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!