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.