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. http://www.buynothingday.co.uk/index.html

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.