Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Day 162 of our Green Year: Boycotting Retailers

Yesterday, Layla and I went about boycotting various food companies and today we are moving on to the boycotts of retailers who have less than stellar records with the environment. Once again, we use the same website we used yesterday for our list. We focus on North American companies that are actually available to us and companies that actually have a play in our lives (hence no Mattel, since we don't buy toys)
  • Colgate-Palmolive: Dropping hazardous waste in New Jersey means we won't be using this company for anything in our lives. We use natural toothpastes anyways.
  • J. Crew: This company has been fined $1.4 million for discharging ten million tons of waste in the past two years.
  • Home Depot: This mega-company carries virtually no non-toxic, poison-free lawn and garden products in their stores. For all our home hardware needs, including making things for Our Green Year, we won't be going to Home Depot.
  • Disney: Disney plans to release disposable rental DVDs that stop working after 48 hours, which is a huge waste added to landfills. No more Disney purchases for us, including Disney DVDs.
  • L.L. Bean: This company has sold clothing with carcinogenic synthetic pesticides in them. It repels pests and gets into your body.
  • Canon USA: Canon comes into play on this list because they send small customer chips (Smaller than a dime) in a huge box of packaging. No more Canon for us, including for our company.
  • K-Mart: This company has sold outdoor furniture made from Endangered hardwood, so no more K-Mart or Sears for us.
  • Lowe's: This company does not use non-toxic or poison-free lawn and garden products.
  • Clorox: The former factory of Clorox in Oakland is heavily contaminated with mercury.
  • Costco: This company constructed one stop on top of wetlands that used to filter storm water, and provide a transportation corridor for 100 species of animals. Who needs a bag of 200 disposable razors anyways?
  • Wal-Mart: The biggest company in the world has done some environmentally important initiatives, but still fails in regards to inefficient shipping. We are not fans of Wal-Mart anyways and do not shop there.
Thank you again to Kelly for providing us with a list of 100 companies to boycott. Do you have a company we forgot? Let us know. E-mail us at crwbaird@gmail.com. We want to hear from you!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Day 161 of our Green Year: Boycotting Food Chains

When we try and go green each day, we find that there are many companies we have to boycott because of their environmental record. Mostly we boycott them from what we hear from various websites like Treehugger.com. However, at various times through Our Green Year, we will address the companies in various industries that we boycott and why. Thank you to Kelly Sonora for providing us with a list of 100 companies to boycott from here. For this blog, we will address the food companies we are boycotting, if we have been boycotting them from before and why we are boycotting them.

  • Aurora Organic Dairy: This is a milk supplier that is sold in Wal-Mart and Safeway. Often, they do not meet USDA organic requirements and should not be considered organic. We buy our milk locally, so this should not be a problem to avoid.
  • Sara Lee: This company has had to pay $5.25 million in damages due to violations of stratospheric ozone protection regulations. We will make sure we do not buy from this company now.
  • Nestle: In Deer Park, Florida, residents must conserve water but Nestle has paid a license to continue to use 1.5 million gallons of water a day for their bottling plant. They also aggressively promote bottle formula over breast milk.
  • Monsanto: This company is a world leader in pesticide production including Agent Orange. We do not know if we have bought anything from this company but we will ensure we do not now.
  • Archer Daniels Midland: This company burns peatlands in Indonesia for palm plantations and is responsible for tons of carbon dioxide. Roughly 1.8 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year of emissions are emitted by Archer Daniels Midland and other companies that use this practice. Again, we do not think we buy from this company, but we for sure won't be now.
  • PepsiCo: Pepsi bottles tap water that could be used by those who need it, and create huge amounts of plastic bottles that many people do not recycle. Since we prefer to make our own soda when we want some, we do not buy Pepsi.
  • Cadbury: Cadbury is guilty of violating the Clean Water Act on several occasions to do industrial runoff. We do not buy from this company because we buy fair-trade and organic chocolate.
  • Dole: This company has been fined for contaminating water and workers in Ecuador have been exposed to several chemicals and horrible conditions. We will not be buying from this company at all.
  • Heinz: This ketchup company uses palm oil in some products, which is responsible for rainforest destruction in Indonesia. We will no longer buy Heinz ketchup, or any other products from them, including vinegar.
  • Starbucks: Despite claims that it is green, it was picked as one of the Ten Worst Greenwashers in 2003. It uses ten percent recycled paper in its hot drink cups, but in other fields of recycled content it does not do well at all. We have not gone to Starbucks for quite awhile, and that will continue now.
  • Smithfield Foods: They have been fined $12.6 million for violations of the clean Water Act due to the high amounts of hazardous substances in water that the company creates. We do not believe we have bought from this company, but we will make sure we do not now.
  • McDonald's: 'Raunchy Ronnies' is responsible for huge amounts of beef production that pollutes the world with methane. They also create huge amounts of unneccessary packaging. Luckily, we hate McDonald's. In fact, we would rather eat a whole pineapple and let it pass through our system than go to this burger joint.
  • Tyson Foods: They have had 20 violations of the Clean Water Act at its processing plant because of how it treats wastewater. We do not know if we have bought from them, but we will not anymore.
  • Coca-Cola: Coca-Cola is responsible for drying up water in a village in India, meaning that the people in the village must travel far to get water. Since we prefer to make our own soda when we want it, we do not buy Coca-Cola. This will continue.
  • Burger King and Wendy's: Burger King scored 0 out of 100 when judged for reversing climate change. Wendy's is also criticized for its lack of commitment to reversing climate change as well. Also, some of their food products apparently include carcinogenic chemicals in their food. We are not big fans of fast food or burger joints, see McDonald's.
  • Chiquita Brands: Banana pickers employed by this company suffer from health problems due to insecticides, with the full knowledge of the company. We will never purchase bananas from this company.
Coming up, we will address the retailers we will be avoiding in the future.

Thankfully, most of what we do with Our Green Year helps us avoid many of these companies already. We hope you can too, if possible.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Day 160 of our Green Year: Joining AmIGreenOrNot?

We are always ready to join online communities that help spread green ideas because Layla and I are by no means experts in going green. We are learning as we go and we are always looking for help in how to go green from those who are going green as well.

This is what has led us to join the online community of AmIGreenOrNot.com, which was created in May to increase awareness, share ideas and collectively gain a richer understanding of what it really means to be green. The website lists their objectives as:

  1. To provide a place where people, groups, businesses and organizations from the around the world can share and promote green lifestyles and direct feedback from their peers.
  2. To harness the wisdom of crowds as a way to accumulate viewer opinions, compare one's green lifestyle with another and to help identify who among us is really green.
We both think this is a great idea and have joined to not only help promote our message of going green every single day for a year, but to find out some useful green tips from others.
The website also has several blogs that list ways to go green for individuals and groups. Since we feel this is a great site, we want to spread that message for Day 160 of our Green Year.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Day 159 of our Green Year: Dealing With Horse Manure

On the ranch, there are some horses (The horses in the picture are: L-R Chubb, Cochise, Cash). As a result, those horses generate a bit of manure that has to be dealt with. All horse manure here is used as fertilizer for the organic garden. (This horse manure is gathered from the barn where it is mixed with hay, or outside where it is mixed with dirt. No sawdust is used.)
We are able to do this at the ranch because we can ferment the horse manure in a pile mixed with dirt over the course of the winter. Come spring, that manure/dirt mixture is then used in the garden to help the vegetables grow.

Now, the point should be made that you cannot do this with most dog or human feces because of what people eat and the by-products in most dog food. The horses at the ranch feed on the grass in the pasture, or on hay provided to us from local organic farmers (neither of which contains pesticides or herbicides). This is a completely organic diet that allows us to use the horse manure in the garden.

This is by no means a new idea. For centuries, farmers and those who lived off the land with a milk cow and chickens, would use their manure as a primary garden fertilizer. This stopped in the 1930s with the creation of synthetic fertilizers (many of which contain a number of ugly chemicals).

Horse manure itself is half as rich as chicken manure (no chickens here yet...) but richer in nitrogen than cow manure.

Manure should always be used as a soil amendment and not mulch, which means you do not just put the manure directly on the soil in the garden. The reason is that the raw manure will release nitrogen compounds and ammonia, which burns plant roots and will interfere with the germination of the seeds. By putting the horse manure into the dirt pile for six months, we allow it to ferment, and then about one month before the spring planting, we will put the manure in the garden and turn it over throughout the garden. This will prevent it from damaging the roots of the plants as they grow in the garden, because it is well mixed and not concentrated in one area.

--

Some sad news. Despite many people going green and a general consensus that global warming is a serious problem, it appears that we are not exactly moving in the right direction in terms of dealing with global warming. While many thought that energy use would fall due to a growing understanding of the environment by individuals, as well as the economic downturn, it, in fact, grew by three percent between 2006 and 2007.

Now, to add a bit of horror to this, that amount exceeds the worst-case scenario for emissions by the Nobel Prize winning group of international scientists in 2007. As well, the forests and oceans are now sucking up lower rates of CO2 than they did in the 20th century.
If this all continues, the predicted rises in temperature and sea levels could be much, much worse than originally predicted.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Day 158 of our Green Year: Being A Responsible Pet Owner

At our new ranch home we have quite a few dogs and cats. Most of the animals have found their way to the ranch because irresponsible people from the city drop the pets off in the middle of nowhere, thinking they will find a home in the wild. This is idiotic thinking and it leads to the death of far too many innocent animals.
Since Layla and I are bringing our animals to the ranch (they are included in the above number), we have to take the steps to be a responsible pet owner, which includes spaying one of our cats. The reason we are doing this is because there are far too many cats on Earth, and most are not cared for. People do not think that fixing their cats or dogs is something that needs to be done, but when we look at how many dogs and cats there are on Earth, fixing is something that is needed. In the United States alone, there are 90 million cats and 75 million dogs.

Many cats and dogs have great homes, but far too many do not and when pet owners are not responsible, the number of cats and dogs left homeless or in shelters increases. There are plenty of wonderful dogs and cats in shelters who want a home.

As well, when cats are let out and allowed to be strays, they play havoc with the environment. Cats literally kill hundreds of millions of birds, reptiles and mammals every single year. That only exasperates the problem of dwindling species.

So, something you can do to go green and to be responsible, is to have your pets spayed or neutered.

On that same note, if you are going to buy a dog or a cat, then go to the shelters. These animals are wonderful and only want a home. Do not go to puppy mills!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Day 157 of our Green Year: Sharing Resources

As we mentioned yesterday, we moved to be closer to family. However, in our move we kept Our Green Year in mind, and that shows in where we are moving.
We are going to be living on a ranch, with others that we will be sharing the property with. The reason we decided to do this is because we feel that it will be better to share resources with others, than try and go green alone. Communes were common in the 1960s because everyone was able to live a natural lifestyle, with help from those around them (albeit not all worked out). This is not quite a commune, but we will be following the philosophy of going green together and helping each other.

The ranch is 20 km from the nearest town so that will cause us to change our daily walk to the store. Now, we will be driving to the store once a week, where we will park and do all the errands we need to in town. At the end of each month, we will be buying carbon offsets from CarbonFund.org to offset our travels. However, because of the mileage of our car we should be able to still go on only one tank of gas a month. Some other great points of this ranch include:
  • Large organic garden, much bigger than what we had in our former home.
  • Surrounded by farmers that we can get eggs from to support the local economy.
  • Water comes from a well, so water conservation is incredibly important
In our former home, Layla and I rented so we were very limited in what we could do with the house to go green. However, here we can not only go green on the ranch, we can go green on the house. Plans are already in place to begin putting in solar panels on the house, and Layla and I are going to begin work on a personal wind turbine to provide power.

In a world of uncertain economic times and growing distances between each other, sharing resources and working together is very important and very needed.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Day 156 of our Green Year: Moving and Offsets

As many people may have noticed, Layla and I have been getting rid of much of what we own, including a lot of our furniture. Along with reducing our possessions, the reason for this has been that we are moving.

Currently, we live far from family and it is not always easy to have this distance between us. After visiting family in August, we found that we missed being near them and decided that we would move to be closer.
Naturally, moving does create carbon dioxide emissions and we are moving quite a distance to be closer to family. Therefore, when we arrive, we will be purchasing carbon offsets from CarbonFund.Org to compensate for the distance we drove and carbon dioxide emissions we produced.

During the process for the move, we have tried to keep environmentally minded with everything. We did not purchase new boxes, and simply took boxes out of the McDonald's cardboard recycling bin. We will then be recycling those boxes when we arrive and unpack. We have ensured that nearly everything we own is in boxes so that there is no wasted space and no need for a vehicle that is bigger to accommodate the wasted 'air'. Packing has allowed us to get rid of much of what we own and we estimate we decreased what we own in the past few months by 50 percent as a result. Even the bags we bought to store items not in boxes were made from recycled materials. We did not buy any packing material, and instead used old newspapers (which we bought before we banned them), clothes and shredded papers.
In our new home, we will continue buying local and organic, but there will be some changes.

Our destination also plays into Our Green Year, as will be addressed in Day 157.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Day 155 of our Green Year: Green E-mail


Due to our work, we often have to work through e-mail to communicate with our clients regarding the books they are having us write. However, even though e-mail does not use paper, it does contribute to greenhouse gases due to the large amount of CO2 that is generated from e-mail servers' need for power and air conditioning.

So, we want to go green with our e-mail and the best way that can be done is to use a green webmail provider. One of the best webmail providers that is environmentally-minded is Care2.com, which has been providing webmail since 1998. You can choose from a variety of e-mail addresses that reflect your environmental choices. Care2.com is free, reliable, has spam and virus filters, spell-check, address book import and five gigabytes of storage space. Why is Care2.com green? Well, for every e-mail you send, Care2.com will donate to environmental causes.

Community Mail is another one that provides you with the ability to share your values in your e-mail address. As well, Community Mail is powered by green energy and completely free.

Once you have chosen one of those green providers, you can go a bit greener by putting a green signature on your e-mails. It can be simple like "Save a tree, Don't print this e-mail." It is a simple message and it may just save a few papers from being used needlessly.

Layla and I will be away for the next few days, so we will not be able to publish comments until we are back online. When we return, our e-mail addresses will have also changed to use Care2.com as our e-mail provider for this blog.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Day 154 of our Green Year: Take Out Programs

While we have eliminated a lot of what we own by giving it away or recycling it, there are occasions where we need to purchase something. Of course, we always ask the purchase questions before buying anything, and for ever one thing we buy, we try to eliminate something we no longer need at the home to offset it.

However, there is a new way to offset what you buy, especially when you buy mattresses or electronics. These are companies that operate take-back programs, which take used or broken electronics, furniture and mattresses and recycle them for you, albeit when you buy something new from them. So, buy something from them, and they will take away the old item you are replacing and recycling it for you. The Brick is one such place that takes old furniture and mattresses away when you buy something new from them. For electronics, check with the retailer and manufacturer to see if they have a take-back program. If you have a manufacturer who does not, then you can bring your old electronics to Best Buy and they will recycle it.

Now, it should be pointed out that this does not mean we will go out and buy something simply because we can get rid of something through a take-back program. We will continue to use the purchase questions to determine if we are going to buy something and if it is needed (for everything from washboards to televisions) and we will continue to lower our possession count.

Although it is nice to know that the program is there.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Day 153 of our Green Year: Understanding Plastic Numbers

Throughout Our Green Year, we have endeavored to try and get rid of plastic from our lives. Plastic is everywhere it seems, and it can be very hard to eliminate it when even organic food is packed in plastic. During Our Green Year, we have stopped using plastic grocery bags, plastic vegetable bags, excess packaging that often includes plastics and even plastic milk jugs, which we replaced with glass milk jugs.

Since it can be very hard to completely eliminate plastics, it is very important to recycle and re-use what plastics you get. Each year, billions of plastic items are disposed of, but only a small portion of that is actually recycled. That is highly unfortunate because so much of it ends up in the environment, including the Pacific Garbage patch, which is a huge section of the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and California that carries massive amounts of plastic that is slowly broken down and eaten by fish and birds.

There are plastic numbers on most plastics, and this can give you a clear indication of what you can re-use and what you can recycle. Here are the numbers and what you can do with them:
  1. This number is on most water and pop bottles and some packaging. It is hard to de-contaminate, and cleaning can lead to the release of harmful chemicals, including some carcinogens. DO NOT REUSE, RECYCLE THIS.
  2. This number is on milk jugs, detergent jugs, oil bottles, plastic bags and toys. It is one of the safest forms of plastic and it can be re-used. Be sure to re-use this before you recycle it.
  3. This number is found in food wraps, food oil bottles, teething rings, pet toys and more. This does produce toxins from manufacturing to disposal. Do not use this in the microwave and DO NOT REUSE, RECYCLE IT.
  4. This number is found in shrink wraps, squeezable bottles and plastic bags. It is less toxic and can be re-used before being recycled.
  5. This number is in bottle tops, disposable diapers, carpeting, food bags, yogurt and margarine containers. It is one of the safest plastics and it can be re-used before being recycled.
  6. This number is on plastic cutlery and foam packaging. Chemicals can leach into food products. DO NOT USE AT ALL. FIND ALTERNATIVES.
  7. This number is used on layered and mixed plastics and cannot be re-used, so recycle when done with it.
Last night, Layla and I saw a great news story about a man in Wisconsin who has found a way to make his dairy farm completely recyclable. While the animals, 1,600 cows in total, make milk by eating organic feed, they also produce manure that John Vrieze turns into water. Vrieze was tired of disposing of thousands of dollars of manure in holding ponds every year, so he started using the Nu Way system that breaks down cow manure into re-usable elements. Now, everything produced by the cows on the farm is re-used. You may think that the water would be disgusting, but Vrieze says both he and the cows drink it. It is great to see how some farmers are finding that things can be green, especially when it has to do with one of the largest greenhouse gas producing industries in the world; cattle farming. You can view the story here from CNN (I don't know why there is no sound, but I can't find another video. You get the gist of it though):



----
A good blog friend of ours, Wandering Coyote, will feature odd searches through Google and other search engines that bring up her site. They can be pretty funny, so here are two searches two people did that brought up our site:
  • "5 pictures showing how a place has changed over the course of several years"
  • "is it a deer or cow foot print"
Also, speaking of news stories, here is a news story that appeared on Shaw TV in our area about Layla and I. Enjoy!


video

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Day 152 of our Green Year: Watching For Animal Testing

Layla and I are big animal lovers. We have two birds, two cats and a dog, and in the future will own many more animals. They are a part of our family and we treat them as if they were our kids. That is why for many years now, we have tried to make sure that what we buy is not animal tested in any way. For Our Green Year, we are going to continue our drive to keep all Animal-Tested products out of our home.

It is unfortunate that for many industries, especially cosmetics, they use animals as guinea pigs. Why do rabbits have to get perfume sprayed in their faces to see how it reacts with the skin? Why do cats or dogs have to be used to test the effects of certain eye-liners and mascara on the eye. There is no need for it and it needs to stop.

All products that have not been tested on animals now carry labels to show that. Since Layla and I are animal lovers, it will not be hard to continue buying products that have not been tested on animals. As well, we already make our own body wash, we buy healthy and organic shampoos, cosmetics and more, which all pride themselves on not being tested on animals.

One of the easiest things you can do to help our animal friends is to ensure that whenever you buy a product, you check to see if it has been tested on animals. If it says it is not tested on animals, then that is a product you want to have in your home and on your shelf.

**The picture above is of our little dog Niko**

UPDATE: Layla and I got rid of a large number of our large furniture today. For a full list, check out ourgreenyearjournal.blogspot.com
Also, Layla and I are now having our blogs featured on Green Blogosphere, which is a website that features some great ideas for going green. Check it out!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Day 151 of our Green Year: Avoiding Formaldehyde

It seems that throughout our civilization, there are products that carry harmful chemicals that most of us do not even realize exist until we are alerted to the harmful health effects. Yesterday we talked about Bisphenol A, but today we are going to talk about Formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable and strong-smelling gas that is used heavily in the manufacturing of building materials, as well as being used in many household products. Products that use formaldehyde include particleboard, plywood, fiberboard, glues, adhesives, permanent press fabrics, paper product coatings and insulation materials. It is also used in fungicides, germicides and as a disinfectant.
The problem is that beginning in 1980, laboratory studies showed that exposure to formaldehyde could cause nasal cancer in rats. In 1987, the United States Environmental Protection Agency classified formaldehyde as a probable human carcinogen, meaning that there was a chance it could cause cancer.
While you may think that formaldehyde is not something you need to worry about since you don't work with plywood, you would be wrong. Several synthetic fabrics, shampoos and cosmetics contain small amounts of formaldehyde. Also, when you burn natural gas, wood, gasoline and tobacco, you release formaldehyde gas.

Not buying products with formaldehyde in them is important, but if you already have them, a very effective and simple way to reduce formaldehyde levels in the home is to increase airflow. Open doors and windows to provide ventilation and levels should go down.
This just shows that it is important for all of us to know what is in the products we buy, from the shampoos and conditioners, to how our houses are insulated.

--
There was no walk today since we had everything we needed for lunch and supper, and therefore no litter pick up.
--

I read some bad news about water and the life in it recently. First comes the news that a recent study found that nearly 40 percent of all the freshwater fish in North America are in serious danger. Things are not getting any better, despite political quotes from our leaders to the contrary. In 1989, there were 364 species of fish in danger. In 2007, only 19 years later, that number has gone up to 700. Of those 700, 230 are vulnerable to further decreases, 100 are facing major extinction threats, 380 are seriously endangered and 61 species are considered extinct.

On another note, that clean water we all enjoy is beginning to run out. In the Baird household we catch rain for the garden, collect greywater to use in the home and outdoors and do not water our lawn, instead relying on the rain. Now, a recent documentary called FLOW says that within 20 years, the water supply of California will run out, and that is only the beginning. Drought, huge demand and other causes are creating a global crisis that could threaten our very survival. In our current year, water has become a huge commodity, worth $400 billion world wide, behind only electricity and oil. That is expected to rise and soon, clean water could be the gold of the 21st century. This is because the demand for water is far outstripping supply.
The water is still on the planet and has not disappeared, but an increasing population on Earth is putting immense pressure on the supply of fresh water. Not to mention the fact that much of the water we have on earth has been polluted or diverted, or been poisoned by seawater.

Currently, over 1,000,000,000 people do not have access to clean drinking water, and every year 2,000,000 children die from water-borne disease. In the 21st century, unless measures are taken, that can be expected to rise.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Day 150 of our Green Year: Bisphenol A and Our Five Month Anniversary

Well, be prepared because this is going to be a long post. Layla and I have hit our five-month anniversary with Our Green Year (yes I know its not the exact five months but 150 / 30 = 5), so we will go through a recap of our previous five months to let you know how things are going for us.

First, however, for Day 150, we will address Bisphenol A. There has been a lot of press about this recently and its effects on humans, especially infants. The sad thing is that there has been discussion about the harmful effects of Bisphenol A on humans for over 70 years, but only now are things being done. Bisphenol A (BPA) is a synthetic chemical compound used in consumer products and is classed as a hormone disruptor.
It is used in a wide variety of products and is used in the synthesis of polyesters, polysulfones and polyether ketones. It is an antioxidant in plasticizers and is a polymerization inhibitor in PVC. In polycarbonate plastic, it is clear and shatter-proof, which means it is used in baby and water bottles, sports equipment, medical devices, lenses, CDs and household electronics. Global production of BPA is about two million metric tonnes.
Studies have found that BPA is in the urine of 95 percent of adults and 93 percent of children. Infants who use liquid formula in polycarbonate bottles can consume up to 13 micrograms of BPA per kg of body weight per day. The problem is that it is a hormone disruptor, and can cause permanent changes to the genital tract, prostate weight, testosterone, breast cells, can cause cancer and can cause hyperactivity.
As a result, when we buy something that we use to store food, like reusable containers, we will make sure that Bisphenol A is not in it.

----

Now, on to our five month anniversary. Here is a rundown of some of the days over the past five months and how we have done with them. We are not covering all the days here, but we will in the future. Some of these we have done well on, others we have slipped a bit on at times (hence the purpose of the Green Swear Jar).

  • Day 2 - Joined Green Party: Layla is still volunteering as the secretary of the Provincial Green Party and both of us are planning on voting Green in this year's federal election.
  • Day 3 - Using Cloth Bags: We still use cloth bags and have not used plastic bags in a very long time.
  • Day 5 - Helping Our Ground Squirrels: Our Ground Squirrel Patrols for NCA have wrapped up for the year, but during the spring and summer we were going once a week.
  • Day 8 - Changing To CFL Lights: All of our lights are CFL lights.
  • Day 9 - Milk Jug Flower Pots: The milk jug flower pots proved to be a big success and we have several plants growing in them. The picture here is of a tomato plant in one of them.
  • Day 14 - Washing Windows With Vinegar: We still wash our windows with vinegar and a couple of socks.
  • Day 15 - No More Bottled Water: Bottled water has no place in our home. We prefer the taste of tap water anyways.
  • Day 22 - Cooling Down The Green Way: While we live in a hot area of B.C., and while the temperature did get above 30 and 40 at times, we did not use a fan or air conditioning once throughout the summer.
  • Day 23 - Using Manual Lawnmower: We have only used our manual lawn mower over the course of the summer. It was hard work at times, but overall it works great. It has not rained in awhile so there has been no need to mow lately.
  • Day 25 - Building A Solar BBQ: This was a great thing for us. In all the media relations we did, they all asked about the solar cooker. We built this and have used it primarily for drying our tea leaves and other items. Since this one only gets to 250F, we are looking to improve on it so that we can use it for more.
  • Day 26 - Five Minute Showers: We hold strong to this one and do not go past our five minutes when the alarm goes off. Even when we have people visit, we make sure they stick to the five minute rule.
  • Day 27 - Drinking Green Coffee: Fair Trade and Organic Coffee is way too good not to drink. I don't think I could go to anything else, nor do I want to.
  • Day 33 - Going Second Hand With Books - Only once have I bought a new book, because I could not find it anywhere else. However, we have given away most of our books to second-hand stores so that they can be reused, and will first look to libraries, the internet and second-hand stores for new reading material.
  • Day 34 - No More Dryer - Throughout the Spring and Summer, we did not use a dryer at all.
  • Day 37 - Unplug Power Cords - Whenever we are gone for an extended amount of time, and every night, we unplug all of our electronics.
  • Day 39 - Recycling - We recycle most of what we get. In our kitchen we have bins for paper, plastic, cups, glass bottles, etc.. Some we use for items around the house, if they are not used, they are taken to the recycle depot.
  • Day 40 - Organic Food - We love organic food and whenever we can (unless there are no organic alternatives) we buy organic food.
  • Day 43 - Recycled Toilet Paper - All the toilet paper we have bought since this day has been recycled.
  • Day 49 - Baking Bread - We still bake bread every couple weeks and store what we make in the freezer. Baked bread smells so nice!
  • Day 52 - Buying Fair-Trade Chocolate - Like the fair trade coffee, this just seems to taste better so we see no reason to go back.
  • Day 55 - Buying only Fresh Fish - Fresh fish just tastes better and when we do have it, we always buy it fresh now.
  • Day 58 - Making Homemade Butter - About once every week or two we will make homemade butter. It tastes great and only takes 30 min to make.
  • Day 61 - Using Freecycle - This is a great site and we have used it extensively to rid ourselves of many possessions in the past couple months.
  • Day 69 - One Garbage Bag Challenge - We are not doing too bad with this and are down to two garbage bags per month.
  • Day 75 - One Tank Challenge - So far we have been able to get by with just one tank of gas a month. Working from home makes this possible.
  • Day 77 - Buying Glass Milk - We buy milk about once or twice a month and continue to buy it in the glass containers from a local supplier.
  • Day 82 - Clothes Washing - We still wash our clothes by hand, even though we have been mocked for it. This provides good exercise and uses only the energy from our bodies, none from the environment.
  • Day 89 - Walking Each Day - Every day, Layla and I go for a walk to get fresh food for the day. This is something we enjoy and will continue to do.
  • Day 96 - Reducing Possessions -While some have questioned on this, we are committed to lowering our possessions. We are doing well with it and have rid ourselves of most of our pots, pans, dishes and books. We have also found a new home for our table, bookcases, desks, old chairs, spare bed set and patio furniture.
  • Day 100 -Buying Buffalo Meat - Since this day, we have not bought any beef. We have had some ham, turkey and chicken; however, we are limiting those now, including deli meats. We have committed to eating less meat, but not going vegan, and we are now structuring the majority our suppers, lunches and dinners to be meat-free (meat-free meals will consist of no chicken, turkey, buffalo, elk, ham and fish). We had some trouble with this one, and some slip ups with deli meat, but that is what the green swear jar is for.
  • Day 102 - Carbon Offsetting - We bought a offset certificate from CarbonFund.org, and we will continue to do so with the money from our green swear jar.
  • Day 103 - No More Chips - We have not bought any chips since this day, and have chosen instead to make pita chips when we get the craving for some.
Like I said, we have not covered all the days here, but as we go forward in Our Green Year we will. For the days from 103 to now, those will be covered in later months as we have done here.
It has been great doing this and we feel that we are healthier for it from the toxins we are taking out of our homes, lives and bodies. We could not imagine eating fast food or processed food when we can have organic and fresh food.

In all, we have helped spread the word, give money to, or joined the following charities and environmental groups: WWF, Greenpeace, FreeRice, WE Campaign, Think Water, CarbonFund, HappyFrog, Great Ape Project, Nature Challenge, Freecycle, Red Dot Campaign, NCA, West Kootenay Forest Education Fund, Green Party of BC, TreeNation, Eat Well Guide, Eco-Libris, 350 Challenge and Trees for the Future.

As well, we have appeared in several media including three newspapers (including our provincial newspaper), three radio stations, multiple blogs (it should be noted most are good but a couple have been less than flattering, but that's what happens when you try something new), one TV interview and one magazine. On the right, is a picture of two of the newspapers on our "Wall of Fame."

So, there you have it, a brief guide on how we are doing with some of our blogs :) Stay tuned in the next seven months!


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Day 149 of our Green Year: Curse The Disposables

For the day before our five month anniversary, we have chosen to blog about our decision to expand on the list of disposable items we will no longer use. This can be very hard to do because we live in a disposable society. Nearly everything that we buy is disposable in some form or another. However, for our purpose, we will focus on some select items that are very disposable and where there are alternatives available.

A large portion of the waste that people generate comes from disposable items. Whether it is disposable razors or disposable Swiffer Sweepers, the amount is staggering. These are items that do not need to exist. You can use items like electric razors, brooms and other items that are not disposable and last a lot longer.

For us, disposable items that do not, and will never, have a home with us include:
  1. Disposable Razors: I have a beard and scissors or an electric razor can be used instead of disposable plastic razors. We understand using an electric razor uses power, but it is very little and it can be offset by our purchases of carbon offsets. It also does not add to the landfill anywhere near as much when taken care of. In a way the electric razor offsets itself because we do not buy disposable razors on a continuous basis for years on end. One electric razor can last years, which beats out buying bags of disposable plastic razors.
  2. Disposable Utensils, Cups and Plates: When we went to a recent celebration, we saw someone show up for some cake with a clay bowl. That meant they did not have to use the paper plate or utensils provided.
  3. Swiffer Sweeper: This is a product we hate. It is the perfect example of our disposable society. Instead of simply using a broom, mop or cloth, people use this item that is thrown out after a few uses.
  4. Disposable Cloths: There is no reason to buy something like napkins, J-cloths or anything along those lines when there are cloths that can be washed by hand.
This does not cover all the disposable items that are out there, but it is a short list of some examples of the items we will avoid in our quest to stay away from disposable items.

--
It was a near litter-free day today, we only picked up one disposable beverage container on our usual route.

--
Be sure to check out our daily activities at Our Green Year Journal. This is where we put up all our activities for each day, many of which we have committed to doing.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Day 148 of our Green Year: Choosing Fair Trade Sugar

This past weekend, we were watching the Documentary Channel and we came across a documentary called The Price of Sugar. The documentary is about the exploitation of Haitian immigrants in the Dominican Republic, who are involved with the production of sugar and the efforts of Father Christopher Hartley to fix the situation. The documentary shows the horrible working conditions of the Haitians on the sugarcane plantation and the control held by the Vicini family over the plantation, and the country.

This is by no means the only place where workers are mistreated while they cut sugarcane. The truth is that the sugar that we get on our table is often tainted by the misery of those who cut it. The workers receive very little money, most of the food they eat is sugarcane and they suffer severe punishment and treatment as they work long hours.

Like we did with coffee, Layla and I came to the decision that if we are going to have sugar for tea, baking and coffee, then we are going to have sugar that is fair-trade and organic. Thankfully, we found out that our local store carries several different brands of organic and fair trade sugar, including white, brown and icing. Therefore, from now on it is organic and fair trade sugar for us. This not only helps the farmers who make the fair trade sugar, but it helps the environment as well since no pesticides are used and the sugar cane is grown in an organic manner.

--
Out for our walk today, we picked up another disposable pop cup, a plastic knife, some wrappers and a chip bag. We have included a photo taken yesterday of the garbage that we found during our walk.

There was less garbage there today, but we imagine the increase in garbage yesterday was due to the fact it was following the weekend here.
--

Since the election is raging here in Canada, we felt the need to address something that we heard about on the news recently regarding the Canada Election 2008. As we know, the NDP, PC and Liberals all travel across the country on chartered jets. We found it odd they did this considering that they touted a green message. However, we soon found out that the Liberals and NDP bought carbon offsets for their plane travel, while the Conservatives did not.
The problem is that the Conservatives criticized the Liberals for having an older plane that emitted more emissions than the newer Conservative plane. Of course, while criticizing the Liberals, they left out the fact that the Liberals bought carbon offsets for their plane travel, and paid more for it. The Conservatives have refused to buy carbon offsets and that begs the question of why. The nearest we can understand, is that if the Conservatives were to buy carbon offsets, it would be an admission that CO2 from planes, vehicles and industry causes global warming. Therefore, not purchasing carbon offsets states that the platform of the Conservatives is that CO2 is not an immediate problem (as can be seen by their less-than stellar environmental record). Instead, they choose to criticize others who have bought carbon offsets, while ignoring the problem of their own emissions altogether. Just another bit of the pot calling the kettle black in the Canada Election 2008

Monday, September 15, 2008

Day 147 of our Green Year: Planting Trees In Developing Countries

Several times in this blog, we have mentioned the importance of trees for not only providing habitat to various eco-systems, but also for their ability to take CO2 out of our air and replace it with nice, healthy oxygen. Way back at the beginning of Our Green Year, we planted trees that we had received, and we save paper by using recycled paper (and recycling the paper that we use). However, we wondered if there would be more than we could do regarding trees and that is how we came across Trees for the Future.

Trees for the Future helps communities in developing countries plant trees. They provide seed and agro-forestry training, and all it costs us is $40, which will sponsor the propagation of 400 trees. This also makes a great gift for someone who cares about the environment.

Trees for the Future has been around since 1989 and has been helping communities around the world plant trees. They have empowered rural groups to restore tree cover on land that has been clear-cut, as well as by teaching them how trees protect the environment and preserve the traditional livelihoods and cultures of the communities for generations. For more information, you can visit their website here.

As a result, we have committed $40 to Trees for the Future to help plant 400 trees. They send a certificate to those who donate (we know that sending a certificate is not as green as we like, but it is how they do it) and we will be putting up a picture of us with it on the blog when it arrives.

---

Usually, when we go for a walk, we pick up the garbage that we see around us and put it in a reusable cloth bag. Then we bring it home to recycle what can be recycled and throw away what must be thrown away. Last night I noticed one of our readers runs a blog called Clean Canada. On the blog, there were pictures of her son and her with the garbage they picked up to show what a problem this is. So, we decided that we should show what we find to illustrate the issue of littering. Today, I picked up a squashed disposable pop container, a plastic pop bottle, several chocolate bar wrappers, two cigarette packages and a plastic vegetable bag.

On another note, today Layla and I sold our patio furniture, gave away a spare printer and it looks like a table and bed set are being picked up later this week.

---

Sadly, the United States appears to be lagging behind other countries in the protection of the environment. In this case, they lag behind Brazil, which recently decided to take down thousands upon thousands of billboards because they constituted light pollution. In Osceola, Florida, however, they have passed a law to chop down trees that block the views of billboards. As one billboard legislator said, "Those billboards are important, they feed lots of families. This is a tourism corridor. Tourism depends on billboards, not on trees." In all, 16 trees were cut down as can be seen in this picture below. For more information, read the article on Treehugger.com

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Day 146 of our Green Year: A Clean Alternative With Olive Oil

In the Baird household, we often use olive oil when we are cooking a meal. As well, it can be used as a nice little salad dressing when mixed with some spices. However, beyond food, we never knew there were other uses for olive oil.
The use of olive oil dates back nearly 6,000 years, and today there are about 750,000,000 olive trees around the world that are cultivated. One of the cool things about these trees is that they can survive in many different areas of the world, including very harsh conditions like those found in Australia. Usually, the olive oil trees that are outside their native environment of the Mediterranean are farm trees, and kept from spreading into the native tree population.

Olive oil has three grades. Extra-virgin olive oil comes from when the olive oils are first pressed. This is the top quality olive oil available. Virgin olive oil has less than two percent in acidity, and there is no refined oil content. Pure olive oil is a blend of refined olive oil and virgin olive oil. To refine the oil, charcoal or chemical filters are used. We use extra-virgin olive oil because it has not gone through any other processes and is pure without chemical filters being used.

As for what you can use olive oil for, here are just a few suggestions that we will be trying in the Baird household. Most of these methods will keep you from having to buy chemicals that are harmful to yourself and the environment.

  1. After you have polished copper items in your house, you can use olive oil to slow down any appearance of tarnish on the copper.
  2. To keep your wooden cutting board from cracking or staining, rub some olive oil into it.
  3. Instead of applying paint thinner to your hands, use a cotton ball dipped in olive oil to clean the skin or hair with paint on it.
  4. No need for WD-40 when you have olive oil! If you have something squeaking, just put some olive oil in there to fix it.
  5. Plenty of times each day, someone jams their zipper. Olive oil can fix that when you dip a cotton ball in it and apply it to the zipper.
  6. We love to garden and have plants outside and inside growing items for us to eat. To work in the garden, we use garden tools (obviously), but they can rust when they get dirt sticking to them. To prevent that from happening, coat the garden tool blades in a little olive oil. This will also prevent the blades from rusting.
  7. Goodbye Pledge! With one part lemon juice and three parts olive oil, you can make a great wood furniture polish.
  8. If you do not want to use shaving cream, try some olive oil. It is natural and from what we hear, works just as good.
Two more interesting uses for olive oil is to use it on a sore throat for relief, and to help alleviate snoring (take a teaspoon before bed).

So, for Layla and I, we will be using olive oil in these applications rather than other products that may be harmful to the environment and ourselves.

Today, I read a story on Time.com that detailed the danger of Greenwashing to consumers. Greenwashing is when companies will tout themselves as green in an effort to sell something to an environmentally-conscious consumer, when the product is not green at all.
Recently, the environmental marketing firm, TerraChoice, went to big-box retail stores to look at the advertising claims of the products sold there. They looked at 1,018 products and only one, yes ONE, product lived up to the green claims of the product.
Why are companies beginning to greenwash their products to this degree to consumers you may ask. Well the reason may have something to do with the fact that in 2007, organic product sales amounted to $20 billion, a $10 billion increase over 2003.
If you are worried about greenwashing, then you can check out the Greenwashing Index, which rates ads by companies that claim to be green.

Remember, each day we list what we have done as part of Our Green Year on Our Green Year Journal, which lists what we buy and what we do to be green on a daily basis. While we do not put comments on the blog as it is only a journal, we welcome comments through e-mail, which we will address in the next entry.

As well, we want to hear from you and your own green stories. If you have a green story you want to share, e-mail it to us at the e-mail address on the side of the website. We will feature it here, along with any photos you send that show you going green.

We have also been featured on The Green Room, which is part of David Suzuki's Nature Challenge. It can be read here.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Day 145 of our Green Year: Choosing Brown Bread over White Bread

A few days ago, we decided to choose only to have brown rice instead of white rice, which we found to be better for ourselves and the environment. Today, we have decided to do the same with bread, choosing to only buy cornmeal or wholewheat flour, instead of white flour for when we make bread from home, as we committed to doing on Day 49.

White bread is made from wheat flour that has had both the bran and germ removed from it. Unfortunately, this is where much of the nutritional value of the bread is located. As a result, white bread is lower in zinc, fiber, thiamin, niacin, and 'good' fats and oils, when compared with brown bread. To make up for it, white bread is injected with vitamins and minerals during the bread making process. Essentially, the same nutrients that are removed from white bread, are then re-added later.

However, other problems do exist with white bread. When the bran and germ is removed from white bread, the flour used is then bleached with potassium bromate, benzoyl peroxide and chlorine dioxide gas. The horrible thing is that potassium bromate is actually an oxidizing agent that can be fatal when it is swallowed and harmful if inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Benzoyl peroxide is another irritant that can kill animals, birds, fish and plants. In addition, chlorine dioxide is used as a pesticide and it ranks as one of the compounds most hazardous to the environment, even though it breaks down quickly.

To complete this long process of bleaching and re-adding of nutrients, additional energy and processes are used, most of which are harmful to the environment. As a result, brown bread is simply better for you and the environment.
That being said, you should not just buy brown bread without reading the ingredients. if the first ingredient of the brown bread is whole wheat or wholemeal flour, instead of enriched wheat flour, then you have natural brown bread.

In other notes, I read an article today on Treehugger.com (a must visit site for anyone concerned about the environment) that stated there is twice as much CO2 stored in permafrost as was originally thought. the study that was published in Nature Geoscience found that Arctic permafrost holds 60 percent more organic carbon than was originally theorized. In all, there is an estimated 1,500 BILLION tons of CO2 and methane there, which is twice the amount of what is currently in our atmosphere. As the permafrost melts, that CO2 and methane gets released into the atmosphere where it does considerable damage. That amount of CO2 could warm the Earth much more than was previously theorized, and by the end of the century, there could be major melting of permafrost in Canada, Russia, Alaska, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Greenland.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Day 144 of our Green Year: Clicking For The Climate


Throughout Our Green Year, we have taken part in a variety of campaigns that allow you to use your computer to help the world. Whether it is FreeRice.com, or Facebook applications that give donations to environmental groups, there are plenty of ways you can help the environment from the comfort of your office chair.

Today, we are spreading the word of another one, which we heard about on Treehugger.com. It is called Click-and-Care, and it is a German campaign that shares nature photos that are quite beautiful, and for every photo that is downloaded, sponsors donate 15 cents to green causes. These pictures are quiet beautiful and whenever you download them, you help the environment. Click-and-Care has received a lot of attention thanks to Gerhard Launer, who does some amazing aerial images, while other German artists have also given the rights to their photos to this great cause.

It should be noted that the entire site is in German, but we were able to figure out our way through registering pretty easy.

In other environment news, a newspaper in Greenland has decided to show the effect of global warming on the ice fields of Greenland in an innovative way. For many of us, seeing climate change is hard because we live so far from the front lines of climate change, the arctic. However, with the new 'ice-cam', you can see one of the largest glaciers in Greenland, Ilulissat, melting over the course of many weeks and months.
NASA has confirmed that 239 cubic kilometers of ice are melting each year in Greenland, and the faster it melts, the faster sea levels are going to rise around the world. You can view the website here. Don't expect to see the melting quickly, it is pretty boring, but if you watch it over the course of several months, you will see it disappear before your eyes.


Don't forget, we are running a sister blog that details what we do each day (driving, walking, etc) and what we buy each day to show how Our Green Year affects us on a daily basis. You can view it here.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Day 143 of our Green Year: Green Candles

On occasion, it is nice to have some candles burning. It may be a romantic dinner, or an evening alone with your spouse, or it could be that the power is out (although in that case we use our wind up flashlight), but no matter the situation, you may actually be doing yourself and the environment harm. The reason for this is that candles use paraffin wax, which contains alkane hydrocarbons that contain carcinogens (cancer-causing) including Acetaldehyde, Acrolein, Benzene, Formaldehyde, Polychlorodibenzo-p-dioxins, Polyaromatic Hydrocarbons and Toulin. Using these candles then not only put harmful chemicals in the air around you, but also contribute to industries whose processes are destructive to the environment and our air.

While the United States and some other countries banned lead core wicks in 2003, there are still some households that still have those old candles, which emit lead levels of 3,000 micrograms per hour, seven times the rate that is considered to be unsafe. If you use synthetic candles, then you are going to be breathing in even more chemicals from industries that contribute to dangerous emissions.

As a result, we are going to go green with earth-friendly candles. Primarily, we will be using beeswax and soy candles that use natural oils instead of synthetic chemicals. As well, we will make sure that the wick on the candle is made from recycled cotton, hemp or paper fiber.

It is important to learn about things like this because those romantic nights over a beautiful dinner could actually be killing you.

Also, today I read a story on Treehugger.com that detailed a new way of thinking for homeowners. Many people are now buying entire homes for 30 to 40K that are between 50 square feet and 500 square feet. Looking at pictures of the homes, they actually look quite nice and one woman said her heating bill each month is a whopping $8. You can see these homes here. One of the most well-known companies making these types of home is Tumbleweed Tiny House Company. These homes are actually quite cute, and when you go green, you can't go much more green than a tiny house!

UPDATE: Reducing our possessions continues to go strong. We have lowered our possessions by about 10 to 20 percent we figure so far. Next week we are taking a large portion of our possessions to Goodwill and People Loving People. We will also be calling some charities to see if they want some items here, including some of our furniture.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Day 142 of our Green Year: Finding Uses for Orange Peels

Oranges are big sources of vitamin C, which is very important to our health. As a result, in the Baird household we love to have an organic and locally grown orange during our lunch or breakfast. However, as we eat oranges, we begin to wonder what to do with the peels, beyond just composting. Why find uses for it? The main reason is to help do more with what we already have, before we recycle or compost something. Our adage for Our Green Year is reuse, then recycle, and orange peels factor into that.

Here are some of the things you can use orange peels for beyond composting, a few of which we will also be trying.

  1. You can use orange peels as a firestarter or kindling when you are having a party at the fire pit. The reason for this is that there is a high content of flammable natural oil in orange peels. Make sure to let the orange peel dry before you try to use it as a firestarter.
  2. If you have cats (as we do) and plants (as we do), you can keep the cats from digging into the soil of the plants by placing orange peels around the plant. cats hate how orange peels smell, so it is highly effective.
  3. If you want some extra zest in your soups, sauces and salads, you can cut off the top layer of an orange peel and grind it into smaller pieces. You can dry the orange peel grinds overnight and then store them in airtight bottles for future use.
  4. If you have musty odors in your closet, put a dried orange peel in there to reduce the odors.
  5. If you want to have a picnic without the insects, then you can use small piles of the grind of an orange peel. Insects hate limonene, which is the oil int he peel, and this is a great alternative to using commercial insecticides.
One thing we have found in Our Green Year is that there are plenty of things you can do with items you have already. Before last week, I had no idea the uses of an orange peel, but after researching it, it is quite surprising.

A few cool notes. First, Google Earth has come out with some software in conjunction with the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States, that allows you to see the content of pollutants in the air around your home. It is a great way to find out just how clean the air is where you live, and you may be surprised (or frightened). The website can be visited here.

A few weeks ago, Layla and I went green by eating less meat, and restricting the meat we do eat to buffalo. Today, I read a story on TIME.com, which validated nearly everything we had said about why it is important to go green by eating less meat. A few of the key points featured in the article include:
  • Worldwide, livestock farming creates 18 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions on the planet. That is more than what all the cars, trains, planes and boats generate combined (13 percent).
  • Much of that contribution to greenhouse gases comes from cutting down of forests to put in pastures for livestock. In Latin America, 70 percent of former forest cover has been removed for animal grazing. This causes the planet to heat up because trees absorb CO2 when they are alive.
  • Livestock manure generates nitrous oxide, which has a 296 times the warming effect of CO2. On top of that, cows fart on a regular basis, generating 200 liters of methane (23 times the warming impact of CO2) a day. Multiply that by the 100 million cattle in the United States, and that creates a lot of global warming.
Hence, many people say that one of the greatest things you can do to go green is to eat less meat.

Be sure to check out our companion blog, Our Green Year Journal, which details what we do each day to be green, from what we buy to how far we walk.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Day 141 of our Green Year: Choosing Brown Rice over White

This will not be the first time we have addressed rice as a green issue. As many readers of this blog will remember, we went green awhile back with FreeRice.com on Day 84. However, recently we have found out about the personal and environmental benefits of brown rice. Rice is a staple of billions around the world, and in our household we find it is a good supplement to a variety of meals.

When rice is made, it goes through a variety of processes, including going through a husker to remove the grain husks. Once that process is done, brown rice is made. However, to make white rice, there are added steps that are needed. To get white ice, the inner husk (or bran) is removed and the grain is polished using glucose. This may not seem like much of a difference, but it removes several important nutrients. To get those nutrients back, many companies then reintroduce those same nutrients from synthetic sources. Those lost nutrients, that are not always put back in, include Vitamin E, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folacin, Potassium, Magnesium and Iron. On top of that, the dietary fiber of white rice is a quarter of what is in brown rice.

As for why white rice is worse for the environment than brown rice, the reason is simple. Brown rice takes less energy and less processing than white rice. As well, the synthetic vitamins that are put back into the white rice are produced in factories using several chemicals, whose processes are known to be bad for the environment.

This may not be for everyone, since some find brown rice to be an acquired taste, but we have found it does not taste too bad at all, especially with some nice sauces and spices on it.

So, we will not be going back to white rice, for our sake and the sake of the environment. On top of that, we will buy rice in bulk so that we can save on packaging, or if we can, buy rice that comes in cloth bags that we can re-use.

One note is that brown rice takes longer to cook than white rice, thereby using more energy. However, if you pre-soak the ice for awhile before hand, and then cook using the absorption method, you will use far less energy. The absorption method is when you use less water than usual and cover the pot. By the time the rice is ready, most of the water has been absorbed by the rice, or boiled away into steam, thereby helping to cook the rice quicker.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Day 140 of our Green Year: The Uses of Hydrogen Peroxide

Well, we have hit day 140 of Our Green Year and are heading head-long into fall. We spent a very busy weekend helping to put on a community festival in our town, but our work week (from home of course) begins again as we move further into Our Green Year.

While doing some web surfing last week, I came across stories of how many people have used hydrogen peroxide for various household tasks, instead of chemicals that can be damaging to our health and our environment. Hydrogen Peroxide is very good for the environment since it is composed only of two hydrogen atoms and two oxygen atoms. Once out in the environment, it breaks down into oxygen and hydrogen, two plentiful and beneficial elements in Earth's eco-system.

So, what are the uses of hydrogen peroxide in the home? Here are just a few we will be trying. (We will be reusing the plastic bottle it came in)
  1. If you put a cup of hydrogen peroxide into the washer (or wash tub as we now use) instead of chlorine bleach, you will get results that are just as good.
  2. With a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and tap water, in a 50/50 mixture, you can spray your counters and sanitize them to keep them germ free. You should only mix what you will use at that time, otherwise the light will break down the molecule. You can also soak your fingernails and toenails in this type of mixture to kill fungus.
  3. Many people use mouthwash and tooth whiteners that contain many chemicals, however hydrogen peroxide is a great alternative. Put a teaspoon of three percent strength hydrogen peroxide in your mouth for five to ten minutes every day, and you will whiten your teeth. You can also put your toothbrush into the hydrogen peroxide mixture to get rid of bacteria on the brush. Use a 50/50 mixture of water and hydrogen peroxide as a mouthwash as well.
  4. Lastly, it can be used on your house plants to make them grow green and lush. Mix an ounce of hydrogen peroxide into a cup of water and spray it on your houseplants.
On another note, Layla has set up a sister blog to Our Green Year called Our Green Year Journal We created this blog today to help show what we do each day. There, we will catalog what we buy for food, if we drove, how far we walked and more. This is being done to show how green we try to go with Our Green Year, beyond what we mention in this blog on a daily basis.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Day 139 of our Green Year: Joining Greenpeace

One proud fact of being Canadian is that it was Canadians who created Greenpeace. Greenpeace is a very important organization that has done a lot of good work throughout the past 30 years or so, including fighting against the seal hunt, whaling, toxic waste dumping and more.

As a result, We have decided that we will be joining Greenpeace, by getting their newsletter and joining their mailing list. By doing this, we will take part in sending letters to politicians to help get environmental measures implemented, as well helping out in our community for Greenpeace events and fundraisers.

We are proud to be part of Greenpeace and are looking forward to helping them in the future through Our Green Year.

UPDATE: So far, We have scheduled to get rid of much of our clothing and most of our books to an organization in our town called People Loving People. On top of that, we have had someone take our vacuum, radio, book case, and someone has taken a look at our patio furniture. The quest for 100 possessions goes strong.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Day 138 of our Green Year: Spreading the message of Think Water

A few days ago, Layla and I saw a very interesting television commercial that had a grandfather and grandson in a ghost town. It used to have gold, but that dried up and the people left the town. The grandfather then told the kid that in the future, water will be as precious as gold and we should take care of it now.

It was a great commercial that really made you think, and throughout this green initiative, we have spent several of our blog posts talking about going green by saving water. Just yesterday we saw our neighbor watering their lawn as it rained, and it was a horrible thing to see. We would have said something, but as the man was well into his old age we didn't think it would go very far (sorry to all those elderly individuals who care for the environment, I know you are out there).

The commercial was part of the UN Water For Life initiative, which can be viewed at this website and it is a very important initiative that we should all look at when we turn on the tap. All of this is for the International Decade for Action "Water for Life", which runs from 2005 to 2015. During the first UN decade on water, which ran from 1981 to 1990, more than one billion people gained access to safe drinking water. This second decade initiative is just as important and that is why Layla and I are devoting this post to spreading the message of the UN Water for Life and ThinkWater.ca.

Water is very important, and without it all life on earth will cease, so treat it as a precious resource.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Day 137 of our Green Year: Sealing Up Cracks

Winter is coming, and things are starting to get cold where we are, so the time has come to be energy conscious with heat. There are several ways that you can do this in your home, and one of the best is preventing heat loss from hot air going out cracks, and cold air coming in. If that happens, you will be spending a lot of time turning up the heat, which then uses up energy.

Therefore, the best thing you can do before it gets too cold is seal up cracks and spaces in windows. There are several ways to do this, but caulking works best. You will be able to seal up all the cracks, which then prevents anything from getting in or out.

One tip to find drafts is to take a candle and stand in the middle of a room with it, perfectly still. If the flame is flickering to one side, then you will know there is air coming from that direction. Move over there with the candle and find where that leak is. Once you have it, seal it up. Hardware stores have a multitude of products that will help you do this.

It is easy to do, and effective so take the time to seal up cracks and keep that much-loved warm air, inside, and the bad winter cold air outside.

On another note, we have hit 4,000 hits. That is great considering we are just a few days shy of our four month anniversary. That means that we are averaging just over 1,000 hits a month. Not too bad, especially when we still have eight months to go.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Day 136 of our Green Year: Buying Ethical Jewelry

Layla and I are not big on jewelry, but sometimes it does not hurt to buy yourself something nice on occasion. However, with jewelry you have to be very careful because of the mining procedures used to get the minerals for the jewelry, and the way workers are treated at various diamond mine sites around the world.
As a result, Layla and I will be only buying certain jewelry at certain times.

First, we will try to only buy jewelry that is second-hand. Then, we are not taking anything away from the environment because we are reusing something that has already been produced. As well, we are reducing waste and saving money by buying it cheap.

Second, if we do buy a diamond ring, maybe for our anniversary in June, we will buy a diamond that comes from the diamond mines in northern Canada. These mines use environmental standards and workers are given the utmost in human rights. I know they are because I used to work for a company that operated the diamond mines, and I traveled to them on several occasions.

Lastly, we will use our purchase questions to determine if we really need to have something like a diamond ring in the first place.

On top of that, jewelry we do not need will be given away so others can go green while they look good.

On a cool note, our blog is now listed on the website EcoStreet, which is a website that helps alert others to green messages, ideas and campaigns. It is great to be on this website and it shows that our green message is spreading

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Day 135 of our Green Year: Keeping Warm At Night

The nights are cooling down, and the mornings are pretty cool as well. Hence, it comes to the time when Layla and I can begin finding ways to stay warm as we sleep. Many people will have their furnaces running through the night, but in reality this is a big waste.

What Layla and I have committed to doing, is turning off the furnace at night while we sleep. Sure it gets cold, but it is worth it. We are able to save a lot of heat and energy by turning our thermostat down to as much as five degrees. You want to keep your furnace just hot enough that it does not cost the pipes to freeze.

There are many ways to stay warm at night, and all are free. Do not use a heater because it is just as bad as using the furnace. Energy is energy, no matter how you use it, or how much you use it.

Try these tips:

  1. Put an extra blanket on the bed. This can do wonders to keep you warm.
  2. Wear socks to bed. Much of our heat is lost through the head and feet, so keep the feet covered.
  3. Put blinds down on windows to keep cold air from going out.
  4. Make sure all windows are closed and sealed well.
  5. Cuddle.
If you have animals you worry about, you can put blankets down for them. Dogs and cats are able to get into tight positions to conserve their heat and they will be fine. If you worry still, have them on the bed with you. With that many living things in the room, the temperature of the room will actually increase, making it warmer.

Update: Layla and I are making good progress on giving away our items and selling them. We have put a poster up in our town advertising that we are giving away and selling things, and we have put items up on Freecycle.org. Our vacuum is going tomorrow, and other items should be leaving next week.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Day 134 of our Green Year: Joining the WE Campaign


During the course of Our Green Year, Layla and I have joined many groups and initiatives that help the environment. Whether it is getting Free Rice for someone, buying carbon offsets and more, we think that this is one of the best ways that you can help the environment. Hence, we have come along to the We Campaign, which is a project that has been started by the Alliance for Climate Protection. This was founded by Nobel Prize winner Al Gore and the goal is to provide the alliance a movement that creates the political will to solve the climate crisis. The entire efforts of the campaign is to allow the United States, and by extension Canada, 100 percent electricity from renewable energy.

People are invited to join the campaign in order to get leaders to recognize climate change through having millions of people pushing for a solution by the end of 2008. People are encouraged to invite their friends to the campaign to help. It also offers help and solutions to getting organized in one's area of the country through hosting a meeting, training and recruiting people to join.

It should be mentioned that this is primary an initiative for the United States, but Layla and I feel that climate change is a global problem, and therefore it requires all of us to work together to help the environment, even in other countries.

It is a great solution and who knows, it may just spread to Canada! To see the success stories of the We Campaign, visit this site.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Day 133 of our Green Year: Dealing with bugs

Well, the summer is coming to an end and fall is on our doorstep, so it may seem odd that we would be doing a blog about dealing with insects. However, there are plenty of insects still around, and where we are in BC, they will still be around for a couple more months.

Many people choose to use a variety of chemical products (Raid anyone?) to deal with bugs, but you have to ask yourself; if those chemicals kill bugs, what do they do to you? When I was a kid, our family would release Raid in our house to kill flies when there were too many of them. Then we would go back in a couple hours later. I always wondered what kind of health effect that would have on the family, and I don't imagine it was a good one.

First of all, Layla and I do get a lot of spiders in our house, and some are quite big...at least by Canadian standards. The way we usually deal with them is with a boot, but we do not kill all of them. Sometimes it is good to have spiders in your house because they will deal with other pests like flies. As well, we sometimes take the spiders outside so they can deal with pests out there. However, if you want to get rid of spiders, cleaning and dusting your home on a regular basis will help. Make sure you get rid of all the spiderwebs that you find.

Second, it looks like we have a wasp nest near our home, so we have to deal with that. If you use a mixture of water and peppermint oil, spray it around the outside of your home. Do this during the evening when the insects are less active, and they will stay away. Do not do this if you are allergic, just get someone else to do it for you.

The main point to remember is that when you see pests, like ants, you do not have to use poison to get rid of them. You can find plenty of natural alternatives to get rid of them. Many herbs drive insects away, and lemon juice on the counters of your kitchen will keep away ants. Many insects are beneficial, so try and move them outside your home, where they can work their magic outside.

The importance of insects can not be forgotten. Remember, if humans were to disappear, most of the life on the planet would benefit. However, if ants disappeared, within a few weeks, every land eco-system on Earth will have collapsed.


Although insects can be pests, they are an important part of our ecosystem. Using natural and more humane ways to deal with these pests can decrease the amount of toxins going into the environment and into your skin.