Monday, August 31, 2009

Rinse and Repeat

The first time I read a book which mentioned that my shampoo may not be all that green, I thought "I should look into that" and promptly forgot. Right now I'm reading another book (review to come) which has another large section on the impacts of shampoo on both the environment, and possibly on your body. This book talks a lot about the Precautionary Principle, which can be summarized as 'if you think it might have a bad impact, try not to do it'.

I don't have a favourite shampoo, but I pulled out the one currently in use, and here's the list of ingredients. I warn you now, there may be some spelling mistakes. I double checked, but most of those words aren't in my everyday vocabulary and spell check was no help at all!
  • water: nothing scary about this ingredient.
  • sodium lauryl sulfate: used to create lather, also in engine degreasers (higher concentration). May worsen some skin conditions, cause canker sores.
  • ammonium laureth sulfate: listed as very harsh in terms of shampoo use
  • sodium xylenesulfonate: a little disturbed when my search for this one took me too a pesticide database! Not a lot of information, but it's only slightly toxic.
  • acrylates copolymer: this search brought up a water treatment chemicals page. Harmful to skin and eyes contact.
  • sodium chloride: this is salt.
  • laureth-4: also called dodecyl alcohol, ethoxylated. Very harmful to marine life, but only a mild skin irritant for us.
  • dimethicone: makes hair shiny and slippery. Seems to have only moderate concerns for toxicity.
  • citric acid: Also found in pop.
  • butyrospermum parkii (shea butter) extract
  • hydrolyzed algae extract
  • cocamide mea
  • fragrance: Although not guaranteed, fragrance often means phthalates, possible endocrine disruptor
  • glycol disterate
  • sodium benzoate
  • polyquaternium-10
  • disodium edta
  • polyquaternium-6
  • methylchloroisothiazolinone
  • methylisothiazolinone
  • red 33
  • blue 1
Well, I was planning on looking up all the ingredients, but there were so many.... I think it's worth trying out some eco-friendly options. I might check out some of the local stores and do some online research. I think I can get used to the low-sudsing of shampoos without these chemicals, but it'll still have to prove itself good at cleaning hair! If anyone has suggestions...I'm all ears!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Meatless Meal - Chilean Dal

In an ongoing effort to decrease my environmental footprint, I've been experimenting with meatless meals. Meat uses up a lot more resources than vegetables/grains, so by decreasing my meat consumption I become more environmentally friendly!

The latest experiment is a Chilean Dal recipe that I found at The Simple Dollar. I give it maybe 2 stars out of 5. I made a few substitutions (I don't like cooked carrots, so I threw in some tofu and broccoli) and I just didn't have any cilantro. I found that the recipe made A LOT of food, even though Trent's version was already cut down from the version he first found. We had three adults for dinner, and I have enough for at least 3-4 more meals for myself (I doubt my husband will eat this). I have to admit I found the recipe to be disappointingly bland. The salt and pepper to taste help, but it needs something more. Hot sauce also helped. Maybe the addition of some curry paste, or a lot more onion and garlic. If I try this recipe again I'll try spicing it up a bit. I doubt I'll be cooking it anytime soon, I'm sure I can find other recipes that are more to my family's taste.

Trent’s Chilean Dal

1 cup of lentils
1 large red potato, chopped but unskinned
1 chopped carrot
2 chopped tomatoes
1/2 hot pepper, chopped
1/2 small onion chopped
1 clove garlic chopped
8 ounces tomato sauce (small can)
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tbsp beer or sherry
olive oil
1/8 cup chopped cilantro
salt and pepper

Night before:
1. Chop potato, carrot, tomatoes, pepper, onion, garlic, and cilantro.
2. Soak and cook lentils till soft. Drain and rinse, set aside.

Next day:
1. Sautee onions, garlic, hot pepper, and cumin in olive oil. Add beer or sherry.
2. Add vinegar, potatoes, and carrots, cover with water, bring to boil.
3. Add tomatoes and cook till potatoes are soft.
4. Add lentils and tomato sauce.
5. Salt and pepper to taste. Add more water or beer if it’s too dry, or add hot sauce if you like it spicier.
6. Throw in the cilantro, take if off the heat. Serve after a few minutes.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Food Waste Friday

For a while this week I thought I was going to be picture free. Then I started eating a couple of carrot sticks, got distracted, and left one out all night. After that I knew I'd have a picture of a carrot. But wait, there's more! While going through the fridge I found a container. Difficult to identify, but those fuzzy green things are in fact breadsticks. Obviously they've been around long enough that they would have qualified for an earlier Food Waste Friday. :) All in all, I'm not too disappointed, everything went into the compost instead of the garbage, and there wasn't that much even to go into the compost! Being publicly accountable for my waste, along with everyone else participating in Food Waste Friday with The Frugal Girl is really helping me stay conscious of our food, and inspiring me to use it up earlier. You can check out how the other participants did this week off the links at The Frugal Girl.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Exciting Times!

Sorry about no blog post yesterday, but things got exciting around here! I just finished teacher's college this past year, and had returned to work in industry since teaching jobs are hard to come by right now. Well, yesterday I was offered a full time teaching job! So I spent most of yesterday wandering around in a happy daze, and explaining to my current employer that even though I'd only been back for 2.5 weeks, I was going to be leaving again. They're being very good about it, letting me only work out a three day notice instead of the standard two weeks. Which is greatly appreciated since the principal of the school I'll be at would like me to be there on Monday to see the school and meet the teachers. School starts in just over a week, so I'd better get busy. :)

This morning I was taking care of signing my new contract, getting benefits, etc. And for the next couple of days I'll be pretty busy finishing up a couple of things at my current work, and transferring some project specific knowledge to the person who's taking over my project, so the posting is a little light. I did make a meatless meal, so I'll post about that on Saturday instead of my usual web round up. I'm hoping that Food Waste Friday will be a small post, but I can already think of one item I'll have to take a picture of this week. :(

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Small Step Back

Back in June I decided to give up pop, for environmental and health reasons. Since then I've noticed a lot more space in the recycling bins on garbage day, so it looks like it's been effective! Unfortunately, I fell off the wagon this week. For the past two days, I've had a gingerale with my meal. And the can is in the recycling.

I justified this decision since the pop was already in the house, I wasn't adding new waste. Definitely a rationalization. Which made me think that our environmental choices start well before the point of consumption. By creating rules for ourselves we can ensure that our environmental impact stays as low as we want it to go. This past weekend there was a GREAT sale on pop at a local store. I was tempted. I thought I could just pick up a few cases for when we had guests...just in case we needed them. I'm glad now that I remembered I'd given myself a rule about not buying any more pop! Without that rule I probably would have come home with 4-8 cases of pop, and I'm willing to bet that they wouldn't have stayed reserved for guests. Obviously I can't be trusted not to drink it myself if it's in the house. :)

The point here isn't that I'm not buying pop, and I'm not saying that you shouldn't buy pop. The point is that a while back I made a decision about the resources I wanted to consume, and came up with the arbitrary 'no buying pop' rule. And a couple of months later, when the novelty had worn off and there was a great deal to be had, that rule popped into my head at the right moment and made me really think about whether or not this purchase aligned with my values. So, take the effort out of making eco choices, and make up a couple rules that you'll live by (for the most part, unless you're having a party and really need some pop). So long as your rules don't kill your quality of life (like I will never buy anything that uses plastic), you'll be greener without having to think about being green.

PS: That's not to say I'll never ever buy pop again. If I'm having a party and know my guests would like pop, I probably will. But by only buying for a specific purpose, though I may pay more for the pop itself, I'll pay less in the long run, and use less resources since it won't get used up mindlessly.

Monday, August 24, 2009

One Small Step

I'm sure by now that everyone has seen some variant on the commercials that tell us to change one small item in our daily lives and we'll change the world. (If you haven't, you can check some out on YouTube here and here. ) I definitely believe that enough people making changes in their lives can have a profound impact on our resource usage. However, given the size of corporations, it makes sense that they can have an even greater immediate impact. Think about it, the building I work in is probably at least 80x larger than my house (with way more than 80x the computers!). I've switched to using a laptop at home, and it uses about 1/10th of the power of my old desktop. If the 3000 employees that work in the same building as me also switch to laptops that's a huge difference in energy consumption! If I raise my A/C by a degree, that has an impact. If my workplace raises the A/C by a degree, that's a much larger impact.

Now, corporations are not generally motivated by warm fuzzy feelings for the environment, with a few exceptions. There has to be a business reason to make changes to standard operating procedures, and it all boils down to money. The more money a business can make (or save), the more likely they are to implement a green change. And even with cost savings, it can take a while to change the status quo. Which is why I was surprised by something that happened while I was away at school. I've been back at work for two weeks now. Before I left, every two weeks a mail cart would come by and place a pay stub in the mail slot of all those 3000 employees. Most people would look at it and either shred it, or take it home to be disposed of later. I mean, who really wants to end up with 20 years worth of pay stubs hanging around? I admit that I was anticipating the pay stub cart when I received something even BETTER. An email pay stub! I'm not sure exactly when they made this change, but I'm happy to know that there is no more paper being used for pay stubs. Unless of course you're one of those people who prints out your emails to file them. If you are...stop now! Save the files on your computer and make regular backups, but stop printing emails!

Them having made this change makes me think I should look into those little flyers some of my bills send me, the ones that say I can receive my bills online and never get mail from them again. After all, if a corporation can go paperless (or more paperless), I ought to be able to make strides in that direction as well!

PS: As of yesterday, I'm 20% done my 1000 empties challenge!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Web Round Up

After a few weeks of not having many interesting articles to post, there's been a lot to read on the web this week!

No Impact Man is the blog of a guy who went for a year trying to make no impact on the earth. He also has a movie coming out soon. Today's article is an interesting look at how overwork can create blues, which may in turn lead to overconsumption.

Montreal now has a public bike sharing system. I'm not sure how it's going to work out, but it'll be interesting to watch the results.

When I cooked for the freezer, I mentioned that I'd like to try once a month cooking. Here's a Five Day Freeze plan for those who are having a hard time with once a month cooking (like me).

Despite not understanding Portugese, the ad campaign this post highlights is worth watching. Basically the argument is that if you pee in the shower, you can save the rainforest! The comments on this article are as interesting as the article.

I left the most controversial to the end...MacLean's magazine recently published The Case Against Having Kids. One of the reason's they mention is the environmental impact that more people have on the planet. There's actually a group taking this further, promoting the voluntary extinction of the human race. Not a group I'm planning on joining. This article promoted a lot of response in cyberspace, including a post called Children Are Worth Having. I wish that some of the responses had focused on the environmental impact of children....with used furniture/clothing and cloth diapering opportunities, the eco-impact doesn't have to be as severe as the first article implies. Maybe that's a post for another day!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Food Waste Friday

Though blogging about my food waste is making me more conscious, and making me try to use up food before it goes bad, sometimes that's just not enough.

Here we have a peach. I knew it was going bad, but I just couldn't bring myself to eat it, it wasn't a very flavourful peach. :( Though it's not in the picture, for the last couple of days I've been carting a pear back and forth to work - I just hadn't eaten it with my lunch. Inspired to avoid waste, I took it out for lunch today. Apparently I was too late to avoid waste....if you'd seen it you wouldn't have eaten it either.

On a related note, ever wonder how fruit flies show up as soon as fruit goes bad? I'd guarantee they weren't in the house, but once the peach went, they showed up! From this article I learned you should definitely pitch any fruit that's going, larvae can happen fast! I also learned that those little flies can live on just the fumes of alcohol. I still don't want them in my house, but you have to admit that's a pretty neat trick!

You can check out the other participants in Food Waste Friday over at The Frugal Girl.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Meatless Meal - 'Spaghetti'

Time for another meatless meal (so long as you use meat-free sauce)! This one is probably the easiest no-meat main dish you could make. I got the idea for The Biggest Loser cookbook which had a similar recipe (though they probably didn't put as much parmesan on their plate as I did on mine).

1 Spaghetti Squash
1 Jar pasta sauce, or homemade

First you need to cut the squash in half, lengthwise and hollow out the seeds. At this point the squash looks nothing like spaghetti, which made me worry I'd bought the wrong kind the first time. No worries! It'll look like spaghetti later.

Next, place each half cut side down on a cookie sheet. Cook in the oven for 30-45 minutes at 350 degrees, or until the squash is soft when you poke it with a fork. Make sure you're poking the inside of the squash, not the skin or you'll end up overcooking (I speak from experience here).

Take the squash out of the oven, use a fork to scrape the squash into a bowl. This is where it looks like spaghetti. It's also a bit watery so you may want to drain after scooping.

Place squash on plate, spoon some sauce over the squash and you have an acceptable substitute for spaghetti.

I served this with some fresh green beans and garlic bread, which were great complements to the squash. I enjoyed the meal, and so did my guests. In fact, one of them even asked me how I got the pasta to be so translucent! I can see this being made at my house again, though probably not very often since my husband believes squash were not meant to be eaten. I felt the same way, but this doesn't taste too much like squash, more like whatever sauce you use.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Rebates go Ungreen

A few months ago we purchased some computer equipment that came with a mail-in rebate. Being the frugal types that we are, we sent in the mail in rebate and waited for the cheque to come in. Now, you could argue that rebates themselves are un-green since they require you to mail in some paper, and then they mail you back some paper. You could definitely make an argument that it would be more eco-friendly for the manufacturer to just do something crazy, like lower the price of the product, and avoid the whole hassle of a rebate process. You'd be right! I'm sure manufacturers have many reasons to offer rebates. I'm equally sure that one of the reasons is that people buy the product and they forget or can't be bothered to send the rebate in. I can't really blame the manufacturer for that...they're letting people get some money back, but with a decent chance that they can keep some of the money after all. It's a good situation for them. And really...we're not using up that much of anything to mail in a piece of paper and get another piece of paper back. Paper comes from wood, and wood is renewable! They could be doing worse things.

Oh wait...they are doing worse things now! Instead of the expected cheques in the mail, we received a couple of rebate cards that look like Mastercards. Yep, plastic cards with a tiny amount of money on them that we must spend at a merchant. And not just any merchant, but one that will accept these rebate cards. Despite the fact that they look like Mastercards, not everyone will accept them (most will). So now instead of money in the bank that we can save up for something, we have two more cards to carry around waiting to be spent (didn't take us long actually...our grocery store accepts them). Why would a manufacturer do this? What happened to all the green hype about corporations wanting to be eco-friendly? How can sending us plastic cards, along with 2-3 pages of cardholder agreements be less expensive than sending a cheque? Maybe it has something to do with the diabolically small print on the back of one of the pages. The one that says that after 12 months there will be a $3.50 per month Account Maintenance Fee, a 3.00% per transaction International Transaction Fee and a $9.95 per incident Plastic Replacement Fee. So, if you get one of these anti-green rebate cards, make sure you use it up quickly. I'm not sure how to convince companies they should go back to the cheque method, but I'll be emailing our companies thanking them for the rebate, but expressing disappointment in the method of payment.

Thanks to Andres Rueda for posting the above picture on flickr and allowing its use.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Creeping DeCluttering

I really like having a clean house, but *really* hate cleaning. It's just overwhelming to try to clean the whole house at a time. Unfortunately, clutter seems to multiply itself. You throw the mail on the dining room table one day, and the next thing you know, you're back to this.

Luckily for my house and myself, An Exercise in Frugality recently posted about Decluttering a Drawer. I decided I'd start off with my dresser. Here it is before:

After about 15-20 minutes (I'm not a fast cleaner) it was looking like this:

Now, that's great for me and my dresser, but what does it have to do with being green? Mostly this helps reduce product usage. With a clean, organized space you're less likely to buy random junk and clutter up your area. You have a specific need, and know where you're going to store your purchases BEFORE you make the purchase. There's also the fact that when you know what you have, you're less likely to buy duplicates. For example, it turns out that there was an open package of Halls on my dresser. Buried. I didn't realize that, so I went and got another (I have a cold right now).

It turns out that decluttering can also multiply itself. I was happy with the way the dresser turned out, and the next thing I knew I was putting away the pile of clothes that always accumulates right beside the dresser (ok, it was a couple of days later). Next I think I'll tackle the pile of sewing repairs off in a corner, some of which have been there for an embarrassingly long time!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Is It Green?

I was heading to a party this past weekend and wanted to bring a gift that would be cool and green at the same time. After a bit of thought, I decided on a cut fruit basket...what could be greener than fruit, even if it does have to travel a little bit? I thought this way I'd avoid adding clutter and stuff to someone else's house. But was it really a green gift? When I picked it up, this is what I was given.

I was a bit disappointed in the amount of wrapping and packaging, but the cardboard is recyclable, and I understand that as a business, if you're sending someone home with cut fruit you'd like it to be covered in plastic.

Here's the basket ready to eat...looks pretty green, right?

Unfortunately, this company skewered all the fruit on plastic rather than wooden skewers. And they're stuck in some kind of florist's foam block to keep them standing upright. However, the fruit tasted great, the basket looked great, and with a few small changes I think this could be a really green gift. To make these baskets at home I think all you'd need would be: fruit, melon baller, funky cookie cutter.

Option 1:
Cut the fruit into cool shapes, stick them on a wooden skewer (renewable resource) and use the same kind of foam block and basket as above. Green savings: plastic wrap, cardboard box, plastic skewers. AND the foam and basket are reusable if you're making them for your own party.

Option 2:
This one came to me as I was writing the article, trying to get rid of the foam and basket. At first I thought of just putting the skewers in a vase, but realized the skewers would probably fall in, especially as their numbers dwindles as people ate the fruit. Then I realized you could stick the skewers in some RICE KRISPIE SQUARES! Since you can shape Rice Krispie squares into about any shape you'd like, you could create any number of funky shapes for your skewers. I'd probably start off with just a big rectangle and make a garden of fruit flowers. Green Savings: plastic wrap, cardboard box, plastic skewers, foam block, basket. The only thing that wouldn't be edible would be the wooden skewers, and they're a renewable resource. I can see myself using this option the next time I have a party! :) Extra bonus: no danger of collecting a lot of different baskets in your basement.

UPDATE: I've been told that what I thought was foam was in fact a head of lettuce holding the skewers upright. I love that!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Web Round Up - Comics!

I haven't done a lot of reading on the web this week, but there were a couple of cute comics that were kind of environmental today. I like to keep up with a few comics on :)

I also found a listing of "The Best Green Blogs" from Canada that I'd like to check out.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Food Waste Friday

Alas, my streak is at an end. I was hoping to have another photo free week for Food Waste Friday, but when I went downstairs to get some onion for a sandwich I found out there was definitely going to be food waste this week.

Here we have most of a bag of onions that have gone soft and mushy. And kind of brown on the inside. I salvaged a couple, but the bag was a goner. I didn't think they were that old, but I made the classic mistake of storing my onions near the potatoes, which may have contributed to the speed of going bad.

I almost had some vegetable to add to the photo today, but a timely post at The Simple Dollar reminded me that I should throw leftover vegetables into a freezer container and just make a soup when it gets full. We'll see how that works out. :) I also managed to use up the last of the mushrooms and green onions today, inspired by the fact that I didn't want to take a picture!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Cooking for the Freezer

Sometimes it's just easier to order out for pizza than it is to cook a meal when you get home from work. Unfortunately, getting it's hard to be green while you're eating takeout - all the containers and driving to deliver the food really add up. Luckily, there's a greener solution that doesn't take much time or effort at all!

Today when I got home from work I started making Black Beans and Rice for dinner (meatless meal!). The recipe says to use a 9x13 pan, but I decided to use a couple of square pans and have one for dinner and one for a future dinner in the freezer. I also doubled the recipe for two more trays to go in the freezer. Here's my trays as they're about to go into the oven.

It takes hardly any more time to put double the ingredients in the bowl, and helps green my life in a number of ways.
1. Cooking all of them at once means that I'm using one hour worth of oven time once instead of 2 or 4 times.
2. Packaging the other 3 trays for the freezer keeps my freezer closer to full, and a full freezer is a more efficient freezer.
3. Next time I'm tempted to just order out for pizza, I can pull one of these out of the freezer. It'll be ready in about the same amount time as ordering out and no takeout containers! And if it's just DH and I eating, we'll have enough for lunch the next day as well. :)
4. Since I doubled the recipe, I won't have to throw out half a can of tomato juice again!

Make sure you let the extra servings cool before you put them into your freezer - no sense in making your freezer work extra hard by throwing them in right away. Since I was planning on eating one for supper, I let the other three cool while the dinner portion cooked the additional 20 minutes with cheese, and while we ate. By the time we were finished, the other three were cool enough to make their way to the freezer. It's a good idea to label the dishes before you freeze them. I wrapped them in tinfoil, but ideally I'd like to get glass containers that have a nice permanent rubber/plastic lid that would go in the freezer and just get removed for the re-cooking. Someday I might even try the Once a Month Cooking plan, but for now I'll just increase my freezer slowly by doubling recipes as I make them!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

All the Cool Kids are Doing It

It's official, green is the new cool. If you need the proof, check out the number of contests now available that let you show off y

Count Me In Ontario (Ontario only). This one rewards municipalities that have the largest percentage drop in power consumption, or the largest per capita participation. In this case, participation means signing up on the web site. Your community has to have signed up as well. Even if you don't sign up, there's a list of 100 ways to reduce your energy usage, it's a good reminder list - I do 28 of them, and there's a lot that aren't really applicable for everyone.

There are also two other contests linked from the same site, a Fridge Relic contest and Home Power Saver contest.

A quick google search yields a few more contests. If you happen to live in Okotok (somewhere near Calgary), you can enter the B Green 4 Green contest to win $1000. Industrial Alliance customer? Go paperless for the chance to win a laptop. Ontario, Alberta and Nova Scotia residents can win a ceiling fan from Living Lighting.

Actually, entering online contests can be a fairly green hobby since there's no stamps or letters required, so long as you actually want the prizes! It's not green for me to win a year's worth of cat food if I don't have a cat. One good spot to find green contests is the Contest Girl website, which lists this contest to win green windows if you're a resident of the US.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Local Cider!

Farmer's markets are great in the summer for helping you to Eat Local, but what about drink? Sure, tap water is local, but sometimes you'd like to drink something other than water. If you like beer or wine there are a multitude of local choices for Ontarians. Unfortunately I don't really like either beer or wine. :( What I do like is a nice cider, like Strongbow (England), Blackthorn (England) or Bulmers (Ireland). As you can see from the brackets, my drinks have come a long way to get to my glass.... which is why I was so excited last time I was at the liquor store to see that the cider section has expanded!

Most of the ciders are still from across the ocean, but I brought home a bottle of County Cider from Picton, Ontario, and a bottle of Clos Saint-Denis Bourg from Quebec. Both were excellent ciders, but the County Cider is a bit more economical. The web page for County Cider also shows an ice cider, which I'm interested in trying out someday. While I was writing this article I discovered that you can also search the LCBO inventory to see if your store has particular products in stock. I thought this was pretty cool. For example, here I found that there's an LCBO not far from my work that has a Quebec cider I'd never even heard of, so I might have to stop by on my way home sometime. I wonder if you can use this product list to ask your local store to order in products they don't have on hand - an easy way to help you drink local!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Book Review: Green Chic

I've recently finished reading Green Chic: Saving the Earth in Style written by Christie Matheson. So, what's the book about?

The book is broken down into eight basic sections, each dealing with going green in a particular area of your life. As you might guess from the title, the author is mostly focused on living a stylish life, and how it really is stylish to be green, and how being green can make you more stylish.

The first section focuses on Little Green Things, and I have to say I almost put the book down after reading this area. If you've never had a green thought in your life, the suggestions might be valuable for you. Personally, 'turn off the lights when you're not using them' didn't add to my repertoire of green tricks.

The next section is Home, Green Home which definitely got a bit better. Along with the standard advice of using green cleaning products (she suggests Method, Mrs. Meyer's and Planet as the manufacturers), the author really gets into what the ingredients in standard cleaners do to both us and our environment. She goes through a few different areas in the home, and I may try out using handkerchiefs instead of tissues (organic cotton or hemp). I've thought about handkerchiefs before, and this book reminded me that I was interested in them as an alternative to Kleenex! The most informative part of this chapter is where the author details the different types of plastic, what they are, and why we should (or shouldn't) use them. The little number inside the recycling symbol tells you a lot about the plastic, and doesn't necessarily mean you can actually recycle the item. Basically, stay far away from anything that has a 3, 6 or 7 in that little symbol. Definitely avoid anything with the number 3 which is polyvinyl chloride, it's very resource intensive, lots of toxic chemicals, and most recycling facilities won't accept it. There's a few more sections on decorating which would be a great read before starting any small renovations.

Next section is dining and drinking, and the author weighs in heavily on the side of buy local, buy organic. If you have a choice, start with local then try organic. According to her, "the average food item travels about 1,500 miles before it arrives on your plate". The numbers may be a little different for Canada vs the States, but that's a lot of miles, and the food loses nutrition as it travels. She also mentions that meatless meals are far less resource intensive, and to stick with as much unprocessed food as possible. It seems that 17 000 new food products are on the market every year....I doubt there are 17 000 more vegetables or animals discovered every year, so I bet that's a lot of processing!

The next two sections are focused on looking good. Hello, Gorgeous and Green is the New Black deal with makeup, skincare and clothing. I was interested in the list of makeup and hair care ingredients, but I'm not sure yet if I'll be making the effort to switch to green this case the cost differential may be too high, I'll have to look into it more. The clothing section was interesting to me since it is one of the only places in the book that actually suggests getting rid of what you have. The author figures you should "edit your closet" so that you only have items that you love to wear. This lets you get dressed in awesome clothes in the morning, avoids you buying duplicates since you already know exactly what you have and gives you pretty stringent requirements for new clothes - they have to look and feel great, and be green. She gives a list of designers that use eco-friendly fabrics, suggests where to get great vintage clothing and goes over some of the worst fabrics to buy (cotton is bad, wool is better but still heavily treated). This gives me the excuse I wanted to go check out an alpaca sweater...I love the soft feel of the alpaca wool! Jewelery is extremely resource intensive (mining) which I'd never really thought of before. There are jewelers out there who specialize in using recovered metals that are reshaped into modern jewelery...something I'll definitely check out if I need any new items.

Getting Around deals primarily with everyday transportation (try to avoid cars) and travel. She suggests trying to avoid destinations that are anti-green like Las Vegas, and to travel light whenever possible - just a carry on would be ideal. Also try to avoid souvenirs you don't really need/want in favour of truly thoughtful items, or just take a picture. If you don't drive a lot, but don't want to be entirely without a car, a car sharing program such as zipcar could be for you. It's similar to renting, but only available for members and you can get hourly rates in addition to daily. Currently the only Canadian cities participating in zipcar are Toronto and Vancouver, but there may be other car-sharing programs. For that matter if you truly don't drive much, a car rental might be cheaper than buying the car and paying insurance for all those days it's sitting in your driveway! If you do have a car, make sure you keep it maintained so that you get the best mileage possible.

The final two sections, On Occasions and Big Green Things mostly recap suggestions from elsewhere in the book. Basically, use less stuff, don't waste, buy local, avoid synthetics, etc..

Is the book worth reading? It's not bad, though the tone sometimes seems very superficial. Avoid the first section and you should be able to get enough good information to justify borrowing it from the library. I don't think I'd buy this book, or keep it on my bookshelf permanently, but reading it is a great reminder of where I should be looking to green my life.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Web Round Up

I'm preparing to go back to work on Monday after more than a year off to pursue some schooling. Coincidentally, here's an article from a personal finance blog I read that talks about a corporate culture, and how to create that "culture of excellence" in your own work and home life. The section on High Performance really resonated with me. I find if I'm surrounded by people who are dedicated to being green and frugal, it's a lot easier for me to be green and frugal as well.

Other interesting articles from around the web: Just because something's in the environment doesn't mean it should stay there! Sometimes it's green to uproot plants or kill off invasive species. This reminded me of when we visited New Zealand a few years ago...the stoats were brought in to kill off the rabbits that were introduced, but instead went after the native flightless birds to the point of extinction and endangerment. And somehow people still think it's a good idea to introduce new species to the eco-system.... A fairly well written article discussing how consumerism impacts the environment.

And finally, I've started reading ToSimplify, a blog about a guy who has just transitioned from apartment dwelling to living in a camper van (he's on day 3 now). This is the second blog I've started reading about someone living in an RV (Early Retirement Extreme also lives in an RV). I think my husband's getting worried! :)

Friday, August 7, 2009

Food Waste Friday

Note the absence of a picture....that's right, no food waste for me again this week!! It's been helped by the fact that since we've been doing some traveling I've had to really plan meals. (and the fact that we've not been home all the time). I did notice we have some produce that needs using up soon, so when I went to the store today I got enough other ingredients to make up a stir-fry for dinner. I haven't found anything that uses up vegetables like a stir-fry can. : )

I'd like to start organizing the cupboards and the freezer, but I'm a little worried about what I might find and ending up with some food waste! I'd better get to it soon though...ignoring the cupboards and freezer won't make the food in them get any fresher.

Check out how the other bloggers did with food waste over at The Frugal Girl. If you'd like to participate, just post your photo on your blog and link via The Frugal Girl.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Green Car Repair

A couple of days ago my car was broken into while we were hiking on the Bruce Trail. The vandals broke my front passenger window, but didn't take anything (there was nothing of value in the car). Obviously we couldn't keep driving the car with no passenger's not secure, not to mention noisy, and cold (especially once December rolls around). We took this opportunity to run a green experiment and get used parts from the junk yard. My husband has a friend who's fixing up an old car, so we knew of a junk yard not far from our house. Neither of us is into cars, but we figured it's worth a shot...and even if we couldn't repair it ourselves, we might be able to avoid buying new parts.

The experiment was an unbridled success, and has definitely changed the way we look at car repairs! And Google is an excellent resource for figuring out minor repairs. : ) We got to the junkyard and actually found a car the exact same year and model as mine. We probably could have used parts from other years or models, but remember, this was our first time in a place like thus...I have to admit it is a little intimidating. Our target car was on top of another vehicle, but that just made it a little trickier to get the window out.

We took the passenger window out (after a bit of time with some tools trying to figure out how to disassemble the door...another benefit of going to a junkyard, you get some practice before trying anything on your own car! While we were there, we also picked up the heater/blower since my fan sporadically stops working. When I came home from playing Ultimate Frisbee (where I sprained my finger so I'm typing all this with 6 fingers), my car had a working blower and an intact window! DH said it was a bit tricky getting one of the screws back in, but there's a real sense of satisfaction from knowing that you can fix your own car (new skill!).

So...we fixed the car in an environmentally friendly way, and we saved some green! The mechanic quoted $280 to replace the window in my car. The junkyard charged $38 for the window. Savings of $242...not bad for a half day's work! This doesn't include fixing the blower since I didn't have a quote. The blower cost us an additional $25. The next time we have a small car repair, we'll definitely be using the junkyard. We'll probably try the u-pull section again since it lets us experiment on taking the car apart, but they will also pull the part for you (for a small fee). If you have a number of parts you need, the one near us was having an 'all you can carry out in one armload' day for $50 this weekend. We decided to just go today since we were new to the whole junkyard experience and it's probably pretty busy on those days.

Next time you have a car repair, think about getting used parts - even if you get them to pull the part and your mechanic to install. You're still eco-friendly, and you'll probably save some green as well!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

B.Y.O.T. (takeout)

I like to go out for dinner every now and again, and since we were out hiking yesterday, it seemed like a good day to go out. Also, we were at a B&B so it was either go out for dinner or eat hiking food in our room - go out for dinner was the much better choice. When we go out for dinner, it's highly likely that there will be leftovers...and there should be with the portion sizes given out by most restaurants! East Side Mario's was having a special where you could buy any pizza for $9.99 with the purchase of a beverage. Since both small and regular size pizzas were in the deal, I picked up the regular vegetarian (really, really good if you happen to be going). Now, I found the nutrition information online, and my pizza would have had 1080 calories. According to this site, I need to consume 2095 calories a day to maintain my weight (really, I should look at maybe dropping the 5 lbs I gained while vacationing!). Since I do eat two other meals in a day, and we snack while hiking, eating 1080 calories for dinner is overkill...not to mention I would have been way too full to enjoy the evening.

So...did I get some lovely styrofoam takeout containers? No! How anti-green would that be? Since I knew I'd be going out for dinner, I brought a couple pieces of reusable plastic containers with me and put the leftovers in them. Added bonus...I didn't have to wait for my takeout containers! For those of you who worry about others putting your food away, this takes care of that as well. And since you're already carrying a trendy cloth bag with you, you can just slip your takeout into your bag. (Ok, maybe my bag isn't that trendy, but yours might be) This was my first time bringing tupperware to a restaurant, but I'll definitely continue. It's easy, convenient, and I'm saving the world by reducing the amount of plastic and styrofoam needed!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Vandalism is NOT Green

Today I was hiking along the Bruce Trail - a fairly green hobby. We were doing 19 km today, so we dropped a car off at one end of the trail, and we all drive back to the beginning of the trail in the other car. That way, once we're finished hiking we can hop in the car we left, pick up the other car, and get on with our evening. Normally this works really well. Today, after a long day of hiking we got back to the car left at the end of the trail; today that was my car. As we neared the end of the trail I spotted my car and got all excited....there's nothing like seeing your car at the end of a long day of hiking...the end is literally in sight! As we switched out of our hiking boots and got ready to drive back to the other car, this is what greeted us on the passenger side.

Yes, as we innocently left our car in the designated parking area, on a busy road, at an intersection with a busy rail trail, someone decided to take a rock and smash it through my front passenger window. Which really sucks to come back to. They opened the glove box, and moved my hair band from a cup holder. That's it - except for the broken window of course. Frankly, I have no idea why they bothered breaking the would have been pretty obvious from looking inside that there was nothing of value. And I do mean nothing...probably the map book was the most expensive thing in the car. However, I'm EXTREMELY grateful that this didn't happen yesterday when my in-laws car was parked there...with all their clothing, and my laptop bag.

So, the only thing I need to replace is one window. In terms of being eco-friendly, obviously it would have been better to keep using my original window. Since that's no longer an option, grr...still kind of mad at the person(s) who broke my window, we're going to go the next most eco-friendly route. Instead of buying a new window, we're checking at the auto wreckers to see if we can pick up a used window and my husband will either install it himself or we'll bring it to the mechanic's. So now, I'm going to continue trying to get ahold of my insurance to see if I'm covered at all, and wait for the police to come see my car for the official report. But I'm still feeling pretty cheerful, and the owner of the B&B we're at has actually just told me that he put some clear plastic up on my car window in case it rains. It's nice dealing with small business owners instead of giant corporations!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Buy Local vs Buy Organic

There's been a huge increase in the buy organic movement in the last few years. Even my local discount grocery store has a fairly comprehensive organics section. Everyone has different reasons for buying organic, but the most common are health (decrease the amount of chemicals consumed) and the environment (eliminate the chemicals used in the production process).

The other major green purchasing movement is to buy local. When buying local, you're not as concerned with organics, you're looking to minimize the distance your goods travel to get to your plate or house. Farmer's markets and craft shows are good sources for local food and goods. It's often difficult to tell where something has been manufactured if you're buying from a larger chain store. local or buy organic? I think that to get the most eco-bang for my buck, I'd like to try buying more local goods. I think that the resources used to transport goods between continents (and sometimes to transport the raw materials away and the finished goods back) has a larger impact on the environment than the difference between organic and non-organic products. Ideally, you can get local and organic.

When I was at the farmer's market a couple of weeks ago I picked up the card of a local beef farmer. Another benefit of buying local is that you can talk to the actual farmer or manufacturer. For example, this farmer isn't certified organic (that's pricey and takes a long time) but when you talk to him, you find out that his cows are hormone and antibiotic free and fed on all natural feed. I'd like to try buying a quarter of beef and have that last us through the year. We'll have the satisfaction of knowing that our beef has only traveled about 40 km to get to us, and as an added benefit, it should be less expensive that if we were buying certified organic meat. In order to take advantage of this local beef offer, we need a deep freezer (already have one) and we need space in the deep freezer - I'm betting a quarter of a cow takes up some space! Over the next couple of months I'm going to make a real effort to organize our deep freeze and use up some items to make space for the beef. It's probably a good idea to organize the deep freezer anyways....less chance of something ending up in a Food Waste Friday photo is I can keep track of what's in there.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Food Waste Friday

No picture, and no food waste this week! My first no-waste week (hopefully of many!). The post is a day late again this week because we were having such fun on vacation we decided to stay an extra day. We actually almost had a No Food week. About an hour outside of town I realized I'd forgotten to pack the hamburgers and hotdogs that were supposed to be some of our dinners. After we got there, and were talking about the planned steak dinner, DH asked where the steak was...turns out I'd forgotten to pack it as well! Good thing we caught some fish, and there was a grocery store not too far away.