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"  (http://www.dowhatyoucan.ca/) 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 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qerc7a_dL_I&feature=player_embedded).  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.  (http://transfair.ca/en/products/cocoa)  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 (http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/).  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)."  (http://www.pollutionprobe.org/Reports/vocprimer.pdf

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 (http://www.davidsuzuki.org/publications/finding-solutions/e-version/2009/get-off-the-antibacterial-crazy-train/index.php)  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.   (http://www.bagitback.ca/bagitback/en/residential/index.shtml)  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.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Month 1 Update

It's hard to believe that I started this challenge a month ago.   The days have gone by so quickly.  All the changes have been relatively seemless.   Things that I thought were so challenging to begin with, now are effortless because I am so used to doing them.

I haven't bought a bottle of water this month, nor have I received any unaddressed junk mail.  I'm getting used to the "Farrah" look - in fact, I've had several compliments on my "new" hairstyle!  I really like my moisturizer and deodorant, although I wish I had picked a non-pore plugging version of the moisturizer.  I will try and find this when I go to buy my next container of it. 

I'm finally used to the navy showers, although I still don't like them very much.  However, turning up the water slightly from cool to warmish, has helped.  I'm getting in the habit of uplugging the computer, the coffee maker and the toaster every day - DH is getting in the habit of plugging everything back in without complaining.  :)

Still no luck with groundhog removal, but I haven't seen Herman recently, so hopefully he's found another home.  I haven't used a disposable coffee cup this month, nor have I used plastic take-out containers. 

The hardest thing I have found is to stick to the green challenge while I've been away, usually when at someone else's house.  My friends and family have been accomodating to the challenge, but haven't changed their habits.  As a result, I've used disposable plastic cutlery, bottled water and haven't always been able to follow the "one glass per day" rule.  But I think that as long as I stick to my rules/challenges 90% of the time, I'll cut myself some slack for the other 10%.

Thank you again for all of the support, both public and private.  I'm and glad you are enjoying my adventure, and I look forward to sharing the next 11 months with you.

P.S.  Several readers have made suggestions for changes that we already do as a family, so I am trying to figure out how to post our current green lifestyle, so readers can compare with what's left to change.  Look for this list in the near future.

Recycle furniture (Day 28)

This week I shopped at MDSL - Mom and Dad Savings and Loan Company.   My parents have been great to us over the years.  Financial assistance when it was needed, grand-parenting and dog-sitting.  They even put us up for a few months while we had our house built.  They have donated furniture to us as unemployed newlyweds, and young parents first starting out.  I never thought that I would be looking again to them for furniture once I was established in life.

However, the opportunity to save money and get some beautiful items has once again appeared.  My parents have moved a lot in recent years, and amassed a great collection of things.  Those that no longer appealed or worked with the new house were relegated to the basement.  My mom has decided that she wants to free up some basement space, and ask my brother and I if we would like anything from their house.

Her request couldn't have come at a better time.  DH and I have started reclaiming the main floor of our house from our children.  We have relegated all the toys and books to the basement, and are once again ready to have "adult space" upstairs.  Except, now we have an empty front room to fill. 

"I have some beautiful couches, if you want them," she mentioned when I told her of our plan.  "You can have the glass coffee table and end table, too."  I discussed it with DH and he thought it was a great idea.  The couches are only a few years old, and in great shape.  The coffee and end tables are about 20 years old, but still look brand new.  

Instead of buying new, and incurring all of the environmental nasties that go with Scotch-guard, manufacturing and textile production, we get the same end product, but with a more eco-conscious feel.

I can't wait - we get our "new" furniture on Tuesday.

Carbon off-set travel (Day 27)

I love August.  I work 11 months of the year, but August is my month for vacation.  I have the entire month to do as I please....as long as the kids are fed, clothed and entertained, the house is clean, the laundry is done, the groceries are bought and put away....

Because August is my month off, we travel A LOT.  Every year, we try and spend a week somewhere, either at a cottage or visiting friends and family.  There is usually one camping weekend, plus numerous day-tips here, there and everywhere.

This month is no exception.  I spent the first few days of the month visiting friends in Toronto.  Yesterday, a day trip to the USA.  In a week and a half, we'll be at a cottage for a week. 

Reading over Vanessa's blog, I noted that she offset all of her air travel.   This doesn't work for my family, because we hardly ever fly anywhere.  It's just too expensive for a family of 5.  So most of our distance travel is done by van.  But could I offset my vehicle travel?

Turns out I can.  After some research, I settled on an organization called Tree Canada (http://www.treecanada.ca/).  According to the website, "Tree Canada is a not-for-profit, charitable organization established in 1992. Under the direction of a 10-member volunteer Board of Directors, Tree Canada provides education, technical assistance, resources and financial support through working partnerships to encourage Canadians to plant and care for trees in rural and urban areas."

They have a great calculator (http://www.treecanada.ca/site/?page=calculator&lang=en) which allows you to calculate your distance travel, by vehicle type, and then figure out how many trees need to be planted to offset the carbon emissions.  You have a choice of immediate offset or 80 year offset.  I don't have a lot of extra cash, so I opted for the more affordable 80 year offset option.  It didn't cost very much, and I'm doing something to help the planet.  I like it.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Recycle plastic cutlery (Day 26)

OK, I lied in a previous post.  I said that we didn't use plastic cutlery.  I was thinking of disposable plastic cutlery, the kind that is featured in take-out restaurants and at family gatherings.  We don't use that kind at all.

However, up until today, we did use plastic cutlery for our children.  As every parent knows, teaching your kids to eat real food is a trial and error process.  More food ends up on the floor, walls and ceiling than in the mouth.  In the process, your child learns to use a spoon and fork with greater accuracy.  Up until a certain age (usually around 2 1/2) the utensil doesn't always end up in the mouth.  The eye, the cheek, the teeth, even the hair, but not the mouth.

So as a good parent, I tried to make the learning process as painless as possible, and invested in good quality plastic cutlery for my children.  The cutlery has lasted 8 years and about a dozen kids, so I think this was an economical investment.  (No, I don't have 12 children - but I until this summer I ran a home daycare and could have up to six kids sitting at the table at one time).

But now the daycare kids are gone, and my youngest will be three next month.  It's time to graduate her to "grown-up" utensils.  She's already asking for and using the stainless steel Mickey or Minnie Mouse fork and the Pluto spoon. 

The plastic utensils have three new homes - one in our "picnic basket".  This is the box that I take on the road when I pack a picnic meal, and if the cutlery gets lost or forgotten, it's no big deal.  The second spot is in the play kitchen in the basement.  I've put the Zoo cutlery there for the kids.  Finally, the nice Gerber spoons are going in my bin of "baby stuff", hopefully to be passed on to some expectant friend.

Now I just need to find more of my everyday dishes, and then I can get rid of the plastic bowls and plates.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Eating only ethically caught/raised fish (Day 25)

I went to the Toronto Zoo last year with some friends.  One of the exhibits they had was "Sting Ray Bay" and "Petting Sharks".    The nurse sharks and sting rays were in a shallow pool, and you could reach in and stroke their backs.  The kids thought it was pretty neat.  

There was also a whole display by the zoo on sustainable seafood and fisheries.  They were handing out SeaChoice pocket guides.  The guide listed fish and seafood that was acceptable as sustainable and ones to avoid purchasing.  DH put it in his wallet and we promptly forgot about it.

Until this weekend, when I was shopping for some groceries in my local store.  I was in the mood for fish, which is unusual, because I am not a huge fish fan.   I went and bought my fish fillets and brought them home to put in the freezer for a meal this week.

Then today, looking for a green change on Vanessa's website, I noticed her entry on eating only sustainable fish, and remembered the SeaChoice guide.  Of course, when I went looking for it in DH's wallet, I couldn't find it.  A quick Internet search brought me to the David Suzuki Foundation (http://www.davidsuzuki.org/issues/oceans/projects/sustainable-seafood/), and a copy of the SeaChoice Guide, as well as a sustainable sushi guide and a sustainable guide for Canadian businesses.

According to the website, the SeaChoice Program partners the DSF "with four internationally respected Canadian conservation organizations — Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Ecology Action Centre, Living Oceans Society and Sierra Club British Columbia." It was formed in 2006, "to help Canadians take an active role in supporting sustainable fisheries and aquaculture at all levels of the seafood supply chain." 

I looked in the guide (http://www.seachoice.org/) to see if the fish I bought was sustainable.   The fish I bought ranges from "best choice" to "avoid" depending on how it was caught.  Of course, the packaging doesn't tell me.  I will email the company to find out how they catch this fish, and will hopefully know in the future whether or not it is caught sustainably.

I think I'll also start checking out the specialty fish store in a nearby suburb to see what they have to offer.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Week 3 Update

My, my, my, time flies when you are having fun!

The ants are gone, I'm getting in the habit of unplugging everything, and I've put up peaches, corn and rhubarb.  I've been keeping to one glass/mug a day, when I'm at home, and my new deodorant is great.

The kids aren't thrilled with the showers instead of baths, but we're making progress in that regard.  :)  Travelling has once again put a small kink in the works, but for the most part, I've been able to keep about 80-85% of the changes on the road.

I think I''m slowly converting DH to the Dark Side - I've caught him unplugging the coffee maker and switching off the computer power bar.  He's also the one who preserved the corn for me while I was away.

I'm on a search for an alternative to PAM, my cooking spray of choice.  The can doesn't say "CFC-free", so I must assume that it contains them.  I don't like olive oil in a pump spray bottle - I find it very hard to clean the baking dishes afterwards.

Thank you again to all readers, public and private.  It's nice to hear the words of encouragement and share our stories.

Groundhog Removal (Day 24)

As if the ants in the house weren't bad enough, now I have a groundhog in my yard.

This was fine for the first week or so.  DH called him Herman.  He's cute and fluffy and the kids really enjoyed seeing him chow down on the clover in the lawn.  However, he's decided that clover just doesn't cut it anymore.

I returned from Toronto yesterday to discover that Herman had moved from clover to green beans.  All of them.  The tops were gone - no flowers and no beans.  He'd also knocked over the tomato plants, damaging a couple of them badly enough that I'm not sure they will live.  Did I mention he'd helped himself to some of the tomatoes, too?

DH did a quick Internet search, and discovered that the easiest way to get rid of groundhogs is a) poison or b) relocation.  I can attempt to fence off the veggie garden, putting down landscape fabric and a short wire fence, but at this point the plants aren't worth saving.  I'll make a mental note for NEXT year, and make sure that I have groundhog prevention measures in place. 

In the mean time, I have decided the most environmentally-friendly way to get rid of my new tenant (he's living under our garden shed), is to trap him and remove him from the area.  Now I'm on the hunt for a humane trap big enough for a groundhog.

Anyone have one I can borrow?

Friday, August 6, 2010

Spend time everyday researching "green" issues (Day 23)

Whoops!  I forgot to post yesterday, too. So technically, Day 23 is really Day 22 and vise-versa, but you get the drift.  I made a change both days, right?   :)

Yesterday, I decided to add an educational component to my lifestyle (because I have nothing better to do), and spend part of every day learning about green changes, the environmental movement and other related issues. 

So far, I have found two new (to me) blogs - The Clean Bin Project (http://cleanbinproject.com/) and The Best Green Blogs Directory (http://www.bestgreenblogs.com/about/).   As well, I watched a really interesting video by the makers of the Story of Stuff, about the cosmetics industry  (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pfq000AF1i8&feature=player_embedded).   I haven't seen the Story of Stuff yet, but it is on my list on things to do.  (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GorqroigqM&feature=channel)

If anyone can suggest good websites, articles, books or videos, please drop me a line.

Add a "green" tip to my email signature (Day 22)

Whew - I love travelling but it is always exhausting.   Got home around supper time tonight and put the kids to bed a little while ago.  Put some laundry on, cleaned up the kitchen, starting unpacking.

Then realized that I haven't updated my blog today.  Sigh.

I searched Vanessa's list quickly and found this change - adding a "green" tip to her email signature.  I can do that.

In fact, I'll even change it every so often so my friends, family and co-workers don't get bored of reading the same tip every day.  If any readers have favourite eco-quotes or tips, please pass them on!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

No more plastic take-out containers (Day 21)

As mentioned in previous posts, travelling certainly puts a dent in any eco-changes I plan.  Everything I do must be done on the road, without the comforts of home and routine.

Take today, for instance.  I arrived at my friend's house late afternoon.  After spending time starting to catch up on our lives, we realized it was dinner time.  The only problem - neither of us had given any thought to it.

And it was 5:30 p.m. - the witching hour in my house.  Dinner had better make an appearance in the next half hour or so, or the rest of the evening wasn't going to be pretty.

"I have chicken," she said dubiously, "but it's not completely thawed."   Hmmm....twenty minutes to completely thaw and another 1/2 hour to cook?  Yeah, NOT going to happen.

"We could always order in," she continued. 

I nodded.  That worked for me.  While she ordered pizza, I perused Vanessa's list looking for changes that could be made while I was away.  And wouldn't you know it - take out containers were on her list.

"Hey, look at this,"  I pointed to the screen,  "No more take-out containers unless I bring my own."

"What about compostable ones?  Pizza boxes can go in the green bin. Do those count as eco-friendly?,"  she replied.  I thought about that.   I wasn't going to completely give up take-out food - really, as a busy mom with lots of activities to go to and work schedules to contend with, there was no way I was going to give up my "mother's helper."   But could I restrict our take-out to only restaurants that provide compostable packaging?   Would I be able to remember to bring my own take-away containers if we ate in a restaurant?

It might work; it means no more Swiss Chalet delivery for a while, only eating in the restaurant.  Same thing with my favourite Thai place.  Both restaurants use styrofoam and/or plastic containers.

But in reality, my family doesn't eat restaurant food that often.  DD's allergy prevents us from eating at many restaurants easily, so we tend to stick with the chains that provide us with standard allergy information.  And quite frankly,  it's expensive for a family of 5 to eat restaurant food, so I usually make home cooked meals, anyway.

"OK, " I said to my friend,  "here's my change for today.  No more plastic or styrofoam take-out containers.  I will only use delivery service where there is compostable food packaging.   I will only bring left-overs home if I bring my own containers."

"Works for me," she replied.  Me, too.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I'm travelling again...

Hi everyone,  I am travelling to Toronto tomorrow AM to visit friends for a few days.  I'm not sure if I'll get a chance to post while I'm away, but as with my previous trip, be assured that I am making changes, and will blog about them when I get back.  Have a great week!

Good bye Chapters, hello library (Day 20)

OK, a disclaimer first:  I work for the public library, so this next post is a little biased.....  :)

I love to read.  In fact, my current "to be read" pile stands at 8 books.  And those are just from the library.  That doesn't count the 5 bookshelves of books that I own that still need to be read.

I was looking at the bookshelf yesterday, and thought at how much money and paper was tied up in the books sitting on the shelf.  Many of them will be read only once, although some I will pass on to friends and family to read.  (In fact, if anyone is looking for a good book, you should check out my parents' place.  I swear they have an entire bookstore downstairs).

Those more I looked at them, the more I realized that most of them could be found at the library.  Now, as I mentioned, I work for the public library on a casual basis.  But it wasn't until I started working there, that I realized what a resource the library is.  I can find anything I want - books, magazines, movies, CDs, newspapers - the list is endless.

When DH discovered what our library has to offer, he went a little crazy with requests.  I think he requested about 30 items.  "I didn't know I could get all of this stuff!"  he exclaimed.  "It's great!"

One of my kids' favourite trips is to the library to get books.  We go about once a week, spend half an hour, and end up bringing home 30-40 books.  But I haven't really thought about using the library for me.  If there was a new book out that I really wanted to read, I usually went and bought it.  (Hence the five shelves...)  Many of them are books that I won't read again, and given my taste in reading material, no one else in my family will read them either.   It seems silly in retrospect to purchase brand new books, when they are already available at the library.

So I have decided to make the library my "bookstore".  I am not going to buy any new books or magazines with two exceptions:  1) if I get a gift certificate (a favourite birthday present in my family)  or 2) if I am giving a books or a GC as a gift  (another favourite birthday present).

Otherwise, all of my reading material will come from the library.  I'll save a few trees in the process, and my bank balance will thank me.  A win-win situation, all around.

Body-friendly deodorant (Day 19)

I'm slowly "greening" my beauty regime.  As I use up my current products, I plan to replace them with environmentally and body friendly alternatives.  Next on the list is deodorant.

I have to confess right now, that I am NOT looking forward to this change.  With kids, I am outside a lot.  I tend to perspire heavily, especially in summer, and have always used antiperspirant as a means from preventing my clothes from getting too stinky and stained.  The one time I tried a deodorant (as opposed to antiperspirant), I ended up with sweat stains on some of my favourite shirts.

I dutifully checked EWG's Skin Deep database (http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/).  I checked my current antiperspirant and was pleasantly surprised to find that it rated a 5 out of 10 for nastiness.  However, my goal is to try and get all of my products to 3 or less.  I found three products that are carried at my local drug store.   I need to pick up a prescription today, so will also pick up one of these deodorants while I"m there.

I'm going to grin and bear it, and hope that I don't get too smelly.  And hope that I can find  a "green" stain remover, just in case.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Good-bye CFCs (Day 18)

I did some spring cleaning today.  (Yes, I know it's August, but hey - considering it's still the same year as when I started, I think I'm doing well.)

I decided to clean out the cupboards underneath my bathroom sink.  We store our extra toiletries in there (soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes, etc.), and I haven't checked our supplies in a while.  Actually, it was quite obvious that I hadn't looked in there for some time, because stuff fell out of the cupboard when I opened it!

It didn't take long to sort through the "keep" and "throw out" piles.  Most of the stuff was "keep", so it was a matter of reorganizing the space to accommodate everything.

But the "throw out" pile was quite interesting.  There were expired bottles of hydrogen peroxide and "Deep Cold" cream.  Several packages of Band-Aids that had seen better days.  

There were also 3 cans of spray disinfectant, and one can of bathroom scent. 

I didn't even know we had these. We moved into our house in 2002, and I can honestly say that I have never used them.  

As I was about to toss them in the garbage, I noticed that two of them were "CFC-free".   Did that mean the other two had to be disposed of at the hazardous waste depot?

I didn't even know that CFCs were still around.  I remember CFCs being a big deal when I was in high school and university, but I had always assumed that after the Montreal Protocol in 1987, the problem had disappeared. 

Apparently not.  According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), they still are being produced, although many countries are voluntarily phasing them out. (http://www.unep.org/themes/ozone/?page=home)

I checked out their kids website (http://www.ozzyozone.org/) and found lots of useful information.  Did you know that one chlorine atom can spend 100 years breaking apart up to 100,000 ozone molecules before the chlorine atom finally disappears?  That means that any chlorine atoms released into the atmosphere today will still be around in 2020.  That's a scary thought. 

Even scarier, in 2006, the hole in the ozone above the Antarctica was the size of the African continent.

Is there anything we can do, I wondered?  The UNEP encourages people to buy ozone-friendly products and ensure that all refrigerators or air conditioners that are thrown away have the CFCs removed by a certified specialist.

So, I'll set aside my cans until our next hazardous waste day, and take them over for proper disposal.  I've made a mental note to make sure I buy CFC-free products in the future.

And I'll make sure to slather on the sunscreen when I go outside.