Saturday, December 29, 2012

Let's get a little personal, here...

Over the past few months, I've been suffering from a mild depression of sorts. Hiding away from the world. Tired all the time from lack of sleep. Crying for no reason. The doctors couldn't find anything physically wrong, and I'm going to be seeing a counsellor on Monday. Perhaps it has to do with the miscarriage I experienced in September. Perhaps the daily stress from work is burning me out.

Or maybe, it's simpler than that. See, September is about the time I stop going outside. It's getting too cold to hike. There are no events happening for adults to get them out and about. There's no snow for winter sports.

We got snow, and I mean a good amount of snow, mid-November. By that time, the season of Christmas has snuck up on us. There are preparations to be made! Decorating, purchasing of gifts (and don't forget anybody), planning for dinners, plays to see. Who has time to get outside?

I have been off from work for seven days and still have three days left. It has felt good to chill out after Christmas, get caught up on a few things and just relax a bit. But today I felt truly happy. Happier than I have felt in a while. Today I went snowshoeing.

It really was a bit of a struggle for me. I know I love snowshoeing, but part of me still wanted to just sit on the couch and watch tv all day. A few people have been asking me to go snowshoeing and I just wasn't feeling enthusiastic enough to make it happen. But when I finally went out today and felt the crisp air, heard the squirrels chirping at me and pushed through that untouched snow, I was happy. I asked if I could break trail. I stopped to admire the trees and interesting shapes the snow makes when it falls on fence posts. It didn't even bother me when snow fell off a tree and on my neck. I was happy to be outside!

My connection with nature had been severed these last few months. I wasn't even enjoying my house plants or my cats. I feel like I have re-experienced the true meaning of biophilia and that connection has been reestablished.

It is important for everyone to get outside on a regular basis. Maintaining that connection is imperative to the health of our world. I implore you to experience nature. Get your kids and your friends and your friends' kids and hike, walk, bike, swim, toboggan, ski, snowshoe or whatever! But build that relationship with nature. People who spend time outside are more likely to care about protecting it.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

You CAN bring your own mug

People amaze me. I realize it's hard for anyone to see through the eyes of another, but sometimes it seems impossible.

This morning, my coworker offered to run across the street to get me some hot chocolate while she was there getting a snack for herself. I said, "Wait!" and quickly gulped down my tea and handed her my now empty coffee mug. She says to me, "You can do that?"

Okay, I get the convenience of being able to grab a to-go cup while you're there. But has the world really come to the point where people don't even realize that they are ALLOWED to bring their own mug? Well, to those of you who don't know, YES, you CAN.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Just wash the damn spoon...

Last week, I was approached by the daughter of a friend who asked if I would be attending the school play that she was in. Not being a Christian and knowing that this was at the Christian school, I knew I would be in for a night of religious Christmas lore, but how could I refuse that adorable, toothy grin?

The play was cute. Particularly, the chickens in the stable. "Cluck" "Cluck" "CLUCK!!" Had to be there. Anyway! It had the usual sound mishaps. A few people forgot their lines. And there was a noticeable wardrobe malfunction (Thankfully, not like Janet Jackson.). But it was mostly entertaining. Unfortunately, the young lady who invited me to the play had only one line. She did an excellent job. They should have given her a bigger part. (Biased, maybe?)

I couldn't help but notice that, as they were talking about sin, they had plastic, disposable table cloths, plastic cups (and, later, styrofoam cups for coffee), paper plates and paper napkins. They did, however, have metal cutlery. Which just confused me. If they were going to have to do dishes at all, why not just wash some plates and cups, too? Might take a LITTLE longer...

It made me very sad to know how much garbage would be added to the landfill from that night. There were easily more than 100 people in that gym.

I am reminded of a quote: "It's pretty that our society has reached a point where the effort necessary to extract oil from the ground, ship it to a refinery, turn it into plastic, shape it appropriately, truck it to a store, buy it, and bring it home is considered to be less effort than what it takes to just wash the spoon when you're done with it."

I suppose, in this case, the spoon is the only thing that did get washed afterwards, but you get the point.

PS: I apologize if I offended anyone.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Crazy? Or not crazy enough?

My employee thinks I'm crazy because I recycle the cardboard on the back of packaging such as for batteries. She thinks that's crazy! I've never considered myself an extremist when it comes to my environmentalism. Not even kinda. But perhaps no one would think that of themselves.

I never preach. It's really hard when, for example, someone brings me a coffee, just out of the goodness of their heart, in a disposable cup. I never want to be one of those people who makes someone feel bad for doing something that, in their mind, is a kind gesture. Even if it goes against my beliefs.

So how far is extreme? Would it be wrong of me to say something if I get that gesture of coffee? Maybe I'm one of the very few who think about every plastic sticker on every piece if fruit.

And sometimes I hate it. Sometimes I hate feeling guilty about buying myself a Pepsi. About not getting my meat from farmers so I can avoid the styrofoam packaging because it's just way damn easier to get it from the grocery store. I don't feel that I have the time to make my own ketchup, nor do I want to live without it. So, no, I definitely don't think of myself as an extremist.

I do, however, buy bar shampoo to avoid the bottle. I use tooth tabs instead of toothpaste that come in a recycled cardboard box instead of a plastic tube. I give packing peanuts from my inventory orders to the local stationary store so they can resell them rather than them having to buy more.

I may not be an extremist, but I try...

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Gift Wrapping

Over the last few years, when it came to birthdays and Xmas, I have gotten into the habit of saving any gift bags I get so I can reuse them. Living in a small town means that I don't have easy access to a lot of "green" wrapping alternatives such as recycled gift wrap, so I figure reuse, reuse, reuse. There's no need to just throw out what is still perfectly useful.

This year, though, for my store, I needed a wrapped box that looked like a present to be a draw box, and I needed it fast. So I ran to the store and got a roll of wrapping paper. Of course, there was plastic shrink wrap on it and it meant using tape. I felt guilty about the whole thing.

But as I was wrapping, childhood memories of telling everyone to stay out of my room while I meticulously folded every crease perfectly and made sure every corner lined up perfectly came flooding back. I remembered my love of choosing which paper to use with which ribbon, which bow for which person and loving the beautiful disguise for each gift.

Gift bags just don't have that customizability that wrapping paper offers. So I decided "not to waste" the rest of the roll and did all of my presents. It meant that all of my presents would look very similar, but I happened to have had a little bit of curling ribbon on hand, so I was able to make them somewhat individual.

In hind sight, I probably could have donated the remainder to someone who would have gone out to buy some anyway, but it was just too much fun. I won't be buying any more, if I do run out. I'm thinking, though, that I may support my somewhat local craft store and invest in some hemp twine to dress up some newspaper and use that to wrap presents instead.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Why didn't I think of that?

I listen to 102.7fm The Peak Vancouver and every hour or two they play a snippet from The David Suzuki Foundation's "Queen of Green". Usually, she says something that seems somewhat obvious to me. And I suppose this was no different.

Today, she mentioned harmful chemicals in fabric softener and dryer sheets. Well, I already knew this, and right now I'm not using anything in my dryer. Sure, my clothes are super staticky when they come out, but at least I'm not contributing to the landfill or releasing nasty toxins. I had tried Method's dryer sheets, and they worked okay. But they come in a plastic wrapper. Those dryer balls would probably work, but they're plastic, too. They also claim to only last 100 loads or so, anyway, so they're practically disposable. Not any better than dryer sheets, really.

It was the Queen's solution that caught my attention. Felted wool dryer balls! Works just like the plastic ones, decreasing drying time, reducing static and softening clothes, but completely biodegradable! She mentioned that you could purchase them here and there, but I happen to have a very talented sister who just so happens to felt.

I texted her immediately to request a set, and she's now on a mission. She is going to use me as a guinea pig and if all goes well, she might even try to sell them.

For those of you who don't have a talented friend or relative (or self), you can get them on $20 for a set of 4 seems pretty standard. But for me, I'm very excited to get my hand-made, felted wool dryer balls in the mail!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Garbage Challenge

July 9, I decided to do an experiment.  I was changing the garbage bag in my kitchen, and I was curious as to how long it takes for me to fill one of these.   (It's one of the giant clear leaf bags that I choose to use so that I can get the least amount of plastic surface area per volume of garbage.)  So I posted a sticky note of the date that I changed it on the side of the counter next to where the bag sits. 

Today, Sept 2, I decided it was time to take the garbage out again.  That means that it took me (and my hubby) 55 days to fill up a 121L bag.  I was pretty proud of that.  You can see that we aren't always perfect about choosing things with less packaging, but we try. 

I recycle or compost everything that I can.  During this 55 days, I have probably taken in the recycling 3 or 4 times.  Paper, cardboard, #2 plastics, bottles, milk cartons, batteries, and anything that CAN be recycled in my little town, IS. 

I recycle at work, too.  So when the cardboard starts to pile up a little too high, it's time to take in the recycling.  And I just take everything in together from home and work. 

At home, my recycling is somewhat organized.  I have a box for paper, for cardboard and for plastics (or anything that has to go inside the building).  At work, it's basically all jumbled together as out of the way as possible. 

So I challenge you!  See how long you can go without changing your garbage.  For the first round, don't change any of your habits, then try to beat that time on the second round.  And third, and fourth and so on... I'll be doing it again.  We'll see if I can beat 55 days!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Weaving Rush Style

Sometimes I feel a great sense of self when I'm asked for ideas when it comes to certain things.  I seem to be the go to person when it comes to reducing waste among my circle.  And that makes me very proud.  I may not be perfect, but I must be doing enough to get noticed. 

My mom has a set of patio chairs that have been one by one falling apart in the seat.  And she asked me what we could do to fix them, rather than throw them away. 

Well, I just happened to have had some bailing twine sitting in my craft/storage/disaster room.  So my suggestion was to use it to weave new seats.  Though I've had some experience with weaving, I've never woven a chair before, and my mother was just as green as I was on the subject.  Youtube to the rescue!  We found a video and started on our adventure. 

Looks simple enough. And it was!  We couldn't believe how easy it was to get going.  We had a great time, each of us working on a separate chair.  Didn't take long for my giant ball of twine to look a littler less giant, but the weaving looked great. 

After two hours of dragging twine in and out of the chair, neither of us had actually finished one.  It is definitely a process.  We're not too sure how to end our weaving anyhow, seeing as the video did not show how to tie off at the end.  So we left that for another day.  Looking good so far, though!

I always love it when I can come up with an idea for using what I already have instead of having to go out and buy something new.  Though the seat may have made its way to the garbage bin, we managed to save the frame and prevent new products from becoming garbage one day.  And we even used natural material that will biodegrade and go back to the earth.  Good idea, if I do say so myself.  ;)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

My Experience with Specialty Coffees

I am unbelievably addicted to coffee.  But not regular coffee.  I need my hazelnut mocha or iced cappuccino.  Every time I go to Smithers, I get an iced capp from Tim Hortons.  And every time I go, I feel bad about the disposable cup. 

I can't seem to help myself in these situations.  The temptation of an iced capp is just too strong!  I've sent in countless letters to Tim Horton's requesting that they develop a reusable version of their iced capp cup, but they always respond that it's just not feasible.  FEASIBLE?  The way I see it, not only will they save money on their disposable cup purchases, they would be making money off the new reusable cups.  I know I'd buy one. 

Then again, they don't have an air of environmental consciousness about the place, anyway.  I was given a couple cold drink cups that look very much like the iced capp cups you get at Timmy's, and I was very excited to try them out.  So I bring my cute pink cup to the counter and ask if they could make my iced capp in my cup.  The girl behind the counter stared blankly at me for a second, then replied, "It won't save you any money." 

Money wasn't the issue.  I assured her that I didn't care about the 10 cents I might have saved, that it was the cup I was worried about.  So she took my cup and I paid for my "green" iced capp.  But then I watched her make my drink in a disposable cup, pour it into my cup and chuck the disposable one behind the counter anyway.  Great!  Now, not only has a cup been wasted, but I also have to do dishes! 

I thought that Starbucks would be better.  They advertise themselves as being a green company.  But it turns out that they still quite often follow the same practice of making the drink in their clear cup, then pouring it into the reusable one.  So if you're getting a cold drink in one of their reusable cups, you're probably okay, because their cups have all the measurement lines.  But your efforts be damned if you would like to use a different cup.  If every company did it that way, you would have to have a different reusable cup for each company! I also understand that if you're going through the drive through and say you have a reusable cup, they make it first in a disposable and pour it into yours when you get to the window. 

I go to a cafe in my little town called Brewstir's Cafe.  I bring in my reusable cup and watch them make my drink in my cup.  Everything I see behind the counter is very reusable.  They wash it all after each use and just reuse it!  Crazy thought, isn't it?  And they are even willing to put my takeout into my own container, they just have to give it a quick wash first, as per regulations.  Good job Brewstir's!  Guess the big guys just can't go that route so they can make every location exactly the same. What a shame....

Monday, July 16, 2012

Book review: Plastic Free by Beth Terry

I'm still in the process of reading this book, actually.  But I'm a slow reader (maybe get through two books a year).  I'm only halfway through, but the tone of the book is set and I've made use of the reference section at the end already, so I'll express what I'm getting out of this book so far. 

The full title is Plastic Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too.   The book portrays the title impeccably.  Beth Terry talks about her adventures with trying to live plastic free, her struggles with convenience and habits, both hers and others'.   She explains the problems with plastic and why we should give a damn about trying to rid ourselves of it.  And she gives as many alternatives as she can fit into this book for common, everyday plastics in our lives, as well as areas where she is not ready to sacrifice certain losses to go plastic free. 

Funny story: I borrowed this book from my local library.  I got my mom (who works there) to drop it off for me on her way home from work.  She hands it to me and to my surprise, it's wrapped in plastic!  And I exclaimed just that.  My mom laughed and said, "I hadn't even thought of that."  They wrap all their books in plastic for extra protection, since, of course, library books get used by many different people.  Oddly enough, the very next day after receiving my newest reading material, Beth Terry had put up a new blog talking about this very thing; libraries and book stores wrapping her plastic-free books in plastic.  The books themselves are even made with as little plastic as possible.  (You'd be surprised how much plastic goes into making the average book.)

The best part of this book is the upbeat attitude she keeps about it all.  Terry never calls anyone down on plastic waste, but tries to educate on why it matters to her, without the nagging or the guilt.  Guilt is something she will not allow herself to go through, and encourages us, the readers, to learn from our choices without guilt. 

I have found the index extremely valuable for quickly finding her opinion and (hopefully) solution to any specific plastic problem.   She has recipes for common foods like ketchup that come in plastic containers, gives ideas for how to make items like pet toys,  as well as many options for where to buy plastic free items such as lunchboxes, water bottles, shower curtains, shoes and more. 

Terry reiterates again and again the importance of just trying to keep at it, and not giving up.  Things we don't think about until it's too late come up again and again, and all she asks is that you try your best to remember for next time.  For example, when you go to a restaurant and your drink automatically comes with a straw.  Did you really need that straw?  Probably not.  Did they ask if you wanted one?  Probably not.  So it is up to us to try to remember to ask for no straw.  These little things that we all take for granted add up.   But it's important not to beat ourselves up over it, either.

For anyone trying to improve in their attempt to reduce waste, this book has some great ideas and some great stories.  She loves to hear from her readers, too.  You can check out her blog at