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Giving to the David Suzuki Foundation

charity, FAM By April 29, 2014 Tags: , , , , , , , , , No Comments

David Suzuki FoundationI remember as a little girl being excited for ‘The Nature of Things’ to come onto the TV. As the host, David Suzuki has been an environmental visionary for many years. The David Suzuki foundation began in 1990 with a mission ‘to protect the diversity of nature and our quality of life, now and for the future’.

One of the most exciting parts of the #30Greendays challenge with SC Johnson Green Choices is that by along with having me and my family participate in the challenge, they have also agreed to donate $10,000 to a charity of our choice on behalf of UrbanMommies and SavvyMom. Seeing my boys thrive in taking care of the planet and remembering my experience as a girl watching David Suzuki, we opted for the David Suzuki Foundation. With programs in climate change, creating livable communities, the establishment of environmental rights and justice, building community and helping citizens to connect with nature, this charity speaks to all of us in some way.

We are thrilled to be given the chance to support the Foundation, and also further the UrbanMommies mission to teach and nurture children through family activities. We have chosen to designate the funds to the youth education branch of the Foundation with the following mission:

“Connect with nature — assist Canadians, especially youth, to learn about their dependence on a healthy environment and the benefits of time in nature through outdoor education and opportunities.“

As part of the UrbanMommies commitment to the environment, we will do a regular feature on activities for the whole family that will benefit nature.

Our experiences from the challenge were in recycling, reuse, water and energy. The image above is one of the four Mother’s Day e-cards available to send in support of the David Suzuki Foundation.

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11 Ways to Reuse Common Items to Make them Useful

FAM, self By April 10, 2014 Tags: , , , , , , 1 Comment

Baby Clothes QuiltFor this week’s SC Johnson 30 Green Days Challenge, we are talking about household items we can reuse. I thought I would stretch the whole family to use items around the house we don’t really need to create things that are either beautiful or serve a function needed to be filled. We are getting crafty. Of course there are many ways in which we already reuse items—pickle jars become Lego storage, coffee tins collect coins in the laundry room and broken terracotta pots become drainage at the bottom of other potted plants.

But let’s get creative, shall we? On our island we don’t have the option of running to a store to pick up something we forgot, so we are often forced into thinking outside the box with the items that we do have at our disposal.

 

Cork Bag Clip.jpg

1. Make bag clips out of wine corks.
2. Use the kids’ old baby clothes to make an heirloom quilt.
3. Make mittens out of old sweaters you may have (ahem) shrunk…
Dresser Jewlery Tray
4. Transform a tiered serving tray into much needed jewelry storage.

5. A CD spindle becomes a bagel holder for the kids’ school lunches.
6. Broken crayons can be melted into new, multi-coloured ones.
Bobby Pin Jewlery7. Glue broken jewelry onto bobby pins to dress them up.
Credit Card Name Diary8. Cut your name off an expired credit card to make an adorable name tag for a special writing journal.
Chopstick Garden Support9. When ‘disposable’ wooden chopsticks get too stained from soy sauce, stick them in the garden to hold up seedlings.
10. Use pantyhose that has holes and runs to train rosebushes. The hose are much less constricting to plants than twine.
11. Use old pennies to tile a floor or make a backsplash.

Of all the 30 Green Days Challenges, this past week’s recycling goals were perhaps the hardest for my family. Turning off lights and unplugging chargers are very easy to remember, and only take seconds. Washing jars, peeling labels and taking the time to investigate our community’s recycling policies took a bit more time, and made me feel quite guilty for not recycling properly all along. Interestingly, however, it became one of the most satisfying and rewarding of all of our goals. In addition to feeling as if we had accomplished something as a family, I noticed that the kids are taking daily chores more seriously, and have become more mindful of how all of their actions affect the environment.

In all, our past 30 days have been exciting and very easy. We have truly transformed some of our behaviours as a family and none of us want to stop searching for more ways that we can care for our planet.

While SC Johnson is the sponsor of the 30 Green Days Challenge, all opinions and comments within the post are my own.

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My Family on Recycling

Uncategorized By April 4, 2014 Tags: , , , , 3 Comments

Recycling 30 Green DaysOf all of the weekly challenges in the SC Johnson 30 Green Days Challenge, recycling is my all-time favourite. It’s not the easiest task for our family, but it is definitely the most personally satisfying!  Living on an island 40 feet from the shore means that all groceries, gardening supplies and bags have to be brought across in a wheelbarrow on our boat. Recycling, garbage and yard waste have to be carted across the other direction to be disposed of properly.  For our family this has always meant two things:

1.  We purchase refillable containers and buy in bulk where possible. I have fancy jars with chalkboard paint on the front and feel very crafty when I fill them. The process also makes me prepare more home-cooked meals for the family.

2.  We compost everything (including dryer lint and egg cartons) so as to reduce the amount of garden soil we have to buy and bring across to bolster the gardens. It also saves us hauling garbage back across to put in landfills.

As with any goal, we do have a long way to go in terms of recycling. This week (and henceforth I hope), this is what I will focus on:

1. I am guilty of not removing labels and washing jars and cans properly.  I will fix this. Or have the kids add this task to the ways they can earn a few extra dollars.  Removing labels and washing cans ensures that items sent to recycling facilities are never rejected.

2. We also tend to toss beer cans and wine bottles into the recycling when we could be returning them to the store for a refund. I will set up a bin in my trunk for the returnable containers. Even though the family has always recycled these containers, we may consume less if we add in the extra step of returning the items.

3. I like to buy on sale and I’ll admit that when they are on sale, I buy premade, processed foods like family-sized lasagnas (that come in a foil pan inside a box). I will go back to my Sunday routine of cooking double and triple recipes and freezing family meals to pull out during the week. Eliminating packaging by cooking for myself and re-using my own dishes is always preferable. When I do purchase processed foods, I will try harder to make sure they come in fully recyclable packaging.

4. Birthday parties and Christmas always create masses of garbage – plastic from toy wrappings and cartons from all of the tech that I adore. I vow to gift in alternate ways: donate to charity or purchase unique and special items on Etsy that will be cherished and don’t come in exorbitant packaging.

5.  I have a confession. I do not actually know for sure if milk cartons and other containers made of something other than plastic, glass or metal can be recycled in my area.  I will make an effort to research the criteria in my city to ensure that I am recycling all that I can.

6. Part of recycling involves the reuse of furniture and necessities around the house. I just bought a new slow cooker and instead of tossing the older one, which still functions, I will list it as a free item on Craigslist. Looking around my home, there are many pieces of furniture, glassware and other ‘treasures’ that could be more appreciated and put to use by another family. Let the culling begin!!!

This past week’s water challenge got the family into a routine of putting the environment at the front and center of our consciousness.  Turning off lights, taking shorter showers and repurposing rainwater have become part of the norm. I am thrilled that the kids are becoming aware of each tiny step they can take to help our planet, and this challenge – even in two weeks – has forever altered our footprint on the earth.

While SC Johnson is the sponsor of the 30 Green Days Challenge, all opinions and comments within the post are my own.

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My Family on Conserving Water

FAM, health, kids By March 27, 2014 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , 3 Comments

Waterwell Lemonade StandWell, it’s been quite the week. We were on Spring Break vacation skiing for the beginning but the family took the 30 Green Days Challenge all the way to a condo in Whistler, BC, and we incorporated all of the energy tips we could muster.

Turning off lights and even training the kids that they don’t need as many lights on in order to sleep was key. Our heat turned down or off, and we used a fireplace and sweaters to make up the difference. With towels shoved under door cracks and energy-efficient replacement bulbs stocked for the replacement of burnt-out lights, we felt pretty great about the week of energy saving. One of the best parts of this whole program is that we are focusing weekly on a different green initiative, and as we all know from improving our workout habits – focus and repetition create lasting habits.

Next week, our challenge is to focus on water consumption. My family could potentially be the worst water consumer on record, except for me of course. (As a mom, I somehow don’t find much time to bathe so I suppose I am saving a ton of water with my twice-a-week cleansing sessions. But I probably shouldn’t be proud of that.)

Here are the plans the fam and I came up with for saving water:

  1. Our house is quite large and the upstairs doesn’t get hot water immediately. We have to run water for a few minutes in order for hot to appear. I will delve into this phenomenon and see if we can remedy the situation. In the meantime, my husband and I will brush our teeth and shower on the bottom floor.
  2. We live in Rain-Couver. OK, Vancouver, British Columbia, but we pretty much have a monsoon from November until March. Rain barrels could be filled within a few days, so I have been reticent to invest. But in the dead of summer with no water in sight, I would be grateful for a few gallons of recycled water. I will commit to purchasing at least three barrels.  Maybe I can get a group discount with my neighbours and spread the environmental love.
  3. My son actually lambasted me the other day for letting the water run as we brushed his teeth. We will all heed his advice.
  4. Gardens are a personal passion. This week we planted organic vegetables in a cold frame and took advantage of the sun to plant hardier seeds in the garden. (Well, the kids planted pumpkins while I planed everything else). Starting from seed enables us to use water sparingly and we will also make a commitment to hand water the whole garden so as not to spray sidewalks and paths. And no more noon watering when most of the moisture evaporates in the sun.
  5. This may sound odd, but the family asks for drinking water all the time. We are blessed that tap water is full of nutrients and flavor, and yet I cringe at how many half-empty glasses pour down the drain. I vow to make our water more exciting by using ice and lemon slices. Maybe also put it in fancy glasses. The kids will sip it (and finish it) with awe.
  6. Our children’s school supports the Obakki Foundation to raise money for water wells in South Sudan. They have learned about the value of water to human beings and constantly come up with ways to fundraise for more water wells for communities where kids walk miles to fill a bucket instead of going to school. As it is our second week of March Break, the kids and I will come up with a fun idea that will support this fundraising initiative while we also try to conserve our own water.

I have found so far that the SC Johnson 30 Green Days Challenge has put the environment in the front of my mind at all times, and I am so excited by coming up with specific ways that my family can help.

Cheers to water!

While SC Johnson is the sponsor of the 30 Green Days Challenge, all opinions and comments within the post are my own.

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10 Ways to Conserve Energy Usage

Going Green: 10 Ways to Conserve Energy Usage

FAM, health, kids By March 19, 2014 Tags: , , , , , , , , , 1 Comment

Living on a small island 60 feet from the mainland is idyllic. We put groceries in a wheelbarrow, barge to school and compost all we can.  As enchanted as it is, island living requires planning and energy. Typically I think of energy as the stamina to chase kids or dig for hours in the garden. We try to maintain and grow energy in our bodies by eating well and being efficient but I am a bit disappointed in myself for not paying enough attention to the energy we waste in our home.

I have been invited to participate in the SC Johnson 30 Green Days Challenge and will be sharing tips for making green-minded decisions each day. Many of my goals require simple common sense, and I am excited by the thought of being mindful in order to make my home more efficient and responsible to the planet.

This week our household focus is energy and we are starting small. As much as I want to replace the motor on my barge with an electric model, trade my car for a Tesla or install solar panels, my family and I have decided we will take a few baby steps first.

10 Ways to Conserve Energy Usage:

1. Use an appropriate appliance for what I am cooking. No more tiny pots on big burners or heating up the whole oven when the toaster would suffice.

2. Unplug chargers when they are not, well, charging.

3. Make turning off lights more of a priority in the kids’ morning routine. In fact, make a game of it!

4. Replace the seal on the fridge door so that the door closes properly.

5. Fill up my front-load washing machine to the brim every time. This shouldn’t be difficult with the mounds of dirty clothes produced by two boys.

6. Use the oven’s convection setting that I always forget I have.

7. Wear more sweaters = less turning the heat up.

8. Shut my computer down when I am not using it (gasp).

9. Put a towel under the door from my storage room (the one I have never used) which is 2 inches too short, allowing heat to escape.

10. Learn how to microwave well so I can make perfect morning eggs using a more efficient appliance than the stove.

The SC Johnson Green Choices website has a ton of tips to help you make green decisions too.

Small changes make a big difference.

While SC Johnson is the sponsor of the 30 Green Days Challenge, all opinions and comments within this post are my own.

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