Well, I have just flushed my first diaper! 

I have been struggling with the diaper decision for about three weeks now, and I am down to 5 disposables left, so I needed to make a decision.  The environmental adage that I have read over and over is, as you run out of a product replace it with something that is a better ecological choice.  So today when I was shopping the gdiapers and refills were on sale and I took it as a sign.

Diapers are filling the landfills and they take hundreds of years to break down, so every time I threw one out I did feel bad.  Three weeks ago I started removing the poo from the diapers before I threw them out, so that I could diminish my contribution to the creation of methane gas, and contaminated ground water from human feces being in a landfill.  Such messy business, because Riley just does not have really firm bowel movements.  But it was something proactive I could do at the moment.

Traditionally the diaper debate has been between cloth or disposable.  Well, it just got better.  Now you have cloth, disposable, flushable, and chlorine-free disposable.  With cloth diapers the down side has been the excessive amounts of water that it takes to wash them, and the inconvenience.  Disposables are convenient, but are clogging the landfills.  Seventh generation came up with chlorine-free disposables, which although do end up in the landfill, at least do not cause toxic chemicals to be released during their production.  gDiapers are flushable or compostable (the wet ones), but more expensive than your average diaper. 

They have an outer cloth pant (which is really cute), with a snap in liner, and you place the flushable in the snap in liner.  It is best if you see them, so check out their great website (complete with videos to show you how it is done).

I just love this decision.  It feels so right, and I am looking at the higher cost as my investment in a better planet.

Published in: on January 29, 2009 at 9:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Triple Bottom Line

The triple bottom line is something that I have been reading about that really excites me, and makes me wonder why all businesses are not set up this way.   It is a way of accounting that looks at economy, ecology, and equity, or another way to phrase it is it looks at people, profit, and planet. 

The idea is that a company assigns value to natural capital (planet), and to human resources (people), and then incorporates their overall costs and benefits into the bottom line.  There is a theory that companies do the best in the long run if they base their accounting not just on cash, but on the overlap of profit, environment and society. 

I have read about some companies that are great examples of this method of accounting the the book Global Profit and Global Justice.  I would like to share a few of their stories with you.

Church and Dwight Company (aka Arm & Hammer, etc) started using recycled packaging as early as 1907, and now use over 80% recycled papers in all aspects of their business.  They also use only 4 chemicals in all their manufacturing facilities; that is impressive considering how many chemicals we all likely have in our homes.  A great example of focusing on environment.

Wainwright Bank, from Boston have focused on the social aspects of responsible business.  Here are some of their initiatives:

  1. Affordable housing (committing financing to a wide range of housing projects)
  2. Health services (helping with HIV/AIDS by aiding non-profits)
  3. Environment (partnerships with environmental groups)
  4. Homelessness and hunger (providing loans to shelters)
  5. Women’s Issues (education activities and banking relationships with organizations helping women)
  6. Diversity (50% of the work force is women, and 30% is visible minorities)
  7. Social activism (stakeholder in Trillium Asset Management Co., which is an investment management firm that only deals in socially responsible investments)

Cisco Systems has provided the routers and switching gear that has enabled the rapid growth of the Internet.  This is a very wealthy company, but right away they set up a Foundation to give back.  Their giving mostly revolves around education, and one of the programs aims to bring education and Internet-age job skills to participants in 33 of the 48 least-developed countries in the world.  They also created a really cool partnership when they hit a bit of a recession.  What they did, because they valued their employees, is offer them an option to work at a non-profit for reduced pay (1/3 wages), but still maintain their employee health benefits and stock options.  Many were hired back at Cisco when the recession ended, but a few opted to stay at the non-profits.

Interface Inc. a large flooring company has also redefined how they are going to be a sustainable company and leader.  Here are their seven steps:

  1. Eliminate waste (ie the concept of waste)
  2. Benign emissions
  3. Renewable energy
  4. Closing the loop (so materials used flow cyclically)
  5. Resource-efficient transportation
  6. Sensitivity hookup (community that is sustainably aware)
  7. Redesign commerce (so service and value are the focus not material)

I think my part in this is taking a deeper look at the companies that I patronage.  Do they deal in the triple bottom line – or does cash rule the business decisions? It does make me excited to see that some clever people are making such smart choices, and if I can, I want to support that type of thinking.

Published in: on January 26, 2009 at 2:28 am  Leave a Comment  

Why I am doing this

In church yesterday, I watched an amazing video created by our Sunday Morning Team.  This video really captures why I have embarked on this journey.  So I would love you to check it out.

Isn’t it great!!

Published in: on January 20, 2009 at 2:33 am  Leave a Comment  

Vacuuming coils

Today, I vacuumed the coils on the back of my fridge, not because I hate dust, or because my mom is coming (that is why I mopped my floor and cleaned under the kitchen sink).  I did it because if I vacuum my coils every 4-6 months I will extend the life of my fridge and encourage it’s optimal performance.

Maintaining a tight seal on the doors is another green saver, as is making sure there is no frost build-up in the freezer.  To test the seal on the doors, close some money (no, not coins) in the door, if it is held snugly there is a good seal.  What I am wondering is, do I check the seal all the way around the doors?  It sounds like a fun thing to try with kids; I’ll get the girls to perform the experiment.

Published in: on January 20, 2009 at 2:10 am  Comments (1)  

The Magic phrase: “100% Post-consumer”

I was recently shopping for some home basics: TP, paper towels and kleenex, and I was excited to find 2 out of the 3 with the magic phrase on them.  They proudly displayed their “100% post-consumer recycled paper”, and with glee I popped them in my cart.  We continue to be without kleenex because I have yet to find some kleenex that is made with post-consumer recycled paper products.  So right now, in sniffle season, the family will just have to be content with the recycled TP.

Paper products are around 1/3 of the waste we throw away, so imagine the impact if that paper was not virgin paper (and if everyone recycled the paper).   The virgin paper industry is really eco-destructive:  logging timber from ecologically rich habitats, polluting waterways, and being the third largest emitter of global warming  pollution.  Manufacturing from recycled pulp uses less energy, creates less water pollution and less air pollution.

Not all recycled paper products are created equally, and the highest percentage of post-consumer content the better.  Companies can also put recycled on their products even if no post-consumer materials were used.  If they are using up their own left-overs, even if it is virgin forest left-overs, it can be labelled recycled material.  So, make sure you look for the magic phrase when shopping.

The other phrase to look for when shopping for paper products is: “Made without the use of chlorine.”  Paper products have traditionally been bleached with chlorine to make them bright and white.  Manufacturing with chlorine creates dioxin pollution.  Dioxins accumulate in our tissues (we never get rid of them), they travel up the food chain, and they are carcinogenic.  Just to name a few of the nasty presents they give. 

The eco-friendly way to make something white is oxygen bleach, which breaks down into oxygen, water and sodium bicarbonate.  Aaah, something nontoxic!

Besides buying the best 100% post-consumer and non-chlorine recycled paper products, we can also use less paper products.  I have cloth napkins, and I have placed these in the container we previously had paper napkins, so they are the most accessible option.

Other hints I have read are:

  • print on both sides of paper
  • limit magazine subscriptions (read them online, or share a subscription with a friend)
  • use nonrecyclable paper for packing material or wrapping paper
  • reduce junk mail by getting your name off mailing lists
  • write notes & lists or create artwork on the back of papers that come into your home

When you have exhausted every other option for reuse then recycle every piece possible.

Published in: on January 18, 2009 at 7:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

VOC’s and Houseplants

The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) ranks indoor air pollution as one of the top five environmental risks to human health.  Indoor air can be two to five times more polluted than outdoor air.  Why?  A big reason is VOC’s.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) are carbon-based compounds that form vapors/gases  in our homes.  They are emitted from many, many household products, plastics, cleaners, cosmetics, air fresheners, hairsprays, carpets, furnishings, paints, treated wood, particle board, glues, adhesives, copiers, printers… You get the idea.  If you smell something (including fragrance), you are likely detecting a VOC.

Why are they dangerous?  They are irritating to eyes, lungs, nose, and throat.  They can cause neurological and organ damage and cancer.  When exposed you may experience headaches, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, or asthma attacks. (There is some belief that the increase in asthma is due to poor indoor air quality.)

So what can we do?  We can remove toxic products from our home, we can make sure our homes are well ventilated, and we can make sure that we have houseplants. 

I say if NASA can do it, so can I!  Apparently, in the early 1970’s scientists working on a space station realized they had a big problem with all the VOC’s circulating in the station’s atmosphere.  Their solution was using dozens of varieties of plants to clear the air.  Houseplants absorb gases from the air and store it in their roots, they emit water vapor to keep healthy levels of humidity in our homes, and they give off photochemicals that defend against mold and bacteria.  I’d say that is pretty amazing!  It sure convinced me that more houseplants (besides the one barely surviving cactus) are needed in my house.

There is a ranking of super air cleaner houseplants and these are some that make the list:  bamboo palm, Chinese evergreen, Dracaena massangeana, dragon tree, chrysanthemum, English ivy, peace lily, pothos, philodendron, snake plant, Boston fern, areca palm, mother-in-law’s tongue, and spider plant.  There is a book by B.C. Wolverton that I would like to get my hands on called How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 Houseplants That Purify Your Home or Office.

Today I added cleaner air to my home with 3 peace lilies, 2 Chinese evergreens, 1 mother-in-law’s tongue, and 2 unknown tropical plants.  Now I just need to treat them well and find them a babysitter when I go to the cottage.

Published in: on January 17, 2009 at 2:19 am  Comments (1)  


Apparently 1/4 of the water we use in our house is flushed down the toilet.  So today I have attempted to make my toilets more efficient, and I have reused in the process. 

 I have just placed two regular water bottles (yes, I should not even have them)  with a bit of gravel and filled with water into my toilet tanks.  I have started with two bottles, but may bump it up to three depending on how they flush.  I am displacing two water bottles full with each flush.  There is also something called a toilet dam that can be fitted into the toilet tank and it prevents the tank from filling completely.

If you are in the market for a new toilet, there are dual flush (separate settings for number 1 and 2), and low flush (1.9 gallons per flush) toilets on the market.  Or if you are really brave there are the compost toilets.  These toilets use bacteria and fungi to decompose waste and turn it into a dry humus – which can in some situations be used for fertilizer.  These toilets use no water.  I would like to reseach this last one for our beach at the cottage.

Published in: on January 15, 2009 at 3:04 pm  Comments (2)  

A journey to being green.

I have decided to make 2009 a year to move my household to being ethical, ecological and environmental.  A friend asked me to keep her posted on what I learn,  so the next logical step is a blog -right?!  I am going to post my journey of what I learn and the changes I  am able to implement over the next year. 

Perhaps the best place to start is background.  I am Bonnie Fowler, and I have a naturalist bent.  I grew up on a small farm in central Alberta, and now live in a small city – St. Catharines, Ontario.  My favourite vacation spot growing up was the Rocky Mountains, and now my favourite spot is our cottage in Muskoka.  I am married to Chris and have three children – Sarah (7), Hannah (5), and Riley (1).  I love the arts, and I love creating.  My creations are in the areas of painting, mixed media, theatre, writing, sewing, baking, and I am always ready to try something new.

My current environmental steps include shopping at the farmers market, incorporating some organic products, using reusable bags, recycling everything possible, purchasing post-consumer recycled paper products and buying gifts from 10 Thousand Villages.

In my efforts to change, I have dedicated January to be the month of researching.  I have taken a stack of books out of the library (that is greener than buying new ones), and I am currently in the process of eagerly digesting the information.

Published in: on January 13, 2009 at 7:51 pm  Comments (4)