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!