Sunday, December 1, 2013

Shop outside the box for eco-friendly gift giving

shopping local for eco friendly gift giving
Supporting local, independent shops is an enjoyable way to keep your Christmas shopping eco friendly. 

Uptown Saint John has a great ad campaign running right now. It’s called “Shop outside the box” which I think is a clever way to remind people that they can find unique gifts for family and friends at a variety of independent retailers in uptown Saint John.

I prefer to support local businesses throughout our region during the Holiday shopping season. I find that shopping in small, local stores keeps the joy in Holiday shopping, making it a pleasurable event rather than a chore.

Personal preference aside, buying local keeps four-times more of our shopping dollars in our communities, compared to shopping at chain stores. It’s a way to invest in our community and to grow our economy.

Shopping “outside the box” can have an eco slant too.
Considering the environment when you’re choosing gifts is a way to lower the carbon footprint of the Holidays while giving meaningful gifts that can be put to good use.
Gift certificates:
We love to give gift certificates to Imperial Theatre, Harbour Station events, or local restaurants. It’s a nice way to treat the recipient to a night out. Or you can make a donation to a local charity in someone’s name.

If you prefer to give something that’s more wrap able here are a few more ideas, large and small, that are fun, practical and ecofriendly.

  • If you know someone who is a fan of good quality dark chocolate give them a stack of organic, fair trade chocolate bars wrapped with a pretty bow. This premium chocolate is pricier than your average bar so can be a sweet treat.

  • For the coffee lover – a pound of best quality coffee beans and a handmade mug makes a great gift. (Java Moose and Beamer’s Creek coffee is roasted locally, Just Us! Coffee is roasted in Nova Scotia).

  • A basket of specialty food is another unique gift that the recipient can put to good use, especially during the Holidays.  Markets and many specialty shops carry a great variety of gourmet products, homemade and otherwise. Or you could fill a basket with your own homemade treats.

  • Almost everyone could use an eco-friendly electronics charger. The Green Zero charger uses zero stand-by power and shuts off the power supply to a device when it’s fully charged, so you don’t need to worry about wasting power when you recharge overnight.

  • Soda Stream is a simple home system for carbonating tap water. It's a countertop gadget with CO2 cartridges that are refillable (at Sears, Staples). Carbonate to your liking -- lots of bubbles or few -- and nix the cans and bottles of mineral water and club soda. (It takes about three litres of water to create one litre of bottled water and about 250 ml of oil -- includes oil used to make the bottle and gas to ship the filled bottle.)

Whatever gifts you choose to give, considering the impact your shopping can have on your community, and the environment, is another way to make your shopping, and the Holiday season, meaningful.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Why GMO labeling is good for consumers

Why GMO labeling is good for consumers
There have been no clinical studies to determine if GMOs are even safe for human consumption. GMO labeling let's consumers decide if they want to take that risk.

Do you find yourself reading food labels more often, curious to see what is, or isn’t, in some of the packaged food in your cupboard? There’s a general trend towards label reading because people want to know what’s in their food, and why wouldn’t we?

This food trend is at the heart of a battle being waged south of the border about GMO labeling of foods, the results of which have the potential to impact our grocery stores too. Although GMO labelling is non-existent in Canada, momentum in the U.S. could influence legislation here.

In the meantime Health Canada considers GMO foods safe for human consumption.

Never mind that 64 other countries around the world restrict or ban GMOs. It begs the question: What do they know that we don’t?

Reasons why you should test your home for radon

I have been wondering why radon isn’t on the radar of New Brunswickers. According to a Health Canada study released in 2012, New Brunswick homes have the highest radon levels in the country yet you don’t hear much about it.
But across the border in Maine, my brother routinely tests clients’ homes for radon because public awareness of the dangers of the gas in homes is high.
That 2012 Health Canada study found that almost 25% of the New Brunswick homes participating in the cross-Canada study had radon levels above the Health Canada guidelines of 200 Bq/m3. When the data was sifted by population the study concluded that 20% of New Brunswickers live in homes with radon concentrations above the Health Canada guidelines.

What’s the worry?

  • Exposure to radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer.
  • It’s estimated that 10% of lung cancer deaths in NB are associated with radon exposure.
  • If you’re a smoker and live in a home with radon concentrations are higher than the Health Canada guidelines the odds are not in your favour.
  • If you’re not a smoker but are exposed to a high level of radon your lifetime lung cancer risk is 1 in 20.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Is beef fed growth hormones safe to eat? Likely not.

Did you know Canadian beef cattle are fed growth hormones? Six growth hormones approved by Health Canada are used by the beef industry to help beef cattle grow bigger faster. Administering hormones (three natural and three synthetic) allows the beef industry to raise beef more cheaply and helps to keep beef prices low for consumers.

But is cheap beef worth it?

Raising the bar - why fair trade organic chocolate is good for you and the planet

Chocolate certified fair trade and organic has environmental and social benefits.
I love good chocolate, intensely-flavoured dark bars in particular. I keep the cupboard stocked with what my kids call “Mommy chocolate” and dole it out a couple of squares at a time. I buy 70 percent or higher cocoa content and consider it a health food as much as I do a treat since there is a lot about dark chocolate that is good for you, and a little bit goes a long way.

I do wonder about what makes chocolate “good.” There is a social and environmental cost to cocoa bean farming and those effects are worsening as the world’s appetite for chocolate continues to grow. According to Mars Chocolate, the demand for cocoa will outstrip global supply (by one million tons) by 2012. Canadians eat, on average, 5.5 kg of chocolate per person each year (Source: Fair Trade Canada).

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

8 tips to improve indoor air quality

It used to be that cooking aromas made their way from the kitchen to our bedroom. It was kind of nice if I was baking molasses cookies but not so great if I cooked haddock for supper. I knew that inhaling cooking fumes wasn’t great so last winter we installed a new range hood that vents to the outside and now our bedroom just smells like our dog.
Cooking fumes are just one of the many issues with indoor air quality that most of us live with, without understanding the consequences.

Are new clothes toxic? 4 tips to avoid chemical residue

New clothes are coated with a variety of chemicals to keep them looking crisp.

Late August is likely one of the busiest clothes shopping times of the year. It’s a tradition in many households to get a pile of new back-to-school clothes and even people who aren’t heading to school get in the shopping mode as we approach a new season.
Before you dress your kids, and yourself, in your brand new, never-been-washed clothes, you might like to toss everything in the wash first. And then put them through the wash again. And then again.
Here’s why...

Green routine – 7 healthy habits for you and the planet

7 healthy habits for you and the planet:

September is a good time to start new habits. Because a sense of routine resumes after Labour Day you might be able to slide some healthy changes into your everyday routine without much trouble. If you’re open to this notion, here is a September checklist to consider:

Friday, August 16, 2013

Zero trash goal - know your local recycling guidelines

Recycling reminders - knowing what can and can't go in the recycling bin
You might be surprised what can and can't go in the recycling bin. Learn your local do's and don't so you're recycling everything possible.
The curbside recycling discussion has been on the table for a few years now in Rothesay but only recently have discussions turned to the idea of a regional curbside recycling strategy.

As the Fundy Solid Waste Commission contemplates a $4-million investment to replace the roadside blue bins it makes sense to see where municipalities in the region stand on curbside recycling programs.

Being able to put recyclables to the curb every two weeks should improve recycling participation, which has leveled off over the past couple of years.

Aim for zero curbside trash and you'll get pretty close

Recycling can cut your household trash nearly in half and composting can knock off another 40%. Curbside recycling can do wonders for recycling participation.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Review - Ford C-MAX hybrid: love, love, love

Ford C-Max Hybrid - review of my test drive
The Ford C-MAX hybrid is efficient and fun to drive.

A couple of months ago I was given a Ford C-MAX hybrid car to test drive for two weeks. I have never been into cars but the idea of a hybrid vehicle appealed to me so I was excited for the opportunity. Cars still don’t thrill be but my two weeks with the Ford C-MAX sure did.
It was my first experience with a hybrid so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had some assumptions: low fuel consumption, lower CO2 emissions and many have self-charging batteries which enhances efficiency too. You’re going to pay a little more for a hybrid vehicle (in some cases a lot more, depending on the make and model) but you’re going to save money on gas and you’ll pollute less.
But there was more that impressed me about the potential of hybrid vehicles.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Eco-friendly summer entertaining

Enameled dinnerware is an eco-friendly summer entertaining option

Summer is the season of plastic and disposable dinnerware. I get the practicality of it. With backyard meals, lugging the glass and china out to the deck can feel like a bit of effort and having kids running around the back yard with a cold drink in a breakable glass can be a bit of a worry.
Then there’s the chance that cutlery will get lost in the grass or fall through the cracks in the deck.  If you’re feeding a crowd it just seems easier to use disposable.
Look in any store for outside dishes and the first thing you’ll find are brightly-coloured cups, plates and bowls made of some un-numbered plastic. Disposable dinnerware is often plastic or Styrofoam.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Americans throw out about 113 billion disposable cups, 29 billion disposable plates and 39 billion disposable utensils each year. That’s a lot of landfill, not to mentions the environmental impact of what goes into making them in the first place.
Summer simplicity doesn’t have to mean disposable. Nor are the only options for eating outside plastic. There are lots of great options for picnic and back-deck dishes that are reusable, non-toxic or at the very least, compostable.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Ten tips to keep your compost bin healthy all summer

Ten tips for a healthy compost bin this summer

We’re on a mission to make our compost bin less smelly this summer and we’d like to prevent another crop of bugs from hatching too. These things don’t make the compost cart unusable but they do make it a little unpleasant during the summer.  

If you’re not composting yet consider this: composting can divert up to 40% of your household waste from the landfill. That means fewer bags sent to the curb every two weeks and it means that all of that food waste can go back into the earth in a productive way. Sure, food will eventually decompose in the landfill but it takes a good long time and it’s unproductive. It’s much better to turn compostables into compost, the ultimate form of recycling.  

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Eco-friendly fashion: second hand shopping can be cheap and chic

Fab second hand fashion finds
My second hand clothing finds: frills, cashmere and organic cotton.
Most people can’t resist a good deal, especially when it comes to clothing (me included). That’s what the business of cheap trendy clothes is feeding on. This “fast fashion” makes it easy for people, especially women, to feed their addiction to stylish clothing as each new season approaches. This habit, or hobby, or whatever you want to call it, isn’t sustainable, for ethical and environmental reasons.

The tragedy of the clothing factory collapse in Bangladesh reminded the Western world that the appetite for fast fashion has a cost that isn’t coming out of the shopper’s pocket, that there are ethical issues associated with producing ultra-cheap clothes in up-to-the-minute styles.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

How to avoide pesticides on produce - the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15

EWG's annual shopper's guide to pesticides

We’re lucky that a greater variety of organic produce is getting easier to find in our local stores and markets. But in a way it makes our grocery shopping harder. Having more choice creates a bit of a dilemma: should we buy only organic produce – a more expensive option – or pick and choose what we do and don’t buy organic?

Nobody wants to hem and haw over whether to buy the organic kiwi, which is why I’m hooked on Environmental Working Group’s annual Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides. The guide lists the produce that has the highest pesticide load when it reaches your table along with the produce with the lowest pesticide load.
To make their research easy to use the have created the Dirty Dozen (produce with the highest pesticide load) and the Clean 15 (produce with the lowest pesticide load).

Finding a safe and effective sunscreen

Environmental Working Group guide to safe and effective sunscreen
Environmental Working Group's guide to safe and effective sunscreen makes sun safety easy.
When it’s cold out I forget all about sunscreen.  

Even though we half froze over the May long weekend, I noticed on the Sunday night that both of my children had sunburned cheeks from an afternoon spent at an ultimate frisbee tournament.  

It’s the kind of thing I kick myself about because I should know better; sunscreen season is year round not just warm sunny days. 

And so it begins, the annual search for sunscreen that’s safe and effective, a sunscreen that does what it needs to do without being loaded with toxic ingredients that scare me more than sunburns.  

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Pay it forward on Earth Day

Pay it forward day is a random-acts-of-kindness marathon
Pay it Forward Day is coming up on April 25. It’s a random-acts-of-kindness marathon where you spend 24 hours delighting people. It’s about simple gestures, that’s all. Smiles, thoughtful notes and visits, cookies for your neighbours…
The Pay it Forward movement reminds people that initiating simple acts of kindness makes everyone feel better about themselves and the world.

What if we made Earth Day more meaningful this year by adopting the Pay it Forward attitude, practiced acts of kindness towards the earth, beginning on April 22, Earth Day?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Avoiding processed foods: My four favourite (healthy) 30-minute meals

This is the closest I'll let my kids get to Kraft dinner and its questionable food dyes.
I have a friend who told me one day she looked in her grocery cart and realised that almost everything was in a box. It was a bit of a shock for her to see it all piled together, even though she was the one who put it there.
The environmental impact of processed foods goes beyond all of the packaging. Food additives used in the packaged foods industry come with their own list of concerns. From preserving agents to artificial colours and other additives, the general consensus is that processed foods are contributing to the explosion in chronic diseases.
The additives that concern environmental groups aren’t often on the government’s radar so it’s up to the average Joe to figure it out.
Take Kraft Dinner, for example.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Six super-easy homemade cleaners that smell great and work

easy recipes for non toxic cleaning using simple grocery store ingredients

Like most people I love that “clean” smell of a freshly scrubbed house. It’s like having your nose confirm that the place is sparkling, no matter that it’s usually synthetic fragrances (found in standard cleaners) that linger in your home.
Fragrances contain phthalates, which are a batch of chemicals known to be hormone disruptors and suspected of causing a whole host of health concerns, including asthma, reproductive issues and thyroid problems. As always, children are most at risk. If an ingredient list includes the words “fragrance” or “perfume”  know the scent is toxic. Even unscented products often contain these ingredients.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Six fun ways to celebrate Earth Hour with your kids

Thanks to the February wind storm our little neighbourhood was without power for three days. It was a bit of an adventure for the first two days. We slept by the fire in the living room and held my daughter’s evening birthday party by candlelight, craft activities and all. It was fun and memorable but by the third cold early morning the novelty had worn off.

We’ll be back at it again the evening of Saturday, March 23 to celebrate Earth Hour. Except this time it will have all of the fun of the power outage without the worry of pipes freezing.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

How to reduce vampire power consumption

Eco-friendly chargers use zero stand-by power and shut off the power supply when your device is fully charged
Eco-friendly chargers use zero stand-by power and shut off the power supply to a device when it’s fully charged,

Would you ever leave the door ajar in winter, or leave the tap running in the bathroom?
Probably not. 
Nobody wants to waste water or heat. But what we all do without thinking is let our electronics sip away on power while they’re not being used.
Computers, TV’s, DVD players, stereos, your cable box, all suck power when they not in use (off or on standby) powering clocks and other display screens. Microwaves and other small appliances do the same and even our cell phone chargers keep drawing electricity long after our devices are fully charged.  

Monday, February 11, 2013

Are sales receipts toxic? 7 tips to reduce your BPA exposure

7 tips to reduce your BPA exposure from sales receipts
Many sales receipts in Europe are stamped "BPA free" so consumers don't have to worry.

My son came home from school last fall with a new “5-second rule”.
When he saw me sorting receipts from my purse I was told not to touch them for more than five seconds because they’re toxic. That was the buzz at school. Like holding your breath when you drive by a graveyard and honking when you go over a bridge.
But the thing is, the receipt rule is based on fact.

It seems that the thermal paper used for most receipts these days is coated in Bisphenol-A (BPA), an environmental toxin that is a known hormone disruptor and has been linked to reproductive problems and some cancers.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Greening your ride - more eco-friendly transportation

My husband is a huge fan of the Comex. Aside from the fact that it keeps us a one-car family he gets to relax and read his book on the way to the office. The added bonus, it keeps our family`s carbon footprint low.  

Transportation is the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, and among all modes of transportation cars are the worst offenders. According to Saint John Transit, a single public bus takes 40 vehicles off the road during rush hour, reducing air pollutants by nine tones a year.


Taking your car off the road as often as possible has other benefits too. Think of what you’d save on gas, insurance and parking expenses. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Six easy tips for an eco-friendly birthday party

A homemade cake (or other special treat) helps to keep a party authentic and meaningful.

There was a time I wished that I was organized enough to go all out with decorations for my kids birthday parties. But even if I had been organized, I could never bring myself to buy all sorts of disposable plastic stuff. The typical birthday party generates a lot of trash and I just couldn’t do it.

The fact is, parties are often disposable events. You might not set out to have it that way it’s just that most party supplies – from decorations to plates and cutlery –are disposable. Wrapping paper isn’t recyclable, loot bags are often filled with throw-away plastic items and a lot of processed, packaged food gets consumed.