Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Day 253 of our Green Year: Green Resolutions

Happy New Year to everyone!

Today, due to another get-together, we have a short post. Simply put, it is about making green resolutions. This is the time of year when everyone makes the decision to change something about themselves. They may want to lose weight, learn to play something or write a book.

For Layla and I, today is about making the resolution to continue going green every day and to continue to stick with everything we have done so far, even after Our Green Year is over. We are also making the resolution to find new ways to educate people about green issues even after Our Green Year is over.

I hope 2009 is a green year for everyone, including planet Earth.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Day 252 of our Green Year: Joining the Audubon Society

One of the older wildlife societies in North America is the Audubon Society. Created over 100 years ago, it works to conserve and restore natural ecosystems to their original state, focusing on birds and other wildlife to help benefit the biological diversity of the planet.

Many people in Canada do not know about this society, but it is quite popular and well-known in the United States. Since Layla and I are members of the Sierra Club, WWF, Greenpeace and more, we think that it is important to show support to as many organizations as possible to help benefit the Earth.

A Canadian membership with the Audubon Society costs $45 and it is money well-spent in our mind. The network of community-based nature centers and chapters, scientific and educational programs that make up the Audubon Society works hard to keep sustainable bird and animal populations, while educating millions of people on how to conserve important habitats.

To learn more about the Audubon Society yourself, visit here.

With everything finally slowing down, we can finally detail how our Christmas went. First, we did go ahead with the veggie dinner, with the centerpiece of the meal being a sweet potato pie. It was an excellent supper and everyone loved it.
Our Christmas presents were few, and that is how we wanted it. I gave Layla a hand-crafted journal from a local store, that was made with organic cotton pages and can keep being used for years to come. She gave me a coupon book for things like hugs, cups of coffee, sugar treats made by her and more. It is a gift that is very special, and which we do not need to go out and purchase.

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Monday, December 29, 2008

Day 251 of our Green Year: Bamboo Flooring

The decisions with renovations continue here at the ranch, even with the busy Christmas season, and today we have made the decision to put in new flooring during the renovations to replace the old, worn out flooring. The new flooring will be bamboo flooring, which is much more environmentally friendly (but perhaps not as good as other flooring from what we have read)

Bamboo is a grass, and it can grow incredibly fast, up to several feet per day. Hence, it is a renewable resource that can be replaced very quickly and easily. Oak trees take 120 years to get to the point where they can be used for a lot of wood products, but bamboo only takes three years to get to the same type of maturity. It provides 6,000,000 jobs in China (the bamboo industry does) and 600,000,000 worldwide derive an income from it.

Hence, in our home it will be bamboo flooring from now on.

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Day 250 of our Green Year: Going Solar

Another short one due to the hectic Christmas season, but here at the ranch we have made the decision to go green by implementing solar power.
We are currently looking around at options for installing solar panels here at the ranch as we do renovations. We want to have solar power in our home to power as much as we can in an effort to help keep our carbon footprint to a minimum.

Using solar power will also help us learn to conserve even more energy so we do not drain the batteries too much.

So begins the search for solar power options for the ranch.

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Day 249 of our Green Year: Limiting Showers

So far in just this week we have done a number of things to limit our water use beyond the various commitments we have already made for water use as part of Our Green Year, including collecting rain water, snow and gray water, taking navy showers, washing clothes by hand, not watering our lawn and limiting our showers to five minutes.

Well, we are going one more further on conserving water by limiting our showers to every two days. We decided to do this because with our navy showers, collecting shower water and limiting showers to five minutes, by showering every two days we use a minuscule amount of water to keep ourselves clean.

We do not do any heavy lifting work, at least not until the summer, and we spend most of our time indoors. Therefore, we think there is not much of a problem with keeping our showers to every two days. Unless we are filthy after a day of working outside, there is no reason to shower every day for us.

It is a small thing we can do to limit our water use and protect our freshwater for the use by future generations.

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Friday, December 26, 2008

Day 248 of our Green Year: Protecting Birds

At the ranch we have a large picture window that looks out into the front yard. As part of one of our commitments, we had put a bird feeder down in the garden, about eight feet away from the window, below some trees, a bird feeder. This was the best place to hang the bird feeder, but it has presented a problem and that is birds have begun to hit our window when they fly around that area.

We want to protect birds and not hurt their species numbers, and we have begun to worry about how many birds could be killed by hitting our window (although of all the birds that have hit, they have all flown away).

Hence, we are going to be putting up some hanging ornaments in front of the window to keep the birds from flying into them. My grandmother had used strips of cloth and that worked quite well for her, and with the ornaments we were given for Christmas, including a beautiful copper wheel, this should keep the birds away from the window.

Layla and I don't quite know why it works, possibly something with the reflection to show birds there is something there, but it does work and quite well. So for our 248th day of Our Green Year, we are protecting birds by putting up items in the window to keep them from flying into them. Birds are already in danger from high cat numbers, cars, wind turbines and other windows in the city, we do not want to hurt their numbers anymore than they already have. You may not think this is a problem, but it is estimated that as many as 1,000,000,000 birds die every year from hitting windows.

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Day 247 of our Green Year: Recycling Everything On Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone! This is a busy day for us so this post will be a short one.

After the presents are open and everyone is coming off that Christmas high, it is time to start cleaning up the mess from everything. At our ranch, we are making sure that everything is being re-used by us so that we do not waste anything.

First, everything was wrapped in reusable bags or in newspaper. The bags will be used again, the newspapers will be used to start fires in the fireplace.

Second, all cardboard boxes that gifts may have come in will be recycled or stored so they can be reused again.

Third, all plastic and any other pieces that are part of the gifts packaging (as little as we made sure there would be), will be recycled in the best way that we can find.

That is all there really is to making sure you can be green on Christmas. Recycling and reusing everything that the gifts came in, so that all you are left with is the gifts, and the memories of Christmas.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Day 246 of our Green Year: Swaptree

Christmas Eve and the big dude is almost here! We are getting ready at the ranch to open up our presents, early I know, and to prepare our vegetarian Christmas dinner tomorrow.

Today, we are joining and raising awareness about a website that gives you something to do with those unwanted Christmas gifts. Swaptree is the world's biggest swap meet and it is all done online. The great thing about the internet is that it has allowed us to connect with people all over the world to share ideas, swap goods and create a network of people wanting to change the world. This is essentially what Swaptree is.

Books, magazines, DVDs, movies and more can all be swapped around on this website, free of charge. All you have to do is join, put in the items that you want to swap and Swaptree will generate a list of thousands of items that you can receive in trade for any of your items, from all over the world. You don't have to search for trades, negotiate or anything of the sort. Swaptree does everything for you and all you have to do is choose what you want to shop for.

Once you are ready, you print off the postage on your computer, provided through free software with Swaptree and mail your item to its new destination. All you have to pay for is shipping, nothing else.

Now, it is not available in Canada, but they do have plans to expand beyond the United States and we will be ready for them. Until then, we will continue spreading awareness about this great service and website. Visit them at

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Day 245 of our Green Year: Green Banking

Banking is something we all do on a regular basis, and something we often don't think about in an environmental way. The reason for this is that banking seems very green to us. While it is in many ways, it is not when it comes to paper.

Layla and I do bank roughly once a week with our business, and that means we need to find ways to be green with our banking. We have found plenty of tips for doing this, and we are going to implement these in our day-to-day banking lives.

  1. Several months ago, we found more uses for receipts from stores. With banking, you are always getting receipts through using your debit card, the bank machine and going to the teller. To help conserve paper, we will not be getting a receipt from the bank machine or the teller, and when we use our debit card we will take the receipt because usually it prints out automatically. If we don't take it, then it is sometimes just thrown out. We might as well recycle it.
  2. We will try and use debit more often now. Using paper money puts more wear and tear on that money, causing it to eventually need to be taken out of circulation and have new money put into circulation. To conserve on the paper used for this, we will use our debit card more often.
  3. Bank statements take up pages and pages of paper. We already have our bills sent through e-mail, and we currently do not have our bank statements sent to us. We will continue with this practice and only see our bank statements online.
  4. All our banking, except when we have to withdraw money for something or deposit a check, will be done completely online. This way we can transfer money, pay bills and even put money into savings from our home without ever using paper
Banking can be green, and thanks to the internet, it is really not that hard to go green with your banking.

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Day 244 of our Green Year: Drying Towels

Due to the busy Christmas season, this post is going to be a short one.

Simply put, when people shower, they will often put their towel in the hamper immediately after they are done. Then, the next time they shower (usually the next day), they grab another towel. Eventually, they need to do laundry and that can consume a lot of energy and create CO2 in the atmosphere.

For us, since we are already doing Navy Showers at least half the time, showering for five minutes, using a low-flow showerhead and more, we figure we can save a lot of energy by being smart with our towels.

When we shower, we will either air-dry, which can actually be quite relaxing, or we will use a towel. When we use a towel, we will not put it in the hamper but dry it by the fire. That way we can reuse it. After a few uses, we will wash the towels by hand (as we do with our laundry) and then dry it in front of the fire. This should eliminate a great deal of the energy we would have used drying towels.

To recap, after a shower we will:

1. Air dry
2. Use the towel several times after showers
3. Dry the towel in front of the fireplace after showering and after we wash it by hand.

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Day 243 of our Green Year: Navy Showers

Yesterday, Layla and I decided to pay more attention to our water footprint. This was done because while global warming is a serious problem, a lack of available water could become just as, or more serious in the future.

Today, we take a big step towards conserving water and it is a step that most people may not be willing to do. Months ago, we chose to have only five minute showers, well while we may be in the shower for five minutes still, we won't be using five minutes worth of water. The reason for this is because we are now going to practice using navy showers for at least half our showers.

What is a navy shower? Well, since water is so scarce on ships and has to be conserved, navy showers are practiced. It involves using the water to get yourself covered in water and then turning the water off while you lather yourself up with soap. Once you are covered in soap and have shampoo in your hair, you turn the water back on and rinse yourself off.

This is a big adjustment but here at the ranch, we get our water from a well, so water conservation is incredibly important and our hot showers are a sacrifice we are willing to make.
We will continue to collect shower water each time we shower, and we will continue to limit how long we stand in the shower to five minutes or under.

Well we passed 8,000 hits today! With two days ago being our eighth month anniversary, that means we are averaging 1,000 hits per month. We were able to get 1,000 hits in just 28 days this time. Thanks everyone for coming out!

While doing research for a book today, I was looking for quotes and came across this one. It is a Native American quote and I think it explains what is really important perfectly.

Only after the last tree has been cut down,
only after the last river has ben poisoned,
only after the last fish has been caught,
only then will you find that money cannot be eaten.

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Day 242 of our Green Year: Paying Attention To Our Water Footprint

There has been a great deal of talk over the past 242 days of Our Green Year that concerns our carbon footprint. The carbon footprint is very important, but there is another footprint that we all need to be aware of and that is our water footprint.

This realization came to us after listening to a documentary on CBC Radio that mentioned the virtual water footprint. This water footprint concerns how much water we consume through direct and indirect action in our day-to-day lives.

For example, when you buy a steak, you are not only contributing carbon to the atmosphere in the effort to get that steak processed and to your plate, but you are also consuming water indirectly to have that steak because of the water the cow consumed before it was made into that steak.

Paying attention to one's water footprint is very important, especially considering that the available supply of fresh, clean water is getting smaller with each passing day, and many theorists predict that wars of the future will not be fought for oil, but for water.

It is estimated that the average American uses 100 gallons of water per day, compared with 50 gallons of water per day by the French. Also, one flush of the toilet in America uses the same amount of water that someone in the developing world uses for all their cooking, washing, cleaning and drinking in a given day.

The water footprint is very important to Layla and I and it is one reason that we shower for only five minutes, wash clothes by hand and practice the 'If it is yellow, let it mellow. If it is brown, flush it down' rule.

For today, we will begin taking more stock into our water footprint in an effort to lower how much water we use. Next week, we will have several blogs that concern conserving water in our house as a part of this.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Day 241 of our Green Year: Staycation

Brrrrrr....It is very cold out there today. Temperatures were hitting -40, and I was sitting in my home office with a toque on, plus slippers and an extra layer to stay warm without running the furnace too much.

It is times like this that the thoughts of going on vacation enter our minds. Sadly, vacations are not exactly that green, especially if you are traveling a long distance. Going by plane means a lot of CO2, and driving means excess CO2 emissions as well. On top of that, there is the financial toll that going on vacation can take on you and your family. Estimates state that a vacation of only a week or so, for a family of four or five, can cost upwards of $10,000!

This week, Layla and I have begun our vacation from our company. We did it to take a break from the long days we work with at our company and because it is Christmas. Naturally, the thought of vacation crept into our minds, but then we began to think of the environmental toll of it. Therefore, we are taking not a vacation, but a staycation.

For those who watch Corner Gas, you will know exactly what a staycation is. It is taking a vacation, where you live. It was coined by Corner Gas, and in the staycation episode, Brent Butt went on vacation to a lawn chair across the road from his gas station. He sat all day staring into the horizon, wearing shorts and a t-shirt. He would send cards from exotic locations to his friends, and he saved a lot of money doing it.

For these next two weeks, Layla and I are going on vacation from our company, in our home. We have the money to travel, but we feel its just better to stay home for the environment. Since we can stay home, we can continue being green and don't have to worry about all the environmental issues that arise from vacation.

Staycations are becoming increasingly popular during tough economic times as families look for ways to get away from it all, without leaving it all. Some people vacation in their own city by staying at a hotel, others will travel to a nearby town to vacation.
For us, it is the ranch that will be the home of our vacation.

We can relax here, not worry about work, eat well and enjoy peace and quiet, which are many of the things we would have gone on vacation for.

So, we hope that if you can take a vacation this year, you choose to take a staycation, it may be the best vacation you ever had.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Day 240 of our Green Year: Natural Humidity

Woo Hoo! Eight months down, four months left to go!

Since moving back to Alberta, Layla and I have found that we miss some of the humidity of British Columbia. With the lack of humidity, there is a lot of dry skin and itchiness, which can be annoying at times.
When people deal with the dry air of Alberta, they will usually go out and buy a humidifier. However, for Layla and I, a humidifier is not an option since it consumes energy and is not something we essentially need.

Another thing I have found coming back to Alberta is that I am having more sore throats than I used to in British Columbia. After some investigation, I found that if humidity in the house is at 45 to 65 percent, you can actually keep away sore throats and sinus infections. The air in our home is not close to that, and we had thought a humidifier was the only way to get it. Well, thanks to Daily Eco Tips, there is another option available.

This option comes from the Areca Palm. We have already mentioned that we grow plants inside to provide vegetables through the winter and summer, as well as to provide clean air free of pollutants in the home. Well, with the Areca Palm, a six-foot one, you can release one liter of water into the air every 24 hours to provide the needed humidity to avoid sore throats, sinus infections and dry skin. This alternative is much better than a humidifier because you use no energy, you get the humidity naturally and you clean your air in the process.

Renovations to a greener home continue here. We have decided to put in bamboo floors because they are more sustainable since some forms of bamboo can grow as much as 1 foot a day. Bamboo is widely becoming the go-to material for flooring around the world and we are looking forward to installing ours.

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we are going to be sending out our Christmas e-cards from, who donate to environmental causes for every card you send out. If you would like to be on our Christmas e-mail list, send your e-mail address to!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Day 239 of our Green Year: Natural Decorations

Christmas is the time of year for two main colors, red and green. Well, green is more than just a color during the Christmas season, it is also a way of life. So far this Christmas season, Layla and I have limited what we buy, stuck mainly to local retailers and bought green gifts for each other. The gifts are wrapped in old newspapers, bags and more and we have a fake tree (although a real tree from the right provider can be better than a fake tree).

For our next Christmas green task, we are choosing to scale back our decorations, buy no new decorations and if we want a new decoration, we use a natural decoration.

A few weeks ago, one of our readers told us that they collect old pine branches, leaves and more from the yard, and then use those to make decorations for the house. This is a great ideas because it allows you to use what is already outside ready for use, and it helps give your home a natural feel to it.

As we mentioned, other than solar lights, we are not buying any decorations this year. There are some old decorations here and we will recycle those, and we are going to begin to see the types of natural decorations we can create using branches, leaves and pine cones. There are many tips on the net for how to do this, and all it takes is a bit of crafting skill (something Layla has in abundance). We will let you know how it goes.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Day 238 of our Green Year: Bulbs and Empty Sockets

Today, it was an easy task to take care of at the ranch. Months ago, early on in Our Green Year, Layla and I began unplugging anything not in use in an effort to keep vampire power from being a problem.

Well, recently I looked up at one of our lights with CFL bulbs in them and saw that one socket was empty. As a result, I began to think that the empty socket may still be drawing power, albeit only a small amount. This seemed like wasted power since there is nothing there to use the power. If you are going to have light while you are in a room, you might as well use all the power efficiently, without waste. I'm not an electrician, so I can't say if having a light in two of three light sockets in the kitchen is better than having a light in all three, but might as well use what we have.

Therefore, we went around the house today and made sure that all sockets had CFL lights in them. The argument could be made that leaving a socket empty can save energy, but we see it as more of wasted energy. One of the worst things for the environment is wasted energy, hence why we unplug everything.

If you have wasted energy in your home, whether it is heat escaping through windows, an open fridge or empty sockets, you need to take care of it.

We did laundry today by hand and dried by the heat of the wood stove. As well, we cleared out some of the snow with the snow shovel. One thing everyone in the house has been doing to keep warm, without using extra heat, is wearing a toque. I started wearing one in our downstairs office, and before long everyone was wearing them. It is amazing how much you can heat yourself up by just wearing a toque indoors.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Day 237 of our Green Year: World Community Grid

One of the greatest innovations of the past few years for technology has been the use of grid computing. This type of computing uses the power of thousands or millions of computers to generate the same processing power as super computers. SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) uses this with their SETI @Home program. This program works as a screen saver on your computer so that while you are away from your computer, the program will process information from SETI radio files. This allows SETI to go through many times more information than they ever could alone.

Harvard has picked up on this and created the World Community Grid. The World Community Grid uses the same principle of SETI @Home, but it uses the processing power of grid computing to process information to help make the world a better place. One item that they are working on with the help of grid computing is creating cheap and powerful solar power cells. If these were to become widespread, it would change the way we power our civilization. Therefore, Layla and I have joined the World Community Grid so our computers can be used to help process information to make the world a better place and to help the environment. When we are away from the computer for a short period of time, we turn on our screen saver to handle the processing. We put our computers to sleep when we are not using them, but going to the washroom or getting coffee is the perfect time to put on the screen saver.

We did our weekly grocery shop today and it is quite amazing just how many organic items are now available. Layla and I are really astonished by the sheer number of organic items, including chocolate chip cookies, Oreo type cookies, popcorn and more. It makes our grocery shopping very easy when we only need to choose the organic items.

Our christmas shopping was done today, and while we can't say what was bought for obvious reasons right now, we did shop at local retailers, and we tried to buy as many green gifts as we could, while keeping how much we buy to a minimum.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Day 236 of our Green Year: Banning Materials In The House

Throughout Our Green Year, we have banned a number of items in our lives. We do this in an effort to remove toxins from the home, as well as remove toxins from the environment. We have found that by doing this, we feel healthier and we feel as though the environment is healthier as well.

As a result, for the 236th day of Our Green Year, the following items will not longer be bought in our home. Some of these have been banned by extension already, but this list makes it official.

Are we forgetting any items here? Let us know and we will add it to our banned list.
  • Any type of pesticide is not welcome here. As well, we do not use pesticides in our garden and the fruit and vegetables we buy are organic and pesticide free.
  • Many homes have moth balls, however ours will not. The reason is that a big ingredient in moth balls is naphthalene, which is a carcinogen. Instead, we can use natural moth balls.
  • Formaldehyde has already been banned in our home, but it is one many people need to ban.
  • Volatile Organic Chemicals are man-made chemicals that are used in the creation of paints, pharmaceuticals and refrigerants. These are also used in dry cleaning items and paint thinners.
  • There will be no synthetic perfume in our house. We will only be buying natural perfumes.
  • We have already banned air fresheners because of phthalates, but we will ensure that it is in no other items that we buy.
  • Lead is not in as much as it once was, but we will ensure that it is in nothing we own since it is a very dangerous heavy metal.
  • Kerosene is not found in a lot of items anymore, but it is sometimes used in space heaters. This can contribute to carbon monoxide emissions, and it is dangerous to have in the home.
  • Dry cleaning is something many people do, but the truth is that many dry clean clothes use a solvent that is a possible carcinogen and neurotoxin, which means we will not be dry cleaning clothes in this house.
  • Lastly, oven cleaner contains a lot of chemicals in it that can make you very sick. A few years ago, Layla was cleaning out a rental place when we moved and she used oven cleaner for the oven. She was sick for several days as a result of it, and even had flaky skin on her hands from it, even though she wore protective gloves. For us, we use vinegar only from now on.
Some more laundry was done today by hand. It is very cold out, about -30, so we were able to use the heat of the wood stove to dry everything, rather than using the dryer.

We have been very busy baking treats for friends and clients, and all the treats that have been made are made with organic items. Our local organic store has many great organic baking ingredients that we use, which makes everything very easy.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Day 235 of our Green Year: Charitable Gifts

Gift giving is a big part of the holidays, but too often we will think of what we are getting and what we are getting for those we care about, over the needs of those who go without. Christmas is the time of giving and the time to think about your fellow man and woman and what they suffer through. Not everyone has gifts under the tree during Christmas, and not everyone has a Merry Christmas.

Therefore, for Layla and I, while we are buying local, green gifts this year, as well as limiting what we buy, we are also going to give to environmental charities and charities that help people in their day-to-day lives.

Why give to something other than a green charity? For Layla and I helping our fellow man and woman is also part of going green. Not everyone will agree and that is cool, but it is how we feel. Spreading the wealth and kindness can make others do the same. The happier people are, the greener they may be. We feel that we all share this world together, and if we are all helping each other, we will be more willing to help the environment. It is one reason why we use As well, instead of buying ourselves a gift that we probably don't need, we can give to a charity that helps send kids to school with the supplies they need so they can learn about the environment. At the same time, we can send more money to the World Wild Life Fund, Greenpeace or IFAW because we spent less on ourselves.

So, we have decided to give more money this year to green/environmental charities, as well as charities to help out kids and adults. Creating a better world for the environment, is about creating a better world for humans as well.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Day 234 of our Green Year: Our Christmas Dinner

Christmas dinner is often the highlight of Christmas for many people. It brings together a family after a day of presents and celebrating, to enjoy each others company and enjoy a great meal. Personally, I love making Christmas dinner, especially when it is turkey. However, for this green Christmas, we are not having turkey, or hens, or ham or any meat whatsoever.

In an effort to be green this year, we are doing what we do for the better part of each week, and that is eat veggie meals. This year, our Christmas dinner will be a vegetarian, and organic dinner for the entire family to enjoy.

I have cleared this with everyone and they all agree that it is a good idea to go with a veggie supper this year. Of course, if we had decided to have turkey, it would have been a free-range turkey, like we had for Thanksgiving.

Instead, there will be organic yams, organic peas, organic potatoes and more for the dinner that is completely meat-free.

Now the effort begins to find some interesting veggie holiday suppers to try.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Day 233 of our Green Year: Make Your Own Acid Mask.

Throughout Our Green Year, we have tried to create things in the house rather than buy them. We have done this with ice cream, yogurt, pita chips, butter, body wash, body soap and more. Well, today we are adding another to that list; an Alpha Hydroxy Acid Mask. All I know is that this can help your skin. I have not used one but Layla has, and she will be making these for herself.

This mixture is very easy to make, and it can make your face feel wonderful and fresh, while adding a nice glow to it.

You do not need those typical toxins in your skin when you use this acid mask. It is also important to remember that many facial creams have Alpha-Hydroxy Acids, which come from fruit sugars that are made from sugar cane that may not be fair-trade.

To make the acid mask, use 1/4 cup of lemon juice, 1/4 cup of apple juice, 1/4 cup of grape juice and 1/4 cup of fair-trade sugar. The lemon, apple and grape juice should be home-made or organic, as it will be for us.

Put this in a glass jar and mix it all together, then apply to your face with an organic cotton ball. Leave it there for 10 minutes and then rinse it off. Use it for the next four days until it is empty and start over again. Typically, this mixture will last about four or five days in the fridge.

As we have said before, going green means you can look good too.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Day 232 of our Green Year: Local Gifts

A few days ago, one of our Christmas pledges was to buy very few gifts instead of going hog-wild with shopping. Then, three days after that we pledged to buy green gifts that had little packaging, could be recycled and more. Well, today we are making another Christmas gift pledge to help the environment, and this one is to buy locally. Rather than go to Wal-Mart (which we have banned) or some other big department store, Layla and I are choosing to instead buy from local retailers. We are also going to go to the local Farmer's Market this weekend to buy some local gifts from local producers and suppliers.

When you buy a gift locally, you are helping your local economy as well as helping the environment because you do not need to have the gift transported from far away. We had originally thought of ordering gifts online, but the distance required to bring us the gifts would generate too much CO2 to ignore.

So, the main street retailers, Mom and Pop stores and Farmer's Market will be our shopping locations this year. At these locations, we will be buying green gifts and only a few gifts at that, to make this a green Christmas.

I read some sad news on CNN today. It was about the drastic reduction in shark populations around the world. While the shark is seen as an unrelenting killer that hunts humans, this is far from the truth. While only a handful of people are killed or even attacked by sharks each year, millions of sharks are slaughtered by humans. The exact numbers are 10 people dying each year on average in a shark attack and 100,000,000 sharks dying at the hands of humans (according to CNN). Many sharks die so that people can pay as much as $100 for shark fin soup. This fashionable Chinese dish is becoming incredibly popular and that means bad news for the shark, which is a vital part of the ocean eco-system.
This is just wrong. Shark teeth have been dated to 400,000,000 years ago. Sharks were roaming oceans before plants were even colonizing land. The species survived the Dinosaur era, and even the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs. It survived ice ages and more, but it may not survive humans.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Day 231 of our Green Year: Stop The Seal Hunt

In Canada, there is a contentious issue and it relates to the annual seal hunt. Many people are against this, while many feel that it provides a livelihood to many families. The seal hunt operated for quite some time before being banned in the 1970s thanks to the hard work of Greenpeace. However, not too long later it was brought back and many more baby seals began to die in this annual hunt.

Meat, skins and more from the hunt are sold around the world, providing money to families in Newfoundland and Labrador. In the same situation, many African families were able to get money for food and shelter through hunting for ivory from elephants and rhinos, but eventually the world community said enough was enough and the legal ivory trade was stopped.

Many would like the same to happen with the seal hunt in Canada. All around the world, Canada is looked down upon for this. As a progressive country, the seal hunt represents a move back into the past where it was okay to hunt something needlessly. As a result, Layla and I support a banning of the seal hunt, just like we support banning of ivory sales and banning of whale hunting.

We had found out from IFAW's information that 98 percent of the animals killed in the past two years in the seal hunt have been baby seals between two weeks and three months old. On top of this, global warming is affecting where these seals breed, causing their numbers to dwindle. Despite this, the government of Canada raised the seal hunt quotas to their highest level ever.

If you would like to sign the same petition that we did, which is sponsored by IFAW, you can visit this website.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Day 230 of our Green Year: Dealing With Ice

Yesterday we talked about dealing with the snow of the winter season, well there is another thing that we have to deal with and it comes in the form of frozen water. Ice is the bane of winter existence. While snow is nice and fluffy, ice is hard and slippery. Just this past weekend, a fresh shot of freezing rain fell and made everything slippery. Causing several accidents and problems for people.

At the Baird ranch, we have to deal with ice on our deck because when the dogs lay on the deck, they melt the snow under them, then when they get up to come inside or run around that freezes into hard ice. For one of our dogs, it is a problem because he hurt himself pretty bad coming up the stairs when he slipped on the ice. Another slip could cause serious problems. On top of that, there is the danger to us walking on the deck and around the ranch and slipping.

Rather than have to use salt on the ice, we are choosing other options. Salt can damage soil and it is just not good for the environment.
For most of the ice, we will be putting sand down. This does not get rid of the ice but it helps provide traction when walking on it. This will help us and the dogs. Now, sand can be bad for storm drains but our driveway is made up of sand, dirt and gravel, and we have no storm drains so it should be fine here.

Another option is the use the ash from the fireplace to help provide traction on the ice as well. This gets rid of the ash and it uses it for something other than throwing it in the garbage.

Lastly, we can use a shovel to break up the ice rather than use salt.

Ice can be dangerous but with some sand, ash and manual hard work, you can get rid of it and not worry about falling on your ass when you walk out on the deck.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Day 229 of our Green Year: Dealing With Snow

Well, just two days ago we got our first big hit of snow and in regards to Our Green Year, it could not have come at a better time considering this blog is about dealing with snow in a green way.
Way back on Day Four...a whopping 225 days ago for Our Green Year, we began storing snow. That will continue throughout the winter here as we continue to gather snow and then use it for a variety of purposes including water for dogs and for plants.

However, there are other things we have to deal with for snow and one of the biggest is getting rid of the snow. Many people, especially those who live out on a ranch like we do, use a snow blower or bobcat to get rid of the snow. However, I will be using a manual method that requires a shovel and a lot of hard work. Like with our lawn in the summer, there is an alternative that requires manual labor. This is how it was done in the past and it is how I will be doing it this year, with a snow shovel. Our driveway is not incredibly long, so it should not be too bad to clear out the driveway of snow with a snow shovel. Plus, it is great exercise.

Speaking of snow, ice and the cold. A recent study has found that the Arctic will be completely ice free in the summer by 2015. This is big news because this year was only the second in recorded history where the Northwest Passage had opened up completely. A commercial ship was actually able to navigate through open waters this year, the first time this has ever happened.

Awhile ago we took the manure from the barn and put it into a large compost pile near the barn. This is what we use for the garden in about a year or two to help the soil. Many of the corn stalks and other pieces of the garden that we pulled out are also here. Just a couple of days ago, while out feeding the horses, I saw steam rising off of the huge compost pile. It was really cool to see this because that showed that the bacteria were working to break up the compost into something we can use in a year or two. Even when I dug some of the compost away, it was actually quite warm inside of it versus outside. Every so often we will be rotating and churning it all up.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Day 228 of our Green Year: Giving Green Gifts

A few days ago, we mentioned we would be buying only only a few gifts this Christmas season. Well, in accordance with Our Green Year, we are choosing only to buy gifts that are green. This means if we buy clothes, it is fair-trade and organic cotton or hemp.
On top of that, whatever gifts we buy will have to be in very little packaging, hopefully made from recycled materials and made in such a way that they are not a detriment to the environment.

In short, we are getting eco-friendly gifts. We want to do this because we want to make sure the people we buy gifts for are getting something that comes with a clear mind.

There are plenty of options available for green gifts, and we hope that the people we buy them for appreciate that their gift did not take much from the world. Some of these items will cost more, but such is the case when you are going green. As Layla and I have found out, organic items and green items will often cost much more than the alternatives.

We have already figured out what we are getting our family, and all the items are green. Christmas is the time of giving, but it is also the time of being green, as we will show in the coming days.

Got any green gift suggestions? Let us know!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Day 227 of our Green Year: Christmas e-cards

Weeks ago, we decided to go green through sending e-cards from would donate to environmental causes for every card we sent, and that meant it was a great way to brighten up a day and help the environment.

Well, being that it is the Christmas season, it is time to begin sending out Christmas cards to everyone. While this is a great tradition, it uses a lot of paper for the cards and even more for the envelopes. With trees more important than ever in the drive to get CO2 levels down, it seems like a waste to use them for this, or even recycled paper for this when it could be used for something else.

So, this Christmas, Layla and I will be sending out our Christmas cards with e-cards. There are several wonderful Christmas e-cards that are available for free through many organizations, or through You can brighten up someone's day by sending them a great Christmas e-card and you do not consume any trees either to do it. Granted, it takes a bit of CO2 (very small amount) to send the card out through Internet servers, but unless the person is standing in front of you so you can personally say "Merry Christmas" it is impossible not to use CO2 to send Christmas greetings. Even calling them will use some CO2. With Christmas e-cards, you send them essentially through the air, you use no trees and you do not contribute to transportation CO2 to get the card from you to the recipient.

If you would like an e-card from us, be sure to send us your e-mail address and we will be happy to send you one.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Day 226 of our Green Year: Purchasing Less

With Christmas only 21 days away, the desire to buy a bunch of Christmas presents for family is ever present. We want to show them that we care about them by buying them tonnes of presents. For Layla and myself, most of the joy of Christmas gifts comes in the form of watching our loved ones open up the presents we buy them.

However, months ago in Our Green Year, we chose to consume less through asking purchase questions and Christmas is no different. So, we will be buying much less in terms of presents. Instead of going for quantity (five gifts or more), we are going for quality (one great gift). We want to buy less because then we will consume less.

Christmas is the perfect time to start playing around with buying less things and only buying things someone actually needs. Don't go out and buy some singing bass fish, go out and buy your loved one something they will use over and over again. That is a great way to be green this Christmas.
Of course, there are other green ways to do your gift giving this year and we will be covering a few of them on Day 228, Day 232 and Day 237.

For this Christmas at the Baird ranch, it is about quality over quantity and one gift for each person.

Last week, Layla and I were watching W-Five where they did a story on a practice in Canada that allows prospectors to come on your property and lay a claim for the mineral rights of your property. This allows them to drill on it, and even set up mines on it to get ore, uranium, coal or anything else that may be underneath. This is a completely legal thing to do and the show detailed the plight of several people in Ontario who have claims on their property that they can do little about.
Many people think that they own the property and therefore own the mineral rights, but this is not always true. If you have a slice of heaven in rural Canada, make sure you have the mineral rights to it so you don't one day wake up to a uranium mine in your front yard.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Day 225 of our Green Year: Christmas Trees

Since we are going headlong into the Christmas season, we are going to be showing ways that we are going green during Christmas this year. We have already committed to buying only solar Christmas lights and doing without wrapping paper this year, but for today we get to the symbol of Christmas for many people; the Christmas tree.

There are many options when you get a Christmas tree. You can get a Christmas tree from a tree farm that grows them for that purpose so you don't take any out of the environment. You can purchase a Christmas tree and recycle it properly. You can purchase a Christmas tree and replant it after the Christmas season, or you can buy a fake Christmas tree.

At the Baird ranch, we have decided to go with the last option. Instead of buying a living tree that we only use for a few weeks, Layla and I are going to buy a Christmas tree that is fake. that way, we reduce our consumption of Christmas trees for years to come because we can keep using the fake Christmas tree over and over.

We feel that even trees in Christmas tree farms could be better used to take CO2 out of the atmosphere and provide us with oxygen, than as a centerpiece in a living room for the month of December. However, that being said, there are some tree farms that make the pledge to plant 10 trees for every one that you buy. That is a great idea, but not all tree farms do this.

Granted, a Christmas tree is not needed, but Christmas just does not seem like Christmas without a tree. Since we can buy a tree, and use it for 5, 10, 15 or even 20 years into the future, it seems like a pretty good purchase.

We chose a very small fake Christmas tree so that we did not consume more by buying a large Christmas tree. The tree we bought is only two to three feet high. The tree is primarily made of plastic and when the time comes, we will do what we can to recycle it properly so its materials can be used again.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Day 224 of our Green Year: Reusing Envelopes

In our work, sometimes it is required that we send something to a client, contractor or as a submission to a magazine or publisher. Despite the digital age we live in, many magazines and publishers require hard copies of submissions sent to them, rather than e-mail. Until these publishers and magazines make the effort to allow e-mails to be sent to them, we are stuck sending off hard copies in the mail.

We already print everything off on recycled paper when we print something off and we think that we could go even further by making sure what we send hard copies of our work in is reused as well. You can get recycled envelopes, but why not reuse what you already have?

If you open your mail neatly, by just cutting the side, you can easily reuse it. Putting white out or a blank label over the envelope is a good way to put a new address on, and tape or glue is effective for sealing the envelope back up. That way, you do not have to worry about using a new envelope if you have plenty of previously used envelopes to work with.

It is a small solution that can help lower the amount of waste that is generated in our offices and lives every day.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Day 223 of our Green Year: Helping The Spirit Bear

One of the most beautiful animals in the world, and the provincial mammal of British Columbia, is the Spirit Bear. This bear is found only in one portion of British Columbia and is a stunning thing to see.
To make sure that it will be here for years to come, the government of British Columbia decided to designate an area the size of Prince Edward Island as a protected area to protect the Spirit Bear and the temperate rain forest habitat that it lives in.

However, with the deadline for the creation of the refuge coming fast with March 2009 only a few months away, little has been done to get everything in motion to protect this vital habitat for an amazing animal.

As a result, an initiative has been created called Keep The Promise, which is urging Gordon Campbell and the B.C. government to honor its promise to protect this habitat and the Spirit Bear.
As the website says:
"Unless all elements of the promise are kept, the ecological health of the rainforest will be in jeopardy once again. We've come so far towards the rare success of having a vast unspoiled forest safeguarded, let’s not undermine all this good work by not reaching the finish line. Help us tell the BC government that a promise is a promise. Send your message to BC Premier Gordon Campbell today! (Copied to Environment Minister Barry Penner, Agriculture & Lands Minister Stan Hagen, and Forests & Range Minister Pat Bell)."

On their website, they have an easy form you can fill out that will send a letter to the above people to urge them to keep the promise. Since Layla and I were residents of BC until only a couple months ago, we feel we should lend our support behind this great cause.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Day 222 of our Green Year: Sponsoring Refuges

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

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

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

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

For more information, check out this link.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Day 221 of our Green Year: Buy Nothing Day

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 28, 2008

Day 220: Christmas Lights, Alternative Energy Style

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Day 219 of our Green Year: Organic Beer

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Day 218 of our Green Year: Doing Things Manually

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Day 217 of our Green Year: No Wrapping Paper

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 24, 2008

Day 216 of our Green Year: Banning Ivory

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

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

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

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

These are how your donations work:

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

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

Sunday, November 23, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Day 214 of our Green Year: Goat's Milk

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 21, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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