Green News

Toilet paper roll holiday wreaths

Posted by Environment Smart on 10/10 at 12:40 PM
Tips and How-to'sFor KidsPermalink

Halloween wreath

autumn wreath

We are always collecting toilet paper rolls. Often they go with the kids to school for their art class, but we do keep some at home for our own crafts. This year I thought it would be fun to make an autumn wreath and found instructions for a lovely one that makes use of toilet paper rolls. Since this one is so nice, we may just make one for Halloween as well. Both wreaths are great family projects. Everyone gets to add their own pieces of art to the overall outcome.

As well as reusing the toilet paper rolls, we will also be reusing colourful paper from wallpaper sample books instead of using construction paper. These books are quite easy to obtain from your local hardware or home decorating store. Stores just throw them away when they are out of fashion.

About the author: Environment Smart

Calculate your carbon footprint

Posted by Environment Smart on 10/04 at 11:59 AM
Tips and How-to'sGeneralPermalink

Here are two websites that will help you to calculate your carbon footprint.

Earth Lab offers a basic calculation. A simple profile is built as you answer a few questions. This determines your carbon footprint rating. I was a bit surprised to see that I still rate a bit above the Canadian average. This may be because there are several things that we do at home that there seemed to be no questions for (ie. our own vegetable garden, dual-flush toilets, general low water consumption, purchase of fewer packaged goods).

Eco Action is a government of Canada environment website that offers a variety of carbon calculators. Here you can calculate your fuel, water and energy consumption at home and as an organization. There are also several very useful and educational tools on this site that will help you to reduce your carbon footprint. I was impressed with the amount of information available through the Eco Action tools and calculators


About the author: Environment Smart

What is in Your Household Cleaner?

Posted by Environment Smart on 09/27 at 06:41 PM
Tips and How-to'sIn the housePermalink

Many commercial household cleaning products are not only very bad for the environment, but they also contain ingredients that can impact your health. There are a number of ingredients that you should be wary of. According to the National Geographic Green Guide, the top cleaning-product ingredients to avoid are:

  • Alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEs): commonly found in detergents and disinfectants. They are suspected hormone disruptors.
  • Ammonia: poisonous when swallowed and irritating to respiratory passages when inhaled. It can also burn the skin on contact.
  • Triclosan: found in antibacterial cleansers and may be contributing to the development of antibiotic-resistant germs.
  • Butyl cellosolve (butyl glycol, ethylene glycol monobutyl): poisonous when swallowed and can irritate lung tissue.
  • Chlorine bleach (aka sodium hypochlorite): can irritate the lungs and eyes.
  • Diethanolamine (DEA): can combine with nitrosomes (often-undisclosed preservatives) to produce carcinogenic nitrosamines that penetrate skin.
  • Phthalates: often contained in fragrances. These chemicals are linked to reproductive abnormalities and liver cancer in lab animals and to asthma in children.
  • Phosphates: water softeners found in detergents. They contribute to algae blooms in our waterways, which can kill off fish populations.
  • Sodium hydroxide: are found in drain, metal and oven cleaners. This is extremely irritating to eyes, nose and throat and can burn those tissues on contact.
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate: a common sudsing agent. This can penetrate the skin and cause contact dermatitis.

For a detailed checklist of hazardous ingredients found in cleaners, visit

About the author: Environment Smart

A Greener Bathroom At No Extra Cost

Posted by Environment Smart on 09/27 at 06:05 PM
Tips and How-to'sIn the housePermalink

Revamping your bathroom with a more efficient toilet, showerhead and faucet goes a long way to reducing the environmental impact of your bathroom. There is, however, also a lot that you can do without spending a dime.

Consider the following water saving tips:

  • Turn the water off while brushing your teeth or shaving.
  • Fill a container with stones and place it in your toilet tank to displace water. A closed bottle of sand will work as well.
  • Use a timer and limit your showers to 5 minutes.
  • Fix a leaking toilet and faucet right away.
  • Don’t use your toilet to flush trash.

Many bathroom cleaners are very harsh on the environment, and even those that are marked as eco-friendly may not be entirely so. Saving water is one way to make your bathroom greener, but making your own cleaner will also make a significant difference.

Consider the following DIY cleaner tips:

  • To make an all-purpose cleaner: use ½ cup of borax
1 gallon hot water. Mix this in a pail. For a spray-bottle amount, use 1/8 cup borax to 1 quart of hot water. Dissolve the borax completely. Use a rag to wipe clean wipe clean.
  • To make a toilet bowl cleaner: use baking soda and 
white vinegar. Sprinkle the toilet bowl with baking soda. Add the white vinegar to create fizz. Then scrub with a toilet brush. This cleans and deodorizes your toilet bowl.
  • To clean your tub and tiles: use 
1/2 lemon
 and borax.  Dip the lemon-half in the borax. The lemon-half becomes a hand-held scrubber. Rinse and dry the surface afterwards.
  • To clean drains:
use 1 cup of baking soda
and 1 cup of vinegar. Add the baking soda and vinegar to a pot of boiled water. Pour the mixture down the drain, and then flush with tap water. 
For stubborn clogs, you may need to also use a plunger or a “snake” plumbing tool to manually remove blockage. 
One way to prevent clogs is to install inexpensive mesh screen.
  • To clean glass
and mirrors: use 1/4 cup of vinegar or 1 Tbsp of lemon juice and 
2 or more cups of water.

Baking soda provides grit for scrubbing and it fizzes or foams when used with water, vinegar or lemon.  This helps to break down grime.
Borax disinfects, bleaches and deodorizes.
Distilled white vinegar disinfects and helps to break up dirt. Whereas red vinegar does the same, it may stain surfaces.
Hydrogen Peroxide disinfects and bleaches
Lemons help to cut grease. Lemon juice also works, but you may need to use more.


About the author: Environment Smart

Safe Water Bottles

Posted by Environment Smart on 09/20 at 12:54 PM
Tips and How-to'sIn the housePermalink

In an effort to reduce waste, we turned to reusable water bottles several years ago. When it came to our attention, however, that the plastic bottles and drink boxes we were using could be leaching harmful chemicals, we were pretty alarmed. We immediately got rid of them and switched to aluminum bottles. There are quite a few varieties on the market now. They range in price from about $7.00 to $20.00. We bought ours at Le Baron Sport in Montreal. I know that Mountain Equipment Coop sells them, and I saw some at Walmart as well. We recommend purchasing a bottle that is entirely aluminum or stainless steel, rather than one with a plastic lining.

Since these aluminum bottles are considerably more expensive than the plastic ones, we were concerned about losing them. We took a few minutes to etch our names on the bottles. So far, so good. We still have all of our bottles.

About the author: Environment Smart

Green Communities

Posted by Environment Smart on 09/19 at 12:29 PM
Tips and How-to'sGeneralPermalink

Do you want your community to take more affirmative action in becoming green. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency outlines a 5-step environmental planning framework that helps “lead you to a greener, sustainable future”. The Green Communities web site suggests a 5 step program to get you started on the right track. Be pro-active.

Step 1: Community Assessment
Where Are We Now?

Step 2: Trends Analysis
Where Are We Going?

Step 3: Vision Statement
Where Do We Want To Be?

Step 4: Sustainable Action Plans
How Do We Get There?

Step 5: Implementation
Let’s Go!

About the author: Environment Smart

Pine Cone Turkey Craft

Posted by Environment Smart on 09/18 at 12:40 PM
Tips and How-to'sFor KidsPermalink

It is the time of year when your pine trees are dropping their cones all over your lawn. Why don’t you collect the cones and use them to make a simple pine cone turkey to add festivity to your Thanksgiving dinner table. This is a nice way to use the cones instead of bagging them for the garbage.

All you need are:
- round pine cones (you can cut the ends off of the long ones)
- a glue gun and glue sticks,
- small brown or black pompoms or acorns
- red and orange felt
- orange pipecleaner
- a selection of feather
- small googly eyes
- scissors (and wire cutter)



About the author: Environment Smart

Insulating Your Windows

Posted by Environment Smart on 09/17 at 10:18 PM
Tips and How-to'sIn the housePermalink

If you live in an area with a cold winter climate, you might be starting to think about what you should do regarding your drafty windows. Winterizing them with plastic is a practical option. It will certainly help to reduce your winter heating costs. Debbie Anderson’s video and description on how to insulate a window against winter is easy to follow.

To get you started you will need to visit your hardware store for a couple of window insulation kits. A patio door kit is enough for about two average sized windows. You will also need a roll of double-sided tape (to supplement what comes with the kit), a pair of scissors, and blow dryer and a clean towel. If you are a resourceful person, you may want to contact a packaging company for some end-of-roll shrink wrap. This is the end of a roll of shrink wrap film that is used on a shrink wrap machine. There is often still 25’ to 100’ left on the end of the roll when it needs to be replaced. That is enough to keep you going for a few years (depending on how many windows you have). It is certainly a cheaper alternative to the window insulation kits.

About the author: Environment Smart