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Just updating the full review since the last time I did it was in 2009.

Why review? To let you know how it’s going, what’s easy, what’s not as easy, etc.

I figure a table with a 1(hard)/2(medium)/3(easy) star (*) system (x means failure and there is one n/a not applicable) with a comment might be easiest to peruse, but sorry about the scrolling…

# Description *** Comment
1 Mow lawn every week * I am always a slacker by the end of summer, but I just let it grow –  I don’t bother with the neighbour’s electric anymore.
2 Fill kettle a cup at a time *** I have a counting strategy at the tap (3 is 1 cup, 6 is 2 cups, etc) but I’m still (year later) working on hubby
3 Bring home recycling & green bin *** We mostly just carry reusable stuff so it’s a non-issue.
4 Read news online (cancelled paper subscription) *** Works fine. Very rarely I crave a paper in hand. Plus I get news from more diverse sources now.
5 Buy produce at Farmer’s Market in season *** I actually only get my honey at the farmer’s market now that we use a CSA. (It comes in glass and is local and very tasty!)
6 Packaging free take-out *** Tiffin boxes have worked out very well. Restaurants love them and folks ask where to get them.
7 Fair trade chocolate *** It’s worth it (for my conscience) & you can buy it in more & more places (& I found it bulk!)
8 Unplug chargers/plugs not in use *** Habit took a few weeks to get into but I’m still doing well.
9 Walk to the bulk store instead of drive * Not since the bike accident…
10 No more bottled water *** Good.
11 Buy second hand *** This is easy, cheap, and all-around great!
12 No junk mail ** I don’t know if greendimes made any difference whatsoever but a sign on your mailbox certainly does.
13 Fair trade coffee *** We went a step further & roast our own green beans & I’ve never enjoyed my 1 cup/day more
14 Toilet train the oldest *** Working on the youngest now…
15 Saving our plastic bags for when they are added to the recyclables x The city reneged on this idea so I have slowly been adding them to our (extra small) garbage once a month or so.
16 Using green cleaning products *** Haven’t used caustic/toxic chemicals/bleach cleaners in many months! More info here.
17 Ride my used bike (vs driving) *** Riding, walking, and using TTC.
18 Buy less! *** Going down to one income helped with this but I’m very conscious of it now, unlike before.
19 No more nail polish ** After the thumb surgery last year, I went out and got a mani/pedi… I needed the pampering. That’s the only time… honest!
20 Next car will be green/hybrid/efficient/electric *** We’re not planning on buying a next car at this point.
21 Replace plastic food packaging & infant toys *** I’ve managed to get many glass freezer friendly containers but it would be nice if they stacked better when empty. Also, the lids mostly suck, except Frigoverre.
22 No more delivery food *** Done.
23 Don’t buy from Esso/Exxon *** Easy. Even that time I got caught with the “extremely low gas” light on…
24 Use Gel-Free Tushies when need to use disposables x Not absorbent enough for overnight so we switched to Seventh Generation chlorine-free
25 Don’t shop at Wal-Mart *** Easy. I don’t even consider it an option.
26 a) Use the car less than 2-3x/wk *** We use the car 1-2 times a week. We live near transit, parks, groceries, libraries, etc.
26 b) Don’t turn the tap on full *** This is a silly and difficult habit to break, but it’s working finally.
26 c) If it’s yellow, let it mellow… x We bought a dual flush instead. It smells better.
26 d) Turn out lights as I leave room * Easy, but I can’t change seem to the habits of the people I live with. The boys are getting good at it, though.
26 e) Navy showers ** This is a summer-only change. I’ll be back to navy showers when it’s warm again.
26 f) No paper subscriptions *** Always tempting, but I’m not going to.
26 g) Eat even less meat * We went pretty vegetarian for a while & my 3 year old (at the time) had a hard time with it. Meat 4 times/wk is average I think.
26 h) Amalgamate car trips *** Done. Easy.
26 i) Don’t buy food in non-recyclable plastics (e.g. cherry tomatoes) ** I do this, but it’s not always easy.
26 j) Cancel catalogues * When New Scientist expired we went for the new online only option. I have to talk to the ROM about this…
27 No T-Gel (coal tar) or Head & Shoulders (zinc pyrithione) *** Found an alternative at The Big Carrot.
28 Use only recycled toilet paper *** Ridiculously easy.
29 Use the kill-a-watt meter to see what’s sucking energy * We did it for a few things but dropped the ball on that one.
30 Use toothbrush with replaceable head *** All 4 of us use these now.
31 Switch to LED night lights *** They work great!
32 Fair trade organic loose leaf (low packaging) tea *** We buy it by the kilo every few months.
33 No trash week x I bailed. Too much on my plate to worry about being all extremist.
34 Plant flowers that support the bee population *** Next spring!
35 Don’t use microwave popcorn n/a No microwave, I make it in a pot the old fashioned way!
36 Vegetarian recipe exchange *** Got some good recipes (email if interested) & everyone was happy to be involved
37 Use organic vegetable & fruit delivery service *** Great service, but now that it’s nearly harvest time, we’re moving onto a CSA (see #51)
38 Write politicians about stopping the global warming nightmare that is the tar sands ** Done. I should really do this sort of thing more often, though…
39 Go green for xmas *** We pretty much bailed on the consumer-palooza that is Christmas for the past 2 years. They rocked.
40 Wash new clothes before wearing to rid them of formaldehyde finish *** I very rarely buy new clothes, but when I do, I do this.
41 Refer to the “dirty dozen” list & buy organic for the top offenders *** I have the full list in my phone and refer to it all the time.
42 Bought a hemp shower curtain *** This shower curtain rocks. No complaints.
43 Don’t buy anything in styrofoam *** Styro is recycled now in Toronto, but I’ve cut it out of my usage anyway.
44 Buy organic milk, mostly for the benefit of my little guys. * Whenever I can get it, I do.
45 Work towards creating less than 1 bag of trash/4 weeks * We’re at or just less than 1 full bag/4 weeks and holding steady.
46 Participate in Earth Hour *** Easy. We should do it more often.
47 Make my own sour cream (since I’m already making my own yogurt) * This worked a couple of times (even with lower fat cream) then it stopped working. Still trying to get it right. My sister-in-law is doing it successfully and loves it.
48 Don’t even consider using biofuels (with the exception of used chip oil) *** This is a ridiculous, yet government mandated, affair.
49 Buy naturally raised beef directly from local farmers *** Love that beef from beefconnections.ca.
50 Properly dispose of expired meds at household hazardous waste *** I missed my local Environment Days but have stashed the offenders to disposal at a later date.
51 Buy shares in local organic CSA for summer *** Loving it.
52 Got an “green” yoga mat for my 3 year old *** Love the new yoga mat I bought for my little guy but borrow when he’s in bed!
53 Turn off power bars for computer 2 *** Easy. Do it every night. Should have started a long time ago.
54 Use grey water for toilet flushing * This fell by the wayside around the accident when I couldn’t lift anything. Will try to get it going again.
55 Use a dry diaper pail ** Not currently using cloth diapers but we use cloth wipes.
56 Community park clean-up * in 2008 but not 2009
57 DIY toothpaste * I used it for about a year and then bailed. May go back.
58 Summer savings * I stopped using the clothesline and my bike after the accident but we don’t use A/C and I still did navy showers…
59 Events without bottled water ** I always push for this during our fundraising events. Last time I didn’t even have to push!
60 Dual flush toilet *** Excellent.
61 Holiday solar LED lights *** Excellent.
62 Gift free birthday party ** Last year it went great. This year we don’t have a plan as of yet.
63 Late night laundry *** Easy.
64 Knitting local and sewing. ** I make hats for folks with yarn from Kingston, ON now. Have to get better at patching clothes (boys and the knees in jeans, I tell ya…)
65 Hankies *** Haven’t bought a box of tissue in 6 months, although we do have one on hand for guests.
66 Recycled printing paper *** Excellent.
67 Cloth napkins redux *** We use them every day.
68 Re-purposed wood scraps *** Good fun.
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Last summer I was talking to a friend on the phone while hanging laundry on the line and I made the comment, “This getting green thing is time-consuming!” because I’d done so much laundry (2 little ones under 3 and lots of cloth diapers to boot) I could barely keep up (it’s much more manageable now that they don’t spill all over themselves at every meal and one is toilet trained- yay!). And she responded, “Yes, and expensive!” I didn’t say anything at the time, but after I got off the phone I thought that it was a strange thing to say since for me it’s about using less energy, gas, water, packaging, consuming less, and buying second-hand whenever possible. All of those things result in spending less money, not more.

But 6 months later I got an email from a friend of a friend who wanted me to mention her new green online store on the site. I had a look and when I saw a nearly $200 nightgown my jaw dropped to the floor and I stopped looking. I told her that, although the products look beautiful (which they did), propagating the myth that being environmentally friendly is only for the rich just wasn’t what Green Me Up Scotty was about.

Then a couple of months ago a friend let me know about Stainless Seal containers which are 4 nesting stainless containers with plastic lids. They look great and are $30 for the set of 4.

And then recently, a friend let me know about Greentainers which are stainless steel containers. They come in 2 varieties, with clips and without. They are $30 EACH.

That’s ridiculous. People are pulling in insane profits because everyone is suddenly in a panic about plastic. Don’t just buy the first and most well-marketed product you see… Have a look around first. Grassroots can be like that, too… I frequent them because you can buy cleaning products packaging-free (in bulk, bring your own container) but have stopped even browsing at the other products because they’re so exorbitantly priced that we can’t afford them. Even their chlorine-free diapers are 30% more than my local store. (More on the ills of chlorine/bleach another day.)

If you’re looking for organic foodstuffs, chlorine-free diapers/wipes, bodycare products, stainless bottles, fair-trade chocolate bars, packaging-free soap, etc. and live on the east side of Toronto, check out Beaches Natural Foods (view google map). Wallace has the best prices in town and is an all-around nice guy.

Happy hunting, folks!

It’s been a while, I know. Life has been crazy lately – it has a way of doing that, especially when you have 2 little ones under 3.

A quick update for you:

Tea: I believe I found a supplier of certified fair trade, organic, loose leaf, bulk tea that isn’t insanely expensive. Just Us! Coffee Roasters Co-op sells said tea in 1 kg size, and I verified that it’s not ten 100 g bags. I can’t buy it at the local coffee shop, but I think (their customer service rep said it shouldn’t be a problem but to check with the coffee shop manager, who is in turn going to call head office) I can get Just Us! to send the 1 kg bag of tea to the coffee shop with their usual weekly or bi-weekly shipment of goods and I can pick it up there, thereby foregoing the $13 shipping fee! (Update in 2011: this coffee shop since closed so we pay the shipping fee.)

We’re pretty big tea drinkers here. Generally we just buy the biggest box of Tetley’s we can find. But now that we’re a) trying to reduce our waste, b) onto the fair trade thing (coffee and chocolate), and c) trying to live lighter by buying organic, I figured I’d look into the issues around tea.

As far as waste goes, it’s not too bad, tea bags are compostable or green binnable (but less is more, so why bother with bags when it comes loose?) and the box is cardboard (recyclable) but it’s wrapped in plastic.

As for fair trade, this one’s a biggie: most of the world tea industry (from the plants to the bags) is controlled by 6 companies (Unilever, Hillsdown Holdings, Allied Lyons, the Co-operative Wholesale Society, James Finlay and Associated British Foods) which means they can manipulate the market (buying cheap and maximizing profits) and the plantation workers suffer.

And the organic issue is also a big one. DDT may be banned here in North America, but it isn’t everywhere, and it gets high usage in developing countries where tea is grown. Not great for the consumer, but much worse for the plantation workers who are exposed to it.

So, I have found us some fair trade certified organic loose leaf tea at the Ten Thousand Villages Danforth store. The packaging isn’t great, (I’ll keep searching), but the tea is fine!

So I just watched the documentary Wal-Mart – The High Cost of Low Price. For most of it I sat, literally, with my mouth hanging open. I mean, I don’t live in a vacuum, I knew that there were problems with them. Everyone in Canada heard about the Jonquiere, Quebec, store closing down after the employees managed to get a union in there. They get a bad rating all over the Better World Shopping Guide. But I had no idea just how bad it was.

This is the largest and richest company in the world. They treat their employees terribly, paying minimum wage, keeping as many as they possibly can as part time, fudging time sheets so that employees never receive overtime payment (by either removing any overtime hours worked or moving overtime hours to the next week). They have a class action suits against them for treating women associates poorly. They have factories in China with inhumane working conditions, $3/day wage where workers work 7 days/week for 15 hours/day. (There are similar Wal-Mart factories all over the place. Sweat shops in Bangladesh, Mexico…) The are constantly receiving subsidies to open new stores, to the tune of over a billion dollars. In the U.S. there are over 26 million square feet of empty Wal-Marts – the stores they built and abandoned before or after a brief stint in them. They have fines all over the states from the EPA regarding clean water act violations. They open stores on the outskirts of small towns and the downtown streets become like a ghost town because they close down all of the mom and pop retailers within 6 months or so. The fact list goes on and on… (and there’s another fact list here.)

For those who respect Wal-Mart for different reasons (e.g. because when they work with the supplier to make sure that they can meet their needs), pick up the film and watch it. And tell me you still respect them in the morning. Oh, and have a look at the article on them from Fast Company or another good article from Harper’s.

The number of times I’ve been into a Wal-Mart store I can count on one hand. It’s going to stay that way. My conscience can’t afford to give them any more money.

Oh, and FYI, Sam’s Club is a part of Wal-Mart, as is ASDA in the UK.

 

Black GoldI watched a documentary film tonight called Black Gold. It’s about coffee. I love coffee. And I started to buy fair trade coffee a few months ago, not really aware of all of the issues, but aware that there is a problem between the price the farmer gets and the price that we pay. “A problem” doesn’t nearly touch on the magnitude of the issue.

The did a little math in the film, with the coffee farmers in Ethiopia(members of the Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union). A cup of coffee sells for $2.90 (USD) on average in the western world. There are about 80 cups of coffee in a kilo. Which puts the price at $230/kilo. And the Ethiopian coffee farmer gets $0.23/kilo. Yeah, that’s right, TWENTY-THREE CENTS. Now, even if you talk about the price of a pound (2.2 lbs in a kg) of coffee that you don’t buy off of a retailer like Starbucks or whomever it is you choose to rip you off (and the coffee growers), it’s still insane. Even if you factor in travel costs and roasting costs, it’s still insane and inhumane and completely unfair. And one of the farmers suggested a price that would “change our lives beyond recognition” – that price: $0.57/kg. He lives with 15 other people under his roof and can’t send his kids or grandkids to school because of poverty. They don’t want to be rich and drive fancy cars and buy iPhones and giant flat screen TVs. They just want to feed their families and put shoes on their feet and send them to school (if they could afford to build a local school).

How did it get to this point? Well, there was talk of the International Coffee Agreement, which fell apart in 1989, leading to the 30 year low coffee price there is now. The coffee price is set by the New York futures market, which doesn’t have the farmers best interests in mind (surprise, surprise). For instance, it costs $0.90/kg to produce coffee in South America and New York pays them $0.63/kg. Wait a minute, they’re LOSING 27 cents for every kilo they produce? Yeah, that’s right. Then there’s the subsidies that western countries give our farmers, while African countries don’t have money to give their farmers subsidies, and therefore they can’t compete. And there’s a shedload of middlemen in the industry, but really, the coffee grower gets 1-3% of the profits, the shippers, exporters and local traders 7%, and the retailers/cafes, roasters and importers 90%.  There’s a good article on coffee at globalexchange.org if you’re interested in reading it. Or see the film. Or do both.

So… it’s fair trade coffee all the way for me now. By the way, great film. I highly recommend it.