Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Making envrionmental choices at work

Have you ever noticed that you never see something until you have it yourself? For example, I never noticed how many blue Honda Civics were on the road until we bought ours.  Or how many women are pregnant at the same time until I was pregnant myself?

Lately, I've been noticing this phenomenon at work.  I hadn't realized the environmental impacts of my work place, really.  I mean, I noticed, but I didn't give it much thought.  Until recently. 

I've become the office supplies orderer for one of my library branches.  All of a sudden, I can make a choice about what type of paper, pens, and tape we buy.  I can decide how many transit slips we need, how much toner, how many envelopes.   It's been a real eye-opener.

I must state right away, that the library does environmental pretty well.  As a part of the larger City, we must comply with the city's take on environmental stewardship.  Here are some examples of how this happens:

1) printers are set to print double-sided AUTOMATICALLY.  You actually have to change the settings if you want to print single side
2) all internal communications are sent through re-usable envelopes.  You can get a lot of use out of these until they a) wear out or b) run out of room
3) all toner is taken back by our supplier for recycling and refurbishing/refilling
4) in the larger branches, green bins are kept in the staff room for compostables
5) our newest building was constructed according to LEED standards

It's the smaller stuff that I can affect.  I've purchased recycled printer paper.  I've made sure that our transit slips (which send items between branches) are reused at least 3-4 times.  I've tried to make sure that our used book sale racks are kept full with donations, instead of being sent to the recycle bin.

It's been great to be able to be green at work.  I'm looking forward to trying to further improve our processes/procedures.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Thoughts on Commuting

I've been working at my job for close to 5 months.  I really love it, and still can't believe I'm paid to do what I do.  Not many people can say that, so I am really lucky.  But my luck comes with a down side - a very long commute.  And, unfortunately, one that must be made by car.

I work in the south east end of the city, in the rural farming communities just on the outskirts of "civilization".  There isn't any light rail or public transit system out here. 
I don't forsee myself taking on a new job in the near future, so I've been trying to think of ways to make the trek as environmentally-friendly as possible.  I drive highways and country roads, so my cruise control is my new best friend.  I drive close to the speed limit, to try to limit my gas consumption.  I only use the air conditioner on the really hot days.

The biggest problem is the vehicle I drive.  Due to the area of the city we live in, we own two vehicles, as there is no easy access to public transit near our house to get us where we need to be.  One is a fuel-efficient car, the other is a not-so-fuel-efficient mini-van.  DH drives the car for his 35 km commute (one way), while I drive the van for my 60 km commute (one way).  We've talked about switching vehicles, but here is our conundrum:  the van will need to be replaced in the next two to three years (it is currently about 9 years old, and starting to show signs of slowing down).    I have the longer commute - do I drive the more newer, more fuel-efficient car, or put all the driving miles on the van and run it into the ground, with the hopes that in 3 yrs when we replace the van we will 1) be able to get a more fuel-efficient vehicle and 2) one of us will have a job closer to home and therefore will not be putting as much mileage on the car, thereby making it last longer? 

For now, I am sticking with the van, but I am interested in my readers' thoughts on the matter, so feel free to chime in.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Use recycled facial tissue (Change 138)

The idea of hankies went by the wayside a long time ago.  I caught a really bad cold a few months ago, and ended up using copious amounts of Kleenex.  I never got back in the habit of using hankies.  So you can imagine my delight when I discovered that Scotties is now producing a 100% recycled fibre facial tissue.  It is EcoLogo certified (, and actually manufactured in Canada.  Like most things environmentally-friendly, it is a higher cost that the regular brands.  But is makes me feel good, and makes my nose feel good too.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Shop more often at Farmer's Market (Change 137)

Well, Spring is here, and with it, all the assorted goodies of the season.  Fresh asparagus, rhubarb, spinach and lettuce are a few of the items in season.  With going back to work this spring, I missed out on sowing my spinach and lettuce for April, although I'm hopeful that the small lettuce plants I bought will thrive through the hot summer weather.  Our rhubarb is HUGE this year - I may have to start pawning the bounty off on my unsuspecting neighbours.  :)

Truthfully, our veggie garden is going to be smaller this year for a few reasons.  One, I just don't have the time right now to tend a large garden.  Two, we are in the process of landscaping our backyard, so some of my former veggie beds are under huge piles of dirt.  And three, I've decided to start using our local farmer's market.

Last year, I had investigated getting a CSA share.  With five of us to feed, I thought it might be economically worthwhile. However, the more I researched it, the more I realized that my picky eaters would not be happy with the variety offered by the CSA, and I'd probably end up composting quite a bit of the produce.

The farmer's market allows me to benefit from local, organic produce at reasonable prices, supporting local farmers' and agriculture, while providing me with the ability to pick and choose what I want to buy.  I think it will be a win-win situation - I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Just trundling along....

I can't believe it's been over two months since I last posted.  My apologies!!!  Life has been busy, as always, which is no excuse, I know.  :)    However, in my defense, since I last posted, I have gone back to work full-time, so I've been a little pre-occupied with finding childcare and figuring out how to get everything done in the few short hours between 6:00 p.m. when I get home, and 10:30 p.m., when I go to bed.

Life on the eco-front has continued to keep pace.  We're still doing about 85% of the changes I made, for which I am quite proud. 

We've have a couple of new eco-changes appear, and I'll post about those soon.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Start using a web-based calendar (Change 136)

In an effort to reduce my paper consumption, I've started to use a web-based calendar for our household scheduling.   It's great for several reasons.  1) It reduces my paper consumption (no more paper calendars).  2)  I can access it from anywhere, using either my smart phone, a computer or a tablet.  3) No more phone calls from DH wondering  what's going on at night, and confirming what time he needs to be home.  He can check for himself from work.  4) I can colour-code events, so I can quickly see who has what when.

I'm still using my paper calendar for 2012, but am gradually transitioning it out.  I find that as I add things to the web calendar, I keep forgetting to add to the paper one.  I'm no longer 100% certain the paper one is accurate, and am always cross-referencing with the web-based one.  As I more forward into 2013 and beyond, and become more comfortable with using the web calendar, I think I'll be able to wave goodbye to paper scheduling.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Eco-Friendly Disney - Part 3

I've talked a lot about the negative things, environmentally-speaking, about our trip to Disney.  The lack of recycling.  The lack of availability of recycled products for purchase.  The need to purchase consumable items (napkins, condiments, cereal) that end up in the waste stream when half-used.

But there were a lot of things that were really great, environmentally, about our trip.  You can read the details in Disney's 2010 Corporate Citizenship Report (  It provides a fascinating look at a large corporation and its efforts to reduce its negative impact on the environment and increase its positive impact on the community.

One of the things that struck me most was the use of real cutlery, glasses and plates in almost all of the eating areas we visited.  I'm used to seeing my food served disposable plates and cutlery - I was pleasantly surprised to have my food served on plates with stainless steel forks and knives. 

Another interesting point was the number of recycling and garbage bins.  The park was spotless.  Staff were constantly picking up garbage left behind, and placing it in the appropriate receptacle.  Garbage cans and recycling bins were constantly emptied, so visitors to the park never had the excuse of "the bin was too full".

Greenhouses on Disney property are using innovate techniques to grow food - vertical agriculture, aquaponics, and xeriscaping are a few examples.  Disney also grows a lot of the food served at resort hotels.

Public transportation is the only choice for getting around the resort.  You can take the monorail, the steam train or the ferry, to and from various locations in the park.  Of course, you can also walk.

But what impressed me the most is Disney's commitment to nature conservation and consumer education.  I'll expand on this in another post.