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 home...today 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?