula work wonders on any irritated skin. Jacks says, “It’s not just for babies’ bums. I gave some to a friend who had severe dryness around her mouth and it worked like a dream!”


Other natural winter skincare staples that received honourable mentions are hand and body lotions by Curelle and Matter, Purple Urchin’s Winter Hand Balm, and Matter’s Neroli Water Facial Mist. Did we miss any of your favourites? Let us know what gets you through the winter!

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New Year, New (Greener) Habits

One of the best things about Grassroots is that it’s a place for people at all stages of the green living journey. A lot of our regular customers have been at this for decades, and every day we meet someone just dipping their toe in the eco-friendly water. With the new year approaching, lots of people across the spectrum are looking to build new, greener habits. So today, let’s talk about the importance of baby steps.

New habits

It’s easy, in the eagerness of New Year’s resolutions, to commit to being the perfect environmentalist. This is definitely an admirable intention, but perhaps not the most productive. For starters, there’s an argument to be made for not driving yourself nuts. Setting too lofty a goal often leads to guilt and burnout. It’s important to recognize your limits and be patient while you find new ways of doing things. For most people, new habits form through slow incremental changes.

New habitsLet’s say your goal is to go completely zero waste. Rather than knock yourself out trying to change everything overnight, break it down into a few mini-goals. Studies have shown that it takes people at least one or two months to form a new habit. So tackle one mini-goal every month or two, and add a new one each time the last is conquered. Start with an easy one, like refilling your dish and laundry soap from bulk or using cloth produce bags instead of the plastic ones at the grocery store.

New habitsThen as your old things wear out, replace them with zero waste options. Instead of buying plastic food containers, reach for stainless steel. Ditch the disposable coffee cups for re-usables like insulated stainless steel, or a glass mason jar with a Cuppow lid. Did your straw-obsessed kids finally use up that box of 300 disposables? Time for some keepers in glass or stainless steel.


By breaking your eco-goals down into smaller steps, you’ll vastly improve the odds of achieving them. And you’ll be far less stressed out while you do it. Sounds like the beginning of a wonderful 2016 to me!

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Green Gift Guide: For Her

We’re getting down to the wire now…only two more sleeps until the big day! The last instalment of our green gift guide is here to help you shop for the ladies in your life. Here are our favourite gifts for her:

For herThese calendars and datebooks by We’Moon are always in high demand. We get folks in asking for them as early as August every year, and for good reason. They feature beautiful art and poetry, all created by women, and their yearly horoscopes are amazing. They’ll keep you organized all year, and they’re a beautiful keepsake too. (Magenta, our store manager, has collected them for years!)



For her

New to Grassroots this year are aromatherapy diffusers. Choose from black or white ceramic, or dark or white oak finishes. There’s a design to fit every decor! Simply fill the reservoir with water and a few drops of essential oil, and enjoy. Pick a few of her favourite scents from our selection of organic oils to go with it. Lavender is always popular, and bright citrus scents like grapefruit or sweet orange bring a little sunshine to winter days.


For herA S’well insulated water bottle will make anyone smile. Made from sturdy stainless steel, these come in a variety of colours, finishes, and sizes. The wood-effect bottles are hand-painted, and a portion of the proceeds from the sale of any S’well bottle goes towards providing clean water to people in 37 countries worldwide.



For herYou might remember Priya Means Love from our recent Meet the Makers feature. Priya’s put together some beautiful gift kits with some of her best products. The Spoiling Kit is a favourite; it includes tinted lip balm, a huge tin of Lavanilla body butter, and Priya’s fantastic Dream Salve for a little bedtime aromatherapy. If you want to create a full home spa experience, add a jar of epsom salts by Really Great Goods and some bubble bath from Aura Cacia.


For more gifts for her, check out the gift guide on our website or come on by the store!

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Green Gift Guide: For Him

Dads, brothers, sons…what do they all have in common? They’re notoriously difficult to shop for. We’ve spent years cultivating the perfect list of gifts for him, to take some of the stress out of your holiday shopping. Here are our tried-and-true gifts to surprise the guys in your life:

For Him

Shaving gear is a classic gift for him. This year, try all natural supplies from Canadian brands Just for Jack and Naturally Dapper. They’ve got everything from shaving cream to ouch balm, all gorgeously scented with essential oils. The real star here, though, is the Razor Pit. They say if something sounds too good to be true, then it is – but this guy is definitely the exception to that rule. Used after each shave, it extends the life of a razor blade up to 150 shaves!



For Him


These watches from WeWood are amazing. Made from recycled wood (remnants of floorboards, etc.), these come in a range of styles and wood types to suit any guy on your list. The band is adjustable for the perfect fit, and WeWood plants a tree for every watch.


For Him


For the minimalist who prefers consumable gifts, check out Fungaea’s mushroom growing kits. Simply misting the box with water twice a day yields a delicious harvest of oyster mushrooms, making this ideal for green thumbs and plant-killers alike. As an added bonus, these kits are made in Toronto and are zero-waste: all the packaging is biodegradable.


For Him


If coffee’s his thing, Klean Kanteen makes awesome insulated stainless steel bottles that will keep it hot for hours. Throw in one of their cafe caps, and he’s good to go. And Toronto’s ChocoSol doesn’t just make great chocolate – their delicious coffee makes dark winter mornings a breeze.

For more creative gift ideas for him, peruse the gift guide at our website. And don’t forget to check the blog next week, when we’ll give you our cheat sheet of gifts for her!


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Green Gift Guide: For Kids

Shopping for kids can be hard. You want to get them something exciting, but without adding clutter or creating waste. And wouldn’t it be nice if they could learn a little while they play? We think we’ve found the perfect balance with this list.

Water clock!

These water clocks get a lot of attention in our store. They’re just so cool! No battery, charger, or cords required. Just fill it up with tap water every twelve weeks or so, and away you go. It comes in six different colours, and even has an alarm. The only problem is that once you’ve given one to the kid in your life, you’ll want one for yourself.


Co-operative games are fun because everyone’s a winner! We have these for nearly every age group. There’s a Growly in the Garden is a blast for kids aged 3-7, while older children enjoy the Earth Game, which is sort of a peace-oriented version of Risk. Players work together to accomplish goals and practice skills like sharing, problem-solving, and compromise along the way.earth game

HAPE's Little CopterEQB’s magnetic toys are like eco-friendly transformers. Made from natural hardwood and finished with natural oil, these animals and dinosaurs can change shape and – when you combine sets – even species! For very young children, check out HAPE’s wooden toys coloured with non-toxic, natural dyes. Their push’n’pull toys are a perfect fit for little hands, while things like the LadyBug shape sorter encourage a toddler’s development.


For curious minds aged 8 and up, Green Science kits are versatile and engaging. Many of them use recycled materials, and they all encourage critical thinking and experimentation. Kids will learn about solar power, batteries, greenhouses, and more.

Last, but not least, these puzzles and games by Anouk’s Ark are gorgeous. Illustrations by Toronto artist Anouk Bikkers teach children about endangered animals as they put together a puzzle or play the memory game. They’re printed in the GTA, using vegetable based inks on FSC certified paper, so you can really feel good about giving this gift.anouk

For more kids gift ideas, including art supplies and more, check out our online store. And come visit the blog next week, when we’ll be sharing our green gift guide “For Him.”

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