Sunday, November 30, 2008

Day 222 of our Green Year: Sponsoring Refuges

For the last day of November, and the 222nd day of Our Green Year, we will be responding to an e-mail I received from the Sierra Club, that asked us to sponsor a refuge to help animals. Always willing to help animals in any way we can, Layla and I were happy to comply.

The refuge that we will be sponsoring is the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which is often called America's Serengeti. Since oil companies are chomping at the bit to get into this refuge, we are hoping that our sponsorship will help build a movement that keeps oil companies out of the refuge, and protects animals within it.

The refuge sits between the Brooks Range and the Beaufort Sea in northeast Alaska. This area is home to 200 species of birds, caribou, muskoxen, wolverines, grizzly bears, polar bears, walrus, Bowhead whales and Beluga whales.

Layla and I worry that future generations will not be able to see the animals that many of us take for granted. If we can play a small part in preventing that from happening by donating money to the Sierra Club to protect an arctic refuge, then that is something we are happy to do.

For more information, check out this link.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Day 221 of our Green Year: Buy Nothing Day

Today's blog is a pretty easy one, and it is one that everyone should do, especially considering yesterday was Black Friday. For those who do not know, Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year in the United States, and it has reached insane proportions. Just yesterday, one man had a heart attack as people trampled over him. He died, but people kept shopping.

Today, is Buy Nothing Day. It is a day when people around the world are urged to buy nothing in response to yesterday, which could be called "Buy Everything Day". For our 221st day of Our Green Year, we are going along with Buy Nothing Day and helping to raise awareness about it.

Buy Nothing Day is actually pretty easy to do because roughly six out of the seven days of our week are Buy Nothing Days. The only time we really buy anything is Monday, when we do our weekly grocery shop. If you take out food since we need it, then nearly every day of Our Green Year is filled with Buy Nothing Days.

Buy Nothing Day is very important and it is an important message to show people that even if there are big deals and rock bottom prices available, there is no reason you have to go shop. I watched a news report last night where a woman said she had to go out today to buy presents for her kids. I understand where she is coming from, and that is her choice. However, I could not help but think that rather than push the belief that consumerism is acceptable even in tough economic times, it would have been better to buy the kids a small present each (plus something from Santa each) and explain to them why times are tough. The "Business as Usual" philosophy is one that has been tried, and it fails. Instead of making the day after Thanksgiving the day to buy things you may not need, but think you do, why not make it a day to be thankful for what you already have.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Day 220: Christmas Lights, Alternative Energy Style

When we arrived here at the ranch back in October, we found out that there was next to nothing here for Christmas lights. What was here was broken, and in some cases the wires had been chewed by mice, making them horribly unsafe.
Since we felt that Christmas was not Christmas without Christmas lights, we decided to by some so we could decorate the ranch. However, we had to make sure that the lights we bought, still went along with Our Green Year. The answer came in the form of solar power. We are already beginning our plans to install solar panels at the property before April, and we thought using solar-powered lights would be a great way to test how solar power works here.

Going green is the in thing right now, and it was not hard to find some solar powered lights. We decided to retire the old lights (we are currently looking for somewhere that they can be recycled properly) and upgrade to solar powered lights. Of course, we asked ourselves the purchase questions and felt due to the fact that they can be reused for years, are solar-powered, and can be recycled or donated years down the road, then they would be a good buy for the house.

The solar powered lights we have come in packs of 50, with everything you need. It takes one day to charge the lights, and that charge will last three days.

We are glad we found these lights because for Layla and I, going green for Christmas is very important to us this year. We will not be going nuts with Christmas decorations (and most likely buying no other decorations beyond the lights) because we have reduced our consumption greatly. Nearly all the decorations in the house will be those that have been used by us and those at the ranch for years. However, solar lights seemed like the perfect opportunity for introducing solar power at the ranch.

Our first column appeared in the local paper. In the column, we offered tips for cleaning the house using natural products. Here is a pic.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Day 219 of our Green Year: Organic Beer

A few weeks ago, Layla and I made the commitment to go green with our wine. As I said then, we do not drink very often. In fact, we drink on very rare occasions like anniversaries, birthdays, Christmas, New Years or Valentine's Day, and we committed to only buying organic wine for those special days.

Well, we do drink beer on occasion, again not too often, but we figure if we are going green with our wine, why not go green with our beer. Hence, from now on we will be buying organic beer, rather than typical name-brand beer.

Organic beer is exactly how it sounds. It is beer that is made with organic ingredients, which are grown in a sustainable manner. We are going to be looking for some organic beer brands in our area when we do want beer.

We are also considering being like one of our readers, Jim, who actually makes his own beer. We do not have all the equipment for it, but if we are able to find what we need, then we may start brewing our own beer here at the ranch.

From what we have read, organic beer now makes up dozens of brands, all of which carry a organic certification to show they have adhered to the strict and legally binding regulations. This means no pesticides, artificial fertilizers, chemicals or any other type of harmful elements are used in growing the barley and hops.

We also found some interesting statistics regarding the environment and beer.
  • In the United States, there are four solar powered breweries
  • Organic beer sales in the United States reached $25,000,000
  • A total of 95 percent of the ingredients must be certified organic to get organic certification.
  • Even the company that makes Budweiser has two organic beer brands that have been released to the public.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Day 218 of our Green Year: Doing Things Manually

Sometimes going green involves altering one's life completely, as we have done with a number of our initiatives, but sometimes it just involves taking matters into your own hands, and using your own manual power.
An example of this is automatic doors and escalators. These exist to make our lives easier, and many people do need them. Those who are disabled, in poor health or are elderly do need escalators, elevators and automatic doors and there is nothing wrong with that, that is what they are there for. Sadly, a quick trip into a department store will show you that most people (even the young and healthy) will opt for the automatic door, rather than the manual door, or for the escalator instead of the stairs. That is their choice of course, but for Layla and I, we are trying to limit the amount of energy we use in our daily lives, and using automatic doors will simply not do. Layla and I are completely healthy and mobile, so there is no reason we should have to use automatic doors, escalators or elevators. If you do use those, that is your choice and there is nothing wrong with that.

As a result, we will begin doing the two following things to limit our energy use, no matter how small it may seem. As we have mentioned, going green can be small steps, as well as large steps.

First, we will use manual doors when the option exists. Some stores only have automatic doors, so we are more or less required to use them. However, if a manual door that we have to open sits next to the automatic door, then we will use that one. This will apply even if we are carrying something, and even if the automatic door seems easier.

Second, if we are going up one to three floors, we will use the stairs rather than an escalator or elevator (unless of course we are hauling a cart or something like that). This decision will not only keep us from using that energy, even if the escalator never stops running whether we are on it or not, but it will also be a healthy choice for us. That walk up three flights of stairs will help keep us healthy and trim.

This is a small thing to do, and can seem insignificant, but nothing is insignificant when you want to go green and help the Earth.

A few days ago, we went for our weekly grocery shop and we noticed an incredible difference between the produce at the organic store and the produce at the grocery store. The organic tomatoes at the organic store were small, but delicious looking. However, the non-organic tomatoes in the grocery store were huge! They were like twice the size of the organic tomatoes, yet they were the same type. While I understand that can feed more, one has to wonder how many growth hormones and other chemicals are pumped into the tomatoes to get them to that size.

Also, we are adding a new company to our boycott list. Petland, which sells pet supplies and pets of course, is now not an option for us. The reason is that they sell dogs from puppy mills, which is a big no-no for us. We think all dogs need homes, but many dogs in puppy mills exist in horrible conditions. As well, there are plenty of wonderful dogs up for adoption at your local SPCA and animal shelters, and you should always think about getting your pets from there, rather than in stores.
The story can be seen here.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Day 217 of our Green Year: No Wrapping Paper

Well, we are one month away from Christmas here at the Baird ranch, and since Christmas is a time of year where waste is very common and the environment often takes a backseat, we are going to be featuring things we do each month to give ourselves a green Christmas. We have already decided to greatly scale back gift giving, and only giving items that go along with our green decisions this year. However, today is not about the gifts, it is about the things they come in.

Everyone loves to rip the wrapping paper off gifts, but really that is an incredibly wasteful thing to do. You are wrapping something, just for someone to rip it off. Then that wrapping paper is generally thrown away.

For Our Green Year Christmas Edition....we are not using wrapping paper, but instead are using things we have around the house already. We may wrap the gifts in newspaper, which can then be used to help start fires in our fireplace. We may also wrap gifts in towels from the closet, or just put them in the reusable bags that we already have.

Wrapping paper is fun, but wasteful, so come December 25, everyone here will be unwrapping towels, opening reusable bags or ripping open newspaper.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Day 216 of our Green Year: Banning Ivory

There was a time, only a century or so ago, when ivory was prized for everything from piano keys to teeth. While many loved the quality of these items that used ivory, it led to the complete slaughter of elephants throughout Africa and India.

These days, it is generally considered to be horrible taste to have anything made of ivory, but that has not stopped many people from buying ivory that has usually been poached from animals. What is worse, those poachers kill the elephants for their ivory, making it a complete and useless slaughter. Although, even if they were alive and missing their tusks, it would make it no better.

As a result, Layla and I are supporting IFAW and their fight against the sale of ivory by donating to their campaign.

You can help in four ways through donations to keep elephants from being killed by poachers for their ivory. To start, we are paying $15 to provide milk for an orphaned baby elephant for a week.

These are how your donations work:

$15 could pay for milk for an orphaned baby elephant for a week
$25 could pay the running cost of a patrol vehicle for a week
$50 could pay the wages of a ranger for a month
$100 could help train a ranger to protect elephants from poachers

Last month we found an abandoned kitty in our barn. We adopted him and named him Tubby-Conrad because he has chubby cheeks and is pretty cute. Well, today we made sure that we took him in (he is past six months age) to get neutered. That is what being a responsible pet owner does :)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Day 215 of our Green Year: Dealing With A Cold Weather Car

When we used to live in Rossland, the temperature would get down to roughly minus five or so in the wintertime. This made it very easy to go green with the car because when we did have to go out, we did not have to let the vehicle warm up at all, nor did we have to plug it in at night.
However, now that we are in central Alberta, at our ranch where the temperature can hit minus 40 at night sometimes, the need to go green when getting the car ready for a trip into town is very important.

First of all, there will be no warming up the car to clear the frost off the windows. The frost will be cleared in the traditional fashion, which is to get an ice scraper and begin carving away at the frost and the ice on the windows.

Second, only on nights before when we have to go out (usually Sunday for our grocery trip Monday) will the car be plugged in. In addition, it will be plugged into a timer, so that it begins drawing power in the early morning, only a few hours before we leave at most. There will be no plugging the car in at 8 pm for a 11 am trip the next day. Luckily, we do have a large shed that all the vehicles can be parked in, which will keep things warmer inside than the -40 outside. So unless it is extreme cold when we have to go out, there will rarely be a time when we actually have to plug the vehicle in. One of the beauties of working from home is that we can choose when we want to leave, and therefore only leave on warmer days rather than -40 days.

As much as we would like to in the winter, there will also be no idling of the car when we are in town. If we stop for anything longer than a stop sign or red light, then the car will be turned off. Even if we are just running into a store to drop something off. The car will not lose that much heat for the few minutes you may be out of it. Plus, not leaving the car sitting there running means a much lower chance of having it stolen.

On nights where freezing rain is expected, we will put a piece of cardboard over the windshield as this is supposed to prevent ice build up, and that means less time we have to chip away at it with the ice scraper.

Thankfully, there will be no need to start our car in the mornings because of the shed. Many people think that idling the vehicle for a few minutes in the winter will help it heat up, but from what we have read, this is not true. With fuel-injection engines, no warm-up period is needed and long periods of idling can lead to excessive engine wear. In fact, idling the car for more than 10 seconds will use more gas and create more CO2 than simply restarting the engine. Therefore, the car will idle in the mornings for as long as it takes us to put on our seat belts.

As I mentioned before, Layla and I work from home, so we only go into town once a week for groceries. If it is too cold to go in, then we will just stay home. Of course, if there are several days of -40 in a row, we may have to go out to restock for our suppers. When we do have to go out on those really cold days, we will use these tips to stay green during the frigid Alberta winter.

A cool note today. We passed 7,000 hits for Our Green Year. We are averaging about just under 1,000 hits per month now.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Day 214 of our Green Year: Goat's Milk

A while ago, we decided to stop eating beef, and for months we have not had a single meat product that came from a cow, choosing instead to have bison or elk on the occasion where we will eat that type of meat.
Well, recently we noticed that our favorite organic store was beginning to stock more than just organic milk, and was actually stocking its shelves with goat's milk. This was big news because we have been wanting to try goat's milk for a while. So, we bought some and are happy to say that as part of Our Green Year, we will be drinking goat's milk from now on.

It actually tasted way better than I thought it would. I had thought it would taste sour for some reason, but it was smooth and only slightly less thick than cream. There are plenty of goat farms around us here, so it will not be hard to buy this locally from farmers who feed goats organically.

We are pretty happy to be going to goat's milk for our milk because we had struggled with the fact that we banned beef, but still bought milk (which is used more for cooking and baking here, rather than drinking). While we have found goat's milk, we are still on the look out for goat cheese that comes from an organic source. Fingers crossed!

Also some cool news, beginning next week, Layla and I will be columnists for the local paper, where we will talk about green tips and tricks as Craig and Layla Baird: The Green Couple.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Day 213 of our Green Year: Washing Floors In A Green Way

At the ranch, there are no carpets. Therefore, we have no need to vacuum floors, but we do have to clean a lot of floors. Cleaning floors is a big source of chemicals in the house, with some floor cleaners being heavy in the chemical soup. As a result, a good way to go green is to clean floors in a green way, and to be smart with your floors.

In our home, we are practicing these smart floor maintenance steps to keep us from having to wash floors too often and waste our specially made cleaning supplies.

First, there are doormats placed at the entrances that are there to help keep dirt at the door mats, which can easily be beaten outside to get the dirt off.
Second, and this was discussed three days ago, we take our shoes off every time we come in to keep our floors from getting too dirty.

However, the floors will eventually get dirty, and therefore to keep with going green, we will not be using any floor cleaners with harsh chemicals in them. We will also not be waxing or polishing the floors because waxes and polish products can have a lot of harmful chemicals in them.

There will be no way in hell we will use a disposable mop like Swiffer Sweeper, and instead of a regular mop, we will be using a cloth and vinegar cleaner on the floor. We have to get down on our hands and knees to do this, but it is better than using disposable products. We debated whether or not we wanted to use a reusable mop or cloth, and decided since there was no reusable mop here, there was no need to purchase one when we had plenty of cloths to clean the floor.

A report by the National Intelligence Council has painted a disturbing picture of the future if global warming continues. Their report, which looks at how things will be in the year 2025, says that Russia and Canada will have large and strong economies because the growing season will increase and there will be more access to northern oil fields. However, it is expected that Russia will be suffering from huge amounts of organized crime, which will spread out to Eastern and Central European countries.

Africa and South Asia will become unstable and the regimes there will collapse as water and food shortages get worse with climate change and an increase in population of 1.4 billion. As well, the potential for a world wide conflict will be very high because of a larger world population, declining resources and greater food and water scarcity.

If this report is accurate, and it can be hard to say if it will be, that disturbing future is only 17 years away.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Day 212 of our Green Year: Green Web Hosting

As many of our readers will know, Layla and I are professional writers. We own a media company that specializes in writing books, articles, press releases, as well as helping organizations with public relations, and even making orientation videos for some large companies in our area. Well, while we have been able to integrate going green into our business with some of the things we do, we could not change everything, until now.

Today, we are happy to say that with the incorporation and name change of our business from Monashee Impressions to CL Baird Media Inc., we can now start hosting our business website on a green web hosting server.

A green web hosting company is one that either offsets the energy it uses, or one that is completely powered by green energy. That way, you have have your website hosted on a server that does not contribute to CO2 emissions through its energy use.
The web hosting company that we chose was DreamHost. DreamHost, as they describe themselves:
"We've calculated the impact of everything that DreamHost uses and leaves behind in the course of our daily work. All of the resources that we use - paper in the office, electricity for our servers, even the gas in our cars that bring us to the office - leaves behind some kind of soul-sucking residue in the world."
After they realized that they used enough energy to power 545 houses, they decided to do what they had to so that they could become completely carbon neutral, and they have.

Green web hosting is something that everyone who has a business website can do. This does not cost us really anymore than what we had before, and we are not contributing to greenhouse gases with our website anymore.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Day 211 of our Green Year: GoodSearch

During Our Green Year, we are always happy to help support charities that are green, help animals, or help our fellow man and woman. There are many charities that we have supported and donated to, and for our 211th day of Our Green Year, we are going to help out more by spreading word of GoodSerach.

GoodSearch is made up of 68,000 charities and schools that get help by the purchases and searches people make with GoodSearch. Just a few examples of some charities that have earned money through GoodSearch include:
  • ASPCA has earned $19,000
  • Best Friends Animal Society has earned $7,400
  • Bubel/Aiken Foundation has earned $9,500
  • Cesar and Ilusion Millan Foundation - The Dog Whisperer has earned $6,200
  • Children's Tumor Foundation has earned $2,900
  • Cystic Fibrosis Foundation has earned $9,400
  • Delaware Technical and Community College has earned $3,600
  • Elephant Sanctuary has earned $8,400
  • Families of Spinal Muscular Atrophy has earned $4,200
  • Food Allergy & Anaplylaxis Network has earned $3,700
  • Heifer International has earned $3,400
  • Invisible Children has earned $3,700
  • Penn State U. Dance Marathon has earned $5,300
  • Save Darfur has earned $8,500
  • St. Jude Children's Research Hospital has earned $7,300
  • Students for a Free Tibet has earned $2,800
  • Veterans of Foreign Wars has earned $2,700
  • WMNF Community Radio has earned $1,200
  • World Wildlife Fund as earned $3,200
As a search engine, GoodSearch donates 50 percent of its revenue to the charities and schools set up by the users who use GoodSearch. Powered by Yahoo!, GoodSearch receives its revenue through its advertisers, and half that goes to help out thousands of charities every single year.

So, while I have been an ardent supporter of Google, in an effort to help out charities, the Earth, people and our environment, we will be using GoodSearch. You can find out more about GoodSearch here.

Happy World Toilet Day!
While that may seem like a joke, it is anything but. The sad reality is that 2,600,000,000 people do not have access to a toilet. This amounts to 40 percent of the population of the human race. This is very serious because it has created a global sanitation crisis. In order to raise awareness about this, WaterAid has created World Toilet Day to show that 5,000 people every single day die from illness related to poor sanitation.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Day 210 of our Green Year: Taking Off Shoes

Yay! We have hit seven months of the Green Year, and only five months left to go. For today, we have decided to do something very simple, and everyone else can do it too. All it involves is removing your shoes when you come into the house. Many people would not realize that this is something you can do to go green, and most think of it as something people in Japan do as a sign of respect.

Well, if you want to help the environment, it is one of the easiest things you can do. As for why it is good for the environment, here are just a few reasons:

The first reason is that when you wear your shoes from the outside, indoors, you are tracking in dirt. The more dirt you track in, the more you will have to clean your floors. The more you clean your floors, the more floor cleaner you will use. While we use vinegar, baking soda and water to clean our floors, we don't want to waste too much of it. This is especially true when we can prevent the floors from getting dirty from our shoes.

The second reason is more serious and can present worse problems than dirt in your home. The Environmental Protection Agency has found that people often bring lawn pesticides into their homes with their own shoes. This does not need to be from your own home, but simply through walking in your neighborhood. In fact, pesticides on shoes are considered to be a major source of pesticide exposure for adults and young children.

Another good way to deal with this, beyond removing your shoes when you come into the house, is to put a doormat just inside your door to store your shoes and to wipe them off on.

Going green is not always complicated, and sometimes it can be as simple as taking off your shoes and putting your feet in some nice big fuzzy slippers.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Day 209 of our Green Year: Natural Soap

Do you remember in Finding Nemo, the phrase "All drains lead to the ocean", well it is kind of true. The reason is that what goes down the drain, goes through the system, into the water treatment plant, then back out into the world or into our drinking supply. If it gets to rivers, then eventually it makes its way back to the ocean.

Every day, millions of people put cleaning products, personal hygiene products and medication down the drain. This is having a severe effect on our world. Millions of tonnes of soap is flushed down the drain every single year, causing untold damage to aquatic eco-systems. Studies have found the chemicals in soap fragrances have proven to cause birth defects and liver defects in animals. Some soaps contain Methylisothiazolinone, which can cause nerve cell death, while others contain Triclosan, which is registered with the Environmental Protection Agency as a pesticide.

Yep, that is what you are washing your body with....

Layla and I have decided to ban all but natural soap, and luckily we have found natural soap at our local organic store. This soap is apparently made from emu oil and it feels great on the skin, while adding nothing harmful to the environment around us.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Day 208 of our Green Year: Supporting The Big Wild

Today, for our 208th day of the Green Year, we are supporting another cause (yes another one, there are just so many!). This cause is a Canadian one and it is devoted to helping the land of our great nation, by keeping it preserved for future generations.

This cause is The Big Wild. They describe their vision as the following:

"Our vision is to keep at least half of Canada's public land and water wild forever. We are realizing this vision by supporting wilderness conservation campaigns across Canada. The Big Wild helps these campaigns by,
  • educating people about the urgent need to protect one of the world’s last remaining wilderness areas – which amounts to 20% of all that’s left on the planet
  • raising funds for wilderness protection
  • enabling people to show decision-makers they support wilderness protection"
This is a great cause because Canada is a land of amazing landscapes, unbelievable species of life and some of the most beautiful scenery on the planet. It is important that we do everything we can to protect it from harm so that our children and our children's children can enjoy what we have. Too often we take for granted this wide open space and abundance of life.

I urge you all to check out Big Wild and become supporters of it yourself.

We got some cool gifts from my parent's, who were vacationing in Hawaii the past week. Apparently, one of the towns there requires reusable bags, which is great to see. They also said that nearly everything is organic and everyone supports environmental causes (sounds a lot like Rossland, BC).

They bought me a hemp shirt that echoes my view of the Bush Administration, as well as several reusable bags from Maui.

Me with my shirt and two of the Maui reusable bags.

The front of the T-shirt, which helps everyone determine the difference between good and bad Bush.

Layla and I were quite surprised to find out we were in the local paper last week. The Stony Plain Reporter was nice enough to do an article on us. Thanks!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Day 207 of our Green Year: No Aerosol Cans

One of the biggest success stories for the environment has been banning of CFCs. During the Montreal Protocol in 1987, the decision was made to ban CFCs in an effort to help repair the ozone layer. Originally signed by 25 countries, 168 are now part of the accord. This caused the gradual phase out of CFCs.

While this is a big success story, it is by no means a perfect story. Two big culprits in ozone depletion with CFC is methyl bromide and hydrochloroflourocarbons. While Methyl Bromide was supposed to be phased out by 2005, many companies have won exceptions to the ban. Hydrochlorofluorocarbons are not going to be phased out until 2020.

That being said, many companies have made great headway to eliminate CFCs in aerosol cans, but the problem with aerosol does not stop there. The following reasons are why Layla and I will be banning CFCs in our home, courtesy of Montgomery County.
  • Ounce for ounce, spray on product sold in aerosol cans is about twice the cost of bulk product. You pay for propellants in every aerosol can (10 to 15 percent by weight).
  • Carbon dioxide, propane and butane are commonly used aerosol propellants that are also "greenhouse gases" that contribute to global warming and smog formation.
  • Aerosol cans of solvent-based brake cleaners contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that contribute to ozone and smog formation and harm worker's health.
  • Used aerosol cans that are not empty may be considered hazardous waste. Under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), aerosol cans may only be recycled or disposed of as non-hazardous wastes if they have been emptied through normal use or punctured and drained to remove significant liquids. (Shops are responsible for properly managing any captured wastes recovered from puncturing and draining.)
We don't buy hairspray, mouse, deodorant (in aerosol form, we usually use a baking soda deodorant), and we will not be buying any other products that use aerosols

Friday, November 14, 2008

Day 206 of our Green Year: The Slowcooker

I enjoy cooking and am always experimenting with recipes, especially considering we now eat primarily vegetarian dinners, and cold dinners on occasion. When we got to the ranch, we found out that there was a slow cooker available to use. However, I had been under the impression that the slow cooker was not as good for the environment as the stove and oven, so I never used it. That was until I read some articles and found out that the slow cooker is actually a very good thing for the environment when you are cooking something that needs to be cooked within a oven and stove. As a result, here at the ranch we will use the slow cooker when we used to use the oven and stove.

Slow cookers do not use very much energy at all when compared to a stove. A stove can account for 10 percent of all the energy consumption of a home, and the heating ring on stoves can lose large amounts of energy, especially when a pot or pan is not fit right for the element (large to small, small to large). We already make sure we cook on the stove efficiently, but it looks like the slow cooker is more efficient.

While the stove cooks at 350 F to 400 F usually, the slow cooker cooks at 200 F. Also, it does not lose energy into the air because the energy is distributed efficiently throughout it due to the ceramic and metal the pot is made out of. Even after using a slow cooker for seven hours, it will only consume .7 kilowatts of power. Much less than a stove.

When we get a new energy efficient and Energy Star stove, it may be a different story, but until then, we will use the slow cooker as much as possible for recipes that call for that type of cooking.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Day 206 of our Green Year: Making Juice

For the past few days, Layla has been making a lot of pop using the supplies we have bought at the organic store. The pop is turning out really good, and Layla has even started trying out making some fruit pop using some organic apples.

Since we like both pop and fruit, but because organic fruit juice costs quite a bit, we thought of just making our own fruit juice. Hence, we have decided to make our own apple juice today to see how it turns out. It turns out, it is very easy to make apple juice.

To make the apple juice, I just used a two-liter bottle that was at the ranch. After cleaning it out, I juiced five apples and put that juice into the two-liter bottle. Then, i filled the rest of the bottle with water and put in 1.5 tablespoons of organic sugar. After shaking it to mix, I put it in the fridge. Later on, I tried it and it turned out awesome.
The price of the apples and a bit of the sugar is about half the price of the organic juice of the same size where we live.

While organic juice is great, making your own juice is the option we will do ourselves. While the apples need to be transported to us from usually the Okanagan, the carbon footprint is lower than if we buy the organic juice that usually comes from the United States. As well, we are reusing bottles rather than buying new ones like we would at the store. We also only use a small bit of electricity versus the electricity used by the processing facilities that make the organic juice. However, we are going to see if we can find organic apples and fruits from a local supplier so the carbon footprint is lower in terms of travel.

Kudos for Ontario for taking a step back in helping the environment. This is because of Pickup Pal and Ontario's decision to severely limit what the company can do. Pickup Pal operates in 104 countries, helping hundreds of thousands to reduce carbon emissions by helping share rides. However, in Ontario, Trentway Wagar (a bus company) sued Pickup Pal because they said it was an unlicensed transport business that cross municipal boundaries. The bus company won, and Pickup Pal got fined $11,336.07. Now, Pickup Pal is restricted by these options according to
  • You must travel from home to work only – (Not Home to School, or Home to the Hospital or the Airport)
  • You cannot cross municipal boundaries – (Live outside the city and drive in – sorry you cannot share the ride with your neighbour)
  • You must ride with the same driver each day – (Want to mix it up go with one person one day and another person another day – no sorry cannot do that – must be same person each day)
  • You must pay the driver no more frequently than weekly – (Neighbour drives you to work better not pay her right away just in case she drives you later on in the week)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Day 205 of our Green Year: Knitting.......Plastic Bags

When we moved to the ranch, we found that reusable bags were not being used regularly here, which meant that there were plenty of plastic bags. While on rare occasions someone does bring home plastic bags, Layla and I have been able to stop the growth of the plastic bag store, and we have worked to ensure everyone remembers their reusable cloth bags.

However, this still creates the problem of what to do with the plastic bags that are already here. So, we have come up with a solution. Why not make some reusable bags out of the plastic bags! All it involves is some skill with knitting and a bunch of plastic bags.

This is a great way to use your creative skills, while at the same time creating something you can reuse over and over again. Now, we understand that you could just reuse the countless plastic bags you already have, but those will degrade over time, especially after a few uses. Eventually you will have to throw them out. With knitting a plastic bag, you will be able to create some cool bags that will get people asking "How did you make that?"

For the instructions we are using, you can visit this website.

Yesterday, we decided to make some blueberry ice cream. Just like Layla's ginger ale, this turned out great. We let it freeze a bit, and then had some. We are keeping it in a reused container that we got when we bought some homemade ice cream a few weeks ago. If you want to look at how to make ice cream, it is real easy and we have covered it in this blog.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Day 204 of our Green Year: Going Green With The Fridge

Everyone has a fridge in their house. They are a great convenience to have in your home, but they can also draw a lot of energy. At the ranch, we have a fridge but with our renovations, we are replacing it with a great Energy Star fridge that will use a fraction of the energy the current one does.

To help make our old and new refrigerators more efficient, we will use these tips at our ranch home.

  1. Always keep the door closed. Even if you are just walking across the kitchen to put the food down, it wastes energy. Make sure you close the fridge as soon as you can.
  2. Before you go into the fridge, know what you want. There is no reason to stand looking at the fridge for five minutes to figure out what you want to eat.
  3. The seals on your fridge are very important. To make sure your seals are perfect, you should put a piece of paper in the door and close it. If you can pull the paper out while the door is closed, then you do not have a tight seal and that means air is getting out.
  4. The fridge should operate above four degrees Celsius and the freezer does not need to be colder than minus 18 degrees Celsius.
  5. Putting ice throughout the freezer to help pack it. An empty freezer will use more energy than a full one. By putting ice in it, you are helping to keep it energy-efficient, and you will have plenty ice for your homemade Ginger Ale!
  6. Clean the dust off the condenser as this robs it of efficiency.
"Yesterday in our Facebook group, for Our Green Year, we asked our fans to write what going green means to them. If you would like to tell us what going green means to you so we can put it up here, then e-mail us at and let us know!

Here are some of the responses:

To me, going green means shrinking my ecological footprint, and living in a healthy fashion. I eat locally and/or organically whenever possible, reduce my consumption of meats (water and grains are wasted in huge amounts feeding livestock through their lifespan) and avoid household chemicals. I commute by foot, bus, bicycle or carpooling, and I live close to work so that I can do this. I wear a sweater instead of turning up the heat, and go for a swim to stay cool instead of using air conditioning.

Going green doesn't mean making sacrifices; it means living in a comfortable fashion, saving money on energy and feeling healthy."


Cameron Wigmore
Green Party candidate, '06 federal election
Alberta Provincial Rep, '06-'07, GPC

"Going green to me is cleaning up the inside of my self along with the ways I live my life. At the moment I'm trying. I moved to a place that is lower cost to live. I've bought land so I can live off the land. But the main thing for me is looking into truly new ways to create energy. This world is full of things that have been covered up and not show in the media. There is no need to pay for fuel. There is no need to even pay for hydro any longer. One liter of water has 1200 liters of fuel in it. Nicola Tesla did studies in his day on free energy. Westing house was stated as saying how can I put a meter on that?? Tesla faded into the night when Tomas Edison took the light. What did he invent? One light bulb.
Tesla should be thanked for pretty much out way of life now. Yet his true dream is not lived yet. But soon.

So what is going green for me? Let's change this world from the inside of all of us. Let's get rid of our greed for things. Than we will see we need less and there for a world that can have free energy. As I move on in my life I will see a change. I Know that people like my self and others are working on things that will bring change to this world and those people can and will not be bought. There is more to money. And there is more to having more things to fill the land fill after there out of style. That's making sure this is a beautiful world for my children's children not one of death and construction of more death"

"Going green means (to me) making sure this world doesn't combust before my grandchildren get a chance to walk through a rain forest, walk on a glacier, see a polar bear in the wild, hike a rocky mountain, and marvel at the beauty that this Earth has to offer. I don't mind spending a little more money on products that are safer for the environment. I try to clean with things that I can eat (i.e. baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice) I try to grow my own vegetables and fruits, I bake my own bread, pizza crust, cookies, etc. Most importantly (I'm lucky to be able to say this) the truck is parked for weeks at a time because both my husband and I are able to walk to work. Good for us, good for the environment. I shop locally, I follow the 100-mile-diet (as best I can, for example, there are no rice-paddy's here in the Rockies), and I live an active lifestyle. I don't use plastic shopping bags, I recycle everything I can, after I've reused and cannot use anymore... all the lights in my home are compact fluorescent or LED, and I've tried my best to remember to shut off the computer at night (the monitor shuts off automatically). I have rechargeable batteries for my camera and flashlights, and I turn the TV off when I'm not watching. It's all the little things that add up."

Maggie Taplin, Golden, BC

Monday, November 10, 2008

Day 203 of our Green Year: Turn Down That Noise!

Everyone knows about water, soil and air pollution, but people never seem to think too much about noise pollution. In many ways, noise pollution is one of the most common forms of pollution in our world. It seems wherever you go, you hear music, horns, cars running, people yelling or dog's barking.

The effects of noise pollution are also not as noticeable as other types of pollution. We can see smog, we can taste tainted water, but we can't see the noise pollution's effect on the environment. First, noise pollution is bad for us. When there is a noisy environment around us, we become irritable, our blood pressure goes up, and it can lead to health problems like headaches, gastric issues and cardiac problems. Of course, it can also lead to deafness as well.

The environment is disturbed by noise pollution because it can have a severe effect on the birds and animals that are affected by noise pollution. Without breeding, those animals can go extinct. Studies have shown that animals near an airport suffer a large decrease in their reproduction.

Hence, for Layla and I, we will be going green today by reducing our noise pollution with some of the following methods:

  • If you don't need to yell, don't. You may be disturbing more than the people around you.
  • No need to honk in traffic, even if someone really ticks us off.
  • We have dogs at our house, and we have already made the effort to limit their barking through training.
  • No need to blast that Soundgarden or System of a Down, a lower setting can be better for the environment, and our ears.
  • Putting your phone on vibrate is not only courteous to the people around you, but also good for the environment.
  • The television does not need to be loud. We have to remember that many animals hear much better than we do, and while it may seem "sort of loud" to us, it may be blaring to them.
Living out at the ranch, we are appreciating that silence is golden. We often don't hear very many noises but the coyotes and the birds. Since we share this land with them, we want to make sure that the only noise they hear is the quiet awe of us in our surroundings.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Day 202 of our Green Year: World Against Whaling

Whaling used to be one of the biggest industries in the entire world, but with the discovery of oil as a means of powering machinery, it began to fall behind as an industry. In those days, whales were slaughtered to near extinction.
These days, whales are on the rebound, at least some species are, and everyone understands that whaling is something that our civilization no longer needs to do. However, whales still do suffer due to our habits of destroying the oceans for our own purposes.

In regards to whaling, there are still countries that still use whaling as an industry, and all of them should no better considering how progressive they can be on other environmental initiatives. These countries are Norway, Iceland and Japan.

In 1986, a complete stop to commercial whaling was put in place. However, this initiative left open a loophole that allowed whaling to be done for scientific research. Japan did not support this until the United States threatened economic sanctions. Japan has signed this agreement but Norway, Russia and Iceland have not. Japan stopped commercial whaling in Antarctica, but they started their own research program called JARPA, which used the loophole of the initiative to kill whales using the same boats, crew and equipment that had been in commercial whaling before the ban. In Japan, far more whales are killed than could logically be killed for scientific research.

World Against Whaling was created by a user of YouTube as a means to create a central petition website that would link together all anti-whaling organizations and campaigns to one site. This allows computer users to come to this site to see all the organizations and campaigns going on to stop whaling around the world. Operating under the banner of "Together we can stop whaling", this is a great site to support a ban on whaling.

For our 202nd day of Our Green Year, we are joining this website and spreading the message of what a great site it is. We urge you to visit here if you are curious about whaling organizations and their efforts to get a complete ban on whaling. While the website is small now, every great initiative must start with baby steps before it can eventually change the world.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Day 201 of our Green Year: SPCA Tickets

Layla and I love animals, and we are members of the SPCA. We have plans to help out the SPCA this Christmas (stay tuned!), and we are always ready to help out in other ways. Back in Rossland, Layla was going to be joining the BCSPCA branch there to help out before we moved. Here, we are going to be helping out the SPCA through a variety of methods, including with our company.

One way we have decided to help out the SPCA is by buying tickets for their 2008 Christmas Cash Lottery. This is a lottery here in Alberta that helps dogs, cats and other animals at the SPCA get good care and a better chance at being adopted. It is a great lottery and we are proud to buy tickets for it.

The lottery has 40 cash prizes that total $90,000, including a $10,000 Early Bird Prize and a $20,000 Grand Prize. However, even without the prizes, Layla and I would be happy to support this cause. Animals are very important to us.

If you are interested in buying tickets and you are in Alberta, visit this website.

The picture above features Woodstock, the German Shepard here, with a new reusable bag we received from the SPCA.

Some good news, my parents have agreed to offset their vacation this year. It is great to spread the environmental message!

Also, we tried our ginger ale today, that Layla made two days ago and it is EXCELLENT!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Day 200 of our Green Year: Helping Out The Birds

Whew! 200 posts in Our Green Year, 165 posts to go!

For today, we are going to be helping out the birds. Up here in Central Alberta, it can get down pretty cold in the wintertime. In an effort to help out the birds here at the ranch, we have several birdhouses set up around the property to give some warmth to the birds. On top of that, we are going to be ensuring that we keep filled bird feeders so that the birds are not starving in the winter. This is an easy and cost effective way to help the birds around your property from suffering too much in the cold.

There is nothing like hearing the birds chirping outside your window when you wake up in the spring and summer, and Layla and I want to ensure the birds on our property can get through the cold winter with as little pain and suffering as possible.

Layla decided to make some ginger ale yesterday. It turned out to be a very easy thing to do when you have the right ingredients. Since we cannot buy pop, we have been craving it for awhile and juice just does not seem to be doing it anymore. Hence, we decided to make some pop this week. I have posted pictures below.

Some of the items needed, including sugar, ginger root and a bottle. (Note, the bottle was here at the ranch, and belongs to the others who live here.)

The juice we got from one lemon.

The finished product after one day of sitting closed. One more day to go!
Recently, I read an article that said Canada ranks 15th out of 17 developed nations (just ahead of the United States and Australia) in terms of their environmental record. On the report, which was done by the Conference Board of Canada, our beloved country had an overall C grade thanks to getting a D grade on waste generation, water usage and greenhouse gas emissions.
The report stated that Canada has some of the highest greenhouse gas emissions per capita in the world, and between 1990 and 2006, our emissions actually increased by one-third. On top of that, Canada generates more waste per capita than any other country on Earth, and wastes more water per capita than every other country except for the United States.

While we did poorly in those categories, Canada ranked high in water quality, air quality, energy efficiency and forest management.
Norway, Finland and and Switzerland ranked highest in the report.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Day 199 of our Green Year: AidTo

Many months ago, Layla and I began going to as a way to provide rice to people in the developing world who did not have access to a steady supply of food. Well, today we are going to go to another site that everyone can visit a few times a week, helping children in the world, while at the same time improving their vocabulary (win-win!).

This site is and they describe themselves as:
"AIDtoCHILDREN was developed based on a desire to help under privileged children in the most impoverished places around the world."

The website runs on the same principle as, in that for every correct answer you guess on the word quiz, money (or in the case of, rice) goes to those who need it. In the case of AidtoChildren, they donate .25 cents to children who need it.

For those of you who recognize the name, you probably do from a comment we received that alerted us to the cause, which we are glad to support.
The website has only been around since March of 2008, but so far that has brought $722 to those who need it. That may not seem like much, but to those who need it, it is a fortune. It also constitutes 2,888 right answers from those using the website.

Kudos to, for once again showing that you can help the world with a click of a button.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Day 198 of our Green Year: Sending out Care2 eCards

Care 2 is a great website. This is where we use our e-mail because by having a Care2 e-mail address, for every e-mail we send, they donate money to environmental causes. Care2 also has the Click To Donate, which is a one-stop shop for helping to save eco-systems and animals.

Well, Care2 continues to impress us, this time with their e-cards. E-cards are nice little gifts you can send someone to brighten up their day. One recent e-card I sent out from Care2 was the Galaxy Song by Monty Python. It is a great song that can put a smile on your face.

When you go through Care2 to send your e-cards, for every two e-cards you send (and they are free), they will put money to help save a square foot of rainforest. The rainforest is incredibly important, and this is just another way we can all help preserve it for future generations.

For those of you who have not used Care2 yet, I urge you to. This is a great organization that can help network you with 350 non-profits, elected officials and millions of members to ensure that your voice is heard about environmental causes.

As well, they donate five percent of their website revenues to non-profit organizations.
Visit Care2 at

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Day 197 of our Green Year: Apple Cider At Home

Today is the big day in the United States, when hopefully Barack Obama is elected as the new leader of the United States, and maybe then we can put the entire fiasco of George W. Bush behind us forever.

However, this blog is not about the American election, but about making apple cider. Layla and I are big fans of apple cider and apple juice, and we thought this would be a cool thing to make in the future.

To make apple cider, you do the following:
  1. Choose the applies you want. Red Delicious and Yellow Delicious apples have a sweet flavor, while Granny Smith has a tart flavor.
  2. Try and mix the blends together, with maybe three sweet apples and one tart apple for a sweet taste.
  3. Clean off the apples and cut away bruises.
  4. Quarter the apples, but leave the skins on them.
  5. Blend the apples completely, or puree them in a food processor.
  6. Squeeze the pureed apples through a cheesecloth and get all the juice that you can. Then, store the cider in a sealed container in a cool room for two weeks.
Enjoy your cider, and get out and vote!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Day 196 of our Green Year: Uses For Salt

Most of us think of salt as something bad for the environment because of its ability to kill vegetation, but the truth is that it can have many good uses for those leading environmentally-sustainable lives.

Here are just a few tips for salt in the home that Layla and I will be using:
  1. You can use salt as a polish for brash, silver and copper by mixing it with vinegar to make a paste. Then use a soft cloth to buff. After, rinse with water.
  2. If you spill oil or eggs, you can cover the area with salt and it will make it much easier to pick up.
  3. Equal parts of salt and hot water poured down a drain will dissolve buildup and get rid of bad smells.
  4. If your home windows, or your car windows are full of frost, you can dip a sponge into a salt/water solution and wipe down your windows. Let it dry and after you do this, it will prevent frost from collecting.
  5. If you got greasy cookware, you can put salt on it to help cut the grease while you clean.
  6. Sponges in the kitchen can get a lot of bad bacteria on them. You can keep this from happening by soaking the sponges in a heavy saline solution.
  7. If ants are walking into your kitchen, put salt down where they are coming through and they will stop coming in.
  8. A great mouthwash that is not full of harmful chemicals is to dissolve a quarter of a teaspoon of salt into about half a cup of warm water. Swish it around and gargle.
  9. If you have a grease fire, you can throw salt on it to help extinguish it (although a fire extinguisher is a much better bet)
For all our American readers. GO VOTE TOMORROW FOR CHANGE!

While many people are saying that tough economic times means the downfall of the environmental movement, I say 'HOGWASH!' and here are some stats from to prove it.

  • 63 Percent of Americans said they believe tackling climate change will benefit the economy
  • 52 Percent said tackling climate change will not personally cost them money
  • Most prefer to contribute by changing their behavior and spending extra time rather than spending extra money
  • Those feeling financially worse off than last year are scarcely less committed than those feeling better off: 41 percent of people who said they believe themselves to be financially worse off also said "I am focusing on making changes to my life to combat climate change," only three percentage points below those who did not feel financially worse off
  • The percentage of people who selected six or seven on a scale of one to seven for level of agreement to the statement "Climate change and how we respond to it are among the biggest issues I worry about today" was just 18 percent in 2007, but climbed dramatically to 24 percent in 2008
  • •The percentage of people who selected six or seven on a scale of one to seven for level of agreement to the statement "I am personally making a significant effort to help reduce climate change through how I live my life today" similarly climbed from 13 percent in 2007 to 21 percent in 2008

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Day 195 of our Green Year: Making Liquid Soap

Throughout Our Green Year, we are trying to make a lot of what we have and use in the house, with things that are good for the environment, and which we buy on a regular basis. Today, we do this again with the making of green tea liquid soap.

Green tea liquid soap is exactly how it sounds, soap that you use to wash your hands that has green tea in it. Layla and I are big fans of green tea as a drink, and many people know about the health benefits that the tea has, including fighting many diseases. However, we were surprised when a reader alerted us to the fact that there is a green tea liquid soap, and we thought it would be great to show how to make it today.

To make green tea liquid soap, you need one cup of bubble-bath base, which can be found at craft stores, 3/4 cup of water, four to six drops of soap fragrance and one tea bag.
  1. Combine together the base, water and fragrance in a measuring cup and mix it well. Then, tear open the tea bag and add the leaves inside to the mixture. Be sure to blend it very well.
  2. With a small funnel, put the mixture into two bottles to equal level (or into one large bottle).
  3. Cover up the top of the bottle with fabric to make it look nice and maybe put a decorative towel around the bottle to add some flair.
That is all there is too it! The fragrance of the tea soap is stimulating and refreshing and can be used as a hand soap or as a body wash (when we are out of our sugar scrub body wash, we are going to make this as we find the sugar scrub to be a bit abrasive).

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Day 194 of our Green Year: Spreading the Heat with Ceiling Fans

As many of our readers have learned, at the ranch we recently took out the wall between the living room and the dining room in an effort to help circulate heat throughout the house, rather than allow it to get confined in the living room with the fireplace.

One big step to helping get the heat to circulate properly, limit the amount of wood we burn and lessen the heat that comes through the events, was to use the ceiling fan effectively. Ceiling fans are great for the house and conserving energy because it allows the heat the circulate during the winter, rather than get trapped on the roof (hot air rises), as well as help cool down the room in the summer by spreading around the cold air.

Currently we only have one ceiling fan installed in the house, but more will come elsewhere in the house as we work to make the home much more energy efficient. This is something easy we can all do, and most ceiling fans look great in any room of the house.

Yes, the ceiling fan does use energy but it is minuscule compared with how much energy you save by not having to turn up the heat or burn as much wood. Naturally, when you are not in the room, don't have the ceiling fan going.

Installing a ceiling fan is even part of CBC's One Million Acts of Green, where they give these facts:
  • Ceiling fans can cool your house by a few degrees or more during summer months.
  • Fans cost much less than air conditioners to run.
  • They help keep your home cooler in the summer and help warm it in the winter.
They also say this:

"A ceiling fan can reduce your household’s energy consumption by decreasing the use of an air conditioner. And they’re not just for the summer either. Using a ceiling fan in the winter displaces hot air that rises with cooler air from the room’s lower levels. Plus, remember how cool that shot of the ceiling fan looked in ‘Apocalypse Now?’"

**photo courtesy of CBC One Million Acts of Green**