5.31.2011

3 The Green Monster

I spent most of the afternoon on Saturday Fiskar'ing the crap out of the dandelions on our front lawn. 3 hours of work and I got about half of the lawn done. Yep it is really that bad this year. There are many factors at play for it being as bad as it is but the biggest is that our lawn sucks. It was crappy when we moved in 4 years ago and as hard as we have tried there has been no saving it. In fact whenever we talk about it now we say "lawn" or "grass" in air quotes. Because really it isn't a "lawn" or "grass"..instead it is a mixture of clover, prickly long soft weedy things, crab grass, dandelions and yes the odd blade of grass.

My neighbour on the other hand has the most beautiful thick green lawn. I dream of rolling around on it laughing, probably with some puppies around me, fluffy clouds in the sky and everything in slow motion. We plan on replacing ours this year but with 10,000 square feet of lawn who knows how long it will take to get done. In the mean time I am totally green with envy of our neighbours lawn...or heck any one's lawn that isn't 98% frickin dandelions.

How do you manage to keep a green lawn without using chemicals?

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5.30.2011

11 Weekly Eco-Challenge - Ants

What is with the ants this year? They are everywhere and the colonies are massive. Right now they are enjoying a lovely dinner made up mostly of the grout in between our patio stones. ::laser beams of hate::

I have researched natural ways to get rid of ants and have tried out 3 in our backyard. Over the next week I am going to see which was the most effective of getting rid of the ants and keeping them gone. I used vinegar, hot water and cornmeal in 3 test areas (not all mixed together obviously).

I'm expecting that the hot water and vinegar will  have instant results but won't  be long lasting. I have high hopes that the cornmeal will take longer to work but will effectively get rid of the colony.

How do you get rid of ants?

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5.27.2011

0 Green Body Care Product Review - Natures Gate Sunblock





I originally was using Aveeno Baby Sunblock thinking I was doing the right thing with B. Enter the EWG 2010 Sunscreen Report and I quickly realized that I in fact was exposing B to some nasty chemicals. Selection is limited in Canada so I opted for Natures Gate. I like how it applies easily, lasted a very long time and didn't have a strong odour. It was even cheaper than the Aveeno Baby Sunblock I had originally purchased!

Cosmetics Safety Database Rating
Aveeno Baby Sunblock - 7
Natures Gate Aqua Sunblock SPF 50 - 3

The issue with this sunblock is that it contains oxybenzone which is a photocarcinogen and hormone disruptor (studies are mixed though). Now information on the EWG site indicates that this product was reformulated in 2011 and oxybenzone was removed. The rating above is based on it still being in the product so this rating may change next year if in fact the oxybenzone has been removed.

The EWG has released the 2011 Sunscreen Report. I encourage you to check it out prior to selecting your sun protection this year. Again I find that the options in Canada are very limited and if you can find something makes the list of 'must buy' it ends up being hella expensive.

** I purchased this product on my own. It was not given to me.

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5.26.2011

1 Dying for what you love

Sadly two eco-heroes were executed in Brazil this week for protecting the trees in the Amazon against deforestation and illegal logging practices. It makes me sad to be a human being when I hear of things like this happening. Is business that important that it is worth taking lives? What becomes clear is that two people were making a difference...so much so that it had someone scared enough to kill them. And José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva knew he was going to be killed, he knew that what they were doing was dangerous but he was willing to risk his own life to help protect the trees. 

We need more people in the world like José and his wife Maria.

Would you put it all on the line for the environment?

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5.25.2011

2 Wordless Wednesday

....with some words.

I was walking down the organic aisle at the grocery store and saw this.


And I stopped dead in my tracks and let out a squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee and then nearly pee'd myself. My grocery store carries Nature BabyCare diapers and wipes. These are hands down my favourite diaper but I had to stop buying then when I returned to work because the closest store was 40 minutes away and not open on the weekend.

So Canadian Mom's...if you are looking for an awesome disposable diaper you can find these at Zehrs (and I can only assume all the Loblaw brand stores) for 13.99!!! (I paid 19.99 for them from another store).

I am still giddy.

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5.24.2011

2 2011 in 2011 - Week 13 and 14

I have combined weeks 13 and 14 because week 13 produced 2 items and no one wants to read a sad post with just 2 items.

One of the things the 2011 in 2011 has taught me is to really think about what I am doing with things as I am looking to get rid of them. Recycling is a good alternative but it should not be the first answer. I have a bunch of boxes that I am getting rid of this week and my first thought was to recycle them...that is until Joe suggested that I instead give them away to someone who is moving. Perfect! The boxes will get multiple uses and then eventually be recycled (or used as some sort of awesome play fort).

Here are the numbers for the is week

Recycle - 17
Garbage - 23
Hazardous Waste - 0
Donate - 32
Sell - 13
Giveaway - 45
Return - 0
Compost - 0
? - 0
Total number of items = 128

Grand total so far = 1790

Most interesting item - I found the video...yeah like VHS baby....of when I was on Letterman. No not like a guest but in the audience and you can hear me laughing and then also see me when they camera pans the audience.

Most thought provoking item from an environmental perspective - Why did our movers wrap our board games up with packing paper. Was there really the fear of our Battleship breaking or the Scrabble tiles from chipping? 37 'groups' of paper (group meaning several sheets used as one protective layer) from 2 boxes. I with trophy's and the other with board games. Holy overboard!

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5.21.2011

0 WINNER - Recyclogami EcoCraft Book

Thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway! The winner is...... #8 NW Homesteader!



Congrats! I will be emailing you to get your details.

I also wanted to comment on some of the comments that the participants left...because they were all awesome!

Greening of Westford said 'I also have big ideas at first, them end up giving the stuff away because they never happen'. I think we all do this! We buy something or receive something with good intentions of using it and then we just never do. Or we do use it but realize it doesn't work for our needs. Joey and I are really focusing on making the right decision when we go to buy something so we don't end up replacing things over and over again when we realize it just isn't what we really wanted.

NW Homesteader said 'We take the metal lids from frozen juice containers to make label tags in the garden!' This is an awesome idea and I will be doing it with our garden this year!

Alicia said 'we converted plastic juice jugs into watering holes for our garden. I merely cut the bottoms off, poked a bunch of holes in the sides, then buried them (bottoms up) about every 5 feet. I can get water to the roots of my plants by pouring it into the jugs'. Holy awesome!

Both Bree and Lindsey said they are making quilts out of old jeans. I am going to do something similar but with old pieces of B's baby clothes. My mom did this for us as kids and I love the idea of carrying the tradition on.

5.19.2011

0 Last Chance - Recyclo-gami Giveaway

The Recyclo-gami EcoCraft Book Giveaway is coming to an end on the 20th. You can enter it here. The book is seriously awesome and full of fun crafts that you can do with things you have around your house.

5.18.2011

11 Green Dreams

I often find myself day dreaming of the 'perfect' green life. I dream about buying a piece of land....well actually saving a piece of land from becoming something it shouldn't be like a parking lot or industrial park. I dream about building a house on part of this land. A house that has a place for everything so there is no clutter of day to day things. A house that has not one rain barrel but a whole row of them. I want to look out my window and see my large vegetable garden, massive tree's blowing in the wind and butterflies fluttering around my flower garden. I want to be off the grid by having solar and geothermal power and have a grey water system. There will be no trash on the side of the curb because everything will be composted or recycled.

Going to the grocery store will be a rare event for us as everything we will need will be grown in our backyard or purchased from a local farmer. There would be a hybrid in my garage and bicycles in our driveway. Up the street is where we would ride to get fresh eggs from our local farmer.

I want to sit on the front porch when it rains, listening to each drop hit the ground and watching B splash in the puddles. There will be camp outs under the stars (that we will actually be able to see) and picnic lunches in the woods.

To some people this may seem like a lot. To me it isn't. It is actually very little. It is getting back to the simple things in life. Lemonade made from scratch, clothes drying in the wind in the backyard, eating crisp green beans out of the garden. Away from the hectic and the consumerism that seems to dominate life.

What are your green dreams? Are you making them a reality?

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5.16.2011

9 Composting at Work

Tomorrow I will be doing something new. We do not have a composting program at work (yet) so I typically bring all my compostables home with me and put them into our green bin. Tomorrow I will be extending this offer to my colleagues. Yep I will be offering to bring their banana peels, tea bags, orange peels and apple cores home with me to put into our city compost bin.

I'm sure not everyone will take me up on my offer and I am positive some will laugh. But hey if it diverts waste from the landfill then who cares right?!

Do you have a composting program at work? If you don't what do you do with your compostables? Would you ever consider taking your colleagues home with you to put in your composter? (or you know bring their stuff home with you to put in your composter)

Also - reminder to enter the Recyclogami EcoCraft Book Giveaway. It ends on May 20th!

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5.15.2011

4 Zoo's - Love Them or Leave Them?

Several years ago I was in Berlin and went to the zoo. It was a ridiculously hot day and I remember standing at the polar bear exhibit and thinking that it just didn't seem fair to have the bears there in that kind of heat. And there in lines the issues with zoo's. Last week a decision was reached to relocate the 3 elephants at the Toronto Zoo to another zoo or sanctuary in a better climate. Activists had urged the zoo to make this decision because of our cold winters. In the end the zoo made the decision because there just is not the budget to make the exhibit what it needs to be for the elephants to continue to be comfortable.

I have a love hate relationships with zoo's. I hate the idea of zoo's. Why do we even need them? Sure I never would have seen an elephant in person but what am I really seeing? I'm not seeing how they would typically act I presume. What I love about our local zoo is that it has conservation programs and aims to educate the public about the animals and their natural habitat. I believe that it is important to educate people about animals that are native to our country and those that are not so that they will understand how their actions can have an impact on these animals and their habitats. Do we need zoo's to do this? Can we be smarter about how we run these programs? Show video of the animals in their natural habitat rather than having them right there in an environment that is not natural or comfortable for them. Or have one zoo have the animals and another zoo stream live video of the animals at that zoo.

What do you think of zoo's? Not all are created equal so what is your local zoo like?

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5.14.2011

6 Birth Options

In Ontario (and most of Canada) we have 3 options for giving birth. You can have a home birth with a midwife, a hospital birth with a midwife or a hospital birth with a doctor. Ontario Midwives are trying to add a fourth option to the list and have birth centers be available in Ontario.

After many hours of research and discussion with our midwife we planned for a home birth. We were very comfortable with this option to largely in part to our awesome midwife team and our proximity to the hospital. When we were telling people that this was our plan we did get a lot of questions and many people were concerned. We answered all questions and provided as much information as we could to show that we had not made this decisions uninformed. But I know that for some a home birth would just not be something they would be comfortable with and at the same time they don't want the traditional hospital birth. Enter birthing centers! It is a great compromise between a home birth and a hospital birth.

In our situation we didn't end up getting the home birth we had planned. I went the full 42 weeks and needed to be induced and this can not happen at home. So off to the hospital we went for pretty much the opposite of what we had planned. Now if there were birth centers in Ontario I am pretty sure that we would have been able to be induced there and not in the hospital. Perhaps then I would not have had to follow hospital protocol and be hooked up to every machine known to man and have to endure labour on my back. Perhaps I would have progressed better and it would not have led to an emergency c-section.

If you support birth centers please send your MPP a postcard. Let's send the message that Ontario (and the rest of Canada) need to give families another option when it comes to having healthy births supported by a midwife.

Would you use a birth center? If you have this option did you use it?

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5.10.2011

4 Week 12 - 2011 in 2011

Well I did it. I started working on the basement. I thought I would find a lot of stuff to get rid of but a lot of what is down there is things we use on a regular basis. Mostly seasonal things like camping equipment or Christmas decorations. I did find some things to get rid of and I still have a lot more work to do down there.

Here are my totals for this week.

Recycle - 23
Garbage - 19
Hazardous Waste - 0
Donate - 9
Sell - 9
Giveaway - 0
Return - 0
Compost - 0
? - 1
Total number of items = 61

Grand total so far = 1660

Most thought provoking item from an environmental perspective - I came across a box of plastic forks and one of plastic knives. They were leftovers at Joe's plant when it closed down so he took them so they did not get thrown out. They have been in the basement ever since. We have no use for them so I will be donating them to a church that prepares and serves meals for those in need.

Best green item - Old Navy and TerraCycle has a program on right now where you can return flip flops and they will recycle them into children's playgrounds! It doesn't look like the program is available in Canada but if you are in the US you have a few more weeks to take part.

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5.09.2011

11 Mommy, what did trees look like?

Yesterday I was walking around our backyard looking for the little tree's I planted after B's birthday party. I planted 6 or 7 and today I couldn't find any of them. I don't know if I didn't look hard enough or if they just did not survive the massive amount of snow we got this winter. Either way it got me thinking. There is the very real possibility that our grandchildren will never know what a forest is. There won't be trees big enough to climb or put a tire swing in. There will be nothing to take shelter under when it really starts to rain, no school field trips to watch sap being turned into maple syrup. All the things that we loved doing as kids the future generations may not experience even one time.

A good part of my life has been spent in forests. I camped under the canopy of hundreds of trees and hiked with my family where my siblings and I collected leaves that we later pressed in wax paper. Joe and I have ziplined and cave tubed our way through rain forests in Central America. And I have spent countless hours in local forests studying them with my classmates. Through all of this I have learned that trees really are the definition of sustainable. They give us the air we breathe, they filter pollution and even in death they are giving life sustaining nutrients to other vegetation in the forest.

There are several things I hope B never says to me. One of them being 'Mommy, what did trees look like?' June 5th is World Environment Day (WED) and with the focus on forests I ask that you help me to prevent our children and grandchildren from growing up in a world that is so very different than ours. We are losing 36 million acres of natural forests every year and together we can stop this from happening. I ask that you plant or protect a tree, go for a hike or teach your children about the importance of trees. The more people who grow up respecting them and the importance they play in our lives the better chance we have of this not becoming their reality. We plan on also taking a look at our total carbon output in a year and planting enough trees to offset that.

But let's go beyond what we can do on one day. There are things you can do every day that will help to protect our forests.

* When you are buying wood products look for those coming from sustainable sources that are certified by the FSC. Or consider buying used! There are thousands of products on websites like Craigslist, Freecycle and Kijiji.

* If you are building a new home research the land and if forests were cleared to make room for the houses. If they were then chose another builder.  

* Think before you print! I have not printed anything since February 18th and will hopefully be able to beat my last record of 500+ days. See if you can go without using paper by taking notes on your laptop or your smartphone.

* If you are looking to plant a tree on your property try looking for someone who is getting rid of a tree. That is how we got our apple tree and it saved it from becoming fire wood.

For more information on World Environment Day visit UNEP and Treehugger.

What have you done to protect our forests? Leave a comment and let me know!

5.08.2011

8 Green Body Care Product Review - Kiss My Face Soap





Last year I went looking to replace our soap and body wash. I came across a huge bar of Kiss My Face soap and decided to give it a try. I tried the Olive and Lavender and the Olive and Green Tea bars and had the same result with both. I find that there is no smell to them at all. It doesn't really even give you that "clean" smell that you find with traditional soaps. Which I suppose is due to the lack of chemicals etc.

These bars are massive so they are long lasting. I also found that they did not break apart easily so when you get to the end of the bar they aren't breaking into tiny unusable pieces. They are also readily available and cost effective (range from 2.99-4.49/bar).

They really did a great job of cleaning and feeling clean afterwards with no residue feeling. But I found that they did not lather at all. I have recently tried another Kiss My Face soap and it does in fact lather so I know it is not our water. Perhaps it is just how these olive oil based soaps work.

Cosmetic Safety Database Rating
Note - the Pure Olive Oil bar gets a rating of 0.

There are very few ingredients in both bars and are not made with animal products or chemicals. But get a higher rating than the pure bar because of the fragrances involve (score of 8). So if you like this product but want the one that is best for you and the environment go with the Pure Olive Oil bar.

**I was not given this product or paid for this review. I used my own dolla bills to pay for them.

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5.06.2011

52 Recyclo-gami - Review and Giveaway - CLOSED

As part of my 2011 in 2011 I have been sorting through a lot of "stuff" in our house and trying to figure out what to do with it. Sometimes I find alternative uses for things but mostly I donate, giveaway, recycle or dispose of it. I think because I don't really know what I would do with them. I mean I sit there and look at an old box from wipes and think it would be cool as a storage container for craft supplies or ribbon or something.

The book Recyclo-gami by Laurie Goldrich Wolf offers 40 crafts that you can make at home or school to upcycle your everyday "stuff". These are really great crafts to do with your kids on those rainy spring days or for a green Mother's Day gift! It is a fantastic way to repurpose items that you would normally toss out.

Now let's get down to the fun stuff!  My friend Sam made some cool art supply containers out of old cans and cookie containers.



On my list to make in the coming months (hopefully with B's help on some) include:
Decorated Bobby Pins - made from the millions of bobby pins I have kicking around and some stray buttons
Napkin Rings - made from toilet paper rolls and scrap materials/ribbons/crafting supplies
Rolled Paper Vase - made from leftover paper
Crayons - made from leftover broken crayons

And a very cute idea for Mothers Day would be the chapter that outlines making paper flower bouquets from leftover paper.

The Giveaway

Enter to win a copy of Recyclo-gami! Giveaway is open to residents of Canada and the US. You must leave your email address. Giveaway is open until Friday May 20th at 11:59PM EST. Winner will be contacted at email address provided and must respond within 4 days (since it is the Canadian long weekend and all).

Mandatory Entry
Leave a comment for this entry. Other entries will not count if this entry is not completed.

Tell me about something that you have upcycled and what you made! If you haven't had a chance to do it yet tell me what you would love to upcycle.

Additional Entries
Follow my blog with GFC (worth 2 entries - leave a separate comment for each)
Follow my blog in another means (reader, email subscription - worth 1 entry)
Tell me how you are being green this Mother's Day (worth 1 entry)
Follow me on Twitter (worth 1 entry)
Tweet about this giveaway Upcycle your stuff! Enter to win the Recyclo-gami book on @JnJGoGreen http://tinyurl.com/3hxl2lq (worth 1 entry - can tweet daily)

5.05.2011

2 Living Walls

Living walls are becoming very popular and seriously look cool! My work and University have one, our local Children's Museum has one and recently our hotel had one. I think it would be awesome to do something like this in a house. Like on a wall in a kitchen or the front entrance way. Now it serves more of a purpose than just looking pretty, it also removes toxins from the air that we are breathing.

You can have then on the outside of a building too but I personally have never seen that before (or not that I can remember).

Famous Living Walls
Japan's Bio-Lund: World's Largest Green Wall
PNC Bank in Pittsburgh
Changi Airport, Singapore

Want to build a living wall? Here is how.

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5.04.2011

0 Week 11 - 2011 in 2011

Well this week got busy so I didn't get a chance to sort through that many things. Just paper and old tupperware so nothing to really talk about.

Here are my totals for the week.

Recycle - 56
Garbage - 0
Hazardous Waste - 0
Donate - 0
Sell - 0
Giveaway - 0
Return - 0
Compost - 0
? - 0
Total number of items = 56

Grand total so far = 1599

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5.03.2011

0 Green Body Care Product Review - Live Clean Baby Bubble Bath





I found Live Clean Baby Bubble Bath totally on a fluke when looking for something to put in B's stocking. It was reasonably priced (4.99 for 300mL) and it smelled fantastic. This product is made form 98% plant ingredients and is SLS and phthalate free. When I used it for the first time I was surprised at how much product it took to get bubbles in the water (we have hard water with a water softener so that may make a difference if you do not).  Yes it does its job and got our little guy clean but it takes a lot of product which means more money out of your pocket. Now add to that the fact that the last time I went to buy it it was up to 7.99! WHAT?????

I do like that the Live Clean products are readily available in big box stores and grocery stores. So in a pinch if it is on sale then it is a good product to pick up. Again for us it was just that it did not create enough bubbles (even with a lot of product used) to justify buying it.

UPDATE - I noticed a big difference in the amount of product needed when our water softener is topped right up with salt. We did not need nearly as much as we did when our water softener was getting close to needing refilling. 

**I was not given this product. I paid for it using my own cash monies. All opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.


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5.02.2011

0 X Marks the Spot

*Note to my readers outside of Canada - today is our Federal Election.

I come from a very political family that includes Ministers in the Provincial government and a Premier. So politics has always been a "big" deal that was broken down into 2 parties. Conservatives and Liberals. I for one have always voted Liberal. I didn't even bother reading platforms as I knew I would vote Liberal.

This year I approached things differently. I decided to read the platforms of the Conservatives, Liberals, NDP and the Green Party. I wanted to know why I was putting that X next to someones name. It needed to be more for me than just 'because I always have'. I also looked at the analysis for our riding. I discovered that my vote really did not matter. I knew I was not going to vote Conservative and it turns out we live in a Conservative 'safe seat' riding so it really doesn't matter who I vote for...it will not make a difference. I wondered how many other Canadians felt this way and it turns out there are thousands of us.

So my strategy changed. I signed up to pair my vote with someone else in Canada to make my vote matter. On Saturday I got my match! He lives in the Vancouver Island North riding and he wanted me to vote Green for him and he will vote NDP for me. Now in our pairing the vote I make for him will not change the result of my riding but the vote he makes for me could very well take a seat from the Conservatives. His riding is a swing riding...it could go either way between the NDP or the Conservatives. My vote may make a difference!!

I'm hoping that tonight we will see a new government form that will help to keep Canada beautiful. A government that will keep the promises we made on the international stage for reduction in emissions. A government that will reward individuals for making sustainable choices and tax industry who do not.

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5.01.2011

0 Green Hotels - The Bad

If you haven't checked out the other posts in this series then you may want to check out the reasons we picked the Minto Suites and the Good we found.  With every hotel there will be The Bad. Things that just don't add up to a sustainable perspective on the way they operate. Sometimes it is big things, sometimes it is small things. Here is what we found at our hotel.

The Bad

The showers could clean an elephant. There was nothing low flow about them...or if they were then they have done some serious magic to make low flow feel like 5000 psi of water ripping the hair off of your scalp.

By the parking garage elevators there were little cards to remind you what area of the parking garage you were in. I like the idea of this because seriously how many times do you end up forgetting where you have parked in a large garage. But I don't like the idea of this because it is just one more piece of paper that potentially hundreds of people are taking each week and then throwing away.

When we checked out via the TV it gave us the option to have the bill emailed to us. I selected this option thinking it would mean that we would not get a printed bill. I was wrong. As soon as I finished the checkout option a little message came up on the screen letting us know that a copy of the bill had been printed at the front desk and I could pick it up or it would be mailed to us. It showed up within the week. Kind of defeats the whole purpose of having the option to have it emailed to you doesn't it?

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