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LOCO Zero Waste: Bring Your Own Container

I've hung out in libraries, cafés, bars and parks, but my latest hangout is the Villeray LOCO, a zero waste green grocer. It sells a range of food, cleaning and personal care products, not to mention a range of products that can help you reduce future waste, like cloth shopping bags and cloth sandwich wraps for your kids' lunches. Half the fun is just looking at what they have and getting ideas for things you might want to make. My favourite is the health and beauty section because the sellers provide a list of ingredients.

I've given up on big name brands because of the chemicals manufacturers use. To see what I mean, check out my post on the Dirty Dozen in My Personal Care Products.>

When you walk in the store, you weigh the container you brought from home and record the weight on a tiny sticker and stick it to your container before filling it up. The weight of your container will be subtracted from the total weight at the cash so that you only pay for the actual weight of the product. This is particularly handy when refilling products like face cream. There are always a few grams of cream left in the bottom of the container that you have no way of retrieving. At Villeray LOCO, the weight of these few drops at the bottom will be counted in as part of weight of the container.

The other luxury of this store is that you can take just 100 grams of something to try it at home to see if you like it. I did this today with the store's peanut butter. This is a difficult household when it comes to peanut butter. We look for no sugar or palm oil added, which is not as easy to find as you might think.

Weight of my container: 73 grams
Overall, the face cream is a bargain, particularly given the quality. The peanut butter was more expensive. Even though the shampoo was slightly more expensive than a store-bought brand, we all feel better knowing that we won't be adding more empty plastic shampoo bottles to the landfill.

I walked past this store a number of times before walking in. I could never remember to bring my containers. Then I learned that customers leave behind clean containers on a shelf at the front. If hygiene of the latter is a concern to you, the store also sells fairly inexpensive containers. Now, I find myself there at least once a week. I have a friend who is sold on the environmentally friendly cleaning products in spite of them being more expensive. And we aren't alone. There is always a long line at the cash with a few kids asking their parents a lot of questions about zero waste.

Villeray LOCO
422 Jarry Est
Montréal, QC, H2P 1V3
(438) 386-7345
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Grass by Keum Suk Gendry-Kim

Keum Suk Gendry-Kim, the award-winning author of Grass, is known for her work about the marginalized and for her manhwa, a South Korean comic style. Grass is a graphic work of non-fiction about a former comfort woman, Lee Ok-sun, during World War II. Gendry-Kim also appears as she coaxes Lee Ok-sun, now in her nineties, to talk about her life and tragic experiences. Painted in black ink, the story opens with a note on the controversial term “comfort women,” a Japanese euphemism that survivors say distorts victims’ experience. While acknowledging its many failings, the author uses the term, and it proves to be a clever way to make the horrors of sexual slavery easier to read.

Keum Suk Gendry-Kim
Drawn & Quarterly
$34.95, paper, 480pp

The Imperial Japanese Army forced an estimated 350,000 to 410,000 impoverished girls and women, mostly from Korea, China, and the Philippines, into sexual slavery. Many were lured with the promise of work in restaurants and factories, while some were simply abducted. At just fifteen years old, Lee Ok sun was kidnapped on her way back from running an errand for a tavern where she worked in exchange for room and board. She and many other girls were put on a freight train and sent to Longjing, China, to work at a comfort station, one of many brothels servicing Japanese soldiers throughout the Japanese-occupied territories.

Grass begins in the 1990s with Lee Ok-sun returning to her native Korea after spending 55 years in China. She was one of many former comfort women who were helped to return home by a South Korean television network, as part of a docudrama. As a child, Lee Ok-sun’s only wish was to go to school, but her family was too poor and could barely keep their children fed. In an attempt to wipe out Korean culture, the occupying forces made Koreans take Japanese names and speak only Japanese. Those who refused were sent to labour camps and mines, denied ration cards, and declined admission to schools.

Lee Ok-sun was raped before she was old enough to have her first period. She was repeatedly beaten while being forced to service dozens of Japanese soldiers, sometimes daily. She survived her years of incarceration in the comfort station by clinging to hope. When the war was over, Lee Ok-sun and a few other comfort women were left destitute, wandering from town to town, shunned for their past work.

The subject matter of Grass is indeed grim, but Gendry-Kim’s beautiful brushwork reduces some of this heaviness, making this book memorable. She skillfully paints mountains, fields, trees, and skies as reminders that life goes on, giving the reader some respite from some of the trying moments in Lee Ok-sun’s life. What is the most striking about Grass is Gendry-Kim’s thoughtful illustrations, which reflect the mood of each scene. The harsher the scene, the heavier the brushwork and the darker the panels. For instance, Lee Ok-sun’s rape as a teen is followed by twelve completely blacked-out panels that express the unfathomable depth of her trauma. It takes a special talent to make this tragic story into such compelling reading.

Although Gendry-Kim describes the three years of inking Grass as walking through a long, dark tunnel, Lee Ok-sun survived her many ordeals with her sense of humour reportedly intact. Today, the former comfort woman and activist continues her fight for compensation and an apology from the Japanese government for the many injustices she suffered. The title Grass also infuses the book with some much-needed lightness. The reason for the title is revealed at the very end, “grass springs up again, though knocked down by the wind, trampled and crushed by foot.” Grass is ultimately about the doggedness of the human spirit.

This review has been cross-posted at the Montreal Review of Books.

Other things you might like:

Woman World by Aminder Daliwahl

Susceptible by Geneviève Castrée

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

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