Be light on the planet this vacation

Want the best vacation with the least impact on the planet?  Here are five tips:

If flying:

  • Travel as lightly as you can; every ounce that doesn’t travel with you saves fuel (and notice how baggage charges are starting to reflect that reality?)
  • Consider offsetting your air travel with carbon offsets; not perfect, but the best in the here-and-now

And whether you’re flying or not:

  • Walk, bike, paddle or use public transit as much as possible at your destination
  • If possible, choose a hotel that has a sustainability certification like Green Key, Green Seal or Green Globe (there are others too)
  • Choose local food and bevies (often much better tasting too!)

Thanks to Bullfrog Power for these tips; read more here.

A truly green thumb!

March 28, 2017

Use compostable or biodegradable pots for your spring plantings

If you’re like me, the longer days and warmer sun have you digging out seeds and potting soil.  When starting plants indoors, why not consider using compostable or biodegradable pots instead of plastic ones?  Here are a few options:

  • Peat pots: very common commercially
  • Cardboard: egg cartons work really well; so do empty paper towel or toilet paper rolls trimmed to size (picture here).
  • Newspaper: ever tried origami? With a bit of folding, you can easily make your own pots; here’s a nice video showing how.  (It’s a good idea to avoid coated or heavily coloured paper.)

Another advantage over plastic: no need to remove them or risk damaging roots when transplanting, because they’re completely biodegradable!

More and more commercial nurseries are moving away from plastic pots; so why not you and me too?

If you’re going to have green beer, why not make it local green beer?

If your community is like mine, you’re seeing an abundance of new microbreweries producing a full spectrum of traditional and not-so-traditional types of beverages. It’s an exciting time for anyone who enjoys sampling new takes on old favourites.

Here are two more reasons to enjoy local beverages: they employ people in your own community; and they have a small transportation footprint because the distance between points of production and consumption is short.

St. Patrick’s Day – one of the best excuses for celebrating life, whether or not you’re Irish – is this Friday.  So, if you’re planning to raise your glass with friends, why not make sure what’s inside it is not only refreshing, but local too?

For fun and food, build a bean tepee

Everyone – kid and former kid – loves a secret place!  So why not build a bean tepee in your backyard?

It’s simple: all you need are a few poles and some string to build a frame – easy instructions here. (Igloos and other creative designs are possible too, depending on how elaborate a frame you’d like to build.)

Then plant some pole bean or pea seeds at the base of each pole and water.  Watch as your plants grow, wind their way up the poles and close in the walls.

 

Presto: a fun play place for anyone, with the bonus of delicious fresh veggies!

Thanks to Don Ross for this Green Idea!

Egg cartons, a great option for spring gardening

If you use eggs, you’ll be familiar with egg cartons. Most are made of recycled paper and molded pulp, and can be recycled with conventional paper as long as they’re clean. But here’s an alternate use: cardboard egg cartons are perfect for starting spring seeds or growing a window garden.

The process is simple: just rip the lid off (and recycle it); fill the 12 ‘cells’ with potting soil; drop in your seeds; cover them up; water and wait. You may need to water a bit extra at the start until the soil and cardboard are well soaked, and you’ll want to put a tray underneath to catch water that seeps through.

Cardboard egg cartons biodegrade, so when the time comes to transplant your seedlings into a garden, you can just separate the cells of the carton and plant them directly into the soil. In fact, they’ll likely be on the verge of falling apart anyway, and some roots may have already grown through – a bonus!

Spring has sprung – it’s time to use those cardboard egg cartons to get a head start on gardening! (Here’s a simple three-minute how-to video.)

(Note: foam cartons can work as planters too, but they are not biodegradable so seedlings would have to be removed from them when transplanted. Unfortunately, not many recycling programs accept foam, so it’s best to avoid it in the first place.)

‘Food rich, nutrition poor’

That’s the expression a friend used when the subject of typical Canadian diets came up in a conversation over the holidays: “We are food rich but nutrient poor.”

Sadly, it’s not untrue. Many of us have fallen into lifestyles that are so busy that we’ve grown to rely on highly processed, heavily packaged foods – strong on convenience, but often weak on nutrition. And they typically come with a string of ingredients that we can’t pronounce: preservatives, artificial flavours, sweeteners and more. Bad for us.

Plus – all that processing and packaging means lots of embedded energy (think fryers, freezers and microwaves), and lots of trash. Bad for the planet.

So if New Year’s is a time for resolutions, why not aim to make ourselves food rich AND nutrient rich this year? More basic ingredients, more local food, more flavour, better health!

Need ideas? Think soup (great for using up leftovers too!); check out these 11 foods that are good for you and the planet; and read more on the impacts of our food choices on the planet here.

Time for squirreling away food

September 29, 2015

So many ways to preserve and store fall fruits & vegetables

Whether you’re a gardener or not, this is a wonderful time of year for foodies, or for anyone who eats, really! So many fresh veggies, so much fresh fruit. If you’re like me, perhaps you’re now reaping the results of overzealous planting; our little garden plot has yielded more tomatoes and beans than ever.

Whether you have a surplus from your garden or you just like taking advantage of the low prices of produce at this time of year, here are a few options for squirreling away some of that delicious food to enjoy over the winter:

  • Freezing: many fruits and vegetables can be frozen without any loss of nutrition, and freezing is not complicated; this page has some advice and two simple guides.
  • Pickling/canning: you can pickle a lot more than just cucumbers, and pickled food doesn’t even need to be refrigerated. This page provides simple instructions.
  • Prepared food: you can even use up surplus produce by making and then freezing things like chilli or pasta sauce. I’m afraid my chilli recipe is a family secret, but here’s a nice pasta sauce recipe my son and I made over the weekend with some surplus tomatoes.

Enjoy the bounties of fall, the contentment of a full pantry and great taste all winter!

Go veggie for a day!

October 29, 2013

Meatless Mondays: healthy, sustainable – and doable!

Meat has a dark side that’s very difficult for any meat eater, me included, to acknowledge: it has a large environmental footprint.  That footprint includes:

  • On-farm impacts like emissions from trucks, tractors and both ends of animals, particularly cattle
  • ‘Upstream’ impacts from the manufacture and transport of farm inputs like feed and fertilizer (plus, in some cases, deforestation to produce feed)
  • ‘Downstream’ impacts from processing, packaging, freezing or chilling, transporting and retailing

It’s estimated that it takes about 20 times as much fossil fuel energy to produce a calorie of beef versus a calorie of plant protein.  Ouch!

If you’re among the many who are not quite ready to commit to a 100% vegetarian or vegan diet, why not try going Meatless on Mondays?  It’s a simple lifestyle change that can have a huge positive impact, and it’s a lot easier than you think!  Here’s a 2 minute video of recipes, and here’s a website with info, recipes, networking opportunities and more.

See you in the veggie burger lineup next Monday, or any day!

Make a soup of it

May 14, 2013

Minimize waste and save on your grocery bill

Food is a very significant part of our carbon footprint:

– it takes energy to produce; that’s especially so for meat and other animal products

– it travels long distances to get to our plate

– we often end up wasting A LOT of what we buy at the grocery store (up to one quarter of all the produce we buy, by one estimate)

In a world where we lose so many people to hunger every day, it seems obscene to waste food – so why not use leftovers to make soup?  Here’s a blog with loads of ideas for soups and other yummy dishes made from leftovers.  And here’s a link to Simply in Season, a favourite cookbook of the chief cook in our household; it’s loaded with recipes for healthy living and a healthy planet.  So is the More With Less Cookbook.

And – here’s a simple one-pager with suggestions on how to minimize food spoilage.  Happy nibbling!

Connoisseurs take note

August 7, 2012

It would be a HUGE stretch to call me a vintner, but I do enjoy going to a local commercial establishment where I can buy a kit and, with a bit of expert help, turn it into pretty nice wine.  However, I’ve always been uneasy about even the small amount of waste from wine making and consumption – labels, corks and foil seals.  (Not so much bottles, because they’re reused or recycled.)

If you make wine, here are some small steps you can take to reduce the eco-footprint of your beverage:

  • Forego labelling individual bottles and instead label cases
  • Skip the foil seals
  • If you use synthetic corks, try not to pierce them all the way through with your corkscrew, and then save them for reuse again and again
  • If you use real corks, compost them and consider using (and reusing) synthetic corks

If you don’t make wine but enjoy sipping it:

  • Compost real corks, and save synthetic ones to give to friends who make wine (you might get a gift bottle out of it)
  • Consider the distance wine has travelled and choose the most local one that satisfies your palate
  • If you’re hard-core green: make a vineyard’s green credentials part of your purchase decision

Some small ways you can say cheers to the planet!