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.

Consider LED lights

Did you know that those new compact fluorescent lightbulbs contain mercury and that one lightbulb can contaminate 6,000 gallons of water if it's not recycled properly? Click here to find the nearest recycling depot near you. And after reading about the hazards of these trendy new lights here, you might want to consider using LED lights instead. I am!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Cloth Family

I'm learning a lot from the No Impact Man blog, and one of the things we're incorporating is the cloth in everyone's pocket idea. This way we don't have to use papertowels when we're out, don't have to use paper napkins when we eat out, we can bring food home wrapped up in it, and it just comes in handy for so many things! If you want to read more, click here. I especially think the photo visual is inspiring...

Friday, March 23, 2007


I'm reading some backposts of this inspiring family. Wow. There's just SO much we can all be doing.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Fix Stuff

So often we hear/think "it costs more to fix it than to buy a new one," like there's no more thought needed... I learned just how damaging this thinking is from reading "Living The Good Life." (do click! the photos themselves are inspiring!) Linda talks in depth about embodied energy. The definition: "the energy consumed by all of the processes associated with the production of a [thing], from the aquisition of natural resources to product delivery, including mining, manufacturing of materials and equipment, transport and administrative functions" - T. Marshall, horitculturist and founder of The National Association for Sustainable Agriculture. Here's what really changed my life, in Linda's articulate words:
"Every product we purchase has a level of embodied energy beyond that of its physical self. For example, a medium-sized apple has around 80 calories. Yet there are estimates that for every one calorie of food it takes another nine calories (I've heard it's as high as 17 in Canada) of energy to produce it. The extra nine calories were consumed during the processes that occurred while the apple grew, such as spraying, weeding, watering, harvesting, storing, packing and transportation to the supermarket. The apple may also have a portion of energy allocated from the creation of the machinery that was used to implement these processes, such as the spray equipment and the refrigerated truck. The apple could have an embodied energy of 720 calories by the time it arrives in the family fridge.
Everything we own inside our house has an embodied energy, not just the food on the plate, but the plate itself, the bottle of detergent we use to wash the plate, the tea-towel and the dishwasher (which has a far higher embodied energy than the tea-towel). Incorporated into the price of any product is the cost of the energy it took to manufacture it; we take not just the product, but partial responsibility for that energy use. Most of that energy will be derived from fossil-based fuels, such as oil and coal."
So this is what I'm thinking -- only part of that REAL cost is incorporated into the price we pay for an item. In terms of dollars, the cost is there, in terms of the damage on the earth caused from the production of that product? not there. and THAT is more the responsibility I'm thinking of when I go to replace something on a whim. I'm so very aware of this responsibility and have been really striving for diligence in extending the life of my stuff. I no longer think only in terms of how much my toaster will cost to fix as compared to buying a new one, for example. It recently cost me $28 to have mine fixed, and the following day I saw really flashy new ones for $19.95. But the real cost to my planet of tossing mine into the landfill and buying new? Well, I can handle the responsibility for the embodied energy of ONE, I can't handle it for two. I took my favourite wallet to have the broken zipper replaced, and the leather worker told me it would cost too much and she wouldn't do it. I had to convince her with a prepaid bill to oblige. Yes, it cost $25. But again, the embodied energy of that wallet convinced me it was worth it. Besides, what if our local small appliance repair guy couldn't make ends meet and we LOST the ability to choose to have our toasters and kettles fixed? There's something to be said for keeping these skills alive in our communities... and to acquiring these skills ourselves!
Would you consider fixing your stuff? Will you give some thought to the REAL cost of the things you consume? Please try to find a way to love your stuff all over again...
Later Edit: And if you really want to be inspired, read what my friend wrote about this very topic here. It takes "living consciously" to a whole new level... I'm so inspired...

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Have you voted?

If you're Canadian and you care... please go here and vote.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Newspaper Pots

You've probably seen one or another version of this potmaker. I wanted my husband to try making me one, and then I started looking at the soupcans I have been saving and realized it was the perfect shape for a potmaker! So I made some newspaper pots tonight and they were SO easy to make. I just cut long strips of newspaper about 4 or 5" wide, cutting through the length of the paper, through the centre fold. Then I wrapped the strip around my can leaving an overhang on the bottom. I wrapped 3 layers, and then folded the bottom in like I was wrapping a present, pulled out the can, and voila! instant pot for a seed to be planted. Best part is all of our newspapers are printed with non-toxic inks and they biodegrade quickly in soil, so the roots will be able to penetrate the pot and I can put these directly into my garden when the soil warms up. And if my seedling outgrows this size of pot before my garden is ready, I can just pop it, pot and all, into a larger sized newspaper pot (thinking I'll use the 454 mL size that tomatoes come in). As soon as seedlings get their first 'true leaves' they need to be moved into a larger pot -- my grannie always told me this is the key to getting a real head-start to healthy plants. She used to put a fan on her tomato seedlings for 10 minutes every day to guarantee strong plants. So tomorrow I'll be rummaging for crates to house all of these pots before I can plant them up. The key is to keep them all pushed close together in a crate, supported so they stay upright and don't squash down while the roots are making them firm and easier to move around. Also, I mustn't let them dry out.
AND, I read about using toilet rolls (I knew I was saving them for SOMEthing!) for planting earlier seedlings, like sweetpeas. They don't even need a bottom, just pop them into a container (I'm using a waxed paper ice-cream container that I've been trying to find a good second use for), fill with pre-moistened soil, pop in the seed to the required depth (I use an old wooden chopstick for making the hole) and water from the bottom up. When the seedling grows the roots will hold in the soil. And again, you can just pop the seedling inside the paper tube into the ground, eliminating root damage in the transplant. Sweetpeas and poppies and nasturtiums hate to have their roots disturbed, so this is a perfect solution. I usually plant all these directly outside, but if the ground is too wet the seeds will rot, and if its too cold they won't germinate so this gives me a head-start.
I'm wishing I'd asked people to save me their single-serving-yogurt containers as those would make perfect seedling planters too... aah well, there's always next year!
And here's an excellent re-use for plastic 4L milk containers. That will be my next project.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Inspired Mother/Student/Woman

Here's the woman who's inspiring me today:
"The past 3 weeks I have been cycling 1/2hr to Uni - instead of driving/public transport and I arrive, covered in mud, peel off that layer, wipe the mud from my face and sit through my lecture in a fast cooling sweat. Then I have to peel the layer of mud back on to cycle I was cold, wet and FED UP and well... While I love being outdoors, I don't love having mud spattered over my face. But I'm committed to reducing my impact on the earth so biking it is, to Uni by myself, to swimming lessons early every morning with the boys (6 and 9 y.o.), and for further flung adventures we take public transport."

Does she have a car? yes. Does she use it? yes. That's why I find her so inspiring -- because the compromises she makes between convenience and taking the high road are totally DOable for me.

Inspired Skiiers

Thomas Grandi and Sara Renner (both Olympic skiiers, married, living in Canmore, friends of my husband's) have joined David Suzuki (another man I heart) to help save the planet, and subsequently the snow that is disappearing so fast many World Cup races have been cancelled this year because of warm temperatures. They're asking fellow winter athletes to join them in doing their part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in their daily living as well as to donate money to projects like wind and solar power and tree planting. Here's what they're DOing: they drive a small, fuel-efficient car when they have to, ride their bikes to get around town (all year round), they eat food locally grown and they've stopped using their clothes dryer. They just welcomed their new baby girl to the world and plan to use cloth diapers and dress their child in second hand clothes. HOORAY! Isn't that great? Also, with help from the David Suzuki Foundation, Grandi calculated how much extra carbon he produces while travelling with the Canadian ski team and bought clean air credits (carbon offsets) to make up for it. The money goes towards clean air projects such as wind and solar power. So far, Thomas and Sara have signed up 21 athletes on the national teams (alpine and cross country) to do the same. And Thomas is in talks with Andrew Ference (Calgary Flames defenceman) about getting his teammates on board. AND Speedskater Kristina Groves has commited to signing up and hopes to get her teammates on board as well. Awesome.

Healthy Home Video

Well worth watching, this 2 minute video was on CBC. Please watch it and let me know what you think. WHY do we put up with this stuff? Why oh WHY are there known carcinogens inside of canned foods, for example, and we just ACCEPT that. WHY???

Blue Man on Global Warming

I love this

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

My household is going Carbon Neutral

You've probably heard about the new trend, to by carbon offsets to help neutralize the pollution we generate by driving our cars, heating our homes, and all the other lifestyle choices we make in our culture. I didn't think too much of it until I read that David Suzuki personally buys carbon offsets for his family and when I read this quote on the Suzuki Foundation website:
"To solve the problem of climate change, we all need to take account of our personal carbon emissions and make continued efforts to reduce them wherever possible. But it is impossible to reduce our carbon emissions to zero, no matter how hard we try. Going carbon neutral by purchasing carbon offsets is a practical and affordable way to do something about those remaining emissions. "
Global warming is just that: a global problem. Thereby, if we can help reductions in the burning of fossil fuels anywhere in the world, we're helping to solve the problem. So until we can find alternatives for the fossil fuels we burn (by turning on our computer, or our lights, or driving our gasoline-powered car, or flying on a plane) we can help make up for the emissions by sponsoring wind or solar or some other alternative form of energy somewhere other than in our own backyard. This is in no way a replacement for doing everything we CAN do IN our own backyard. This is not the way to eliminate global warming. This is just going carbon neutral, not yet carbon negative. It's just another small but important way of doing your part...
Click here to see how to get started.

Keen to see who else is doing it (I find this list very encouraging and inspiring):
The Olympics, World Cup Soccer, Super Bowl and other major sporting events are going carbon neutral, as are many athletes.
Airlines and travel agents are starting to offer customers the option to offset their flights, and some airlines are offsetting all of their flights. Many hotels are also providing carbon neutral accommodations.
Movie studios have offset the emissions from the production of feature films and documentaries, and media companies such as BSkyB and MTV are offsetting the emissions associated with their broadcasts
Major conferences (e.g. United Nations World Climate Research Programme) and conventions have offset their emissions
Organizations as diverse as as Wells Fargo, Whole Foods, the EPA and the city of Vail, CO have purchased large quantities of renewable energy certificates to offset their electricity use
Large companies like HSBC, Swiss Re, and Vancity have committed to making their entire operations carbon neutral
Many businesses are now offering carbon neutral products or services, such as carpeting, clothing, flower deliveries, and taxi rides
Some utilities are offsetting their emissions and allowing their customers to purchase carbon neutral energy
Governments (such as the UK) are offsetting the flights of their employees
The World Bank has committed to being carbon neutral
Schools and churches are voluntarily offsetting their emissions
Rock bands like the Rolling Stones, Coldplay, and Dave Matthews Band have offset the emissions associated with their concerts and albums
Many people are now offsetting their weddings (including air travel by guests)
The list continues to grow – best-selling books, grocery store chains, and even entire cities are all offsetting their emissions. Many celebrities are also choosing to go carbon neutral in their personal lives to help raise awareness about climate change.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Birdseed Bag Mini-Greenhouses

Do you grow tomatoes in the summer? Do you feed the birds in the winter? Perfect!
Now's the time to start saving birdseed bags to protect your small tomato plants when you set them out. You slit open the top and bottom of the bag, slide it over the tomato cage until the weather warms up a little, and you get a jump on the growing season. After you're finished with the bags, you can store them for next year or find another use for them or recycle them. Just make sure they're clean before you put them in recycling. I've heard terrible rumours about recycling depots throwing away tonnes of recyclables because they were dirty.

Monday, February 19, 2007

New Use for Golf Bag on Wheels

Yesterday things were melting fast and furious around here and I couldn't help but lift up the mulch and peek under to see what's stirring... Gardening season will soon be upon us and here's a great idea for carrying all our tools around the yards.
I read about this in a Harrowsmith magazine (a favourite of mine).
A golf bag on wheels (added to my list of what to watch for at spring garage sales or thrift stores!) makes a great tote for gardening tools You can carry your rake, hoe, shovel and all your other long and short tools where the golf clubs used to be. The side pockets are great for tucking in twine and garden tags and gloves. Your kneeling pad can hang on the handle and you can strap your weedbucket to the side. Everything right at your fingertips, and easy to store neatly as well!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Great Mushroom bag

I reuse a plastic mesh bag (I think I bought some bulbs in it at one point) as my keep-in-the-bottom-of-my-purse mushroom bag. It works great because mushrooms have to breathe (which is why they have paper bags right there for you to put them in), it doesn't get dirty (and if it does you give it a quick rinse), and it twists up into a tiny little bundle when not in use.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Twice As Nice...

I am really trying to use all packaging at least twice. I even have it written on my grocery list because I usually shop with my 2 wee ones in tow, and can be too easily distracted into buying something that is packaged in something that is impossible to use again. So, I try to buy everything in the largest size I can find, because big containers are easier to reuse than smaller ones. I don't really buy anything that comes in a spray bottle anymore, but I have redesignated some old ones as water sprayers for the kids (set on "stream" they can really shoot), one for a spray bottle for the ironing that I don't do... a couple for my homemade aphid and spider mite remedies for the garden, one for the diluted teatree oil spray that I use in my bathroom, etc. Buckets are reused in the sandbox, used as egg-gatherers, etc. Cans are washed and punched into candle holders, or wrapped with old wrapping paper or wallpaper and used to hold pens and craft supplies, jars are reused to hold chickenstock in my freezer, or bits of string or wire on the shelf... Envelopes get opened and I use the blank sides for grocery lists and notes and letters. I even made a journal out of old envelopes and recycled papers. It was fun to use! Wire that holds toys in packages (they have a high escape factor, I hear) are all bundled and saved and make great hangers for putting up LED Christmas lights, hang swags up at for winter decorating, etc. Then when the glass breaks I recycle it, or when the plastic breaks I recycle it, or when the paper is falling apart, it goes into recycling...
You get the drift...
Here's a fun idea for bottlecaps (yes, that cute curtain is made from bottlecaps) -- we have everyone we know saving caps for us so we can make something like this...
How do you reuse everyday household items? Like yogurt containers? Vinegar containers (this is a big one for me because I use so much vinegar in my cleaning)? And bottlecaps? They make great containers to hold glue, and as game pieces on checkerboards or the like...
More great reuse ideas coming soon.
Try keeping this goal in mind when you're buying things -- can you use the packaging again? Or next time you go to put something into the recycle bin, or the garbage, can you think of ANYthing you could reuse it for? Outside? In the garage? In the garden? In the playroom? Craftroom? Could you paint it to make it more appealing? Decoupage it? Aren't those cute pails? (Click to see how they're done.) I've seen that same idea on old suitcases too (the thrift store will never look the same when you consider the possibilities...) Ha! Please share your ideas with us...

Diva or Luna? Be a Gaia and choose

Are you a tampon girl? Switch to Diva
Are you a pad girl? Switch to Luna
I switched to both and my health has improved along with my conscience.

Ask and Ye Shall Receive...

I ask for what I want. A LOT. Every time I go to my favourite fruit and veggie store I ask whomever is at the till if they're going to be getting more organic produce. I've asked the manager, and now I want him to hear from all of his cashiers that people are asking A LOT.
When I go to my favourite natural food store, I ask for bigger bags of flour, more local produce, etc. When I go to my favourite deli, I ask if each item has MSG or artificial colours or artificial ANYthing. And if they say "yes", I say "no thanks". When I go to my favourite bulk foods store, I ask if they're looking for more fair trade products. Now when I go in, someone usually proudly shows me a new fair trade item for sale.
I think the more we talk about sustainable practices, the more "normal" it becomes. The first time a stranger hears someone asking for flour in cloth bags, it might seem strange. But what if that same person heard it 3 times? They might begin to wonder about it and even seek it out themselves.
And I'm a big believer in "the consumer has the power." If we all spoke up more often and ASKED and ASKED and ASKED for what we want to see, it would happen. And combine that with our right to REFUSE to buy anything packaged in styrofoam, anything over-packaged, anything sold in containers that are not reuseable or recyclable, well, that's POWER.
Speak up. I will too. Together we'll change the world.

Make it Normal to be Sustainable

I've started carrying my own containers with me everywhere I go. I keep a bag of them in the car so if I realize I need to stop to get something, I don't find myself needing to use non-reuseable packaging. I keep 3 cloth bags in my purse (they roll up really tiny and I keep an elastic band around them, which I pop into the bag when in use), and some tupperware containers in my trunk. At first I was asking places if they would mind if I brought my own containers "next time" and wasn't getting very favourable answers... "We can't, as it could contaminate our product, which we guarantee", etc. So now, I just waltz into any store carrying my own containers and as I place my order, I just hand over my container like I've done it a thousand times. Much more favourable results! The sales people are a little unsure, but I think my confidence that it is just fine affects them! More times than not, I get my food, in my own container, without much hassle.
I get some looks from other people in the store -- especially at the deli where they're all standing around waiting their turn, watching what other people are ordering. But if they see it a few times, maybe they'll consider doing it themselves!

Keep Your Habits to Yourself

It's as easy as just DECIDING that no more paper or styrofoam cups are going into the landfill because of your coffee or tea or (insert drink of choice here) habit. Carry your personal to-go mug with you ALL the time and carry an extra too, in case you're with a friend and they don't have one (or you want to surprise a friend with a yummy drink). Search the thrift stores for them, I almost always see them there. The waxed paper cups don't biodegrade very easily, can't be recycled, and are completely unnecessary. Styrofoam? Well, that falls under the "refuse" category. Please don't use styrofoam. Ever. Styrofoam, also known as polystyrene, falls under the category of a code number 6 plastic. Plastics are derived from petroleum: a non-renewable resource. To recycle strofoam is a very difficult, expensive, and dirty business. And in my area, it isn't even an option (nobody here recycles styrofoam).

Here's a dilemma for you: The other night I had a night alone with my journal. I went to my favourite coffee house and placed my order. As I was paying, I noticed she'd pulled out a paper cup in which to make my coffee. "Oh no! It's to stay," I said. "We close in 10 minutes so we can't give you a porcelain cup" was her answer. So I chose to go somewhere else. The "somewhere else" joint was open for hours, so I placed my order gave them my money, took my number and found a table. Minutes later she comes over with a paper cup. "Oh no!" I cried, "Why paper?" "We haven't had time to run the dishwasher" was her reply. Aaagh! WHAT TO DO? I've already paid, the drink's already been made, and had I known I would've run out and got my own cup from my car. My lesson? ALWAYS carry your own cup. Even when you're planning to "drink in"...

Retire your Dryer

I live in a climate where it's easy to use a clothesline about half of the year, so until recently I used my dryer during the winter months. I hadn't realized how easy it would be to unplug my dryer, until one day, inspired by a friend, I just took the leap and did it. I hung my clothes on the bannister around my stairs, and I was amazed at how quickly they dried. Now I've started using an old flower drying rack and I'm hoping my husband will mount it on the railing so that I can pull it up when in use, and fold it out of the way when I don't need it. It works GREAT! Even my sheets, folded in half, work on this set-up. I found my rack when being tossed out by a friend (and didn't know what I'd use it for at the time) but it would be super easy to make. You can buy sturdy dowels at hardware stores and you'd just drill same size holes in two 2x4's, insert and glue, and hang it over a stairwell like mine. Or, you could mount it on the wall somewhere and paint it the same colour as the wall so it blends in, like this one from the Jan/04 Martha Stewart Living magazine -->
Air-dried clothes smell better, wear longer, are easier to fold and don't emit greenhouse gases. Try it!

Shower Curtains

Okay, first of all, don't buy vinyl shower curtains! They off-gas the plasticizers they're made of and these VOC's are endocrine disruptors, which means they mimic natural hormones like estrogen and may interfere with a developing fetus. VOC's are eye-irritants, central nervous system damagers and possibly cause cancer. You can buy really tightly woven fabric curtains instead (I bought mine at Sears) or nylon ones which don't off-gas. They last indefinitely and you can wash them in your washing machine. But if you already have vinyl shower curtains, here are some ideas from Trash Talk on how to reuse them:
"Vinyl shower curtains reused make good drop cloths for painting projects. In the garden they can be used as row covers for tender spring plants (when a cold night threatens). Like costly landscape fabric use curtains to control weeds in garden beds. Cut an X at each plant location, plant, then close the X around the plant stem. Cover the entire sheet with rocks, gravel or bark mulch."
They also suggest using them as ground covers under your tent when camping, using them as liners in the trunk of your car, or cutting into big rectangles and securing at the shoulders with clothespegs as craft smocks.

A Great Tip from Trash Talk: Cardboard Reuse

Cardboard works great for weed control in the yard or garden. Lay out the flattened cardboard first making sure to overlap it by at least six inches. If the weeds are very established or if your weeds are more like small shrubs, do a double or even triple layer to ensure nothing grows through. We found that it is best to wet the cardboard with a sprinkler to soften it before applying the top layer of bark mulch or gravel so the cardboard will settle in and smother all the weeds completely. In as little as one year the cardboard will have composted into a rich loamy soil while the weeds have been killed off by lack of sunlight and air. Simply top off the bark mulch periodically as it too breaks down over the years.

GREAT book: "Trash Talk"

This is an incredible book, written by Dave and Lillian Brummet, published in 2004 by PublishAmerica LlLP. It is chock-full of ideas for reducing our trash -- from refusing to buy over-packaged items or packaging that can't be reused or recycled, to creative crafting with otherwise discarded items, to thousands of fantastic ideas for reusing everyday items when the primary use has ended. Lillian has given me permission to share some of their great ideas on this blog, and I highly recommend having this book on your shelf for daily inspiration and great ideas -- it's the one you'll pull down off your shelf and lend to that friend or family-member who needs inspiration in the direction of sustainability!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Let's get started already!!!

Okay, I'm coming. I have so many ideas brewing in my head, but so far haven't made the time to sit down and type them out. In the meantime, can you keep track of YOUR ideas or email them in so I can share them? 'Twould be great.

Monday, February 12, 2007

How should this work?

I want to create a space here to bank ideas for ways to re-use products, ways to reduce our consumption and our garbage. Should it be one big long post that I keep adding to as ideas come in? Or should it be individual posts with photos ?
Wanting your opinion... In your opinion, what would be the most effective and inspiring?