Monday, June 4, 2007

Just PLEASE avoid plastic like the plague...

It's so hard to get plastic out of our lives... I'm trying. Plastic bags, yogurt containers, bottles, tubs, milk jugs, wrappings, toys, computers, gadgets, cars, clothes, plant pots, buttons, straws, plates, cups, forks, spoons, knives, toothpaste tubes, shampoo bottles, dish soap bottles, vitamin bottles, sunglasses, juice bottles, buckets, stickers, thread spools, bobbins, containers for EVERYthing...
It actually is impossible to rid our lives of it right now. How did that happen? Not two generations ago there WAS NO PLASTIC. {The very first plastic (bakelite) was invented in 1907.} I feel like I'm doing what I can until I see/read something like this article. Please read it. It's fascinating and it just might change your life.

"As for phthalates, we deploy about a billion pounds of them a year worldwide despite the fact that California recently listed them as a chemical known to be toxic to our reproductive systems. Used to make plastic soft and pliable, phthalates leach easily from millions of products—packaged food, cosmetics, varnishes, the coatings of timed-release pharmaceuticals—into our blood, urine, saliva, seminal fluid, breast milk, and amniotic fluid. In food containers and some plastic bottles, phthalates are now found with another compound called bisphenol A (BPA), which scientists are discovering can wreak stunning havoc in the body. We produce 6 billion pounds of that each year, and it shows: BPA has been found in nearly every human who has been tested in the United States. We’re eating these plasticizing additives, drinking them, breathing them, and absorbing them through our skin every single day..."

Oh, it gets much worse. Click above to read the whole article. Please. Ignorance is not bliss, it's suicide.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Passionate Permaculture

August 24, 2001 By Reuters. RAMINGSTEIN, Austria -- In the coldest part of Austria, a farmer is turning conventional wisdom on its head by growing a veritable Garden of Eden full of tropical plants in the open on his steep Alpine pastures.
Amid average annual temperatures of a mere 39.5 Fahrenheit, Sepp Holzer grows everything from apricots to eucalyptus, figs to kiwi fruit, peaches to wheat at an altitude of between 3,300 and 4,900 feet. Once branded a fool, fined and threatened with imprisonment for defying Austrian regulations that dictate what is planted where, he is now feted worldwide for creating the only functioning "permaculture" farm in Europe. Permaculture, an abbreviation of permanent culture, is the development of agricultural ecosystems which are complete and self-sustaining.
"Once planted, I do absolutely nothing," Holzer told Reuters. "It really is just nature working for itself -- no weeding, no pruning, no watering, no fertilizer, no pesticides."
His 110 acres of land in the mountainous Lungau region in the province of Salzburg are classed by European Union directives as unfit for agricultural cultivation due to the steep gradient and poor soil. When Holzer inherited the farm - then 44.5 acres - 39 years ago, it was only used for the grazing of the family's cows and sheep. He carved terraces out of the steep inclines - like the ancient Incas and Maya of South and Central America - to stop erosion and trap rainfall. He rejected the use of pesticides and fertilizers, which he considered poisonous, and the concept of mono culture - the cultivation of just one plant type over an expanse of land - because he believed it sapped the soil of all nutrients. Instead he began growing a host of timber and fruit trees, shrubs and grasses all mixed up together.
"Everyone said I was mad and I had to pay numerous fines because the authorities said that it was illegal to plant such a combination," Holzer said. "When I bought this patch of land off a farmer, it was not fit for the cows and sheep grazing on it. People scoffed that I was neglecting my land -- but now they come to harvest cherries from June to October." "This is the worst type of soil, which just goes to prove that there is no bad soil, just bad farmers," he added.
PROOF IS IN EATING OF PUDDING Most of the plants Holzer and his wife Vroni grow at his "Krameterhof" holding are not meant to flourish in Alpine conditions, according to experts. In winter, the temperature can fall to below minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit and a blanket of snow lingers into May. Snow can even fall in the height of summer. Holzer said he found agricultural textbooks and his own years at agricultural college virtually useless. "I followed their advice initially, but my trees started dying off. I then realized that I had to eradicate from my memory all that I'd learned at college," he said.
Enlightenment came one winter during one of Holzer's routine moonlight strolls, when he noticed that the only apricot tree faring well in the harsh winter conditions was one he had forgotten to cut back according to ministerial regulations. Unlike the pruned trees whose main lower branches snapped off under the weight of snow, the "neglected" tree's branches were intact. Their unrestricted length had allowed them to droop with the tips touching the ground for support while the snow slid off, Holzer found. Allowing natural vegetation to grow around the trunk provided further support and nourishment for the tree. "If people would only realize that if one leads a life in cooperation with nature and not against it, then nobody in the world need die of starvation," he said.
Holzer's philosophy is that nature knows best and needs negligible interference from Man. "We're born into paradise, but are destroying its foundation, the soil. The soil can look after itself, there's no need for Man to tamper with it." Giant stone slabs pepper the landscape and serve as incubators by absorbing the sunlight and giving off warmth. The trees do their part as well in keeping the ground warm. Fallen foliage helps keep frost from reaching the roots. Tree stumps dot the plantations to regulate irrigation. Like a sponge they soak up water and later distribute it. Animals too have a role in the Holzer ecosystem. Scavenging pigs till the soil in place of a tractor, while grass snakes were reintroduced to keep voracious slugs and mice in check. Holzer is modest about his achievement which has led to projects in more than 40 countries and lectures on "the elimination of poverty in agriculture." He has rejected suggestions that he should have his method of permaculture patented. "I would consider that as theft from nature. It's not my possession, I got it from nature and have an obligation to pass this knowledge on," the bearded 59-year- old said.
Holzer says his method of organic farming produces a much higher quality of crops than conventional farming, and at a fraction of the cost and effort. He says his rare strain of grain contains 12 times the goodness of conventionally grown grain and as a result fetches a price 100 times higher. His success means that he no longer lives directly off the crops in his sprawling garden, or the rare fish in his Alpine ponds and lakes. People pay to pick their own fruit from his land, experts visit to study "Holzer Permaculture," and the man himself regularly holds seminars when not in a far-off country such as Colombia solving chronic problems of the soil. And only one thing has so far stumped the man with green fingers. "Bananas," he said with a shrug of his burly frame. "They froze. It's no surprise as they need an average temperature of 30 degrees. But I'm still working on it."
Copyright 2001, Reuters

Food For Thought

Here's an article about the importance of supporting local food production, by Abra Brynne, excerpted from her address to the Kootenay Co-op’s AGM, spring 2007.

"All of us have to wake up from the low-price stupor created by our governments, the Walmarts, Costco’s, and Superstores of this world. We need to realize that if we all want to be eating in 10 or 20 years, we each have to take individual responsibility to aggressively support our local food producers so that we can rebuild a food system that will respond to our needs and not be dictated by events, economies and corporations far distant from us. By supporting the many individuals who produce food in our area, we are building community, helping farmers and food producers stay in business, supporting the local economy and building communal food security that we, our children and our grandchildren will be able to enjoy...

We are in a desperate situation... We all need food every day. More than 98% of North Americans rely on less than 2% of the population (the farmers) and on a steady supply of imports to feed themselves. And we pretend that this is reliable, just, and sustainable. We have been sticking our heads in the sand for too long – this is dangerous and foolhardy. And fundamentally selfish to expect that the rest of the world, mostly peasant farmers driven off their own land, will keep producing our food year round when we have killed off or lost the last of our own farmers... As recently as 5 years ago, between Invermere and Canal Flats, there were 25 farms. There are now only 6 farms – and 17 golf courses ... Even with some thriving local options, we have barely made a dent in import replacement in our region. I am not proposing that we need to be self-sufficient, but we sure have to come up with an alternative to a food system that is dominated and controlled by the likes of Cargill, Monsanto, Sysco and Safeway. They don’t care whether or not our farmers are all driven off the land. They don’t care if we go to bed hungry. They don’t care that the nutritional value of most of the foods they supply is laughable. They care about money and power in their sick food system.

We need a full-scale food revolution and we need it now. Eating is one of the most intimate acts we engage in. What goes into our bodies becomes part of us. We are worth feeding properly and well – socially, environmentally, politically, morally and culturally. All of us deserve to eat well and to know that we will eat well tomorrow. And those who produce or gather our food deserve to be treated fairly, with dignity and with respect. Local food systems support our health, our communities, our cultures, our food security, and, ultimately, our future.

Friday, April 27, 2007

T-shirt Bag Part 2

I guess my description of the t-shirt bag wasn't very explicit, so here are some more photos. In USING my bags, I'm finding the one with the armhold handles to be more useful than the one with the cut handles on the top (that was pictured in the last post). So, here are some photos to help describe what I did.
1. Sew the bottom of the shirt closed.
2. Cut off the arms, leaving the seam intact (you put your hands through these armholes as handles)
3. Cut the neck just a bit bigger on each side (remember, the t-shirt stretches, so you don't need a wide-open gaping hole for stuffing your bag).
That's it! And they work SO well. I'm finding the smaller t-shirts are just right, the larger ones I'm too tempted to fill them too full and they become heavy for toting across town. Try it! Help eliminate some of the 4 to 5 TRILLION (not a typo) plastic bags manufactured each year. Share your creations with me! Make some for all your friends and family!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Idle No More...

I've been shutting off my engine at red lights, in traffic, every chance I get since Linda gave me the facts in her fantastic book. Now here's a great article from that'll surely convince you to, too.

"Turn It Off "
A mere 10 seconds is the amount of time Natural Resources Canada recommends you leave your engine idling while running errands, chatting with a friend, waiting at the ferry or picking your children up after school. "Avoiding unnecessary engine idling is something that we can all immediately do to minimize our contribution to greenhouse gases," explains Oak Bay Green Committee (OBGC) member Trevor Williams. The OBGC and Green Gatherings are launching a community No Engine Idling campaign targeting Oak Bay schools. The campaign includes free No Engine Idling aluminum signs and information kits for the schools. "The No Engine Idling campaign not only educates drivers about the need to reduce emissions, but it also creates awareness around the relationship between society’s over-reliance on vehicles and the damage it is doing to the environment and our children," says campaign co-ordinator Britt Karlstrom.
According to Natural Resources Canada, children are especially susceptible to carbon emissions due to their developing lungs and need to take in oxygen at an increased rate, exposing them to increased amounts of particulate matter believed to cause respiratory related illnesses. Vehicle emissions also greatly contribute to the pollutants that contribute to greenhouse gases—the gases that are responsible for the climatic change. Statistics show that parents contribute to unnecessary engine idling more than any other group.
"We are hoping that (the No Engine Idling campaign) will continue to spread to other communities as well," explains Williams.
"We have already sold signs to individuals from Sundance and McTavish Schools and to someone who wants to put a sign at the ferry on Cortes Island."
If every driver of a light-duty vehicle in Canada avoided idling for just five minutes a day, we would prevent more than 1 million tonnes of CO2 from entering the atmosphere each year—that’s a huge contribution to Canada’s climate change efforts. Oak Bay’s first No Engine Idling sign is located at Demitasse CafĂ© at 2164 McNeil Ave.
For more information on the Oak Bay No Engine Idling campaign contact The Oak Bay Green Committee at 370-7736 or visit our website at"

Thanks so much for that, Andrea Rutz!

Happy Earth Day!!

I awoke in the night with a new project flashed onto my brain. I've been hearing so many talk about buying cloth bags to carry around (instead of using plastic), and so many cloth bag designs have gone through my mind. And yesterday my mil was asking if I want yet another shipment of her discarded t-shirts... well! the two came together and at 4 this morning I made a t-shirt bag. T-shirts are AMAZING inventions, really. You can cut into the shirt and you don't have to sew the cut, because it won't fray! So, two designs came to mind. First, you sew the bottom of the t-shirt closed, then you decide if you want your handles right in the middle at the top, like this:

whereupon you just sew the sleeves shut, cut the neck a bit wider depending on how big it already is (you have to be able to quickly get your groceries in that hole), make a handle size cut either side of the neck (try to make them line-up) and voila! You have a new cloth grocery bag! It's stretchy, holds a lot, and folds down to a nice neat size to store in your handbag or your backpack or your vehicle. So cool! Alternatively, you cut off the arms, and use the armholes for the handles, open the neck up a bit and you have a slightly different shape of bag (these handles are more like the ones on a plastic bag). I tried mine out this morning and couldn't believe how much i could fit into this one I made from one of my mum's old lovely t-shirts! You could start collecting thrifted t-shirts now to make really fun, easy, cheap, environmentally-friendly birthday gifts for all your friends and family.

Let me know if my description isn't clear. I love my new bag!

Friday, April 20, 2007

A Company that Exploits Children

Here's a film I think everyone should see. It's the story of a postman and a gardener taking on the lies of a powerful corporation. Or rather, the corporation's attempt to snuff out their wee voices. McDonalds spends 2 Billion dollars a year trying to tempt children to nibble their fries.
"The judge ruled that indeed McDonalds does 'exploit children' with their advertising, produce 'misleading' advertising, are 'culpably responsible' for cruelty to animals, are 'antipathetic' to unionisation and pay their workers low wages." It's highly entertaining and just might change your mind about their fries. More good reading here.