Green News

Our Green Christmas

Posted by Environment Smart on 12/12 at 08:52 PM
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Here are some of the things that we are doing to have a greener Christmas this year:

·       We use our reusable shopping bags for any Christmas shopping. I take whichever bag is handiest – usually entering into a store carrying a reusable shopping bag with another store’s advertising on it. I have only received positive feedback from store clerks when I decline their store bag. In the past, I would get a disgruntled look as I put items from one store into the bag of another store.

·       We plan our shopping route to minimize the driving around. This is something that I have always done in order to save time and my own energy. In this case, being efficient with my personal energy is good for the environment as well.

·       We reuse gift bags. This is again something that we have always done. The stigma of seeming “cheap”, however, no longer applies.

·       We have a real Christmas tree. We traditionally have a real Christmas tree each year. A number of years back, however, we looked into whether or not it was more environmentally friendly to get a reusable synthetic tree. We learned that, as long as we get our tree from a tree farm, we are actually helping the environment and our local economy by having a real Christmas tree.

·       We use LED and now solar-powered holiday lights. As soon as the LED holiday lights became available, we switched over to them. They are just as bright and colourful, will last longer and do not get as hot for in the tree. This year we also bought some new solar-powered lights. Unfortunately, they have not worked terribly well for us thus far. But … it has been quite overcast and snowy since we put them up, and they are also not hanging in the most effective area. Our problem is that we need to put the solar panels in a somewhat protected spot so that they will not get covered with snow. This means that they will not charge up as well. No worries though. If they do not work well for winter, then we can use them for little summer light around the deck.

·       We have been doing more thrift store and fare-trade purchases this year.  We have been finding unique and beautiful gifts at fare-trade stores like Dix Milles Villages (Ten Thousand Villages) for years, but lately we make a point of looking for fare-trade gifts first. The thrift store is something newer for us. I have found that one of our local charity stores has been the perfect place to find nice Christmas dishes for my baked goods gifts.

·       We save our Christmas wrapping paper for crafts. As an artsy-craftsy person, I have always done this. Now it is considered environmentally friendly.

·       We are cutting down on the wrapping paper we use. There are some gifts that we do not wrap and simply use a bow or ribbon to make them look festive. We also reuse gift bags. Many of the gifts that we give to friends and family are wrapped in something other than wrapping paper (ie. fabric, a basket, tin, etc.). For many of the gifts under the tree, however, we continue to use colourful wrapping. Using wrapping paper goes against the grain of what many green-minded people are advocating, but my children and the child in me still likes to see lots of colourful packages under the Christmas tree. But … we do make a point of reusing the wrapping in one capacity or another.

·       We make our own gift tags from old Christmas cards and wrapping. This is a lot of fun to do, and not much work at all. When the holidays are over and we take down the Christmas cards, we go through them and cut up the ones that can be used for nice tags the following year.

·       We do several Christmas crafts using recycled materials.

- This year we are starting a Christmas scrapbook. Each of us in the family will have our own section. The idea is that we can save our favourite cards and gift tags. We will add a list of the gifts we received and whom they came from. We can glue in our Christmas dinner menu. And, finally we can use a page to write down our best memories of the holidays and add a few photos. We can do this every year and develop a beautiful family memento.

- We have made Christmas wreaths using old Christmas wrapping. See previous posting

- We have made disco ball ornaments using old CD’s. See previous posting.

- We are currently making pompom elves and scrap paper Christmas trees. Stay tuned for a posting on how to make your own.

About the author: Environment Smart

One Million Acts of Green - have you contributed yet?

Posted by TheGreen on 12/11 at 02:50 AM
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If you have not heard about or contributed to OneMillionActsofGreen.com, then now is the time to do it. Head on over to this initiative that is setup by the CBC. We entered all the things that we have done recently that are considered acts of green. 47 in all! If you don't feel like entering your acts of being green, then at least head on over to OneMillionActsofGreen.com and maybe you will get some going green ideas. Here is the link to the One Million Acts of Green website.

About the author: TheGreen

Eco-friendly snow removal

Posted by Environment Smart on 12/10 at 01:14 PM
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We have just received our first real accumulation of snow (15cm to 20cm, with more coming). "It's starting to feel a lot like Christmas ..."

We live in the West Island. A large number of homes in this suburban area of Montreal use a snow-removal service. Someone comes to clear the driveway with a snow plow. This is very convenient, as we can get a lot of snow around here. We initially employed this service because our driveway is so long. It is about 8 car-lengths long and and and a half car-widths wide (three wide at the top). We did not want to chance being caught trying to dig ourselves out of a snow storm in the early morning and end up late for work. After a few years of having our driveway plowed, we started rethinking our choice. First of all, on the days when the snow was really too deep to drive through, there was no hurry to get to work anyway due to cancellations. Secondly, we often ended up doing a fair bit of shoveling, because the plow was sometimes late and we still had to shovel around the car in the driveway. Thirdly, we were becoming more environmentally conscious and were feeling that a snow-removal service might be one area where we could reduce our carbon footprint.

So, last year we decided to do without our snow-removal service. What a winter to pick! We had close to a record snow fall. The first snow storm almost did us in, but we recovered in time for the second snow storm about a week later. All of our neighbours and passers by gave us sympathetic looks and comments. We, however, felt anything but pitiable. In fact, we felt very proud that we could maintain such a beautifully cleared driveway (as well as several paths). Yes, we would groan and grumble a bit whenever we faced yet another driveway full of wet and heavy snow, but a feeling of accomplishment always followed after our hard work.

This year, we are sticking to our commitment to shoveling our long driveway by hand. It seems like a no-brainer method of eco-friendly snow-removal. When we were out shoveling yesterday evening, we thought back to last year. If this winter turns out to be another doozy for snow fall, then we will be the fitter for it. No complaints. What is good for the environment, is good for us!

Tips for the inexperienced shoveler:

  • Always bend at the knees when shoveling. This will save you weeks of back pain.
  • Do not overload your shovel.
  • Pace yourself. If your are not in good physical fitness, then take your time. Shoveling snow is not a race.
  • We use a large scoop for clearing most of our long driveway. This helps take pressure off of your back, as you are pushing, rather than lifting the snow. We bought our snow scoop at Canadian Tire a few years ago.
  • Do not leave all of the snow shoveling to when the snowing has stopped. If you can, shovel a few times. The quality of the snow can change, and you do not want to end up shoveling a large amount of wet and heavy snow.
  • Wear layers so that you do not over-heat.
  • Do not forget to drink water at regular intervals. Shoveling snow is like any other exercise – you need to keep hydrated.

About the author: Environment Smart

Christmas is coming – buy less stuff this year

Posted by Environment Smart on 12/01 at 05:07 PM
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Christmas is just around the corner, and many of us are already out there shopping for gifts. This year, our family has vowed to buy less STUFF. As a crafts-oriented person, I have always tried to make as many of my own gifts as I have time for. Our adult friends really appreciate this. They value the time and effort that went into the making of the gift, as well as the environmental consciousness of something made, often with recycled materials. They also appreciate the move away from the commercialism of Christmas. We all have enough STUFF.

The children appreciate the hand-made gifts as well, but they are still overwhelmingly drawn to the latest, greatest toys advertised on TV. We don't want to deny our kids the thrill of receiving a gift that they have been longing for, but they are also being reminded that they already have enough stuff. They already understand that they have more than most children in the world. They are also understanding the concept of wastefulness in terms of trendy toys losing their appeal quickly. What we are still working on, however, is the more complex system of how the toys they want impact on the environment. This where a great little video called The Story of Stuff is being helpful. Annie Leonard explains the cycle of stuff from extraction, to production, distribution, consumption and disposal. Simple animation graphics help to illustrate these concepts.

This is a good time of year to be teaching our children about how stuff happens.

About the author: Environment Smart

Pay for your shopping bag at Loblaws

Posted by Environment Smart on 11/28 at 01:41 PM
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BRAMPTON, ON, Nov. 27 /CNW/ - As a cornerstone to our 20th anniversary of PC(R) GREEN products and our ongoing commitment to respect the environment, Loblaw Companies Limited is pleased to announce that effective Earth Day 2009 (April 22, 2009) all corporate and participating franchise stores nationally will no longer provide complimentary plastic shopping bags at check-out. Loblaw will continue to encourage customers to use alternatives to plastic bags, enhance its offer of affordable reusable bag options and charge $0.05 per plastic shopping bag, when they are requested by customers.

It is excellent news that Loblaws is taking initiative in the area of plastic shopping bag use in the grocery chain stores. 

In our opinion, there is no need to even offer the $0.05 bags. $0.05 is not much of a deterrent for many people, unless you happen to live in a green-minded community where shame plays a role. Customers will more easily get into the practice of bringing their own bags if they need to buy a $1.00 bag each time they forget their own. The grocery chain stores in the Netherlands have a shopping bag vending machine set up in the store. If you forget your bag, then you buy a new one.

We do a good deal of our grocery shopping at the local Provigo, Maxi and Loblaws stores. Whereas, we started regularly using our own sturdy shopping bags about 8 years ago, we did sometimes leave them in the car and would end up using the store's plastic bags. It was very helpful when Loblaws introduced their reusable shopping bags. We could buy a couple when we forgot our original bags. We also found the bags to be useful for shopping elsewhere. We now have a trunk full of shopping bags, and no longer forget to bring them into the store.

About the author: Environment Smart

Party for 24 guests – the paper plate debate

Posted by Environment Smart on 11/27 at 01:11 PM
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We recently hosted a 50th anniversary party for our parents. It was not a huge affair, but with 24 guests, it was significant enough to be concerned about the amount of garbage that we could produce. I am proud to say that we ended up with only one small bag of non-compostable or recyclable stuff. What we did to cut down on garbage was really no big deal, but there was one bone of contention.

The party was a lunch affair with a buffet-style meal. This sparked a bit of a debate regarding the dishes that we should use. Guests would be milling about between the living room, dining room and kitchen. We did not want to be be piling dirty dishes or washing them while guests were socializing in the kitchen. As we do not have a dishwasher, I was actually promoting the idea of using nice paper plates. These could be recycled or composted. The argument, however, was that the idea of not using real dishes was simply not acceptable for a 50th anniversary. What to do? We did not have enough matching dishes and we did not see the sense in renting dishes. Stoneware would be heavy to stand around with and china might be to fragile. The final solution was to invest in Corelle dishes. Corelle is light weight and durable if dropped. The dishes are thin and easy to stack, so that we could pile them out of sight and wash up after the party. We chose a plain white square set that would suit any occasion. We bought enough for future parties, so that we never need to worry about another paper plate debate in this house. 

Reducing the rest of our garbage was a simple matter.

  • We made sure to not waste food. With a buffet, we could prepare enough variety to suit everyone's taste. A buffet also allowed guests to choose the amount of food they wanted, so that they did not leave much on their plates. Whatever was leftover was composted, with the exception of some meat and dairy.
  • Leftovers were kept in reusable containers and enjoyed in the following days.
  • We used real dishes and cutlery, but chose paper napkins because we wanted a 50th anniversary design on them. The napkins were recycled.
  • We wrapped the gift in craft paper with a nice raffia bow. The paper was reused by the children at the party and the bow was kept as a souvenir. 
  • The decorations were simple. We had some gold balloons (which the kids played with after the party) and some gold potpourri (mostly pine cones and wood shavings) elegantly placed on the tables. Some of the potpourri was taken home by guests and the rest can be reused for Christmas. We also had a beautiful floral centre piece that we are still enjoying several days later.
  • The Corelle that we purchased was environmentally packaged with no styrofoam or plastic. There was only some cardboard and paper to protect the plates. As we are keeping the packaging for storing the plates, there was not garbage anyway.

 

 

 

About the author: Environment Smart

Green Apples for sale ... get your green Apples!

Posted by Environment Smart on 11/25 at 02:34 PM
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Apple has redesigned the new Macbook to make it the greenest notebook Apple has ever produced. Every new Macbook is built with highly recyclable materials, and many of the harmful substances present in other computers have been eliminated from the new Macbook. The software and hardware have also been designed to work together. This will "maximize energy efficiency and minimize the carbon footprint of the MacBook". The packaging has been reduced by using smaller boxes to ship and less material. 

It is encouraging to see a computer company that is moving forward and being environmentally smart with its new designs.

You will find this environmental status report and specific details regarding the new Macbook design on Apple's promotional website.

 

Each new MacBook is designed with the following features to reduce its environmental footprint:

  • Arsenic-free glass
  • Mercury-free LED-backlit display
  • Brominated flame retardant-free internal components
  • PVC-free internal cables
  • Highly recyclable aluminum and glass enclosure
  • Up to 41 percent smaller packaging

 

Apple seems to be very serious in its efforts to minimize the environmental impact of both its products and facilities. See Apple's 2008 Environmental Update and Apple's 2008 Environmental performance reports

 

About the author: Environment Smart

Greener farts with fire

Posted by Environment Smart on 11/17 at 04:56 PM
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Yes, there is a way to reduce the environmental impact of your daily passing of gas. Whether you want to admit it or not, your farts do smell and they are gaseous.

It has long been proven that the method of lighting a match or candle in the bathroom helps to reduce the unsavory odors that can be produced there. Did you know, however, that this technique also burns up odorous hydrogen sulfide as well as odorless methane gas.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, methane is listed as one of the three top greenhouse gases, and it traps over 21 times more heat per molecule than carbon dioxide.

Whereas human activities generally do not produce all that much methane, it is nice to think that lighting a vanilla-scented candle in the bathroom will help the environment just a little. Now all we need to do is follow all the cows around with a lighter.  See previous outofgreen post.

About the author: Environment Smart