Monday, November 23, 2009

Being mindful - staying focused

It's funny to think that being mindful of what you are doing and focusing on the task at hand could be a green thing  but it truly is.  You see, I've discovered something about myself - I have the attention span of a flea.  Now, if I actually was a flea, that would be ok, but in a full size human being that's a recipe for disaster, and for waste.  I have noticed that, because I tend to get sidetracked, I forget things like putting leftovers in the freezer for future meals, making sure not to burn the rice (which I do everytime!) and planning to use up all the perishable food.  I am great at saving stuff to take to the recycling spots, but not so hot at getting it there as I never seem to be organized enough to get out the door.  If you saw the big batch of batteries I have to take in, you'd understand. It's been well over a year and I keep forgetting them, even when they are in my car.

If I was mindful of one task at a time, that wouldn't happen.  None of it would happen - except maybe the rice.  I just can't get that right.  I want to be more focused; to finish one task at a time so that each idea or line on my to do list is completed, instead of having a big list of half done stuff.  When you live like this, you leave little things undone and that's just not good stewardship of your resources. 

We are taught to multi-task and evidence is now showing that the human brain isn't wired to do thaty. I think women do this more than men. We try to get just one more thing done on top of the ones we've already started.  It's very zen to be mindful, and I can sure see how it could save me some money when I stop wasting stuff or buying duplicates because I've forgotten I already have certain things.

As for the rice, I think I might get a rice cooker and save those stovetop pans from permanent black burns.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Birthdays and Being Green

When you are talking about kid's birthdays and being green, it's usually not in the same sentence.  Let's face it, birthday parties are about games, presents, cake and goodie bags - that's it.  Yes, I know that it's supposed to be a celebration and gifts aren't important, but try telling that to a preschooler! 

This year we tried to do it a little bit differently for my son's birthday party.  I invited 5 kids (4 families) and each came with a parent.  Before I knew what I'd done, I'd gotten caught up in the birthday decor - the plates, the tablecloth... none of it reusable.  But before it went to far, I stopped myself.  

I went hunting to see what leftovers we had and began to plan what we needed for parties.  To that end, I went to IKEA and bought a six piece set of kid's plastic bowls, plates, cups and cutlery.  Now the kiddies had fun stuff to use and I can reuse it here daily as well as for my next kiddie birthday party (coming up quick).  I used the paper stuff for the adults, but only opened one package of plates, figuring we'd switch to my dinnerware if needed.

I knew I wanted to hand out goodie bags - last year I did books and a toy car - things that would last. This year I sewed up a tote bag, a crayon roll (with crayons) and a matching bean bag.  I added a colouring book and viola.  A goodie bag that has things in it designed to last a long time and spark the imagination.   I'm pretty proud of them, that's for sure and will post a picture here asap.

As for cake - the only kind my son can have is either homemade (and I didn't have time to make one) or an icecream cake.  We chose an icecream cake big enough for the party and the family gathering coming later. (after all - it goes in the freezer, right?)  The only part of that we didn't recycle or eat was the base under the cake.

Prior to his party, I cleaned out the kid's toys and packed up a large box of stuff to take to the swapmeet.  Kid 'stuff' swapmeets are very popular here, and I've been building up a big collection of stuff to take to one.

Many of his gifts didn't have much for packaging - a big plus, but for those that did, I pulled it all apart until I had everything recyclable out of there and in the blue bin.  There wasn't very much waste, which was a really good thing.

The party was a great success - 6 preschoolers and two babies playing, yelling, screaming! 3 hours, plenty of help.  This allowed us to enjoy the kids and the day.  I think that having planned a little better this year, and having considered the impact of most of what we did, helped to make it a little Greener than it would have been without the legwork.

We've got lots of room for improvement, but this was a fabulous start!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Sharing - the greenest way of all

Wow, time sure flies when you are having fun!  I'm on the countdown to return to work and have been making the most of it with my family.  Today I wanted to share just how wonderful sharing can be. 

I've been clearing out stuff like crazy around here - boxing up for a kid's stuff swapmeet, donating things and putting stuff on fullcircles and craigslist.   Normally when I post free stuff, people come by and pick it up from outdoors. I never see or hear from them and the stuff is gone.  But this past week something different happened.  I had a lady leave a thankyou card with a lotto scratch ticket in it at my door - just to say thankyou.  Another person left a little note with a handknitted dishcloth at my door - again to say thankyou.  A man stopped to knock and say thank you for something else and another lady sent me a thank you email. Wow! 

I never expected anything in return for what I was sharing.  It's all stuff I didn't need and I thought someone else could use. It didn't need to go to the landfill - it just needed to be connected to the right person.  That's all I was thinking.  But something else happened last week - I noticed that it felt really good to share.  I've been trying to follow the Flylady program ( to help me get on track with routines and clearing out stuff before I head back to work and she says to bless others with things we no longer need.  Instead of saving it all for a garage sale, I decided to do just that.   I don't have to store it and they get to enjoy it.  It's a very 'green' principle. 

So - if you don't love it, it doesn't have deep meaning to you and you don't use it - why is it in your house?  Share it and watch how good things flow back to you just when you need them!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Good Times in the Garden

It's Fall.  Enough said.  Days are getting shorter, Nights longer, Air cooler - winter is approaching.   I love fall and now with a garden it has new meaning.  Leaves will need to be rakes - and bagged and saved.  Yep, I said saved.   Leaves are great for the compost - so if you have one, save those leaves so you can layer them in there in the spring.   I plan on keeping a bag or two of dried leaves and I'm going to run over piles of them with the mower and dig them into the veggie garden, too. 

Laying the garden to rest is surprisingly rewarding.  I thought I'd be sad about it, but as I'm tidying up I'm able to move things around a bit and begin to make plans for spring.  I'm saving seeds from the things I liked and pulling those I didn't.  This will give me a chance to share with others if I have plants I no longer like. 

I've filled a few bags for the garden waste pickup - this fabulous thing allows me to send off my weeds where they are composted, rather than tossed in the garbage.  Apparently the high heat attained there kills the seeds, something that doesn't happen in my small compost. 

Speaking of which, I do need to add more brown stuff to it and turn it.  That's something I've been slow in doing.  Already I'm planning on how to make it better next year so I can harvest some of that rich stuff for my garden.

Fall is a good time to map out where your plants are, what you want to move in the spring (and where it is, as it will probably die back over the winter and you'll have no clue where to look) and what you want to add.  You might even find a friend that has what you want and vice - versa.  Hmmm.  I think this would be 'green' gardening at it's best.  You can recycle old pots to move things to each other and you are using something that already exists.  Gotta love it!    If you have items you don't need anymore (extra rakes, garden ornaments, pots for plants and so on) be sure to share them on freecycle, fullcircles or craiglist - or a reuse website run by your community.  Even broken stuff can be artistic in the garden so keep an open mind on what you can re-use or pass on to another.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Magic Wands and the Wonder of the Recycling Bin

The other day my son needed a magic wand.  He chose a long stick. Um...dangerous when a two year old waves it around!  You do remember the saying that it's all fun and games until someone loses an eye?  That's what was running through my head when I saw it!  

The solution - run to the recycling bin (faster than pulling out our 'maker' box) and see what in there could work to make a wand.  We settled on a cheerios box, cut up into two big stars and then we stapled them together over the top of a wooden spoon.  Instant magic wand!  And days later it's still working - albiet with a little added tape to hold it together.

This got me to thinking about what ends up in that bin. I've been trying to think of how I could reuse some of the stuff in there before it heads to the recycling depot.   So far I've kept baby food jars so I can make baby meals in them and freeze them. These are great as you can reuse over and over and still recycle them.  I'm also saving stuff like paper towel rolls, cardboard, little containers and so one for our 'maker' box (see my toddler blog for more info on this idea)  And I do save my baby formula containers (not recyclable), lids and scoops for my Mom to take their local kindergarten class to use in crafts.  I think I might start saving smartie boxes and little ones like that for her, too, as the kids use them to make stuff.

Can you think of anything in your recycling box that could have another life?

(ps.  Kiva has a ton of loans open at the moment and it looks like lots of them will not be funded before they expire - if you wish to loan as little as $25, check it out using the link to the left of this  post. We've funded lots of loans and so far our intitial $100 investment has been fully repaid over and over by everyone we've given too.  It's a great feeling to look and see we've helped 9 people so far, and we can just keep giving the same money to help another as it gets repaid.  While they cannot guarantee repayment, we've noticed that these entreprenuers work hard to pay back their loans and you will likely see it all come back to you to regift or use for something else as you wish.)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Pack it In! Reusable lunch boxes are cool!

I've noticed that there are lots of lunch boxes out there now. Metal ones (cool, like we had as kids!), insulated bags, cloth bags, bento box style - you can find just about anything.

Litterless lunches are in.  And this is a great thing. Not only is it environmentally friendly, it's also cheaper to eat this way.  Hmmm.. I think I'm beginning to see a trend - green often equals money savings.  But I digress.  Here's what you need for a litterless lunch

  • A container - a large rubbermaid, insulated bag, metal lunch box, cloth drawstring bag - you choose  your container.
  • cloth napkin (buy them or make your own as they are simple to sew up)
  • set of utensils - I like to have a set of metal ones, but you can buy bamboo or just keep re-using your plastic ones that you'd bought to throw away.
  • smaller containers - these are for snacks, sandwiches, salads, etc. 
  • baggies - I love the baggies I mentioned in an earlier post - they are re-usable and my little guy loves his crackers in them.   I do still use some ziplocs, but these are brought home to be re-used.
  • re-usable juice/water bottle
  • re-usable coffee/hot drink mug
When you shop, don't buy the individual size items.  Instead, buy a larger container and split it up into your little containers.  I have a big bucket that is filled with snacks.  There are mini rice cakes, crackers and so on, all repackaged into smaller containers. You can also your own  puddings/jello into small tupperware containers.  I do use ziploc baggies, but I reuse them until they fall apart.  This makes it easy to grab and go.  I also keep  large tupperware containers of things like goldfish crackers and just scoop those into a re-usable container when I'm packing lunches.

You can go bento box style, where all your little boxes fit tightly into a bigger one - or you can toss them all in a bag, it's up to you.  When you have a reusable lunch box and containers, you don't have garbage to throw away.  Bring home your egg shells and scraps for the compost. If you do put in a soda or a juice container, then bring it home to recycle.

It's easy to go green with your lunch - so pack both school and work lunches like this and tally up your savings while you're at it!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Hang 10! or a whole load...

Of laundry that is! 

Today's tip is to hang your laundry.  If you have room, put up a clothesline.  There are so many out there to choose from - umbrella style, some that hang off the wall, free-standing and more.   They also come in many sizes and price ranges so you can fit any budget and any space.  I use an umbrella style one that is out in the lawn, as well as a small free-standing rack.  In my laundry room I have a rod that I hang things from, too. 

This simple thing can save a lot of energy and money, as dryers are one of the big energy hogs in your home.  If you are a laundramat user, think of all the rolls of quarters you can bank!

If you are intrigued by the idea of using a clothesline - check out Sundog clotheslines. This is a local company that specializes in them and their catalogue is awesome!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Who turned out the lights?

Turn off the lights? 'How obvious', you say!  Yet, the reality is that while we know this is the easiest thing to do, many of us still just can't get into the habit.

Make this a game.  While you are learning to turn off the lights when you leave the room, begin a game that has you run about the house, every hour on the hour, turning off the ones you missed.  I'll bet you'll be surprised at how many you've left on. After a few days of this, I can pretty much guarantee that you will have made turning off the lights a bit of a habit.  Teaching kids to turn them off each hour can be fun - it's a race to see who can finish their area of the house first!  If they are wiley - they'll figure out they can win by remembering to turn them all off in the first place.

Turning off the lights can make a noticeable difference in your hydro bill - so this is not only an energy saver - it's a guaranteed money saver, too!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Put A Little Green In Your Home

It's simple - buy a plant.  Plants in your home help to give you clean air, naturally.  Not only that, but caring for a plant can help to make you feel better.  The act of caring for something is good for your mental health and for your physical health. Puttering around with it can help you relax.  While a plant can't play with you like a pet can, it does need you to keep it healthy, and being needed is a good thing!

Now, I definately do not have an indoor plant green thumb, but there are a few plants out there that people like me can succeed with.  Ivy type plants are usually easy - I love one called Pothos - I've had many in my life and they've lived long and well.  I still have some of them.  My sister, who frequently forgets to water the ones on top of her cupboards, still has the same ones, too.  Once she tried to kill mine when I moved away (OK, not on purpose, but still) and I managed to save it from near death.  You can take cuttings and put them in water to root and them plant them, thus expanding your collection at no cost.  This particular plant is amazing as lives just about anywhere and comes in pretty varieties, too.The website below shows the varieties.

You can pot your chosen plant in organic soil, feed it regulary with organic fertilizer and you'll have a healthy green addition to your home, that gives you the benefit of clean air at the same time.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Green tip of the day! Salt stain remover

I've decided to try and add some quick tips when I have time - a tip of the day kinda idea.

A long time ago, I tipped over a glass of red wine on my friend's grandmother's white rug. Yes, red wine on a white rug - the kiss of death. However, she just jumped up, grabbed a box of salt and poured it on. Immediately you could see the wine seeping into the salt. She swept up a little, poured on more and left it to dry.

Amazingly the next day, when dry, it all just vacuumed out. The salt was red, the rug was white.

So if you spill something like that - try it. It's much better for the rug, the environment and for your health to try it before you grab the chemical cleaners.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

PC Product Review

I wanted to pop in and say that I've had a chance to try out the Presidents Choice 'green' options. I have used their phosphate free cold water laundry detergent (liquid) and I'm quite happy with it. It's gotten my towels and sheets clean and doesn't make me itchy when I've used it on our clothes (a biggie, since some detergents really bother me)

I've also been using their automatic dishwasher tablets and I'm happy to report that they are working well, also! These are the Green 4 in 1 phosphate free tablets. Along with my new dishwasher that features a no heat dry option, I am finding they work great. I wash the dishes, open the door when it's done and everything is clean and it dries fast if you get the door open just after the cycle is done, before the steam settles and turns into water on it all. (that's the key, I think - use the heat inside there to help dry it off as the steam vents out when you open the door)

The dishwasher is a Maytag quiet series 300 in case you are interested. I'm very happy with it so far. Beats the pants of the Danby junky one we had in here when we bought the house. It's also much larger inside - which means I use it less often. Another big green plus!

OH.. and I recieved a big box of Presidents Choice baking soda. I used it the other day to help scrub out a pot that I'd burned rice in. (yes, you can ruin it by boiling it dry and then it blackens the bottom of the pan) No amount of scrubbing was getting it off, then I remembered the baking soda. By Golly, if it didn't just take it all of first try! Since I had so much on the cloth and in the pan, I turned to my sink and tried it there. Yep, got it nice and silver! Seriously - it did what the bleach did when I cleaned it out a few weeks back. I don't use bleach very often, but needed to remove the brown stains and nothing worked. Now I know to just use baking soda. My first experience with it (yes, I knew about it, I just never had a box around since I don't bake)

I would say I'd buy these products again - so if you want to try them out yourself, I give them a thumbs up.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Re-usable snack and sandwich bags!!

I'm quite excited. I just happened to be poking around Craigslist and I came across a lady who is local to me, that sells some pretty cool stuff.

What caught my eye were her reuseable snack and sandwich bags. They are really neat - with fabulous patterns on the outside and a nylon inside. I'm going to cut and paste her ad for you to read. I am so impressed with her idea that I'm ordering some for my kids and some for gifts. The price is reasonable - especially when you consider how much it costs to buy zip top and flip top sandwich and snack bags. And don't forget the forever cost of those, too. Right below her information you'll find her etsy site - I encourage you to go check it out. If you buy from her, you can have it shipped pretty much anywhere at a very reasonable cost. There is more than bags there, all of it is pretty cool! Drop me a line if you get one.

Here's what she had to say:

"Get your kids ready for back to school!!!! I got tired of wasting money on sandwich bags and came up with an idea to make reusable ones one day after watching my mother wash and hang her plastic sandwich bags at home. I thought there has to be a better way. The bags that I came up with are convenient to use and are very easily maintained. They are made with 100% cotton exterior and are lined with water- and stain-resistant nylon. Nylon has has no lead, phthalates, or BPA in it. There are no exposed seams and they close with a strip of high quality hook and loop tape across the top. After using,simply shake out the crumbs, turn the bag inside-out and wipe the liner down, or if you have a messy snack one day just toss it in the washing machine and line dry.

My kids love them and use them daily for sandwiches, grapes, cheerio's, trail mix, carrot and celery slices, you name it, it goes in these bags! My 2 year old daughter especially loves them for car rides, not sure what entertains her more, the snacks inside or the fun of opening and closing the Velcro!!!! These reusable sandwich bags have the potential to take the place of hundreds of plastic sandwich bags in their lifetime. Help do your part one bag at a time!

The gusseted sandwich bag measures approx. 6 1/2 x 7 1/2". $7 each The snack bag measures approx. 5" by 6". $5 each A Sandwich bag and Snack bag set- $11 per set Discounts given for orders over 5 bags. Tons of different prints available, including boy and girl children prints! Just in time for back to school!!! Or get your order in time for the holidays, makes great stocking stuffers!!!! "

What a great way to use less disposable plastic. I'm impressed. Do check it out.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Dishwashing Blues

Our dishwasher broke. Sigh... You know, washing dishes has to be one of the least exciting things one can do. And let me tell you, we do a lot of it around here!

I read that washing by hand uses much more water than washing dishes in the dishwasher. With that in mind, I began to search for a new one. After much deliberation, I chose one of the Maytag Quiet Series 300 dishwashers. This one has the ability to do a short cycle, which I really like, as well as several longer ones. It also has a macerator, which means that it can chop up little bits of food and dispose of them. (which in turn means scraping is good enough to put things into it!) It also came into the mid-range in price, which is good. There are some very very efficient ones out there - but they cost a bit more than I can afford at the moment. I think we made a good choice with this one.

I can hardly wait to get it installed - Wednesday cannot come soon enough. It will be great to have a quiet, efficient unit to wash our dishes. I like to do ours on a short cycle and air dry - something this can do. Is this something you do, too?

Once it's in and we've used it a bit, I'll let you know how it's doing.

Next up - the hunt for a large size, high efficiency washer and dryer set. Ours is very old and I think they are on their last legs, judging by the interesting sounds they make. We have managed to keep them going, but I need to be prepared to replace them, so I think now is a good time to start looking.

Does anyone out there have a set they think is exceptional for doing a load a day (and sometimes two on diaper days)?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Rainy Days and Toddlers....

Always get me down... or they did - but not anymore! I think I've discovered a secret. They like to be busy. So I got to thinking about how to channel the energy of a little person and direct it into something fun that's indoors and doesn't make them scream at their baby sibling.

Before I go any further - if you are Canadian you probably remember Mr. DressUp. He was my favourite guy on TV with Casey and Finnigan and Aunt Bird and Susan and.. yeah, you get the picture. But there was one thing that he did that really put him above all others. It was the way he made stuff and got those scissors of his to make that great sound when they cut the construction paper! I can still remember that from when I was really little. Now, he's not on TV anymore and I don't even know if there are videos - but he did leave a legacy that is much 'greener' than most. He made stuff out of junk.

I have been collecting boxes, tissue rolls, baby food jars, lids, bits and pieces of this and that and building a little box of creativity. Together we will make recycled art. A little bit of glue or tape or a staple here and there, some colouring, some ripping and tearing and, of course some scissors cutting paper (courtesy of Mommy) and we are set.

If you have kids - it doesn't really matter how old they are, making something out of nothing can be really fun. We've already done the milk carton birdfeeder, and made a lantern out of paper so this week we will explore other options - maybe a snow globe with some leftover glitter and confetti stuff I've saved, or binoculars from the toilet paper rolls, or maybe even melted broken crayons to make new fun big ones. The possibilities are endless and it gives a second life to something I would have recycled - and even better, to something that might not even be recyclable.

If you don't have kids - those birdfeeders made out of a milk carton never go out of style for the birds.
(p.s. I posted a picture to share what we made today. A mix of leftovers, reuses and stuff that he got in goodie bags and from a gift - all in all a wonderful, messy, creative afternoon!)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Shameless Plug!

OK.. not green related, but I entered an Ikea contest for a room makeover. Should you feel so inclined - please pop over to the following link and vote for my entry. (we desperately need a makeover in this room - seriously - it's a hodge podge kinda space) I like a lot of ikea things, especially since many come from sustainable forests or are bpa etc. free. Not all, but a lot of things there are actually good for the environment.

THANKS!!!! :-)

The Urban Attic - My Favourite Consignment Store

I went shopping for a little china cabinet. Oh, I looked all over as I knew just what I wanted. I stopped at the Urban Attic in Surrey and there it was. A lovely little black number - just the right size. But I kept searching because we all know you shouldn't buy the first thing you see. Two weeks later I ended up back there and thankfully, it hadn't sold.

The owner is wonderful and as we chatted, I lamented that it hadn't been distressed as most of the other refurbished pieces by the same person were. I agreed to buy it if she could help me distress it - and she did right then and there. It is now just perfect and is sitting in my eating area in my kitchen (we don't have a dining room). It holds all my favourite things from my great grandmothers dishes to my favourite teacups. And provides a lovely spot for my bears to sit on.

Buying new isn't all it's made up to be. I know, as I searched and still couldn't find what I wanted. But buying used - or refurbished - is perfect. You can find just the right thing and know that you've given an item a new life. Whether you choose to use it as is, refinish it yourself or buy it already done, it's a win/win situation for you and the environment.
If you are in Surrey, B.C. - stop by the Urban Attic. I think it will be worth your while. You can browse a little online at but there is so much to look at there, that the website really doesn't do it justice.

Cool at Last

Well, we broke down and bought the A/C and fit it into our window. A piece of trivia for you all - if you have retrofitted windows, the brackets included do NOT fit into the track. Thankfully we had help and we made it work. And true to Murphy's Law - the weather has changed and it was only 20 degrees today! But it sure did help to cool our house while it was hot. I plan on keeping it on only when it's too hot - otherwise we will use fans on the cooler days to circulate the air.

I received my electric bill and since I am now only $30 away from being caught up to the current usage (we are on the equal payment plan, so it gets evened out at the end of the cycle which is September for us) I am going to ensure we keep our usage of all thing electrical down to acceptable levels. After last year's high bills due to the cold (and portable heaters) I think we'll do better this year anyway with our new windows.

I've been happily hanging my laundry to dry - and it's working well for me. I think that we've used about 3 dryer loads in as many weeks and that's basically been my husbands work clothes as it's easier to iron them when they've been in the dryer and taken out while warm.

I was lucky enough to win a set of President's Choice cleaning products and a lovely red fabric shopping cart on wheels - so I will be sharing about each of the products as I use them. The cart is great - perfect for a few bags worth of groceries - minus the bags. I can also see myself using it for when I'm out with the kids since I can pack it nicely with their stuff and pull it along with me. This is something I suggest you check out if you have Superstore (Real Canadian, Atlantic) or a Loblaws near you.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Beat the Heat

Baby it's hot outside! In Southwestern B.C. we are experiencing a heat wave. I don't know what the official temperatures are, but it's 90 degrees in the shade on my patio! I think my laundry will be dry in minutes, not hours.

So - here's the question. Just how do you keep cool when it's hot and humid? I thought about a portable a/c unit. Apparently they come energywise certified now. But you know what - a little planning would have gone a long way. They are sold out - everywhere. Then I thought - a big fan! Nope, also sold out. hmmm. We have three small fans for the bedroom and our room has a ceiling fan (which I reversed to pull the heat up) Our nursery is the coolest room in the house so the baby is good, but our toddler, not so much.

I have been shutting the blinds, opening windows after the sun is going down and shutting them in the day (opening them a bit now for the breeze, which is better than the still warm air inside the house now).

I'm thinking a cool bath for the kids, a cool shower for us big people would work. Lots of water for all the living things in our house. I've been watering the pots of tomatoes/peppers in the morning and evening. The veggie garden when it's shady, and I have drip hoses in the side beds I'll use tonight for a little while. I'll have to water the rest of it by hand and the grass can wait until the evening of our watering day. Dogs and kitties are lying all over the floor (too hot for their beds). I think ice-cubes might be good in their water.

I got to thinking about that a/c unit. Here we get heat only for a little while - is it worth the money and the energy behind it all (making, transport, use) to get one? I'll decide tonight if we get those two fans I'm hoping for.

What do you do to beat the heat?? Any ideas for us here since we aren't used to this in our neck of the woods? (trivia - there has been only 3 other heat waves that lasted as long as this one is supposed to since the early 1920's)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Much Ado about Laundry

It's something we have to do - day in and day out the laundry just keeps on coming. And yes, no sooner do you finish the load, than someone puts something back in the basket. With all this laundry, just how do we do it so that we can save energy and even save some money?

First I suggest a cold wash cycle. I do pretty much everything on cold, except for diapers. Oh, and the odd time I don't get the towels done quickly and they sit damp - they get a warm wash. I try to make up for the hot wash for diapers by hanging them to dry. When they are done, I tumble them on air with some dryer balls to soften them up. I just can't bring myself to put stiff diapers on my baby's butt, lol.

It's summertime - and that means great opportunities to hang things to dry. I have a small laundry line - an umbrella style with three sides. (I covet one with four sides!) and I also have a portable drying rack that I can use. In my laundry room there is a pole over the washer/dryer that I can use to hang things on, too. I've been hanging about 80 % of the laundry these days. If you can't hang a line, there is always over the shower curtain rod or a small portable rack. In fact they even make ones that pull out from the wall now, and push back flat against it when you are done.

And then there is the detergent you use. I personally prefer Seventh Generation. I also use Nature Clean and have found both to be great - no itchies! We used Purex and I had to give it away as it made me itchy. I have Nellies dryer balls in the dryer and I never use dryer sheets or fabric softener. Both my sons have eczema, so I'm careful about what I use on things they will touch. I just received some President's choice cold water phosphate free laundry detergent so once I decide what I think about it, I'll share. So far it seems OK, although it has a wide open mouth and it spilled all over when I went to use it. Technical design wasn't so hot
there. I prefer liquid as I find I usually end up with a residue when I use powder.

Another thing to think about is your next machine. Mine came with the house and they are old - very old. But they work and I am careful to use the right water level to the amount of items and since I don't use the dryer much in the summer, they are keepers for now. But when they die, I will be getting Energywise appliances and preferably a high efficiency front loader for the washer. I'll definitely do my homework before we buy that, though, as the choices are mind boggling and I want the best item for the best price I can afford.

In a nutshell - since the laundry isn't going anywhere, I'm doing the best I can to be thoughtful about how I do it. Watching water levels in the washer, cold washes, hanging to dry and using laundry soap that is better for the environment helps to make this task a little more earthwise (and in the long run, energywise is also moneywise!)

What detergents do you use? And do you have a fabulous washer/dryer? If so, tell me more!!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Green Kids Contest

I was reading the Canadian Living Magazine's Green Living Blog today and Daniela (blog owner) wrote about a contest for kids age 6-13 to become one of Canada's greenest kids. The details are at so if you are a green kid or you know one - go check it out! There is an honorarium involved, plus a great opportunity to make a difference. Worth writing a 150 word essay for I'm sure.

I just wanted to share this as I think it's a fantastic opportunity for a child to do something important, for themselves and for the world they live in. Pass it along!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Winning the War on Weeds

Ok.. I'm not really, but I loved that title! I am now in a house, as you may know, and weeds seem to be something that come with houses. Who knew? It looked so well tended when we put the offer in. By the time we took possession (a mere 30 or so days later) the weeds were out of control. Yikes! And being very pregnant at the time, I just gave up. Now I'm paying for it as apparently they sowed themselves and are back with a vengeance. Sigh...

I'm adamantly against using pesticides. My husband wants to agent orange the front under the trees where the weeds are taking over. I want to dig it over, pull the weeds, lay down the landscaping fabric and cover with rocks. I'd like river rock I think. Ummm yeah.. I priced it - I need 10 yards and it's.. are you ready for this... over $800!!! And more to just put bark mulch. Goodness me!!!

We have rock in part of the yard, so I'm thinking of pulling all that and using it under the trees, then avidly watching freecycle/craigslist for free river rock nearby and building it that way. I just can't bring myself to pay that much money for rocks.

I've been using Elimaweed and Scott's ecosense weed killer. they are good for the stuff growing in sidewalk/driveway cracks and kind of along paths, but if you don't keep up at it, it all grows back. Grrr. And it cost a fortune. So the next step is to just get down there and dig it. You know.. when I have time. Which I have so much of with two wee ones, lol. I need to teach the toddler to pull weeds for fun.. Only problem is I envisage him pulling anything green. Hmmm. I thought about hiring a student for a few hours to help with the rocks - gotta pull them out of the bed they are in. Hmmm...

I do plan on trying this approach. I've done it here and there and it does work, but you have to maintain the approach, something I'm not good at. Just take 15 minutes and do it. Do all you can as quickly and well as you can, focus on nothing else, for 15 minutes. The kids do sleep, so I might try it consistently everyday. That's an hour and 45 minutes of weeding each week. More than I'm doing now.. Might just work - I'll let you know.

If anyone has any other ideas to tame the scourge that's invading my garden, just let me know. My mom says sometimes you just have to start over.. Ummm. no.. I dont' think so. I'm blessed with some really nice plants - it's just those other ones I dont' want. Please feel free to share. I need all the help I can get to do it and not have my desperate husband grab a bottle of Round-Up.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Sharing just feels good

I've been holding on to some things leftover from the garage sale. I had good intentions of putting them up for sale, but haven't gotten around to it. The other day I decided that I would share them on the FullCircles network - so I have gifted a nice wall shelf and my grandfather's old slide projector and screen to people who will make great use of them. In fact, the projector went to someone who had a ton of slides, but an old projector whose bulb burnt out and can no longer be replaced - a real gift to them!

I've noticed that when you share with others, the things you need seem to come your way, too. For example - we have a shed at our new home that really needs siding put on it. We were chatting with a friend about it, and wouldn't you know it, they had a big lot of used vinyl siding that they didn't need. So with a visit to us for lunch, they brought it over and we now have siding!

It's quite interesting to see that when you just take the time to ask for something - or help - how people want to share or help you. This is the ultimate in recycling. You get something you really need and they get something they didn't need passed on for another use. You may not make a straight trade with someone, but in the end it all somehow works out. You get what you give, you reap what you sow... funny how that works.

So my advice to you all is to share - give things to a friend, share them on craigslist, or freecycle or fullcircles or your local website, bulletin board or by word or mouth. And when you need something - just ask for it. Tell your friends, post an ad, put it out there and you might be pleasantly surprised at what comes back to you.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Getting Greener

My Goodness, but it’s been a long time since I’ve done any blogging! So much to say, so little space. :-)

I have been quite busy around here – both dealing with little boys and with our home. We’ve been doing our part for the economy, that’s for sure, as we had all new windows installed in our home. This was our big energy saving move for the year. Our house had many single pane windows and the double pane windows were from the 80’s and you could still feel a chill through them.

It’s amazing how new windows really change your home, both inside and out. Not only do they look nice, but the noise reduction is amazing. And we can feel the difference in the temperature in here as the drafts are not there anymore. It’s a good time to be doing things like this as there are so many incentives. Not only do we have the government rebates from our energy audit, but there was a rebate from the manufacturer and there is now also a tax rebate on home improvements between $1000 and $10,000 for people in British Columbia. This will give us an overall rebate of almost $2000 on the windows, which were discounted some from the manufacturer in the first place. So we will save both money and energy now!

I’ve been doing lots of little things around here. I’ll list a few that I can think of at the moment.

  • Bought a composter – still have to set it up, but now I’ve made a spot for it and it should go in this week.
  • On nice dry days I’ve been hanging out a load of laundry. Our line is a small umbrella style, but I load up as much as I can on it. Since I’ve been doing laundry one load a day as needed, it’s easier to hang it as there is only one load to do.
  • I wash just about everything in cold water – except diapers which get hot. But diapers never go in the dryer except for an air tumble to soften them once they are dry and that only takes a few minutes
  • I started a vegetable garden – so far the radishes have come up – only one lettuce started but I’ll just plant some more – same with the carrots that haven’t really come up either. I’ll just try again. We now have also got tomatoes, hot peppers, cucumbers, broccoli, as well as the strawberries, rhubarb and raspberries I had already. I will plant a row of peas this week, too. My little garden butts up to the side of a shed, which is getting siding put on it (recycled from a friend), so I can’t plant along the edge just yet. I think there will be some zucchini and some more peas as soon as I can plant them. We also have one bean – named Bean – which is my son’s pet plant.
  • We had a garage sale, which passes things to others, then I shared most of the leftovers by donating them, putting them out on Fullcircles and I sold a few things on Craigslist. Since everything was in good condition I only threw away a few things that were broken when we set up/packed up. That cleared a huge area of our garage.
  • I’ve been gifted things from FullCircles – an old bench seat that I put in our garden, my strawberry plants and raspberry plants and some irises, cloth diapers for my son and more.
  • All of my garden waste has been put into the yard waste bin or the paper bags for it and left out for pickup after which it is sent off to be turned into compost.
  • I recycle all our eggshells around the plants that slugs like - it seems to help keep them away.

That’s everything I can think of right now.

Most of our time is now spent in the garden. Having a big yard is a lot of work but I find I’m enjoying it. I’ve decided not to stress out over the weeds. I just pick a spot and work it a little at a time. Since I don’t know what’s a weed and what’s not in many cases, I’m sure I’m cultivating a few! But that’s ok. I’ll learn as I go. In the meantime, I’m having fun with it all. I did buy weed-killer – it’s finally available in Canada and is made from a highly acidic vinegar. It kills whatever it touches, but if you spray it where you need it, it’s great. And it works well, although the big established weeds take a few applications. We’ve got a whole side of the house covered in them and I sprayed right at their base with it. After a while it got to be tiring doing that – so instead I covered a huge section of them with a big tarp which I will leave on all summer to hopefully bake them off enough to deal with them. I’m using the spray for those that I can’t dig out – like the ones that think cracks in the sidewalk are good places to grow.

Hopefully our little veggie patch will grow, our composter will compost and my time in the garden will be rewarded with some yummy treats. With the good weather finally here, it’s so nice to be outside – and I figure what could be greener than growing?

Friday, April 3, 2009

Give My Regards To Rona

I was flipping through flyers (a favourite pastime of mine!) and I noticed the current one from Rona (for those of you elsewhere - this is a home improvement centre here in Canada) and they have a great flyer this time around. They are quite heavily promoting their ECO choices.

From power tool accessories, to push mowers, low VOC paints and natural choices for your home cleaning and lawn care, this flyer is filled with them. It's very nice to see. The best notice of all in the flyer was that as of July 1, 2009 Rona will no longer be selling synthetic pesticides for cosmetic use in all it's stores across Canada. After all - as I see it - a lawn is a green space to enjoy, not to cover in chemicals. Same goes for the flower beds.

Now speaking of gardening - I have to choose how to spend my $50 that I got as a gift. I'm torn between so many things and how to get the most bang for my buck! Right now I'm looking at a composter which I can buy from the city for $35 and maybe some little solar lights for the yard (the ones on a stake) that Home Depot has for 1.99. I could get a half dozen of those to mark the walkway in the front yard, which would be nice. And I might even be able to sneak in a packet of seeds for my veggie garden while I'm at it! I still haven't decided and if I can scrounge a composter from someone, I'll be able to stretch my gift even further for something else for my garden or home to help 'green' it. Yippee! (and as for gifts - I asked on my FullCircles group - formerly freecycle - to try to find a patio table and we've been gifted one that I will pick up this weekend. I just love sharing this way. If you aren't on a FullCircle or a Freecycle list - what are you waiting for? It's a great way to gift others and find things useful to yourself as well)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Earth Hour report

I am happy to say that even though we were away from home, we were still able to participate in Earth Hour this past Saturday. We were celebrating a special occasion and had dinner at the Cannery Sea Food Restaurant. They turned off all the lights they could and during that time we got to enjoy our dinner by candlelight. It did make menu reading interesting, but the staff had little flashlights to help out, lol.

We were in Vancouver, BC and from our table we could see (or should I say not see) the Lion's Gate Bridge as they turned off the lights there, too. It seems that Earth Hour is catching on. We didn't see a huge change in the light across the water in North Vancouver or downtown (we could see both from our table) but there was a difference. Maybe one day we'll see it all power down for a while.

Now something to consider - why not have your own Earth Hour every month - perhaps the last Saturday of each. It could be a romantic dinner, a fun time for the kids, a chance to sleep a little earlier (with a baby I really do have a one track mind)

In the summer you can sit outside and watch the sunset, use your solar lights or candles or just relax under the stars. In the winter, how about a fire to warm your toes, flashlight stories with the kids, or indoor 'camping' for them. The ways you can spend an hour without lights on are endless!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A little Green for St. Patrick's Day

With today being the 'greenest' of days, I am taking some time to post here. It's just been a hectic few months with the new baby and a very active two year old. Rest assured, that even though I've not kept up the posting, I'm doing my best to keep up the effort. I thought I'd share a little about the energy audit we had done.

The advisor came to our home and did a blower test (to check for leaks) and inspected many areas of our home. We came up with a list of things to do, and how much each of these items should affect our energy usage (and consequently our savings in relation to this)

The biggies that came in were that we had the equivalent of a nice big hole in the wall - letting out the heat and letting in the cold. So we've made a plan to fix some of this by installing new windows in our home this year. That will be our big project. But we will also do some draft proofing around the house with caulking, lightswitch foam inserts (for behind the plates) putting in outlet plugs on all the sockets we aren't using, and adding a little insulation as our budget allows. Ideally we will insulate in the crawlspace as we are actually losing more heat through there than our attic (which has insulation, just not an ideal r-factor) This explains the cold floors!

We could replace our furnace, but until we seal up the house's envelope, it's just not going to make a huge difference.

The energy audit allows us to apply for government grants if we do a follow-up audit within 18 months. This is something we will do, as we will have replaced the windows and that alone is worth a little money to us. And as we may need to replace the washing machine and want to replace our awful dishwasher (with energy star models!) we can earn a little more back, too.

It's a good time to do this type of thing as there are great incentives through the audit program - both federal and provincial grants out there, plus there is a new tax incentive as well. Add to that the savings we can anticipate by changing out the old thin windows we have, along with a little insulation and over time it's well worth the effort financially. Immediately it's worth the comfort and the fact we use less energy. (it's not all about the money)

I received a printout for our home, with the list of things to do, what the grants would be and how these things impact the home. They also gave us a bunch of information on greening our home. I have to say that I've found the BC Hydro website a huge wealth of information as they have great ideas/tips on there. This is also where I've found some of the window contractors I'm talking to for quotes. I suggest you take a look for some good ideas. ( They have a team powersmart you can sign up for if you use BC Hydro, as well as lots of guides/tips/links etc.

One thing we did over the winter was replace our hot tub cover. Since you have to leave it warm, and our old one collapsed in the snow, we bought a five inch thick insulated cover. It's probably a bit of overkill for around here, but I'm not letting any more of that hot water heat the air than I have to.

While I know we can't afford to do it all within the 18 months you are allotted for the energy audit/reaudit, I can definately see us doing some of those things and reaping the comfort benefits of it, as well as the financial ones.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

It's Sweater Day!

Join us for warm sweater Wednesday! Even though we have the heat a little higher than usual with the baby, I still manage to turn it down just a little during the day. If you can, put on a sweater and slippers and turn that heat down for the day. If we all do, it adds up to a lot less energy used across the world. And if you do it regularly, you'll save a few cents on your bill, too!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

New Beginnings

I'm slowly working towards making a few new changes - primarily working on the 'stuff' that has accumulated in our lives, but also looking for some alternatives. We had our home energy audit done - but I'll discuss that in another posting. Lots to consider there.

I have been letting go of some more things - and had a few things break down. Both of which have left me trying to figure out what to do with the old stuff. I cleaned out our bed linens - and freecycled what I didn't need. I also managed to freecycle an IKEA lamp that we didn't want - it needed a little tlc as it didn`t screw together properly, and our vacuum that died on me. I bought a new vacuum, but didn`t want to send the old one to landfill. Happily someone took it to hopefully fix it. And it was a hand me down to us, so that`s pretty green, I think.

I also took back a couple of packages of disposable diapers I had been given and traded them in for a pack of cloth diapers. I`m actually still using disposables, though, as my cloth ones are too big for the baby, but very very soon he`ll fit them. It`s a bit more awkward to use them - especially since I can`t flush the liners (septic tank) but I`m going to use them as much as possible. I`m also using the larger size ones on my son at night. He is a super soaker and a disposable holds more liquid, but short of doubling them up with two different sizes, they can`t hold it all in. So now I put one on him over his disposable and it works. I`m hoping we can get him interested in the potty soon. So far he thinks its neat, but not for him. I just keep telling him how cool it is. That would be the greenest alternative, I think - getting him out of diapers! And as soon as I`ve got baby in the cloth, I`ll use the cloth on the toddler more, too as it's more economical to wash it all together. (and hang them to dry in the laundry room overnight which I think will work out ok for me until spring)

I`ve been doing my best to not throw things away - but after Christmas we had so much garbage. It all added up, as we didn`t get full pick up for a few weeks due to snow. But we still generate way too much garbage - and a big chunk of it is diapers. My recycling has taken 3 weeks to get rid of as I couldn`t get it all in the bags and bins. I'm trying, but still have a long way to go with the garbage. Kid's stuff is especially bad as it's all packaged in plastic and with my son's birthday, new baby and Christmas, we ended up with a lot of plastic. And people wonder why I prefer second hand toys.

I'm also donating clothes we don't need and will hopefully send some decorative stuff to the consignment shop.

Soon I'll be feeling well enough to walk further - which means I can walk down to our local neighbourhood centre and do some of our shopping there. That will keep me out of our car and healthier - both good things. I'm also weighing the idea of organic delivery vs. shopping at the local produce market for locally grown stuff ( and some organic).

It's been a slower start to my year - but I do have lots of ambition for making change. Much of it will revolve around my home and what I can do while I'm at home with the kids. We shall see!