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 (http://www.davidsuzuki.org/).  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(http://www.credobags.com/) , 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.