Thursday, 8 March 2012

(Not so) Waste Free Living - Update

Okay, so its been a while (understatement) since my last post.  I could make excuses but that would be a
waste of time and energy - the fact is that I have just not been inspired to write.  Over the Christmas season
we slacked on our waste free living, and never really got back into the groove.  I'm not saying that we are
total hypocrites, we still avoid packaging as much as possible, but being pregnant, I have let myself indulge
and buy foods that come in packaging that isn't recyclable - like prawns, cheese, and the occasional bag of

I used to buy all my meats and cheeses at the deli and butcher and avoided at all costs any packaging that
could not be recycled.  I will be the first to admit that going to three stores to buy my groceries was more
than onerous, especially when Eli was along for the ride (in and out of car seat).  And if you have ever
experienced the first trimester of pregnancy, you will know that anything requiring extra effort is not likely
to happen.

Another big addition to our waste stream is the meat packaging that has resulted in our purchase of half a
cow from a local farmer (which I feel is completely justified).  The paper, which I thought (hoped) might
have been lined with wax, is actually lined with plastic - not compostable or recyclable.  So it goes into
the trash.

Cheese packaging is another thing I would like to bring up.  I had this discussion with Jen and Grant from
the Clean Bin Project while they were touring the area and they also now buy packaged cheese (further
justification - my inspiring heros are doing it!).  Like I already mentioned, I used to buy my cheese at the
deli and have it put into my own container.  But the cheese at the deli is already wrapped in plastic so it
wasn't like my purchase of cheese was completely waste free - I just let the deli take responsibility for it.
Not to mention that every time you buy something at the deli they put a fresh plastic glove on to serve you,
 and then wrap the end of the cheese in plastic film.  So it doesn't really result in less waste by buying cheese
from the deli.

I suppose I could just give up cheese altogether, which would be much easier if I lived in a country where
cheese wasn't so prevalent, but I am just not there yet.  And so another addition to the garbage.

I have also discovered that stretchy plastic film IS recyclable, which has opened up a whole new realm of foods

How much garbage do we produce?  I'd say we are up to about a grocery bag full a month, which isn't so bad
but is really bad compared to where we were before Christmas and pregnant.  Well, hopefully this blog post
will inspire me to get back into the groove.  Here's to any of you out there still checking in on my blog - thank you.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Statistical art with a meaningful message - Chris Jordan

Wow, Chris Jordan really puts things into perspective with his series called Running the Numbers that shows just how destructive our societal norms have become.

Chris Jordan is also featured in the documentary film the Clean Bin Project  talking about this phenomenon that is happening on Midway Island. Chris says: "On one of the remotest places on earth in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, five tonnes of plastic is brought to the island every year in the stomachs of Albatross."

Plastics are finding their way from our rivers and streams into the Pacific Ocean, and then being concentrated on what is known as the The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. There is a patch in every ocean in fact.

I live near a river and sometimes when I cross the bridge I see below me litter that sits on the river bank. If the litter isn't picked up it has a good chance of ending up in the Pacific Ocean.  

Want to act? Do you live in Kamloops?  Join me on October 9th at 10 am outside the Henry Grube Centre  for a shoreline cleanup under along the Thompson and North Thompson River.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Unplugged - a new recycling program launches in British Columbia

Starting on October 1st, British Columbians will be able to recycle even more, thanks to the launch of yet another Product Stewardship Program called unplugged.  This is the first of its kind in Canada - a recycling program for small appliances.

Product stewardship programs put the onus of recycling on the producers and manufacturers of products within their respective product category.  Legislation (the Environmental Management Act) requires producers to take responsibility for the life cycle management of their products, including collection and recycling.  There are several programs already in existence: tires, batteries, beverage containers, pharmaceuticals, paint, pesticides, flammables, used oil, and electronics.

Unplugged is really just an extension of the existing electronics recycling program, with new product categories being phased in over time (next phase will include pretty much everything electronic that is not already part of a recycling program - due to be launched on July 1, 2012).

So what does this mean to consumers? As with other stewardship programs, you will notice a recycling fee on your next purchase of a small appliance. This recycling fee goes towards funding the recycling program.  

There are many products accepted in the program - go to the unplugged website to find out about what is included in the recycling program. 

There are three locations in the Thompson-Nicola region that will accept small appliances. In Kamloops, at the Lorne Street Bottle Depot on Halston Avenue, or General Grants North Shore Bottle Depot on Fortune Drive.  In Merritt you can take your appliances to the George Hale Transfer Depot on Clapperton Road.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

The Clean Bin Project Tour

I am so excited.  The Clean Bin Project, the story which inspired my family to a waste free lifestyle, is coming to town and with it the filmmakers. It's a dream come true, literally.

Jen and Grant (shown in the photo above) will be coming to town in less than a week and I can hardly wait to meet them.  I saw them present at a Recycling Council of British Columbia conference back in 2009.  They had just completed a year of living without garbage or buying anything.  It was the best part of an amazing conference and I came away completely inspired to some day try it for myself!

Here I am, two years later, blogging about my experience living without waste, and hopefully inspiring others to follow suit.

If you want to check out the film, it will be shown in several locations throughout the Thompson-Nicola region.

The Fresh Outlook Foundation is hosting the REEL Change SustainAbility Film Festival on September 23rd and 24th (check out their website for films and locations).  The Clean Bin Project will be part of the festival and will be screened on September 24th at 7 pm in the Alumni Theatre at Thompson Rivers University.

The TNRD is touring with the film as well so you can check them out at the Chase Community Hall on September 26thBlackpool Heritage Hall in Clearwater on September 27th, Merritt Civic Centre E. Auditorium on September 28th and the Clinton Community Hall on September 29th. Showtime for these events is 7:15 pm.

Look for posters around town for more details, or you can post a comment and I will reply.

Tomato Festival

This weekend marked the First Annual Friends of the Garden (FOG) Tomato Festival.  I had been going to the meetings with my mother, so I knew well in advance that the festival was coming.  I planted eleven plants in six different varieties.

I got up early on Saturday morning to pick the biggest and ugliest tomato in my garden to enter in a contest (see photo next - mine is the one that the person is holding).  I planted several Beefsteak variety, and these are both big and ugly.  My biggest was just under 2 lbs, which was one of the biggest at the festival - but not the biggest.  The festival itself was wonderful.  Eli and I tasted about 20 varieties, before we had our fill (my favourite are the cherry - so sweet).

My mother was on the crew cutting up the tomatoes for sampling. Several of the variety were heirloom, so she gave me some to take home to save.  Luckily there was a table at the festival with information on saving seeds.  Ferment them in a jar for three days and then strain and dry on a plate, picking them off the plate every now and again while they are drying and when they stop sticking to the plate you know they are dry.  It seems simple enough so I am going to try.

I suppose that it was appropriate that I spent the weekend at home (for the most part), preserving the abundant supply of tomatoes to celebrate the festival. I got this amazing salsa recipe from an old colleague, Bella which I will share with you as it is so simple.

Put 1 tbsp salt, 1 cup vinegar,  1 tsp paprika, 1 medium onion diced, 2 peppers diced (I only used one green as I don't seem to have much luck growing peppers), 1 glove of giant garlic chopped, and 4.5 pounds of chopped tomatoes (3 large beefsteak tomatoes) into a pot and let it simmer for 1 - 1.5 hours (depending on how think you like it).  The recipe makes about 3 - 4 quart sized jars.   Process the jars in a canner for 20 - 30 minutes and voila.  Homemade and homegrown salsa to enjoy all year!

Friday, 9 September 2011

Despicable Disposables

Apologies here but I feel I need to rant a little about disposable products.  I mean really - all the energy and resources that go into making things that are used once and then thrown away! Marketers are cleaver you know - "lets make something that people have to keep buying more and more of so that we can make more profits".  Use it once, throw it away, go buy more.  It's a vicious circle.

Atop my product peeve list are those new pod coffee makers that brew an instant cup of espresso using (non-recyclable) cartridges.  It seems they are the new trend in instant coffee, I was told that the instant coffee tastes better than regular coffee maker coffee, but there are less wasteful options to a great cup of coffee.

A more environmentally friendly alternative to deliciously instant coffee is the Moka Pot, a stovetop espresso maker.  Made of stainless steel, with a rubber or plastic handle, it is very durable and I would be surprise dot ever see one hit a landfill, but if ever it did, it would be in the scrap metal pile. These coffee makers are sold at Fratelli Foods downtown, and proably the big department stores like London Drugs, The Bay and Sears.

Next up are disposable diapers. As a new parent myself not that long ago, I have seen first hand how much waste a little baby can produce by using disposable diapers.  When Eli was first born we used disposable diapers exclusively, as the cloth ones we bought were too big and would rub against her umbilical cord.  I can remember filling up a grocery bag of diapers about every two days, and couldn't wait until the cord healed so that we could put her into the cloth diapers.  By 18 months Eli was potty trained (with the occasional accident) and I think that the early potty training was a result of using cloth diapers.  

I will be the first to admit that cloth diapers require much more effort on the part of the parent (rinse, wash, dry, fold).  I recently found out about Snug Glee Bumz Diaper Service.  It is a little pricier than using disposable diapers but they will come and pick up your dirty diapers once a week and drop off a whole new freshly cleaned set.  You get the benefit of using cloth diapers without the hassle.

Another one of my major peeves are paper napkins and paper towels.  They are everywhere you go - public washrooms, restaurants, coffee shops, kitchen counters, kitchen cupboards, kitchen tables - and almost impossible to avoid.  I have brought several home myself in the past five months. I rip the paper into pieces and put in my backyard compost.  It wouldn't be as bad if everyone composted tissues and napkins. But not even the greenest people I know compost non-recyclable paper. And so what began as a tree in the rainforest of the Amazon will reach the end of its life in a landfill 10 kilometres from home.

No, this is just not sustainable, can't you see? First of all, why do we need to use so much tissue anyways. The other day I ordered a wrap and asked the lady not to wrap it in paper, to just hand me the wrap naked.  No problem, she handed me the wrap without the packaging but proceeded to give me four napkins.  I just sighed and left the napkins on the table, hoping that they would get reused.

Cloth beats paper hands down in any test for quality.  And over the long run reusable products like cloth napkins, dish cloths, tea towels, rags (old cotton t-shirts are perfect) are cheaper.  I am partial to cloth made from bamboo fibre as it has excellent properties (very absorbent, natural anti-bacterial elements, sustainable, and has a silky smooth touch).

Cloth napkins don't require much effort at all.  Unless you have company, you can reuse the same napkin several times before washing.  My mother has napkin holders shaped like different animals; when we have family gatherings for extended periods, each person will get their own napkin to reuse for their stay.

I could go on as there seems to be a disposable version of every product on the market.  The point is that using reusable products (and packaging) just makes more sense.  Don't be fooled by those clever marketers telling you that your life will be easier when you buy their disposable product - you are locking yourself into a cycle of having to keep buying more and more of their product to replace the stuff you keep throwing away.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Good Intentions

Sometimes the best of intentions don't always work out as planned, which can result in waste.  Earlier this week I picked a bunch of beans with the intention of processing them.  I picked and washed the beans and sterilized my jars in preparation to make a small batch of one of my favourite types of pickles - pickled beans - mmmm so yummy. I found one of my mother's old recipes in Home Canning Cook Book, which seemed simple enough. But as you know, plans don't always work out as expected.

Eli woke up early from her nap and was quite insistent that we get outside to play - what little child wants to sit in the kitchen in the heat of the midday summer?  I decided that the beans could wait until that evening.

But the evening came and went, and come Saturday morning, the beans were still sitting in the bucket on the counter where I left them on Tuesday afternoon looking quite shrivelled and dry. I tasted one to see if there was any use in pursuing my intention of making pickles.  It was dry. What a waste! A whole ice cream pail full of home grown beans was about to hit the compost pile because I was too "busy".  And then I had a thought!

I can't remember the variety of bean I have growing in my garden, but I got them (for free) at Seedy Saturday - a seed exchange organized by a local gardening group, usually held in early March. The group promotes local and sustainable food production and encourages conservation of non-hybrid plants through seed saving.  (Seeds of Diversity is a great resource for learning about seed saving). 

Seed saving, what a great idea! I proceeded to husk and place the beans on a drying rack.  Eli helped and within a few minutes of husking we should have enough seeds to grow beans in several gardens in the spring. 

Funny how sometimes bad things work out good.  I like to think of it as good karma ;)