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.