4 Lazy, Green New Year’s Resolutions

I’ve never been big on ambitious resolutions.  I like setting goals as much the next (lazy) girl, but a date on the calendar has never been enough motivation for me to make sweeping life changes.  Hey, it’s January 1st, so I’m suddenly really excited about going to the gym for the first time in my whole life, and I’m going to tell the world about it.  If I haven’t managed to   clean and organize all my closets yet, chances are declaring my intent to do so publicly isn’t going to get me there.

Having said that, I do like to set out some reasonably achievable goals from time to time, regardless of the day of the year.  My inner couch potato is immensely satisfied by crossing (easy) tasks off a list.

Given the title of this blog, the fact that you’re reading it suggest that you might be looking for some New Years’s resolutions.  And I wouldn’t be doing my job as a crunchy granola tree hugger if I didn’t take this chance to suggest a few simple ways you could save the world without straining a muscle.

1)  Stop buying single-use crap. In perhaps the greatest marketing achievement since cigarettes, we have collectively come to believe that plastic wrap,  ziploc bags, paper towels, etc… are saving us time and money.  I’m not sold.

And not just because I shudder when I picture mounds of it in the landfill or floating around the ocean.  This stuff is not cheap, and you have to keep buying it again and again and again.  Do you like grocery shopping?  Are you looking for more reasons to peruse the aisles with your whining children?  What about taking out the garbage?  Think it’s fun trekking leaking bags of smelly stuff out to the bin in your pjs in February?  Do yourself a favour.  Make a reasoned, one-time purchase of some decent food storage containers (think glass and metal, they last way longer than dinky plastic), dish towels, cleaning cloths, etc…

Stock up your kitchen so that the re-usable stuff is just as easy to grab as the disposable stuff, because we know the change has to be easy if it’s going to stick.   Do this for a few months, and you’ll see that you barely notice the extra few dishes (chances are you have a dishwasher, and since you bought glass and metal stuff you can actually put them in your dishwasher without eating gross chemicals along with your leftovers).  I don’t know about you, but I’d rather throw a few tea towels in with my laundry than have to trek to the grocery store because I ran out of disposable cleaning wipes.  Seriously, it’s cold out there!

2) Drive less.  Did I mention that I like my couch?  The last thing I want to do once I finally get my kids into bed is leave my house and climb into my car to run errands. I’m not proposing you sell your car and strap snow chains on your bike.  I love my car.  I drive my kids to school and daycare every day because if I had to walk 4.2km round trip twice a day under time pressure with two whiny under-5-year-olds, I’d lose my freaking mind.  However, the lazy in me wants to do as few errands as possible.  Coordinating your errands into fewer trips so you don’t have to go out as many times is a really, really easy way to save yourself some time and gas money, while also conveniently spitting less carbon monoxide into the air.  Sound too organized for your chaotic life? I’ll do another post one day about the task-management app I use that makes this easier.

3)  Eat a little bit less meat.  I’m not a vegetarian.  Shocking, right?  I’ve tried it, and I may go back to it when I don’t have two tiny humans who require regular feeding, but at this stage in my life it just isn’t working.  Did I mention that my kids can’t eat dairy and soy? More about that in later posts.

And I don’t buy all organic meat.  I’m working on this one; it’s not in our budget to buy organic from the store all the time, and buying locally produced stuff in mass quantities requires a chest freezer.  I haven’t figured out if the advantage of eating “happy” meat outweighs the energy required to run a second freezer.  So my approach for now is to just eat as little meat as possible.  I think we probably average at least 2 nights meat free per week.   And it’s not weird veggie meals: think chili, (mild) veggie curry, eggs for dinner, etc…

4) Get rid of some stuff.  The best time to get rid of stuff is before the holidays (clear out some toys before the pile-on at Christmas) but chances are you were too busy baking treats for your kids holiday party and writing letters to Santa.  And now you’re faced with the gargantuan task of finding homes for your kids 15 new lego sets and 400 new stuffies.  Take this opportunity to clear out the junk.  This doesn’t have to be a huge scary task; I’m not suggesting you empty your closets and organize your basement (because that would be way too much work!).  Think low-hanging fruit.  Next time you pull that single holy sock out of your drawer, don’t just shove it back in there; throw it out!  Same with the jeans you haven’t worn since before your first kid; walk them over to the consignment pair and get yourself some new ones.  I recommend leggings;  much more forgiving! 🙂

While your kids are busy with their new flashing, singing, shiny things, do a lightning run around the house with a garbage bag, scooping up anything they won’t notice is missing.  Stash this bag in the basement for a month in case you’ve accidentally taken “the most special thing ever!!!”, then donate it (when they’re not in the car with you, of course!).

Having less stuff means less organizing, tidying, cleaning – less work.  And owning less stuff overall is invariably better for the planet, which means you can stop feeling guilty about the 27th Shopkin key chain you bought your kid because she just “had to have it”!!

There you have it.  Some really achievable ways to reduce your environmental footprint without stepping foot out of your house.  Got any more suggestions for easy green resolutions?  Share them in the comments, and I’ll happily steal them as future blog post ideas.  Cuz coming up with new material is hard work…

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Day 43 – A word for Stephen Harper, from Wade Davis

Bear with me, as today’s blog post is a departure from my usual.

This evening I listened to an infuriating CBC interview with an Enbridge representative, talking about the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, followed by an even more infuriating sound clip of Mr. Harper discussing the need to “streamline” environmental reviews.  As I debated pulling out my own hair in frustration, I was reminded of the passage I read last night.  I have just started reading the fourth lecture in Wade Davis’s Massey lecture series (complied in The Wayfinders, the first of my 12 non-fiction books – check out this post: bit.ly/QY75cw).  In it, he talks about proposed mining development in the Sacred Headwaters of British Columbia.  If I could ask Mr Harper to read, and absorb, one thing (other than a scientific review of the impacts of the Northern Gateway), it would be this:

“Environmental concerns aside, think for a moment of what these proposals imply about our culture.  We accept it as normal that people who have never been on the land, who have no history or connection to the country, may legally secure the right to come in and by the very nature of their enterprises leave in their wake a cultural and physical landscape utterly transformed and desecrated.  What’s more, in granting such mining concessions, often initially for trivial sums to speculators from distant cities, companies cobbled together with less history than my dog, we place no cultural or market value on the land itself.  The cost of destroying a natural asset, or its inherent worth if left intact, has no metric in the economic calculations that support the industrialization of the wild.  No company has to compensate the public for what it does to the commons, the forests, mountains, and rivers, which by definition belong to everyone.  As long as there is promise of revenue flows and employment, it merely requires permissions to proceed.  We take this as a given for it is the foundation of our system, the way commerce extracts value and profit in a resource-drive economy.  But if you think about it, especially from the perspectives of so many other cultures, touched and inspired by quite different visions of life and land, it appears to be very odd and anomalous human behaviour.”

I’m not sure how to turn this into a green resolution… perhaps simply posting this, and having a few people read and talk about it to their friends, is enough.  But just in case, I also pledge to NEVER vote for Stephen Harper.  Or shake his hand, should the opportunity arise.

Day 35 – Thinking outside the (gift) box

August is all about birthdays in my world.  Mom, sis, uncle, more than a couple of friends.  And in the mildly chaotic storm that is my life these days, it would be easy to throw my green philosophy out the window and head to the nearest mall for gifts.  But with this blog acting as a daily reminder of why greener choices are important, I tried to do better.

I often prefer to give an experience instead of a gift.  For Mother’s and Father’s Day, for example, my Mom or Dad and I will spend a day doing something – a trip to Toronto Island, a photography workshop, or a hike, to name a few recent outings.  My hubby and I rarely exchange gifts, usually opting to spend a weekend together, or perhaps buy a bigger ticket item that we’ll both enjoy – our Swift Winisk canoe being my favourite example.  Gift certificates can work too, for things like a spa outing or a restaurant.

When I do buy gifts, I try to buy from craft shows and local artisans, as it feels like gifts have more meaning when they’re hand crafted.  And I’m just not crafty enough to make them all myself.  Recently, I also tried buying a second-hand gift.  Not a re-gift (though I’m pro re-gift, if it’s done right), but an antique.  Check out the great antique  sewing machine I recently found for my Mom’s birthday!  She loves it, and it satisfies my green second-hand shopping pledge to not add to the consumer demand for more “stuff”.

This doesn’t mean I never buy traditional gifts.  A friend has a Christmas tradition of only exchanging handmade items or books.  I casually suggested this to my fam, but was told I was sucking all the fun out of Christmas.  Fair enough.  I like getting shiny new things as much as the next gal.  I’m just challenging myself to think outside the (gift) box, and try to make greener gift choices more often than not.

Day 34 – Food for thought

This has been an enjoyable week for me, blog-wise.  I’ve had lots of ideas about food, and ways to green my eating habits.  As I reflect on my food choices, I think it all comes down to a mindset.  We need to be aware of what we’re eating – where it comes from, how it was grown, how it was processed, etc…  But it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the information about food – does it contain GMO’s?  What are “natural flavours”?  Does local matter more than organic?  Whenever I get frustrated with the information overload, I come back to the most basic question of “where does it come from?”.  If it’s meat, was the animal humanely treated and fed quality food?  If it’s produce, how many weeks of trucking and flying were needed to get it to me?  And so on.  I feel that if I keep this question in the back of my mind when I’m shopping and ordering, I can rest assured that I’m probably making mostly green choices, and likely getting some healthy food into myself at the same time.

With that in mind, here’s a look back at “food week”

  • Beer:  Love this pledge, and have totally kept to it.  Discovered Kawartha Lakes Brewery Raspberry Wheat beer, and that’s been my brew of choice this week.
  • Cheese:  Yup, ate mostly organic cheese this week.  I say mostly because this past weekend I’ve been up north at my parents place, and you just can’t buy organic cheese in the grocery stores in Minden.  But tomorrow I head to Haliburton to stock up.
  • Chocolate:  Again, a tasty pledge.  I haven’t actually had any chocolate at all this week, so I guess I’ve stuck to this one?
  • Leftovers:  Been rocking this one.  Focus on eating the leftovers the next day, so I’m not dealing with gross 2-3 day old stuff.
  • Local produce: This one is actually really easy here in the Haliburton area, as local produce is abundant in the summer.  Forget farmer’s markets, there are road-side stands, and the local fruit market is really good about stocking locally when it’s available.
  • Spork: My kid used one this morning, and I still have one in my purse, though I haven’t had occasion to use it yet.

And as a tasty conclusion to food week, I’m going to indulge in a (second) butter tart, locally made at a yummy area bakery.  Sweet!

Day 33 – SPORK!

No matter how good we try to be at meal planning and bringing leftovers to work, there are inevitably days that we’re stuck at work with no lunch.  Or heading to an evening commitment with no dinner.  It happens to me all too often – I could never pledge to give up eating out!  And inevitably, that take out meal involves more garbage than we’d like – disposable plates, napkins, cutlery, and cup.  And while one could in theory carry tupperware everywhere, few of us are willing to dedicate the purse space.  So instead, I’m suggesting bringing your own cutlery.  I have to give my partner credit on this one, as he originated the idea.  He started carrying a “spork” in his bag – a spoon/fork combo that accommodates most last-minute meals.  So, inspired by this practice, I am pledging to eliminate disposable cutlery from my eating-out habits.  I have bought a few sporks, and have one in my purse and one stashed in my daughter’s diaper bag.  Bring on the Thai noodle bowls for lunch!

 

Day 31 & 32 – Raspberries, blueberries and peaches, oh my!

I got a lot of great feedback on my day 30 post about meal planning and leftovers.  Seems this topic is close to home for a lot of folks.  It seems like an easy thing – sitting down and planning out your meals for the week, but in reality it takes time, creativity and energy, which can be in short supply for many of us.  I heard a great suggestion once of creating a series of one-week meal plans (say, 4 of them) and just re-using them over and over.  Maybe not as exciting, but way less time involved.  I tried this half heartedly once, but haven’t stuck to it yet.  I find my weeks just aren’t predictable enough.  Maybe once my daughter is in daycare and I’m back to work full-time, we’ll settle into more of a routine.  I’ll keep you posted on my meal planning efforts.

In a really perfect world, I would be organized enough with my meal planning to be able to buy all my produce at a weekly farmer’s market.  It’s so great to support small farms and farmers, and, as I mentioned in my last post, get to know the person who grows your food.  I’m lucky in my neighbourhood to have a farmer’s market within a very short walk (less than 5 minutes), and two others only a few kilometres.  If you’re a fellow Riverdale or Danforth resident, check out these great markets:

In addition to Farmer’s Markets, I’ve also done the organic produce delivery option.  I always suspend my account in the summer, when local produce is abundant at markets, but I have enjoyed having it through the winter.  I admit that I opt for the customizable option and often get out of season produce, because I just don’t find that I’m a dedicated or creative enough cook to stick to in season all year-long.

When we move to Guelph, I’d like to continue my trend of shopping for in season produce in the spring-summer-fall at the farmer’s market, but I also plan to supplement my produce year round by supporting Community-Supported Agriculture.  If you’re not familiar with CSA’s, check out this article that was sent to me over twitter recently: http://ht.ly/cBJWU

Moving on to how all of this becomes a green pledge… Or, in this case, two green pledges.  Yes, for those of you following closely, I skipped a post yesterday.  It was a travel day for us, and I was too zonked to string two words together.  So pledge number one is to continue to support local farming by shopping at farmer’s market throughout the spring and summer, and beyond when I can.  Pledge number two is to support a CSA.  Realistically, this will have to wait a few months until we settle into a house in Guelph.  But it lined up nicely with food week, so I’ll make the pledge now and realize it when I can.

Today’s farmer’s market find was fresh local raspberries and wild blueberries – I’m off to enjoy some over Kawartha Dairy Ice Cream!  Yum!

Day 30 – Yesterday’s dinner

My hubby pointed out that my last few blogs have been all about going without – no beer from outside Ontario, no chocolate that isn’t Fair Trade.  His concern, and he is right (it happens), is that I have 335 more days of green resolutions, and if I keep up in this fashion, I’ll be living (and eating) in a fairly limited manner.  Fair point.  I think he may be motivated by a fear that I will also limit his eating choices, but I digress.  In a nod to his logic, today’s post is about eating more, not less.

Keeping in the spirit of food week, I’ve been thinking more about my food choices.  How it’s grown, where it comes from, how it gets to me.  And as I think about the sources of my food, I also end up thinking about where my food ends up.  Too often we let food go bad – I’m totally guilty of this.  Leftovers are rarely appealing.  You think you’ll eat the rest of that salad tomorrow, but wilted lettuce just isn’t appetizing.   But it’s easier and less guilt-inducing to stick it in the fridge and forget about it.  Until Wednesday, when I clean out the fridge in advance of garbage (and compost) day.

But as I become more aware of where my food comes from, and in many cases meet the farmer’s who grew it (or at least helped harvest it), I’m less inclined to let that food go bad.  While  I might not want to polish off the last few mouthfuls of green beans, I picture the guy who sold them to me, and all the work that went into growing them, and I scarf them down.

So I’m turning over a new leaf.  I promise to eat my leftovers before they go bad.  Aside from reducing food waste, this will also save me time on garbage day, as I shouldn’t have to clean out the fridge.  Except for the few errant potatoes that always roll to the back of the drawer, or the salad dressing that you could swear you just bought last month…

As I type this, I realize there is a burger in the fridge that we BBQ’s on Sunday.  Three days, right?  Guess that means I’m eating it tonight… Sigh.  Nothing like a late night cold burger patty!  Perhaps this pledge should have waited until tomorrow…

Day 29 – Mmm… chocolate…

Ya gotta love any resolution that involves eating chocolate!

In this case, it’s a pledge to eat only fair trade chocolate for the next year.  I’m already a loyal Camino fan (www.lasiembra.com/camino/en/camino), but there are lots of other great chocolate companies that produce Fair Trade products.  Check out this website to learn more about why it’s important to support Fair Trade chocolate products, and to find companies that produce them (fairtrade.ca/en/news-views/news/guide-buying-fair-trade-chocolate).

And while it’s easy to joke about this being the easiest pledge I’ve made so far, in reality it will have its own challenges.  This means no impulse Reese Cups on road trips, no hot chocolate from Timmie’s, and no flourless chocolate cake at Lolita’s.  Yikes.  Looks like I’ll need to find other ways to indulge my sweet tooth!

Day 28 – Cheese!

I had a debate a few years ago with a friend about the merits of organic milk.  She grew up on a dairy farm, so is quite knowledgeable.  She cited that Canada does not allow growth hormone, and that any animals that are treated with antibiotics are removed from the milking cycle.  These were compelling arguments, but the matter wasn’t resolved in my mind.  So I put the question to the good folks at Organic Meadow, whose products I have bought for years.  They posted a great response on Facebook, and also directed me to their website, which lays out the reasons for eating and drinking organic products in a straightforward and compelling manner.  There are a host of reasons, but for me it was about generally supporting organic principles, local farms, and being sure of ethical treatment of animals.    I’d encourage you to have a look at Organic Meadow’s website, and decide for yourself: http://organicmeadow.com/why_organic

I have been an intermittent buyer of organic dairy products over the years, depending mostly on availability and cost.  But from this point forward, I will consistently buy only organic milk, cheese, and yogurt for my family.  The cheese is the biggest change, as we eat a lot of it and I find it to be one of the pricier organic dairy product.  But the immediate cost up front is far outweighed by the environmental and health benefits long-term.  And besides, it’s SO MUCH tastier! 🙂

Day 27 – Food week begins. With beer.

First off, a quick review of my resolutions of the last week…

  • Walkability – Well, I haven’t bought a house that ISN’T in a walkable neighbourhood yet, so I guess I’m doing well on this one.  Wish I could say I had bought in a walkable area, but that would require the Guelph housing market to awake from its summer slumber… Sigh.
  • New car smell – One week in, car is still clean as a whistle.  Except for a few crumbs.  And maybe one tea stain.  But otherwise, great!
  • Unplugged – Rocking this one.  Laptops and phone chargers are unplugged every night, toaster oven and kettle after every use.
  • Making my tea at home (time saver post) – 99% on this one.  Did it every day, except today.  Totally forgot my tea before we headed out on our day long road trip and hike, so I caved and bought Timmie’s.  Eek.  No one would have enjoyed the day had I gone caffeine free, trust me.
  • Lights on, lights off – Doing very well on this one.  Typing this blog with only one lamp on in the whole house.

Okay, on to food week.  The topic for this week of blogs was inspired partly by yesterday being Food Day Canada (fooddaycanada.ca), but also because many of the things I’d like to blog about are food related.  There are so many ways to “green-ify” our food and drink habits – tea, coffee, beer, wine, meat, dairy, produce, chocolate… The list is endless.  This week, I’ll be posting about some of my favourite food and drink habits, and talking about ways to make them more green.

Today, I’ll start with a green pledge that is appropriate to the long weekend: beer.  I pledge to drink only Ontario beer for the next year.  Fortunately I’m a big Mill Street fan, but unfortunately I also just bought a case of Granville Island Brewery wheat beer.  I think it’s reasonable to finish that case, right?  It wouldn’t be environmentally friendly to throw out good beer!  So I’ll be a hardcore, Ontario-only beer drinker, after I finish my last two GIB’s.  And with that, I’m off to have a beer!  For the good of the planet, you know…