Green News

Our Green Christmas

Posted by Environment Smart on 12/12 at 08:52 PM
Tips and How-to'sIn the housePermalink

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
NewsGlobal WarmingPermalink

If you have not heard about or contributed to, 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 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
Tips and How-to'sGeneralPermalink

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
NewsGlobal WarmingPermalink

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