Sunday, June 28, 2009

MOVING TIME - Off line for a few days!


I wanted to let everyone know we'll be going off line for a few days during the move into our new place. Hope everyone has a nice couple of days and I'll catch you up on the challenge and all when I'm back on.

Happy greening!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Change the world Wednesdays… Become a locavore for a day!

So, in the spirit of continuing our blog sharing for Reduce Footprints “Change de World Wednesday” challenges, I’m reposting this week's challenge :

“For one full day this week, eat only local foods. No tropical fruits from across the world ... no veggies that traveled hundreds of miles to get to your table ... only locally grown foods (this includes meats, dairy products, etc., if you eat them).

OR, if you're already eating only local foods full time ... and may I say congratulations to that ... post one of your favorite "local food" recipes on your blog.”

What does this mean?

It means take a few days, look around, and think of seasonal foods you love and find them at your local farmer’s markets and local grocery stores that feature local foods. This may take you out of your comfort zone, but what is a challenge without a bit of challenge?

What does this do?

For a day, for every food you buy and eat that didn’t have to travel thousands of miles to get to your plate, you get to reduce your carbon footprint by tons of CO2 that is released into our air and atmosphere. Plus, you encourage local farmers and business!

Here are things that you can usually easily find during the growing season (from a North American point of view – I would love my readers to share their own list) :

  • Eggs, meats, fish and dairy (if you eat them) : Smaller farm, locally raised meats and dairy cows are treated better, are often grass fed and have less residual pesticides, hormones and antibiotics in them. Now, I’m not saying all farms that are local are organic! But you can more easily control the amount of these toxins you allow into your body by simply being able to ask the farmer that will usually be standing there when you buy their products. You could also find a local pond or lake if you like to fish.
  • Produce : Unless you are a reader on the other side of the world from me right now, with July coming up, you are in the midst of the best local fruits and vegetable you could ever dream of!
  • Sweeteners : If you are like me, a bit too northbound for sugar cane plantations, sugar is not 100 miles. Honey is always available from local vendors. If you are lucky like me and live in maple country, local maple syrup and sugar is another great sweetener.
  • Grains : Many regions on North America and Europe are very important grain producers and for every big industrial mill, there is a small, artisanal mill that prides itself in making good quality flours from local grains.
  • Potatoes : Well… this one was pretty easy, but you get my point. LOL!

Think of this as an adventure. Take the pledge, get out there, walk around, talk to a few people and create something new. Then share your ideas and recipes with us!

Are you in for the challenge?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Plastic bags : Facts and why we need to stop using them!

Everyone knows that plastic is bad for the environment. We don’t need to spell it out again, but some facts are important to know and since people respond to numbers, here are a few facts on plastic bags I found on LivingGreen that may help solidify your resolve :

  • Less than 1% is recycled. It actually cost more to recycle a plastic bag than to produce one-there is no monetary incentive to recycle plastic bags.
  • Many of our garbage bags are dumped illegally in our oceans. A study in 1975 showed that ocean going vessels dumped 8 million pounds of plastic bags annually.
  • Billions of plastic bags also find their way into oceans via rivers, drains and sewage pipes where the effects on aquatic animals such as turtles, sea birds, whales, dolphins and seals are catastrophic. These animals ingest plastic or become entangled resulting in agonizing deaths. The unsuspecting creatures often mistake the floating plastic for food! Plastic bags are found in most oceans of the world. (World Wildlife Report, 2005)
  • A study of albatross chicks on Midway Island, near Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean, found that nine out of 10 birds had plastic garbage in their gullets.
  • Plastic bags do not decompose! They break into smaller, more toxic petro-polymers which eventually contaminate our soil, our waterways. In time the toxic microscopic particles enter our food chain. ( 2007)
  • Plastic cannot be burned or buried safely. When it is burned it produces fluorocarbons which are carcinogens.
  • When we bury plastic bags they block the natural supply of air and water to the soil. This affects plant life directly and the chain of life indirectly.
  • Plastic bags can even cause landslides when plant life in mountains is reduced. Plastic bags clog the sewage pipes and often cause water to be stagnant. It reduces the water retaining capacity of the soil and this in turn affects the water table.
We all (I hope) try our best at reducing the amount of plastic that is used and thrown away. This is not only for our environment and wildlife, but for our health as well. Recently, new technologies in plastic bag production have led us to believe that maybe some weren’t as bad, but are they?

Traditional bags are made from petroleum products which can release toxic compounds into the air that are known to cause major health issues.

Now, more and more bags are made from polymers called polyethylene that are, for most part, recyclable. Great right? Not exactly. The problem seems to be that bags can be made of different types of resin that although look very similar, when broken down, can’t exactly be easily recycled. So if you ARE going to put plastic bags in the recycling, make sure that they have the recycling symbol with the numbers 1, 4 or 5, as other numbers may not be recyclable in your area.

What about the new trends of biodegradable bags? This seemed to be the greatest idea since the corn and potato starches are made to biodegrade or photo degrade when in contact with air or light in less than 18 months! WONDERFUL! Not… this will only work if you bag is on top of a free standing hill of trash and according to an amazing article on, 95% of all trash is land filled. “In landfills, garbage is buried beneath layers of soil that make it difficult for air or sunlight to reach discarded items. The fact is that most plastic bags just don't degrade, even in a compost pile. There are some new starch-based plastics that may be more degradable. But few grocery bags are made from that type of product.”

So, short of it is there really is no easy answer to plastic bags besides stopping using them. Carry around reusable bags in your car, buy little foldable bags to put in your purse or pockets, carry out small items when you know you don’t need to carry it very far and if you MUST, ask for paper bags when leaving the store! Those are easily recycled, are often made of recycled paper and can easily be transformed.

As a final note, here is the link to Thomas’s post, on Renewables at Home, that responded to my challenge and wrote an excellent article you all should read! Thank you for jumping in Thomas!


Here is another one of my readers (Harri Pao) that took the challenge and wrote about how they eliminate plastic bags in their daily lives.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Change the world Wednesdays… are you ready for a week long challenge?

Hello again!

Just wanted to share with you a post by one of my favourite bloggers, Small Footprints at Reduced Footprints.

Last week, she started a challenge series with her readers of taking 10 minute showers for a whole week. This week, it’s about absolutely refusing plastic bags everywhere.

I would like to send the same challenge to all my followers and readers! Write a comment and take the pledge! Take it to your readers by sharing this challenge. And like in her blog, all of you who are already plastic-free and have a blog, write, within the next week, a detailed article on why plastic bags are so horrible to the environment. Send me your links when you write your articles and I will post them here!

Together, we can reach so many people and prove that every little action counts!

Are you in for the challenge?

Attitude Eco-Friendly Fabric Softener – Product Review


So, following my post on the hidden dangers of dryer sheets from a few weeks ago, we went looking for an eco-friendly alternative in a fabric softener. I was a bit overwhelmed by the number of options that were presented to me, until suddenly I caught a little glimpse of a print on one of the bottles :

“Driven by an ideal : To live and consume responsibly. Our future depends on the choices we make today”

Bio Spectra is a Montreal company that believes in fighting global warming, responsible consumption and good quality, eco-friendly products. Their ATTITUDE line of cleaning products is based on their “CO2neutral” approach which is quite interesting :

What is ATTITUDE® doing?

ATTITUDE® not only offers quality products that are third-party certified eco-friendly, but also contributes actively in the fight against global warming by offering Carbone Neutral products: products that have GHG emissions equal to ZERO. Thus, by using ATTITUDE® products, you are reducing your personal environmental footprints.

The carbon neutral approach can be translated into three big steps:

  • Calculating GHG emissions based on the life-cycle analysis;
  • Reducing general emissions;
  • Compensating for emissions that cannot be avoided.

The carbon neutral approach quantifies the whole company’s emissions and not only the emissions associated with the production of ATTITUDE® products. The report is a great tool to identify weak areas where emissions are at their highest. Thereafter, these areas are analyzed to determine the most effective ways to reduce the emission rates. We believe that it is possible to reduce our carbon footprint, all the while reducing operational costs, and believe that all self-respecting businesses should adhere to a similar model.”

The product I will be reviewing today is their Ylang-Ylang & Tangerine Fabric Softener. (It also comes in Lavender & Grapefruit). First a few facts : This product is certified EcoLogoM (an Environment Canada program), CO2 Neutral, natural, eco-friendly and biodegradable. It comes in HE formula (of course) so it is specifically designed for high-efficiency machines.

The ingredients are water, essential oils and soy based surfactants. That’s IT! The product is vegan (free of animal tallow derivatives), non-carcinogenic, hypoallergenic, non-tested on animals and free of artificial dyes and fragrances.

We’ve been using it for a week now and it has proven itself wonderful on both clothes that went in the dryer and clothes that were hung to dry. The fragrance is barely noticeable once the clothes have dried. All that is left is a very mild and pleasant smell. I found that 1/3 of a cap is more than enough more a normal sized load which leads me to believe that the bottle will last me way beyond the 52 loads it advertises. And at 7$ a bottle, it is a steal and can make your laundry cycle completely safe for you and your family.

They sell everywhere in North America, many countries in Europe and over in Japan so I really hope all of you will get your hands on these products because they are well worth a try! I’m looking forward to trying their entire line!

What are some of your favorite eco-friendly brands?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Green Living: Improving Health Today and Tomorrow

I’m very honored today to have a guest blogger, Mr. Bill Hawthorne, who represents, a leading web resource for asbestos exposure and mesothelioma cancer information. This organization is dedicated to increasing awareness of the terrible health consequences of asbestos exposure through the distribution of the best informational materials and public outreach efforts.

Green Living: Improving Health Today and Tomorrow

Much attention has been paid in recent years to what seems to be a growing environmental conscience in the United States. Going green used to be considered expensive and a luxury for those who could afford the trend. Now it appears that we are learning that not only is adopting more environmentally conscious attitudes good for our economic situation, but also our….health? Yes, if we dig a bit deeper we can see that dirty industries and backwards policy is actually harming the health of the earth for our children and the health of her inhabitants today.

How Does Environmental Policy Affect Public Health?

There are two levels of health consequences associated with dirty industry, both direct and indirect. The direct consequences are examples like increased asthma rates in areas with high smog indices. Chlorofluorocarbon release into the atmosphere has shown to decrease the filter of direct sunlight on the planet, resulting in more concentrated ultraviolet light reaching the surface of the earth. Perhaps it is no surprise then that in countries with depleted atmospheric gas, skin cancer rates are among the highest in the world.

The indirect health consequences are harder to see immediately, but closer examination reveals that these are, in fact, perhaps the most hazardous. Bi-products of dirty and backwards industries, such as coal and oil processing, include cancer causing substances like asbestos and benzene. A U.K. study conducted in 2002 indicated that coal and oil industry workers are at a much higher risk of developing mesothelioma (associated with asbestos exposure) and leukemia (traced to benzene and heavy-metal exposure). Dr. David Sugarbaker among many other doctors who specialize in this area understand that these are substances that can be directly traced to antiquated pre-regulation equipment in industries whose environmental hazards are even more inherent.

Can we really afford to continue on the path we were on before? Investment in clean industry means not a healthier planet for our children and grandchildren, but also a healthier place for us to live today.

--June 8, 2009 Written by Bill Hawthorne with the maacenter

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Cooking from scratch : How to make the perfect organic muffins at home

Good morning. How are you all doing? I hope you are well.

One thing I’ve found that has help in our “going green” project is cooking and baking more from scratch. The reality of going organic with your food is that pre-packaged organic things can be quite costly. But organic base ingredients barely cost a few pennies more sometimes so I decided to do my own recipes more and more.

Now, like most of you, I just don’t have time to sit there night after night and pull out the recipe books. So it was about finding recipes that were easy, quick and flexible so that it could feel like I was making something new all the time with only changing a few ingredients. Well after months of experimenting with muffin recipes, I finally refined my own basic muffin recipe that you can then add whatever you want to and they will always turn out great!

Recipe :

Preheat oven at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

  • 1 1/2 cups stone ground organic flour
  • 1/2 cup organic whole wheat flour
  • 2/3 cup organic raw sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon organic sea salt
  • 1 organic egg
  • 2 organic egg whites
  • 1/2 cup apple sauce (or sometimes I put pumpkin purée)
  • 1/4 cup organic canola oil
  • OPTIONAL : 1/8 cup organic maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons toasted wheat germ
In a bowl, you whisk together all the WET ingredients (eggs, egg whites, apple sauce or pumpkin purée, oil, syrup (if you choose to use it) and vanilla.

In a larger bowl, you stir together the flours, sugar, spices, fruits and nuts you choose to add, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Then pour in the wet mixture, stir together until it’s all smooth and pour into muffin tins (about ¾ of the way up). Depending on how much fruit and such you add, and the size of your tins, you’ll make between 12 and 16 muffins.

No matter what the ingredients, bake for 15 to 20 minutes.

Flavours :

From here on out, you can put whatever you want in it! I don’t even count the amount per say. Sometimes the muffins will be breadier, sometimes more full-of-fruits, but they always end up being yummy!

Here are some of my favourite combinations :

  • Banana, nut with allspice
  • Carrots and raisins with cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice
  • Cranberries and orange zest
  • Lemon zest and poppy seeds
  • Fresh field berries
  • Apples and spices
  • Dates and walnuts
  • Etc…

TRY THEM ALL and create your own! The great thing about this recipe is that for the initial 20$ of ingredients, you’ll have weeks of fresh muffins on hand and you can always just make them with what you have laying around in the fridge or pantry!

Hope this can help making your homemade life a bit easier and fun!

What are some of your favourite recipes?

Friday, June 5, 2009

Dryer sheets and fabric softeners : Big hazards come in sweet smelling packages

Good morning.

One of our missions while trying to transform our household into a green haven for our family was to replace products as we ran out of them. We figured that throwing away boxes and bottles full of products away was wasteful and it would make it easier on the wallet to go one item at a time instead of suddenly needing to replace everything in our home.

One of the things that have taken forever at getting to the bottom of has been our box of dryer sheets. Why? Because we hang so much to dry that we use them very rarely and when we absolutely MUST use the dryer, we cut them in 2, sometimes 3 parts. So a little box of 70 dryer sheets has been lasting us going on a year now.

When I pulled one out to realize there was only left in there this morning, I jumped for joy at the idea of finally switching to eco-friendly, non-toxic, biodegradable fabric softener.

Then my curiosity got tickled and I decided to look at how bad for the environment dryer sheets really were. I was very shocked and quite scared by the info I found. Not because of the dangers for the environment, but because of danger to us!

According to, this is a list of some of the chemicals found in commercial fabric softeners and dryer sheets :

  • Benzyl acetate: Linked to pancreatic cancer
  • Benzyl Alcohol: Upper respiratory tract irritant
  • Ethanol: On the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Hazardous Waste list and can cause central nervous system disorders
  • A-Terpineol: Can cause respiratory problems, including fatal edema, and central nervous system damage
  • Ethyl Acetate: A narcotic on the EPA's Hazardous Waste list
  • Camphor: Causes central nervous system disorders
  • Chloroform: Neurotoxic, anesthetic and carcinogenic
  • Linalool: A narcotic that causes central nervous system disorders
  • Pentane: A chemical known to be harmful if inhaled

So needless to say, the last dryer sheet went in the trash and I went searching for alternatives.

Fabric Softeners :

Natural health food stores, and even many big grocery stores, will sell natural fabric softeners that are non-toxic and made from plant-based products. They are often times only a few dollars more and will make your clothes just as soft and static free.

Home recipes :

Again, from here are a few ideas on home recipes to help make your clothes soft and static free without the use of chemicals :

Add a quarter cup of baking soda to wash cycle to soften fabric
Add a quarter cup of white vinegar to rinse to soften fabric and eliminate cling

Reusable natural dryer sheets :

My final suggestion is to check out a great product I found while doing this research. I came across a site for a Canadian company called Static Eliminator that produces a chemical free, hypoallergenic, long lasting and safe reusable dryer sheet that seems just fantastic!

How does it work?

The technology behind the Static Eliminator Re-Usable Dryer Sheets is a true innovation for the way you do laundry... The weave of the Static Eliminator Re-Usable Dryer Sheets gives them their static fighting power - instead of coating your laundry with harmful chemicals, these unique, re-usable dryer sheets "conduct" the static out of your laundry load. The Static Eliminator removes static and softens fabrics while remaining chemical free and maintaining your dryer warranty.”

So I hope I could inspire you to look for safer alternatives to your traditional dryer solutions. We all want a safer, healthier home and sometimes little differences can have a huge impact!

Happy greening!

What are some of your favorite home recipes for household chores?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The 100 mile diet… or our own variation : Part 3 – Continuing with our preparations

Good evening to everyone!

Thought I would stop by and give you all an update on our preparations for our challenge starting on July 1st.

Of our list of staples, it seemed to me that the hardest thing to find in my area would be grains. So I decided to contact local mills and find out if any of them milled purely local flours. Unfortunately, although they do take quite a bit from local sources, they also import grains from the Canadian prairies and from the Midwestern USA. *Sighs*

As I was widening my perimeter (never exceeding 167 kilometers – 100 miles – of course), I was lucky enough to find a mill right on the edge of our area (155 kilometers) that mills buckwheat that is all from local sources!

Le Moulin seigneurial de la Carrière prides itself in producing local grown and milled organic buckwheat flours that are not only produced in our challenge circle, but have even more local (downtown Quebec City) sell points. So we will not have to drive to get it! I am planning on doing research on recipes for buckwheat breads and muffins. This will be very exciting!

I’ve also found local growers of fall wheat (which could be great for the end of the challenge), spelt and rye. They are organic and within 30 minutes drive. They will de-shell the grains for us no problem, now to find the mills to make it into flour…

And we did!
Les Moissoneries du Pays is an organic flour and grain producer. Now, although many of their grains are local, they could not promise that all grains were. To supply the demands, they do also import grains from Ontario and the Prairies. But they did say that if we brought them organic grains, they could transform them for us. They also grow organic garlic flower and garlic that you can self pick starting in July. So we decided to make it an adventure at the beginning of the challenge : Get some grains, take a drive, and pick some garlic while they mill our flours! The ideas I’m getting for homemade breads, cereals, breakfasts bars… My head is spinning!

Last but not least : We are lucky enough to have within our 100 miles the only 100% Quebec grown and produced organic sunflower oil! La Ferme Champy is a unique Quebec enterprise that produces cold pressed, organic, non-transgenic, oil and they have a counter right here at the downtown farmer’s market. We will be checking them all out in the next few weeks.

So if I go down my list of staples so far this is what we have secured for ourselves :

  • All the fresh local veggies and fruits we want
  • Dairy (milk, butter and cheese)
  • Local organic small farm raised meats (for my husband)
  • Oil
  • Flours
  • Maple syrup
  • Honey
  • Vinegars
  • Herbs
  • Eggs
  • Local wines and ciders (okay… not a staple, but still fun!)

I think we are doing pretty well! And with one month still to go, we will keep searching for those little treasures!

Hope you all have a great evening.

Please share with us your thoughts and suggestion to help us in our challenge!