Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A great link to share with you

I was surfing, looking for some more info, and I came across this link. It's produced for the Greater Vancouver Region, but there is great information in there for everyone, no matter where you live. You can search your own home towns and area to see if you have places, like those listed for my area, that will help you to reduce/reuse/recycle in your own neck of the woods. I hope you enjoy this:

Happy New Year to you all!!!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Getting ready for 2009!

2009 is the year that we will begin making improvements on our new home. I'm sure there are lots of things we can do to be more energy efficient, and so I'm starting with a home energy audit. I just booked it - so on January 7th we'll get the audit done and we'll get the results that same day. That will set the blueprint for the things we'll be doing around here. It's a great start!

I'm also going to have someone come in and service the furnace - something I'm booking for after the audit as I want the audit to reflect the furnace in its current condition. This way we'll see the improvement in 18months based on how the house was when we bought it. The trick is to figure out who to call and what exactly to ask them about what they do. I have no clue about furnaces, so I'm looking through the ads and trying to figure out which one to choose.

I'm quite excited about the energy audit, though. With all the drafts in this place, it will be a great thing to have done to help direct us in making our home more comfortable as well as more efficient. Making the appointment is the first step in working our way to a greener home.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A New Baby - A New Start

The baby is here! Yep, we are now the proud parents of two boys. Now we have lots and lots to do around here. Once I finally get over the surgery (this baby was a c-section) I have great plans to get moving on some home improvements to save energy around here. I was horrified by our gas and electric bill last month, and know it’s much more this month with the cold and snow we’ve had. Keeping it warm for the baby is a bit of a chore.

I've fallen off the wagon a bit lately. Being so tired at the end of my pregnancy made me a bit of a slacker. I kept up with the recycling, but I could have done so much more. I'm going to keep going this next year - working towards my goals of being lighter on the earth.

Our house is a leaky thing – lots of drafts – so we will be looking at ways to get this under control. We’ve already started by ordering blinds for all of our windows – this will give us another layer to trap the air in. And we will put film on the windows where we can to do the same thing. We also bought a space heater for our son’s room so that we can keep him warm without having the heat cranked up high. Another step will be to get some caulking and use that around some of the windows on the inside. We’ll check out the outside, too, but it’s snowy here right now and a bit awkward to do that. A little weather stripping under one of the doors is in order, too. And lastly, I discovered a couple of places to use some of that expanding foam stuff to block out drafts coming into the house.

I am going to get an energy audit done on the house in the new year. It’s supposed to be around $150 to do this through the LivesSmartBC program and it sounds like a great idea. Someone comes and tells you the best ways to improve the energy rating on your home and then you do the fixes over the next 18months (what you choose to do, anyway) and then you can pay them to come back and re-audit. I understand the first audit will be refunded in the rebates they help you to claim, if you go ahead and do some of the things they suggest. They also help you to apply for all of the government rebates you get for doing things like replacing furnaces, hot water heaters, insulation etc. We have a furnace that’s over 30 years old and a hot water heater that isn’t new, so it’s worth having them come as I think these may end up biting the bullet in the next year, anyway.

I am also having someone come to service the furnace asap. If we are going to use it, we might as well have it working as best it can.

Somehow we’ll get all this done, even though we are spending all our time loving our new little baby and our little boy. It’s time to make this a great place for them – without all the cold spots!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Warm Sweater Wednesdays

A friend of mine, who lives in the Netherlands, mentioned on our yahoogroup that they have warm sweater days over there to help conserve energy. What a neat idea! As things are getting cooler, it's the perfect time to institute this around here, too, I think.

So I am declaring Wednesdays as Warm Sweater Days! All you have to do is turn down the heat a couple of degrees and put on a sweater - and I'm sure slippers would go nicely with the sweaters, as well.

Come and join me (and all the ladies in my yahoogroup) - turn down your heat by 2 degrees, put on a sweater, save a little energy and possibly save a little money, too, on your heating bill. Let's do this every Wednesday. Just think, if we all do it, we'll be making a difference that adds up to something significant.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Being Green - even when one is busy

Whatever happened to the time? I’ve been in my new home now for more than two months and have barely come up for air! Between sickness, work and friend/family commitments, there has been no time for writing. I have, however, tried to be green. I’m not always successful (as attested to by the fact some of my takeout containers are Styrofoam and they have ended up in the garbage – my bad for not using my hot pot or tiffin!)

As you know, I’m expecting. I am getting slower and slower, which is impacting my ability to do the things I want to do. Take gardening for instance – big plans, little headway! But my veggie garden is prepped for spring. And my bulbs will be planted this weekend no matter what! It will just take me 5X longer, that’s all. I think gardening is a green endeavour. Every growing thing is helping to clean the air!

We have been trying to clear out the garage – which is where we put all the ‘stuff’ that we don’t know what to do with, is for a garage sale or will be stored. It’s a disaster! So I’ve slowly been going through boxes of things – tagging stuff for a spring garage sale, sharing items like clothes on freecycle as they won’t store well in our shed in this damp winter climate, and selling things on craigslist.

I also have a big load of fall clothes that I’m taking to consignment and I will check out another consignment shop that is in my new neighbourhood to see if they will be a good place to take my nicnacs and collectibles. The clothes that don’t get taken will be donated or freecycled, helping to keep them used while they are still good. I’m happy that the things I don’t have a use for will be used by someone else.

I freecycled another batch of boxes we used for the move and then yesterday I cut up a few odd boxes I had and put them in the recycling bins for pick up today.

I’ve been trying to find a piece for our crib – we broke it when we moved, but I’ve had no luck locating a stationary rail for it. Our son then broke a wheel off the new crib – but since I bought it at auction I can’t return it. So I salvaged that by taking all the wheels off. Awkward for under bed storage (too low) but it’s still usable this way. Sadly I think the original crib will now be taken to the dump as I can’t fix it and I’m not comfortable freecycling it as it’s not safe the way it is and must have the rail replaced, not taped up or something. It’s not worth a baby’s safety to extend the life of a piece of furniture.

I’ve been trying really hard to recycle everything I can. I’ve even saved the milk cartons and taken them back to our condo as that city recycles them. And from now on, I’ll be taking them to the recycle depot when I have a batch or giving them to my sister to put in her bin. I also give my parents the #’s of plastic we can’t recycle as their city accepts all number 1-7. And I’m trying to buy used when possible – since that’s the best way to keep things out of the landfill. We even got a toddler bed for free – and then the bed rail to go with it. Gotta love freecycle!

As we get closer to having our baby, I’m struggling with the choices there, too. Bottles are now very expensive since they are all bpa free. I have some that my son uses, and we’ll use those. I think I’ll buy glass for home as they are cheaper and I prefer that to plastic, anyhow. As for diapers – I know I’ll use some disposable, but I want to do cloth diapers – and to use them on our son when at home, too. I’m hoping to acquire some and I’ve been checking craiglist for a good deal. I’m also considering a diaper service as for $32/week I can have both kids in diapers and someone else does all the washing. I may do that in the beginning, at least, and then do it myself. As the weather warms, I can hang them outside and that will save even more money and more energy.

We are also considering getting an energy audit. It’s $150, but then if you follow through, you can earn back that money and rebates, etc. for your upgrades done in the next 18 months. And your monthly bills go down as you energy wise your home. I’m thinking it might be worth the money even if we don’t do any huge changes. The little changes will probably add up all on their own.

So that’s my update. I’m still plugging along – trying to do the right thing. I even bought my son a metal sippy bottle – it should last him for years. I’m actually jealous because I don’t have one. I’ll have to look for one as cool as his and use it for water, thus eliminating the need for plastic bottles there, too.

Every day is a challenge – I try to do the right thing and make good choices, but it’s sometimes the choice between easy when I’m exhausted or taking more time to be green. And that can truly be a tough choice.

Well, you can see what I’ve been up to – if you have any great ideas, let me know!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Weed Wacking!

This is just a quick entry. Maisie had commented that I could lay down newspaper to help kill off the weeds. I've started to do that - I have a massive amount of grass/clover in my flower beds and some is easily accessible (not entwined with the perennials) so I have begun to do this. I read that 2.5cm is the amount to lay down and when it all decomposes its also good for the garden. I've not put that much down yet, but will. I'm also going to lay it on top of my veggie garden to keep the weeds from coming back and to help next years crop. I gave up on planting this year - I don't have much time to grow anything and i can't find any seeds.

A note for next year - buy seeds in June, stock up the late planting ones then before the stores send them all back to the seed companies. (I read that tip in a magazine) It's a good one, I think.

I'm going to spend my winter poring over magazines and catalogues (from the library of course!) and making notes and lists for the garden.

For now, I'll just enjoy what I have. And since I broke my toe last night, that entails just watching it for a couple of weeks as I can barely walk! That's good for my consumerism needs - I can't shop, and that's kind of green, too!

This weekend I will rest and ice the foot, play with my son, and probably sort baby clothes for the new baby - keeping what I want and putting the rest aside for the garage sale we hope to have next weekend.

Friday, September 5, 2008

My new home - a greener place!

Well, it certainly has been a while since I’ve written. We moved into our new home on August 16th and have been crazy busy since a couple of weeks before then. But now we are settling in. It’s been fun to put things away – and I’ve also let go of even more things – the garage sale pile is growing! I’ve even decided to part with some things I’d never thought to let go of. Ebay and I will be making friends this weekend, I think.

I’ve got books and teacups and all kinds of things togo. I’m impressed with myself! I just have to get past the fact that some things aren’t ‘in’ right now so if I sell them, they won’t bring as much as they should. I can’t decide whether or not to wait a little on them. Hard choice – as sitting in a box they do nothing for me and someone might really enjoy them – and that’s a good thing!

So – I’ll bet you are wondering what type of green stuff I have been doing. This is a green blog after all! Here’s a run down of what I’ve been up to and the little green things I’m trying to accomplish.

First off – let’s say that having a yard is an interesting change for us. But I’ve already got it in for the weeds! And do you think you can buy an eco friendly weed killer? No way! I understand there are a few things that are made from high acidity vinegar – Burnout is one of them, but it’s not available in Canada so that’s out. I’ve begun the battle with a shovel and a little hand spade. So far I’ve reclaimed the veggie patch and a little bit of the front garden. I’ve poured boiling water on the weeds in the cracks of the driveway/sidewalk and even made up a concoction from vinegar/lemon juice/salt/dishwasher detergent that will hopefully eradicate them. I just don’t’ want to use herbicides as I don’t think it’s good for the dog or my son.

I’ve acquired some strawberry plants from freecycle, as well as some drip hoses that will be of great use in my garden. And my garden has some nice solar lights in it. I plan on getting some more of these to brighten up things at night. I’m also continuing to save my eggshells to help keep down slugs and things around some of the plants and to help feed them. I had bought some goldfish for the little pond to control the mosquitoes, but they seem to have disappeared. I think maybe we have raccoons or a smart heron. No more goldfish until I find some kind of grate to cover it with.

We have garden waste pickup here, so I’ve been pulling the weeds and putting them in the bin. And I went and picked up extra blue bins and bags for the paper stuff so I can recycle. I’m also keeping a separate bin of things my community doesn’t recycle as I can take these to my parents or sister’s house to be picked up there. (milk cartons and certain numbers of plastic)

I freecycled all the leftover wrapping paper, boxes and bubble wrap – that went quickly and I’m glad it’s being used again for someone else’s move. We are continuing to recycle all the newspaper I used. I’d taken it from the recycle bin, so it got a second life helping us move.

I noticed when unpacking all the cleaners that I am now pretty much down to the natural cleaners – aside from a little windex and the last of the fantastic, that’s all I have. I knew the change would occur over time as I used up the old stuff – and now I can see it!

We have a programmable thermostat so I’ve set it to ensure the furnace doesn’t go on during the day when we are not at home. There were a couple of evenings/mornings it was chilly so we turned it on. I’m going to get someone in to service it so that it runs at its best. We also had issues with our dryer, but I had my trusty repairman come out (if you live in the lower mainland – it’s Cosmos Appliance – he is awesome and reasonable, too) he fixed it up and it should last a few years now. I’m glad as a new dryer wasn’t in the budget just yet.

I’m currently looking on freecycle/craigslist for a cutlery container for our dishwasher (ours isn’t in good shape) and we broke the crib so I’m looking for a rail for it (just in case someone broke a different part of the same crib) I did buy a new one right away, but it would be nice to salvage two broken ones to make a whole one. Less to the landfill that way.

We’ll be gardening and setting up over the next few weeks as we continue to get acquainted with our new home. We’ll be putting film on the single pane windows as the temperatures change, and making sure that all the weather stripping/caulking etc. is done. Lots of little things to do! And I really want to plant some radishes this weekend if I can find some seeds. So far no luck with seeds – seems everyone is done with them. But I’m still trying!

That’s what I’ve been up to. I’m hoping to be able to be more current now that we’re settling in. I’ve got so many things I want to do and I’d like to share with you how it all goes.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Catching up...

Well, it's been a while since I have posted. We bought a house! It's a 1500 square foot home with 3 bedrooms and a family room. I'm so excited. I have so many plans for this new place, that's for sure. I have to admit - I was shocked by the utility bills for this place. I have a goal - and that's to significantly reduce the energy use in that home. I can't imagine paying that much for Gas, that's for sure.

We will have to find ways to better insulate our home this year. We don't have it in our budget to replace the windows and, as they are single paned, we will have to examine our options. I'll buy curtains for the winter, that should be a help in keeping the heat in and the cold out.

I'm looking forward to gardening, and while it's too late for planting a veggie garden, I think I might be able to get some radishes and carrots in and possibly some lettuce as I know that likes cooler temperatures. I also have a clothesline! I'm so excited about that, too. It's a little umbrella type one - exactly what I wanted as it doesn't hang your undies out for the neighbourhood to see, LOL...

It's been a time of purging yet again, as we begin to pack for this next phase of our lives. We joined in with a friend for a garage sale this past weekend and managed to get rid of some of our 'stuff' and have put a bunch of things on craigslist, as well. We've decided that we will have a garage sale one more time after we move as I'm sure that once we begin to put things away in our new home, I will find that there are things that do not fit anymore. I've been putting things into garage sale boxes as I pack. It's hard to believe there are so many things I don't want anymore, especially after the many times I've done this over the last couple of years.

I've been raiding the recycling bin for newspapers to pack in. I bought some tissue paper to wrap the china in, but only one layer as the rest is newsprint. Lots and lots of paper getting another use before recycling. and all of the boxes are second hand - from friends, family and the liquor store. Another re-use before recycling. I also think I'll be able to pass along the boxes again through fullcycle or craigslist after we move. We're moving mid-month - so there will probably be lots of people who could use the boxes.

We are also on septic at our new place, so I'll be even more particular about using natural products and environmentally safe cleaners. That's a good thing - and one that won't be too difficult given that I've been switching over for some time now.

So, while I won't be posting as often as I'd planned - the next few weeks will be seeing me work towards letting go of more, looking for ways to re-use items, packing up our home and trying to ensure that I cover off everything you have to do when you move. (and boy, that's a big list!)

My tip for the day: take shorter showers! I understand the daughter at the home we are buying liked to have long showers - really long showers - and that's probably why they pay near $183/ month for gas. Yikes! We wash on cold, take shorter showers and try to make sure our son has lower water level baths (he's little, so loves a bath - but with his eczema, we use cooler water, anyway). Lots to conserve on at the new place!!!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Is Bigger Better?

We are house-hunting. What a big thing to do! We had lots of wishes for a house, but I think we’ve decided that we need ‘enough’ rather than ‘too much’. It’s easy to want to have all those extra rooms and all that space – but in the end, you have to take care of it all. You have to not only clean it, but insure it and heat it and do the maintenance on it and so on. Now that’s a BIG thing!

Our decision was to look for a smaller house. If it has enough room for our family, then it’s good enough. We will pay less, have less upkeep, less to heat – and we’ll spend much less on maintenance over time because there is less of it to maintain. When you don’t have to pay all those bills, you might have the option of working less, and enjoying your family and your home more, too.

I read a saying once that said something about how we work hard and long hours to buy the house of our dreams – the one we never get to spend anytime enjoying because we are too busy working to actually spend time in it. I’d rather not do that. We live in a part of the country that has extremely high housing costs as it is – why make it harder for ourselves?

Being green isn’t just about the kind of cleaners you buy, or trying to use less gas – it’s about trying live in such a way that you have what you need, not more than you need. When you buy a car – buy the one that suits your needs – not the one that looks just right (and is maybe bigger than necessary)

I also think that you have to be careful not to throw away things that others might need. Whether you give it away or sell it – your old stuff, if it’s in good condition, can be of great use to another person. Something it can’t do from the landfill.

When we move, we plan on selling our bedroom suite – it’s not what we want anymore (it's actually a big 'big'!) , but it’s in perfect condition, so we’ll make sure it gets a good home with someone who really likes it. As for our new one? We’re not sure if it will be new or just new to us – that depends on what we find. I’m open to either if it’s feel right.

My lesson for today – think about what you need, aim for that, share what you don’t need, and try to be sure that whatever you buy is something you can enjoy.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

carbon tax - my thoughts

Be prepared - I'm on a rant! British Columbia will be introducing a new carbon tax effective July 1st, 2008. While I understand the principle behind this move - I have to admit - I'm against it. Basically we will all pay more for gas and things like coal and natural gas that heat our homes. I listened to Carol Taylor speaking about how we need to reduce our dependency on fuels that produce high levels of carbon - how we need to change the way we do business. I don't disagree - but I think that taxing us on our gas usage and then turning around and giving it back to us in the form of income tax cuts is insane.

For one - I'm sure that somewhere along the line whatever I get back on my income tax will be swallowed up by another type of tax. Second - if we want to reduce dependency on carbon fuel, we need to work harder to make things like fully functioning mass transit a reality. And three - if you look at where I live - the Greater Vancouver/Fraser Valley region of BC - we have thousands upon thousands of people who work downtown and live in the suburbs - most without decent transit so they have no choice but to drive.

In fact - we are building another bridge right now to accomodate the increase in traffic heading from the Valley into Vancouver and they are going to twin the Port Mann bridge to alleviate congestion. Meanwhile, if you live in Vancouver you will have the skytrain and decent transit system to use (but one can't afford to live there - that's a whole other story) and the skytrain, which is a light rapid transit system only comes South of the Fraser River for four stops - useless for those thousands trying to get in from the Valley.

If you live in Vancouver - you will soon be able to take the skytrain to UBC - where there is a population of about 60,000 that could use it. It will be build for an astronimical cost (setting cost records, in fact as it will all be underground) while those of us in the suburbs will continue to drive and pay more to do so as we aren't deemed a priority and won't be getting the pitiful (at best) extension to the rapid transit system for about another 20 years. Since this is where all those cars coming across those bridges are coming from, one has to wonder at the sense of it all. We can't all move closer to work - and for some of us, we have no choice in our work locations (at least if we want a decent job)

If the goverment of BC actually worked in conjunction with municipal governments, and if Translink actually had a decent board with real forethought, we wouldn't need a carbon tax - and if we had one, wouldn't it be good if we'd use it to really reduce our carbon output by supplying proper transit options, taking thousands of commuters off the road everyday. (don't even get me started on how people are supposed to pay even higher fees to heat their homes when they can't afford to switch to electric!) Paying us back the money is a joke - we aren't going to drive much less, since we still have to get to work. We are going to use just as much gas, since congestion is getting worse and alternatives are, to be frank, virtually non-existent. We live in the most expensive place in this province, possibly this country - we can't move closer and still hope to afford something with a roof that doesn't leak.

I think it's time that our translink (which deals with roads/transit in the area) municipal governments, provincial and federal governments got together and created a real plan to take action on fossil fuel use. That's the only way its going to work. This piecemeal throw it together, fix it for today approach is a joke.

I'd say take your tax and, well, you know - but apparently I'm going to pay it and then get it back, so I suppose this is mute point.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

A Charity Request - Noah's Wish

I'm going to put in a plug for a charity that I support. Noah's Wish works in disasters to assist animals in need. This helps people as so many don't know what to do with the animals and many put themselves in dangerous situations to stay with beloved family pets. They rescue those that are stranded or injured. They save lives the lives of animals in the midst of chaos. My husband worked with them after the hurricane in New Orleans, so he's been there and seen exactly what they do. (and the experience changed him in so many ways) We've both trained with them to assist in future disasters, and I believe strongly in what they do. June is their fundraising month - and all of their volunteers are asking friends & family to make a donation of $10. That's it - just $10. If you'd like to help, please donate - you can do so online at

You can read about the organization and see what they do. If you donate, drop me a line to let me know and I'll add you to the list of people that have donated (this way they know that you heard it from us). Like I said - they are an amazing group of people with volunteers who do incredible things and your support means they can continue to do just that. With a stronger hurricane season predicted for 2008 and the summer fire season just around the corner, they may be needing our help sooner than we think.

A little of this, A little of that...

Well, while I've been quiet on the blogging front, I've been doing my part to be green in small ways. First off, though - I have to admit to ending up with a few styrofoam take out containers when I bought lunch. I have great intentions, but I forgot to take down my reusable container and was just too tired/lazy/timecrunched (all excuses) to go back to get it. I have to be more diligent about this.

The garage sale was done on the 24th - and it went rather well. We managed to get rid of lots of things - and my parents even rehomed some large appliances. There is still quite a bit left ( I really let a lot go!), so I will chat with a friend to see about doing another one sometime in the near future. Leftovers after that will be donated - making sure that it's all still in good condition first - remember, they don't want your garbage! I think I can come up with a few more things in the meantime, to let go of. I've been doing pretty good on that front and haven't been bringing in many new things. Most of the new stuff seems to be things that are given to my son (and yes, I bought him a book and a little chalkboard, so I'm guilty, too!)

We are blessed with incredible parents who not only take care of our son while we work, but who also make dinner for us so we don't have to cook when we get home. However, I think we'll ask my Mom to skip a meal here and there and we are building up an incredible supply of leftovers each week and we want to make sure we eat all we have. It's a goal to not waste food, and while we're not perfect, this is a great way for us to do just that. There always seems to be more than we can eat and I want to do something about that. Tonight is our first go at it - we're eating all our leftovers for dinner - smorgasboard, here we come! We don't do this nearly enough - and now that I've gotten rid of our deep freezer, we don't have the space in the fridge freezer to build up a supply of leftovers to nosh on when we don't want to cook. I think that every four days we should probably eat dinner like this or pack it all up for a delicious reheatable lunch.

I also decided to switch my son's favourite crackers. He loves baby MumMums rice crackers - but the packaging is insane! So I bought some rice crackers in a big container - and thankfully he loves them, too This will be the new way I buy him crackers. There is still packaging, but as it's not in individual servings. Much better all round.

At work, for environment week, the sustainable development team offered a little contest. We are giving away two books "The Green Book" and "Ecoholic". We encouraged people to either join the Sustainable Development team or to submit a sustainable idea that they'd be willing to help out with. They get two entries if they do both. We've recruited at least 3 people from areas where there was no volunteer (yeah!) and gotten some ideas. The draw takes place Thursday so hopefully there will be more in by then. But getting 3 new people is fantastic! We also decided to put a sustainable tip in the Friday newsletter that goes out by email to all staff in the region. I think that it's a great thing, giving people ideas of easy things they can do to be more sustainable.

My goldfish finally went to their new home - in case anyone wondered if I've ever gotten rid of them. I'm using up the old pond water to water all the plants and then I'll clean everything up - the pump, the giant container I was using and so on. This can all be reused by someone. My remaining pond plant is heading to a new home, where it can really be planted in the ground rather than stay in a pot. Nothing wasted from this take-down!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Who Made This Great Big Mess?

That's a direct quote from the comfy couch - a favourite show around here. I'm looking around my home and it's a level one disaster - despite my best efforts! This weekend is going to be our garage sale. The long range forecast calls for Sun for many days in a row. Yippee!! Now all I have to do is run around like a madwoman and fill another box with stuff to part with on Saturday! Pretty much everything has been moved to my parent's home, where it will be held - but I have high hopes of just one more box of 'stuff' leaving my own place. Maybe much of this stuff hanging around isn't necessary? I could be wrong, but I'm going to challenge myself to one more full boxload!

I'm glad I've inspired my cousin, Brenda to purge her stuff. Yep, if it's moved with you and you haven't looked at it in over a year - and it's not seasonal items, well you probably don't need it. If it's very sentimental - then find a way to unpack it and put it in a place of honour.

I'm going to retract that statement now, though - for any of you that have a determined toddler who looks to be a climber, maybe it's a good idea to leave it packed a little while longer, lol. And if it's stuff you're keeping for the next baby, then it's ok to hang on to it - but only until the next baby!

Speaking of which, if you read the comments on my posts, you know the cat's out of the bag! Yep, we are expecting number two in December. And yes, I did keep all of number one's stuff for this baby. When we are done with it, my plan is to pass it on, give it away, sell it at a swap - just get it out of the house! But saving it all is green - I really don't need much of anything - especially if it's a boy ( if it's a girl, I reserve the right to frilly dresses and a tea set)

I think that I'm going to suggest to my family that if anyone wants to send the new baby a gift when it's born, perhaps they might instead wish to throw a couple of dollars towards a diaper service. I've been looking at them a bit and there are many that aren't very expensive - and would be a great thing for the first bit until I'm up and running with a baby and my active little man. If you know someone that's expecting - see if they are interested in cloth diapers - and if they would be if they didn't have to do the laundry. This is a fabulous gift for them and it's good for the earth, too. And don't forget g-diapers as a possibility to help reduce the disposables when they are out.

I don't know if I mentioned this here, but in Canada there is something called the Red Dot Campaign. I got one of their stickers at the sustainable living expo and put it in my mailbox. I've learned something - if you live where you have multiple mail boxes together - the postal carrier opens the whole panel and won't see it on the inside of your door - put it right on the bottom, front of your mailbox - they see that. I have to move mine or print one and tape it there as mine isn't working - the carrier can't see it when he opens the panel since I put it on the inside of the door!
Canada Post also has launched a place on their website to help you be 'greener'

I often feel overwhelmed by the amount of paper we receive and charities can be really bad for this. In their need for soliciting funds, they do multiple mailers. I suggest this - if you want to sponsor a charity and you will always send money at a certain time of the year (I do one each Christmas in memory of my Grandmother) send them a note - or call them, to ask them to take you off the mailing list, saying you will send at this time each year and the other solicitations are a waste of their funds and our resources. I immediately stopped receiving the mail and I will without question be giving as I promised. If you tend to need the reminder - write it on your calendar, set up a reminder in your email using your calendar function, put a note in your Christmas decoration box. Doing this saves money that can be put to better use and saves energy and fuel in the creation and delivery of the mailings and saves the trees used for the paper. If you never intend to donate, do the same thing, anyway. They save and you don't get the mail. Now that's a win -win!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

My little green update

It's been a few days since I've posted, so I thought I would pop in and quickly share a few things I've done this past week.

Over the weekend, we made a concerted effort to eat from our fridge. We had so many leftovers in there and rather than see it wasted, we made up some interesting combinations for meals. The result - a much emptier fridge and a bigger pocket book than we'd have had if we'd eaten out as we kept thinking of doing.

Last week at work I took a big batch of posters that couldn't be used and rather than recycle them, I cut them all up and turned them into scratch pads. It took a few minutes, but I ended up with a couple dozen scratch pads that I put into our supply room for people to use.

I've been very good about recycling and took down a lot of things for the bins - and a big batch of stuff to my parents since they recycle some things where they live that we don't in my city.

We thought carefully about our veggie order this week and I've already steamed and made most of it into nice chunky kidlet food.

I have visions of using some veggies in some muffins, too - so that I can sneak some more veggies into my kidlet. I thought that perhaps making something from scratch and knowing what was in it would be a good and green thing. I looked at a package of muffin mix and there were just too many things in it I couldn't pronounce!

I haven't done much in the way of shopping as I'm trying not to bring more stuff into the house (we still have enough despite my decluttering efforts), I've shared a green tip with my e-mail group and I keep trying to be green at work - avoiding the takeout containers and using my reusable hot pot.

It's been a good week and I'm heading into this one with a positive attitude. Oh - and my green books arrived from Canadian Living online. I'm looking forward to reading the Living with Ed one as I enjoy the show by the same name.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

It's Not Easy Being Green... At Work

This week I participated in a conference call (the green way to have a meeting!) about sustainable development at work. This is something the government has committed to with its workplaces, and as part of this initiative, at work we have a volunteer committee. I, of course, had to join!

One of the things we discussed was paper recycling. Yes, you heard that right. It doesn’t happen everywhere as many locations are leased from other companies and so we are not a part of the recycling that happens. We are looking at how to make that happen in those locations.

The conversation moved on to lots of other ideas – one of which was how to encourage employees to use less disposable stuff – and if they use it, how to encourage them to take it home to recycle, rather than throw away at work. Plastic recycling doesn’t happen everywhere for us, either. For example, in the building I work in, the owner company doesn’t want it as they think the containers will attract rats and pests since not everyone cleans things properly.

We decided that we’d look into how to encourage people to bring reusable stuff to work. That maybe for next year’s Earth Day we could find a way to get reusable lunch bags for everyone. We also talked about one location that has a fully stocked kitchen – they have plates, glasses, mugs, cutlery etc. for everyone to use. In some places there are water jugs – and while many now use the kind that are wired into the water supply with changeable filters rather than the big jugs, people use paper cups – a huge waste maker. Maybe we can find a way to encourage people to have their own glasses/mugs for this – even with their name or something on them so they don’t misplace them when it’s busy.

I bring home my recyclables, and I have my tiffen and hot pot and cutlery – but there is so much more we can encourage each other to do. Bringing a litterless lunch is a great intiative in my opinion. And for those that use the cafeteria where there is one – bringing your own takeout containers & cutlery should be encouraged. I see a lot of coffee mugs, but there are still paper and Styrofoam cups in the office in the mornings. The question will be how to encourage people to make the change. Less resources used, less garbage created – so much better for all of us.

I think it will be my own personal initiative to encourage my coworkers to bring a takeout container to work, and to encourage those without them, to get a reusable mug. With just those two things, we could make such a difference in the garbage we generate and the resources we waste.

If you do anything at work to be green - please share. This is one place many of us have trouble with and we can all use all the help we can get!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Almost Famous! & working towards less waste

Well, I'm nearly famous! I wrote a blog entry for Canadian Living's Online site - their green blog - and they will be printing it tomorrow! How exciting! So if you want to know about my dirty little secret - you need to check it out

It will be published on Sunday April 27th.

It is a beautiful day here in Southwestern British Columbia. Perfect for being outdoors. I've got the windows open (Mother Nature is the best air freshener!) and the blinds up (the sun is warming the floors and making the plants happy)

On my patio, I have a little pond - it's really a giant orange bucket with some goldfish, some plants and a pump. My fish have outgrown the container and I have decided it's time to let them go. One of them, Fred, has been with me for more than 8 years so its a tough decision. However, a friend of mine has a big pond, net covered (so the birds and raccoons can't get in) and I think they will have a much better life there. I'll miss them as they've gotten quite tame and come up to check you out when you go outside. But it seems to me they deserve a better life than a bucket. When they are gone I'll make sure to share the pond plants with one of my friends with ponds, and the big bucket will be cleaned well and can be repurposed to hold outdoor toys, or passed along to someone else. The water I'll hang on to and over the next week use it water my plants. It's the perfect fertilizer mix. So not one thing will go to waste.

We are accumulating too much food again. I think that perhaps I will have to skip the odd week of delivery to ensure we don't waste food. I've been thinking about the world situation and the price of grains, etc. I we just used everything we buy - and didn't buy more than we need, I bet that those of us in developed countries could certainly make a difference in how much is available. Now when I throw away bread or rice or flour that isn't used, I'll be thinking about how someone else in world could have used this. I think that it's a good goal - only take what you can use. It's earth friendly - and it's definately good for those in need if we don't hog more than our fair share.

It won't be easy, but I'm going to work toward that goal and try to plan better. I'm used to just getting what looks good and I don't always put much thought into how I'll use it up. This is going to be something I'll work on. More for others, less for waste, just enough for us. I think that's a win/win situation, don't you?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Happy Earth Day (two days late!)

Happy Earth Day!!

I feel like there should be some kind of celebration - perhaps a National Holiday even! Ah well, I may have had to work today, but I still did what I could to acknowledge the spirit of the day. Today, as in all days, I parked and rode transit into work. I was hungry, so later in the morning I bought breakfast - using my stainless steel mug and my wonderful metal hotpot with my own cutlery. I was responsible for one less take out cup and sleeve and one less styrofoam container with plastic cutlery! I did this the other day, too. I went to the food court in a nearby mall and used my hotpot for my takeout. I was amazed that no one seems to mind I bring my own take out container. Such a good thing!

This past weekend we attended our City's Earth Day celebration where we got to plant a bush in the park's garden, release salmon fry into the stream, listen to storytime and music, plant a couple of beans in paper pots to take home with us, and bring home a little leafy seedling to plant. It's in our big pot on our patio and when we move to house, we'll take it with us and plant it in our yard. We also attended EPIC, which was a sustainable living show held in Vancouver. While I appreciated the opportunity to listen to Adria Vasil (Ecoholic) speak, it was a tradeshow and not nearly half as fun as the local Earth Day celebration. But if you were looking for products and ideas, it did have a lot there to offer. Sadly I missed Mike Holmes talk about Green building and renovation but in order to go to the park, significant sacrifices had to be made. ;-)

As we get ready for a garage sale in a few weeks, I find myself thinking about how to share things with others in an environmentally friendly way. I think garage sales are great, they give you a little pocket money and someone else a steal of a deal on something they'd like. I'm a firm believer that garage sales should be about bargains - so pretty much everything I sell is a super great deal. After all, the object is to part with the items, not sell a few at a high price and get stuck with the rest!

But what about those things that don't sell? If you don't have another sale planned for later in the year, then I suggest you consider two things. One would be buy-and-sell papers or online forums. Very good for those big things you'd like to get money for. And usually better than a garage sale for those items with greater value. The other option is to find someone who needs what you have. Look up freecycle or fullcircles groups in your area. I found this neat link on Yahoo! today. You can enter where you live and it pulls up the free-sharing groups in your area. What a great thing! You can both give away and look for things you need on these forums. They promote great stewardship of the 'stuff' that flows through our lives.

I've also discovered something else. If you want to 'go green' and be more aware of what your impact on the environment is - you need to make it fun. Just like exercise (I'm trying out bellydancing starting tonight - totally new for me!) you need to find a way to make it fit into your life in a pleasant way. It's not about sacrifice and letting go - it's about embracing a lifestyle that you enjoy. And isn't Earth Day a perfect time to begin to look at how you do things?
If you've done anything for Earth Day, feel free to share so that others can learn from you, too!

(p.s. this was written on Earth Day, however, life got in the way and somehow I never actually posted it!)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Tiffin triumphant and BPA worries

I have to start the entry by telling you that I found a tiffin! I am now the proud owner of a 2 level tiffin. Nicely insulated and it came with an insulated lunch bag that fits it perfectly. Now, a tiffin is sort of small - so when ordering a regular meal at the lunch counter, I thought they might not like having to put it into two pieces - so I also bought an insulated metal hot pot. A friend of mine told me that they use these to keep Naan bread warm. But for me, it's perfect to use for take out food. If I have any issues with it being used, I can always use an eat-in plate for my order and then transfer it myself. I'll have to do that for soup in my tiffin - use a bowl and then put it into my container (for measurement) and a plate for salad as they weigh the salad if you buy it separately. But that's ok - it still means I'm not using the plastic and styrofoam take out containers. I'm quite excited about it!
The next thing on my list to find is a 'safe sippy' cup by Kid Basix. It's quite a neat little invention - it's metal with BPA, phthalate and DEHA free plastic used for the spout/handles. It's funky and fun. It's also sold out everywhere. I've put my name on a waiting list and hope to get one. Looks like this company is going to make a fortune if they can ever keep up with the orders!
Health Canada is expected to classify BPA (bisphenol A) as a dangerous substance. Many large chains such as Mountain Equipment Co-op, Sport Check, Athletes World, Coast Mountain Sports, Lululemon Athletica, The Bay, Zellers, Canadian Tire and more have or are currently pulling plastic bottles off their shelves if they contain BPA. This includes baby bottles & sippy cups, many of which come from some big name brands. This leaves parents looking for an alternative for their children. Right now the alternatives are expensive, unless you can find them second hand (where I'm hoping to obtain some BPA free bottles for my son) or unless you happen to be in the USA (where you can buy 3 glass bottles for $5 instead of $5 each or more up here).
I think my decision to switch my lunch stuff was a good one. I'm going to bring a ceramic bowl and a plate in, too - so that I can use them to warm up things. There are plastics that are safe, they are just a little harder to find right now and I think it's important to do your homework. While the Health Canada label won't constitute a ban on the products, it will make people stop and think. I heard on the radio today that BPA is in everything from your cd's to your baby's bottles. Not to scare you into banning all plastic, though. It's present in polycarbonate - which classed within the #7 type plastic.
Whatever your choice for food and beverage containers and storage - make sure you do a little reading (and not just on the internet chat groups and forums) and make an informed decision. Me, I'm keeping my #5 containers and I'm happy with my new metal ones - especially that funky little tiffin!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Consigning Myself to a Greener Life

Being green certainly has its ups and downs, doesn’t it? You make a little headway, then you get Chinese take-out and you end up with paper lids you can’t recycle and some Styrofoam containers. I discovered that I can recycle the foil container which is better than nothing – but still…

It’s been a busy week as I worked at decluttering some more. It never ceases to amaze me how I can get rid of so much stuff (13 boxes to the garage sale, 2 bins to the consignment store, giveaways to friends/family, thrift store donations, food bank donations and more) and it looks the same after a busy day. Compared to people on those clutter busting tv shows, my place is empty, but to me, I have trouble seeing the change. However, I do know that things are leaving and that I’m not throwing them away – they are looking for new life with other people who can use them. That’s green and that’s progress for me.

I wanted to share about the consignment store I frequent. It’s called the Urban Attic and it’s located at #6 - 6468 King George Highway, in Surrey, BC. They are open Monday to Saturday 10-5pm giving you lots of opportunity to check out their funky mix of clothing, accessories and household stuff like nicnacs, furniture, pictures, linens and more. It’s all quite unique and the owner chooses some really great things for her shop. My advice – if you see something you love, don’t wait – buy it now! I lost out on the perfect hall table, something I’d been wanting for a long time. because I waited too long before going back to get it.

I highly recommend this shop - if you know anyone who lives in the Greater Vancouver /Fraser Valley area of British Columbia, tell them to check it out and tell their friends. I’d love to ensure that this shop stays viable as it offers a great way to recycle your amazing stuff and to find the perfect item for your home at a pretty good price. It’s not your average consignment store and I love that.

I love the idea of consignment - it's a perfect business opportunity as your stock is free and it's a perfect way to make money on things you no longer need as someone else handles the sales for you. You share the profit and I think that makes it a win/win proposition. If you have a consignment store in the area you live in, check it out. If you don't - why not consider a new business opportunity. Find a niche - vintage, kid's stuff, ladies, men's household, maternity and baby. The options are endless. And you can proudly call yourself a 'green' enterprise!! Where else can you shop local, support a someone in your community through their business, share your great items with others and find great things you need? It the perfect re-use idea.

I discovered a website for you to check out. Canadian Living Magazine has a green section and right now there is also a 52 week Go Green Plan you can download. I just got mine tonight and there are lots of good ideas in there, some of which I already do.

while you are there, check out the Green Living Blog.

Ah, so much to do, so little time. If only there was a time fairy who could give me some extra. I just know I could accomplish so much more!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

It Pays To Recycle!

Isn’t it amazing to think that your old ‘stuff’ can do a lot of good in the world? And sometimes there’s a great incentive for you to put that old stuff to work? As you know, I’ve been clearing out the clutter and I’ve been building piles of stuff to take out of our place and redistribute.

I’m most happy to report that my freezer has found a new home. It now belongs to a family with four children. I know they’ll make great use of it so it’s a win/win for everyone – me, them and the environment as it’s not in a landfill somewhere.
I’ve gotten to thinking about where my stuff will end up – and I realized that much of it will benefit me twice. Once by freeing up space in my home and again by giving back to me on it’s way out. Read on and discover how your ‘stuff’ can do great things in its own way.

Our local grocery store gives us points for returning certain items for recycling – milk jugs, different product containers, empty inkjet cartridges and so on. I’ve accumulated many things and eventually those points add up to certificates I’m cashing in for my son’s RESP. Free money!

Here we pay deposits on many items – returning them gives you back money in your pocket. My family saves all of the bottles, cans etc. with deposits and once again, the money goes to our son. I know so many people that throw away these or toss them in the recycling bin. A terrible waste of their money!

You can take items to resale/consignment shops, sell them on ebay, craigslist, your local buy and sell paper and more. You can sell nearly anything, but clothing, household items, collectibles, furniture, kid’s clothes and toys and even electronics go quickly. And remember a garage or yard sale can sell just about anything. In many areas Kid’s Swaps are sweeping the regions. These are the best places to buy your baby and kids items at incredible prices. Why buy new? And you can sell it all again when you’re done!

There are locations that will take back wood, batteries, electronics, metal, old paint and more for recycling. In most cases you don’t get anything for it – and in some you may pay a small fee – but the reward comes in the environmental savings.

Used book stores and music stores are great places. You often don’t get cash, but with the credit you can get partial to full credit to spend on new to you things. I love my local used book store – (Sue’s Bookshelf). It’s a fabulous store with an every changing stock to browse in.

If you are not looking to make money – but want to do the right thing (and really, deep down inside, who doesn’t) don’t forget that taking a few minutes to take things to thrift stores, church clothing drives, shelters (both for people and animals) and toy depots can help to raise money to change a life – or to give things to someone who really needs it.

I was driving in North Delta, BC today and they are in the middle of a recycle week. You put all your stuff curbside and people take what they want. The rest goes to the dump. It’s a great idea, but I did see a lot of great things going into the big garbage trucks. Maybe next year they can encourage people to post the good stuff online so that other people can connect with the things they need, ensuring that it gets reused and not compacted. However, even as it is now, it’s still a fabulous idea and I’m sure it saves a lot of things from an early end to their useful lifecycle.

So before you toss something, think about whether it has value – to you, to someone else, to a recycle depot. If not – then think about whether or not it’s harmful to the environment. If so, is there a way to dispose of it better? I think I’ve found a place to recycle alkaline batteries for a few cents a pound. I’ve been saving mine in a baggie and will return them when I have more. Consider doing one small thing like this because when we all do it, it adds up to one really big thing!

Happy reusing and recycling!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Tiffin Tales

The Great Tiffin Search
I have discovered a very cool thing - something that probably millions of people in the world use - but it's not readily available here. This something is a Tiffin Tin. It is a really cool little unit that consists of two (or more) tins, usually round, that stack together and close up with a handle. It's made of metal and often has a little plate as well. Here is a link to what one looks like. It's a pretty long link, so depending on how you are reading this, you may wish to cut and paste it into your browser.
I sometimes buy food in the cafeteria downstairs, but since I take it back to my desk, I end up with styrofoam that I can't recycle, or plastic that I really don't need. I've been searching for the perfect plastic free alternative and I think this might do it. It's not too big, but I think it holds more than enough for a lunch. I can take this down with me and have them fill it instead of a styrofoam container. And if I want soup, I can take their ceramic bowl and then pour it into my container (so they know what size to charge me for) And it would be great for bringing salad, sandwiches, fruit etc. to work. Not so sure about bringing warm stuff, as I have a long commute and I don't think it would be warm by lunch. I suppose I could keep a ceramic bowl here, too, for heating up things.
So my challenge is to find one of these. I live in Surrey, BC which has a very large Indian community - so perhaps there may be a place to buy one. I'll ask around. I can always buy one online, but I would like to see what other options I have, as the one in the link above is the only one I can find online. We may also go to Granville Island for lunch one weekend and there used to be an Indian restaurant called Rubina Grill that sold them with lunches and you could bring them back for cheap refills. (kudos to them for providing a great incentive to reduce takeout garbage!)
When I find one - I'll let you know where - and if you know of a place - leave a comment. It's such a great little item that others might love to get one! And just think, you'd be the talk of the lunch room. Just add a cloth napkin, your own cutlery (bamboo or metal) and you're set! And if you really like, you can scout out or make yourself a funky little tote bag to put it in. I think if I can't find one, I just might sew up a fun canvas tote that has room for a tiffen, with a big pocket to hold my mug and little pockets for my cutlery and napkin. Hey - I just might be on to something! Fashion forward AND a greenie!

P.S. I just got my organic order and while the average distance products travel to the grocery store is 2500kms, my order travelled only 30km to their warehouse. Pretty fabulous!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Organic Debate

Tonight I thought I'd share a link for you to check out:

I found this on yahoo earlier today and have been reading this and other articles. I think it's quite an interesting one - talking about organic food and if it's worth it. There seems to be a debate about what is better for you - organic or not. And it also looks at locally grown, not certified organic but from farms that work hard to not need pesticides & hormones etc. Very interesting reading.

And again, another list of what to buy, what to skip, in the organics section of the grocery. Worth a look as it's more comprehensive that what I have shared before. (you may have to cut/paste this one if it comes out too long)

I'm looking forward to late spring and onward as the locally grown stuff will soon be ready where I live. I'll continue to order through SPUD but I'll also compliment it with local stuff as a lot of what I can get around here is grown without sprays etc. It may not be certified organic - but it came from just down the road so it's fresh and hasn't used up a lot of gas to get here.

So take a look and enjoy those links. It's nearly 8pm. We missed Earth hour last night and so I want to get in an hour of being unplugged tonight. I may be a day late - but I'm still trying! Besides, I had a date last night and I didn't want to miss the opportunity for a nice dinner out with my husband. We were participating in spirit and will do so properly tonight.

So...lights out now! And if you missed Earth hour on Saturday - take an hour this week and get unplugged. Light some candles and play a board game, talk to each other, take a bubble bath, a nap - whatever you fancy.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Declutter Update

If you are reading my blog, you know I'm working on letting go of the excess. I say that we are blessed to have too much, rather than too little, but that it's time to share what we don't need.

I'm making progress. It's slow, but it's happening.

So far I've got a deep freeze in my hallway that's nearly ready to move on to it's next home, I've got 4 more boxes of things to take to the consignment shop (Urban Attic in Surrey - that's my plug, it's an awesome store!!), three more boxes to take to my parents garage for our yard sale later this year - maybe more as I've not boxed up everything and I'm guessing. I've also cleaned out my son's room and it's much more user friendly. My closet is cleaned, my linen cupboard is cleaned out, my hall closet is nearly there, too. I've listed a few things on craigslist and full circles (the Canadian version of freecycle that's now taking over the nation) to both sell and give away. I have two boxes of stuff to put on ebay and I've given friends some more things that they can use. This is what I've done in the past 10 days.

I'm still going to go through my son's toys for things to pass along, and I've got a little bit more culling to do with my books. We've got two bins of them in our storage room to sort and we'll let go of most of them. I also have two rubbermaid bins of clothes to sort. I kept them for when I lost the weight after the baby. Hmmm.. lost most of it, but I'm bigger than before. Sigh. I'm going to take most of it to consignment and when the time comes, I'll head back there to buy new to me things in a new to me size. I'll keep my most favourite pieces and then someone else can make use of the rest now while it's in style, instead of it sitting in storage for nothing.

You can feel the change in our home, it's feeling lighter. Now all I have to do is move on all the stuff piled at the door waiting for it's new home. That's a job for the next few weekends. I really need to cook some more or at least take some of the stuff in the freezer for my parents to cook during the week as a nearly empty freezer isn't very energywise. I've stuffed my fridge freezer full, so for another week, it'll have to do. After that, I'll take the last of it to my parents and store it in their freezer. I can hardly wait for this one to be gone!

My last task will be to tackle the kitchen. I've put all the kitchen gadgets in a bowl on the counter and as we use them, they go back into the drawers. Whatever is left will be let go of, unless it's something we usually use but didn't this past month. (i.e. the can opener) I have a sneaky feeling that the zester is going. Can't remember the last time I needed it for lemon or orange peel and I'm sure a little sharp knife could do the trick. I've still got pantry cupboards to tackle and lots of 'stuff' to make choices on in all the other kitchen places.

While I'm making the most of March, I'm not as far ahead as I'd like since we've been down sick for pretty much all month. I plug away when I'm feeling good - and that's ok. It's a process and it really never ends. Once you're done the big clear out, you always have to take a second look at what is in your life and decide if it's needed.

I wish I'd weighed what was going out, though. It would have been neat to know how many pounds of things I've been dragging around all these years that I've finally let go of. Now I'd like that to correlate to my body!!

The Pain of Packaging

OK - I'm on a rant. Be prepared!

For Easter this year, my son got toys from his Nana. While we don't really need more toys, I understand the need she feels to spoil him. But that's not what's got my panties in knot.

PACKAGING!!! When on Earth will these toy companies get with the program? For one Little Tykes toy truck I had to undo countless pieces of wire holding it onto the cardboard, cut apart tape, peel away two layers of non-recyclable plastic, and in the process, I was stabbed by a piece of wire that wasn't coated on it's end. I am NOT impressed.

My son got a Fisher Price farm - the barn and it's contents were new to him, but not new from the store. That got two thumbs up from me. The truck that accompanied it was by Little Tykes - it's getting a F for it's packaging practices.

Whatever happened to putting the toy in a box with a picture on the front. My son was recently given a vintage Little Tykes schoolbus that someone had purchased years ago and never used. It came in a box - a regular box with an attached lid. I was thrilled! This way you could reuse the box if you wanted to. Yes, there was a little bit of plastic inside (a bag with the little people in it) but not near the packaging they use today.

I have to ask - what does it say about us as consumers that we allow this to happen? That we allow the toy companies to not only influence what our kids think they need - but that we go against our values and buy them - packaging and all! Something's gotta give. If we don't take a stand and tell these companies how we feel, they will continue to do this. Why do we need to see the whole toy before we buy it? A picture on the box used to do the trick, but now we want the whole thing encased in plastic so we can see it all. BAD BAD BAD! Shame on us and shame on the toy companies. (and let me tell you, they aren't the only ones that do this)

I'm tired of a ton of wire, tape, unrecyclable plastic and cardboard that is only fit for recycling. I want a box I can keep that toy in so all the parts stay together. I do NOT want to be throwing away my child's future along with the packaging. It's bad enough all these toys are plastic - but at least we can take care of them and pass them on to other children over and over so they have a useful life.

I'm the first to admit I've bought toys like these - I even have a few in the cupboard to give to my son later in his life - but now I think I'm going to take a stand. I am going to head back to the kid's swapmeets to buy his toys. I'm going to buy him toys without packaging or that are made without all the bad stuff (IKEA - this is where you win with some of your stuff - not all, but some)

And while I'm at it - what is wrong with the Overwaitea / Save On Foods chains? They sell eggs in styrofoam cartons????!!! I applaud their good sense to introduce their Changes centres to help give incentive to people to return packaging for recycling - but they won't touch these. Western Family Eggs - NOT good for the environment. And even those that are in flats are packaged with plastic film that's not recyclable.

This week I'm going to write a letter to Fisher Price, Little Tykes, and Jim Pattison's grocery store chains(again on the last one- they don't bother to reply, either) and tell them just how bad they rate with these products and what I'd like to see (cardboard and recyclable materials at the very least) in the future.

Heck - while you're at it, do the same. Tell all those companies that package things in wasteful ways just how bad they are for the earth. Tell them to change or you won't buy. Money talks and if we all made the choice to avoid until they do right, they would change. They'd have to or else they'd go out of business.

This week - put your pen to paper and your money where you mouth is. Speak up with your words and your pocketbook.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Green Tips from a Wet Place

In lieu of a long post today, I thought I'd share a few quick tips to help you be a little 'greener'. It's raining here so I think these will all be about water.

For a quick fix that helps both the environment and your hydro bill - put a low flow shower head onto your shower. Today's shower heads use much less water, but unlike the old ones,they have more force behind them so you don't have a trickle for a shower - you still get a nice strong flow. You can spend as little or as much as you like and over time (depending on your price point) you'll see savings that you can take to the bank.

Get a rain barrel. You can use the water you save in your garden. It's better than the chlorinated stuff you spray onto it from your tap. And it's free! If you can't get a barrel - put out a bucket and collect the rain. Use it to water your houseplants. In the summer, put a lid on the bucket and water the plants outside on non-rainy days.

Fix a broken toilet. When they run, they use water and they cost you money - very likely much more than you save by not buying the part you need to fix the thing in the first place.

Toilet not broken? Displace some water in the tank by using a small milk jug filled with water. You'll save a couple of litres with every flush.

Turn off the water when you brush (shave, wash your face..etc) turn it on when you need to rinse.

Always run your dishwasher when it's full.

If you must run the washing machine with a smaller load - use the lower water settings. No need to wash a few small things with an extra large dose of water.

And that my friends, is all I can think of tonight to save you money and save our planet at the same time.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

To Be or Not To Be Organic

It's a tough decision. Organic is, without a doubt, a healthy way to go. It's best way to get a handle on all those nasties we ingest (pesticides, fertilizers and heaven knows what else) that are put on & in the food we eat. It's also expensive, and as my friend Maisie said in her comment to my last post - when you've got growing children and a budget, it's not easy to do.

I order from a company called SPUD - small potatoes urban delivery. They have great prices and having it delivered helps me to NOT make impulse purchases at the grocery store. This is how it saves me money. Plus, I'm busy and it saves me quite a bit of time, not to mention gas (which is creeping ever upward!) They are at . If you'd like to browse and see what they have, use V4C 3C9 as a postal code (not - not mine, but it's in their delivery area) I'll put in a referral code tomorrow in case you live in their delivery area and want to try them out - that way you can use me as the referer (is that a word??) Aha.. here is the code: CR5-318120.(save's you $25) I believe they do Vancouver/Lower Mainland/Whistler and Calgary. But you'd have to check as they may deliver elsewhere, too.

I order quite a few things from them - but not meat. I still can't get my head around the price of organic meat. Maybe soon - but not yet. I do buy from them veggies and fruit, dairy, my cleaners, and this week I even bought recycled toilet paper. When I was in the grocery store this morning, I checked out their prices on the things I buy and the prices were very much the same.

If you are unsure of what to buy organic - here is a list from Canadian Living Magazine of the items with the most pesticides: Peaches, Apples, Sweet Bell Peppers, Celery, Nectarines, Strawberries, Cherries, Lettuce, Imported Grapes, Pears, Spinach and Potatoes. If nothing else these would be good choices to start with. And remember - with your fish - the bigger the fish, usually the higher the toxins. That's why they don't encourage you to eat tuna daily anymore.

Items like Avocados, onions, pineapples, magoes, Asparagus are said to have less pesticides. I've seen avocados listed as the least likely to contain pesticides in a few different articles , so I'm not going to pay the extra for organic anymore - especially when my son loves them and I buy a few a week.

And to be green - buy local. If you buy local, in season produce, you will save money - what a bonus! My local veggie market sells a lot of things that are grown without sprays (leafy greens of all kinds) at excellent prices (the best anywhere) and they stock a lot of locally grown items. When I have the time to go by there, I will pick up these things and just order what they don't have. I'm not yet ready to give up my bananas, but I'm trying to balance this with buying as much local stuff as I can. I do choose local items over imports as much as possible not matter where I buy them.

I'm planning on using up all the leftover veggies tomorrow. A stir fry or soup or something tasty like that. Gotta fit in the next order of fresh stuff - so I'll make applesauce with the old apples, too. I do not want to waste food like we used to. This is another bonus of my ordering. I'm not buying lots of extras that catch my eye, only to end up in the garbage when they've gone off.

It's good to do a little research on what is grown locally and when it's harvested. Plan your meals around that, buying local organic when possible, and you'll be pleasantly surprised by the taste, the price and the good feeling you get from supporting a local farm.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Lighten Up!

This week I think you can take that literally as we hit daylight savings this weekend and I'm letting go of stuff. We've returned from vacation - to all of us getting sick. Yet the declutter is still happening. I now have 8 boxes of things for the garage sale. I just have to figure out where we will store them until we have one this spring. My food processor- barely used, my cross-stitch stuff and some of my fabric are finding a new homes with a friends and family. These things just didn't want to go to a garage sale. It's funny how you look at something and someone's name just pops into your head! Now the intent is these things will be useful for the recipients, not left to become another person's clutter. I'm asking first - always a good thing.

I have some towels/pillows for the animal shelter, clothes/shoes/household items for the consignment shop and a batch of recycling to go out. All of this will be distributed on or before Friday. We also pulled our freezer out of the baby's room (yes, we had a deep freezer in there). It's now sitting in the front hallway and as soon as we've eaten our way to the bottom, it's going to be getting a new home. This move is allowing me to put the stroller into the hall closet (keeping the dirt out of my home!) and my big blue trunk into my son's closet. I can put his toys on top of the trunk and still have room for his clothes to hang, so it works out well. The contents of the trunk will be reviewed before it goes there, too. It contains my mementos and I'd like to work on letting go of the unnecessary and finding ways to honour the other things.

I've cleaned out my craft trunk and now have a list of projects to complete. I will be assigning them a deadline and if not done they will be released to the world to find a new home. This is where the cross-stitch stuff, the fabric, some knitting needles, and a few unfinished projects that are being let go of came from. I find it very hard to part with stuff like this, but I'm doing it and am proud of that! I only have one rubbermaid trunk of craft stuff now. (not counting my scrapbooking stuff)

Speaking of scrapbooking, I have decided, after 10 years, to stop as a consultant. It's been on my mind since my son was born and now it's time to let it go. Rather than a joy, it became emotional and mental clutter. It might not be physical, but clutter is clutter. I'm having a final workshop at the end of the month and will then pass my clients to my upline and a friend. Now when I scrapbook, it's for pleasure and not business.

Papers have been culled - lots and lots of papers. These things multiply like bunnies - no - like fruit flies! I have a small basket of things to go through and action or file. Much better than the great big box of stuff I'd collected. From this point on I'm going to try to open the mail over the recycle bin.

And the final tally of things thrown away - nearly zero - a few bits of plastic, a bit of string that's about it! I'm determined to find new homes for all of this.

I'm also using the library more, not printing things at work if I don't need to, recycling everything I can - even if I have to take it to my parents place as their city recycles things mine doesn't, and bringing my mug and utensils to work to avoid disposables.

Peter Walsh says that you must focus on the live you wish to live. I wish to live a simpler life, without clutter all over the place. One that is kinder to the earth and safer for my child. I have a vision of what would look like and I'm aiming for it. Somehow having thought that through first really does make a difference in how I look at things. It's easier to let go of something that isn't contributing to the vision - even if it's sentimental.

I'm trying hard not to buy anything right now. I will wait to buy containers until after the purge - this way I'm only containing the things I want in my life, rather than trying to contain everything I have now.

And my last green endeavour is that we are continuing with our organic foods delivery. I think it's worth it.

Stay tuned - I'm not nearly done yet as I pursue my need to let go of stuff, while ensuring it stays out of the landfill!

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Story of Stuff

If you do nothing else today - go see this website! It's a 20 minute video and I guarantee you, it's worth watching.

I had this site passed along to me by my cousin, Brenda, in the comments to one of my posts. My husband and I watched it and... well... were chastened, to say the least. While we know all this - it's more a back of the mind kind of knowing - not a conscious knowing. And it should be a conscious knowing to help us make better decisions.

We are in the process of replacing appliances - but since ours still work (albiet not that well) we will ensure they get more life out of them by passing them along to someone who can use them. Our dishwasher needs replacing first - and I've had it serviced twice already to extend it's life. Since it could still be useful to someone, I'll put it on Craigslist, etc. to see if someone would like it.

If we sell - and we plan to do so in the next year - we need to have upgraded appliances. We've made ours last over 12 years, and I hear that's good for the quality of appliances we have. That also includes our hot water tank that apparently should have been replaced years ago. Thankfully no one told it about the fact it was supposed to be disposed of after about 6 or so years. All of our appliances have been serviced over the last few years, rather than replaced - and after watching this video, I'm so glad we did that.

And I'm also going to try to hang on to my computer a little longer. My laptop has broken keys, doesn't charge and barely plugs in - but I think I can get a little more life out it - and so I will.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Plastic Paradise?

While I was looking for some information on the the North Shore of Oahu, I came across an article that gave me pause for thought. It started with me finding a story about plastic bags and how there is a group on this island that is working toward banning them - and since it's stalled in their legislature at the moment, they are working on converting the people that live here. They promote reusable bags and one person even went so far as to bring in compostable take out containers (replacing the styrofoam clamshells) as well as compostable cutlery and even a recycled paper napkin. I was impressed. I wasn't as impressed with the lack of recycling pickup here - that's a definite thumbs down for Oahu and something that needs to be instituted here.

What really got me was the conversation that started in the comments section. It brought out a lot of opinions, that's for sure. What seemed to run through was that people don't want plastic if it's bad for the environment - but that they don't want laws that tell them what to do. I keep hearing that in different places - that we shouldn't be pushed into this Global Warming issue. That people aren't sure of the science and aren't willing to let the government make that choice for them - they want to do the right thing - but not because they have no choice and not under the banner of Global Warming.

I think I have to agree - somewhat. In a world that has countries that won't be players in the issue because they appear not to care, it's hard to swallow the fact that your government thinks you should be the fix. It's also hard to compete in a global market when you are taxed to death over everything - and then again for this on top of it - while at the same time your competitors don't have that to deal with. But, if you do it of your own accord - because you care - and if big business is forced to do things in an environmentally safe way, without having to additionally compensate for the rest of the world that isn't, maybe that's a good compromise. No one should be allowed to exploit and pollute our world. We've done enough damage.

Ah - now off my soapbox and back to my article. I was shocked to hear this one. Here I am - in Paradise - and I find out that a part of this state has a plastic beach. Yep, you read that right - a plastic beach. Apparently so much plastic wears down in the ocean that the little itty bits it separates into end up there and it's a plastic beach - a good foot or so deep. Now if that doesn't have you thinking twice about things, I don't know what will. If I'd read that article before I bought my son some toys to play with here (that we are leaving for future guests to enjoy) I'd not have bought them since they are beach toys and they are - you guessed it - plastic.

Here is the article if you'd like to read it.

So - while I admit to getting some plastic bags when we picked up a few things at the swapmeet, (couldn't leave without a classic Hawaiian shirt, right?) I used the first bag to put all my purchases in. And I'm using the bags over and over as I can. I'll probably even pack stuff in them, and then recycle them when we get home.

Lastly - I thought I'd share. I did laundry yesterday and not only did I wash on cold but... I hung it out to dry! I did have to put some things in the dryer (thick towels and what was damp at days end) but most of it air dried and it felt great! My friend Maisie would be proud.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


While I hate to brag, I really have to share that I'm writing this blog entry from Hawaii! We are staying on the North Shore of Oahu in a house on the beach. This is the life. Really! I know it's just a vacation, but I could see myself living in a place like this fulltime.

Most of our time will be spent right here in this house getting some of that R&R that I've heard rumours about. We'll do a few touristy things but for the most part this house and this beach are just where we want to be. Right now I'm still trying to slow down and enjoy the unfilled time. It's hard - I keep looking for stuff to do. I figure this time next week, I'll have perfected it.

Now I'm sure you're wondering "Just what does this have to do with living a greener life?" Well, I'm so glad you asked. It has PLENTY to do with it. You see, I have a plan. While we are here, we are not at home with all of our things - those things you know I'm so attached to. We are not using all the things we use every day - all the cleaners (both house and body), all the gadgets and so on. We are taking time to take stock of our life and to see where it is we want to go. I'm living without my stuff - which is giving me the time and distance I need to think more clearly about what it is I want out of life.

While I haven't gotten to the point of writing it all down - I do know that things will have to change as my vision of life has changed over the past decade and I've just not adjusted my lifestyle to meet that vision. Upon my return, you will get to find out more on this topic. Remember I said March was the month to declutter - well, it's about more than just stuff. It's going to be about decluttering a life, making room for what's important (friends, family and so one) and letting go of what's not (shopping for fun, a disposable lifestyle, etc.)

I've also learned that travelling with a baby is an experience and that it is NOT an earth friendly one if your baby isn't able to regular food yet. Since my son has allergies - he can't eat a lot of commercially prepared baby food. He's just beginning to eat things with more texture and is not ready for 'real' food. This means making him something different from us. I forgot my hand mixer, so I'm limited in what to make him as I need to be able to dice it finely. I ended up buying a lot of baby food - I searched to find the few things he can have and stocked up. (not too much variety but he won't starve) I also bought some stuff I can cook for him when we are at the house. At home I make his food and freeze it in ice cube trays. Can't do that in Hawaii as it's too hot to be carrying it around when you go out. Plus - if you do keep it frozen - you can't heat it up for him at the beach. So jars and fruit cups it is. And I'm not sure what to do with them. I never throw them away at home - so I'm hoping to find a way to recycle them. Otherwise I can see me bringing it all home. (did I mention my suitcases were full when I arrived here?)

We also bought a playpen for him to sleep in (we'll keep it at our family's place to use when we visit) and we bought a beach umbrella to keep him in the shade. Both of these will get plenty of use over the next few years - by us and by anyone we know that can use them. And when we are done with the playpen, it will go on to another life with another family as I intend to take good care of it. (another key to being green - take care of what you have - make it last and then pass it on so it can continue it's useful life)

The fact that my suitcase is full is a good thing, though. I could have filled another suitcase coming here but by squeezing it into less space, it means that I don't have room to buy junk. We don't plan on bringing home souvenirs for everyone. No sense in bringing home stuff for their next garage sale. It's definately not earth friendly to buy stuff people don't want! My own souvenir will be a baby food jar with some sand in it. Maybe a little piece of coral (it's washes up on the beach here) and a shell or two that we find (uninhabited, of course!) That's it. We will have pictures, maybe a post card or two, and our memories. This will be a first, that's for sure, as I usually come home loaded with things.

Oh - and just in case our house-sitter is reading this - don't worry! You're getting some thing - just not something disposable!

Monday, February 11, 2008

It's All About The Stuff!!

At least, sometimes it feels that way.

Do you ever feel overburdened by things, paper.... stuff? I know I sure do. I've been on a decluttering mission for a few years, but it seems that I take two steps forward and one (sometimes two) steps back. I make a little headway, but then more stuff just appears. Either its a conspiracy to make me crazy or it multiplies in dark corners!

It's hard to admit that maybe, just maybe, I'm the source of the problem. After all, who wants to be the source of all that brings angst into their lives? Alas, it is true. I really am the source of all that is cluttered. I find that in my effort to not throw things away, to save money, to be prepared, to (insert excuse here) I accumulate more and more. Sometimes it's a great deal and I have to buy one, or two or ten of whatever it is. Sometimes it's something I really did want but didn't plan for where to put it or what to get rid of to make room for it. And lastly - the hardest one of all - it's something that someone is giving me. This is particularily true for the things that I'm given for my son. Grandparents, friends, acquaintances seem to buy, share, hand down all sorts of wonderous stuff that finds it's way into my home. Granted some of it is particularly beautiful stuff, but I don't differentiate at the door.

I've come across a great book for someone like me - good enough that I actually went right over to my bookshelf and got rid of 1/2 of the books that are supposed to tell me how to get organized, uncluttered, financially free and all that great stuff. If they are on the shelf, well, they are obviously not working! It's Peter Walsh's "It's All Too Much" and the title just sang to me as I walked on by. I recommend this book as it has you examine what you want out of life before you tackle the stuff. It's not about finding great storage, it's about examining your relationship with things and your own sense of control in your life. Very powerful words in this little book. My one issue is that he talks about trashing things with great abandon. For me, if it has life left, it is to be reused. So I ask that if you follow this path - find ways to share what you let go of, rather than sending it to the landfill.

So as my journey begins, what to do with all that Stuff is going to be the issue. I was saving it for a garage sale, but as the boxes get higher, I'm not sure I want to store it until late spring. I've decided that I'll put what I can on consignment and unless I find a place to keep the boxes that's out of the way, they will be donated. It's more about living the vision, than making a few bucks out of my old stuff. I'll also do some research to see if there are any places that can use what I have or where I can take things.

For anyone letting go of things consider used bookstores, thrift stores, consignment shops, transition houses, church projects, homeless shelters and animal shelters. All of these places are available as an outlet for your used items. There are even some charities that take old stained clothes if they are good for rags as they sell the material by the pound to buyers. Look into it in your city and see how little you can throw away, while at the same time letting go of a great deal.

My journey will really take off in March as I have designated March as the big letting go month. I'll definately keep you posted on how it goes. So far I have four garage sale boxes, two ebay boxes, a stack of books, a few items of clothing and some odds and ends to send back to their owners - all waiting to go. And by the way, I did get rid of that fish tank - it's now happily esconced in a long term care facility for the residents to enjoy.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Recycling Troubles

This weekend has been a great one for letting go of 'stuff' and sharing what's good with others. I've taken quite a bit of stuff to the consignment shop, a box of items and two bags full of grocery store bags to the thrift store, took down some recycling, returned all the pop bottles for their refund and left a bunch of stuff out for people to pick up, thanks to freecycle. I'd say that this was a productive weekend as far as not throwing away perfectly good things.

Now - on the down side, my city is failing rather badly in the recycling department. We have had two pick ups since December 18th. I live in the city of Surrey, B.C. and I can't believe what a terrible job they have done with the switchover of service providers. A new contract was awarded to International Paper, effective January 1st 2008. It appears that during the last two weeks of their contract, Waste Management decided not to bother fulfilling their contract, and the new company - over a month later, still can't do theirs.

As a tax payer and a person who feels very strongly about recycling, this situation disgusts me. I spoke to the person in charge on Thursday to find out what was happening. As we'd had snow, and I was fine with a delay due to this, I wanted to know when they would come. I was told that day. On Friday I was told that he'd dispatched "his" crew and they'd be there that afternoon. Well, it's now Sunday and they never showed. We've been given an assortment of excuses ranging from not having remotes to undergrounds, to them not being able actually enter the undergrounds (something that was never a problem for the previous company) I really have to ask - just how much does the City of Surrey care that my neighbourhood is paying for a service we're not receiving. Do they care that the bins are overflowing and that people are using the garbage instead now? Do they care that our tax dollars are paying someone to NOT do their job?

I applaud the decision to add things to our recycling stream later this year, but if it is done with the same finesse as changing contractors has been done, I'm already concerned that it will only result in chaos and, in the end, a terrible waste of resources.

So, to the City of Surrey, I say - Wake up! Get it right! Make these people accountable and make them do their job. This is affecting our planet and it's time you stood up and did something about it.

I'll be following up tomorrow. I've already left a message this weekend and I intend to see this through until we get the service we've had in the past.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Freecycle Frenzy

Well, I'm still working on the declutter aspect of my life. I have too much stuff and not much space. So I've been trying to get rid of things. I have a box of things to get ready for the consignment store again and today I managed to pass along a few things via Freecycle. I am now lighter one bag of packing peanuts (which I could not throw away), a bag of baby clothes, a bag full of hangers that came with many of the baby clothes my son got as gifts (also couldn't throw these away) and there are a bunch of things to go to the thriftstore.

I think I've decided not to wait for a garage sale. If I can't find a spot to store the boxes, I will either freecycle them or donate them. I just want the space back. Freecycle, by the way, was an ingenious invention. I find it amazing that there is a place to share things and to ask for things you need - and that people actually use it! Craigslist here also is good for selling or giving away things and I've made good use of it, too.

Today will see me taking down a good sized load of recycling. It's mostly paper I've purged - where does it all come from?? It's like it multiplies in the dark! But at least it's hitting the recycling bin and not the garbage.

I'm going to clean out another cupboard tonight after my son is in bed. It's full of 'stuff' and I'm sure there are some great things in there to share with others, too.

Dinner tonight is leftovers. I'm doing well on not tossing out leftovers since I'm sticking them in the freezer until I get to them. Makes it kind of like a free frozen dinner! We had a snow day here today and I'm too lazy to cook (saving energy, lol) and so this is perfect. I really am glad I read Maisie's blog and decided to follow suit.

That's it for today. A few little things.