Monday, June 30, 2008

Day 70 of our Green Year: Planting Great Trees

Who likes fruit? Who likes fruit trees? Who likes to pick the fruit right off the tree and eat it without having to worry about pesticides? I think the answer to this is that we all do. Sadly, most of us do not have fruit trees in our yard. However, you can easily get seeds for them, and all it takes is a trip to your grocery store.

So, for the 70th day of Our Green Year, we have decided to start planting seeds from the fruit we buy instead of simply tossing it out. This will help us create great fruit trees and add a bit more oxygen creators to our environment.

Now granted, we eat a lot of fruit and we can't use all the seeds, but many of the seeds may not grow, and using the following method, Layla and I can begin to make fruit tree saplings and sell them at Farmer's Markets for people. We will also be giving it to people as a green gift.

  1. The first thing you need to do is wrap the seeds in moist peat moss and put this all in a plastic bag. Then, stick it in the fridge for about three months.
  2. Transfer the seeds to flats and add some more peat moss, then cover and leave them in a warm and dimly lit area. Make sure you poke holes in the cover so the air can circulate.
  3. Allow the seeds to germinate. This can take quite a while, but you just need to be patient and watch for any signs of growth.
  4. Take the seeds to a well-lit area once they germinate. You should always keep these small fruit trees indoors and away from harsh conditions outside. They will die if your are not careful.
  5. Once the trees are ready, transplant them and keep repeating this step depending on how large the tree grows
In total, this can take over half a year to a year, but trust us, it will be great when you are eating fresh fruit in a few years and helping out the environment by reducing your dependency on fruit grown elsewhere, while giving the Earth some more trees to take care of our air for us.

NOTE: Tomorrow, Layla and I are going to be hiking up Mount Roberts for our town's tradition of raising the Canadian flag on top of the mountain for Canada Day, so the blog tomorrow will be later in the day.

Also, here is a great video you should all check out. Thank you to No Impact Man and his great website for showing it to me. 350 Challenge
Got any suggestions for what we can do to go green? Want to share your own green stories with us or send us photos of you going green? Then send us an e-mail at crwbaird@gmail.com

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Day 69 of our Green Year: One Garbage Bag Challenge

Here we are in Day 69, and the decision has been made to completely limit our garbage. We got the idea from our friend Jennifer at Mother's Going Green, who has taken part in the one can a month challenge. This means they only have one garbage can full of garbage per month, which is about two to four bags a month depending on how large the can is.

Layla and I thought this was such a good idea, that we have decided to do the same, except we will be going for one garbage bag a month. That means we will be recycling and composting everything we can, keeping an eye on packaging and everything to ensure that we do not exceed one garbage bag per month. This is actually a really tough challenge because our society has evolved to be very wasteful. Everything we buy, even the stuff that is limited package and organic, can still have a lot of packaging to it.

Our society generates so much garbage, it is truly astonishing. In Canada, which is one of the worst per capita offenders, it has become an epidemic. Here are just some alarming statistics.

  • 40 percent of all solid waste generated in Canada is from household garbage.
  • Each person in Canada generates 383 kilograms of waste. In other words, that is 30 garbage bags per person in Canada.
  • 12 million tonnes of waste is generated by residential homes each year.
  • Only 2.5 million tonnes is recycled.
Ultimately, our goal is to be zero impact. Selectively buying what we can to keep garbage out of our home and ensuring that we recycle and reuse everything that comes into the house. It will be a happy day here when the garbage truck has nothing to pick up, ever. Until then, we will only be using one garbage bag a month starting this week.

Also, Layla and I bought a solar powered light for our garden. No need for batteries or household electricity here!
Do you have any suggestions for limiting garbage? Do you want to join our One Bag A Month Challenge? Got pictures of you going green? Email us at crwbaird@gmail.com!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Day 68 of our Green Year: A Natural Weed Killer

We have some weeds in our garden, and while I am one to leave weeds in the yard since they aren't really doing any harm, I do have to remove them from the garden. This is because they can choke out our vegetables, and those vegetables are feeding us over the winter.
Obviously, we are not going to be using herbicides on the weeds because we are a 'no chemical zone' here. Therefore, we can use our muscles and pull the weeds out by hand, but there is another way that goes along with our message of 'Re-use, then recycle'.

In this sense, we have chosen to use something we make nearly every day to get rid of weeds. That something, is boiled water. Whether it is making pasta, boiling potatoes, making tea or whatever, we have boiled water nearly on a daily basis. Now, instead of just dumping that water down the drain, which is a big waste, we are pouring it on weeds. Boiled water is a great weed killer because it essentially destroys the entire plant and the root system if it is shallow enough. No herbicides, or pulling it out by your hand. Just reusing the water you just boiled to kill a weed.

Many gardeners are going with this method over other methods because it is healthier for the environment without herbicides floating around everywhere. This, of course, is not to say that we will not be pulling weeds by hand. Nor will we be boiling water to specifically pour on weeds. Instead, we are only using the water that was already boiled for something else, on the weeds. Remember the motto of Our Green Year, "Reuse, then Recycle"

Got any other natural weed killers? Let us know!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Day 67 of our Green Year: Reusing Yogurt Containers

In our house, we enjoy organic yogurt with our lunch. It is healthy, tastes great and you can also make some great smoothies out of it. However, this then presents the problem of many yogurt containers beginning to appear around our home. We can't throw them out, we could recycle them, but the rule we have here is "Re-use, then Recycle", so we have found some uses for yogurt containers that will keep us from buying other items.
  1. Seed Starters: Yogurt containers make great seed starters because they are small and lightweight, plus easy to grow things in. You can start growing your plants for the spring and summer inside, and have green throughout your home, which then makes the air that much better.
  2. Plant Protectors: On that same note, you can cut the bottom of the yogurt container out and use it to protect the plants when they are outside by putting the yogurt container over the plant.
  3. Containers For Butter: Layla and I make our own butter, so we need something to put that butter in, and a washed out yogurt container works great for this.
  4. Craft Supplies: Layla is big on making crafts, and there seems to be few better things to hold beads and such than a small yogurt container.
  5. Leftovers: Store food in the containers when you don't finish your meal.
  6. Cookie Dough: You can also store unused cookie dough in here to keep it fresh and free of crusting over.
  7. Toothbrush Holder: They are a great toothbrush holder and you can even decorate it for the bathroom.
There are plenty of things that can be done with yogurt containers. Do you know of any? Leave us a comment and let us know what we may have missed!
Have you made something out of a yogurt container? Why not send a photo of it to us so we can put it on our blog. Crwbaird@gmail.com

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Day 66 of our Green Year: Homemade Air Fresheners

Day 66 has come and it is time to make the house smell nice. Not that it smells bad, but there is something about a house that smells great. However, in most air fresheners, that smell comes at a price, and that price is your health. How bad can it be? You may not want to know....

In a study done in 2007, the Natural Resources Defense Council looked at 14 air fresheners and found that 12 contained phthalates. If you don't know what those are, then ignorance is bliss. They are a group of chemicals that are used to dissolve and carry fragrances. They can also soften plastics and companies also use them as sealants and adhesives. They are found in many products, including children's toys, and they have health consequences.
Studies have found that high exposures to Phthalates can cause cancer, sex-hormone abnormalities, development problems in children, malformed sex organs in infants and problems with fertility.

Now, you may think that buying 'all-natural' or 'unscented' air fresheners is the way to go. Well, in a study by the NRDC, they found that some of those 'all natural' products carried as much as 7,300 parts per million of phthalate content. Phthalates are also listed in California's EPA's Office of Encironmental Health Hazard Assessment as a developmental toxin.

Therefore, Layla and I are making our own air fresheners. Previously in the blog, we have mentioned how a bowl of lemon juice can freshen up a room, as can vinegar or baking soda. Well, if you want to do something a bit different, try this.

  1. Take 1/2 cup of salt and a one and a half a cups of flour.
  2. Mix together with some food coloring and some essential oils (Lavender for example).
  3. Add 2/3 cup of boiling water
  4. Once mixed so that it is clumpy, then form into small balls.
  5. Let sit on the counter so they dry.
  6. Put some more essential oil on them.
There, you have a great air freshener. There are not byproducts in this, no chemicals, it is all-natural and good for your home environment.

UPDATE: The soda is ready after sitting in the fridge for days and it is great. Really, it is very good. I love it and am going to be making more soon.

Also, if you want to see what the world will be like after cheap oil is gone (which may be happening now), then check out this CBC documentary I watched last night.

The Future Without Oil

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Day 65 of our Green Year: Reusable Vegetable Bags

Here we are with only 300 days left in Our Green Year, and we have decided to continue our quest to banish plastic items from our house with the banishment of plastic bags for vegetables. We banished plastic bags very early on in Our Green Year, and now we are getting rid of those plastic bags that we keep vegetables in from the store to home and in the fridge, before throwing them out.

These are just as bad for the environment, and they are only used for slightly longer than plastic bags. Instead, Layla and I have decided to do the following with our vegetable bag needs. Since we are trying not to use items like plastic wrap and plastic bags, we won't be getting those bags at the grocery store and reusing them.

  1. Use paper bags, like what you have for mushrooms at the grocery store if we don't have anything to put our fruit in.
  2. Get a small mesh vegetable bag that can hold everything from apples and oranges to nectarines and honeydew melons.
  3. Buying bags that have been made from recycled goods. The RDKB here sells bags that are made from recycled juice containers, they look great and are awesome to use.
One of our Green Friends, Mother's Going Green (http://www.mothersgoinggreen.blogspot.com/) did a blog this week about the types of plastic that are used in the world. Each bag has a symbol (much like the recycle symbol) with a number in it. I took note today of what number is on the plastic bags at the store. For that type of plastic, Mother's Going Green said it was made of high density polyethylene, which is used in everything from milk containers to cereal box liners. It is apparently safe to use, but that is not conclusive. Regardless of the health issues that may be related, it takes 1.75 kilograms of petroleum to make just one kilogram of high density polyethylene. With higher prices for oil these days, don't be surprised if you suddenly have to start paying for those bags.

Got any suggestions for what we can use? Send us an e-mail at crwbaird@gmail.com or leave us a comment!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Day 64 of our Green Year: Sugary Body Wash

Here at the Our Green Year household, we are trying more and more to make things around the house instead of going out and buying it.
In a previous day, we had explained all the nice chemicals that are in our personal care products, including body washes. Since Layla and I like having that clean feeling after a shower, we decided to make our own body wash. Surprisingly, it is very simple to make a body wash, a sugary body wash that is.

All you need is a plastic container, sugar, olive oil and a scented oil.

Take the reusable plastic container and fill it with one cup of sugar. It needs to be a plastic container because it is going in the shower. If you use a glass one, you may drop it, it will smash, you will step on the shards, screaming will ensue and it won't be a very relaxing experience.
Take 1/2 a cup of extra virgin olive oil and pour it into the plastic container with the sugar. Shake it until it is all blended together. This may take a few minutes because the olive oil will want to sit on top of the sugar.
Then, take your scented oil (Lavender is popular) and put some into the container. Only put a bit at first, you don't want to have an overpowering scent. Add more if you feel it is needed and shake.

There, you are done. Now, just put it in the shower. When you go to shower, all you have to do is put a bit on a wash cloth to use as a body wash. You should do this about once a week and you will find it actually does great wonders for your skin. The olive oil will naturally settle on the sugar, so you may have to mix it before you use it.
Make sure you rinse well afterward as well.

Let us know how it works for you!

If you have pictures of yourself doing green things (leave out the ones of you showering with sugar body wash), send them to us at crwbaird@gmail.com and we will put them on the blog!
One of our blog partners, Jennifer from Mothers Going Green, sent me an astonishing power point presentation on plastic bag usage. I highly recommend seeing it. If you would like to, e-mail me at crwbaird@gmail.com and I will send it to you.

UPDATE: I received my $100 green cheque from the Government of BC today. They are sending cheques out to everyone in an effort to get people to buy green things with them. I am using mine to buy a solar panel. Stay tuned!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Day 63 of our Green Year: Greening Up The Pet Food

For Layla and I, our pets our like our children and we only want the best for them, and the environment in which they inhabit. Currently, we have two dogs (Niko and Lucy), three birds (Augy, Zed and Honey), two cats (Palu and Sparty) and one dog we are babysitting for our friend, Darcee, this month, Buckwheat.

So, we want to make sure what they eat is as good as what we eat. Why allow our animals to eat byproducts when we eat organic food? Therefore, for Day 63, we are getting rid of animal byproduct and unhealthy pet food. Most of the pet food you buy at the store is filled with reconstituted animal byproducts, which are just low-grade wastes from the poultry and beef industries. These are things we would never eat, yet we let our companions munch away on it.

A delightful insight into byproducts comes from the fact that the animals that are used in pet food are called 4-D. What does that mean? It means that the dead, dying, diseased and disabled. Unless it actually says so on the can that the ingredients are food-grade meat, you can be assured what they are eating is no good for human, or pet, consumption.

This is why Layla and I are going with Natural and Organic pet foods instead. One place we have tried for pet food is right here in our town. It is called Mountain Mutt Bakery and our dogs love their all natural food. You can also find a wide variety of other organic and natural pet foods in certain stores (Like Tails Pet Store where we are) and online.

All the organic and natural pet foods come from animals that are raised in a humane way, and not pumped full of drugs and hormones, and are preserved with vitamins C and E. That is much better than the 'byproducts' that are in pet food.

So, before we leave you today, what is in some byproducts (albeit not all)? Here is just a short list:
  • Cow brains
  • Sheep guts
  • Chicken heads
  • Road kill
  • Rancid grain
After seeing animals die from tainted grain last year, Layla and I are no longer taking the chance for the good of our environment, and our pets.

Do you have a photo of you with your pets enjoying an eco-friendly activity or food? Let us know!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Day 62 of our Green Year: Plastic Wrap Elimination

Did you know that oil prices are going up? Unless you live under a rock on Mars, you probably do. Well, when oil prices go up, so does absolutely everything else with oil and oil byproducts with it. Most are made from petroleum based products and that is not only bad for your pocket book, but for the environment as well. Typically, plastic wrap is made from polyvinylidene chloride, or polyvinyl chloride (which both end up getting in close contact with your food.
These chemicals are very toxic when they are produced, used and incinerated. Now, they are very rigid plastics, so those who manufacture plastic wrap will put in phthalates, which can cause hormonal disruption, development problems, and oh ya, that also comes in close contact with the food you eat.

As a result, Layla and I are banning plastic wrap in our house. No more of it at all. We came to the conclusion of why we would ban plastic bags, but have plastic wrap that is only used for awhile then thrown away. So, we are getting rid of plastic wrap for that reason, as well as the environmental impact it causes when it is made, and the horrible impact it has on our bodies when we ingest food that has been in contact with these chemicals for hours, or days.

Instead, we are choosing to use some alternatives.

  1. One thing we do is take dishes and use those as containers. They are not perfect, but they do work okay. This means taking a bowl and putting it over a plate of food, or using another plate as a lid on a plate of food. This is simple, we can keep doing it and it is environmentally healthy.
  2. Reusable containers are a great fit. We already have some for take out and Subway, so we are going to get some more and use that for food in the fridge. Also reusable, so that is a big plus.
For now, we are going to hold off on aluminum foil. We banned aluminum cans, and having aluminum foil seems like a step in the wrong direction. Layla and I think just using the containers and other dishes should work fine for us instead.

Thank you as well to Darren at the Weekender for doing a story on Our Green Year in an upcoming issue of the paper.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Day 61 of our Green Year: The Ultimate Recycling

Well we are going headlong into our third month of going green and things are starting to really take off for us.
For today, we have decided to go green by joining Freecycle.org. Freecycle is a website that has actually been around for a few years, which allows people to essentially join the world's largest free garage sale.

Freecycle works through Yahoo Groups, and it gives the ability for people to put things that they want to get rid of up on the group for their area (our area is Trail, B.C.). Whether it is plant pots, a dresser, clothes or more, you can find it here and all you have to do is contact the person giving it away and pick it up.
As well, you can put up your things as well to prevent the things you own from ending up in the landfill. Remember, one man's trash is another man's treasure, and you don't want to contribute to our growing landfills by throwing things away, which someone else may want.

Think of how much waste goes to landfills that does not need to? How many times have you seen things like couches, pots, books and more at a landfill? There are about 10,000 landfills across Canada right now. That is about one landfill for every 3,500 people. As well, landfills account for 38 percent of all our methane emissions in Canada, which is 20 times stronger than greenhouse gases. While the items you get on Freecycle are not going to be producing methane, beginning by giving away what you would throw away, is a good start to preventing you from simply throwing everything away because it is easier. That way, landfills get smaller and more gets recycled.

Currently, Layla and I are looking for some things on the site to help us go green. We will see what we find!

As well, be sure to check out www.greenmagazines.com, where Layla and I will have ten tips on how to go green in each issue of Organic Lifestyles. They were nice enough to speak to us and we are looking forward to sending our message of how to go green to a wide audience!

Here is a photo of Layla doing the right thing by drying our clothes outside on the deck. Do you have any photos of you doing green things? Send them to us at crwbaird@gmail.com

Friday, June 20, 2008

Day 60 of our Green Year: Pop, Green Style!

Whoo! Two month anniversary of Our Green Year. Things are going strong for us and really picking up, which is great. Only ten months, or 305 days to go, before Our Green Year comes to an end and Our Green Life begins!

For today, we have decided to make our own soda. We figure that things like Coca-Cola, Pespi and other pops have huge amounts of items that we may not want in our bodies, like Aspartame (which apparently gives tumors to rats). The surprising thing of all this, is that making soda is really easy to do and does not take that much in ingredients.

So, here is how you make it:

  1. Get a 4 Liter jug, a washed out milk jug will work great. Then, get a cup of warm (baby bottle warm) water and put 1/8 of a teaspoon of yeast in it. This is important, if you put too much yeast in, your pop will taste funny and the bottle may explode. However, too little and you won't get the "ssss" when you open the jug. Let the water and yeast mix together by sitting on the counter for five minutes.
  2. In the jug, put one to two cups of sugar in, depending on how sweet you want it.
  3. Put two tablespoons of flavoring in the jug. Most supermarkets will sell this flavoring and it comes in many varieties, from Dr. Pepper and Coke to Grape and Orange.
  4. Put the warm water and yeast in the jug.
  5. Fill the jug with water until there is a few inches of space at the top.
  6. Shake the jug for two minutes.
After you have done that, put it in the fridge for about four to six days so it can carbonate. Check it every so often. If you find that it is very firm (as in hard to push the jug sides together), then open it and let some of the air out to relieve the pressure.

There you have it! All there is to making soda, pretty easy and quick. It should not take you more than ten minutes to do this.

UPDATE: Our biodegradable pens arrived from Grassroots Store, and they are great. You can see our dog Niko also likes them...or how they taste!

Our story was on the radio stations (KBS Radio and Mountain FM) here in the Kootenay region of BC, so that is great!
http://www.mountainfm.net/?q=node/5147

Do you have a pop recipe? Send it to crwbaird@gmail.com and we will put it up. If you have pictures of yourself going green, send that to us too and we will post it on our blog. Our friend Min did, by showing us her new biodegradable bag!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Day 59 of our Green Year: Green Shopping


Welcome to Day 59 of Our Green Year, only one day away from two months!! So, for this day, we are going to be going green with our shopping. Already we have gone green by only buying local food and making sure it is organic, but there are other ways that we can go green with our shopping.

I would like to thank Mother's Going Green (http://www.mothersgoinggreen.blogspot.com/), who offered several awesome tips on how to go green with your shopping. So, Layla and I are taking the steps ensure our shopping is green, and that goes well beyond bringing cloth bags to the store.

First, we are going to shop less like our friend at Mother's Going Green. We will only be shopping for things when we need to, and when we do it will only be a local store. This means that unless we can't avoid it, no more Wal-Mart for us.

The other way we are going green with our shopping, and this is the most important one, is we will only buy items with minimal packaging. This goes from the food we buy, all the way to anything else.
Excess packaging is everywhere in our lives. When we buy food like Pizza Pops, they are put in a box, and then in individual plastic wrap. Is this necessary? What about Swiffer Sweeper? This product is built on not having a reusable mop that you can use for five years. Instead, you have to keep buying packages of individually-wrapped sweeper pads.
According to some estimates, while we are urged to increase how much we recycle, the amount companies waste in excess packaging has increased by 12 percent since 1999! We are talking about items like plastic that can take 1,000 years to break down, and once we rip the packaging to get our product we forget about it in the garbage.
Think about this. A total of 35 percent of all the waste in landfills is from packaging! That is a lot of waste that does not need to be there.

Therefore, from now on Layla and I will only buy products that are in cardboard boxes that we can reuse. We will only buy other products in jars that we can also reuse. If we have to buy something that uses plastic, we will either recycle it or turn it into something we can use. If you wonder what you can use the CD plastic wrap for, well if you take it off carefully, attach it to the to of a bucket and poke a hole in the middle (make sure it slopes down to the hole), then you can collect dew in the morning to use on your plants.

Thank you to Mountain FM who did an interview with us today about Our Green Year, as well as Shaw TV, who are planning on speaking with us next month!

The message of Our Green Year is spreading. Thank you to everyone who comes to our site each day and I hope we are helping to make a difference.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Day 58 of our Green Year: Homemade Butter

As part of our goal to be self-sustaining, we have decided to begin making a lot of things that we could buy, in our home instead. The reason for this is because we want to take a bit of our carbon footprint away from having to buy items like butter and pop at the store. So, today we have decided to make our own butter.
To make butter, you need two things; cream and salt. The homemade butter you make is much better for your health than margarine and retail types of butter because there is nothing in it but cream and salt.
The reason this is an environmentally-good thing to do is that the less butter you buy, the less butter has to be shipped, the less greenhouse gases that go into the atmosphere. Granted, you do need to have cream, which has to be shipped. To beat this, Layla and I are buying our cream from a supplier in the Lower Mainland of BC and will be looking for a place where we can buy the cream in an area of the Kootenays.


So, to make butter, follow these steps:
  1. Let cream (whipping cream works best) get to room temperature.
  2. Put cream in jar with tight lid.
  3. Shake jar for 30 min (you can do this with a food processor, but shaking it is good exercise and does not use electricity). As you shake the jar, you will find that it becomes like whipped cream and then suddenly, and its kind of cool, the cream will separate from the butter and it will be sloshing around in the jar. Shake for a few more minutes.
  4. Once done, you will see a lump of butter in the middle that will be quite soft. Pour out the cream, which is now buttermilk.
  5. Put cold water into jar and shake, then pour out water. Do this until the water comes out clear.
  6. Get butter out of the jar and onto a plate. Put salt on it, mix it on the plate and form into a butter block shape (if you can).
  7. Put in fridge to chill.
That is all there is to it, and trust me it tastes far better than any other butter you buy at the store. The price for the cream is comparable to what you would pay for the butter, so it is more or less equaling in cost for you, with a little bit less than what you would usually get in a butter container but it is much healthier.

Do you have a recipe for butter that may work better? Let us know. If you have a picture of you or your family making butter, send it to crwbaird@gmail.com and we will put it up! video

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Day 57 of our Green Year: No more cans

A few weeks ago, Layla and I committed to recycling nearly everything we could. This included pop cans. When you recycle pop cans, you save about 60 percent energy that it takes to make them from scratch.
However, recently, we began to think about the pop cans themselves and the harm that may be caused to the environment by buying things like pop cans.
As a result, we are committing to eliminating pop cans for our life. The reason we chose to do this is two-fold, and it has to do with our own health and the environment.

First, the environment. When aluminum cans are made from scratch, it has to use aluminum that is processed from the Earth. This is VERY energy intensive, so it contributes heavily to greenhouse gases, and the mining itself destroys local habitats.

The second reason is our health. While we are not doctors, we recently chose to buy only natural personal care products to keep harmful chemicals out of our lives. Well, aluminum is the main component of cans, and some studies have shown that Alzheimer's Disease can be caused by aluminum. Now, we are not saying it does cause it, or that if you use aluminum cans you will get Alzheimer's or Parkinson's, but we are not taking the chance.

This is why we are going to begin making our own drinks (stay tuned for making your own soda this week) and keeping it in reusable containers.
If you do use aluminum cans, please remember to at least recycle it!

If you can, check out a great website called Tree-Nation (www.tree-nation.com), which will let you buy your own tree and become the guardian of that tree. If you can't plant a tree, this is a good place to check out.
Also, Layla and I saw a news report last night about how the government is changing the designation of lakes across the country so that mining companies can dump toxic mine waste into the isolated lakes. This will kill the lakes, and despite what the mining bosses say "It is the safest way to dispose of it and we have many lakes", it is not a good thing to do. Over 50 lakes are already designated in such a way that they will be polluted with toxic waste. Read more about it here:
http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2008/06/16/condemned-lakes.html?ref=rss
Please join our Facebook group to help stop this:
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=17741112868


UPDATE: Our garden is coming in great, and here are some pictures of the garden and the veggies that are coming in, including peas, potatoes, radishes and corn. Thank you to KBS Radio and Organic Living Magazine who interviewed us about Our Green Year. If you know of any media who may be interested, contact us at crwbaird@gmail.com and I will send you a press release.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Day 56 of our Green Year: Bottle Composting

You may be thinking we are talking about composting bottles, but the truth is we are talking about making a portable composting machine that you can take with you. Whether you are on vacation, or even at work, why should you forget about going green when you are not home? This is where the portable bottle compost method comes into play.

You can easily make this portable compost device and take it with you wherever you go. Now you don't have to throw things out that could be composted when you can simply put them in the bottle and compost it from your car, hotel room or office.

These are really easy to make. To make them, you need these items:
  • A Two-Liter Plastic Soft Drink Bottle
  • Two Cups of Fruits and Veggies Scraps, all chopped up.
  • One cup of grass clippings or leaves
  • Two cups of garden soil.
  • Blood and bone fertilizer if you have it.
  • One newspaper torn into squares.
  • Spray bottle with water.
  • Spoons for the soil.
  • Tape and a marker
To make the compost bottle, follow these steps:
  1. Remove the label from the bottle, leave the lid on and cut about three-quarters of the way up the bottom to form a flip top.
  2. Put the soil into the bottom and then moisten it with the spray bottle. Put a layer of fruit scraps in, then cover with soil about one cm thick.
  3. Put some fertilizer in it.
  4. Add leaves and then cover with another one cm of soil.
  5. Put some fertilizer on that.
  6. Place newspaper in the bottle and put another one cm of soil.
  7. Put another layer of fruit and vegetable scraps in, cover with one cm of soil and sprinkle with more fertilizer.
  8. Tape the top up and put it in a sunny spot on the window sill.
Afterwards, every so often, check to see if it is too moist (open lid) or too dry (add water). After a few weeks of adding composting to it, then take it out to the garden and put it in the soil.
This really makes a great portable compost bin for when you are on vacation or in the office.

If you have photos of you making this compost bottle, send them to crwbaird@gmail.com and we will put them up.
Here are a few photos of me using our manual lawn mower, which does a great job of the lawn.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Day 55 of our Green Year: Fresh Fish

Well, here we are to Day 55 of our Green Year. So, 55 down and 310 to go...whew!
Last night, Layla and I were watching W-Five and they aired a report about food from China. In it, they showed how the standards for food in China are actually less than what they are here (which can be bad enough). As a result, many people have become sick from food that was made in, or from ingredients in, China.

What they stressed mostly was fish, and they even showed someone feeding fish at a fish farm, while someone just off the banks of the fish farm water was using pesticides on plants. Mmmmm....nothing like pesticides in your food.
As you may recall, Layla and I have decided to go local and organic with our food. We recently bought organic mustard and other items, and are even going to start making our own butter (see future blog :) ). We did this because we wanted to keep pesticides out of our food, and we want to support local producers. The site we use to find local producers is Eat Well Guide (www.eatwellguide.org)
After watching that alarming documentary, we have decided to only go with fresh fish from now on. We are lucky in British Columbia because only seven hours away lies the Pacific Ocean, where we can get our fresh fish brought in on a regular basis. The reason we want to do this is because in China, many of the fish have been found to contain Malachite Green, which is something that can cause cancer. Now, in the documentary the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said that it tests every shipment from China for the toxic ingredient. Then, W-Five went and bought a random fish at a random store, which came from China and had it tested. Guess what, it had Malachite Green. So, obviously someone is lying.
As well, you may think when you buy cereal and other items that say "Product of Canada" or "Product of USA", but there is a loophole in the law that concerns that. If the packaging is worth more than the ingredients, and it often is, it can say "Product of Canada" even if it was made in China from Chinese ingredients. "Product of Canada" only means that at least 51 percent of manufacturing costs were incurred in Canada.

Our local grocery store does have fresh fish that we buy now, but if you know of anywhere in British Columbia that we can order fresh fish from, please do let us know. We are not big meat eaters and prefer fish because it is light, so it is something we have every week or so.

UPDATE: Our vegetable garden is coming in nicely, with our peas, corn, potatoes, radishes, sunflowers, onions and spinach popping up. As well the herbs outside and inside are coming in, and our indoor tomato plants are beginning to pop up! If you have any suggestions for things we can do to go green, or know of places we can get organic vegetables, fruits and fish, please do let us know. Crwbaird@gmail.com If you have pictures of you going green, then send them to that address as well and we will put it up.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Day 54 of our Green Year: Biodegradable Pens

Layla and I are writers. Working from home, we write books for clients and also write our own books. As a result, pens are a big part of our lives. We use them to write out notes, write out ideas, pretty much write out everything.

Until we started doing Our Green Year, we never thought about the pens we use and throw away. However, since we are trying to be net-zero in our impact on the environment, the question came up of "what do we do with our pens?"

Thankfully, there are companies out there that actually specialize in green products and the one we chose was the Grass Roots Store (https://www.grassrootsstore.com/index.asp), which sells environmentally friendly products. So, from here we went and bought some biodegradable pens. Yes, that is right, biodegradable pens. You can actually compost them!
They are made from corn, and are completely environmentally friendly, so this is big for Layla and I because now we can make notes on our recycled paper with biodegradable pens and be completely net-zero in our writing lives.

Layla and I will also be buying more green products from the Grass Roots Store to go with Our Green Year, so stay tuned!
If you know of another store that sells environmentally friendly products, please let us know!

Lastly, here is a nice statistic to show you just how large this pen problem is. Every single year, around the world, TEN BILLION pens are thrown away....that is a lot of plastic and ink.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Day 53 of our Green Year: Picking Up Litter

This is a really easy one for all of us. No matter where you live, you will find litter. It is a horrible reality of our disposable society. Instead of choosing to carry our garbage an extra block, we dump it on the road. Instead of keeping the garbage in our car until we are at a place to dispose it, we toss it out the window.

More than anything, litter shows the mentality of many of our species, who see the world as one big dumping ground, and not the beautiful oasis suspended in a sunbeam that it is.
However, there are those out there that hold onto their garbage and throw it out or recycle it. Those who care that our roads are clean and that a hike in the woods does not show us garbage instead of nature.

In that vein of thought, Layla and I are committed to cleaning up trash when we are out. From the littlest wrapper we find on our walks, to cleaning up larger items when we are out and about. I encourage all of you do to the same. If we take the time to clean up after ourselves, the world can be a very nice place.

The Earth is not a dumping ground. It is a beautiful place that we should respect. If we don't, then one day all that will be left of our civilization will be the garbage we chose not to recycle or throw away.

Do you have your own tales of picking up litter? Do you have photos of you picking up litter? Or just photos of the litter in your area? Send it to us at crwbaird@gmail.com and we will put it up here to show what others are doing to keep the world clean.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Day 52 of our Green Year: Going Fair With Chocolate

Awhile ago, we did a blog on going for organic and fair trade coffee because it actually gives money to the people who deserve it (the growers) and it is grown in a way that allows the environment not to be hurt. This is important to us, and to that end we have decided use our 52nd day of Our Green Year to only buy fair-trade and organic chocolate from now on.
Our friend Jen at Mother's Going Green did this already (http://www.mothersgoinggreen.blogspot.com/) and now it is our turn.

Now, it is time for some not-so-friendly information from Treehugger.com regarding the chocolate so many people buy.
  • The Ivory Coast provides 43 percent of the world's cocoa for chocolate, and a study in 2001 found that there was massive amounts of child slavery going on at the cocoa farms. So, the nice chocolate bar you just had today may have had its cocoa picked by a young boy or girl, forced into slavery. In Africa, it is estimated that 284,000 are working in horrible conditions to pick that cocoa for the chocolate products. U.S. manufacturers of chocolate say they are not responsible for the children because they don't own the plantations.
  • Currently, Hershey's and M&M/Mars control two-thirds of the $13 billion chocolate market in the United States. This means that the cocoa these companies use may come from child slavery plantations.
  • In 2005, the U.S. chocolate industry agreed to VOLUNTARY steps to end child slavery on the plantations, but as of now the deadline has passed and nothing has been done.
  • Fair Trade chocolate only represents one percent of the world's $60 billion chocolate market.
That is just talking about fair-trade and the conditions many children and other workers deal with for our sweet tooth, but what about the environmental impact?
Along with using child slavery at some plantations, those who grow the chocolate also clear off vast areas of land, and use pesticides that get into the water, air and the cocoa bean itself.

So, the next time you bite into a non-organic chocolate that is not fair-trade, you may taste the hands of a enslaved child and a bit of pesticide.

This is why Layla and I have gone fair-trade and organic with ALL of our chocolate from now on. If we are going to satisfy our sweet tooth, we are going to do it with a clean peace of mind.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Day 51 of Our Green Year: Finding Glowing Solutions For Old Lights

No one really stops to think about what they can do with their old and spent incandescent light bulbs. Surprisingly, there are quite a few things that people can do with them instead of throwing them out or having them sit around the house collecting dust. Especially with the new laws coming in over the next few years, where some places are banning the use of incandescent light bulbs, there are going to be many people left with incandescent light bulbs that are not being used any more.

For the creative person out there, they can do more with their incandescent light bulbs instead of adding them to the garbage. Instead, they can turn them into cute and pretty decorations around the house in the form of small vases that hang in front of a window, cute little bugs with coloured water in them that hang on the wall or the window, or even as holders for bath salts in the washroom that hang on the wall.

Craig and I decided to turn a couple of our incandescent light bulbs into pink and purple bugs that could liven up our door that goes out onto our deck. After emptying the light bulbs, decorating them and filling them with coloured water, they turned out to be a couple of nice inside decorations with little effort.

Now, before one can do anything with the light bulbs, one will have to empty out the inside. This can be done by using a pair of pliers to pull off the metal end piece. Then, the dark plastic part is put over a flame to weaken the plastic and allow it to be broken apart. Then, after prying off the plastic, one will have to take something long and narrow and carefully break apart the inside tube. Once this is done and the broken bits have been taken out and disposed of, the inside of the bulb can be rinsed out with some water. Cloudy bulbs will become clear; some salt will help take the remainder of some of the frosting out of the bulb.

Once the bulb is empty, one can make just about anything they can think of, including,

a) Decorative bugs for the window

b) Bath salt holders

c) Flower holders (fake flowers can be used)

d) Decorations for Christmas, Easter or any other holiday

All one has to do is be creative and have fun! One note of caution, however, is to make sure that all stray glass pieces are vacuumed up so as not to have anyone cut their hands on them.

If you make something with your old incandescent light bulb, send a picture of it to crwbaird@gmail.com and we will put it up here!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Day 50 of our Green Year: Personal Care Green Style

Something we all use, or hopefully all use, is deodorant. We put it on every day, and it keeps us smelling good while we are out in public. While we know that aerosol deodorants are bad for the environment, and should not be used, many people use roll-on deodorant that is harmful to themselves and the environment.
Most deodorant these days has a high content of aluminum in it. The aluminum that is used has been theorized to be a link, not only to conditions like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, but also breast cancer. As well, there are several other harmful chemicals in the deodorant sticks that can cause problems for the environment when they are extracted, created and put into the deodorant stick.

As well, there are plenty of other skin and hair care products that contain harmful chemicals that do damage to ourselves and the environment. Therefore, for personal care from toothpaste to deodorant, we are going green and organic. First of course, we needed to know what to watch out for, so here is a quick list of harmful items found in many personal care products. Avoid these!

  1. Coal Tar - Found in dandruff shampoos and anti-itch creams, this is a known cancer causer in humans. It is also found in mouthwash.
  2. Diethanolamine - This product is found in many personal care products and it is a possible hormone disruptor.
  3. Formaldehyde - Causes many health problems including immune-system toxicity, respiratory irritation and cancer. Found in baby bath soap, nail polish and hair dyes.
  4. Lead and Mercury - Found in many products including toothpaste and men's hair dye, this can cause brain-damage and other severe health problems.
  5. Petroleum - Known human carcinogens found in many cosmetics in the United States (banned in Europe). They are common in mascara and foot-odor powder.
  6. P-Phenylenediamine - Found in hair dyes, this can cause allergic reactions and problems with the nervous system and lungs.
  7. Hydroquinone - Used in skin lighteners, moisturizes and more, there is evidence of it causing cancer in lab animals.
How do you avoid these? Well, look for products that do not contain those ingredients, or ones that carry certifications, including USDA Certified Organic, the Natural Products Association, BDIH or the Australian Certified Organic.

When we see how much cancer is spreading across North America, and how other diseases seem to be on the rise, it may be because we are spending money on harmful products for the sake of beauty. While these do cause problems for ourselves, they can be worse for the environment. Some have to be extracted from the environment using harmful methods, and when they are being processed and manufactured they release harmful chemicals into the air.

Visit http://www.safecosmetics.org/companies for more information on companies that use safe products.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Day 49 of our Green Year: Baking Bread

If you have watched the news in the past few weeks, you know that the cost of everything is going up. The main cause of this is energy. Around the world countries are investing in ethanol, which takes land away from food production and puts it to fuel production. As well, the cost of transporting food is higher because of higher gas prices, so it is a double edged sword. This means that in some parts of the world, the cost of bread has gone up as much as 60 percent, which is a huge amount for those who are struggling through each day.

Canada has so far been almost immune to the problem, but it is not going to last. As a result, for the 49th day of our Green Year, Layla and I are not only supporting local flour producers by buying local flour (by local I mean B.C. and Alberta), but we are also making our own bread so we don't contribute to the environmental cost of transporting bread.

When we are able to make things local, either vegetables, fruits, herbs, meat or even bread, we are helping to take the strain off the world by being self-sufficient. Layla and I don't have enough room to grow wheat of course, so we have to buy that, but we are buying our eggs local, and trying to buy our yeast local too.

Making bread is quite easy, and here is a simple bread recipe:
http://www.best-bread-recipes.com/white-bread-recipe.html

Do you have pics of you making some bread, or anything else green? Send it to us and we will put it on our site. As well, if you know of any media who would be interested in our story, contact us at crwbaird@gmail.com and let us know!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Day 48 of our Green Year: Clearing The Air Inside

Day 47 is here and we are going to talk about container gardening inside. One of our readers, Maggie, already has one on her deck but one of the most important things you can do for the air quality in your home is to set up some containers in your house.
So much of what we have in our house, from the curtains to the carpets, from the cleaners to even the food, has chemicals in it. The great thing about container gardening is that it works the same way that the trees do. It takes the bad chemicals out of the air and replaces it with healthy oxygen.
So, this also helps you get nice clean fresh air inside.

What Layla and I have done is that we are setting up an 'indoor garden' to go with our outdoor one. It is only a few pots right now but Layla and I are working at turning a good part of our living room into a garden, complete with soil, plastic wrapping to prevent it leaking on the floor, and about 6 inches to one foot deep, and several feet wide and long. This will not only provide us with food through the winter as we grow indoors, but it will also help us keep the air inside our home clean, and keep us from buying veggies from the store.

Do you have some tips for us and our indoor garden? Do you have an indoor garden yourself? Send us a photo to crwbaird@gmail.com and we will put it up!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Day 47: No More Disposable Batteries

Batteries make up about .5 percent of our household garbage, but these little bits of power end up putting a large amount of toxins into the landfill, which then seeps into our soil.

Studies show that by 2010, Canadians will throw away about 495 million batteries, which is an increase of 150 million since 2004. As well, only two percent of all batteries are recycled. So, you may think that batteries are small and only have a few toxins in them, but when you multiply those toxins by 495 million, you get a lot of contaminated soil. In the United States, the problem is even worse where over three billion batteries are purchased each year, and only a fraction are thrown away.

Naturally, this creates a big problem for our environment, so for our 47th day of Our Green Year, we have decided to not only use only rechargeable batteries, you can recharge them 500 times before you have to get rid of them. That means you will save 500 battery packages (usually 1,000 to 2,000 batteries in two and four packs) by simply buying a rechargeable batteries.

Of course, if we have learned anything from Our Green Year, it is that we can't be content with just doing one thing, we have to go the extra mile. So, Layla and I will be recycling all our old batteries and our rechargeable batteries when the time comes. We know everyone should do that, but again we want to go even further.

As a result, instead of charging the batteries with the wall outlet, and thereby wasting energy that could be used elsewhere, we are going to charge our rechargeable batteries with solar power. We will be purchasing the Eliminator Solar Panel from Canadian Tire to help us charge our batteries, and even use our appliances with the power of the sun (but that is another blog ;) )

Batteries are a big part of our life, but they are also a big part of the toxic waste created by landfills that will exist in the ground, and our ground water and soil for decades. Let's stop this problem before it gets any worse and begin recycling our old batteries and buying rechargeable batteries instead.
To find a battery recycling location near you, visit this website:
http://www.rbrc.org/call2recycle/dropoff/index.php

If you have any pictures of you doing green things, send them to us and we will post them as we have for Min, Colin and Maggie (see Photo Gallery on side). Show the world what you are doing!
Eliminator Solar Panel,

Friday, June 6, 2008

Day 46 of our Green Year: Bills, Bills, Bills and wasted paper

We all get them, and we all hate them. They are bills and they come into our lives and ruin a perfectly good day. You know what else they ruin? The environment. Every month, millions of bills are mailed out to homes and that constitutes thousands of trees cut down to let us know we are past due on our cable.

To continue with the trend of the past few days, Layla and I are again going to be saving paper and this time we are doing it by getting our bills delivered to us online. Rather than find out from Shaw that we owe so much money through the mail, we will be getting online billing to our e-mail. Not only does this keep us from losing our bills, but it also helps us save trees.

Most companies these days offer billing online, so there really is no reason for you to receive your bills through the post office. I know many of you out there already do this because of the great convienance it provides, but more need to. Think of how many trees would be saved if we simply got our bills through e-mail. Of course, that uses energy on the servers to send e-mail, but many web hosting companies these days are green and actually offset their emissions or power their servers through green methods.

As well, I have to give a big thank you to Ethical Bean Coffee. They are based out of Vancouver and they were nice enough to send Layla and I some wonderful fair trade and organic coffee. We received two blends of coffee and some tea for Layla. The coffee was excellent as most organic coffee is (free of nasty pesticides). Their coffee is also bird-friendly and shade grown (grown without clear-cutting) If you are interested in checking them out, go to www.ethicalbean.com or click the Green Friends link on the side. Thank you Samantha for sending us the samples!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Day 45 of our Green Year: What to do with the reciepts?

Layla and I were out getting some things, and we used our cloth bags of course. However, as we left we soon realized that while we were putting what we bought in cloth bags, we were not giving much notice to the paper receipts that we had received.
Then, today we realized that how green are we really being when we use cloth bags but throw away our receipts?

So, naturally we decided that from now on we will be recycling our receipts, along with doing some other things to reuse them so we don't have to buy something else. One of our friends, Jennifer, commented on her own blog (Mothers Going Green http://www.mothersgoinggreen.blogspot.com/), that she uses her receipts as To-Do lists, grocery lists and more. This is a great way to save paper, and it helps you keep track of what you have already bought and how much it cost!

You can also use your receipts for composting just like you use newspaper. Of course, the best thing to do is simply recycle them with your regular paper.
You can also use receipts for various projects like paper mache, and even as a cheap wrapping paper. Remember our motto "Reuse then Recycle"

Am I missing anything? Let me know so that we can all figure out great ways to reuse receipts before we recycle them!

Also, we hit 1,000 hits today! It took us one month to hit 500, but only two weeks to hit another 500! That is awesome! Thank you so much to everyone who has helped us spread the message of Our Green Year and let's look forward to not another 500, but another 5,000, 50,000 and more!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Day 44 of our Green Year: Enough Of The Junk

We all get it, sometimes every single day, and we all hate it. Junk mail is the bane of our existence, advertising at its worst and not surprisingly, it is harmful to the environment. All those flyers, booklets and more that we get, result in pollution and lost trees. Why? So that we can think about buying a computer we see is on sale? Why not just look on the internet if you want a computer?

Each year, Americans receive about four million tons of junk mail, and if the energy to make a day's worth of junk mail were used to heat homes, it would heat 250,000 homes. When you think of the millions of trees that are cut down, simply so we can be advertised to, it is deplorable. This is especially the case when advertisers shoot for only a two percent success rate on junk mail (someone buying from something they see in the junk mail).

Some places, like our own post office, has a recycle bin for junk mail, and recycling it is a great idea, but what about eliminating it at the source?
In the United States you have GreenDimes.com, but as of yet I can't seem to find if it is available for Canada. No problem, there is already a Canadian solution!

The Red Dot Campaign is a Canadian initiative that deals with junk mail through effective measures, it also helps get rid of mail not addressed to you, like pamphlets from politicians.
First, go and download the form letter at RedDotCampaign.ca, which is addressed to the Canada Post Consumers Choice Program. Fill it out and give it to your letter carrier or mail it to them yourself.
Next, download the "No Junk Mail" notice and put it up in your mail box to say "I don't want it!"
Lastly, get yourself removed from any marketing lists by going to the Canadian Marketing Association and signing up for the "Do Not Contact" service on this site: http://www.the-cma.org/?WCE=C=47%7CK=224217

This won't prevent all of it, but it will get rid of the vast majority, and that is what Layla and I have done for Our Green Year. No more wasting trees for junk mail with us, hopefully everyone else can do the same.

Thank you to one of our readers, Mindy, who sent us some photos of her son Colin going green. These pictures are also in our photo gallery. If you want to send us photos of you doing green things, send us the photos to crwbaird@gmail.com

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Day 43 of our Green Year: The Dirty on Toilet Paper

Something every household uses is toilet paper. Often, several rolls are bought per week for a house of more than two people, and this presents a problem. When we buy 'normal' toilet paper, we are supporting pulp mills that pollute the environment and cut down trees.

Each year, hundreds of thousands of trees are cut down for the simple use of turning them into toilet paper. No offense, but it seems short-sighted to cut down the things we need for oxygen, and use them to wipe our butts with. Think of all the trees that could be saved if we all just switched to recycled toilet paper.

The importance of having recycled toilet paper is clear. When you use recycled toilet paper, you cut down no trees and you use what has already been used, after it has been reprocessed, again. There is a misconception out there that using recycled toilet paper is not as comfortable as other toilet paper. This is a myth. The truth is that it is just as good, if not better.

In the Baird household, we have decided to go with Seventh Generation recycled toilet paper and paper towels. We will not be buying toilet paper that is not recycled anymore, and by doing that we will save several trees from being cut down.

Do you know of a company that sells recycled toilet paper? Let us know!
Don't forget to send us photos of you doing green things (leave out ones that involve toilet paper...) and we will post them on our blog, just like our reader Maggie did with her patio garden! Send your photos to crwbaird@gmail.com