Tuesday, July 28, 2009


I know, it seems like I just published that I was going on vacation...but that was just a couple of days in the wilderness. This time I'm going fishing! I'll be back in time for Food Waste Friday though, and I'll do a much better job than last week. Since we all know that summer in Canada lasts for July, I figured I should make the most of it!

Monday, July 27, 2009

One In, One Out - A Month Later

Actually, it's been closer to a month and a half since I decided that for every durable item that comes into my house, another durable should leave. This was partially a way for me to become more conscious of my consumption, and partially a way to keep my house decluttered. When I wrote about my plan here, I admit I was feeling pretty confident, arrogant even, in how it was going to work out. After all, I admire simplicity in the house and like to think that I'm not that much of a consumer....I figured I'd have no problem keeping myself from accumulating. I actually thought that I'd probably only acquire a handful of items (if that), that I'd purge stuff I didn't use anymore, and that I might even end up with a clean and elegant house.

Sigh. I know, those of you who know me personally and have visited my house are probably rolling on the floor with laughter right now. I might admire simplicity and aspire towards it, but here's a picture of my dining room right now. In my defense, we've just returned from a trip and haven't unpacked much yet.

So, you already know the clean and elegant house hasn't happened, but how did I do with accumulation and purging? Well, it was closer than I thought it would be! Somehow there was a great sale on some clothing that I actually needed, I went to a store where I could replace a kitchen scale that had broken the month before, my grandmother gave up a deli-slicer, etc... Oh, and we won the centerpiece at a wedding we attended! All in all, from June 16 to July 24 I picked up 18 more items that will be in permanent residence. However, I also got rid of 21 items. The outgoing items were a combination of old computer equipment (sent to the hazardous waste depot), actual garbage (broken pair of sunglasses), and a bunch of other items that I either sold on craigslist, gave away on freecycle, or donated to a charitable organization.

There were days where I ended up buying items where I'd rack my brain over what could go away. Some of the choices were a lot harder than they should be....like the pair of jeans that I've had for almost three years and have never worn because the don't fit me and are unlikely to ever fit me. That was actually a tough choice to give away. Or the tiny pink satin purse that came with some nail polish and I've had for years...way too small to be useful but as soon as I decided to pitch it, I started thinking "well, maybe if..." I've got to say that I don't miss any of the departed items though, and in a few cases I'm pretty glad they're gone and being put to good use! AND when I was going through my closet I found clothing I'd forgotten about that did fit me, and looked good.

I have to admit that knowing I was keeping track of items in and out did actually make me think more about items I was considering buying. Having to think about what would leave the house acted as a check on impulse buying and made sure that I: a) really wanted whatever it was; and b) had a use for the item.

Will I continue with a One In, One Out policy? I think I will, but I won't track the items quite so closely, instead I'll just have an In column and an Out column with checkmarks. If the In starts getting ahead of the Out, I'll know that that's not the direction I want to go! Though if I really want to end up with a neat and uncluttered house, my sister suggested I might want to adopt a One In, Two Out policy for awhile! I'll probably also need to work on organization. :)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Food Waste Friday

It's Food Waste Friday on Saturday for me this week! In part that's because I got home fairly late Friday night and didn't want to start cleaning the fridge and taking pictures. Since I'd been away for awhile I knew that there would be some waste. I tried to give perishable food away to friends before I left, but after I'd hit the road I knew I'd forgotten some. The other reason it's a day late is that I'm frankly ashamed of my picture this week. Next time I leave for an extended visit I have to do a better job of clearing the fridge before departure!

Featured above we have: rice (which I'd forgotten about or I could have used), Black Beans and Rice (which I'm really upset that I'd forgotten about because I definitely would have eaten it), pita strips, half a can of tomato juice (which I'd bought for a recipe and didn't end up using the second half in time), and.....a container of hummus. I don't blame you if you can't recognize the hummus, it definitely didn't have that colour or texture when I left! I don't feel super guilty about the hummus, someone had brought a huge platter to a party at my house, I used the leftovers at a barbeque the next day, and there was still this much left over.

I'd pledge that next week will be better, but that's not really saying much after this week! I'll also be spending some time at a friends house, so I'm making sure to not buy as many groceries for home this week.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Cut Back on the Television

For around three years now, our house has been without cable. Instead, we have an antenna that my husband made up in our attic, and that's what we use for our television viewing. I've often thought that since giving up cable I've been less likely to buy stuff we don't need - I'm one of those people who can't help but pay attention when the tv is on, no matter what else is going on. When we're over at friends, it's well know that if they want to share a secret they should just turn the television on and I'm completely zoned out! Though I always secretly thought that watching less television let me be a little more green (less electricity, less buying of stuff), I just finished reading an article showing that it could make me a happier person as well! Check out this article called Unhappy people watch TV.

I don't see us ever living completely without television, but I think our lives have been improved by having a few less channels to choose from. In general, all the shows we really want to watch are available over-the-air (who wants to live in a world without Mantracker?), but we're less likely to sit and flip through the channels randomly until we find a rerun that kills an hour. Statistics Canada has information about how much television Canadians watch here. The average for an adult female in Ontario is 24.7 hours a week or just over 3.5 hours a day. I know that when I'm visiting family with cable, I often spend at least that much time watching television, at the expense of quality conversation. On the other hand, when I'm at my house, I often end up watching less than an hour a day; instead I'm outside going for a walk with my husband, visiting friends, or reading a good book (or blog post). Would you want to go without cable? Without tv at all? How would your life be impacted? Next time you're flipping through the channels, if you don't see something that you really want to watch, try shutting the tv off and going for a walk, or catching up on your email correspondence, or reading up on that new whatever you've been wanting to read about.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Happy Birthday Dad!

Today was my dad's birthday, so we had the usual kind of party - family & food! How do you make a birthday a little greener? First of all, only buy presents that don't add to un-needed clutter. We all pitched in and got my dad a really nice set of knives. He does a lot of cooking, and so far he's been doing it with some less than optimal knives. With this set, he should be able to stop trying to replace his knives a bit at a time, and he shouldn't ever need another set. Far better than giving him a cool kitchen gadget like the Banana Saver and Banana Slicer.

We wrapped the knives in a reuseable (and reused) gift bag. I didn't get him a card (though my mom did). Part of that is that I'm being green (reduce....he's just going to recycle it a couple days later anyways), part of it is that I'm lazy, and part of it is that I'm saving the money! Honestly, most of it is the fact that he'll just pitch it a couple of days later...I rarely buy cards. I make exceptions only for people that I know really enjoy cards, and for weddings and showers where people use them to keep track of gifts received.

Love cards but still feel a bit guilty about the waste? Do what one of my friends does...her and her husband go out on Valentines and their anniversary and pick out cards for each other. They read them in the store and then leave them on the shelf. Or, get the cards but don't sign them. That way you can cycle them around year to year and only increase your stash when you find cards you absolutely love!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

What if Water Was Work?

Last week we went on a short trip to Maple Mountain, our entire trip log can be found here. So, if the trip has already been written up on the web, why am I writing here? I wanted to focus on the green nature of the vacation, and especially on water usage.

Compared to most vacations, canoeing and camping in a provincial park is pretty low on the resource usage. We actually tried this trip last year and had to turn around on the second day due to rough water on the Lady Evelyn lake....my DH agreed to turn around when I kept whimpering about being too young to end up in Davy Jones's locker. We came back this year, with a very important change (though a bit less green), we brought a motor to put on the back of our canoe! Now you might think that if I was really the Green Canadian, we'd be paddling that boat ourselves, avoiding any use of gasoline. Turns out we hate paddling, so after envisioning a watery grave last year as we fought the swells, we purchased an old 4 HP engine. Four horsepower goes a lot further a lot faster than two person power, especially when we were the two persons! The fact is, without the motor this year we wouldn't have made it any further than last year. I think they should rename Smoothwater Provincial Park to "Rough Enough to Beat Your Canoe Up Provincial Park", but I can see that it doesn't really have the same ring to it.

In an earlier post, I mentioned that our water usage at home is 130 litres per person per day, and the Canadian average is 329 litres per person per day. Our trip lasted for two days this time (successfully completed in two days!) and we brought in three litres of water with us. We filtered four more litres while we were out, bringing us to seven litres total, or 1.75 litres per person per day. That's 128.25 litres per person per day LESS than our average at home. All of that water was used for consumption. If we'd stayed out longer, we would have increased our consumption... it was pretty cool and overcast so we didn't drink as much as we would have on a nice sunny day.

I'm not advocating that anyone try to get down to 1.75 litres of water use...since we were only out for a couple of days, showering wasn't an issue, and obviously there were no flush toilets in the wilderness. I'm betting we can be more conservative as a society though. How much of the water we use is wasted because we didn't have to do any more work than turning on a tap? If we had to put effort into the water we use, would we let the shower run until we found the exact right temperature? Would we wash a shirt every time we wear it? Next time you're turning on the tap, think about whether your usage would change if you had to put some effort into acquiring the water.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Tightwad Gazette

I've been looking for a copy of The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn for awhile now. I finally found copies of The Tightwad Gazette II and III at a used bookstore recently (there are three compilations in total). If you haven't read any of The Tightwad Gazette, try taking it out from your local library. I warn you now that if you plan on reading it like a regular book, cover to cover, you'll probably be disappointed. The book is a compilation of a lot of newsletter articles, and some of them will be more useful to you than others. And some are just plain dated now (I don't need to know how to repair a VCR...do they even still sell VCRs?)

However, there are some timeless articles that show you another way to look at common household items. For example, I haven't bought myself any shaving cream/gel since the first time I read the Gazette. Instead, I use one of the giant bottles of cheap conditioner as shaving cream. Far less waste since a bottle lasts almost a year and I'm conditioned! She also runs through the numbers to find out what is frugal (cloth vs paper napkins for example...cloth won!), gives a few frugal recipes, and gives a ton of examples for how to reuse household items for other uses. One that I want to try someday (for a Hallowe'en or kids birthday) is to collect a number of toilet paper rolls (or small pieces of wood) and some yard. Tie a prize to one end of the yard, and the rolls to the other end. Toss the rolls all around the room, under furniture, around each other, etc. Each guest gets one roll and has to follow it through to the end, untangling it to get to the prize!

Is this a book I'd recommend you go out and buy? No, it's not for everyone - and not everyone will want to read the articles more than once. For me, one of the benefits of this book is that it keeps me aware of the reduce/reuse mentality and encourages me to try out some of the techniques. Plus, some of it's just plain entertaining to read. :) As I said earlier though, it's worth checking out from your library to see if anything inspires you.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Web Round Up

For the first time in what feels like ages I was able to go yard saleing this morning. Unfortunately I couldn't get a very early start on the day, so I didn't end up finding anything I wanted. My mother had much better luck, coming home with an entire box of children's books for only $3 - probably 30 or 40 books and a nice set of cloth napkins. I'll make the effort to get up a little earlier next weekend and see if I can get some more Christmas shopping done!

What have I been reading this week?

http://blog.canadian-dream-free-at-45.com/2009/07/10/green-spot-going-organic/ Canadian Dream talks about organic vs local and what works for his family. I've never tried local/free-range eggs, but I'm pretty sure there are some available at our local farmer's market. I'll have to check them out next week.

Feeling guilty about buying overpackaged, pre-made, convenience food but you really need the extra time in the evenings? This article shows that convenience food doesn't always save time. One of my friends recently tried Supperworks - I'll be interested to see how that works out for her in terms of time saving and cost per serving.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Food Waste Friday

No food waste picture for me this week! Of course, I can't take all the credit for that, I'm at my parents this week and there's no food in their fridge that needs to go. Looks like they're doing a good job of using up food before it goes bad. I tried to use up or give away the food in my fridge that I didn't think would last until I got back, but of course I remembered a few more items after I'd hit the road. I have a feeling there will be a picture next week. :(

Check out how the other bloggers tracking their food waste did this week at The Frugal Girl.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

No Space Gardening

One of the items on my list of wants when we were looking for a house was space for a vegetable garden. Unfortunately, the house we ended up buying had almost everything we wanted except room to garden. The yard is fairly small, but what really stops the vegetable garden is the fact that it's been highly landscaped (very attractively), with a lot of trees and shrubs. There's maybe a 3' X 4' plot in the exact middle of the yard that gets enough sun for a vegetable garden. This year, that's not stopping us! Our deck gets a fair bit of sun, so we have some container plants that are providing us with a few fresh veggies. Our neighbours gave us two tomato plants that they started from seeds, we planted a couple of potatoes that were sprouting in the basement, and my favourite is the four lettuce plants I bought at the grocery store and stuck in a pot.

Lettuce is one of those veggies that we really like to have some around for burgers and sandwiches, but find it really difficult to go through an entire head before it goes bad. The great thing about growing your own lettuce is that it doesn't go bad! We pick a leaf or two every time we need some and leave the rest on the plant to get bigger. So far, it's been over a month since we've bought lettuce in the store and the garden has kept us well supplied. Best of all, we haven't wasted any!

Container gardening is one eco-experiment I'll be doing again next year. Even living in an appartment in the city, container gardening would let you grow some of your own vegetables. It's great to be able to head out the backdoor (or balcony) to get some fresh tomatoes and lettuce whenever I want a sandwich. I'm not sure how the potatoes will work out yet - it's a fairly shallow container, but the plants are definitely growing. I'll have to wait until the fall to see how the harvest is. Next year, I think I'll add a handful of bell pepper plants to the collection.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Rush Hour Commuting

Every day last week I had to commute 44 km in the morning, and 44 km back in the evening. In the morning, I left early and the commute took about 45-50 minutes. In the evening, everyone left at 4:30 (we didn't have the option of staying late) and the commute took about one hour 30 minutes. For the most part, the morning commute wasn't too bad, though I had to get to work about 40 minutes ahead of time in order to avoid rush hour. Unfortunately there was emergency construction one of the days so my morning commute ended up taking an hour and half! It's not unreasonable to assume people may need to commute 88 km in a day, but averaging 35.2 km an hour is NOT a good, or green use of time. You have to assume that all those cars idling in gridlock on city streets and highways aren't helping in terms of smog or greenhouse gases.

So, what are our options for reducing commuting?
1. Move closer to work. A drastic solution, and one that only works if you have long term employment, and everyone else in your household works in the same area. You also need to be able to afford the housing in your employer's neighbourhood. Living closer to work means either a shorter commute, or the chance to walk or bike to work.
2. Take public transit. The ultimate in carpooling, public transit moves a large number of people for a smaller per person emissions rate. Unfortunately, public transit doesn't always go directly between where you need to be. If I wanted to take public transit last week, it would have required around four transfers, systems from 2-3 different regions and a couple of hours each way.
3. Carpool. This is particularly effective if you're working in the same spot for awhile. You can find other people in your office you live near your neighbourhood and commute together. I've used this method before, and the added benefit is that since a few of you are all depending on each other, you can't get too caught up in work and stay until late in the evening. Definitely a benefit for maintaining work-life balance!
4. Telecommute. If your employer lets you work remotely, there's no shorter commute than waking up and walking to the next room. Some jobs lend themselves easily to telecommuting (a lot of the tech industry) and some jobs guarantee telecommuting is not an option (teaching grade 6 for example).
5. Change when you drive. If you can avoid the rush hour times, it'll cut a huge amount of time out of your commute. There was a really interesting study in the Netherlands where commuters were given an incentive to avoid rush hour, and had up to date traffic information streamed to them so that they knew when or where they should drive. I can see why government might want to get in to changing driver habits...less rush hour means less congestion and less accidents, which can only be good! Of course, you need to know where the traffic congestion is in order to make informed driving decisions, which is why they now sell GPS with the ability to receive traffic updates (for a fee of course). Avoiding traffic is a pretty good reward for me, but I'd love to see my area start a reward system like this Dutch city!

Monday, July 13, 2009


For the next couple of days, I'm going to be on vacation. I'll have plenty of access to sparkling lakes and beautiful forests, but no access to the internet (or electricity or running water). Regular posting will resume on Wednesday.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Web Round Up

No real pattern to the articles I've been reading this week. Sometimes it's fun to just wander the web!

Ever heard of The Monkeysphere? Check out the article online and find out why some groups and organizations just seem to work better together and form a real sense of community. Also find out why when you break down with a flat tire at the side of the road it takes a lot of cars going by before someone stops by and helps.

The Energy Guy has articles on pretty much any electricity subject you want to know about. Some are definitely more American centric, like the solar stimulus package, but there's a lot of good information as well.

Finally, there's an article at Wise Bread on Things Wear Out. A neat way to evaluate your possessions and the way society has changed. I don't think I've ever known a tinker or cobbler, though I have gone to a tailor a couple of times.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Food Waste Friday

A pretty good week for low food waste! There's a couple slices of ham that I just didn't trust...I don't think ham is supposed to have an iridescent sheen. There's also a few slices of kielbasa; they don't look bad, but last time we had some my husband and I both got sick so I wasn't risking that again. I'm very happy that I managed to use up all the fruits and vegetables, I think I'm starting to make real progress with the food waste.

Check out the other bloggers participating in Food Waste Friday over at The Frugal Girl in her blogroll.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Meatless Meal - Lemon Basil Pasta

Due to the higher environmental cost of raising meat compared to vegetables, I'm trying for one meatless main meal a week. If I find enough of them that we really like, it could expand to multiple meals in a week. This week I tried a Lemon Basil Pasta dish from the Budget Confessions blog. I didn't have angel hair pasta, but spaghettini worked just as well.

The dish was easy to prepare and didn't take long at all. I served it with some grilled vegetables which added variety and had the added benefit of using up all the vegetables I thought could go bad by this week's Food Waste Friday! The portions near the bottom of the dish are definitely very lemony - I might use a bit less lemon juice next time. My husband liked this dish as much as the Black Beans and Rice, though I rated it a bit lower. We had some guests over while we ate, so I can tell you that the dish is kid-approved! The two and a half year old really liked it and ate everything on her plate. I think I'd like to try the Garlic Basil version discussed in the Budget Confessions comments, but this dish could get made again.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

How Low Can You Go?

Today our hydro, water and gas bills all came in the mail. This isn't as depressing as you might think, I like to check out our resource usage and compare against other months, and national averages.

Our average daily use: 11.51 kWh
Average Canadian household: 31.86 kWh
Average United States household: 30.71 kWh
Average European household: 12.79 kWh

As you can see, we're doing fairly well right now compared to the national average (just over 1/3), though I know there are people who do more. I think we've gotten to the point where if we make any more changes, we'll start seeing an impact on our lifestyle. So, why is our daily usage so much lower than the average? We use almost all CFLs in our lights (we have 46 lightbulbs in our house, I counted); we only have a couple that are the cold white light, or that take a few seconds to flicker on so we keep them in low usage areas. Our televisions and DVD players are attached to a power bar, and the power bar is turned off when they're not in use. This eliminates the vampire power still being consumed even when appliances are turned off. Our appliances are all fairly new, and all EnergyStar. And, last but not least, we turn things off when we're not using them! My laptop is fairly energy efficient, but it still uses 30 watts when it's plugged in, by unplugging the laptop when it's not in use I can save about 420 watts, or almost 0.5 kWh per day.

Electricity usage in Europe and the United States
Electricity usage in Canada

Our average daily use per person: 130 litres
Average Canadian: 329 litres
Average American: 380 litres

Again we're lower than the average, but I'm not honestly sure why. We shower regularly! We do try to make sure that we only run the dishwasher and washing machine with full loads. We do water our lawn, but we avoid overwatering. We have a low flow showerhead and a front load washing machine, but we haven't done anything else to conserve water.

Water usage statistics

Natural Gas:
Our annual usage: 1302 cubic metres
Average Canadian usage: 2700 cubic metres

Since natural gas usage varies widely by the season, I thought it was more useful to look at the annual usage - not too hard to do if you keep all your bills. Again, we're lower than the national average but not as dramatically. I'm sure the fact that we purchased a smaller house helped here, and the programmable thermostat we were given as a housewarming present means we don't heat the house while we're sleeping. It's also been helped along by my husband's insistence that if I'm cold, I should put on a sweater instead of making him miserably hot! :)

Have you ever checked your resource usage? How do you compare?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Busy vs. Green

This week I'm going to be a lot busier than I have been for the last little while. I'm leaving the house before 7 a.m. and fighting traffic, then fighting traffic again nine hours later (I hate traffic). So what happens when a busy life collides with green ambitions? Yesterday I noticed that green lost, being busy had a very un-green effect on my lunch. Instead of homemade lunch in reusable containers or on a plate, I packed a microwave meal. You know the kind - a food-like substance sitting on plastic, with plastic film, in a a waxed cardboard container. Even worse, it turns out there was no microwave where I was, so I ended up at Tim Horton's getting lunch served to me in bags :)

As I battled traffic on the way back home, I decided the next lunch would be greener. I'm not a morning person, so getting up even 15 minutes earlier to make a better lunch is not going to happen. For me, the key is going to be finding lunches I can make the night before in a minimal amount of time that will still taste good the next lunch hour. A quick trip to No Frills and I have the makings for some deli sandwiches, fruit, and a treat. The sandwich will be packed in a re-usable container (when you're making lunch the night before, don't put tomatoes on the sandwich, I learned this one the hard way!). The fruit is it's own container. The Ah-Caramels are individually packaged in plastic - too bad but still way better than eating out or microwave meals! If I'd planned better, I would have made a batch of cookies, or another batch of the Chocolate Peanut Squares that would have been ready for this week's lunches. I think I'll try to stock up on some homemade desserts (less packaging), of course then I'll have to store them in the freezer so that they don't get eaten right away!

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Unhealthy Truth Part II

This is Part II of my review of The Unhealthy Truth, written by Robyn O'Brien. You can read the first part of my review here.

After discussing her own story, and the 'allergy epidemic', the rest of the book is devoted to genetic engineering, chemicals in food and how to modify your diet to avoid the worst problem items.

The arguments for and against genetically modified foods are found throughout the rest of the book. O'Brien points out that in many other countries, food containing more than 1% genetically modified ingredients must be labeled as containing GM foods - unlike in the United States (or Canada) where no such labeling exists. She has a point in saying that consumers of GM foods are part of a giant, largely unregulated, science experiment right now, and that they should at least be made aware that they're participating! Though even if consumers decided that they didn't want to be eating corn that contains it's own pesticides, they may not have much choice. According to a USDA figure, 96% of the soy grown worldwide is genetically modified, 80% of the corn, and 86% of the US cotton crop. Throughout the book, interesting stories and tidbits of information can be found. For example, I didn't know that GM crops often have "yield lag" where the yield is actually less than that from traditionally bred seeds.

The Monsanto corporation is also sprinkled liberally throughout the book as one of the leaders in genetically engineered food, and other innovations in food technology. After reading about some of the connections between Monsanto, the FDA and the US government, it's no longer clear who is in charge of ensuring food safety. One of the big items talked about is Bovine Growth Hormone, or rBGH. Given to cows to help increase their milk production, rBGH seems to have a detrimental effect on the cows receiving it; resulting in more antibiotics and shorter life spans. From the book "cows hopped up on rBGH typically live for only about two years after they start receiving the drug. By contrast, cows who aren’t injected with rBGH live on for four to 10 years." Interestingly, milk is NOT something of which there is any shortage in the States, so rBGH increases the supply far beyond what the market can support - hence there are subsidies and some farmers are paid to dispose of their milk. This isn't a concern in Canada, the European Union, Japan, Australia or New Zealand - all of whom have banned the use of rBGH. The use or rBGH may be why milk is on some of the "must have organic" lists coming out of the States, but doesn't often show up on Canadian lists. Other food issues tackled are the use of artifical colouring and the preservative sodium benzoate in soft drinks, and a brief expose of aspartame. You can read about some of the articles she's quoting such as the Southampton Shocker and a three-part investigation of aspartame online.

The information on GM foods and food additives is interesting, but I was most interested in the easy ways to change my diet advertised by the book. Unfortunately, the book falls down in this area. She begins by suggesting that you start small, you don't need to go all organic, chemical free at every meal - which is a good tip. As she mentions, you can't let "the perfect be the enemy of the good". Her list of diet-changing tips includes things like "use half the powder in your package of KD" (eventually moving to real cheese) and "eat fresh vegetables". There are a handful of recipes, but I was hoping for more.

Is the book worth reading? I'd say yes, it's an interesting book, and well-written. I'd borrow from the library rather than buy it though, I don't think it's the kind of book you'll need to re-read or reference often. For those people who are suffering from food allergies or sensitivities, this book could change the way you look at food. In fact, you may not realize you have a food sensitivity until you try cutting out some of the common offenders mentioned. I'm going to make the effort to cut out artificial colouring (good thing I'm almost done the Lucky Charms!) and I'm already working to reduce my pop consumption.

For me, I think the most valuable piece of advice in the book is the list of tips on determining expert/study credibility. According to the novel, 100% of studies that were funded by the food industry found that aspartame was safe or had no detrimental effects on humans. Of the studies not funded by the food industry, 92% found one or more problems with aspartame. Numbers like this make me want to know the details behind the studies we see in the papers every week.

  1. Whenever you read or hear an "expert opinion", consider the funding source. Google the name of the doctor, organization, or medical institution and add one or more of the following terms: "disclosure", "speakers bureau", "grant", "consulting fee", or "funding".
  2. Insist on full disclosure. If the expert is not forthcoming in disclosing his or her funding, insist upon it. Take it up the chain until you get it from someone at his or her organization. Then share the information: on your Web site, with your friends, in your blog, in e-mails.
  3. When considering these experts and their opinions, weigh the influence that patents, royalty fees, speaking arrangements, television appearances, and the like might have on their reputation and financial success. ... Start to picture them like those race car drivers who have their sponsorships and endorsements blazoned across their uniforms.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Web Round Up

It's been a busy week around our house, two weddings and a baby shower! However, there's still been a few interesting articles from around the web this week. I think the first two in particular show the importance of really thinking about the moves we make to make our lives greener. Being labeled environmental or green doesn't always make something the best choice.

http://www.thegreenrepublic.co.uk/green-technology/eco-friendly-ipod-charging/#more-59 This guy is powering his iPod using an onion and an energy drink. He claims it's green because the onion is compostable and the energy drink bottle recycled. I'm not convinced that the energy used to grow and transport the onion, not to mention make the bottle, energy drink, transport to store and recycle the bottle is less than what would be required to create the small amount of electricity needed to charge an iPod. Cool, yes, but green? I doubt it (but if he's got hard data, I'd be willing to look at it).

http://southernfriedscience.com/2009/02/16/the-ecological-disaster-that-is-dolphin-safe-tuna/ A fascinating look at the effect dolphin-safe tuna has on the rest of the marine life. Not only is the article interesting, the commenters offer some well-reasoned responses.

http://blog.canadian-dream-free-at-45.com/2009/07/03/green-spot-selling-the-second-car/ I've often wondered about becoming a one car family. I'm not sure it's worth selling a car since neither of our cars are worth much, but it'd be interesting to run the numbers and find out if we could live on one car. I like that Canadian Dream is estimating about $4K to run his car, instead of the $9K suggested by other articles...I'm certain we don't spend $9K per car, even taking in the original cost of purchasing the car!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Food Waste Friday

Every Friday I'll be posting a picture of any food that's being thrown out in our house that week. Kristen at The Frugal Girl started Food Waste Friday a while ago. The idea is that by tracking the waste weekly you'll be more aware of the food you have and will hopefully remember to use it before it needs to be thrown out.

This weeks I've got a handful of leeks that I never got around to using and a few strawberries. I'm disappointed in the strawberries...they were from a local farm and I'd bought them for a fruit platter to serve at last Saturday's shower. A few days later, the ones in this container tasted like they'd been fermenting. :( Oddly enough, the other container is fine. The fruit and vegetables all went to the green bin, and the ziploc bag is the only garbage. I know some people wash out their ziploc bags, but it seems like a lot of work to me, and I'm sure you'd never get the smell of leeks out anyways!

This week I also made the Chocolate Peanut Squares from The Frugal Girl, and I guarantee you won't see a photo of them in next week's food waste! They're almost done already. If you like Reese Peanut Butter Cups, I highly recommend you try this recipe out.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Meatless Meal - Black Beans and Rice

Due to the higher environmental cost of raising meat compared to vegetables, I'm trying for one meatless main meal a week. If I find enough of them that we really like, it could expand to multiple meals in a week. Last week I tried a Macaroni and Cheese recipe that was ok, but lacking in flavour. This week I grabbed another recipe from the book Frozen Assets Lite & Easy, Black Beans and Rice. The dish took maybe 15 minutes to prepare, and just over an hour to cook. We had friends over for dinner that night, and I'll definitely be making this recipe again. Everyone enjoyed it! A few things I'd change in the preparation...stir the rice and beans about three quarters of the way through the cooking time, otherwise you end up with hard rice on the top layer. One of my friends also suggested crushed tortilla chips on top as a garnish, I'll definitely try that next time. I also doubled or tripled the cheese topping - I didn't measure but just grated until the top was well covered.

I'm rating it at four stars out of five. In fact, I'm going to make it again next week for the freezer to use up the rest of the tomato juice. I'll probably make two 8x8 pans instead of a 9x13 so that it's in meal sizes that better suit my family.

Black Beans and Rice

30 oz. black beans (drained and rinsed if canned)
20 oz. frozen corn kernels
2 cups long grain rice, uncooked
32 oz. salsa
3 cups tomato juice
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except the shredded cheese.
Pour into a 13x9 inch casserole dish; bake for 1 hour at 375 degrees.
Remove from oven. Cool, wrap with foil, label and freeze. Thaw when ready to cook (only if cooking for the freezer)
Sprinkle with shredded cheese and cook at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until cheese is melted and the beans and rice are heated through.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Happy Canada Day!

It's Canada Day, so not much of a post today, I'll be hanging out with friends and family. Possibly watching some fireworks later (if it's not raining I'll bike down to the park...I can probably bike home faster than the cars will get out of the parking lot!). Speaking of fireworks, check out this article about the environmental impact of fireworks. I'm not convinced this isn't scare-mongering journalism, but it's an interesting read. I've seen laser shows I've enjoyed just as much as some fireworks shows.