A Green Valentine

My husband surprised me with some green valentine’s gifts.  He bought me the Cradle to Cradle book that I have been wanting to read (let me know if you want to borrow it), and a page a day calendar called Living Green: 365 ways to make a difference.  It was a great surprise and it is nice to know that I have support in this journey.  We cannot help the earth and the people on it alone.

For my girls, I decided to give them a different Valentine’s gift.  Each Saturday comes with Saturday morning chores that need to be finished before the fun of the day begins.  My Valentine’s gift was to do their chores with them, and this elicited much thanks.  Hannah even said that she dreamed that I would say that. 

I hope your Valentine’s has been green.

Advertisements
Published in: on February 14, 2009 at 8:03 pm  Comments (1)  

Food Miles

I am now well aware of the miles that food travels, the statistics state that food on average travels around 1300 miles to reach our plate.  This notion was really brought home last night.

Last night our niece took Chris and I out to The Keg for dinner, she had a gift card from her workplace and kindly decided to take us with her.   I am not much for beef, so I usually have salmon at the Keg, but I thought I need to ask where this salmon is from.  Chris was skeptical – how can you tell if it is responsibly fished based on where it is from.  Of course, I have not done enough research to know that.  But I thought what is the harm in asking, right?  Well, when the waitress came back (because she had no clue where it was from), she let us know that it came from – guess – New Zealand!  I was totally not expecting that.  I did not want to have something that had literally travelled half-way around the world – so I had chicken.

Eating local food is always a great idea, but not always available.  I know there are also some local restaurants that try to serve local fare, and they need to be supported.  I think part of this green process is about asking questions and thinking ahead.  We can’t used our fast-paced life as an excuse for not taking the time to ask questions, be informed, and make changes.

Published in: on February 14, 2009 at 2:18 am  Comments (2)  

Did you turn off the …?

When I grew up this phrase usually ended with “the lights”, and I have heard myself ask my own kids that question numerous times.  It is obvious, right? We see the lights on, so we know they need to be turned off.  Well, now because of  phantom power I think the phrase will end a little differently.

Did you know that on average 75% of all electricity used to power household electronic items is sent to them while they are turned off?  Considering that electronics account for 7 % of our total household energy use, what would happen if we did some unplugging?  

We currently have our computer and our television/DVD/stereo all plugged into power bars, and for the last couple of weeks I have been turning off the power bar when they are not in use.  It is actually not that inconvenient. 

Did you turn off the power bar?

Published in: on February 11, 2009 at 7:37 pm  Comments (1)  

Green Living Show

I was trying to do some research on the internet the other night, and I was getting very overwhelmed.  There are a lot of companies out there, and it is just hard for one person to find out everything.  However, as I was nearing my end, I was so delighted to find out about the Green Living Show.  Finding this information redeemed all the other time I had already spent.

The Green Living Show is a huge eco-show happening in Toronto on April 23 – 26, and I have it booked in my schedule.  I am so excited, because I can actually talk to people about all these issues.  It is the 3rd Annual event, and it looks like it will be so good.  Check it out for yourself.

http://www.greenlivingonline.com/torontoshow/index.html

Published in: on February 8, 2009 at 2:47 am  Leave a Comment  

Cotton

Before, when I thought about cotton, I thought clean, comfy, and pure.  Well, I have to let go of that image now that I really know about cotton. 

Conventionally grown cotton is not a pretty crop.  Here are some of the dirty details:

  • Cotton requires a long growing season and huge amounts of water, causing desertification in some parts of the world.
  • Cotton consumes around 25% of the worldwide insecticides and more than 10% of the pesticides, while occupying only 3% of the farmland.
  • The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies 7 of the top 15 cotton pesticides as human carcinogens.
  • It takes around a 1/4 lb of chemicals to produce  1 T-shirt.
  • After harvest cotton is typically bleached (chemicals), dyed (more chemicals), and then treated with a formaldehyde finish (yet more chemicals).
  • In California cotton gin trash (the left-over leaves, stems,  and short fibers) is so contaminated that it is illegal to feed it to cows.  So instead the gin trash is used to make mattresses, pillows, tampons, cotton balls, etc.

Supporting conventional cotton growing is not something that I want to be a part of, so what are the other options out there?  Organic products are, of course, the recommendation: cotton, hemp, bamboo, ramie (an asian grass used to cover mummys back in the day), linen, silk (the caterpiller friendly kind – in which they let the caterpillers live), wool, alpaca, cashmere, and lyocell (wood pulp).  Choosing hemp and bamboo, even if they are not organic, are still a better choice because they require little to no fertilizer.

Avoid nylon, polyester, and acrylic which are all fossil fuels. 

I did a little web surfing the other night, and I found a few Canadian companies that are offering some of these products online, including fabric.  A lot of the products in clothing tend toward yoga wear, t-shirts, items for women and infant/toddlers.  So, as far as I can tell at this point, the selections are somewhat limited.  There is more choice if you are looking for houshold linens and towels.

I think, for the moment, second hand stores are going to be the ticket for me.  That way I will not consume raw materials and I will help limit new uglies from being created in the environment (as well as not unknowingly supporting sweatshops).  Swapping clothes with friends is another great way to get a new wardrobe without being wasteful, and it would be so fun to organize a Swap-O-Rama-Rama. http://swaporamarama.org/  The website states at the outset of their philosophy:

“There is no beauty in the finest cloth if it makes hunger and unhappiness.”  –Gandhi

 

 
 
 

 
  

Driving in the Slow Lane

I am not sure if it is growing up on a farm in rural Alberta, or just the genes passed down to me from my father, but I have been know to have a heavy foot when it comes to driving.  (Although, I did not try to kill gophers on the road while driving at high speeds, like Dad did.)  So moving to the slow lane is difficult for me.

For every gallon of gas a car burns it releases 20 lbs of carbon dioxide into the air, so to preserve our earth we need to foster fuel efficiency.  So I have a list of 10 things we can do to be more fuel efficient in our automobiles, because not all of us can afford to go out and purchase a Toyota Prius.

  1. The optimal fuel efficiency for all cars is around 100 km/h, so drive the speed limit.
  2. Keep your tires properly inflated because then there is less surface area that comes in contact with the road, therefore creating less drag.
  3. Idling for more than 10 seconds is actually less efficient than turning the car off and on again, so avoid drive throughs.
  4. Drive at a steady speed, and avoid sudden braking or accelerating.
  5. In manuel transmission switch to a higher gear as soon as possible.
  6. Using the AC decreases fuel efficiency (easy right now, but lets see how it goes come summer).
  7. Keep the air filters clean.
  8. Pack light, don’t carry around extra stuff in your car.
  9. Keep the engine properly maintained.
  10. Smile at all the people passing you in the slow lane, maybe they will see how much fun it is to slow down and want to join in.

I have made a couple successful trips to the Hamilton Airport in the slow lane.  The first time was the hardest, and I had to talk myself through the experience.  I kept telling myself: just relax, think of how much less carbon dioxide you are producing, the slow lane is the new cool lane, etc.  The true test will be if I can stay in the slow lane for the whole 3 hour trip to the cottage – with small children.

Published in: on February 3, 2009 at 2:27 am  Comments (1)  

Toothpaste

I was not aware that I was using rat poison to clean my teeth. 

Some of you may have known, but I was not aware that sodium flouride was used as rat poison and as an insecticide for plants (until the plants started dying).  Now I know why the dental hygenist is always saying, make sure you don’t swallow, during the flouride treatment.  I know that I have swallowed a lot of toothpaste over the years.   (Maybe that is what killed the tapeworm.)   Chances are I still have the flouride inside me, because it is one of the chemicals that bioaccumulates (which means it collects in the tissues).

So, if I don’t swallow then I will be fine, right?!  Well, there is also a chemical called sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) or sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), which is used in many products, including toothpaste, to help create bubbles, and lather.  What SLS’s do are increase the skin’s ability to absorb, so whatever chemicals are in a product can penetrate more easily  through the skin.

The other things that could penetrate through the skin besides the sodium flouride are coal tar products (like saccharin or synthetic food dyes).  Doesn’t that just make your teeth feel so clean!  I also did not know that I was using coal to clean my teeth.

I took my kids toothpaste, which was close to being empty, and looked at the ingredients.  Some of them were: 11% sodium flouride, SLS, and the dye Yellow 10 Lake, which is not recommended in Europe for kids because it is believed to make them hyper, distracted, and prone to throwing tantrums.  My kids have stopped using that toothpaste.  I replaced it with an eco-friendly product; there was even bubble gum flavour.  Although it took some time to find the right one, because some of the products in the eco-section still had flouride and SLS.

The reviews are Sarah doesn’t really like the new toothpaste, but Hannah has not complained.  I picked up one for me from Green Beaver, and I really love the way my teeth feel when I am finished.  It takes a little bit to get used to the fact that it does not lather up, but I know if it did lather there would be SLS in it.

Happy brushing!!

Published in: on February 1, 2009 at 5:40 am  Comments (1)  

gDiapers

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).  www.gdiapers.com

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.

http://www.southridgechurch.ca/video/details/bliss

Isn’t it great!!

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