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.