Wednesday, December 29, 2010

No more SOS pads (Change 97)

This past summer, I was invited to a Norwex party.  For those of you who do not know the company, it provides environmentally-friendly products for cleaning, body care, and home care. ( I tried a few things with mixed results.  One item I purchased though, I love.

It is my stainless steel pot scrubber.  It works like an SOS pad, except without the built-in detergent.  I just use a little bit of dish soap (if necessary), and voila!  Clean pots and pans without a lot of effort.

Last week, I was cleaning out my crock pot.  DH had made a casserole in it, and there were bits of burnt yuck everywhere.  I couldn't get it clean.  I tried soap, water, a dish brush, and finally resorted to my last SOS pad, which had been sitting underneath my kitchen sink for months.  I scrubbed with it, to no avail.   Finally, I tried my little Norwex pot scrubber.  Although it didn't get everything clean the first time round, it made far more progress cleaning the pot than anything else.

I'm not going to buy SOS pads anymore.  They don't seem to help with the really tough jobs, and all of my little jobs are easily handled by my scrubber.  The scrubber seems to work well on the bigger jobs, too, although I may have to try scrubbing two or three times. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

Join the Guiding and Scouting Movement (Change 96)

I was a Girl Guide when I was a little girl.  DH was a Cub Scout.  It seemed only natural that we should enroll DD1 and DS in these activities when the time came.

What I hadn't realized was how these activities involved environmental change.  Both programs have adapted from the ones we remember when we were little in the 1970s and 1980s.  Yes, hiking, camping and other associated activities were part of the regular program, but I don't remember so many specific environmental actions taking place.

Move to the 21st century.  There are now specific environmental badges the children can earn, from recycling, water use, and specific camping badges, to changes to the Mission Statements and other official policies of the two movements.

For example, the Guiding Movement sent delegates to the 16th Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that took place in Cancun, Mexico, from November 29 to December 10.  The Scouts have a Position Statement on the Environment, "Scouts Canada believes that environmental stewardship is critical for future generations. Scouts Canada’s programs develop youth as environmental stewards. Through progressive experiential opportunities youth develop and practice sound environmental ethics. Active participation in our programs enables members to minimize their impact on the environment." ( and

I'm thrilled that these activities that my children participate in will help reflect and reinforce our home values. If we start teaching our children at a young age about how valuable and unique our planet and environment are, I can't help but think we are enabling our world to become a better place.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Buy a recycled steel garbage can (Change 95)

Three basic tenets are drilled into every child's head these days - Reduce, Re-use and Recycle.  Most people are good at the recycle part, and we as a society are starting to show a wealth of recycled and recyclable products.  In order to keep the recycling process going, we must start to purchase products made from recycled materials.

I decided to purchase a recycled steel garbage can.  As I've mentioned in earlier posts, I love birds and have several feeders that I keep filled throughout the year.  I've been storing my sunflower seeds in a plastic garbage can until quite recently, when the mice discovered it.

We've had issues with mice in our house since we moved in.  We set traps and kill an astonishing number of critters in the course of the winter.  I've occasionally found a dead mouse in the empty bird seed pail, but fortunately, never in a full one.

Over the last month, though, there have been signs the mice have discovered my stash of seed, and are helping themselves to the buffet.  Empty shells are littering the shed floor, and are found in the strangest places.  I wasn't able to figure out how they are getting into the pail.  There were no obvious signs of chewing, the lid was on securely, and I wasn't leaving seed lying around.  Then I moved the pail to a new location.  Seed streamed out of the bottom of the pail, where some clever little mouse had decided to chew through the bottom of the pail to get at the seed.

Hence, the steel garbage can.   See this interesting fact sheet from the Steel Framing Alliance for more information on how steel is a "green" material.  ( and from the Geological Association of Canada  The GAC fact sheet states that "Every tonne of steel recycled saves 1100 kg of iron ore, 650 kg of coal, and 55 kg of limestone".
I opted for recycled steel, as it was only a few dollars more, and it helps reinforce the recycling life cycle. The mice will no longer be getting a free meal and I've voted with my pocketbook to keep municipal, provincial and federal recycling programs going.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Start looking for local sources of animal protein (Change 94)

I watched a very interesting, and very disturbing, movie the other day.  For those of you who have seen Food, Inc. you'll understand why I'm now trying to find local sources of pork and poultry.  For those of you who haven't seen the movie, you should.  You will never look at food the same way again. 

This quote from the movie's website ( says it all - "In Food, Inc., filmmaker Robert Kenner lifts the veil on our nation's food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that has been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government's regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA. Our nation's food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment......Food, Inc. reveals surprising—and often shocking truths—about what we eat, how it's produced, who we have become as a nation and where we are going from here."

This movie (nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary), watched in companionship with reading The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food, both by Michael Pollan, has really prompted me to think about where the food I buy really comes from.  DH and I enjoy growing our own vegetables - we've had fairly successful crops of lettuce, spinach, potatoes, and tomatoes before.  But winter means buying fruits and veggies at the store.  And of course, having a house in the suburbs does not allow us to grow our own meat.  And althought the film details American farming, I can't help but have a sneaking suspicion that the reality of Canadian farming isn't that far off.
I've been surfing the Internet in the last few days, trying to find local sources of grass-fed, preferable organic, animals, as well as starting to look at potential Community Support Agriculture shares.  I've narrowed the list down to a few possibilities.  In the New Year, after all the holiday craziness has died down, DH and I are going to take the kids on a road trip to check the farms out.  I hope this leads to another eco-change or two in January - buying food directly from a local farmer.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Month 3 & 4 update

Time flies when you're busy.  I can't believe that Christmas is just around the corner.  We've been making slow but steady progress to further "greening" our lives.  We've also had a few set-backs, to be expected when you are trying to encourage activities or habits that require effort!  :)

Showering in the dark is becoming more showing in dim light.  I'm getting up before dawn most days, and I need to be able to see something so I don't continue to whack my shin on open drawers or shower doors.  I will often put my closet or hall light on - this lights the bathroom enough to see, without using the landing strip lights that are above our sinks. 

It's really been easy to adjust to the navy showers, less than boiling hot water for showers, no hair dryer, natural deodorant and other assorted small changes.  It's the big ones that keep stumping me.  Like hanging my linens to dry.  Remembering to take my re-usable produce bags to the store.  Not eating chocolate unless it's fair-trade and/or organic.

I can't seem to remember to bring my own containers to restaurants, so am often requesting aluminum foil doggy bags - very messy at times.  I've had to bite the bullet and bring home plastic/Styrofoam containers.  My only consolation there is that I re-use the plastic containers for craft projects with the kids and at DD2's nursery school, so they aren't going directly into the landfill when they get home.

Small compost bags for Kleenex, etc., in every room has been an interesting experiment, but I am going to abandon it shortly.  It is hard to remember to "sort" the garbage in this manner.  I've tried putting the bags beside the pails, but everyone (including me some days) uses the pails instead of the bag.   Sigh.  Guess I'll invest in some latex gloves to sort stuff.

The other thing I'm finding hard to do is make a change every day.  I had such enthusiasm back in the summer when life was all about taking time off from our regular routine.  But now that school and activities are in full swing, I can barely manage to make sure my kids are dressed, fed and sent to school with the appropriate lunch/homework/shoes/whatever, not to mention the myriad other things that come with life.  So I am going to relax my standards a bit, and still make my 366 changes, but not try to do them every day.  I'm not able to post everyday (as you've probably noticed), so I am going to stop stressing about trying to make changes every day.  I will get as many done in a week as I can, and work my way down the list. 

This project will take a little longer now, but it's one less stress for me this way, and that means fewer meds, less caffeine and more sleep.  Sounds like a good eco-change to me!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Be powerWISE (Day 93)

As part of the theme of saving energy, I decided to calculate exactly how much energy my house was using.  I know I have my hydro bills to tell me, but I don't get the individual breakdown of each appliance.  I visited the powerWISE website ( to find out.

That was an eye opener.  Did you know that the average toaster uses 1150 watts of hydro per hour?  Or that an electric kettle uses 1500 watts? The average water heater is 3800 watts.

This tool allows me to figure out which appliances are costing me the most money and energy usage, so I can manage my electricity consumption better.  I've targeted a few areas for improvement, and I am anxious to see if my lower consumption goals are reasonable.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Eco-friendly hand moisturizer (Day 92)

I purchased some new hand cream last week.  My old brand was on the naughty list, according to the Skin Deep Database.  So, trusting my friends at EWG, I bought a better brand.  This one scores either a 4 or 5 (I'm not exactly sure which version of my brand that I bought), which is much better than the 8 I used to use!  I like the new product - it's not greasy, absorbs rather quickly, and doesn't irritate the cuts on my skin.   I'm not completely satisfied, as this company has some issues with the old formulation of this particular product.  I can't be guaranteed that I'm not using the old version, so after this container is finished, I'm going to try to finder a better-scoring brand.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Make my own drain de-clogger (Day 91)

I've had this recipe from Lindsey Coulter for quite a while.  Lindsey is the Queen of Green from the David Suzuki Foundation website (  She has provided me with several really great recipes to make my own household cleaners.  As part of the download file, a drain de-clog recipe was also provided.   I tried it out today and it really works!

Pour a generous amount of baking soda down your drain.  Add white vinegar (watch it fizz!).  Let is sit for a while, then pour hot or boiling water down the drain.  Depending on what is clogging your pipes, you may need to repeat a couple of times.  It works like a charm.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Turn furnace fan to "auto" (Day 90)

More electricity saving measures.  I'm got a bee in my bonnet over electricity these days.  I just paid my hydro bill - not pretty.  I don't understand how we're using all of these kW hrs.  Yes, I am home during the day, so certain things are going to be used more often, generating electricity use.  But this last bill was ridiculous.  I'm going to be a "hydro-nazi" until we get our power usage under control.

One of the areas I'm targeting this week is the furnace fan.  We've generally left it running all the time, as we have found the furnace actually comes on less when the air is circulated constantly through the house.  I can't help but think that a fan running all the time is eating up our hydro.  As part of the eco-challenge, DH and I have turned the furnace fan to "auto" - it will only come on when the furnace actually turns on to heat/cool the house.  Since we keep our house fairly cool in the winter, I don't foresee the furnace coming on with greater frequency even though the air is not circulating as much. 

I hope this change is reflected in my next hydro bill.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Re-usable produce bags (Day 89)

I've been using cloth grocery bags for years.  I received a pile of them when I worked for the company that markets the EcoLogo, back in the late 1990s.  The looks I used to get from the cashiers.....

I've always tried not use plastic produce bags.  I only use them if I am buying multiples of something (such as limes or lemons).  A single item (like a broccoli or celery head) just gets put into my shopping cart as is.  As part of my eco-challenge, I've been meaning to purchase some reusable produce bags, but haven't gotten around to it yet.

You can imagine my surprise when I opened a package sent to me in the mail this past week.  My sister-in-law sent me an early birthday present - 4 reusable mesh produce bags.  Made by credobags( , mine are 100% organic cotton.  They have washed up beautifully.  I used them a couple of days ago for my groceries - and I love them!   I don't know why I haven't bought them before this. 

Next on my list - reusable bulk bags.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Environmentally-friendly dog shampoo (Day 88)

Sometimes a quick wash in the baby bathtub is not going to be enough for Molly.  In fact, even though we've only had her 6 weeks, she's already had two showers in our walk-in.  Regular human shampoo is not good for a dog's coat, and I'm certainly not going to share my tiny bottle of Green Beaver shampoo with her.  So I went looking for an environmentally-acceptable pet shampoo.

I was pleasantly surprised to find one in our local pet store.  Priced well, only a few dollars more for the same size bottle as the regular shampoo, the shampoo contains natural ingredients, with no harmful chemicals or detergents.  The packaging is made from recycled materials and the sleeve labels are made from corn (which means they could be biodegraded).

Molly gets to be clean and green - best dog in the house.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Re-purpose our baby bathtub (Day 87)

One of the great joys of having a dog is taking her out for walks.  We've recently been visiting an unofficial off-leash park in our area.  It is a hydro corridor that has walking paths through fields and the wood.  Our dog gets a good run and some socialization, while I get to enjoy the fresh air. 

One of the disadvantages of having a semi-long haired dog is the mud that ends up covering her by the time the walk is finished.  Whether the path is thawing or she is picking up dew in the grass, she gets wet and dirty very quickly.  Being apricot in colour, it is also very noticeable!

I've tried washing her paws off in the tub, with the hose and with a bowl, but it's a pain and doesn't allow me to manoeuvre very easily.  I'm stuck either washing her with really cold water, or filling and re-filling the bowl several times.

I mentioned to DH that I needed a better solution to bathe the dog after her walks.  "Why not use the baby bathtub?" he wondered.  We still had it downstairs in our basement.  When I had offered our baby stuff to my friend, she hadn't needed one, so I had put it back in storage until I could figure out what to do with it.

It works great.  I get to fill up a large tub with warm water, I'm able to carry the tub to the garage so I'm not messing up my laundry room, I'm saving water, and I'm re-using something that would other wise collect dust or be thrown away. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Install wallplate insulators (Day 86)

Poor DH.  His "Honey-Do" just keeps getting longer.  I added a new one to his list last week, after talking to some friends about my blog.  We were discussing ways to save energy, when MF (male friend) said that we should check our wall plugs for drafts.  Apparently in his house (which was built by the same builder as ours), the wall plugs on his outside facing walls have a lot of cold air coming through them.  He noticed this when he took the switch plates off to paint his hallway.  He purchased foam inserts to block the draft, and says his house has been a lot warmer since.

I mentioned this in passing to DH, who rolled his eyes and commented that he didn't need another thing to do right now.  I agreed and dropped the subject, figuring I'd bug him to do this eco-change later on.

Sweetie that he is, he came home with the inserts a few days ago, after checking at three different stores for them.   "I didn't ask you to do that, " I said.  "I know," he replied with a shrug, "but what's another item on my list?"

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Turn off computer during the day (Day 85)

I've gotten into the habit of turning off the computer at night, using the power bar to shut if off completely.  I'm pretty proud of myself, as this was a hard change for me.  DH still hasn't quite got it down yet, but he's working on it.  The next challenge will be to turn of the computer during the day when I'm not using it.

Most days, I turn it on first thing in the morning, check my email and then leave it on for a couple of hours while I get the kids ready for school.  I check both home and business email periodically throughout the day.  The computer is shut down for the night, usually between 10:00 and 11:00 p.m. 

This is a lot of wasted energy though.  The computer sits idle gobbling away on electricity, while I'm off doing other things.  I'm going to try to make a concerted effort to turn the computer off when I'm finished using it during the day.  It will be an interesting experiment to see how often I'm actually on the computer because I need to be, not because I'm wasting time!  :)

So friends, if I don't respond to you right away, my apologies.  I'm off saving the planet, one email at a time.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Install timers on lights (Day 84)

In keeping with the saving energy theme, DH is planning to install timers on a couple of our lights in the basement.  Similar to our bathroom fans, I often don't realize the basement bathroom light has been left on by our children until several hours after they've left.  I try to remember to check the basement before we all leave for school, etc., but sometimes in the morning rush, I forget.  Or, I don't run all the way downstairs, just poke my head in the stairwell to see if the lights are on.  (I can't see the bathroom from the stairs, so don't notice if the light is on if I don't go all the way down.)  Sometimes I don't notice that the light is on until mid-afternoon, when I go downstairs to get something from the freezer for dinner.

We're working on training the kids to turn off lights when they leave a room.  For the most part they are successful - I see the light on and remind them to turn it off.   But the basement is out of sight, out of mind.  For some reason, the kids remember to turn the basement lights off, but not the bathroom one.  So DH is putting a timer on it, so if they forget to turn it off, at least it won't be on for more than 1/2 hr.  There are a couple of non-essential lights that will also get timers, so again, they aren't left on for hours if I don't notice.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Eat the kids' leftovers at lunch (Day 83)

I love food.  I enjoy cooking and baking, and preparing meals that are, for the most part, health and nutritious.  DH appreciates my efforts.  My kids, not so much.   DD2 tends to eat anything.  DS is the meat eater of the family - I can get him to eat fruits and vegetables, but he'd prefer meat.  DD1 is very finicky.  I'm never sure from one day to the next whether or not she'll like what I've prepared.

This leads to a lot of half-eaten or un-eaten meals.  In the past, I've tossed their leftover meals in the compost bin.  But DH and I have decided this is a waste of food.  So we are going to eat their unfinished meals for our lunch.  I figure I already have their germs, so I'm not really being unsanitary.  And most of the food is perfectly fine.  I'll toss the mangled, mashed or obviously chewed bits in the compost.  But the remaining untouched or lightly touched meat, veggies or bread will go in a container for the next day.

At least I know that my meals will be eaten and appreciated by someone.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

"If it's yellow, let it mellow"....sort of (Day 82)

In the interests of water conservation I am not flushing the toilet as much.  We already have low flow toilets (6L), so we already use less water than most people when going to the bathroom.

I've read with interest on other blogs about people following the "if it's yellow, let it mellow" rule.  But really, I live in a house with 5 people, one of whom we are toilet training and the other two in whom we are trying to instill basic hygiene rules.  I'm not about to throw all of that hard work out the window, er.. down the toilet.

I can't justify following the rule all the time - not if I want my kids to have good hygiene.  It's easy to explain to the 8 year old that she can flush the toilet at other people's houses, but not at home.  I'm not so sure the 5 year old would grasp that.  Other people want their toilet flushed, and I can't blame them.  I definitely am not going to try it in public either.  I think that's gross!

As well, I watch other people's children on occasion, and I really don't want to have a disgusting mess waiting for the parents or kids when they come over.

My variation on the rule is this - no flushing in the middle of the night, no flushing until after DH and I are ready for the day (showered, etc), and no flushing in my personal upstairs ensuite unless necessary.  The kids are great with the no flushing in the middle of the night rule.  DH and I are working out the early AM issues, and since I am by myself during the day, I run upstairs to my bathroom to use the facilities.

So here's to less water down the toilet, and maybe a little more water in our lakes and rivers.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Set-up compost bags in all rooms (Day 81)

We have been home composters since long before composting was trendy.  In fact, it's been almost 13 years since we set up our first black bin in the backyard.  We put everything possible in it - food peelings, coffee grinds, tea bags, paper towels, yard waste.  However, this disadvantage of home composting is that you can't add anything with meat or oils in it (like cheese, dairy or salad dressing).  It doesn't compost very well, and attracts critters.  In fact, we've nicknamed our resident raccoon Fat Albert, but that's another story.

You can imagine my delight when the city of Ottawa FINALLY got its act together and implemented its green bin (organics) program last year.  I am now able to compost meat, dairy, oils, coffee cups, waxed paper, and lots of other stuff that was going into my garbage.  I've reduced our garbage output even more, with this great addition.  We still home compost our yard and garden waste, and still put regular organics in it as well, but it feels wonderful to be able to safely compost the rest as well.

I've been patting myself on the back for all of my good work, until last garbage day.  DH and I usually collect the garbage from the various bathrooms and bedrooms and dump it into the black bag to go to the road.   I noticed when I was collecting it, there was a lot of face tissues in the kids' rooms.  DH and I have always just dumped the garbage in the bin, but I thought that in the interest of "greening" our lifestyle I should sort the face tissues and put them in the green bin.  Then I thought about it - face tissues equals cold germs and who knows what other disgusting things my kids may have been doing with them.  There was NO WAY I was going to handle them again.

I went out and bought the small kitchen compost bags to set-up in each room of the house, beside the garbage.  The idea will be to get DH and the kids to put perfectly good items in the compost instead of the garbage.  Once they get into the habit of separating these things out, I'll put a more permanent style of bin in place.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Greener birthday party (Day 80)

DD2 is having her "friends" birthday party today.  In an effort to "green" the process, I have implemented the following:  no paper plates, cups or napkins; no plastic cutlery; no disposable party decorations.  Her party is starting to sound kind of boring!  :)

However, I have also added:  a party at my house, including a camping theme (tent, sleeping bags and sleep over!); a craft using a lot of natural materials (build your own campfire - using twigs, stones, sand, recycled CDs, glue and tissue paper); no plastic loot bags - instead they are getting bandannas with flashlights, glow sticks, granola bars and a craft kit.  The craft kit, flashlights and granola bars have plastic or plastic packaging, but it's hard to get away from it.

The girls will be able to party with games, puzzles and our karaoke machine; we'll also be playing some outdoor games (weather permitting), including flashlight tag and name that star.

Breakfast will be homemade pancakes and bacon.

Not a perfectly green party, but I don't think it's too bad.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Buy environmentally friendly kid shampoo (Day 79)

Another change in our use of cosmetics/hygiene products.  I've purchased an eco-friendly, body-friendly shampoo for my children.  The particular brand I purchased (Green Beaver) is not listed in EWG's cosmetics database (  Interestingly, the other brands I had in mind ALL scored 4 or more on the nasty scale in the database.  A couple of them scored 7 or 8!

I've reviewed the ingredients list on my purchase to the best of my ability - no parabens, phthalates, SLS, fragrance, nor is it tested on animals.  It's not easy on the pocketbook, though.  This shampoo was the same price for a small 250 g bottle as a 2L bottlle of my regular 'scores "5" on the scale' shampoo from Costco. 

A quick look at the Green Beaver company website ( and a quick perusal of other "green" blogs, indicates that I've made a good choice with this shampoo.  I will admit though, if I can find a "2" or "3" scale shampoo that is more cost effective, I am going to make the switch.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Turn off tap while hand washing (Day 78)

I feel a little silly posting about this subject today.  After all, the reduction I have made in water usage is minor.  I've stopped running water while washing my hands.  My family is in the habit of turning off the tap while brushing our teeth, but for some reason, we let the water run while soaping up and rubbing our hands.   So I'm turning on the water a bit, wet my hands, turn the water off, soap up, wash, and then turn the tap back on to rinse. 

I'm not sure how much this reduces my impact, but according to BC Hydro (,   I can save up to $55 a year by shutting off the water while teeth brushing, shaving and washing hands.  Many of the other sites I've researched (Environment Canada, a British water consumption site, the EPA, etc.) suggest between 4-6 L of water per day is saved by turning off the tap while you brush your teeth.  I have to assume the same holds true for turning off the tap while hand washing.  Not much for just me, but every little bit counts.

The real water savings will come if I can get the kids to embrace this habit, as well.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Borrow Hallowe'en costumes (Day 77)

Well, the big day arrives in one week, and a slow panic is starting to set in about costumes.  All of the kids know what they want to be, but it's up to me to provide them with the costumes.  I tried suggesting costumes we already had in our dress-up bin; of course, no one wanted them. 

I told the kids that I wouldn't buy them costumes this year, they had to wear ones we already had, or we had to see if we could borrow them from friends.  Fortunately for us, a good friend down the street has kids that love to dress-up and have all of the articles we need for two of our three costumes.  DD1 is going as a pirate a la Jack Sparrow, and DS is Indiana Jones, courtesy of our neighbours.  DD2 wants to be a ghost - a little more problematic as she is only three, and I don't want to cover her with a sheet. (Actually, I'm not even sure she'd wear one).  I decided that white pants and a white shirt will suffice, and I'll paint her face white, too.  I have the shirt and the face paint, I just need to find a pair of pants.  I've put the word out to several friends, and I hope that pants will materialize before the weekend.

The face paint is not eco-friendly - it's stage make-up, so I shudder to think what might be in it.  However, I won't be using too much, it won't be on that long, and I am not going out to buy new make-up for one night.

Any suggestions for inexpensive environmentally-friendly Hallowe'en goodies?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Not renew newspaper subscription (Day 76)

This eco-change makes me a little sad.  I like my morning paper.  It's the one time in the day that I get to sit, drink my coffee, and see what is going on in the world, in-between getting breakfast for the kids, feeding the dog, nagging the kids, emptying the dishwasher, cleaning up breakfast......

Who am I kidding? I don't really have time to read the paper.  I more or less skim the headlines in the front section, and save the rest of the paper for later in the day, if I have a quiet moment (which sometimes does happen).  But I like the idea the paper.  As mentioned in previous posts, I am a tactile person.  I like holding onto something when I read it.  I like having in-depth analysis of the latest news, not to mention the specialty sections of food, lifestyles and comics!

On the weekends, DH and I spend at least an hour reading the paper in the morning.  This leads to bumped heads, yelling and various other forms of communication with our offspring, because we are engrossed in the paper, and not paying attention to them.

So, in an effort to green my lifestyle, save money and improve my relationship with my children, I am not renewing our subscription.  I have access to a full online version through our library, so I can sit at the computer during quiet moments and read about the previous day's events.

I'm sad that I'm putting our carrier a little more out of work (we are one of a handful of people on the street who get the paper), but I'm hoping that the trees, energy and fossil fuels I am saving will offset my conscience.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Join Project Feederwatch (Day 75)

One of the other things I enjoy is birdwatching.  I love watching the birds flit amongst the trees, and help themselves to the seed heads in the garden.  It's amusing to watch them fight among themselves to see who gets first access to freshly-filled bird feeders.  I like keeping track of the types of birds I have seen in my backyard, and use an online tool to keep track.  Observing backyard birds runs in the family - my grandmother used to keep binoculars and her bird book by her back door, in the event that she needed to quickly verify an observation.

I recently ran across a reference to a feeder watching project, designed to help scientists track and monitor winter bird populations.  Called "Project Feederwatch", the Canadian version is a project of Bird Studies Canada, in association with Cornell University (  Bird populations are a great indicator of environmental health, and winter bird studies allow scientists to monitor introduced species (such as the European Starling) and their effects on native bird populations, as well as get some indication of migratory patterns of birds that summer in the far North, out of reach of many scientific observations.  These studies are then used to help governments and industry shape conservation policies.

It's amazing what a pair of binoculars can do.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Install timers for fans (Day 74)

"What's in the bag, Daddy?"  asked DD1.  "A blog entry for Mummy," he replied.

Sure enough, DH had gone out and bought me something I'd been wanting for a while - timers for our bathroom fans.  I know, it sounds kind of hokey.  But truthfully, I'm getting tired of running around shutting off bathroom fans after everyone, sometimes hours after they have been turned on.  The electricity we've been wasting makes me cringe.

My brother-in-law installed one in his main bathroom, and I love it.  I like being able to choose how long the fan needs to run and having it shut off without me having to remember to do it.  His house is a bungalow, so it's not to hard to hear the fans running.  But our house is two stories, plus a basement, and has bathroom fans on all three floors.  I often don't realize that the kids have turned on a fan until long after it's happened.

I'd been hinting for a while that I wanted some for our house, and DH finally caved in to the pressure.  He installed them this weekend.   I love that I can turn on a fan for a short or long period of time, and don't have to remember to turn it off.  I love that the kids can do the same. 

Now, if I could just teach them to turn off the lights.....

Start "greening" my wardrobe (Day 73)

Another area of my life that needs a major overhaul is my choice of clothing.  I'm very eco-friendly, in that I haven't really bought any new clothes in the past years.  However, the few items I have purchased were all purchased new, out of petroleum or fertilizer intensive materials.

I've decided to start with baby steps, as in all things, and work my way up to all "green" clothing choices.  I started this weekend by buying socks.  Now buying new socks isn't eco-friendly, but quite honestly, I shudder to think of buying someone else's used personal articles of clothing.  My new socks are not made of cotton.  They are made of rayon, derived 75% from bamboo.  I thought this was a terrific, eco-friendly choice, until I did a little research at home.

Bamboo should be a better source of fabric than regular cotton.  According to Treehugger, "Bamboo's eco-friendly positioning in the market has been centered on its properties as 1) a natural (that is, non synthetic) fiber, 2) a quick-growth plant (it's in the grass family) that sequesters greenhouse gases, and 3) a renewable plant that can grow back after its three to five year harvesting period. It largely doesn't need chemicals, pesticides, or fertilizers, but studies show that clearing land to grow it in monocultures can adversely affect the soil and habitat of an area." 

Therein lies the problem with bamboo.  It all depends on who is cultivating it, and ultimately, manufacturing it into clothing.   I think the company that made my socks are probably on the "not sustainable list" - there is no mention on their website of where or how they source their bamboo for their socks. 

However, I have to believe that my purchase must be slightly better for the environment than regular, pesticide and fertilizer intensive cotton.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Hang linens to dry (Day 72)

We live in a two story house, with an open stairwell from the second to the first floor.  I often hang quilts, blankets and mattress covers from the railing to finish drying, if they are still damp when I take them out of the dryer.  But it never occurred to me to just hang stuff to dry off of the railing until I was talking to my neighbour a few weeks ago.

She hangs all of her linens to dry off the railing. Like me, she has a front load washer, which takes most of the moisture out of the items during the spin cycle.  Since she doesn't have to worry about water dripping all over the floor, she hangs her blankets, sheets, etc. on the railing and lets them air dry - she doesn't bother with the dryer in the first place.

She saves energy from the dryer and her things still dry within a day or two.  It sounds great to me - I am going to emulate this.  All sheets and  blankets will hang from the railing from now on.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Plant more native species (Day 71)

Fall clean-up time is here for my garden.  Time to cut back perennials, compost all the dead branches or stems, and clean up the vegetable garden.  It's also a great time of year to plant perennials.  By planting in the fall, transplants can have a head start on establishing their roots systems before winter, and then use the warm weather of spring to grow. 

We've had  a couple of frosts here in Ottawa, so I am getting toward the end of the acceptable transplanting season.  However, I plan to move a few things around in one of my beds to accommodate more native species.  I have a butterfly garden in my back yard which has become desperately overgrown.  I would like to change this bed to a true pollinator garden (attracting bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, moths, flies).  Our native pollinators, especially bees, are in decline.  By planting native species, I can help attract native pollinators to our area, and hopefully, establish good habitat for them.  Check out the Canadian Pollination Initiative ( for scientific work being done on this issue.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Buy only recycled plastic black bags (Day 70)

Apparently biodegradable bags have caused my readers some anxiety.  I've had several people comment (both publicly and privately) about the cons of using these "so-called friendly products" (to quote one observer).

I'm due to purchase regular black garbage bags, so am going to follow one reader's suggestion of purchasing ones that contain the most recycled plastic I can find. I've been reading David Suzuki's book "Going Green", and in it he states that we need to follow through on purchasing recycled products, to encourage the whole recycling process. It's not going to breakdown in the landfill, but by making this purchase, I am encouraging companies and cities to invest in plastics recycling programs. 

Send out only electronic invitations (Day 69)

DD1 had a birthday a couple of weeks ago.  Family came over and we had a great time.  Now it's time for the "friends" birthday.  Traditionally, I would hand write the invitation and then have DD1 deliver them at school, or I would pop them in mail.

This year, in light of us trying to green our lifestyle, I am going to send out electronic invitations for her birthday party.  I don't find them as socially acceptable for this kind of thing, but I am hoping that the invitees will understand the reasons behind it.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Buy biodegradable kitchen bags (Day 68)

We don't use plastic garbage bags as a general rule.  We use a big black one for the outdoor garbage bin, and a smaller white one to collect kitchen garbage. 

I was in Shopper's Drug Mart the other day, looking for kitchen garbage bags, and noticed that they sell biodegradable plastic bags.  The size isn't quite the right one (the compostable ones are a bit smaller than I need) but I bought some to try out.  They are also very expensive for the amount you get. 

Today I was in Dollarama looking for something, and noticed they carry biodegradable bags, too - the same amount for $1.50.  Much more reasonable.

If the Shopper's ones work out, I'm going to try the Dollarama ones next.  Readers - do you have any experience with the biodegradable plastic bags?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Spray shower with hydrogen peroxide (Day 67)

The same article from Canadian Living suggests spraying hydrogen peroxide on the ceiling of the shower to prevent mould and mildew build-up.  We have a terrible problem with mould - it has set into the grout and is really hard to get clean.  I like the idea of preventing mould to begin with.  Our solutions in the past have been leaving the fan running, and keeping the shower door open to let the moisture evaporate out, but it doesn't seem to prevent the mould from growing.

I like the peroxide idea, and am going to spray the shower with it after I clean it.

Clean my shower with vinegar (Day 66)

I just realized that I still have toxic cleaning chemicals in my house.  I was gathering my cleaning supplies together to do the bathrooms, and noticed that I still have Tilex in my supply caddy.   Tilex is filled with all kinds of nasties. The fumes are so bad I can't use it - I have DH spray down the tile shower and rinse it clean.  I can't be in the bathroom at all for HOURS after he sprays the shower.

I was reading an older issue (April 2010) of Canadian Living on the train this weekend.  There was an article in it on spring cleaning using non-toxic alternatives.   In it was the suggestion to use plain white vinegar, warmed in the microwave, to clean soap scum and dirt.  According to the article, I should spray it on, leave for 5 minutes and then rinse. 

I guess this means that cleaning the shower is my chore from now on.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Re-use dog items (Day 65)

With Molly's arrival, we've dusted off our old doggie items for her use.  We borrowed a puppy crate from said friends in Burlington for Molly's trip home.  DH cleaned our large dog crate this weekend for her to use in the house.  Leashes, collars, bowls, eating stand, scoop bags, scooper, and dog food storage container all came out of the basement, were cleaned and are now being used. 

The only new things we've bought for her have been chew toys.

Have someone else pick up our puppy (Day 64)

Yes - we did it.  We bought a puppy. 

Our lives have been dog-less for a little over a year now.  When Tanner passed away, we weren't ready for another pet commitment.  But as the year has passed, we began missing having canine companionship.  After much deliberation, we decided to once again venture into dog ownership.  We are now the proud owners of Molly, an apricot-coloured Goldendoodle.

The problem with Molly was that she lived in Hamilton.  We live in Ottawa.  We would have to travel to pick her up.  We made plans with the breeder to come down a certain weekend, and then made arrangements with a friend that lives in Burlington (about 15 mins away) to stay with them for the weekend, combining dog purchasing with a visit with friends.

Then my parents mentioned that they were travelling to Toronto that week, and would we like them to pick up Molly?  She was an hour away from where they were staying, so it wasn't too far out of their way to get her.  It saved us from having to make the trip, especially since they were already going to be in the area.  We accepted their offer of transportation.

We didn't get a chance to visit with our friends, but we still brought Molly into our lives.  It's been two weeks since her arrival, and it is like she's been with us always.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Turn off heat dry on dishwasher (Day 63)

In addition to running my dishwasher at night, I am also going to turn off the heat dry function.  It's unfortunate that I am doing this, because I have a crappy dishwasher and it doesn't dry dishes completely even with the heat dry on.  So now I will have very wet dishes to air or hand dry when I unload the dishes.  I guess this is the price I have to pay for going "green" with my dishwasher.

Run my dishwasher at night (Day 62)

A family of five goes through a lot of dishes.  I run the dishwasher at least once a day, sometimes more, especially if I'm on a cooking or baking rampage.  With the cost of hydro and water continuously going up, it's getting more expensive to run our dishwasher during the day. 

Although we don't have the Peak Saver program yet in Ottawa, it is expected to roll out this coming year (by the end of 2011).  This means that I need to start getting into the habit of doing things that require a lot of electricity and/or hot water at night and on weekends, when the costs for both of these is at its lowest.

To start, I am going to start running the dishwasher at night.  My dishwasher has a delay function, so I can set it for 2, 4, or 8 hours.  This means I can fill up the dishwasher with the supper dishes, and put it on for after 9 p.m. (when Peak Saver rates apply).  Hopefully, by the time Hydro Ottawa gets around to charging for peak/off-peak rates, I'll be in the habit of dish washing at night.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Make lunch or dinner vegetarian (Day 61)

We eat a lot of meat.  Most of our lunches and dinners consist of some form of meat (usually chicken or pork), a starch (potatoes or rice) and at least one vegetable.    However, the livestock production industry has a serious effect on the environment.  According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, livestock production is the biggest producer of greenhouse gases and the biggest cause of biodiversity loss, globally (

I`m going to help lessen our environmental impact by making sure that either lunch or dinner is vegetarian each day.  That means if we have meat at lunch, we have a vegetarian meal for dinner. 

It will take my family some time to get used to this - Ì`ll need to dust off my recipe books and start experimenting with different protein sources such as tofu, tempeh, lentils and beans.  Hopefully, I can find meals we will all enjoy.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Month Two Update

It's hard to believe that 60 days have passed since I started this challenge.  So many changes, some big, some small.  Most have made it to the 60 day mark.  A few I had to give up soon after starting. 

The biggest challenge I've had is trying to make changes that will fit with our lifestyle.  We live in the suburbs, in a very "car-oriented" community.  Nothing is really walking distance from our house, although there is supposed to be a grocery store, bank, coffee shop, beer store and a couple of restaurants going into an area in the our corner of the subdivision.  I'm hopeful that I'll be able to start walking to pick up milk or a bottle of wine soon.

Here are the changes I've had to either a) give-up completely or b) re-work into something a little more sustainable for my family:

- environmentally friendly ant removal.  This just didn't work for us, and we finally resorted to ant poison to get rid of the infestation

- organic face moisturizer.  I couldn't stand using this particular product after about two weeks.  I've been trying several other types, but can't find one I really like.  I've switched back to my "old" one - it only registered a 4 on the Skin Deep Database, so it really wasn't that bad.  This way, I don't have a tonne of pimples or clogged pores anymore

- baths for kids.  This is a hit or miss proposition - it depends on what time it is, who is in charge of bath time, and how dirty the kids are.  We're hitting about 50% showers and 50% baths, so this is a definite improvement on water and electricity consumption.

- not using Google.  I've been pretty good about using GoodSearch for most of my Internet searching, but have used Google a few times when the GS results don't seem to be quite right.

-making my own liquid hand soap.  This was a bust.  I guess I'm just too used to the cream soap, and couldn't find a consistency when making my own that didn't send water flying everywhere, or cause us to waste half the soap when we pressed the dispenser.  I bought some triclosan-free cream soap (again an improvement), but then decided just to use the dish soap I really like as hand soap.  I'll use up the cream variety and then will switch over to the dish soap.

-buy only Canadian juice.  This has not been going well, because I really don't like apple juice.  The kids love it, so I buy it for them.  For DH and I, though, I've been buying orange juice.  The label states "100% Florida orange juice" and "Made in the USA", so I am hopeful that I am at least buying a juice that is grown and produced in North America.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Carpool whenever possible (Day 60)

My children lead very busy and happy lives.  DD1 is involved in martial arts and Brownies.  DS attends Beavers.  DD2 is starting nursery school.  These activities, combined with regular school programming, results in very busy lives after hours.  I attend several planning meetings a month, plus the regular weekly meetings for the Scouting/Guiding program.  The martial arts program runs three times per week.  DD1 has also decided she would like to start track and field, which is a before-school program.

I have come to the conclusion that I am going to be spending an awful lot of time on the road.   So I am going to seek out like-minded parents in my neighbourhood to see if they would like to share the driving commitments.   Two girls in our subdivision attend DD1s Brownie troop, so I am going to ask the mums if they would like to share the driving.  One of Brownies has a little brother that will be in the same Beaver unit as DS.  So I will ask that mum to share driving to that activity.  I haven't found anyone yet attending the martial arts program, but I am going to keep looking.  As for the nursery school meetings, I am hopeful that I can share a ride with one of the staff who lives in the subdivision across the street from ours.  DH is going to drop DD1 at the school for track and field, on his way to work.

I am hopeful that this new plan will free up more of my time and let me put my feet up once in a while.

Buy an eco-friendly yoga mat (Day 59)

I've decided that I need to improve my fitness.  I've done yoga in the past and have loved it.  But with three kids busy with activities and school, and DH taking guitar lessons, my evenings and weekends are busy.  I have been unsuccessful finding yoga during the day with the city, so have finally resorted to paying for a session at a local studio.

I was all set to attend my first class this week.  But I couldn't find my mat.  After about 15 mins of searching, it dawned on me.  The mat was my mother's, and I had borrowed it from her.  I must have returned it to her at some point over the summer.   Since she is attending the class with me, I was going to have to get my own mat.

Yoga mats are not something I'm comfortable obtaining second hand, so I opted to buy an environmentally friendly one.  It's made from Polymer Environmental Resin (PER), a material that is biodegradable and non-toxic.  It doesn't contain any latex, heavy metals, phthalates, or phenols, and doesn't have that "yoga mat" smell from the off-gassing of chemicals.

Now I'm ready to attend this week's class, and hopefully bring a peaceful state to my mind.


Wow!  You can tell that school is back and all of our activities have ramped up full force.  Combine this two birthday parties for my girls within a week of each other, obtaining a couple of shifts at the library, out of town guests and a baby shower, and all of a sudden my week disappeared!

My apologies for not posting anything for the last 5 days.   I'll try and get caught up.....

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Not buying any more DVDs (Day 58)

Our kids have lots of stuff.  Books, toys, clothes, games and movies.  The movies are especially plentiful, because we travel a lot to my in-laws (over 8 hours away) and movies help pass the time.   In fact, I think I'd cry if our portable DVD player ever broke.

But the kids don't really watch all the movies they have.  There are favourites that get played over and over again.  In fact, I think I could recite all three High School Musical movies from memory if I put my mind to it.  The rest are just collecting dust in our cupboard.

So in any effort to lessen our environmental impact, I'm not going to buy them movies any more.  I'll borrow movies from the library, or rent them from the local movie store. The same for grown-up movies.  All can be had from either the library or the local movie store, so I am not going to buy any for us either.

Buy only RFA-certified black tea (Day 57)

I seem to be on a RFA-certified kick these days.  I can't help but think about all the environmental damage my vices are doing to the environment.  I've decided that if I must indulge, at least I'll try having a clear conscience.

This brings me to tea.  I'm a bit of a tea granny.  I need coffee in the morning to wake up, but the rest of the day I usually drink tea.  Herbal, green and black, my choice depends on the time of day and what I"m using it for. 

I needed to replenish my orange pekoe supply, so I picked some up at the grocery store.  And there it was - RFA-certified black tea.  I didn't even know that this existed.  Not only did it exist, but it was my favourite brand as well.  And it didn't seem to cost any more than the brand had before.

For those interested, here is the link to the Rainforest Alliance's tea certification program (  I'm excited that I can drink my tea and help the environment.

I'm going to see if I can find RFA certified green tea on my next visit.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Buy only RFA certified flowers (Day 56)

DH is a sweetie.  He gave me roses yesterday. 

Surfing Vanessa's blog last night, I noticed an entry on her list that mentioned buying only flowers that were organic and sustainably grown.  I had noticed the Rainforest Alliance Certified symbol on the flowers that DH had brought home (whew!), but hadn't really paid much attention to it, other than to think it was neat.

It turns out that farming cut flowers is a hugely intensive agricultural process using many pesticides and often exploiting the workers who grow and pick them.  Check out this article on GreenPlanet that briefly explains how horrible this industry really is.  (

I then checked the Rainforest Alliance site to see what they had to say about cut flowers (

After reading these two articles, I'm more convinced than ever to green my footprint.  Any cut flowers bring into the house will have to be RFA certified.  I won't have it any other way.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Re: Calculate my carbon footprint

I made a mistake when I published my carbon footprint  information.  The 12.7 our family scored did NOT include DH's daily drive to work.  Add his commute to our calculations, and our numbers jumped to 21.5.

We really need to find DH a job closer to home or on a decent bus route.

Drive the speed limit (Day 55)

Keeping with the theme of "greening" my driving, I am also going to start keeping the speed limit.  I'm not a speed demon, but I do tend to drive about 10 km/h over the limit.

According to the Eco Driver, "For every 10 km/h you go over 100, fuel efficiency drops by 10%. Driving 120 on the highway instead of 100 is like paying 20% extra for gas."  (  Yikes!  With the cost of gas over $1/L, I don't need to pay an extra $0.20 or more per litre for a tank of gas.

Now to convince DH to do the same thing....

Use cruise control whenever possible (Day 54)

Our Honda Civic is a great little car.  Fuel efficient, handles well, and has lots of trunk space.

Our minivan, however, is not exactly fuel-efficient.  It has a V6 engine, and seats 7 comfortably.  It handles like a tank.  It is also the vehicle I drive the most, since DH has to commute to work by car.

According to the Eco Driver website (,  "about 13% of Canada's carbon dioxide emissions are due to cars and light trucks on our roads. The average car emits one tonne of carbon dioxide every 5,000 kilometres and for those of us who drive, about half our personal greenhouse gas emissions come from driving......Reducing fuel consumption by just ten tanks a year can save you hundreds of dollars, and reduce your personal CO2 emissions by almost a tonne."

By maintaining a steady speed using cruise control, I can be 10-15% more fuel efficient.  So I plan to use the cruise feature on the van whenever possible.

Note to my readers:  NEVER use cruise control when driving in the rain or on wet roads.  The vehicle can hydroplane, potentially causing a serious accident.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Banning all Styrofoam (Day 53)

I'm not sure if this change will be sustainable.

 As a general rule, we don't use Styrofoam products in our house (e.g. bowls, cups). Our biggest consumption of Styrofoam is in packaging for kids' toys and in the meat products we consume.  I don't really have a lot of control over how much Styrofoam is in the packaging, but I will endeavour to buy things that don't contain it.

The biggest issue for us will be meat packages.  I buy almost all of our meat at the grocery story or Costco.  Both places sell pre-packaged meat, in Styrofoam containers.  Banning Styrofoam in the house means one of two things:  1) either reducing the amount of meat we consume or 2) changing the way I purchase meat.

Instead of buying meat in pre-packaged containers, I will now have to go to the butcher counter and have my meat wrapped in butcher paper, or actually frequent a specialty shop.  The problem with the later is that there isn't a good butcher near where I live.  So I would have to drive about 15 minutes away (burning fossil fuels) and make an extra trip, in order to avoid the Styrofoam issue.

I can try the butcher counter at the grocery store, but based on my past experiences, they don't offer the greatest selection of product.  I will, in the coming months, attempt to reduce our meat consumption altogether, but for now I still have to tackle this problem.

So which is worse - Styrofoam or fossil fuels?  There is no easy answer to this one, but for now I'll say Styrofoam, and go check out the butcher shop.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Calculate my carbon footprint (Day 52)

I found the neatest website yesterday, while checking out the "Cleaning the Capital" section of our city's website.  It turns out that the City of Ottawa is even more proactive that I give it credit for.  It has teamed up with a company call Zerofootprint Inc., to create a personal carbon footprint calculator.  This calculator allows the individual or household to "accurately calculate your carbon footprint and will provide you with tips on how to reduce it. It will connect you to communities of like-minded people in your workplace, your neighbourhood, or around the world."  (

Of course, I had to try it out.  You can compare your carbon footprint to the average person in your city (i.e Ottawa) or in Canada.  My footprint is 12.7 tonnes of CO2 produced per year.  I thought that was pretty good, considering that there are 5 people in my house, and DH had a 45 minute commute (by car) each way to work.  (The calculator takes your household consumption and divides by the number of persons in the house.) [Note to my readers:  DH does not have ready access to public transportation near his workplace.]

However, when I compare myself to the average Canadian citizen, the results aren't so great.  The average Canadian citizen uses 9.8 tonnes, while the average person in Ottawa uses 9.9 tonnes.

Clearly, I still have a ways to go to lessen my environmental impact.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Help Clean the Capital (Day 51)

For the next month, the City of Ottawa is sponsoring "Fall Cleaning in the Capital".  ( ) This event runs from September 15 to October 15.  The idea is to have teams of volunteers pick a public space and clean it up - throw out the garbage, recycle or compost as appropriate.   87, 409 people participated in the program in 2009 (both spring and fall campaigns), and the city is aiming to surpass last year's record.

I've decided to do my own little part, by picking up litter whenever or wherever I see it.  I won't be joining a team and doing a one-time cleaning blitz of one area.  I plan to make this a year-long endeavour, in any location I happen to be.  It's a small simple step, leading to a cleaner living space for everyone.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Cancel unread magazines (Day 50)

I come from a family of readers.  I've been reading since I was 4 years old.  Books are my passion, and I am seldom found without one on the go.  The problem is that my To Be Read pile is getting bigger and bigger.  That doesn't include the magazine subscriptions that we read.

Quite honestly, I don't have much time for reading these days.  My kids and household keep me quite busy, and by the end of the day, I'm tired.  I read for about 15-20 minutes, and then lights out.  With the loan restrictions on the library books, I seldom get to the magazines until they are months past.

While research facts about paper and paper consumption, I found this interesting fact sheet. (   A lot of paper is made and a lot of fossil fuel, water and trees are used making the issues that sit unread on my night stand.  I feel guilty about the waste, especially because two of the magazines I don't really enjoy anyway.

I've decided not to renew the magazines that I don't read cover to cover right away.  They are very popular magazines, and subscriptions are often found in my doctor's, dentist's and spa's waiting rooms.  They are also found in the public library, available to be borrowed any time.   I can easily catch up on the most current (and back!) issues while waiting my turn in the office or while waiting for Storytime to end. 

And hopefully, I'll save a tree or two in the process.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Final cleaning product switch-over (Day 49)

I used up the last of my nasty chemical house cleaners yesterday.  I've been using a vinegar & water solution to clean my mirrors for years, a damp rag for dusting, and for the past 18 months, have made my own environmentally-friendly all purpose cleaner.  I've also been washing the floors for the past year with vinegar and water.

But scouring bathtubs and kitchen sinks has always been done with Vim.  I've switched to a marble flour and chalk-based cleaner, and I really like it.  I gave it a test run yesterday, and it works just as well as Vim to get rid of the ring around the bathtub, and polish the kitchen sink.  You apply it with a damp cloth, scrub, and then wipe clean with another damp cloth. 

I'm glad to finally get rid of the nasty cleanings chemicals in my house. 

Sunday, September 5, 2010

More eco-friendly insect control (Day 48)

Like most people this time of year, my house is being overrun by fruit flies.  But I have a new weapon in my arsenal of eco-friendly bug killers - apple cider vinegar.  Apparently, the poor things can't swim.  Fill a small bowl with the vinegar, place plastic wrap on top, poke in a few holes, and viola!  Fruit fly insecticide.  They climb in, attracted by the cider vinegar, and then drown when their wings get wet and they can't fly away.   An added bonus - the kitchen smells great, too.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Re-use dinnerware (Day 47)

My mom and I share the same taste in many things.   Our selection of dinnerware is one of them.  Actually, I picked it years ago when I was engaged, to put on our bridal registry.  About 8 years ago, my mom decided that she wanted new dishes, and came home with the same set we had.

Life has taken its toll on both of our sets.  Neither are complete anymore, and we often scramble to use other dishes if we entertain more than about 7 people.  I've borrowed her lunch plates many times, so I had enough plates to serve dessert on to my guests!

With the decision to go plastic free in our house, I needed to obtain some more or new dinnerware.  I mentioned to my mom that I was thinking about getting new dinnerware, and giving her the incomplete set I had.   She offered to do the exact opposite - she'd buy the new dinnerware, and give us her set.  She's wanted a new set for a while, but couldn't justify buying it when she had a serviceable set at home.

It's a win-win situation for everyone.  She gets to freshen up her decor, and we can complete the set we've loved for years.

Good bye to the plastic plates (Day 46)

The good thing about renting a cottage is you get all of the advantages of a cottage vacation, without the O&M on the upkeep.  The bad thing about renting a cottage, is that unless you pack everything you own, you are often stuck with someone else's version of "your stuff".

This happened to us last week.  We arrived at the cottage to find there weren't any plastic plates or bowls for the kids to use.  This is fine for DD1 and DS, but DD2 is not quite three.  I'm not sure that I was willing to trust her with china or stoneware.  However, at the cottage, we didn't have much of a choice, unless I went out and bought them. 

To my surprise and delight, she was fine.  No plates or bowls were broken, and she rather liked using the "big kid" plates.   So in keeping with the environmental theme, I've opted to continue using our regular dishes at home with her, instead of the myriad plastic ones I've used in the past.  

The only problem now is that I don't have enough serving ware for more than two meals.  I'll have to find some way of obtaining more dishes, preferably the same pattern that I already have.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Environmentally-friendly nail polish (Day 45)

In keeping with "greening" my pedicures, I've decided to bring my own nail polish to my next one.

As I was sitting in the chair last night, the woman beside me opted for no nail polish.  I must have looked confused when she said that (isn't that one of the reasons you go for a pedicure?), because she smiled and told me she didn't like all the chemicals in them.  She enjoyed getting her feet pampered, but preferred not to use nail polish.  Huh.  It never occurred to me that you could opt out of nail colour.

I don't usually wear colour in the winter (who's going to see my nails besides me and DH when I'm wearing socks?), but come the summer, I love showing off my brightly coloured toe nails.  I thought there must be some eco-friendly nail polishes out there, so off to the computer I went to take a look.

Sure enough, there are several companies that offer environmentally-friendly choices.  None of them have rave reviews from everyone, but there are two or three that seem to be the most often recommended.   The EWG ( has a couple that also seem to be worth looking into.  

Unfortunately, none of them seem to be sold locally.  I don't want to have to special order them, and have them shipped across North America to me.  I'm going to check at my local health food store and see what I can find.  Hopefully there will be something acceptable to my environmental ethics and my pocketbook.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Re-gift baby items (Day 44)

Part of the purging process is getting rid of things that aren't useful anymore.  Like the university text books, files from 1998 (or earlier!), old equipment, and the broken statuary.  As I mentioned a few days ago, when you live in one place for a long time, you tend to accumulate a LOT of stuff.

When you have children, you accumulate a lot more.

Take my house.  After three kids, I think I have every conceivable baby item you could want - clothes (both genders and all seasons), toys, high chair, crib, exersaucer, Jolly Jumper - the list goes on.  And it's all really good quality stuff.  Most of it was purchased as gifts for us, by family, so holds quite a bit of sentimental value for that reason alone.  The items are the kinds of things I don't really want to give to a stranger - they are too personal to put on Freecycle. 

But we're done having children.  DH and I decided shortly after the birth of our 3rd child, that our family was complete.   Now our youngest is turning 3 in two weeks.  She no longer needs a bassinet, crib, baby bathtub or 0-6 month clothes.  I need to move these things out of my space and into someone else's. 

Enter my friend, J.  She is pregnant with her first child, due mid-October.  I ran into her earlier in the summer and found out the delightful news.  Naturally, when I decided that the baby stuff had to go, I thought of her.  I invited her over yesterday to go "shopping" in our basement and see if there was anything that was of use to her.

After two hours, and lunch, her truck was full to the brim.  And my basement was that much emptier. 

I'm a little sad that my baby days are over.  But I'm happy that my things can go to someone who needs them.  And J says that I can come over and visit the baby (and my stuff) anytime I want.

Bring my own flipflops to the spa (Day 43)

As mentioned in an earlier post, the biggest changes I need to make are to my personal health care products.  So many of them are bad for me, my kids, and the environment.  As I use up my existing supply, I will make a change to a more environmentally-friendly option.

That got me thinking about the pedicure I had today.  I love pedicures.  My poor feet get used and abused, and look the part.  Especially in the summer, when I'm often barefoot or in sandals that don't protect my tootsies from the elements.  I try to go on a regular basis so my feet look nice, and aren't so sore and cracked.

But the whole pedicure experience is not really environmentally-friendly.  I'm sure the products they use, while "natural", are full of chemicals that aren't so natural.  There is a lot of packaging waste - each step in the pedicure involves its own little plastic cup with lid to contain the cream, sugaring solution, or massage oil.  Then there are the disposable flip flops and tissue used when your nails get painted.  Speaking of nail polish, I'm SURE it can't be good for you.

I recently acquired a pair of flip flops from a wedding I attending this summer.  (The bride, bless her heart, had them on the dance floor, in a basket, for those ladies wishing to rid themselves of the "look great, hurt like @$#*" shoes they wore to the event).  I don't wear flip flops as a rule - I find them uncomfortable, and they don't give me a lot of support.  I tossed them in the back of my closet after the wedding.

On the drive home from the spa, I pondered if I could make any changes to the routine.  I decided to dust off the flip flops, and bring them the next time I go.  A little less garbage in the landfill, and a little less guilt at the spa.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Re: Reusable sandwich wraps

I swear, I'm one step ahead of everyone on greenness.   This newsletter came to my inbox this morning.

I think I'm just going to think about an idea, and wait....I'll let someone else do the research!  :)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Compost our wine corks (Day 42)

I spent most of the day trying to organize the kids' back -to-school stuff, before heading over to my parents' for a swim.  Now the day is done and I'm sitting at my computer, glass of wine in hand.

Speaking of wine, I was going to make our next green change to switch to only Ontario wines, but then realized that DH does 95% of the alcohol shopping, so I'll need to get his buy-in for that one.  However, one change I can make is to recycle our wine corks.

Vanessa used a program called Bag-A-Cork, which was run in partnership with the Ontario Girl Guides and a few other partners.  Unfortunately, they had to abandon the program in 2008, due to a lack of resources to run it. 

We've always just tossed the corks in the garbage.  It never occurred to me to compost them, until I realized today, after checking out the Bag-A-Cork website, that cork is a tree - duh!!  Plant materials can go in the compost, so why not wine corks?  I double checked the city website, and they don't mention wine corks, so I'll go ahead and add them.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

No more Ziploc bags (Day 41)

Since I'm getting rid of Ziploc bags for lunches, I thought I might as well get rid of them all together.  I don't use them regularly, usually for the overflow in the kids' lunches or to store extra meat from Costco.    I tend to pack camping food in them, but I'm sure that I can find an alternate method for the few times they are needed. 

We used the last of the Ziploc bags while at the cottage this week, to store leftovers (no access to storage containers there!).  I've decided to simply not buy any more, and see how we fare. 

The trickiest thing will be to figure out how to store those long blocks of cheese without the ends drying out.  My mom uses (re-uses) milk bags cut in half, and I've used waxed paper before.  I don't like the WP, simply because my kids tend to pull the plastic cheese wrapper down farther than the WP can cover.  I think I'll try my mom's method first, and see how it works out.

As for the extra meat from Costco - I'm going to try freezing the meat individually on waxed paper and then store in the plastic bag.  (I carry the meat home in an individual plastic bag from the freezer section - not environmentally-friendly, but it prevents blood and juices from getting all over everything.) 

The only other use I have for them is for school - the teachers use them as note totes to take messages back and forth.  I'm going to send in my box of Ziploc bags, but try to research a better method to suggest to the Student School to implement for next year.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Reusable sandwich wrappers (Day 40)

I love summer - all the travelling, seeing friends and family, and getting away from it all.  But having returned from our holiday, I came to the realization that school is a little over a week away.

I will be spending the next week making sure my kids are ready for school - backpacks, clothes, supplies, and lunch bags.   It is the last item that has been bothering me for the last couple of weeks.

Without going into great detail, let's just say that DD is a picky eater - I never know from one day to the next what will find approval in her lunch bag.  Sandwiches seem to be OK, so I tend to pack a lot of them.  But with the new Balanced School Day, I find myself having to pack two sandwiches, instead of one, to ensure that she lasts through the day. 

I've been packing them in plastic containers (which is a post for another day!), but they are bulky, so the second sandwich has often found a home in a Ziploc bag.   Then I visited my friend and went on a picnic with her and her kids.  She had the most amazing thing - vinyl (maybe plastic?) Velcro sandwich wrappers.  You put the sandwich in the middle, fold the wrapper around it, and seal shut.  When open, the wrapper can be used as a place mat. 

I vowed to find myself some for the coming school year.  While I'm on a search for them, I'm going to use waxed paper, which can be composted when DDs finished with them.  Not the best solution, but better than a plastic bag.  If I'm inspired, I may make my own wrappers....we'll see how September goes! 

Friday, August 20, 2010

I'm travelling (again!)

I'll be on the road for the next week at a cottage.  I won't have access to the Internet there, so will not be posting until  I get back.  I've also decided to take a week's hiatus from eco-changes while at the cottage.  But I'll get right back in the saddle when I return.  Have a great week everyone!

Use Freecycle at least twice a month (Day 39)

As mentioned in early postings, I belong to the Freecycle network here in Ottawa.  I love looking at all the things people give away.  It's great to belong to a community that strives to keep things out of the landfill.

I don't often participate, though.  Most people post things that I am not interested in, and until recently, I haven't really had anything to give away.  That's all changed.  I'm on a mission - get rid of all the excess clutter in our house.

7 years of living in the same place allows you to accumulate a lot of things.  Most good, some ugly, and some you wonder why on earth you ever took it in.  Painting our office last weekend forced me to tackle the sanctioned "drop zone" in our house.  Anything that didn't have a home went in the office, "to look at later".  Well, we've reconfigured the office furniture, and a lot of things that were in the office won't fit any more.  It's time to purge.

It's been a very cleansing process.  I've shredded probably 1 1/2 yard waste bags of old paper, recycled about a dozen boxes, donated at least that many books to the library, and finally organized my kids' school memory books.

But there are some items I just don't want anymore.  So I offered them on Freecycle.  To my amazement, almost everything went.  It feels really good.  I like the fact that I can offer something to someone who really wants it, and keep my "trash" out of the landfill.

I like it so much, that I'm setting a goal of getting rid of all the other clutter in our house.  I hope to post items on Freecycle at least twice a month.  As the old saying goes "One man's trash is another man's treasure".  Amen to that.

Recycle my old laptop (Day 38)

My laptop died in the spring, and we bought a new computer.  The old laptop has been sitting collecting dust for the last six months.  With painting the office, and a self-enforced purge of old and useless (to me) items, the laptop had to go.  But where?

I've been reading about e-waste and all the toxic yuckies that end up in the landfill.   I definitely did not want to add to the problem.  I checked with our city, and it holds an e-waste collection day about twice a year.  We missed it for the spring and I don't want to wait until late fall.

The city also provided a link to the "Do What You Can" website.  "Do What You Can"  ( is an Ontario Government program, run by the Ontario Electronic Stewardship (OES), a non-profit industry organization.  The program encourages reuse and safe recycling of old, used and unwanted electronic equipment.

A quick check on the website let me know that there were 4 stores in my area that would take back my electronic waste for recycling.   I was all set to drop my laptop off there, when my SIL called.  After a short conversation, I found out that her nephew is looking for old computers to take the guts out of for his technical projects.  I offered my laptop to him on the condition that he return the shell and any unwanted components for recycling.  

So my laptop is on its way to help a student with his projects, and then off to a better place where its leftover components will be broken down and recycled into new things.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Buy only Canadian juice (Day 37)

I had another eco-revelation today.  I don't know why this revelation surprised me, because when I think about it, the environmental impact of orange juice is fairly large.  We certainly don't live in a climate that naturally produces oranges - the distance that oranges have to travel from Florida is considerable.  Then there is the environmental impact of the growing, harvesting, processing and delivering of the product to the store.

But it wasn't until a visit to Vanessa's blog, and an entry about OJ, that I really started thinking about it.  In her entry, she reviews a book called Squeezed, by Alissa Hamilton.  Ms Hamilton writes about OJ, its history and manufacture.  The biggest thing that caught my attention was this quote, "Of particular interest to OJ drinkers will be the revelation that most orange juice comes from Brazil, not Florida, and that even “not from concentrate” orange juice is heated, stripped of flavor, stored for up to a year, and then reflavored before it is packaged and sold."  Huh?

My OJ comes from Brazil?  The more I read this blog entry and its comments, the more concerned I became.  I then watched the interview with Ms Hamilton on CBC (  I immediately put the book on my request list at the library.

While I can't give up my morning juice (I drink a small glass to take my medications with), I think I will start looking at juices produced closer to home.  One of Vanessa's readers recommended home grown apple cider - I'm going to check out what's available the next time I'm at the store.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

No more Swiffer products (Day 36)

I have a Swiffer duster (the one that sort of looks like a feather duster) to use inbetween the rungs on my kitchen chairs.  I used to have a Swiffer vacuum, before it died, which I loved, and haven't yet replaced.

With this eco-challenge, I am once again following Vanessa's lead.  I decided not to replace the Swiffer vacuum and continue to use my broom/dust pan and regular vacuum to clean up the kitchen floor.  All of the extra floor pads and vacuum filters I gave to my SIL for her Swiffer vac, when we went to visit two weeks ago.

Today, I threw out the Swiffer duster.  I guess I'll have to clean the chairs the hard way - a microfibre cloth, a little bit of water and elbow grease.

Use vinegar/water to clean eyeglasses (Day 35)

I've applied the stealth method again, and switched DH's eye glass cleaner for a more environmentally-friendly alternative. 

We both wear glasses, but have different approaches to their cleaning and care.  I rinse mine with water and dry with a soft cloth.  He likes to spray an anti-film cleaner and dry with a tissue.  His cleaner comes in a little spritz bottle, which I've emptied and replaced with a vinegar and water substitute.  I figure if vinegar/water is good enough to clean my windows and mirrors, it should be fine for his eyeglasses.

I wonder if he'll notice.

Use handkerchiefs when at home (Day 34)

The interesting thing about owing a house is how much stuff one accumulates over the years.  Take my linen closet, for instance.  In a round of spring cleaning last year, I discovered many linens that had been passed down to me from my grandmother, which I had forgotten were in the closet.  There were tablecloths, napkins, tea cosies, handkerchiefs and doilies.  DH and I used some of them to decorate, and others were shoved back in the closet.

Until two days ago, when, on a quest for another eco-change, I remembered the linen handkerchiefs.  I dug through the piles of towels, blankets, tablecloths, and sheets (I really should purge this closet) and found half a dozen antique lace and linen handkerchiefs.

When my grandmother was growing up in the early part of the 20th c (she was born in 1910), paper tissues were unheard of.  Any lady, that was a lady, carried a handkerchief in her pocket or handbag, for those moments when she had to be indelicate and wipe her hands, blow her hose or wash her face. 

I liked Vanessa's idea of using handkerchiefs instead of Kleenex.  My dad has always used one, so the thought of handling/washing dirty ones doesn't really bother me.  My issue is more with hygiene than distastefulness.  I have always avoided using linens for this purpose because the thought of sticking a yucky one back in my pocket or purse just does NOT appeal.

Then there is the issue of teaching my children about proper hygiene.  It's kind of hard to convince them to blow their noses in the first place, let alone with a cloth that's already been used at least once for that purpose.  They would not buy into that.  But then I thought, what if I used the handkerchief only once before washing?

My cloth napkins are a one-time use.  I change my powder room hand towel at least once a day.  It's almost inevitable that I go through 3 or 4 tea towels, between mopping up spills and washing sticky fingers.  I go through about 6 or more face cloths, depending on what we've had to eat that day.   I already do a load of laundry a day with all of these linens, so adding a few extra hankies won't make a difference to my water and electricity use.  I have about 40 face cloths that I used for the day care, so I don't even need to go out and buy hankies - I can just use those.

I draw the line at using hankies in public, for now.  The thought of trying to find a way to carry one or more dirty hankies home in my pocket or purse - yuck!  Disposable tissues when I am away from home, and reusable ones at home.  I think that is a fair compromise.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Eat only organic, RFA and/or fair trade chocolate (Day 33)

Hi, my name is Eco Mama, and I'm a chocoholic. 

I love the stuff.  I really think it should be one of the four major food groups.  Give me a choice of a fruity option or a chocolate option and chocolate wins hands down every time.

I like all kinds of chocolate, but I'm especially fond of dark chocolate.  I keep a small stash in my coffee cupboard, for those days when I need a quick fix (which is most days!) 

Chocolate, however, has a dark side.  Farming conditions are not great, and small farm operators are exploited by large corporations.   Thousands of acres of rain forest are cut down, to make way for chocolate plantations. 

I've been feeling a bit guilt lately about the impact my chocolate habit has on the environment, so this eco-challenge was the excuse I needed to justify spending extra money on my treats to ensure that my chocolate is at the minimum, fair trade or Rain Forest Alliance certified.

TransFair Canada's website details some of the more troubling aspects of the cocoa industry.  (  I urge everyone to check out TransFair Canada's website, as it explains better than I ever could, about how fair trade benefits everyone.

Rain Forest Alliance also sponsors and supports shade-grown agriculture (  I already used RFA certified coffee, but wasn't sure if cocoa was available.   RFA does certify cocoa among other crops.  By supporting shade-grown agriculture, vital rain forests are saved and pesticide and chemical use is lowered.

Of course, the benefits of organic agriculture to our health and the environment are obvious.

I bought my first organic, fair trade chocolate on the weekend.  The store brand I bought wasn't as good as Lindt (what is, really?), but delicious enough to satisfy my sweet tooth.  

I can't wait to experiment with the other brands out there.  Any favorites, readers?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Use no-VOC primer (Day 32)

Sorry for the delays in posting this weekend.  DH and I have been painting.  We moved into our house 7 years ago, and everything was painted the standard "builder's beige".  It's taken us 7 years, but we're down to the final two rooms to paint.

According to the Pollution Probe's Primer on VOCs. "some VOCs are a human health concern either directly through their toxic properties or when they react with nitrogen oxides in the presence of sunlight to form ground-level ozone(a major component of smog)."  (

I certainly don't want to contribute to the smog problem in our cities, so DH and I agreed to try low-VOC paint and primer for this project.  Off he went to Home Depot.

It turns out he could buy no-VOC primer, but couldn't get low VOC paint.  The colour we wanted to use requires a tinted base.  All the VOCs are in the paint tint - the darker the colour, the more VOCs it contains.

The primer went on beautifully, and really didn't have any odour to it.    The paint was great, but there was a real smell to it that is still noticeable today (two days later).

Hopefully when we paint the last two rooms, we will be able to use the low VOC paint.

Invest in front-door screen (Day 31)

This post is a bit of a cheat, because I had already made this change just before I started my eco-challenge.  However, after discussing this idea with friends, I decided to include this as one of my changes.

DH and I bought a retractable screen door for our front door.  With the layout of our house, the front door is a straight line to the back patio doors.  We have a screen on the back door, and always have it open on nice days.  However, until last month, I was unable to take advantage of our corner lot and its constant breeze at the front. The front of the house is also north facing, with a deep front porch, so it keeps the house really cool.

Now, with the front door and back door open, we get a beautiful cross-breeze through the lower part of our house.  I have had the air conditioner on about two days since I've had the screen door, despite several 30C plus days.  We have definitely saved energy as we are not using the air nearly as much.  The house isn't as stuffy, and there is a delightful breeze that blows gently throughout most of the day. 

It's just a little piece of heaven.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Re: Back to School Daze

I guess I shouldn't have done my school shopping so early.  I received an email from the Environmental Working Group today, containing this link to greener school supplies.    Sigh.

Make my own liquid hand soap (Day 30)

I ran out of liquid hand soap today.  I use the liquid kind for two main reasons:  1)  it's a little more hygienic than bar soap when you have many little hands to wash and 2) it's easy for the kids to use the pumps themselves.  I have always bought soap in bulk, and refilled my many hand pumps with it.

However, I was beginning to feel uncomfortable using this bulk version.  It is an anti-bacterial soap, containing triclosan.  "Triclosan creates a known carcinogen, dioxin, as a by-product. Dioxin causes skin disorders and liver problems, and impairs reproductive functions and the immune system (to name a few effects)."  (Lindsay Coulter, David Suzuki Foundation).   Not the kind of thing I want to keep putting into my system or my children's.

When I finished the large refill jug this last time, I threw it out, knowing that I was starting this green challenge, and figuring I could find a recipe for home made hand soap fairly easily when the time came.

Well, today was the day.  I reached under the kitchen sink for the refill jug, and remembered that I didn't have any.

Off to the computer I trotted.  A quick Internet search brought me back to the Queen of Green  (Lindsay Coulter) on the David Suzuki Foundation's website (  I have several other of her recipes for cleaning products, and really like them, so figured that hand soap would be a cinch.

And it is.   I have all the ingredients and quickly mixed them up.  The new hand soap does not have the creaminess to it that the other one does.  In fact, it's more like diluted dish soap.  But it cleans my hands, smells good, and doesn't have any chemical nasties in it.  The next batch I make, I will adjust the castille soap to water ratio to see if I can get a "thicker" soap, but that's just personal preference.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Return neighbours' bottles to store (Day 29)

I had an interesting encounter with a neighbour yesterday.  His eldest daughter and mine are the same age, and we often get the girls together to play.  He's a stay-at-home dad, so it is not unusual to see him walking around the neighbourhood with his kids in tow.

Yesterday, he was towing something completely different.

"Hey Jen", he called through my screen door, "come see what I have for your blog!"

Curious, I went to the door. There he was, with his daughter, and a wagon full of empty beer, wine and liquor bottles. 

"We found all of these on our street!"  Yesterday was blue bin recycle day.  He and his daughter had gone searching through the bins to see what finds could be had.

It turns out that he got the idea from someone else he knows.  Both families were trying to explain to their children about money, and explained that people often throw money, and acceptable recyclable materials, away.  They proceeded to demonstrate by collecting wine and beer bottles from recycling bins on their streets. 

In our city, wine and beer bottles are supposed to be returned to the liquor or beer store for recycling.  Residents are encouraged not to place these items in the blue box, as it will leave more space for other recyclable materials.  Here is a link to the Ontario Deposit Return Program, which is spearheading this initiative.   (  DH and I already take our wine and beer bottles back, so it never occurred to me that someone wouldn't do this.

My friend and his daughter netted about $5 worth of recyclables.  Not bad for a 10 minute walk up and down our street.   On our next blue box recycling day, I am going to take my kids for a walk and see if we can earn a little spending money in the name of the environment.