Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A great website: Explore.org

We wanted to tell our readers about a great site that has launched recently called Explore.org.
This website is the online portal for Explore, which is a multimedia organization that documents those around the world who are devoting their lives to making the world a better place. By showing the selfless acts of others, Explore has helped showcase what helping others and the environment is all about.

On Explore has a library of 250 original films and 30,000 photographs that have been taken around the world and showcased at film festivals, as well as on television and the internet. As well, those featured in explore films receive explore funding from the Annenberg Foundation, and to date $15 million has been awarded to 100+ non-profits around the world.

Check out this video of their great work: http://explore.org/videos/player/cr-tortuguero

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Great Facebook Application

Recently Layla and I were made aware of a new campaign being done by Naked Juice and Facebook. The campaign has created a Facebook application that helps the launch of Naked Juice reNEWabottle, which is a bottle made from other bottles. For each bottle, the company is donating one dollar for every bottle that is passed on the Facebook Application. To pass a bottle, all you have to do is go to http://apps.facebook.com/messageinabottle

The reNEWabottle is the efforts by Naked Juice to keep plastic bottles out of the landfill by making their bottles from other bottles. This means their bottles are 100 percent recyclable and made from 100 percent recycled materials. This means they will use 48 percent less packaging and lower their oil consumption by 57,000 barrels per year, which is a great thing.

The entire Naked Juice line will be using the reNEWabottle by 2010.

Back to Pass The Bottle, the company is trying to raise $20,000, which will all go to Keep America Beautiful, which is a non-profit that works to prevent litter, reduce waste and protect the resources of the United States.

A good cause that Layla and I are happy to support and spread the word on.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

It's Time For A Green Book Review: Last Chance By Larry J. Schweiger

First, Layla and I would both like to say that we were honored to be asked to take part in the "One Day, 100 Bloggers, 100 Green Books, 100 Reviews" campaign. Created by Eco-Libris, it is a day to help promote books that are printed using recycled and FSC certified paper. As described by Eco-Libris,"The idea is to have 100 bloggers simultaneously publish on Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2009, their book review of a green book of their choice. We want to use the power of the internet and social media to promote green books and increase the awareness of both publishers and readers to the way books can be printed responsibly and sustainably. We hope that the magnitude of this initiative will help grab readers, publishers and others' attention and get them to think about and discuss the future of books and how the green factor should be part of it."
The book we chose to read is Last Chance by Larry J. Schweiger.

In Last Chance, Mr. Schweiger paints a vivid picture of not only the dangers that humanity is facing as we move into the 21st century, but also the dire need to preserve life as we know it on Earth.
The book begins by taking us to the year 2020, just over 10 years from now, and paints a picture of a world that is already different from the world we inhabit today. Mr. Schweiger makes it clear that the business as usual attitude of humanity will not cut it as we move into the future.
Mr. Schweiger pulls absolutely no punches with this book. From the beginning he shows that we are much closer to global warming catastrophe than people like to admit. It is easy to see 2100 as a long ways off, but with this book any reader will see that in just ten to twenty years, our world will be very different. Mr. Schweiger shows that the signs have been there for decades, and even the mother of the environmentalist movement, Rachel Carson (author of Silent Spring) saw that things were changing back in the middle part of the 20th century.
Throughout this book, Mr. Schweiger displays to the reader that dangers are all around us relating to the environment. Mercury from coal pollution, melting ice in the arctic releasing methane to the plight of sea turtles.
The first part of the book puts science where Mr. Schweiger's mouth is, while the second part brings into focus those who know there is a problem and do nothing, either through apathy or a need for money and a love of greed.
It is the third part of the book where the real message lies though. It is here that Mr. Schweiger tells us that the future is in our hands, and that we can change the future. From pushing the politicians, to getting down and working in the soil to grow crops for ourselves, he gives us the road map to change. He ends with a call for a last chance to do something.
As he says, America, and the world, is at a crossroads and the road we take will greatly influence the future outcome of life on Earth.
One wonderful feature of this book is that at the end of chapters, there are objectives that people can achieve to help make the future a better place, and to pressure those in power to make the change they should have made decades ago.

Last Chance is a phenomenal book that is a must-read for anyone who is concerned about the environment. The president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation has written a book that will open the eyes of even the most ardent global warming denier. For both Layla and I, it was a great read and one that is not easy to put down. When you do put it down, it is hard not to think about the changes that are going on around our planet right now, nor the incredible need and requirement we all have as humans to preserve life on Earth.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A great new blog

Recently, Layla and I came across another blog that is blogging about their own green journey, so we thought we would give them a shout out from our own blog.

Shelagh Dunn has committed to doing one small green thing every day to help combat global warming. So far she has atteneded a green event, bought local, offset her carbon and unplug everything in her house.

One of the best things on her site is the running tally on the side of the green impact she has made. As of today, it stood as:

  • Buying Local Produce: 1 week
  • Cold water washers: 2
  • Meatless Lunches or Suppers: 1
  • Time unplugged: 1.5 hours
  • Minutes of water running saved: 24
  • Bottle of water saved: 1
  • Plastic bags saved: 19
  • Trip by car saved: 2
  • Carbon saved so far: 378 pounds
Both Layla and I wish Shelagh luck with her green journey. We really enjoyed our own green journey and continue to live the green life and are happy for it. We will also be keeping up on her blog and seeing where her green journey takes her in the future

You can visit the blog at http://everysmallthing.blogspot.com/


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Garden Update and Rotary

It has been awhile since we posted, mainly due to being busy and because we are focusing primarily on posting on our Atlas Bear site (which we have also been away from due to being busy, but will get back to daily/weekly postings right away).

However, it is time for a garden update. So far we have been picking corn and potatoes of the the garden. The cobs of corn are turning out quite good, and the potatoes vary in size from about the size of a small rock, to a bit bigger than my first.
As well, we finally have pumpkins appearing on the Giant Pumpkin plant we have, and the other pumpkin variety (my grandma gave us the plant as a gift). Carrots are turning out great, and we have a good row of lettuce. The spinach and peas have been picked and harvested and look pretty good.

Layla and I also did a talk today to the Rotary Club of Stony Plain and we wanted to thank them for having us come out and talk about going green.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Picking Peas


The time has come for us to begin harvesting the peas in the garden. So, this morning we went out and began to pick the peas that are ready. We were able to fill up two big bowls with pea pods and there is still a lot of peas still on the vines. Should be a very good year for peas at the ranch :)


Monday, July 27, 2009

A very green way to mow the lawn


Layla and I are lucky enough to have some horses at our ranch, and that makes keeping the lawn short much easier. Instead of bringing out a gas mower, or mowing the large amount of grass by hand, we can use the horses. That way we save on hay, and the horses get some nice green grass.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

A tour of our garden, and the first potatoes from the garden


Here is a quick tour of our garden, and some of the potatoes that I pulled out of a hill for supper tonight.

video

Here are the potatoes:


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Garden and Alberta Primetime

Well, the garden is coming in great for us here in Alberta. We have five rows of peas shooting up, three rows of beans, two watermelons, two pumpkins, celery, radishes, corn and pumpkins all doing amazingly well. Our indoor tomatoes and outdoor tomatoes are also doing well. We have some spinach plants up, and the corn is trying to pop up with a few plants showing. The peppers aren't doing well unfortunately.

Pictures soon!

Also, thank you to Alberta Primetime on Access, who were nice enough to invite Layla and I into their studio yesterday to do an interview about Our Green Year and our selection as two of the most influential people in Alberta.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Cool News!

Today, we appeared in Alberta Venture magazine in their annual list of the 50 most influential people in Alberta. This is a really big honor for us to be considered one of the most influential people in Alberta and we thank Alberta Venture for considering us.

Here is what the magazine said:

Craig and Layla Baird
Eco Bloggers

Ecologically speaking, Craig and Layla Baird know little things make the difference – especially after spending a year performing one environmentally conscious deed a day. As part of the commitment, the Stony Plain-area writers told of coffee-ground body scrubs and clothes washed with shower water in their blog Our Green Year, garnering a global readership. The year may be over, but the project isn’t. On Day 365, the Bairds vowed to turn the experiment into a lifestyle.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Support Tree Planting With Odwalla

Trees are our best friends in the fight against climate change because trees take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turn it into wonderful oxygen. For whatever reason, we feel the need to cut down trees so it is important that we do what we can to bring more trees onto Earth.

That is why it is good to hear that the Odwalla Plant A Tree Program is working with people to donate trees, free of charge, to state park systems in the United States. By visiting the Odwalla Plant A Tree (http://www.parkvisitor.com/odwalla) website, it is possible for individuals to plant a tree in one of 11 state parks with just the click of a mouse. Visitors can make a donation to help the program and get trees planted.

Odwalla is donating $100,000 worth of trees in California, New York, Florida, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Utah, Ohio, Texas, Maryland, Michigan and Viriginia. The program runs from May 27, 2009 to December 31, 2009.

A Reader's Solar Cooker

One of our readers, Alice, recently built a solar cooker and was nice enough to send us photos of the solar cooker. As she describes it:

"This small solar cooker is made of cardboard and duct tape. I cut a piece of metal hanger to support the lid; bought a piece of glass for insulation, and painted an old pot for cooking. Very simple and small, just enough to bake a few small potatoes. I put the potatoes in the pot in the morning, by dinner time they are ready."

Great Job Alice :)

Product Review: Clean+Green

About a week ago, the nice folks at SeaYu were nice enough to send Layla and I a complimentary green cleaning product after hearing about our green cleaning efforts on the blog. While we are not clean freaks, we do keep a clean house so we were really interested in trying out the cleaners they had sent us.

SeaYu is a company that offers excellent green solutions for cleaning, with an emphasis on not only creating a healthy and clean environment free of chemicals for humans, but for their pets as well. Too often, companies will issue out products that have harmful chemicals in them without thinking of the animals who may come in contact with this. It was refreshing to see that SeaYu was forward thinking and cared about the welfare of our pets.

The two products they had sent us were for carpet and upholstery and the car. On the couch we have had for years, which has become quite dark because of dogs sleeping on it, we tried out the carpet and upholstery cleaner. We sprayed it on the couch and were able to clean it quickly and easily, without any chemical smells coming off the couch. In fact, the couch looked almost new thanks to the SeaYu carpet and upholestery cleaner. We found that the SeaYu auto cleaner, which eliminates odors, removes stains and operates as a general cleaner in the car, worked just as well as the carpet and upholstery cleaner. Both products were excellent, quick acting and we did not worry about what we were breathing in when we used the products, which is refreshing for sure.

The cleaners are:

  • Non-Toxic
  • Non-Flammable
  • Non-Corrosive
  • Non-Carconogenic
In the products, there are no:

  • Oxidizers
  • Hydrocarbon Solvents
  • Volatile Organic Compounds
The SeaYu products are also all-natural, containing no harmful ingredients. The ingredients are:

  • Cane sugar
  • Botanical Extracts
  • Hydrated Cellulose
  • Purified Water
  • Nitrogen
There are no fragrances with the SeaYu product, and the cleaning agents are completely biodegradable.

All in all, we found the products that SeaYu were nice enough to send us completely perfect for the heavy duty cleaning that baking soda didn't always take care of. We did not feel sick after using the products as sometimes happens with bleach and other cleaning products (before we started Our Green Year).

If you need a good cleaning product, and you have pets, this is the perfect product for you. Especially if you care about what goes into your air and what goes into the environment as well.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

And...The Rest of the Garden is In

Quite a surprise today when we were watching Global National and saw ourselves on it talking about going green, from two interviews we did with Global Edmonton News.

We were able to get the garden in today in advance of the rain, despite a pretty bad sunburn on my part (stupid not wearing something to protect myself from the sun). We were able to plant tomatoes, peppers, two kinds of onions, spinach, lettuce, carrots and asparagus. That makes the entire garden in, as well as the herb garden closer to the house.

This pic is of three tires we found behind the garage here at the ranch, and decided to use for the onions, which are a type that keeps coming back each year without replanting.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Half the garden is in

*First, to explain why Layla is holding a hammer, we were hammering in the posts for our pea plant fences*

We spent today putting our garden in. It was a beautiful day that just made us want to go out and spend the day working in the garden. We planted one row of cucumbers, one row of radishes, a row of rosemary, four rows of corn, five rows of peas, six rows of potatoes (50 hills total), ten pumpkins, five watermelons, two rows of broccoli and a row of rosemary. In addition, our seed starters are going great and we have several wild flowers growing inside, oregano and thyme growing inside and will be transplanted outside when they are ready, one broccoli seed, lots of marigolds and two tomato plants.

Everything in the garden was planted in a manner that the vegetables and herbs around it were beneficial to each other, helping everything grow better. We are hoping that companion planting will increase the yield of our vegetables, eliminating any need for any chemicals to increase vegetable yield.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Preparing to put the garden in

Now that we have a bigger garden here at the ranch than we did in Rossland, we are going to be planting more vegetables to get us through the winter. This week, we have started planting in the garden as well as expanding what we are growing inside the house.

In the garden, we will be planting:

  1. Cucumbers
  2. Radishes
  3. Parsnip
  4. Corn
  5. Watermelon
  6. Potatoes
  7. Broccoli
  8. Rosemary
  9. Oregano
  10. Peas
  11. Pumpkin
  12. Beans
  13. Celery
  14. Raspberries
  15. Asparagus
  16. Tomatoes
  17. Mint
  18. Carrots
  19. Basil
  20. Onions
  21. Spinach
  22. Thyme
A lot more work yes, but we are really looking forward to the garden this year and the bounty we hope it provides.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The First Plant Sprout in Our Seed Starters

Only took a few days but the first sprout has appeared in our seed starters. We have found three more sprouting (it is in the second row from the top, in the cup on the edge. Click on the photo to see a larger picture of it). Once they get larger we will transplant them into the soil outside.

We also planned out the garden today. We are using rain barrels, compost, soaker hoses and companion in the garden to get the maximum yield from our herb and flower gardens without having to use pesticides or herbicides.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Talking To Kids About The Environment

Today is a big day for Layla and myself. Not only is it our five year anniversary, but we are going to the Youth Center in Stony Plain today as we were invited to talk with the kids about eco-awareness. Should be a lot of fun.

We will also be attending an eco-event at Meridian Mall on May 23 in Stony Plain, designed to spread eco tips and knowledge so if you are around, come check it out.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Seed Starters

Here is a pic of the seed starters we have going in my home office. We have several wild flowers and other types of flowers in place. Once they are ready, we will transplant them into the soil outside. The egg containers are made of paper and cardboard and previously housed organic and free range chicken eggs

Saturday, April 25, 2009

We have launched a new environment site!

In an effort to expand on Our Green Year, Layla and I have launched AtlasBear.com (name explained on site). This site will serve as a website that offers a wide variety of environment information. From projects to tips, news to interviews, AtlasBear.com is a one-stop information resource for all things environmental.

We are looking for volunteer writers for the site as well, so if you are interested you can contact me at craig@clbairdmedia.com

Thanks!

AtlasBear.com

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Day 365 of our Green Year: Going Green....For Life

We have finally made it. Day 365 of going green. A long undertaking but well-worth it in more ways than we can count. Over the past year, we have met a lot of great people and changed our own lives by going green with 365 different green things. From the first day when we began to put out green tips to now, we have covered the gambit of different green tips that everyone can do. We have had difficulty at times, but it has been something we really enjoyed doing.

So, what do we do for Our Green Year's last day? Well, the best thing we can do and that is to continue going green for the rest of our lives. Stopping going green now? Why would we do that? We need to continue going green because that is the commitment we have made for ourselves with Our Green Year.

Our decision today to go green is to keep that message going.

This past year as been an amazing one for us. We have learned a great deal about the environment, both through research and through talking to people about it and hearing from people who come to the blog. We have received a lot of support from the people who come to our blog and while some have called us self-righteous, many many more have told us they support us in what we are doing.

When we started Our Green Year we did it with the only goal of educating ourselves and the environment. We didn't do it for money, for press or anything else. We started it knowing that not everyone could do everything we did, and not everyone would agree with all the posts that we put up. However, by doing 365 things, we knew that we would appeal to a broad spectrum of people and that two very different types of people could take at least 10 tips from our blog to use in their own lives.

Yes, some of our blogs were a bit out of the box for tips, but when you are doing 365 things that is just the way it goes. We supported environmental charities, donated to other causes, signed petitions and used click to donate buttons. These may not have been something everyone does or even thinks helps, but they all serve their purpose in helping the environment.

What comes next for Our Green Year? Do we stop now and go back to the way we were before? No, not at all. We started this blog so that we could change our lives and live green for the rest of our lives. The decisions we have made here will continue in our lives, and we will not fall back on anything.

Day 365 is not the end of Our Green Year, it is only the end of the first phase of something that is very important to Layla and myself and that is going green, educating ourselves, learning from others and helping to spread a green message to those who want to hear it.

Thank you to everyone who has come out to our blog this past year, and we hope you will keep coming after Day 365.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Day 364 of our Green Year: No More Toothpicks

One day left! Almost over for blogging each day, but not over by a long shot for going green and continuing with this lifestyle. Thank you to Jessica from AM 1150, who was nice enough to do an interview with us today.

Now, back to our second last blog for Our Green Year's first 365 days. Today, we are banning toothpicks. Toothpicks are nice when you have something stuck in your teeth, but it is a piece of wood that is used once and thrown away. Doing some research about toothpicks, we found out that toothpicks are actually older than our own species! Apparently Neanderthal skulls have shown evidence of toothpick use. It is our oldest dental instrument but now thanks to Eco-Dent and baking soda toothpaste, the time for the toothpick has passed.

Toothpicks are made from birch wood. Birch logs are spiral cut into spiral sheets, and then those are chopped, milled and cut into toothpicks. We use them once and throw them away, and our world has lost a tree that can take CO2 out of the atmosphere.

So, Layla and I are banning toothpicks and instead using toothbrushes and Eco-Dent to clear our teeth. It is better for the environment than cutting down a tree, and our teeth won't suffer from the loss of the toothbrush.

At the event we were attending yesterday to help raise money for the Youth Center, we were given two tree saplings and some bookmarks that have wildflower seeds inside so you can put them in the ground and grow wildflowers from. Below is a picture of one of the saplings that we planted.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Day 363 of our Green Year: Ensuring Clean Filters

Today was a great day for us! We attended the Youth Center Thrift Store Fashion Show where we had an Our Green Year exhibit set up and we met some great people. Thank you to everyone who came by the booth to talk to us, it was nice meeting all of you!

For today, which is our third last day, we are ensuring clean filters in our home and vehicle. As we have mentioned several times during Our Green Year, it is important to check your filters because if they are clogged, then more air needs to be pushed through and that puts more work on the furnace and on the car.

To improve fuel efficiency, you should keep your filters cleaned, as well as for the health of your car. The dirtier your filter is, the more gas you will use because the engine has to work that much harder.

For your home, cleaning the filter for your furnace is important for the environment and your health. Poor filters require more airflow and that takes up more energy, and not as many pollutants will be filtered out by the air filter.

Thanks again to everyone who visited our booth!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Day 362 of our Green Year: Disposing of Grease Properly

Sometimes when we cook, especially when we make eggs (Bison has nearly no grease and we eat it only once every few months), there is a bit of grease. It used to be people would just drop the grease down the drain and then follow it with hot water to keep it from becoming solid in the drain. However, as it turns out this not a very good idea and there have been plenty of commercials on television advertising this fact.

When you dump grease down the drain, it causes sewer blockages that can then cause overflows and ruin homes, cause problems for the environment and even cause health problems for people. You can find that raw sewage will back up into your home, your neighborhood and even in parks when these types of blockages happen.

Instead of just dumping the grease down the drain, Layla and I will put the grease in a container and when that container is full, we will take it to the proper disposal facility. That way we prevent environmental damage, and we keep sewage from backing up into our property! No one likes a backed up septic tank!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Day 361 of our Green Year: Celebrating Earth Day and Spreading The Green Message

The countdown continues to the end of the year! Four days to go! Today we went to the Farmer's Market and picked up some organic honey from a local supplier. It tastes great in the coffee. It was also refreshing to see so many local people selling food that is organic and preservatives free!

As for today, we are going green by celebrating Earth Day. In fact, we are celebrating Earth Day a few times this next week and a half!

On Monday, we are attending a Earth Day Thrift Fashion Show, where we will have a display of the things we have done this year. We are going to be talking with people who come by and spreading our own bit of environmental wisdom (as little as there may be) from the past year.

Then, that following Sunday we are going to the big Earth Day event in Edmonton. We are not speaking or have anything on display, but we are going to go and see others who are celebrating the Earth, learn more about what we can do to help and maybe make some new friends.

Then, on April 28, we are going to the Youth Center to talk to the kids about environmental issues, answer their questions and spread some more information about going green. We are really looking forward to this because our main goal with Our Green Year has been to help others learn about going green, and help them go green as well.

Only a few days till Earth Day everyone! What are you planning on doing?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Day 360 of our Green Year: Picking Wild Berries

Well, five days left! We are counting down and are amazed that the entire year is almost over.

Now, as for today's blog, it comes to us courtesy of Jenni who made a good suggestion about ways that we can have some great berries, but without the CO2 to get us the berries, or the plastic packaging that comes with those berries.

It involves picking berries, and before we go any further it is very important that you ONLY PICK BERRIES THAT YOU CAN IDENTIFY AS GOOD NOT POISONOUS. Don't be stupid and just grab a handful of berries that you find in the forest. If you don't know what the berry is, then don't eat it!


Now, in Rossland we had wild huckleberries growing all around us and when we would go on hikes we would pick them. They made great and healthy snacks for both us and the bears who frequented the area.

Now, where we are in Alberta, there are actually plenty of berries that we can eat, especially close to us along the banks of the North Saskatchewan (about two km away from us). As well, on our property there are even raspberry bushes growing! This is great because Layla and I are big fans of raspberries, and to find out we have some growing on this property was a great bit of good news.

So, instead of buying strawberries and other berries at the store and dealing with the travel CO2 and the packaging of those berries, we will instead pick them from the wild here to eat. We will only pick those we can identify as safe (as should everyone else) and we will only pick enough for a pie or a dish, never more than we should have lest we rob local wildlife of this wonderful delicacy.

A cool bit of news. Layla and I were getting a lunch at the organic cafe here and we saw a poster for the Earth Day event we are attending with an exhibit of Our Green Year. It was actually really cool because when we looked on the poster, we saw that we were labeled as special guests, which we thought was a really cool honor and something we were not expecting at all! Thanks Jennifer!

If you are in Stony Plain on April 20, come out and support this wonderful event at the Stony Plain Community Hall from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. It helps the local Youth Center and will have many great things to come out and check out! While you are there, drop by our table and say hi!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Day 359 of our Green Year: Disposing of CFLs

Way back, about 350 days back or so, give or take a few days, we switched our house to CFLs (Compact Fluorescent Lights), or rather our old house in Rossland. At the new ranch, we set up CFLs as well. Some of these lights can last for upwards of 10 years, and that means that even though they are incredibly energy efficient, they will need to be replaced and if you want to be environmentally friendly, you won't just throw them in the garbage.

It is amazing, but only three percent of CFLs are disposed of correctly, or correctly recycled. The rest ends up in landfills and this creates a problem because the bulbs contain mercury. It is unfortunate that such an energy efficient product, that can literally save millions of tonnes of CO2 from going into the atmosphere, can also contain an element that is so poisonous to the environment. Mercury is so bad that if you drop one of these bulbs on the floor, everyone in the room should clear out for 15 minutes so that the dust can settle and the broken pieces can be swept up. Once you sweep it up, seal it in a bag and put it in the trash, most places won't take CFLs like this unfortunately so it has to go in the trash.

Thankfully, recycling CFLs is very easy because many companies and stores will take the old CFLs and dispose of them for you. Home Depot and IKEA are two places that take CFL lights. You can also visit Earth911.org and call 800-CLEAN-UP to find a list of places that you can dispose of the CFLs at.

One cool note. We were at Rona recently picking up another recycling bin for our ranch to help better organize everything and we saw this sign at the checkout. Good Job Rona!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Day 358 of our Green Year: Renting Bikes

A few times during Our Green Year, we have mentioned ways that we can all go green with vacations. We have already practiced a staycation this year, and next year we are taking the train to visit friends out in Ontario for a wedding. Well, while we are there we have decided that instead of renting a car for getting around, we will go green and rent some bikes.

Jenni was nice enough to suggest to this us by sending an e-mail to us and we really do appreciate it :)

Taking a train is greener than driving that long distance as we showed in the original post, and rather than create more CO2 in the atmosphere, we will bike around. Of course we did address biking out to Ontario but it is 3,000 kilometers and we just can't take that long of time away from our company.

So, Min, Jay, Faith, Stacey, and The Dude, we will be seeing you next year and we will be visiting your wonderful town on bikes, not in a car.

Thanks again Jenni for suggesting this!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Day 357 of our Green Year: Blue Planet Products

A little while ago, I saw a commercial from Canadian Tire that advertised their Blue Planet products. I was intrigued because of their promise to plant a tree for every Blue Planet item bought, so I thought I would look into it.

From April 11 to May 8, 2009, anyone who buys a Blue Planet product will have a tree planted in their name. According to Canadian Tire, roughly 100,000 trees should be planted, and that means millions of tonnes of CO2 being taken out of the atmosphere as a result. Since these trees are only planted when you buy environmentally friendly Blue Planet products, you are creating a double whammy of help for the environment.

The products that come as part of the Blue Planet line include CFL bulbs, rechargeable batteries, energy meters and natural household cleaning products. Even reusable shopping bags, lawn products and solar panels are included in this.

So, not only are Layla and I spreading the word about this great initiative, we are also going to pick up a few products that we need, or will need in the future, to get a few trees planted to help out the environment.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Day 356 of our Green Year: Banning Leather

A long time ago, way back in the summer, Layla and I banned beef in our lives because the livestock industry is a major contributor to greenhouse gases. Well, today we are banning leather in our lives because of its effect on the environment.

First of all, the practice of getting leather is not at all green or nice for the animals whose skin makes up that leather. We have heard about a video that shows a cow being skinned alive for its hide. That alone is reason enough for us not to buy leather. It should be noted that those companies that use those types of practices are the minority rather than the majority.

Second, the tanning industry in large scale terms uses a lot of energy, and as we all know, energy means CO2 production usually, and that means greenhouse gases being put into the atmosphere.

To understand the effect of the tanning industry on the environment, here is the process.
  1. The hides are prepared by using salt.
  2. The hides are soaked with perfectly good water to remove all that salt.
  3. The hides are then treated with one or more of the following chemicals to get rid of the hair: sodium sulfide, sodium hydroxide, sodium hydrosulfite, arsenic sulfide, calcium hydrosulfide, dimethyl amine, sodium suphydrate
  4. Once the hair is gone, the hides are put through another salt and suphuric acid treatment.
  5. The hides are soaked in water again
  6. The actual tanning is performed with chromium sulfate.
Instead, Layla and I will stick with our commitment to buy green clothes only when we need them, and from now on leather is out of the question for us.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Day 355 of our Green Year: Bulk Spices

What a crazy day it has been for us. First we saw we made the Edmonton Journal, page 5!, and thank you to everyone who came by to drop us a line on our blog. We appreciate it! Then, we had another interview with Global who were great for coming out and doing the interview with us at our farm! Thanks so much :)

As for today, it is a short blog because it has been a long day and it is also Easter Sunday (Happy Easter everyone!).

As I have mentioned before, Layla really enjoys making organic dog treats, and with those dog treats it is important to have the right spices like Careb, which is the chocolate alternative for dogs because dogs cannot have chocolate (it can be dangerous in certain quantities).

We are going to be filling up bulk items with reusable containers or bags, but we have found that our local grocery store does not carry a lot of bulk spices. Usually you have to buy your spices in small containers or small plastic bags that are very hard to reuse. Not to mention that we keep all our spices in nice little containers in the cupboard, which makes these other containers kind of useless to us.

So, from now on we will be buying our spices in bulk, using our bulk containers. The organic store where we live carries some spices in this manner and we will be searching out other places that have spices in bulk. We don't need a lot of spices, but those we buy will be bought in a manner that eliminates packaging.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Day 354 of our Green Year: Gauze over Band Aids

Today was a pretty eventful day for us. Not only did we do a fair-trade and organic Easter egg hunt at the ranch (Happy Easter everyone!) but we also were interviewed by the Edmonton Journal! Thanks to Andrea and Chris for taking the time to come out and talk with us, we really appreciate it!

As for today, we are using a tip that we will need whenever we have a cut or scrape. Typically, we will reach for bandaids, which are great, but the problem that arises from them comes from their packaging. Bandaids are packaged in boxes, which sometimes have plastic wrapping inside, which then has bandaids that are individually wrapped, which then have two strips that you rip away so that you can stick the bandaid to your boo boo.

However, there is another way to treat wounds and it is gauze. Gauze is a mesh fabric that actually make up part of bandaids. Rather than buy all the other stuff that comes with the bandaid, we are just buying a roll of gauze instead. Packaged simply and there is plenty to use, gauze is a good environmental solution for minor cuts and scrapes.

Another great thing about gauze is that it has many uses beyond first aid as well. Some of these uses include:
  1. First, you can cut the gauze into small two inch square pads and use that to remove makeup.
  2. You can hold up plants that need to be tied to small supports (like new trees or tomatoes) by using rolled gauze. Gauze is soft so it can hold these plants without injuring the branches.
  3. For the seeds you plant in your garden this year, you can put rolled gauze over the row of seeds to protect the seeds from birds and insects, while still allowing water and sun to get through.
  4. You can brush your dog's teeth with gauze by just wrapping a bit around your finger and wetting it.
So, for us from now on it is gauze instead of bandaids.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Day 353 of our Green Year: Local Flowers

Layla and I have an upcoming anniversary and that means giving gifts for each other, although its not really required. Typically, I like to give Layla a bouquet of flowers on our anniversary (cliche I know) and I have thought about that and how to make sure it is green this year. Last year, Layla gave me a pot with a flower seed in it for my birthday, and I wanted to do something a bit different, so I am going to get her another bouquet of flowers, but will do it in a green way.

First, I am going to get flowers that are native to the area of Alberta, or at the very least Western Canada. Second, I am going to get them from a greenhouse that is here and which grows it here. This is because I want to lower the carbon footprint associated with those flowers. The less those flowers have to travel the better. Since I also want to get flowers native to Western Canada, even the seeds won't take long to travel here.

Lastly, this helps to support the local economy, which is very important in these trying economic times.

In addition to the flowers, we will also try and plant some trees, give money to an environmental cause and, as luck would have it, on our anniversary we are speaking to some kids about the environment at a youth club. That means for this anniversary, we are using sustainable flowers as gifts, planting trees and teaching kids about why they should care about the environment.

Sure we could not buy each other gifts, but our anniversary is about showing love and nothing is as lovely as flowers and the environment :)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Day 352 of our Green Year; Bulk Food Bags

Layla and I do a lot of cooking, and Layla enjoys making dog treats that are safe and organic. Some times this means going to the organic store or elsewhere and buying bulk items. However, when we get something in the bulk containers, we have to use a plastic bag and plastic bags are a no-no in our household. So, we need to find a new option.

The first option is to just reuse the plastic bags we already have in the house so that we are reusing items and getting more use out of them.

The second option is to use small cloth bags, but so far we have been unable to find these types of bags.

The third option is to use small containers that we can store the bulk items in. This will cost extra money because the weight of the container will go into the cost of the bulk items, but at least we can reuse these items over and over instead of plastic bags. These could include yogurt containers, small glass containers and more.

We are going to try the third option and hopefully the store does not have a problem with it.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Day 351 of our Green Year: No Highlighters

Well, only two weeks left to go! It is crazy to think we have done 351 blogs throughout this year, but now that we are close to finishing Our Green Year, we realize what a monumental effort this has been at times. Given all of that, we would do it all over again if we had to because it was simply great.

Now, getting to our post for today. In our work as professional writers, we have found that on occasion we need highlighters, especially when we are doing research for a book for a client. However, recently when I went to look at buying more highlighters I began to think about the effect these have on the environment. First of all, you have to look at their manufacturing where several chemicals are used to create the color that we see on the paper. While most highlighters these days are water-based and alcohol-based, they still contain some chemicals and those chemicals leach into the landfills when they are thrown away. Some contain xylene and volatile organic compounds that leach their way into our environment. As well, there is the plastic housing of the highlighters to consider.
Of course all this amounts to only a little bit in each highlighter, but multiply it by millions of highlighters each year and that is a big problem.

So, from now on Layla and I will be 'highlighting' by underlining things in the paper using our biodegradable pens.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Day 350 of our Green Year: Organic Honey

For the past few years, there has been a condition going through bee colonies around the world where the colonies collapse as the bees abandon them, or die in them. Many feel that it is as a result of climate change and how some beekeepers handle their bees and harvest the honey. Two years ago, I interviewed a beekeeper about colony collapses for the paper I was editor of and he felt that it was because bees are often transported almost constantly throughout the year in the United States, and many chemicals are used for the harvest of the honey that spreads throughout the colonies.

As a result, Layla and I will be purchasing organic honey that is also relatively local to where we are. Under law, honey cannot be labeled organic if its production contains any trace of chemicals, drugs or antibiotics. Some beekeepers use sulfa compounds and antibiotics to control the diseases of bees, and carbolic acid to remove the honey from the hive. As well, some use calcium cyanide to kill colonies before they get the honey out.

Organic honey is safe to eat and the beekeepers take the organic part of the name very seriously. They safeguard a natural habitat for the bees, providing them their nourishment in a natural way as nature intended. Bees are not exterminated at the end of the season either, instead the beekeepers honor the natural life cycle of the bees and rarely transport them anywhere.

So for us, it is organic honey all the way.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Day 349 of our Green Year: Adding Green Tips To Email Signatures

Today, we have an easy and short green tip. Each day, Layla and I send out at least a dozen e-mails to clients, friends and family. Since we send out those e-mails, we thought that it would be a great idea to add something to those e-mails that helps other people go green. I had seen this before on e-mails sent to me and read about it on Green As A Thistle as well.

So, from now on we will add a tag line to our e-mail signature that will urge people to go green and offer them a green tip as well. Something like "Do you need to print this e-mail? Save paper if you can!" or "Remember to put your computer in standby when not using it!"

Those little tips might be just enough to get someone to think a little bit greener in their day-to-day lives.

Also, a bit of good news. Layla and I currently have one of our companies on a green web host server, which uses green energy and carbon offsets so that the servers don't contribute to greenhouse gases (a very serious problem). Well one of our subsidiary companies is now listed on that same green webhost, as are two of my parent's company websites. All were switched over from a web host company that did not use green options.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Day 348 of our Green Year: Understanding Waste Decomposition

Many times throughout Our Green Year, we have used one of our blogs to help spread information that we can all use to make better green decisions. Recently on Green Living Tips we came across a list of waste decomposition rates, and we thought this was a great thing to center a blog around. The reason is that when people understand how long it truly takes things to break down in nature, they will make better green decisions. Too often people throw something away and assume that it will just eventually disappear.

Most people will be surprised by just how long things take to decompose. Both Layla and I were.

Here are decomposition rates of various items we all throw away, again courtesy of Green Living Tips, along with some of the events that occured that same number of years ago to put it in perspective.
  • Glass Bottle: 1,000,000 years. Roughly one million years ago humans were just learning to walk upright.
  • Mono-filament fishing line: 600 years. Six centuries ago it was 1409. That was over 80 years before Columbus landed in the New World.
  • Plastic beverage bottles: 450 years. Four and a half centuries ago it was 1559. Back in that year, Queen Elizabeth I was crowned Queen of England.
  • Disposable Diapers: 450 years. See above.
  • Aluminum Can: 200 years. Back in 1809, Charles Darwin was born in England.
  • Boot sole: 80 years: Back in 1929 the Stock Market crashed, paving the way for the Great Depression.
  • Tin Can, Leather and a Styrofoam Cup: 50 years. Back in 1959, Fidel Castro took control of Cuba.
  • Nylon Fabric: 40 years. In 1969, man landed on the moon for the first time.
  • Plastic film canister: 30 years. In 1979, the Edmonton Oilers joined the NHL and Wayne Gretzky played his first NHL game.
  • Wool sock and Cigarette filter: Five years. In 2004 I first met Layla and George W. Bush was re-elected as President of the United States.
  • Plywood: Three years. In 2006, Layla and I were married and the Edmonton Oilers came within one game of the Stanley Cup (Yes, I am an Oilers fan :) )
  • Wax milk carton: Three months. In January, Barack Obama was sworn in as President of the United States.
  • Apple core: Two months. In February, a Russian and American pair of satellites collided over the Earth.
  • Newspaper: Six Weeks. In March, NASA's Keplar mission is launched to search for extrasolar planets.
  • Paper towel: Four weeks. In March, see above.
So, by looking at these decomposition rates we can learn to recycle and reuse so that these items don't end up in the landfills where they can sit for decades, centuries or even 1,000,000 years.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Day 347 of our Green Year: Shaving Green

As most of you will figure out from pictures of me on this blog, I have a beard. However, while I have a beard, there is the need to shave my neck and parts of the face to ensure the beard doesn't start to look too shaggy.

Disposable shavers are out of the question because Layla and I stopped buying disposables months ago. Each year in the United States, 2,000,000,000 disposable razors are purchased, and that means 2,000,000,000 razors end up in the landfills each year.

We figure that using an electrical razor is better than the alternatives because it lasts for years, you don't have to replace it and it only uses a small amount of electricity. However, what if you don't have an electrical razor? What can you do? Here are some quick tips to help you.

You can try and extend the life of your disposable razors, if that is what you buy, by limiting how much you rinse it. You can use the razor until its blunt or rusts. The rusting happens quickly and that makes it go dull. To slow down the rusting, only rinse your razor minimally and flick off excess water when you are done with it. Then, put it in a container of olive oil. You can greatly increase the life of the disposable razor by doing this.

As for shaving cream, well it contains many chemicals that you may not want touching your skin. Courtesy of Green Living Tips, here is some of the ingredients found in shaving cream:


Palmitic Acid
Stearic Acid
Triethanolamine,
Butane
Isobutane
Laureth-23
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
Propane
Parfum
Sodium benzoate
Hydroxythylcellulose
Lauryl alcohol
Stearyl alcohol
Irish moss
Dimethicone PEG/PPG-20/23 benzoate
DMDM Hydantoin
Coceth-7
PPG-1-PEG-9 Lauryl Glycol ether
PEG-40 Hydrogenated castor oil
BHT
Iodopropynyl butylcarbamate

Naturally, you may not want that on your skin. Not to mention that goes down the drain and then out into our natural environment. Not all gets removed in water purification processes.

Instead, look for some natural shaving creams, or even look at making your own natural soaps for shaving by doing a search on Google!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Day 346 of our Green Year: Greening Our Easter

Well next week is Easter and as Layla and I have done for Halloween, St. Patrick's Day, Christmas, Thanksgiving and Valentine's Day, we are going to green it up.

There are several great ways that you can green Easter, without sacrificing those precious memories of chocolate that we all have for the holiday.

First of all, you can look at the basket that you are using to collect eggs and choose one that you can reuse. You can reuse baskets for gathering flowers, vegetables, or to hold things in the living room like magazines. They can also make great holders of fruits in your kitchen.

Second, instead of buying the fake plastic type grass that comes in baskets that you find in stores, use real grass.

Next, you can choose not to use real eggs but papier-mache eggs that can be reused over and over again through the years. This makes a great option if you don't want to use eggs. If you decide to use eggs, use eggs that come from grain fed, free range chickens.

If you choose to use real eggs, then use natural dyes instead of dyes that come from chemicals. Your local organic store should have some natural dyes that you can use.

Fourth, don't buy any of those small chocolate eggs wrapped in foil. There are dozens of these eggs per plastic bag and that means a lot of foil wrapping. Instead of buying those eggs, give gifts to your children that they can reuse.

On that same point, remember it is the experience that makes Easter fun, not the toys or candy.

Speaking of candy, if you decide to give chocolate, please choose organic and fair trade chocolate. Fair trade chocolate is chocolate that comes from farmers who got the cocoa in conditions that are not borderline slavery, and all the farmers who sell fair trade cocoa are paid what they should be paid.

Enjoy your Easter everyone!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Day 345 of our Green Year: Making Pot Pourri

Months ago, we banned buying air fresheners in our house because they carry particles that can be carcinogenic, and that just happens to be where the chemical smell comes from. However, when we made our own air fresheners, we found it was not as easy as you would think and did not work all that well. To compensate, we would open our windows to clear the air rather than buy air fresheners.

Well, now thanks to Daily Eco Tips, we have a new way and it comes by making our own pot pourri. By making our own pot pourri, we can eliminate the need not only for chemical air fresheners, but also those air fresheners that come in plastic containers and use an aerosol-based spray.

Pot pourri can be made easily. All it takes is picking some flowers and using their petals, grabbing some pine needles, some leaves and other outdoor offerings from plants. That way, you can put it altogether into a bowl and allow the fresh smell of the outdoors to fill your home. While opening the windows can do this, on those cold and windy days, using what nature provides may be the best option.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Day 344 of our Green Year: No Polyester

Layla and I have tried to green our wardrobe through a number of methods during Our Green Year. We have limited our clothing purchases to only when we need clothes. We try and only buy our items from thrift stores so we are not buying new clothes. If we do buy new, we look for clothes that are made from organic cotton and from hemp. Today, we go another step further and ban polyester clothes in our home.

Polyester is often thought of in terms of the polyester suits that existed in the 1970s. These clothes were not attractive yet they sold like hot cakes during that decade. These days, many clothes are made from polyester rather than cotton. However, polyester is made from a nonrenewable crude oil that is a heavy producer of pollution due to mining and manufacturing of it.

While it may seem pointless to ban polyester since we only buy second-hand and natural fiber items, there are several other items that are made from polyester. Polyester fabrics are used in bed sheets, curtains and draperies. In addition, it is used in rope, and serves as stuffing for comforters and cushions.

So for us, polyester is banned in our household in all its various forms.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Day 343 of our Green Year: Organic Lip Balm

One of the biggest changes we have found moving from the Kootenays in British Columbia, to the interior of Central Alberta, is that the air is much, much drier. Drier air means that there is a lot more cracking skin. In addition, it also means a lot more cracking lips.

Cracking lips, especially in summer, can be painful and highly unpleasant, but many lip balms carry a variety of chemicals that we put on our lips and then allow to get into our bodies through our mouths and saliva. There has to be a better way, and there is.

The better way is through organic lip balm like Burt's Bee's Wax. Thankfully, the organic store that we go to here has many different kinds of organic lip balm that is good for you and good for the environment.

So, from now on, it is organic lip balm when our lips need moisture (if a damp cloth isn't helping or we are away from the house)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Day 342 of our Green Year: No Q-Tips

When we buy clothes, we do our best to buy clothes that do not use cotton and if it does, it is cotton that is grown organically. We also try and limit plastics that are disposable and cannot be recycled. We thought we were doing really well with this until we realized that each week, we waste cotton and plastic in our ears without even thinking about it.

Q-Tips each carry a bit of cotton and a plastic sleeve around the middle. These items are only used once and then they are thrown away. These are the epitome of disposable and we had banned all disposable items.

So, today we go further and we ban Q-tips.

It is important to keep your ears clean of course, so the alternative we will use is a wash cloth in the shower. That way, while we are washing up, we can clean our ears with something that can be reused again.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Day 341 of our Green Year: Seed Starters and Planning The Garden

Well spring is coming and that means it is time to start planning out the garden. Throughout the year, we have had plants in our home, and some vegetables that we have grown. This is especially nice during the winter because you can have fresh vegetables, even when there is snow outside.

Now, with spring beginning and the snow melting, it is time to get the garden planned and that begins with seed starters.

Seed starters are where you start growing some of the vegetables, like tomatoes, except you do it indoors. This is done so that you can get a head start on the growing season and don't have to resort to using chemicals to get the plants growing faster. As well, you can plant earlier because the plants will be strong enough to survive through insects and more right away.

In addition, it gives you a use for a variety of items in your home including yogurt containers, egg cartons and more.

So, today we begin with our seed starters and we begin the process of planning out the garden for this coming summer. The more we plan the garden, the better it will be and the more we will get out of it.....we hope.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Day 340 of our Green Year: Natural Medicines

Happy Earth Hour everyone! I am making sure I get this done before 8:30 pm so that we can observe Earth Hour here at the ranch.

So, this day, our 340th, we are going to talk about using natural medicines. Natural medicines are becoming more and more popular among people in the western world because people want to try curing themselves with what nature gives them. As well, when we take medication, some of that medication often comes out in our waste (urine and feces) and then flushed down the toilet. They have found that many animals are being affected by high estrogen levels because of the birth control pill. The same goes for other medications.

Now, before we go further, we are not doctors. We are not saying that these natural medicines are going to cure everything. These are just some alternatives we have found. if you truly worry about your health, contact a doctor!

If you are feeling down, instead of taking anti-depressants, you can put a couple of drops of lavender oil on your temples. This can temporarily relieve anxieties and help calm you. Having lavender smells in your home or office will also help.

If you want to heal your skin, instead of using department store facial creams or medicines, you can try 100 percent therapeutic grade massage oil or vitamin E cream.

Another tip for your mood is to buy 100 percent natural flower essences. What are those? Well they are flowers you grow outside with nothing but water and the sun. Flowers are a great way to add nice aromas and balance your mood.

If you are having troubles with high blood pressure, try some nice herbal teas or use some dandelion tea.

If you have trouble with diabetes, asthma or any number of conditions, you can contact a herbalist and see what options are available to you. Make sure you choose someone who has credentials and training with herbs and you should be able to get some very beneficial herbs.

Several years ago, I went for a physical and found out that I had cysts in a certain area. I consulted a homeopathic doctor, and they not only provide me with natural medication for the cysts, but also for my fatty liver (I used to have a weight problem). When I went to get a ultrasound on the cysts, they were gone and my fatty liver had improved. That is just one way that natural medicines can help.

So, unless it is a severe medical issue that only a doctor can help with, we will be using natural remedies for minor things like colds, flus, aches, pains, headaches and more.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Day 339 of our Green Year: Reusing Calendar Pages

For Christmas, my grandmother gave me a Simpsons Personal Calendar. This is the type of calendar where you rip the paper off for each day, eventually getting down through the stack of calendar pages (365 in all).

A nice gift from my grandmother, but not very green. As a result, there comes the need to turn this ungreen gift into something that is green. So, how do we do that?

Well, there are a variety of uses for the calendar pages:

  1. You can use the calendar pages for quick notes and messages from the phone.
  2. You can use the calendar pages for lists
  3. You can use the calendar pages as a liner for small boxes
Once you use those calendar pages, don't throw them away. At our place and in our home office, once we have used the calendar pages, we put them in our paper recycling box so that they are recycled and reused down the line.

Calendars may not be green, but by reusing and then recycling those pages, you can turn an ungreen gift into something green.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Day 338 of our Green Year: Planning Routes

There is no denying that driving creates greenhouse gases. Living at the ranch, we go into town once, and sometimes twice, a week for groceries and any errands that may have to be completed. While I know the area that we live, there are often times that the route is not always planned in advance, and that creates waste.

Waste creates carbon dioxide emissions that do not need to exist because we can avoid them. When we go into town, we have a list that shows exactly where we need to go during the day. By planning out that list, we try and make sure we go to the places we need to in the proper order so there is no waste. However, there is even a better way to do this. We can plan out the complete routes.

By looking at the streets to take, planning out the routes for the most efficiency, we can ensure that no fuel is wasted and no extra carbon dioxide emissions are created. This can be done a variety of ways, either with a map or with GPS (which we don't have).

Planning routes can save energy and time, so it is a win-win situation.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Day 337 of our Green Year: Buttons Made Sustainable

Throughout Our Green Year, we have tried to remove plastic from our lives. Plastic is the scorn of our planet's existence. It seems that every area of the planet has plastic in it and when archeologists look at our layer in history when they dig down, they will see a solid layer of plastic. While that is an exaggeration, the truth is that plastic is everywhere and in everything and it takes 1,000 years for it to degrade away.

One plastic item that most of us never think of, but may use every single day, is the buttons on our shirts. I enjoy wearing plaid shirts, but all my plaid shirts have plastic buttons on them. When one breaks off, I have to go and get another one, made out of plastic.

However, as it turns out, there is an alternative and it is TreeButtons. TreeButtons are a sustainable alternative to other types of buttons. These buttons are made from Cherry, Birch, Oak and Maple tree branches, and they do not warp or crack. They are finished with sandpaper and are preserved with natural nut oil. Plus, these buttons are made from sustainable trees so that the environment is not threatened.

Now when a button comes off a shirt, we will replace it with TreeButtons.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Day 336 of our Green Year: Recycled Jewel Cases

Through our company, we create videos for clients that help them train employees as well as serve to help with orientation and other company needs. Typically, we film it and then provide the videos to customers in the form of DVDs, and these DVDs are in cases. Recently, when we sent a video to a client, we thought that maybe we could make the cases greener.

Thankfully, it turns out there is a way to do this and it comes in the form of recycled jewel cases. Recycled jewel cases are made from a wide variety of materials, including other jewel cases. This makes them perfect when you are trying to go green with your business like ours.

We are pretty sure Staples sells recycled jewel cases but we are going to see what varieties exist out there for us to use. That way, we can send out the jewel cases to our clients and not worry about the effect it is going to have on the environment.

In addition, we will attach a note asking that when they are done with the DVD and jewel case, that they also recycle those materials through the methods that exist.

We will also ask our clients if we can send them the files through YouSendIt.com so that there are no DVDs needed and no shipping emissions created. Not all companies want this, and they may just download the videos onto their own DVD but at least the shipping emissions are saved.

We will offset the shipping of DVDs to clients as well.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Day 335 of our Green Year: Taking The Train

While Layla and I have committed to taking Staycations this year, in the future we will need to travel a long distance for a variety of reasons. For example, next year we are planning on visiting some close friends of ours in Ontario. That is about 3,000 kilometers away from us, and that begs the question, how should we go to visit these friends? Should we take a car? plane? train?

If Elizabeth May, the leader of the federal Green Party, has taught us anything, it is that taking the train is green. For the election year, she toured the country by train instead of plane and was the first politician to do so in the past 50 years. How much greener is it to take a train from Alberta to Ontario? Much Greener! According to several studies, taking a train creates one-tenth (10 percent) of the emissions that a plane does. While a plane creates 140 to 158 CO2 grams per kilometer, a train only creates 44.

Now, what about driving that distance? Surely a car uses less CO2 than a plane, but it is greener than a train? Turns out it is. While a train creates 44 grams of CO2 per kilometer, a car creates 118!

So, to be green when we visit our close friends in Ontario, or when we have to travel a long distance to see family, we will be going by train. We understand not everyone can do this because taking a train is more expensive, but we can and that is why we choose to.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Day 334 of our Green Year: All Natural Glue

Layla makes a lot of crafts from a variety of reused items. Whether it is using yogurt cups, Popsicle sticks or any other type of reused item, the one thing that is needed to make it all fit together is glue.

While there is a rumor that horses make glue, I have no way to really confirm this. Regardless, glue is full of chemicals and when we use it we are inhaling those chemicals. In addition, making glue then processes those chemicals, which pollutes the environment and not just our health.

Naturally, it makes sense to make green crafts by using a natural glue and that is why, just in time for spring and summer and the inevitable farmer's markets, we are going to make sure our glue is all-natural. There are plenty of all natural glues found in nature, including a natural adhesive composed of bacteria that is stronger than superglue.

We did some research and thanks to Treehugger.com, we found this one to be the best:

In the words of Treehugger, Coccoina Eco-Friendly Glue is"awesome. They’re just as portable as the glues you used in grade school…except they’re not bad for the environment. They’re non-toxic as well as acid and solvent free. They’ve got glue sticks that sell for around three dollars."

Now our crafts can be not only made from reused and recycled materials, but held together by a green glue.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Day 333 of our Green Year: Turning On A Trickle

One important part of Our Green Year has been saving water. We have saved water in a variety of methods, including limiting our showers, only turning the tap on when we need to and reusing all the water that we can, both inside and out in nature.

One thing we never thought of was how much water when we turn the tap on, even briefly, and do we need it on full blast. Green As A Thistle, which is a great site that has provided us with many ideas for going green, raises the point of why not only turn the water on a trickle when you are brushing your teeth. Instead of turning the tap on, full blast, you can turn it on a trickle and just rinse off your toothbrush with a bit of water. Instead of using a blast of water, you can use a trickle of water.

Sometimes going green means taking something we have already done to go green, and improving on it to go even more green.

Thanks again to Green As A Thistle for all the great suggestions that they list on their site.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Day 332 of our Green Year: Eco-Dent Floss

Having clean and healthy teeth is very important. Clean teeth can keep bacteria from developing, and when harmful bacteria develops, it can cause problems for the body as the mouth is essentially the gateway to the entire body. One place where a lot of bacteria can develop is in between the teeth. To get those bits of food in there, you need to get some dental floss. So, who is to say you can't be green with your dental floss?

Most dental floss is not biodegradable, and while you think that throwing that little piece of dental floss away is no big deal because it is so small, think about if you floss every night, and then multiple that little bit by 365 pieces, and that by the number of years that you floss and then multiply that by the millions of people who use dental floss each night. It amounts to a lot of dental floss that does not biodegrade. Dental floss is made from teflon usually, and usually has chemical waxes on it to help it go between your teeth. The flushing of dental floss is something you shouldn't do, but which many people do, because it can cause blockages in the sewer lines over time. Many municipalities have regulations against putting dental floss in the toilet (but how can you enforce it?)

So, Layla and I will be using Eco-Dent Vegan Floss. This great floss is made from, as you guessed it, non-animal or chemical products. Instead, nylon is used and the wax comes from rice. Silk is not used because silk production sometimes uses child labor and it can be very painful for insects to have silk taken from them. The best part is that the packaging is recyclable and the product is completely biodegradable so that you can put it in your compost bin.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Day 331 of our Green Year: Cloth Lint Rollers

Layla and I run a business out of our house, and there are times where we have to go and meet clients at their business, or perhaps at our favorite coffee shop. The problem is that we live in a house that has a lot of cats that have been rescued or dropped here by people who figure its okay to drop cats in the country.

Now, combine a lot of cats, shirts and pants, and business meetings and you have a combination for a lot of hair on a lot of clothes. Hence, that creates the need to get the lint off. While many people just use tape, or use those tape rollers, there is a more eco-friendly way. There are cloth lint rollers that catch the hair and can be reused many times over the years. Unlike tape rollers, you don't have to keep replacing the cloth ones with new ones because the tape has run out. This makes things better for the environment and cheaper in the long run.

The best part is that we don't have to worry about cat hair on our clothes anymore, and we aren't throwing out pieces of tape everytime we have to meet a client.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Day 330 of our Green Year: Banning Styrofoam

Over the course of 330 days, we have done many things. Some have been obvious, some have been obscure. I had thought we were through all the obvious items, months ago, but it turns out that we forgot something. It is banning Styrofoam.

In many ways, we have banned Styrofoam though a variety of methods, including not using take out containers and using take out containers from home instead. However, we have never come right out and banned Styrofoam.

Well, today is the day that we officially make Styrofoam something we do not have in our home. We don't get Styrofoam take-out containers and we limit our packaging so we don't have to deal with Styrofoam packing. If something does come in the Styrofoam, then we crush up the Styrofoam so that we can reuse it as packaging material. We don't use Styrofoam cups or plates either, and this banning will ensure no one else in this house does either.

Many items have Styrofoam in them, and that means we have to be very vigilant to ensure that we do not add to how much Styrofoam.

Styrofoam leaves a lot of harmful items in the air when burned, and it lasts for quite a long time. It is a main reason why we use reusable cups for our coffees, and now the rest of Styrofoam is banned in our hosue

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Day 329 of our Green Year: Biodegradable Garbage Bags

At the ranch, we have a bin for cans, a bin for bottles, a bin for milk jugs (the bottles we take back to the organic store for money back), a bin for small cardboard and a bin for large cardboard. In addition, we have a very large compost pile going. However, the one thing that we do not have that is green is the garbage bags, which hold the little amount of garbage that we create. We try to limit our packaging and try and recycle everything that we have, so only a small amount of garbage is created.

Well, today we found and are going to keep using biodegradable garbage bags. Before, we had purchased recycled garbage bags, which are great but we were really intrigued by the biodegradable garbage bags. Manufactured by GLAD, they will biodegrade in the sun. If everyone used these types of garbage bags, it would take a large amount of plastic out of our landfills. We can't use cloth garbage bags, but we can make sure the garbage bags we use will slowly disappear and not clog our landfills. Even recycled material garbage bags can't do that.

Today, Layla and I did our weekly grocery shop and decided to check out the Misella Delite Organic Cafe in our town. It was a great experience. They sell a variety of organic and vegan dishes, as well as environmentally-friendly items. On top of that, they provide take out containers that are 100 percent biodegradable and if you bring them back for more take out, they will take 50 cents off each meal. No, we were not asked to put up a review of this place and no we are not getting a discount or anything :). We just feel that restaurants like this are great for our bodies and the environment and should get as much business as possible.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Day 328 of our Green Year: Going Green....For St. Patrick's Day

Tomorrow is a big day. It is St. Patrick's Day, and with my Irish heritage I always look forward to celebrating being Irish. Since this year we are going green, how fitting is it to go green on the green holiday?

While Layla and I are not big beer drinkers, preferring wine, we are going to be celebrating this St. Patrick's Day with something simple and that is sending e-cards from Care2.com to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. For every e-card we send through Care2.com, we help to donate money to environmental programs around the world.

However, if you want to go green on St. Patrick's Day beyond just sending e-cards, then there are several ways to do it.

First, if you are going to sample some beer this St. Patrick's Day, try to go with organic beer if you can find it. It is more expensive but most people feel the taste is excellent and superior to that of other beers. However, if you want to go with a traditional Irish beer, but want to give it a green feeling, then you could get some organic food coloring for it.

Second, you can even put up some green LED lights. A string of these, maybe from Christmas, uses very little energy and can be the perfect decoration to your St. Patrick's Day party.

For treats at the St. Patrick's Day party, go for organic crackers and the like. Try and serve up some organic food to your guests to see how they like it. Some may like the taste of the food so much that they will choose to buy some of their own.

Next, if you are giving away party favors, then you can give out seeds for plants, vegetables and especially herbs like basil and cilantro. Then your guests can take those seeds home and plant some items of their own to grow.

St. Patrick's Day can be a lot of fun, and it can be more then just Irish green, when you go environmentally green with your St. Patrick's Day.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Day 327 of our Green Year: Commit21

This tip comes from one of our readers who told us about Commit21.com, which is a cool website that has been created for the purpose of inspiring people to create a positive green change in their lives. They do this through campaigns, with their first campaign being supporting Earth Hour, as we committed to doing a few days ago. They want to help WWF inspire 1,000,000,000 people to turn off their lights.

However, that is not all this website is about. While its first campaign is about Earth Hour, once that passes it will move onto another campaign to help raise awareness about it.

All the while, people create groups within Commit21.com that help to gain awareness about what the website is currently supporting. We even created our own group here to help raise awareness of Earth Hour beyond what we mentioned on our website: http://www.commit21.com/group/82/Raise-Awareness-on-Our-Gr.html

The people who have committed to making groups here have made the choice to go green and to support Earth Hour through whatever means that they have. One has committed to raising awareness for Earth Hour through his marketing techniques, while others are choosing to go green beyond that. Another person is going to encourage her neighbors to turn off their lights.

One great feature of this website is that while you may have thought that you will turn off the lights on Earth Hour, you may have not thought of explaining to your neighbor why they should, or that when you turn off your lights for Earth Hour, you will then replace all your lights with energy efficient light bulbs!

There are many methods to go green, and there are many ways to raise awareness about going green, which can be just as helpful. the more people who know about going green, the better off we would all be.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Day 326 of our Green Year: Avoid Hotel Toiletries

Sometimes we all need to travel, and when we travel we usually stay in hotels, motels, or inns. In hotels, we use towels and they are washed after one use (although not in all hotels), we sleep once in beds and the linens are cleaned, and generally the overall process is quite wasteful. That is not even considering those little shampoos, soaps and more that are individually wrapped. As well, glasses are wrapped individually in plastic.

This is a big waste.

As a result, when Layla and I have to travel and stay in a hotel, we will not only bring our own towels, but we will bring our own toiletries. This way, we do not use what the hotel provides, we do not waste plastic, and we use what we already have and which is environmentally friendly because we try and buy only green toiletries.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Day 325 of our Green Year: Protecting Tiger Habitats

Over the course of Our Green Year, we have signed several petitions. We have signed petitions to stop the seal hunt, save animals and today, to save tiger habitats.

Tigers are one of the most endangered species on the planet, but they are also one of the most recognizable. It is feasible that within the next few decades, we could see the complete loss of this amazing animal due to habitat destruction. This would be a huge loss for our planet.


In Sumatra, only 400 Sumatran tigers remain in the wild. Once they are gone, that is it. This is due to illegal logging that is destroying their habitat, and the practice of clearing forest for palm oil and pulpwood plantations. In the past 22 years alone, 50 percent of the forests in Sumatra have been lost.

So, to help stop the logging of tiger habitats, we are signing the petition to do something about it (we hope).

You can do the same at: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/275606122

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Day 324 of our Green Year: Seafood For The Future

Throughout Our Green Year, we have done various things to help the sea environment. We have done the Click To Donate on Care2.com to help the sea. We only buy fish that has been caught in a sustainable manner. We limit how much shrimp we buy and we only buy shrimp that is organic as well. In addition, we have talked about FishPhone.

However, there is another website out there that can help; SeafoodForTheFuture.com

In the Los Angeles area, seafood consumption is twice that of the rest of the nation and nearly all of the seafood (80 percent) is imported. This is why it is so important to have fish that comes from sustainable sources. By finding fish from sustainable sources, it reduces harmful fishing methods and reduces carbon footprints.
This is why the Aquarium of the Pacific has created Seafood for the Future. As they describe it:

"Seafood for the Future will provide for consumers, chefs, and restaurateurs a labeling system, supported by extensive transparent research, that will empower them to easily identify sustainable and healthy seafood choices. We will be working closely with your favorite restaurants and their seafood suppliers to ensure that approved products are safe- both for you and the environment."

According to their website:
  • "We actually want people to eat more seafood - not just because it’s delicious, but because eating seafood is the best way to get the Omega-3 fatty acids you need to keep your mind sharp and your heart healthy. If it’s not healthy for you, we won’t recommend it, even if it comes from an eco-friendly source.
  • We look at the source of the seafood, not just the species in question. Sometimes the sustainability of a fish depends on where, when, and how it was caught. We do the legwork to find the best sources for recommended species.
  • We are focused on building relationships between restaurants, fish suppliers, and consumers in Southern California. Having our logo next to a menu item means that we have built a network of trust that extends from the source all the way to your plate.
  • We support fish farming, both domestically and abroad, wherever sustainable aquaculture is practiced. We’ve seen that good aquaculture practices produce high-quality seafood with positive environmental impacts (see our Education page on the topic). We also know that capture fisheries won’t be able to keep up with the world’s demand for seafood. However, it’s important to support farms that embrace sustainable practices in this growing field"
This is why we are happy to raise awareness of SeafoodForTheFuture.com.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Day 323 of our Green Year: Coffee Body Scrub

Way way way way back near the beginning of Our Green Year, man it seems so long ago, we made a sugar scrub as a way of making our own type of body wash that can be used in the shower.
Today, we are going green with another body scrub, and this one is one I like. For me, nothing beats the smell of coffee in the morning, I love to drink it but I have never thought of using it in a body scrub. Turns out, you can and it is good for the environment because you are recycling the grounds.

Typically, we compost coffee grounds, but on occasion we are going to try making a coffee grounds body scrub. It is quite easy to do.

All you need is five teaspoons of ground coffee that has been used (recycling!), one teaspoon of sugar and two teaspoons of essential oil. Mix it all together and when you are in the shower, put it on with a circular motion. Leave it on for five minutes and then rinse it off. By putting a catch int he drain, you can then get the coffee grounds and compost them afterwards!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Day 322 of our Green Year: Dealing With Kitchen Sponges

In our home, we will clean throughout the week. We like a clean home and we like that we can clean our home with a variety of items including lemon juice, vinegar and baking soda. Usually we use use cloths, but sponges are great for cleaning because they can hold so much water. The problem is that kitchen sponges are not great for the environment, so we have to look for alternatives.

First, of all, sponges carry chemicals like Triclosan which is an anti-bacterial and anti-fungal agent. It is even registered with the EPA as a pesticide, and we are coating our countertops with it every time that we clean.

Triclosan can cause health problems, and it can also cause damage in aquatic environments by killing needed elements like algae. Water treatment plants cannot remove triclosan and triclosan stays stable for a very long time, so it is accumulating in the streams and rivers of the country.

Instead, you can get a Cellulose sponge that is made from cellulose, which comes from plantation forests or from recycling.

We can also make our own sponges from Luffa. Luffa is a fruit which sponges are made from. It is an environmentally friendly product and you can even grow a Luffa plant in your garden to make the sponge.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Day 321 of our Green Year: Coconut Oil Uses

Do you use coconut oil in your home? Chances are you may not, but don't feel bad, before today we did not use coconut oil either. However, after learning about the uses of coconut oil, which is all-natural, in the home.

First, you can use coconut oil on your skin as a moisturizer. It works great on dry and aging skin and it leaves you refreshed after you put it on. It also helps to reduce wrinkles and other skin problems including psoriasis, dermatitis and eczema.

Second, if you are having a stressful day, you can apply coconut oil to your head in a circular massaging motion. The aroma of the oil will sooth you, as will the massaging.

Third, if you are having problems with your digestion, you can take coconut oil. Coconut oil has saturated fats in it that have anti-bacterial properties that will control parasites and fungus that can cause you problem with your digestion. Apparently, it can also help relieve irritable bowel syndrome as well.

Fourth, coconut oil can stimulate not only your metabolism, but your thyroid as well to help you decrease unwanted fat by upping your energy level.

There you have it, four great uses from coconut oil. Layla and I will be picking up some soon to help feel better and healthier.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Day 320 of our Green Year: Cooking Over An Open Fire

Well, here we are with 45 more days to go. Seems like we have been doing this forever but we are happy to do it. Over the course of the previous 320 days, our lives have changed quite a bit. We feel healthier with what we are eating, as well we feel good about all the things we are doing to help the planet. More than that, it is great to get e-mails from everyone telling us about what they are doing to go green as well.

However, enough of all that, let's get to the blog for today.

At the ranch, we have a fire pit in the front yard where we can sit and relax during the summer evenings. Well, this summer that fire pit is going to serve another purpose beyond just providing us heat. We will be cooking on it.

Layla and I love to go backpacking, and when you backpack, you have to cook your meals on a fire. There is nothing like it and we decided that this year, we will cook more food on the fire and less in the kitchen.

There are a lot of trees in the area, and some have fallen down. As a result, we will be using that wood (as long as it is not serving as a habitat for something) for our firewood. We are also getting our firewood from a sustainable source. Then we can cook our food over the fire, rather than in the kitchen on the stove.

It is not perfect, but it is just another solution that we can use to go green in our cooking, no different than how we use the fireplace inside to heat the house up so we don't use the furnace as much.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Day 319 of our Green Year: Steaming Instead of Boiling

Recently, I found out that boiling water is not always the most environmental thing you can do when you are cooking vegetables. In our kitchen, we already use the slow cooker more than the stove, as well we use a small personal fryer more than the stove. However, sometimes we still do boil our vegetables on the stove.

Apparently, if you are worried about energy and wasting it, then boiling water for vegetables is not the best choice. Instead, use should be steaming the vegetables. This struck us as odd, since to steam something you need to boil water to create the steam. However, as it turns out, you can cook food a lot faster using the steam and more importantly, you can keep most of the nutrients and important minerals from vegetables in the vegetables. When you boil the vegetables, it can cause you to lose a lot of those helpful minerals in the vegetables.

If you are cooking on a stove, as in using a pan with a bamboo steamer as we used to, you are only saving a little bit of energy. However, here we now have a steamer that connects to the outlet. This uses a lot less energy than the stove and it helps keep our organic vegetables healthy with everything they have in them, and nothing seeping out.