Saturday, October 30, 2010

Greener birthday party (Day 80)

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

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

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

Breakfast will be homemade pancakes and bacon.

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

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Buy environmentally friendly kid shampoo (Day 79)

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Turn off tap while hand washing (Day 78)

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

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

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

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Borrow Hallowe'en costumes (Day 77)

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 22, 2010

Not renew newspaper subscription (Day 76)

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Join Project Feederwatch (Day 75)

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

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

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

Monday, October 18, 2010

Install timers for fans (Day 74)

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

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

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

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

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

Start "greening" my wardrobe (Day 73)

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Hang linens to dry (Day 72)

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Plant more native species (Day 71)

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

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

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Buy only recycled plastic black bags (Day 70)

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

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

Send out only electronic invitations (Day 69)

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

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

Friday, October 8, 2010

Buy biodegradable kitchen bags (Day 68)

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Spray shower with hydrogen peroxide (Day 67)

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

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

Clean my shower with vinegar (Day 66)

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

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

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

Monday, October 4, 2010

Re-use dog items (Day 65)

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

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

Have someone else pick up our puppy (Day 64)

Yes - we did it.  We bought a puppy. 

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

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

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

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