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.