Friday, March 27, 2009

Turning out the lights to fight Climate Change : Earth Hour 2009


EARTH HOUR - SATURDAY 28, 2009 - 8 H 30 P.M.

"Earth Hour is a symbolic event. Turning off our lights for an hour won’t stop climate change but it does demonstrate that our individual action is important and adds up to make a big difference. More importantly, it sends a very powerful message to government and world leaders that people want policies and regulations put in place that can achieve meaningful emission reduction to help fight climate change." - www.wwf.ca

Hi everyone!

So, this is something I'm proud to be a part of this year and I invite everyone to join in! Last year, 30 countries participated and over 150 coties across the globe signed up. In Canada alone, 10 million people turned off their lights in a planetary stand, sending a message to everyone that Climate Change and Global warming is something we all play a part in and have to work to overturn.

IT'S JUST ONE HOUR!

At 8 h 30 p.m., turn off the light and light some candles. What are we doing? My friends and I are coming together at my house and having a chess tournament by candle light... I have a feeling it may last longer than an hour for us! LOL!
What will you do?

SIGN UP!

In Canada, you stand a chance to win a Trip for 2 to Chruchill Manitoba to go visit the Polar Bears. Did you know that only 25,000 polar bears are left on earth? Multiple countries are banning together to try and finally put them on the endangered list. Here is a wrap up of the effects of global warming on the polar bear population according to Nature Canada :

"Global warming is melting the polar ice caps, robbing polar bears of the ice floes they need to hunt prey. As the annual sea ice melts, polar bears are forced ashore to spend their summers fasting. If the Arctic ice cap continues to melt sooner and form later, polar bears will become too thin to reproduce and they will become extinct by the end of this century.

The polar bear's home – the Arctic – is experiencing the effects of global warming more than any other place. Temperatures in the Arctic are rising at almost twice the rate of that of the rest of the world, and this is threatening to place the entire Arctic ecosystem in jeopardy.

Arctic sea ice is shrinking by what appears to be a greater rate every year – sea ice that not only provides hunting ground for polar bears, but shelter and transportation for seals, walrus, arctic foxes, and the Inuit people. The underside provides a surface for algae that support cod, char, beluga, and narwhal. The white sea ice also has a cooling effect on climate by reflecting light away from Earth's surface. As it melts, the global warming advances even more quickly. "

SO PLEASE TAKE A STAND WITH US!
Share with me your thoughts and ideas and please join us on satruday night!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Mission Playground : Great sustainable clothes at low prices!

What started out as a graphic T-shirt shop with a message in southern California in 2003 as turned into a wonderful venture into promoting environmental and sustainable fashions and philosophies.


If you are like me, you've been trying to not only eat better and have better habits in your home, but you've been trying to include your developing green ethics into everything you do : Including how you dress! Well I have recently discovered an amazing California company that has original, fun, eco-friendly and fair-priced fashion.

They pride themselves into not only providing you clothing and accessories that are 100% made from organic and recycled materials like organic cottons, merino jersey wools and recycled nylon and spandex from pre and post consumer waste, but also into raising awareness through their slogans and messages and their own program called S.E.E.D, Sustainable Environment & Educational Development, a program which donates 1% of all sales to non-profit organizations that help the environment : Our playground.

If you are not an online shopper, know that they are distributed in the United States, Canada, Japan and Australia. One place I found in Quebec (and all of Canada) that sells their clothing is Mountain Equipment Co-op who has a large array of organic cotton and recycled material made clothing at very nice prices. I know that in the states, REI carries them but I'm also positive that those are only 2 stores out of many.

I know it can be frustrating to shop green, especially at first when you are not quite sure where to go, but I'll continue to do my best and bring you what I find and hope that it will help you on your way!

Happy SHOPPING!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

How to reduce waste in your home.

Like I've been saying from the moment I started my blog, every little thing we do to help the environment makes a difference. Sometimes we get overwhelmed at thinking of a full green conversion. How will it affect our day to day life? Well I've decided to quickly list a few simple steps I've taken to reduce waste in my home and in the process, sending less waste to the landfills.

1- Just because you recycle, doesn't mean there is no waste! We all try to do our best and recycle everything we can. It's not always easy, but most of us do as much as possible. But the truth of the matter is that even if you recycle, a lot of waste is created during the production of the recyclable materials... It's important to understand the 3 Rs of a greener life : Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. When you buy foods in containers that can be recycled, also think of how they can be reused. Yogourt containers, plastic ice cream buckets, glass jars and bottles... they can all be reused in your day to day life.

2- Graduate from paper coffee filters : If you are a fan of coffee like I am, you probably make coffee everyday. That is 365 paper filters that go in the trash a year. And I know you may say its paper and paper is biodegradable, but stop and think. Most filters are made from new paper, which means trees are being cut down. Plus, most of them are bleached which is a process that puts a lot of chemicals in the environment and, well, your coffee! Did you know that tons of companies like Krups, Mr. Coffee, Medelco, Hamilton Beach (to only name a few) make reusable, permanent filters that sell for a few dollars and last you years! You can get them in basket and cone shapes. They are great and totally washable!

3- Baking can be green too! So how many of you out there love baking? I know I adore it. I make muffins all the time. When you start adding it up though, it really gets scary : 12 muffins every 2 weeks : Over 300 paper cups to put them in and throw away every year. Really, it isn't necessary. Most of us have non-stick bakeware and with a minimal coating of canola oil, you have perfectly unstuck muffins or cup cakes!

4- Wrapping wrapped produce? We all have the habit of grabbing those little plastic produce bags at the grocery store. But are they really necessary? Fruits and veggies with delicate and breakable skins like tomatoes, plums, bell peppers, apples, maybe... But why put onions, bananas, oranges and grapefruit in them too? Nature offers a variety of pre-wrapped foods ready to be simply brought home. And for those of you who simply MUST have the bags, try these reusable ones : ECOBAGS makes organic cotton drawstring that way less than 0.10 lbs on the produce scales.

5- Trapped biodegradable waste cannot biodegrade! No matter how much biodegradable waste we throw out like food and paper towels, the reality is that if you trap them inside a non-biodegradable trash bag, they will stay for years and years in a landfill somewhere. Most biodegradable trash bags are made from a treated polyethylene material that has a biodegradable cycle of 12 to 14 months. According to Munger Nature, a Qu├ębec company that makes amazing biodegradable plastic products, the oxo-degradable principal transforms the polyethylene into biodegradable matter. The site's info is a wonderful read, you should really click and see...

I hope these little tips help you take those first steps into a greener everyday life!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Understanding our carbon footprint.

All of us, no matter how green we live, play a part in greenhouse gas emissions. But how many of us truly understand the concept of the carbon footprint? I decided to take a look and figure out how I could take steps towards lowering mine.

When we think carbon, most of us automatically think cars. And it is true that cars play a big part. In the United States, according to the Nature Conservancy, 20 % of carbon emitted comes from cars. So taking steps towards traveling lighter and getting more miles per gallon is a good place to start for sure. Hybrids, carpooling, public transportation, these are all solutions that have been pounded into our heads for saving the world. But what if the people that drive their hybrids around constantly buy imported foods and produce? Or what if a person takes his or her bike to work in the morning and then comes home and runs the air conditioning unit at full throttle all night.

Every little thing we do, whether it be using a compact fluorescent bulb or buying produce from a local farmer, reduces the impact we have on climate change.

Did you know ...

  • That if you replace incandescent bulbs by compact fluorescents, you will save 100 pounds of carbon for each bulb over its life span?
  • That by installing programmable thermostats in your home and keeping the air at a constant temperature year round, you could save a great deal of money on your power bill and at the same time, help lower your emissions from overworking your utilities?
  • That one ton of carbon is released by planes for every 5000 miles (8000 kilometers) of travels? Which means that every time you buy a package of strawberries that have been flown in from Chile to your supermarket, you are contributing to putting tons over tons of carbon in the atmosphere.

These are only a few examples of how every little thing we do has an impact, for better or for worse.

The first step to understanding that impact is to have an idea of our footprint.

If you live in the United States, a great place to go is on the Nature Conservancy Carbon Calculator and fill in their little survey to know the average footprint of your household. It is very thorough and takes under consideration states that have cleaner energy sources in the calculations.

Another very complex but well done calculator in the USA is the one for Carbonfund.org that actually calculates with a dollar figure how much your carbon offset would cost and offers the possibility of donating to the cause. At 10$ per ton of carbon offset, you can fund projects in renewable energy, energy efficiency and reforestation everywhere in the world.

For Canada, I've found a few sites that have varying degrees of precisions, but that are still good indicators and can help you make cleaner and more ecologically sound decisions. Here are a few that I've found interesting :

The EcoNeutral Carbon Calculator focuses on both transportation and home energy use. It has a country selector so you can use this calculator no matter where you live.

Tree Canada has a fun little calculator that shows a CO2 offset versus trees needing to be planted to compensate result. For this one, you need to know your average kWh (kilowatt-hour) usage for the year, but it gives a good idea of the importance of trees for the natural balance of our air and environment. Donating to this organization helps with the planting and maintenance of trees in urban and rural Canada and to planting trees for environmental, non-commercial purposes. For every 4$ you donate, one tree will be planted and cared for.

These are of course just a FEW of the programs and sites that are out there for you to start really getting active with carbon offsetting.

I hope that you will go and check out these sites and look for more like them.

Happy greening!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Green Beaver Company Rejuvenating Shampoo and Conditioner : Product Review



THE COMPANY :


Everyone who knows me knows I'm very proud of where I'm from, so in my venture into a greener life, I've promised myself I would try and encourage local and national business. The Green Beaver company is an Ontario based company that prides itself in not only delivering natural and organic products and ingredients, but in supporting local farmers and businesses by using over 95% all Canadian ingredients, most of them wild crafted. Why not 100% you may ask? Because Green Beaver does not believe in synthetic preservatives so they have to import natural ones derived from citrus which cannot grow in Canada.

So we decided to start with this new rejuvenating shampoo and conditioner made from wild crafted Prince Edward Island cranberries.

First off, a product overview : Both the shampoos and conditioner are 100% biodegradable, vegan and gluten-free. The bottles are made from clear polyethylene terephthalate plastic (PETE recycling number 1) which is one of the most widely used plastics because it is easy to recycle and has one of the lowest risks of leaching breakdown of its compounds.

These products contain no paraben preservatives, sulfate detergents, artificial aromas, fragrances or dyes, no glycol or petrolatum products and are not tested on animals. Not to shabby if you ask me!

THE REVIEW :

Now, first off, they smell WONDERFUL! The cranberry aromas in the one we are trying were simply invigorating. Also, I'm usually very sensitive person when it comes to fragrances in products, but in this case, not one itch or discomfort.

For the shampoo : The first thing I noticed was the almost watery texture of it. Of course, without all the chemicals and detergents in it to thicken it up, it was to be expected, but just be warned : There is no need to squeeze the bottle. Also, it takes a bit more than I would have usually used in other brands. Mostly because it does not spread as readily as a creamier shampoo. This is DEFINITELY a "rinse and repeat" product. It is not a very "sudsy" shampoo, but you get that very clean feeling before you even go to rinse and when you do, it rinses in a flash!

For the conditioner : TWO THUMPS AND TWO BIG TOES UP! Light, creamy and so fragrant. Spreads all over with just a small amount in the palm of your hand. Detangles like a dream and if you just let it stand for a few minutes before rinsing, you can feel your hair getting healthier. Winter here had left my hair a ragged mess and just a few days of using this conditioner and my hair already feels a thousand times better.

Price : Very reasonable. We paid about 7$ CD a bottle. Most of the organic shampoos that are sold here unfortunately come in little 250 ml (8 oz) bottles, so we were very happy with the price since these come in bottles of 325 ml (11 oz).

Now as I mentioned earlier, I have a feeling that this will be a 2 bottles of shampoo for every bottle of conditioner deal, but at that price and with how lovely my hair feels, I think we will definitely stick this one out for a few.

Hope this was useful! Happy greening everyone!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Mmmm... I love the smell of PVC in the morning!

So when my husband and I redecorated the bathroom. We had promised ourselves that we were done with plastic shower curtains. They are hard to clean, get stained and just didn't fit our aesthetic anymore. So we bought a beautiful cotton, retro, paisley dream of a curtain and loved it from the beginning... But it was only meant to be an outside curtain, was not waterproof, so we bought a dollar store liner.

Without thinking about it, we waited, as with every other plastic shower curtain we had bought in the past, for the horrible smell of brand new liner to go away and finally it did and all was well. That is, until I stumbled onto a Los Angeles Times article from last June that made my hair stand on end.

Turns out that a study done by the Center for Health, Environment and Justice on 5 different unopened polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic shower curtains bought at major department stores found that they all contained high concentrations of toxic volatile organic compounds that have been linked to many health issues including liver damage, central nervous system damage, respiratory and reproductive system damage and cancer. According to this study, one of the curtains tested released as many as 108 of these dangerous compound and they stayed in the ambient air, lingering, for several months.

If you are interested in getting more facts, please go and download this fact sheet from www.besafenet.com

Now what are our alternatives?

Well after this, the first thing we did was to go in search of a cloth liner. Having read online about organic cotton curtains and all, we started wondering how waterproof they would be. We wanted to be eco-friendly, but still wanted our shower liner to be functional.

We ended up finding this great this great Hotel Fabric Shower Liner for only 10$. But it was made from polyester and my first reaction was "That's not eco-friendly?" Or is it???

According to an article on Digital Journal.com, turns out that polyester is not as contrary to a green life as one may think. Although polyester in its production uses more energy than cotton because of the transformation the materials have to go through, once the product is made, it uses a fraction of the energy for the upkeep.

Lets say we take cotton (taking for granted that at this point, we have picked a fabric made from organic cotton that has not been heavily spread with pesticides through out its growing cycle) : Clothes and products made from cotton will need to be washed at higher temperature water, will need to be tumbled dried for longer, will often need to be ironed, and will have a shorter life span than a polyester blend. Most polyblends are made to wash in cold water and can be hung to dry, drying in less time, do not wrinkle, and in such cases as a shower curtain, will last forever.

Now don't get me wrong : I LOVE natural fabrics. But in trying to make my home a greener place but keep it efficient and simple, I think this may be a nice alternative.

Hope this was enjoyable for you guys and keep aware!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Preparing for spring : Our garden - Year 2

Last year, my husband and I had the great pleasure of acquiring a little plot of land at out local community garden. We thought it was a great green step to city living. We decided to sign up rather late in the season so we rushed through the preparations and opted for nursery grown plants. We weeded, tiled, turned and fertilized the soil with bags of organic compost bought at the garden center and planted our little garden.

It had been a rainy week so the following days, we stayed home. When we decided to return to check on things and do a bit of "light" maintenance, we were horrified to find that all the weeds had grown back in force and we could barely differentiate them from the little plants that were struggling for room to grow. This event was only a preview of our war on weeds. The remainder of the growing season only got worse before it was over.

So as I mentioned before, I love to know the why of things, especially when those things are coming between me and my desire for a greener, healthier life. After loads of research, I've come up with a chemical-free plan for snuffing out the weeds this year and actually getting to enjoy gardening :

Step 1:

As soon as the snow is melted off our lot (this part may not apply to all of you considering I live quite a ways up North) and the hot spring sun is out, we will cover the whole patch with dark landscaping tarp held down with bricks, to stop the weeds from getting the light and air they need to break dormancy and actually start spreading and growing. The increased heat and darkness will actually go as deep as the underlying rhizomes and stop them from taking over your garden. It is recommended to leave the tarp down for about 6 weeks, until it's time to prepare the garden for planting.

Step 2:

Once the soil has been turned and all the "remains" have been removed, strategically position your plants, alternating high growing plants (like tomatoes, peppers, bean bushes, etc.) with low, ground covering cultures (like cucumbers, squashes, cantaloupes, etc.) so that there is a minimum of light between the rows.

Step 3:

Use mulch in the walkways and on all areas where the sunlight hits the ground. You can also lay down newspaper under the mulch for an extra barrier of weed protection. Not only will the paper and mulch block the light and air supply again, but as they naturally biodegrade, they will give back nutrients to the soil of your garden.

I hope this helps and if any of you have ideas and suggestions, please feel free to post them here!