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So the strawberries were so good that we went back a week later and got another 8 litres. I made freezer jam (“spread”) since I’m not sure it had enough sweetness (I just used apple juice) for canning.

My eldest and I have also been on 2 more Not Far From The Tree (NFFTT) picks. They were both sour cherry picks: one in the pouring rain (which makes tree climbing difficult) and they were so good that we signed up for another one yesterday (mostly because it was around the corner from our house).

Sour Cherries - picked with Not Far From The Tree

Sour Cherries – picked with Not Far From The Tree

We did a little foraging in the city last week as well. We dropped by the nearby civic centre and gathered a bunch of serviceberries (also known as Saskatoon berries, among other things), which were yummy.

serviceberries at the civic centre

Serviceberries at the civic centre

My own garden is coming along. We have gooseberries this year! And I know now that they are ripe because we had to come and get a ladder for the NFFTT pick around the corner and Dan, the very knowledgeable guy helping me carry the ladder, was telling me about gooseberries so I had him try one and he said they were ripe! And there are some raspberries coming along as well. The squirrels aren’t interested in the gooseberries (hurrah!) and hopefully we will get to the raspberries before they do. We have also had a few strawberries from our Alpine Strawberry plant which are unique and delicious.

gooseberries in the backyard

Ripe gooseberries in the backyard

raspberries in the backyard

Not yet ripe raspberries in the backyard

We’ve had a lot of rain this year so everything is growing well, and if it goes a few days without rain, the rain barrel (with water from the eaves troughs) is always full so I can water them with recycled water. I also read that tomatoes like acid and a good way to use up whey (we drain our homemade yogurt and make it Greek style) is to dilute it with some water and water your tomatoes with it. My cherry tomato plants seem to like it.

On Saturday we went out for a family walk out at the Scarborough Bluffs and saw lots of birds, some people fishing for large mouth bass, turtles, but the big sighting was an otter! It was too quick for me to get a good shot, but I did catch it:

otter in Lake Ontario at Bluffers Park

Otter spotting in Lake Ontario at Bluffers Park!

We also stopped by the beach and took a quick look at the American Toad tadpoles which still have their tails but most now have legs! (If you recall, we saw the toads mating nearly 2 months ago).

nearly 2 month old American Toad tadpoles

Nearly 2 month old American Toad tadpoles at Bluffers beach

Today we went for a walk at Highland Creek and saw several mulberry trees, which I never would have recognized if we hadn’t gone on that mulberry pick with NFFTT. Yet another reason to love our experiences with that great organization. Later in the walk we saw people on the side collecting leaves from vines. Bags full of leaves. Since they were vines, and since I went on a NFFTT pick last year that was grapes, I guessed that they were grapes, and confirmed it by asking them when we passed them on the way back. It was good to see other foragers out in the green spaces of the city. Somebody’s having dolmades soon!

grape leaves wild in the city

grape leaves wild in the city

And, last but certainly not least, we have gotten rid of our old gas guzzler. We used it about once a week, and it turns out that’s actually not great because stuff gets caked underneath and sits there. It was rusting out from the bottom. So although it only had 150,000 km/93,200 miles on it, that 16 year old car was barely keeping together. Things were falling off the bottom.

We weren’t sure what to do with it, but my husband (how awesome is he?) found an organization that takes your car and either auctions it off or sells off the parts and gives the money to the charity of your choice. We have chosen Rethink Breast Cancer, who have been a great help during my treatment and recovery from breast cancer. The organization is charitycar.ca (they are also in the US). It was picked up on Saturday:

car donated via charitycar.ca

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So today I only have a link for you.  The ideas/initiatives are great. Here in Toronto, only #1 is in effect, but all City of Toronto functions do not use bottled water (although I’m not sure how long that initiative will stick around with our new mayor) which is a step in the right direction.

Anywho, onto the link… I actually saw it retweeted from @Inhabitat on twitter. It’s a list of Good magazine’s 10 favourite innovations for reducing plastic consumer waste.

I love all of the ideas, with the exception maybe of #9, which reeks of dioxin at first glance, but I haven’t read the details of Plastofuel, so don’t quote me on that.

I especially like #5: “Try take-out, without.” I still use the tiffin boxes that I bought in at the beginning of July 2007 and without fail, every time I use them at least one person comes up and starts asking about them and what they’re all about and, eventually, where to get them. I have no idea whether anyone else has bought them for take-out use (some friends have bought the nesting ones for lunches and snacks) but at least people are talking and thinking about it. It’s a start.

I have a weird obsession with shipping container houses.

I guess I really like the idea of re-purposing used containers that no longer serve any purpose except taking up space in shipyards. They are insulated using spray foam (some are soy-based) for a very high R-value (25-50). You’re not using the regular timber frame so trees are saved in the process. They’re modular by design so urban projects like Container City can be added to easily and square footage of homes is variable. But the truth is that designers have done amazing things with them. Below is a video about Container City in London from the History channel.

There is also this page from the Daily Green which is slightly hard to read (text in a box with scrollbar) but features a great slideshow of many container homes all over the world.

And this page from fabprefab lists a whole bunch of prefab container buildings worldwide.

Also, an article from Treehugger…

Some Canadians have been busy designing with shipping containers. Check out zigloo, bark, and ecopod.

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.

This isn’t really a change, it’s a change back.

You see, a while back (several months) I had too much on my plate and figured something’s got to give, and since Toronto’s green bin program actually composts diapers, I made the switch to disposable diapers. My apologies… everybody’s human. Then about 2 weeks ago we ran out of diapers and I couldn’t face the crowds at my local grocery store, so I just switched back to cloth. I figured, it’s summertime and I can hang them on the line again instead of running my energy sucking dryer every other day and we’ll just see how it goes. Besides, we’re at potty training age now and I’d rather the little guy could feel when he’s wet than never feel a thing like it is with disposables.

Well, today the city workers went on strike, including garbage collection. So what better time to be using cloth diapers and not keeping a bin full of stinky diapers around.

My only major problem with this garbage strike is that you can actually go and drop your garbage, recycling, and green bin off (details here) but they are all together, not separate, meaning that they’ll all be heading to the landfill.  I can hang onto my recycling, and even my garbage, for a long time, but the green bin could get seriously nasty and maggot-filled within a week or so (because it’s already been in there a week as our pickup is Tuesday mornings). We compost, but that’s just veggies, tea leaves, coffee  so the green bin with all of its other nasty food scraps could get pretty icky in this heat. I guess if that happens I’ll bring it down to the transfer station… Let’s hope this strike isn’t a long one!

Well, I haven’t had much to write about lately since I haven’t actually taken on any new challenges, or if I have, I haven’t really noticed. That’s the thing, once you’re down this path, you just keep on keeping green, and it becomes second nature. I’ll give you some examples to show our life in the green lane (or maybe it’s life in the bike lane…):

  • I picked up our naturally raised local beef from Beef Connections on the weekend (it comes frozen) and brought a cooler with some ice packs in it so I could empty the cardboard boxes it comes in and give them back to the farmers to re-use. They were very happy to have them back and said they could definitely re-use them.
  • We re-use ziploc bags (they’re sturdy and easy to wash) and I bring them with me to the Bulk Barn for my bulk shopping to reduce the number of plastic bags we use.
  • We sometimes get sausages on a bun at the farmers market which come in a napkin inside a half styro shell. I tell them to keep the shell.
  • I bring my tiffin boxes any time we get take-out and they are always a conversation starter, which is great. I’ve told lots of people where to pick them up and am hoping they’ll catch on. I also bring them as our lunch and picnic boxes and am passing the plastic-free message on to local parents.
  • I always try to consolidate car trips… like today’s trip to the doctor which took us near Grassroots where I brought my own containers for bulk cleaning vinegar and cleaning baking soda and the Big Carrot where I bought bulk fair trade organic dark chocolate.
  • I finally got myself a new bike. Yes, I do try to buy second-hand but for a good quality bike I’m a little nervous buying second hand as I fear I may buy something stolen. I also wanted some advice and to test drive a few. The new bike will get me out even more than before since it rides easier and is lighter (and faster, making a huge difference when the trailer is behind). Oh, and I registered it with the Toronto police bike registry already.
  • I finally got my mobile phone bill (which was a ridiculous 5 pages in the new silly-layout-with-large-print format) switched to an e-bill.
  • I keep up with my green news online, much of it through Twitter… (another reason I haven’t been blogging: pure laziness since micro-blogging is quicker!) and I’d love to pass on a link to a must-watch TED talk on mass adoption of green-powered (i.e. solar or wind battery charging) electric cars: http://bit.ly/1tRsu 
  • I had my husband re-hang my laundry line which fell down in a storm last fall and am back in the habit of hanging laundry outside, taking advantage of the warm wind days when you can dry stuff out there almost as quickly as you can in a dryer! I also try to get my laundry in during the low usage times now that I don’t have someone living in the basement anymore (which stopped the late night laundry for several months).
  • I found out Not Far From the Tree is picking fruit in 2 wards this year – one on the west and one on the east side of Toronto, so I will look into going out for some picking this summer.
  • I have signed up for our CSA (Plan B Organic Farm) again this year since they did such a stellar job last harvest season and throughout the winter. I look forward to completely local organic produce delivered to my door weekly (we get it bi-weekly in the winter and only a portion is local) again starting this week!
  • I’m going through my old clothing (the rest of the stuff in the basement is next) and mending (I’d never have done that a couple of years ago) and purging clothes. Purged clothes, depending on their state, will be given to charity or turned into rags or patches, and the suits will be given to Dress For Success, an organization (with affiliates in Canada, US, Netherlands, Poland, UK, New Zealand, and maybe more) that gives suits to low-income women for interviews and employment.

That’s all I can think of for now, but I just wanted to give a glimpse into the attempts at green living here. Nothing really new, but just trying to incorporate this into all aspects of life.

Sorry for the long lapse in entries. If you have any new challenges to suggest, please leave a comment!