Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Check out my new entry - Change 134

I guess since I started this before I left for Disney, Blogger assumes I want it published under the original writing date, instead of today's date.  Ah, the joys of technology!  ;)

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Hi everyone!  I promise I haven't fallen off the face of the Earth....just a very busy mom, wife, volunteer, daughter, social planner, chauffeur, administrator and vacation planner. 

We just got back from a week at Disney - there is an eco-adventure in itself.  No, I did not carbon offset our travel, although I did try to follow many of my eco-friendly habits while away.

After taking a month away from the blog (albeit unintentionally), I am refreshed and ready to tackle the next challenges.  I am also planning to change the format of the blog a bit.  There will be more posts with commentary or observations about environmental change (mine and others), as well as assorted tidbits of info.  Don't worry - I'll also talk about all the changes we continue to make as a family.

Until next time.....

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Turn off car in drive-thru (Change 134)

As mentioned in previous posts, I don't use the drive-thru option very often.  Usually, I have the kids in tow, making a quick zip through the bank or coffee shop much easier than lugging them in and out of the van.  Like everyone else, I sit there, car running, inching forward little by little, until it's my turn at the window.

About a month ago, I drove to the car wash.  It was beautiful out - I'd just cleaned and vacuumed the inside of the van.  It was sparkling inside, and I wanted it sparkling outside.  And, while the weather was nice, it was not warm enough that I wanted to wash it myself!  So off to the car wash I went.  There were three other vehicles in front of me waiting, all with engines running.

I had a light bulb go off in my head.  I wouldn't run the van while running into the store for a minute.  Why was I idling when I was in the car wash line?

Looking around, and feeling a little silly, I shut the van off.  The guy in the car behind me shot me a look, like he thought I was weird.  As the car in the wash left and the new one entered, I turned my van back on, inched forward and shut it off again.  This processed continued until it was my turn in the car wash.

Looking back on it, I save myself about 20 minutes of idling.  That's a lot of gas and carbon emissions.  I wasn't cold sitting in the van, although I'm not sure I'd want to do this when it is -20C out. 

I've even applied the "no idling" rule to the bank machine drive-thru and any place where I have to wait to pick someone up or drop someone off. 

Another small change to help our environment.

Friday, October 21, 2011

No more make-up (Change 133)

I had the best intentions of switching all of my cosmetic products to eco-friendly solutions.  Really, I did.  A few, I've managed to change.  But the rest are sitting in my bathroom drawer, waiting for me to use them up, so I can make the switch. 

It struck me this week, that even if I keep up this challenge for the next 5 years, I will never be able to completely make the switch.  The reason?  I don't wear makeup.  As a stay-at-home mom, I can't be bothered putting on my "war paint" just to hang out around the house.  I don't wear it when I go out to the grocery store or the drug store, either.  Lately, I've been putting it on to go to work, but a couple of times I forgot, and the world didn't come to an end.    I've also realized that I've gone out socially a few times, and haven't been wearing make-up then, either.  No one has said anything.

That got me thinking about why women wear make-up.  It is really to enhance their beauty, because they want to look beautiful, or is it because societal expectations are such that women are expected to wear make-up from the minute they wake up, until they go to bed at night?  Deep questions to ponder, and a discussion that is really to big to take in single blog post.  However, for those who are interested in persuing this discussion, I would be happy to take it off-line.   I also recommend reading Naomi Wolf's  The Beauty Myth.  A real eye-opener into a billion dollar industry.

So back to me and my thoughts on make-up.  95% of the time I don't wear it, don't feel like I need to wear it, and everyone who is important to me comments that I don't need to wear it - my beauty is natural.  I think I'll save it for really special occaisions - when I want to up and look extra pretty - family photo sessions, my brother's wedding, special outings with DH.  The rest of the time, I'm going with the conscious decision to go au naturel.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Recycle those K-cups (Change 132)

OK, I have a very un-eco friendly confession to make.  I now own a Keurig coffee machine.  For those who aren't familiar with it, it is similar to a Tassimo machine.  Each cup of coffee is brewed individually.  There are lots of choices of flavours and strengths.

The drawback is that this machine creates a lot of waste, and uses a lot of energy and resources to produce its little plastic coffee filters.  Instead of one coffee filter (made of renewable bamboo, unbleached and fully compostable) and organic, shade-grown RFA certified coffee, I now am using a little plastic cup, lined with a filter of dubious origin, filled with enough coffee (also of dubious origin) to make a single cup of coffee.

The great thing about the Keurig is that I am no longer wasting coffee by either a) making too much and pouring it down the drain because I can't drink it all or b) not getting around to my second cup of coffee for hours so the original pot ends up being bitter, and therefore making a fresh pot that ends up down the drain because I can't drink it all. 

My Keurig machine came with its own reusable filter, so I can use my own coffee brand from before (which I will once the prepackaged kind that came with the machine are gone).  As well, some of the packages that came with the machine contain up to 30% RFA-certified coffee.

So until I start using my own coffee and the reusable filter, I've decided to recycle the K-Cups.  The means tearing off the foil lid, emptying the coffee grounds into the composter, pulling out the filter and putting it in the composter, and then recycling the lid and empty plastic cup.  Lots of extra effort, but worth it to me.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Join Paws for the Planet (Change 131)

I've signed up to join Paws for the Planet (  This joint venture between Purina and Evergreen, plants one plant for every sign-up.  Here is the text of the email I received.  I hope you'll sign up too.

With your help, Purina will contribute up to $75,000 to protect green spaces.
Would you and your pet like to make a commitment to help protect green spaces?
Purina® has re-united with Evergreen on the "Paws For The Planet" program in a continued effort to enhance and restore green spaces across Canada. With your help, Purina® will fund a $50,000 sponsorship to Evergeen to help protect green spaces.
To help make Canada greener and be a more eco-friendly pet owner, make a pledge to Paws For The Planet by clicking here. For every sign up, Purina® will make a donation to Evergreen to plant a Tree, Shrub or Wildflower across Canada. (Every sign-up counts and will help us donate an additional $25,000 to Evergreen.) Now that's green!
Visit for eco-friendly pet tips and more information about this program.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Recycle my running shoes (Change 130)

Spring and Fall cleaning doesn't happen very often around my house.  Truthfully, I have a hard enough time keeping up with the regular daily cleaning, let alone the thorough cleaning that should probably be done at least once a year.

However, every spring an fall, I faithfully pull out my kids clothes, have them try on those that I think will fit for the coming season, and give-away those that won't.  I've always had a problem with shoes, though. 

Shoes that are in decent shape, I've passed on.  Those that are worse for wear, I throw out.  But I've always felt guilty about it.  Adding to the landfill, just because my kids have worn through a perfectly good pair of shoes just doesn't feel right.  Now I can finally do something about it.

Enter Nike's Re-use A  Shoe Program.  (  They take running shoes that are past their prime, grind them down and create athletic surfaces for organizations around the world.  Check out this link here in Ottawa!

The only problem with this program is that there isn't a drop off location in Eastern Canada.  I have to go to the US, or ship the shoes to Tennessee.   Those of you living in Vancouver have a drop off location - lucky you!

My parents are making a trip to New England next month, so I'm going to ask them to take my bag of old shoes with them, and drop them off at a retail location. 

It's inconvenient at best, but I like this idea better than sending my shoes to the landfill.   If enough of us Canucks write to Nike/Converse, maybe they will think about putting a location in the Eastern Canada area.  For now, I'm packing shoes and keeping my fingers crossed that my parents will help out.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Use eco-friendly and body-friendly hair conditioner (Change 129)

To go along with the eco-friendly shampoo, I'm now using eco-friendly conditioner.  I found that the eco-friendly shampoo I am using is drying my hair out.  (I guess all the yucky chemical additives of my other shampoo was what made my hair nice, soft and shiny.  The commercials really are true!) 

I'm using the conditioner every other wash, and it seems to be alleviating the dryness.  I never used to have to use it, so I don't like purchasing another bottle, creating more waste, and using more precious resources so my hair looks nice.  On the other hand, I am a bit vain, and don't enjoy looking like I could double for a scarecrow on a bad hair day!  :)

When my current bottle of shampoo is finished, I'm going to try another brand to see if I still have the dryness problems.  Any favourites among my readers that you could recommend?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Thank you!

A big thank you to all my readers, both silent and active.  I couldn't have continued this without your support!  I will still continue to blog about my family's eco-changes.  Stayed tuned for another year of green challenges!  :) 

On that note, I have a favour to ask my readers.  I am looking for suggestions of eco-friendly things to try, that are a) something you have tried yourself, but haven't seen me blog about yet and b) are not on Vanessa's list.   Thank you in advance for all of your ideas - I can't wait to try them out!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A very successful year!

It's hard to believe that over a year has passed since I started this challenge.  I've learned so much from you, my readers - thank you so much for your support, encouragement and comments!   Although I didn't manage to make 366 changes in one year (my original goal), I am very proud that I added an additional 128 changes to my family's repertoire. Some of them didn't work out, but most of them have been lasting changes.

Because of the number of changes to date, I'm only going to highlight the ones that didn't stick.  Everything else has been added, relatively smoothly, and has now become habit about 90% of the time.

Here's what I couldn't keep doing:

2. Environmentally-friendly ant killer
8. Buy environmentally and body friendly face moisturizer
13. No more disposable coffee cups
15. Eliminate baths for kids; have showers instead
17. Use GoodSearch for Internet
21. No more plastic takeout containers
25. Only buy ethically farmed/fished seafood
27. Carbon off-set all vacation travel
30. Make my own hand soap
35. Use vinegar/water to clean eyeglasses
53. Ban Styrofoam
62. Only use dishwasher at night
63. Turn off "heat dry" feature on dishwasher
67. Get rid of mould in shower with hydrogen peroxide
81. Place compost bags in all rooms
120. Return plastic pots to nursery
123. Bring my own containers to bulk store

Not bad, eh?  (Eco Mama pats herself on the back).  I'll keep striving to implement changes that work for my family, and continue to improve current habits to try to get 100% compliancy.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Eliminate plastic wrap (Change 128)

This is a change that shouldn't be too hard to make.  Like Ziploc bags, I hardly ever use plastic wrap in the kitchen.  Occasionally, I use it to wrap the end of a block of cheese, or cover a bowl to put in the fridge.  Any paint brushes are wrapped in plastic wrap if we are in the middle of a painting job. 

I am almost at the end of the current roll sitting in my kitchen drawer.  I've decided that once it is finished, I will not be replacing it.  I will get into the habit of placing everything int he fridge in a resealable container.  I will cover dishes with re-usable covers or aluminum foil (yes, I know, not very eco-friendly, but it can be recycled if necessary).

The biggest challenge will be finding something to cover my little fruit fly trap - a bowl of apple cider vinegar covered with plastic wrap, with holes punched in the top.  Any ideas for a replacement cover?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Use a microfibre mop (Change 127)

I picked up a book from the library this week about eco-changes around the home.  It was an interesting read - put out by the makers of Method brand cleaning products.  It had some neat tips, but most of the tips were either not do-able (i.e. get rid of wall-to-wall carpet)  or things I was already doing (i.e. get rid of poisonous cleaning chemicals).

One of the tips caught my eye.  The writers suggested using a microfibre cloth mop, instead of the traditional dunk mop.  Their reasoning is that the microfibre traps dirt, and therefore prevents it from spreading around like the regular rag-style mops.

It just so happens that I have a microfibre mop sitting in my cleaning closet that I never use.  I won it at the cleaning party I had last summer.   I've hardly ever used it.  i dont' know why - I guess I'm in the habit of using the dunk mop.   I've decided to switch to the microfibre mop.  Combine this with the vinegar and water I use to clean with, and I'm anxious to see if my floors are any cleaner than before.

How is this more eco-friendly?  Truthfully, I'm not sure, but hey, the makers of Method can't be wrong, can they?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Cutting down on canned bevereges (Change 126)

This is an easy change for me - I rarely drink canned bevvies, so giving them up should be a snap for me.  It's DH and the kids that I'm a little worried about. 

The kids don't drink soda pop as a rule, but I do keep ginger ale and Coke on hand for upset tummies or special treats.  I also have club soda which I mix with juice to make our own "pop".   DH likes his G&Ts, so I don't think I will get him to give up tonic water.

Due to DD1's ongoing medical issues, we are eliminating artificial colours, etc. from our diets.  So I have decided that once this current pack of soda is gone, I won't be buying any more.   I will relegate club soda "pop" to a treat served at my parents' house.

I found an interesting fact on aluminum recycling (  Although we recycle our pop cans, the initial environmental cost of producing the cans is quite high.  Not purchasing them in the first place is a good idea.

Another good idea to reduce our carbon footprint.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Buy more recycled school supplies (Change 125)

Last year, around this time, I moaned about the fact that to purchase recycled/recyclable school supplies would cost a fortune.  I opted for only recycled paper that year.

This year, I am vowing to do better.  In addition to recycled paper, I plan on purchasing recycled duo-tangs, pencils and binder dividers.  I will be re-using lots of supplies from last year - calculator, ruler, pencil case, scissors, pencil sharpener, backpacks.

I am going to ease the strain of purchasing these more expensive products by starting my shopping earlier, and watching for sales.  I figure, since I have to buy three sets of things now, I need to really start checking the impact my purchases make.

I will have to buy new lunch bags for the kids, but I'm hoping to find recycled or environmentally-friendly options.  Any suggestions for sources for these?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Eliminate cards for big people (Change 124)

It's hard to imagine how much mail one can accumulate until one goes away on holidays.  After a week at a cottage, we came back to a good sized stack of mail.  Contained inside was a thank you note for DD2, a wedding invitation, and two anniversary cards for DH and I.  Each card had its own envelope, with a stamp and return label. 

With the exception of the wedding invitation, everything ended up in the recycle bin shortly after it was read.

Earlier this week, I mailed a birthday card to a nephew and sister-in-law.  Again, each card had its own envelope, stamp and return label.  Later this month, I had planned to send two anniversary cards, two more kid birthday cards, and three adult birthday cards.

Guess where everything will end up, shortly after it is read?  Yup, in the recycle bin.

That is a lot of paper waste for a few brief moments of "Thinking of You" goodness.

The Gift, Novelty and Souvenir Industry was worth $1.8 billion in 2009.  (  That is a lot of greeting cards, tourist gifts and novelty items.  Many of these items end up in the garbage/recycle bin in my house.  What about yours?

Many of the people I send cards to are adults that I see often in our lives.  I am in regular communication with them by telephone or email, and many have expressed an interest in my blog, and my environmental process.  So, grown-ups in my life, you will no longer be receiving paper birthday or anniversary cards from me.

I will still send thank you notes to those people that I can't thank in person.    I will still send birthday cards to the children in my life.  Kids love getting mail, and it certainly makes my children's day when I tell them something came in the mail for them.

But everyone else, you won't be hearing from me anytime soon.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Start shopping at bulk store / bring my own containers (Changes 122 & 123)

I recently discovered Bulk Barn.

I've used it sparingly in the past, for incidentals such as foil-wrapped cake plates, or for renting special cake pans.  But I've never used it for anything else.  Until DS's birthday party.

He chose a Lego themed party, complete with cake and goody bags.  Someone told me I could get little candies shaped like Lego blocks, so off to Bulk Barn I went.  I couldn't believe the number of things available for bulk purchase.  The number of items I could use was amazing, all in bulk, all at discount prices, and all without the excess packaging. Flour, candy, pasta, baking supplies, honey, nut butters, tea, the list goes on.

I found the block candies, but didn't think to bring a small reusable produce bag or small glass/plastic container to put them in, so ended up using the plastic bags available there.  I bought several other items as well, all dutifully put in plastic bags.  I couldn't believe the waste, using these little bags.

I'm going to add BB to my list of stores to shop at.  I just need to remember to bring my own containers.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

What I won't be doing.....

I'll be glad when the madness of end of year activities is over and the lazy days of summer begin.  The end of June is a whirlwind of year end school parties, birthday parties, sports tournaments, dentist/doctor appointments and other assorted things that life throws one's way.

Barely having time to breathe, I haven't really thought about my next eco-change.  But I have given a lot of thought about what I won't be changing.

I reviewed Vanessa's list this week, and realized that several of her items just aren't going to happen in my suburban family of 5.  So to give my readers a chance to realize what I'm not capable of, I hope I'll be forgiven for the lack of major change in some areas.

1.  Cancelling my cable - I rely on my electronic babysitter too much to give it up.  "Please kids, mommy needs just 5 minutes to {insert item here}.  Why don't you turn on the TV for a few minutes while I finish up here?"

2. Not driving my car on weekends - living in the suburbs, we don't have access to ready transit.  Most things in our small community require some form of driving.  Many of the kids' activities happen on the weekend, as well as DH needing to go to the hardware store or Canadian Tire for his latest household project.  I just can't see how we can avoid driving on at least one day of the weekend.

3. Turning off my freezer - feeding a family of 5 healthy food while being cost-effective requires a lot of storage.  This includes a freezer for bulk meat, bread, jam, and veggies.  Turning it off?  Not going to happen!

4. Turning my oven off for good - I use my oven for everything from dinner to baking to preserving foods.  I don't think I'd be able to survive with out it.

5. Not using the air conditioning in my car - during the humid, sultry days of summer, I need to be cool.  If I'm hot, I'm grumpy.  And you know the old saying "When mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy".

6. Only using spices/herbs I grow at home - we cook a variety of cuisine at our house.  If I only use herbs I grew at home, we'd eat a pretty bland diet.  In order to try to encourage my kids to expand their culinary horizons, I can't, in good conscience, restrict my spice use just yet.

7. Unplugging my fridge - see my comments about the freezer

8. Selling the car - NOT!

9. Only staying at eco-friendly hotels - if they are inexpensive yes, but would they really cater to three kids and a dog?

10. Eat food straight from pot/pan - given that I'm trying to teach the little monkeys some manners, I don't think making this change would be useful.

11. Using hand-held fans instead of electric ones - only if the fan comes with some nubile young Greek god.....

12. Not wearing a gown at doctor's office - it would not be fair to subject my doctor to visions that might given him nightmares for weeks....

13. Reusing a fake Christmas tree from last year, not buying ornaments - we use a real tree, and part of our family tradition is buying a new ornament every year.  Maybe I could switch to enviro-friendly ornaments.

14. Packing carry-on rather than check-in luggage - again, when travelling with 3 kids, not going to happen.  Travelling by myself?  That's not going to happen either!

15. Sleeping more - I wish....

16. Sleeping naked - not until the little ones are grown and out of the house.  I can just picture the school yard or play date conversations...  "Guess what mommy?  So-and-so's mommy doesn't sleep with any clothes on."  How do you explain that to 4 and 6 year olds in a way that doesn't make you sound like a creep?

So, readers, forgive me my sins.  I'll try my best to make up for them in other ways.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Start to be more politically involved (Change 121)

This change really takes me out of my comfort zone.  I am the type of person that prefers to keep her politics private.  I don't really like trying to change people's minds - I prefer to let them come to their own conclusions without my thrusting my opinions on them.  If they ask for my advice, of course, I'll respond, but I would never venture to tell someone outright that I disagree with them.

But to really ensure environmental change, government has to become involved.  Canada's current environmental platform leaves something to be desired.  I am going to do something about it. 

Among other organizations, the David Suzuki Foundation occasionally sends out form letters that you can email to prominent government officials (the Prime Minister, the Environment Minister and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, for example).  These letters always encourage the powers that be to take the environment into consideration when forming national policy.

I received one such letter this week, encouraging us to write to Environment Minister Peter Kent to ask for clean air and healthy oceans (  When I originally received this notice, the goal was for 2500 letters to be sent.  If you look at the link now, the new goal is 8000!

I usually delete these emails when I receive them - I am not comfortable sending these kind of letters to government.  But this week, I filled the letter out and emailed it.   What changed my mind?  The knowledge that although my 366 changes are great, they are still on an individual level.  We need national and global level action to help correct the environmental damage being done to our planet.  I realize that I still have a long way to go - there are many "big" issues that I have not yet tackled on an individual level (such as owning two cars, buying green energy, eliminating plastic completely from our house).  But I think that there are changes that need to be made that I can't do on my own.

It felt weird sending the letter, but in a good way.  I am finally trying to influence government politics, instead of just complaining about how those in government can't get it right.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Return plastic pots to nursery (Change 120)

Ahhh.....Spring.  A time whenever everything turns green after a long cold, winter.  A time when flowers start to poke their little heads above the ground.  A time when the local nurseries go crazy.

The May long weekend signals planting time in Ottawa.  Our official last frost date is around May 19, so the long weekend traditionally sees hordes of people descend on garden centres and nurseries to purchase plants, veggies, trees and shrubs.

Our family was no exception.  Although we didn't actually go out on the long weekend, DH and the kids did make a short shopping trip while I was in Halifax.  They purchased tomatoes, shallots, beans, peppers, onion sets, potatoes and a few herbs.  I haven't had a chance to plant them yet, with the 30+ weather we've been having this week, but I hope to get them in the ground by the weekend.

Which brings me to my next environmental no-no:  the plastic pot.  Most of my new plants come in one of those little black or rust plastic pots.  Like most plastic things, they end up in the landfill when their one-time use is over.

 Many nurseries in the Ottawa area take them back, but in past years, I've been lazy.  It's just been too much effort to make a second trip out to return the pots for the few that I've had, so into the garbage they've gone.

This year, I plan to stop being lazy and return the pots, so they can be used at least one more time before their final destination.   The garden centres I frequent the most happen to be at two retail stores where I shop all the time, so I really don't have an excuse for not returning them.  

Next time I go to the grocery store, I'll pack my cloth bags and my little plastic pots.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Take stairs whenever possible (Change 119)

Have you ever noticed how many movement-saving devices there are in our modern world?  Motorized transportation, escalators, elevators, moving sidewalks.   We've become so used to having something else move our body, that we are forgetting what it is like to move ourselves.

This point was brought home to me this past weekend.  I flew to Halifax to watch my mom become President of her charity organization.  We had a great trip, and I was proud to be part of it.  I've always thought I was fairly movement savvy, but I noticed several interesting things about myself while I was there.

My hotel room was on the third floor, yet for most of the weekend, I took the elevator to my room.  The airport had escalators and elevators to take me between floors for arrival, departure and baggage claim.  We took cabs to travel a few blocks around the city.   And I asked myself, why am I using these labour-saving devices?  Do I really need them or is it just habit?

I decided to try moving myself instead, and see how hard it was.  You know what?  It was pretty easy.  My room was a short flight of stairs down, across the landing and another short flight to the lobby.  I used the stairs to go up and down a level when I was at the airport.  I walked all over the city on Saturday, and enjoyed every minute of it.

If we all started taking the stairs, or walking a few blocks, the health benefits and environmental benefits would be enormous.  Less obesity, less pollution.  I'm going to try to translate this change in attitude to other aspects of my life.  Could I walk the kids to school?  Can I walk to get the mail?  How about the store or a friend's house?

In the mean time, I'm going to take the stairs whenever I can.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Water my plants with grey water (Change 118)

Life has been busy.  Apologies for not posting sooner, but I haven't seemed to have a spare moment to myself lately.  As such, the eco-changes around my house have come to a bit of a stand still.  I haven't regressed (much) but definitely haven't moved forward.

But with the end of the crazy schedules in sight, it's time to continue down the path of "greenness".  I will make a partial habit a full habit with the next eco-change.

Watching DH get our rain barrels ready for installation was exciting.  The thought of not having to use city water to nourish my gardens is wonderful.  Then I started thinking about my indoor plants.  I don't have many, but those I do have are watered using tap water.  Why couldn't I find some way to water the plants without turning on the tap?

My children's lunch bags are a great source of recycled water.  I send them thermoses every day, filled with water.  Sometimes they come home empty, sometimes they are full.  Whenever I think of it, I dump their thermoses on the plants.  But truthfully, I'm just as likely to grab a glass or jug and fill it from the tap, as I am to use the thermos.

I'm going to take a page out of the rain barrel book, and ALWAYS use recycled or grey water to water the plants.  There is the bath water from my kids, their thermoses, water from the dishes, the dog's bowl.  The sources are endless.  I just have to remember to use them.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Buy environmentally and body friendly shampoo (Change 117)

The toiletries and cosmetics in our house are slowing turning green.  This week I purchased a shampoo that should be safer on the environment and better for my body.   Unfortunately, the brand I purchased does not appear in the Skin Deep database (  But, I'm getting pretty savvy at reading labels, and can say that there aren't any parabens, pthalates, fragrances or SLS or other really bad ingredients in this shampoo.

It smells like apple cider (yummy), and leaves my hair feeling clean and soft.   DH has even commented on how nice my hair smells.  The shampoo was a reasonable price for the "green" component of it, so I am happy to stick with this new brand.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Participate in The Milk Bag project (Change 116)

Our elementary school has decided to participate in The Milk Bag Project.  This project entails local charity partners crocheting the outer 4L milk bags into sleeping mats, which are then sent to Haiti to help earthquake victims.

For those of you who don't know about this project, I've attached two links to explain what it is and how it works.  ( and

I've been collecting clean bags from our house, and sending them to our school.  To date, the school has collected over 1000 bags, enough to make 2 mats.

DS's class has offered to co-ordinate the collection and distribution of the milk bags.  Every Wednesday morning, I volunteer in his classroom, and part of my work is preparing the milk bags for assembly.  The children and I sort the bags by type, roll them in bundles of ten, and package the bundles for delivery.  They have great fun sorting the bags, and I am deriving great satisfaction knowing that we are keeping plastic bags out of the landfill, while helping a very worthy cause.

I urge everyone to locate a partner in their area, so you can benefit from this worthwhile cause.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Use eco- and body-friendly blush (Change 115)

I went out and bought a new cosmetics product this week.  I was getting ready for a meeting, putting on make-up for the first time in about two weeks, and dropped my package of blusher on the bathroom floor.  Ugh.  That was a bit of a mess.  Cracked the cosmetic into about 4 large pieces and several smaller ones, and lots of dust all over the floor.  It also cracked the lid in half and broke off the hinge part that keeps the lid on.  Into the garbage it went.

I purchased a replacement product - made from organic ingredients, free of "harsh chemicals, parabens, and synthetic preservatives".   The container is actually pressed paper (instead of plastic), which is recyclable.  It also passes the Skin Deep test, scoring a 3 on the scale.

I guess beauty doesn't have to come at a horrible environmental price.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Purchase as many "dye-free" food items as possible (Change 114)

In conjunction with my change to make more things from scratch, I am also resolving to purchase foods that do not contain artificial colours. 

We've noticed over the last year that our kids seem to really react to highly processed foods, especially those containing high concentrations of sugar, dye/colour, flavour and chocolate.   This was really brought home last week when my doctor suggested that we start eliminating artificial colour from our diet, due to recent studies that investigate whether or not food dye causes or accelerates hyperactivity in children.

Some of you may have followed the debate in news about the FDA investigating the evidence. (;  Unfortunately, the FDA found that there was not enough research to warrant labels on products, but stated that further study was needed.

However, we are going ahead with an elimination diet.  It will be a slow process, as we remove coloured cereal, crackers, breads, baking supplies and processed fruits from our diet.  I hope it means that my children will be healthier and happier, and that DH and I are less stressed about our active children.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Purchase "less cruel" eggs (Change 113)

For those who know me, you are probably doing a double-take at the title of this blog entry.  For those of you who don't know me, DD1 is allergic to eggs, so I never have them in the house.

Well, almost never.  See, DH and I have a little secret.  We eat eggs when DD1 is away.

DH loves when the kids have a sleepover at the grandparents', because this means he can have eggs for breakfast every morning.  I got thinking about our ethical choices last weekend, when the kids went to my parents for a one night visit. 

Part of our date night ritual is to stop at the grocery store and buy fixings for breakfast.  Eggs, bacon or sausages, special treats (danishes, etc.) and lovely fruit.  This time, I decided to try buy a more environmentally-, or at least animal-friendly, choice.  And discovered, to my dismay, that there aren't many options at the local big chain store.

The links below take you to websites that explain the difference between caged chickens and more cruelty-free choices.

Although I watched "Food, Inc." and I've read several of Michael Pollan's books, the impact of factory farming shocks me every time I research ways to not support the system.

We ended up purchasing "free range, nest laid eggs", but after reading the definitions from the above websites, I'm still not convinced we made the best choice. 
Our next date night will involve a trip to the local health food store, to see if we can get Canada Organic, BC SPCA certified or Certified Local Sustainable eggs. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Remove plastic liner from window envelopes (Change 112)

OK - I admit it.  I'm grasping for straws on this one. 

It seems rather small and petty - remove the plastic liner from the inside of window envelopes, before putting the envelopes in the recycle bin.  This change, however, prevents A LOT of paper from going into the landfill.  (Yes, I know, I am still getting paper mail.....)

Like many people, I'm sure, I assumed that all paper put in the recycle bin was, well, recycled.  Apparently, that is not true.  I spoke with someone at our local garbage collection place, and ANY paper with plastic on it is relegated to the garbage and NOT recycled.  Huh.  So much for being "environmentally-friendly".

It's weird, because I always remove the plastic windows from pasta boxes, etc., but it never occurred to me to do the same with window envelopes. It even states on the city website that NO plastic is allowed in the paper recycling.   I guess I just assumed that whatever process was used to break down the paper automatically got rid of the plastic. 

I'll take a few minutes to open my envelopes, remove the liner and recycle.  Another small change that will help counter the growing landfill outside my door.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Designate a "No Buy Day" every week (Change 111)

I admire the concept of the "Buy Nothing Day".  This is one day each year set aside to not purchase anything.   Every year in Canada it is held on the last Friday in November.  Below is a link to the UK version - it explains things much better than I ever could about the reasoning and philosophy behind the concept.

However, boycotting shopping for one day a year isn't that hard for me.  I have at least one day a month where I don't buy anything.  Therefore, I've decided to up my challenge - and try for a "Buy Nothing Day" every week.

It's going to be difficult at first - I tend to run errands when I'm already out; usually at least three times a week when all the kids are at school.  This means I need to either run more errands in my allotted childless time (not sure this will be possible), or spend more time lugging at least one child around to different shops (which isn't as fun as it sounds).

I fully support the idea of less commercialism in our lives.  The amount of "stuff" we accumulate is astonishing, really.  I joked with a friend of mine last week that I need to plan a move overseas, in order to really decide what I want to keep and what I want to get rid of.

"Buy Nothing Day" every week will hopefully allow me to let go of the idea of "stuff" and focus more on making do with what we have.

The real challenge will be to see if DH is willing to go along with the idea.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

No more plastic cups (Change 110)

In an effort to rid ourselves of the excess "junk" in our lives, I have relegated our spare plastic glasses to the "find a new home" bin.  I had tonnes of them when I ran a home daycare - I always had four or five kids at mealtimes, plus whatever portion of the neighbourhood that happened to come over to play. 

I no longer run the daycare, and many of the extra items I had, I have found another home for.  I didn't realize how much I used those extra glasses, though, until I realized that I had 5 small glass drinking glasses.  5 small glasses are not enough for my family.  Although I use the one glass a day rule, I find it very difficult to keep track of my kids' drinking glasses, especially now that they are all clear glass.  I tend to fill a glass for them at each meal. 

I invested in some small glass drinking glasses from IKEA.  They are ideal for my children - small and cheap.  If one breaks, no big deal.  I realize that I have replaced the plastic glasses with glass glasses, so I am no further ahead with respect to the amount of "stuff" in our lives.  However, the dubious nature of the cheap plastic glasses is enough for me to want to switch over.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Invest in stainless steel frying pans (Change 109)

I love to cook, as well as bake.  Most of the meals we eat are home made, made with love, sweat and tears.  Most are a success - they pass the "three picky eaters" test.  Integral to passing this test is my frying pan.

I use it to saute and steam veggies, fry meat, cook sauces; I don't think I could live without it.  In fact, I use my frying pan so often, that I buy a new one every couple of years, because the non-stick coating wears off from so much use.

This time I vowed to choose a better option for my family.  I've been reading a lot about non-stick coatings and how harmful they are to our bodies, if ingested.  I know that we've probably ingested some in our lifetimes, simply from over use. 

This year, I spent a little bit of extra money and purchased two stainless steel frying pans.  I was a little leery of using them - I wasn't sure about the quality of cooking with them, how much food would stick to the surfaces, how easy they would be to clean.

But they've been another worthy investment - I love them.  They clean up easily, food burns less quickly and cooks more evenly.  They are recycled and recyclable.  And best of all, I shouldn't have to buy new frying pans for years.  I'm not filling up the landfill, and any potential harmful effects from non-stick coatings evaporate.

Another eco-change that I wish I'd made sooner.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Install dual flush toilet handle (Change 108)

My friend K is a great inspiration to me.  Like me, she has three kids, a dog, a husband, and a very busy life. Yet she always seems to find time for the fun things - camping, hiking, outdoor adventures, Scouting and meeting up with friends.  She also has a very "green" family - she has been a source of inspiration for many of the changes I've made to date.

For example, I visited her house this past summer and commented on her dual flush toilet handle.  This allows one to press a button for a 1/2 flush or a button for "full flush".  The system is set-up similar to putting a brick or pop bottle in your tank - the flush systems does not allow your tank to completely drain, thereby saving water.  It effectively reduces a 6L flush toilet to a 3L flush toilet.  We discussed the merits of this device and how much water she's saved.  I thought it was a neat idea, and put it on my list of things to change.

Well, K has done it again, and brought the change to me.  She and her family visited last month.  The Saturday was busy with family obligations (hers and ours), but we agreed to meet for supper.  Back at the house, she presented me with a gift bag. 

"What's this?" I asked.

"A hostess gift," she replied.

We are not in the habit of exchanging gifts, so I eyed the bag with suspicion.  I opened it and burst out laughing.  Inside was a dual flush toilet handle.   20 minutes later the device was installed (which I did by myself with her help, thank you very much).  I put it in our powder room, which gets the most use as it's on the main floor.   I'm hopeful that I'll see some significant water savings in the next few months.

Thanks, K, for helping me making my world a little "greener".

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Major Update Two

Here is the second half of my major update.

56. Only purchase Rainforest Alliance-certified flowers - it doesn't happen very often, but when they do come in the house, they are RFA certified.

57. Only purchase Rainforest Alliance-certified black tea - all new orange pekoe coming into the house is at least partially RFA certified.

58. No more DVD purchases - this has been so easy.  The kids get 99% of their movies from the library now, and I didn't miss the extra gifts at Christmas.

59. Purchase an environmentally-friendly yoga mat - I love it.  Now I just need to find time to attend classes.....

60. Carpool whenever possible - we've made some great strides in this.  DH carpools at least three times a week with a co-worker.  We often give rides to outings for Brownies/Beavers.  Several times I've been to meetings and carpooled with neighbours.  It's amazing how when you take a look at your transportation, how you can easily make a change without it being a burden or a problem.

61. Make one lunch/dinner per day vegetarian - this has been relatively easy also; about 90% of our days follow this pattern.

62. Only use dishwasher at night - I'm slipping a bit with this one.  Sometimes I can't wait until night to run the dishwasher.  I'd say we're only at about 50% compliance right now (which is 40% more than when I started the blog).  I'd like to see the compliance rate go up to about 80-90% by the time the challenge is over.

63. Turn off "heat dry" feature on dishwasher - if I turn it off, the dishes don't dry.  They are sopping wet, especially any plastic containers on the top rack.  If I turn it on, I use more energy.  I can't decide which I hate more - drying dishes or using an extra kW or two.

64. Have someone else pick up our puppy - 'nough said.

65. Re-use our dog items - I've been re-using other people's doggie stuff, too.

66. Clean shower regularly with vinegar - I'm actually not using vinegar right now, as I'm still trying to get rid of the embedded mould.  See below.

67. Get rid of mould in shower with hydrogen peroxide - working on it......

68. Purchase biodegradable kitchen garbage bags - I'm almost finished them.  Once they're done, I'll buy recycled plastic ones instead, as a reader rightly pointed out that biodegradable bags can't biodegrade if they never see the light of day in the land fill.  It's a case of one evil (landfill) vs. another (recycled plastic).

69. Send electronic invitations - it works beautifully, and no one has complained yet.

70. Purchase only recycled plastic black garbage bags - if only they sold them at Costco, I'd be a happy woman. I can't get recycled plastic bags big enough for our outdoor garbage bin, so have been using them to collect dog poop and other assorted smaller garbage messes.

71. Plant more native species in garden - is Spring here yet???????

72. Hang linens to dry - this has been hit or miss.  I find I'm tumble drying my linens at lot, as I'm usually doing 3 or 4 loads at a time (because someone has peed or thrown up in bed).  However, when I'm only doing a single load of sheets or blankets, I do hang them to dry on my railing.

73. Purchase bamboo socks - bamboo vs. organic cotton.  The debate is still on; I haven't decided which is more environmentally friendly.

74. Install timers for bathroom fans - love them!!!!!

75. Join Project Feederwatch - I've joined, but no one is coming to my feeders on the days I need to count.   :(

76. Cancel newspaper subscription - I really thought I'd miss the paper version.  But using the electronic one has been really great.  I'm a convert.

77. Borrow Hallowe'en costumes instead of buying them - this worked out really well.  I'm going to try again next year.

78. Turn tap off when hand washing - once I got in the habit, it's been very easy to maintain.

79. Purchase environmentally-friendly kids shampoo - I had the best of intentions with this one.  However, one too many times of the ENTIRE bottle of shampoo being used to make bubble bath, I've decided to wait until the kids are a little older before spending $10 a bottle on shampoo.

80. Hold a "greener" birthday party - it was awesome.  I'm going to attempt the same for DS and DD2 when the time comes.

81. Place compost bags in all rooms - as mentioned, I've removed these from the rooms (no one was using them), and am now making sure to sort the compostables before they are dumped in the garbage.
82. Use a variation of the "if it's yellow...." rule - working great, although I've had DD2 come into my bathroom and scold me, "Mummy you forgot to flush!"

83. Eat kids' leftovers for lunch instead of throwing out food - I'm hardly throwing anything out now.

84. Put certain lights on timers - love it!  Now to install one in DD1's closet.....

85. Turn computer off when not using it (during day) - this one has been hard.  I work on an on-call basis, so need to be checking email several times a day.  It's been a pain to power up and power down the computer 10 times a day, so I've made a compromise with myself.  I shut the computer off when I'm going out, or if I'm going to be involved in a project at home that I know will take several hours to complete.  It's not what I'd originally hope this challenge would be, but sometimes we need to adjust our goals to our lifestyle.

86. Install wall plate insulators - I don't know if it's truth or wishful thinking, but the house has seemed warmer lately, even though the temperature hasn't been raised.

87. Re-purpose our baby bathtub - nothing more to add until Spring.

88. Purchase environmentally-friendly dog shampoo - I'm running into a similar problem with the dog shampoo as with the kids' shampoo.  In this instance however, the quantity being used is to actually bathe her.  Her fur is long, thick and wavy, and need almost 1/2 a bottle to wash at one time.  Sad to say, we may have to think about clipping her when the warmer weather gets here.

89. Purchase re-usable produce bags - love them!

90. Turn furnace fan to "auto" - saving energy and still keeping the house warm.

91. Make my own drain de-clogger - this has been sooooo easy.  Sometimes I need to repeat once or twice, but it works every time.

92. Use eco- and body-friendly hand cream - lovely stuff.

93. Be powerWISE - slowly working my way through our high energy usage stuff....

94. Start looking for local sources of animal protein - this is going to take some time.  We've tried one farm, but the product was not quite what we were looking for, and not enough quantity for a family of 5.  We have a couple of other places to check out, so hopefully, I'll find a farm that suits our needs.

95. Buy a recycled steel garbage can - this was a one time purchase.

96. Enroll children in Scouting and Guiding movements - one of the best activities my kids have participated in.

97. Not using SOS pads for kitchen cleaning - I love my scrubbie.

98. Use an all natural facial scrub - I've been thrilled with the product we're using.  I may try to make my own later, just for the fun of it, but right now, I'm happy to use this one.

99. Buy and use a Diva Cup - I can't believe I didn't find out about this sooner.  When I think of all the waste I could have saved......

100. Make more food from scratch - this has been a lot of fun.  Interestingly, or not, depending on your point of view, it's been more difficult that I thought convincing the kids that home made is better.

101. Use eco-friendly lip balm - it's been great.  I just wish I could get an EF one with sunscreen in it.

102. Use extendable cooling rack - my new favourite kitchen toy.

103. Turn off air conditioning breaker - I just need to remember to turn it on.

104. Buy and use an all-natural eyeshadow - I've been happy with the product.  It goes on well, and doesn't bother my eyes.  I just need to find it in a darker colour.

105. Purchase rain barrels - is it Spring yet??????

106. Bring home our compostables - so easy, if you don't mind a few strange looks (and not all of them from strangers....)

107. Invest in nightlights - this has been really great for my family.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Invest in nightlights (Change 107)

My kids have terrific imaginations.  They are bright, creative, intelligent - able to see the most amazing things in the most ordinary places.  It also means there are lots of bogeymen in the dark.

For about a year now, we've been letting them fall asleep with their lights on.  It seems to calm the fear of the dark and allows us to avoid repeated trips upstairs to check for monsters under the bed.  However, we don't always turn the light off once they fall asleep.  Sometimes we're watching TV or on the computer, and lose track of time.  The overhead light burns merrily away, the hydro meter whirling in happy abandon.

I've also wondered about how leaving the lights on is affecting their sleeping habits.  Recent articles in the paper have suggested that any light during sleep is detrimental to melatonin levels.  I can't imagine that leaving overhead lights on are helping them achieve a restful REM sleep.

I recently invested in nightlights for the kids.  They are battery operated with rechargeable batteries.  This means they don't sit plugged in, drawing power, when not in use.  Because they are battery operated, I don't have to plug them in to operate them - just to recharge.  I've also noticed since I've started using these nightlights, that the kids are waking up less grumpy in the morning.  They seem to sleep better, with fewer trips downstairs or to our room in the middle of the night.

I'm using less power, and my kids are getting a better night's sleep.  What more could a mom ask for?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Major Update One

I've had several friends ask how the changes are going, am I able to sustain what I started.  Although I've given my readers a brief update on our progress (or lack thereof!), I thought I would give a major update on ALL changes since Day 1.  Since this will be a LONG entry, I've divided it into two posts.  Here's the first update:

1. Switch to paperless billing - this has been so easy, I have to wonder why I didn't make this switch earlier.  It's been extremely simple to keep track of bills and payments.  As long as I pay this bill right away when received, I don't have to worry about forgetting.

2. Environmentally-friendly ant killer - as mentioned last fall, this didn't work so well long-term.  I had to resort to ant poison to get them out of the house.

3. Eliminate bottle water - another really easy change.  I've only had bottled water twice since I made this change.  Both times the water was purchased by someone else, and only because there was no other alternative in sight.

4. Place jug of water in fridge - again, very easy.  DH hasn't run the tap for drinking water since.

5. Buy recycled lined paper - another easy habit to fall into. 

6. Eliminate junk mail using "Red Dot" campaign - it's amazing how just saying "NO" to junk mail has reduced the paper waste in our house.  I had no idea until it all went away.....

7. Unplug electronics when not in use - we're about 95% there in remembering this.  There are still a few occasions when I forget or DH does, but those times are now the exception, not the norm.

8. Buy environmentally and body friendly face moisturizer - this one is a bust.  I just can't find an eco-friendly moisturizer that I like.  I've settled for a lesser damaging one - it has a lower score on the Skin Deep database, and doesn't make my face feel too greasy.

9. No more hot showers - they aren't steamy any more, but I still run a hot shower in the winter. Since I am using the army shower method, I don't feel guilty about it.

10. Turn off light while showering - again, now that winter is here, it's low light vs. no light, but once spring arrives, I plan to switch off the light completely

11. Take navy showers - 99% compliance rate.  I've actually learned to like them....

12. Eliminate hair dryer - the frizz says it all. 

13. No more disposable coffee cups - again running about a 95% compliance rate with this one.  I've gotten into the habit of taking my coffee mug with me whenever I know I'm going to be out.  It's the spur of the moment times, when I'm not in my van with the extra mug, that I've resorted to the disposable ones. 

14. Preserve foods, preferably local and organic - I did quite a bit - peaches, corn, jams, beets, rhubarb and salsa.  I hope to up the produce intake next year.

15. Eliminate baths for kids; have showers instead - let's just say I tried it, and it didn't work so well.  I sometimes manage to bath two kids at once, so I'm saving a bit of water there....

16. Use only one glass per day for juice/coffee/wine - I've been getting lazy and forgetting to set aside my glass/mug.  Must get back into this habit.

17. Use GoodSearch for Internet - I've almost given up on this search engine.  It just doesn't get the results.

18. Eliminate the use of CFCs - done. 

19. Buy environmentally and body friendly deodorant - I haven't found one that I'm completely satisfied yet, but I'm not giving up hope.  There are still a couple of other brands to try, so I'll keep my fingers crossed that I find one I can live with.

20. No more book purchases - use library instead - this has been surprisingly easy.  I have only purchased one book that was non gift related, and ONLY because the library didn't carry it.

21. No more plastic takeout containers - this has been hit and miss.  When I do get a plastic container, I recycle it to my daughter's nursery school for use in their arts/crafts area.

22. Add a green tip to email signature - I try and change the tip every week, so people don't get bored with the same old thing.

23. Spend time everyday researching green issues - I haven't been doing it every day, lately, but at least twice a week I am researching new ways to be "green".

24. Environmentally friendly groundhog removal - now that we have a dog, I'm hoping that this won't even be factor this summer.  :)

25. Only buy ethically farmed/fished seafood - this has not been happening.  The kids won't eat seafood, except shrimp, and truthfully, I'm not going to travel all the way across town to buy an ethically farmed shrimp ring.  For the few times we eat it, I'm just going to accept that I'm a bad person.
26. Get rid of plastic everyday cutlery - this happened until DD2 discovered a small cache of "zoo" cutlery in my party box.  She's insisted on it being out and used.  It's only a dozen or so items, so as they crack and break, they will not be replaced.
27. Carbon off-set all vacation travel - I'm saving the world, one tree at a time.

28. Use recycled furniture (from someone else) - this was a one time event, but everyone compliments me on my couches.....

29. Return neighbour's beer and wine bottles to store - I don't know if my neighbour read my blog and feels guilty, so returns his bottles now, or if my other neighbour beats me to the punch, but there haven't been any bottles to return lately.  Maybe once the summer arrives and we start drinking out on the front porch again.....

30. Make my own hand soap - tried it, didn't like it, and decided to use triclosan-free cream soap from the store.
31. Install a front door screen - love it, love it, love it.

32. Use no VOC primer when painting - we plan to paint another couple of rooms this spring, so hope to to use low VOC primer and paint.

33. Consume and purchase only fair trade chocolate - I'm about 80% compliant on this one. I try and make sure any that I bring into the house follows the rule. But I just can't resist chocolate, so I will eat it if offered to me, regardless of its moral qualities.  It's only being polite. 

34. Use handkerchiefs at home - this has been a fairly easy habit to adopt.

35. Use vinegar/water to clean eyeglasses - DH is back to using the spray bottle stuff.  I might see if I can find him a soft cloth to use.

36. Get rid of all Swiffer products - done.

37. Drink Canadian origin juice as much as possible - this has been pretty easy - we only drink apple and orange as a rule, so I just make sure the apple is Canadian-origin

38. Recycle laptop - Scott, did you keep up your part of the bargain?

39. Use Freecycle at least twice per month - I haven't been using Freecycle much lately, but plan to get rid of a tonne of stuff this spring

40. Purchase reusable sandwich wrappers - this was a great idea in concept, but reality has proven that my kids don't liked squished sandwiches, and will not eat them if the sandwiches have been sent to school in these wrappers.  I use them for myself now, or when I'm short on containers to send non-squishable stuff in their lunches.
41. Stop using Ziploc bags - I actually don't know what I was using them for.  I haven't missed them at all.  I keep one box of XL bags for when we are camping and I need to store liquids or something else, but so far, one box has lasted until now.

42. Compost wine corks - every time.

43. Bring own flip flops to spa - it felt weird but yes I did.

44. Re-gift baby items - and I have lots more in my basement looking for a good home.....

45. Use environmentally-friendly nail polish - I haven't tried this yet.  When I went to the spa last time I didn't bother getting polish (did THAT ever feel weird), but plan to take the polish with me on my next visit.

46. Not use plastic plates - we don't use them every day.  However, when we have company and lots of kids, they come out.

47. Use recycled dinnerware - no need to say anything more.

48. Environmentally friendly insect control - it's amazing how a little cider vinegar can go such a long way.

49. Environmentally friendly scouring powder - love it.

50. Cancel unread/unwanted magazines - and I don't miss them at all.

51. Partake in "Clean the Capital" initiative - enough said.

52. Calculate my carbon footprint - *shudder*  Not as good as it could be.....

53. Ban Styrofoam - those darn meat packages trip me up.  The rest of the house is styro-free, but I can't seem to get away from the meat ones. 

54. Drive using cruise control whenever possible - a very easy habit to get into.  I'm amazed at the fuel economy I've had since starting this change.

55. Drive the speed limit - much to the chagrin of drivers around me, I've been driving on or around the speed limit.  I've had great fuel economy, and get to my destination only a few minutes later than if I'd been driving 10 or 20 kms over the limit.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Bring home the compostables (Change 106)

Whenever I eat out at a fast food restaurant or take my lunch/dinner to work, I throw out garbage. It's a strange habit, because at home, I'm so careful to make sure everything is as reusable, recyclable and compostable as possible. A lot of the garbage I throw out, when I eat out, is made up of items that are perfectly acceptable to the residential green bin program here, but have no opportunity to be taken out of the waste stream at a commercial level.
I've always made sure that portable lunches were as garbage-less as possible for DH, the kids and myself.  I rarely buy one time use snacks, like yogurt or applesauce, and I always make sure that beverages go in a thermos or reusable bottle.  But for a reason that escapes me, we rarely bring our apple cores, banana peels, or sandwich crusts home.

When I visited PEI two years ago, I was astonished that compost bins could be found everywhere.  I mean EVERYWHERE.  One the street, in the restaurants, in the malls - no location was without.  It made me wish that my province, heck even my city, had the political will to enforce such a policy.  My wish has finally come true for the residential sector of the city of Ottawa, but corporate participation is still unavailable.

So I've decided to start bringing the compostables home with me.  It's easy enough to slip an apple core or banana peel into a reusable container already in the lunch box.    I'll ask DH and the kids to bring their food waste home from school and work.  And when I'm at McDonald's or Subway, I'll pack a "take-out" bag of compostable sandwich wraps, drink cartons and food leftovers.  I may look a little strange, I suppose, but at least I won't feel guilty about contributing to the growing landfill problem.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Purchase rain barrels (Change 105)

I think this is going to be one of my favourite changes.  I've been wanting to install rain barrels at our house since we moved here 8 years ago.  At almost $100 each, though, I had other priorities to spend my money on.  Enter the Master Gardeners of Ottawa Carleton and (  They have teamed up to offer citizens of the city rain barrels at a discounted price.  For $55 each, I get a 220L recycled rain barrel (all barrels previously contained fruit, vegetables and other food grade items) and the spigot and parts to go with it.  This fundraiser benefits the Master Gardeners, while helping the average person be more environmentally-friendly.  I can't wait to see how much money I save in water costs, once my barrels are operational. 

Check the website for distribution locations in your area - you might get lucky like I did.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Buy all natural eyeshadow (Change 104)

As I've mentioned in previous posts, I don't wear a lot of cosmetics on a day-to-day basis.  I'm usually "au naturel" when at home with the kids, or out and about running errands.  However, I do succumb to vanity when I go to work, or have an appointment (doctor, dentist, etc), and put on some eyeliner, blush and a little bit of lip colour.

I've been using the same products for years, but resolved to improve my eco-friendliness in cosmetics after starting this blog last July.  Unfortunately, because I don't use a lot of cosmetics, the ones I have last a long time.  For the price I paid for them, I'm not about to throw them out and go buy new ones.  I decided to replace my cosmetics as I use them up.

The opportunity for eyeliner came a couple of weeks ago.  I use a dark eyeshadow with a lid liner brush as my eyeliner.  I contracted pink-eye from somewhere, and unknowingly had used my brush and eyeshadow while I had it.  When I re-infected myself, I realized what I had done and threw out the eyeshadow.  (I washed and disinfected the brush). 

I used this opportunity to buy myself an all-natural eyeshadow.  It is made with pure botanicals and passes the Skin Deep test.  I haven't had a chance to use it yet, but after reading online reviews about the product, I think I will be satisfied with its application.  I'll let you know if my opinion changes after I use it.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Turn off air conditioning breaker (Change 103)

We actually made this change back in the late fall, but I forgot all about it until yesterday. (I was down in the basement putting stuff away in my chest freezer, noticed the breaker was off, and said "Aha!  I forgot to blog about this one!)

You may not be aware, but when your air conditioner is "off", it actually draws energy from the power grid, like any other item plugged into your home's electrical system.  According to a friend of mine, who is a heating/air conditioning technician, the phantom power is used to cycle a small heater in the air conditioner unit, which prevents the refrigerant from solidifying, so you can use your air conditioner as soon as you turn it on.  Since we don't use the air conditioner in the winter, I don't need to worry about the refrigerant not being ready to work right away.  He said that I could safely turn off the breaker to the unit, without harming it, and reducing any phantom power draw it might have.  I just need to remember to turn the breaker back on in the spring.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Use extra long cooling racks (Change 102)

Another eco-friendly Christmas present, this time from DH.  I bake a LOT, because I like to, and because life is easier to deal with DD1's food allergy when I make my own cookies, muffins, etc.  I've always cooled my muffins in the muffin tins and breads on a tiny round cooling rack.  But cookies have ALWAYS been cooled on paper towels - to absorb any butter goodness, and because there was more room on the counter.  I justified using this method since starting my green challenge, because the paper towels were made with unbleached, recycled paper, and I always composted them when I was finished with them.  There is still an environmental cost associated with them, in the form of the manufacturing process itself, but I assured myself that I was at least using the most eco-friendly product possible.

No need to justify any longer.  DH bought me an extendable cooling rack for Christmas.  Made up of three layers that stack neatly when not needed, the cooling rack allows me to cool up to 3 dozen cookies at a time.  Usually by the time I'm ready to cool the 4th dozen, I can store the cooled cookies in a container, and start over again with the next 3 dozen.

No more paper towels, and no more need to compost them.  Since this process was my main consumption of paper towels, it will be interesting to see how many paper towels I use in the future.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Use eco- and body- friendly lip balm (Change 101)

Another eco-gift from Santa came in the form of lip balm.  This is one of the few cosmetic products I use on a daily basis.  The city we live in is very dry, especially in winter, where temperatures can dip as low at -25C in winter.  Moisturizing is a must.

Santa made sure that my new lip balm complies with the Skin Deep Database - it scores a 2 on the list.  Santa even brought some for the children and DH.  The new lip balm is made from beeswax, coconut oil, and a couple of other natural ingredients.  I really like it - it goes on well, and has staying power.

As one of my readers commented in an earlier post: "Gotta love when Santa gets it right".

Friday, January 14, 2011

Make more food from scratch (Change 100)

DH and I had a bit of a health scare last month.  Driving him to the hospital when he had chest pains was not my idea of a fun time.  He has had high normal blood pressure for years, but neither of us really thought anything of it.  This time we took notice, and resolved to improve our eating and exercising habits.

One of the things we are trying to do is lower our salt and fat intake.  We don't eat a lot of prepared foods, but our cupboards and refrigerator are still crammed with crackers, canned beans, ketchup, hummus and various other items that are made by someone else, stuffed with added salt and fat that we don't need. 

I've never really given any true thought to the environmental impact of purchasing these products, but when you take the time to look at how your purchases contribute to the landfill, it can be an eye-opening experience.  It also is not good for our health - some of these products can contain up to 40% of our daily salt intake in one serving.  And who ever has just one serving?

For the new year, I am resolving to make more food from scratch.  Make my own hummus, salad dressings and salsa to start.  Then as I get more comfortable with the process, I am going to try my own ketchup, crackers and seasoning mixes.  

There is less packaging, because I will be buying items in bulk and not throwing out one-time use containers.  Our diets will be healthier because I will be able to control the amount of salt and fat we intake.  This sounds like a resolution I can stick with.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Start using a Diva Cup (Change 99)

Gentlemen......this post may not be for you.  It deals with female bodily functions, and therefore, may make some uncomfortable.  If it makes you squeamish, I suggest you ask your female significant other, sister, aunt, mother, cousins, etc., to read it, as they may find it valuable.

I went out in the fall and bought a Diva cup.  For those of you who don't know the product, it is a re-usable menstrual cup.  More information about it can be found at   Why I haven't posted about it before now, has more to do with Mother Nature than myself.  As I am a woman of a certain age, menopause is right around the corner.   Thus, my bodily functions are not a reliable as they once were.  I wanted to experience using the DC a few times before I posted about it.

Well, I am still waiting for a few times, but thought I might as well let my readers know that I have tackled once of the biggest waste challenges that a woman can have.  The amount of garbage that the average woman uses for that week a month is unbelievable - estimates I've found on the Internet range from 300 lbs over a lifetime to 12,000 individual products.  Whatever the correct amount, it is a lot of waste.

The Diva Cup, and its sister products Moon Cup and The Keeper, have an average lifetime of 10 years.  So yes, I may throw it out eventually - but it's one item, as opposed to several thousand.  Not to mention all of the cotton, oil, water and energy I have saved by not buying factory products items over and over.

I had a conversation with a friend of mine when I bought it.  She has used one for several years, and is how I found out about the product.  I wondered why we hadn't been told about this kind of thing when health class had come around in high school.  She noted that although our grandmothers used re-usable rags, our mothers had the wonderful option of not having to deal with all of that mess - using disposable pads was an amazing invention.  Why would they teach their daughters about the old ways, when amazing new technology was available? 

I can understand her point, but I'm going to let my daughters know they have a choice.  They can be environmentally-friendly, and deal with Mother Nature in a fairly mess-free way.  I wish that I had found out about this product years ago.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

All natural facial scrub (Change 98)

Santa was very good to us this year, as he always is.   This year boasted the addition of some extra eco-friendly products ( Santa reading my blog?)  One of the new items was an all-natural facial scrub.

I usually clean with soap and water, but about once a week, I like to exfoliate my skin.  The scrub I've been using scores a 7 in the Skin Deep database (!).  As a result, I've been wanting to make my own, but just haven't gotten around to it.  Now I won't have to for a while.  I checked that it passes the Skin Deep test (it does, scoring a 4), so I won't feel guilty about using it.  

Thanks, Santa, for helping me reach my eco-goals.