Friday, November 29, 2013

Fort McMoney: An Interactive Free Online Documentary about Alberta's Oil Sands

(EcoYogini shares a ridiculously awesome new online doc about Canada's oil sands)

The oil sands. They are one of Canada's greatest environmental shames. Outside of Canada it may seem like Canadians are all for the oil sands, from how our Prime Minister speaks, however this is far from the truth. Debates and media rage over the issue.

Despite all this, I don't know all that much about Alberta's oil sands or Fort McMurray. Which is a bit crazy considering the majority of workers who go there are from the Maritime provinces.

Enter a neat and revolutionary documentary: "Fort McMoney". This online (free!) interactive documentary allows you to experience and learn about Fort McMurray, interact with key, real, people from the actual mayor, environmental activists, oil industry representatives and the homeless- who live there and hear different perspectives on the oil sands.

The interactive documentary was created by a Quebecois francophone director: David Dufresne and the online doc is available with subtitles in both English and French (you'll notice some of the people interviewed will comment on French or in French as I assume the director speaks with a strong French accent while interviewing).

I played the doc for about 30min and was hooked. It was so interesting and engaging; a completely new way to experience a documentary. (I would recommend playing it on a PC as it doesn't load on my mac).

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Save the World in 30 Ways

Mindful Echo is turning the big THREE ZERO. *gulp*

IT'S ALMOST MY BIRTHDAY! You guys, I really, REALLY love my birthday. Like, a lot. Having a birthday at the beginning of December is great because it's already the time of year when the air is rich with holiday spirit, people's houses are filled with decorations, and everyone is up for eating some delicious treats. I'm big-time into Christmas so it's fun for me to think about my birthday as kicking off the holiday season. Growing up, my birthday weekend was always when we put up the Christmas tree and started to plan for the rest of the month. It. Was. Great.

This year I'm turning 30. It's kind of a big deal. I'm still bouncing around a few ideas for how best to celebrate the occasion, but in the meantime, I thought it would be appropriate to give a list of 30 ways we can all save the planet. Because birthdays should be used for good, right?

  1. Opt out of junk mail and flyers
  2. Recycle, Recycle, Recycle
  3. Cold water laundry
  4. Only print when necessary
  5. Use both sides of a piece of paper
  6. Shower shorter
  7. Shop locally
  8. Switch to electronic billing
  9. Take your canvas bags to the supermarket
  10. Save a flush: if it's pee, let it be!
  11. Save another flush: pee in the shower
  12. Use rechargeable batteries
  13. Turn off the lights when you leave the room
  14. Compost
  15. Turn off your car instead of idling
  16. Buy used
  17. Donate your old clothes/items
  18. Drink tap water (filter if necessary)
  19. Clean naturally and chemical-free
  20. Wear your slippers
  21. Properly insulate your house
  22. Unplug electronics that are seldom in use
  23. Cloth napkins
  24. Take the stairs
  25. Shop mindfully
  26. Fix leaky taps
  27. Plant local trees and plants
  28. Be heat conscious
  29. Stay informed and spread the word
  30. Be hopeful!
I spend a lot of time dwelling on the fact that we are in a bad way when it comes to our environment. It really stresses me out. This birthday is the beginning of a new chapter for me. It's a new decade of my life and I want to approach it with hope for my future and the future of our planet. If we continue to stay mindful of our earth's issues, and with some hard work, we can make a difference and change things for the better.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Staying Warm in a Cooler House

The Climate Crusader updates us on her quest to reduce her energy consumption.

Back in early September I made some suggestions for going green this autumn. One of them was turning down the temperature on the thermostat, so that your furnace isn't running as much.

I've done this myself this year. It isn't the first time - my thermostat has gone up and down a few times. With small children at home, my life has been a little bit unsettled. With my youngest now five years old and in kindergarten, though, I was forced to admit that this was no longer a valid excuse. It was time to take aim at my family's energy consumption.

It just so happens that I had some work done on my house in the summer, which helped me in my quest. We have a small sunroom in our kitchen. Previously, it was a big energy suck, becoming unbearably hot in the summer and freezing cold in the winter. We had it renovated so that it's now properly insulated with low-emissivity windows. This has definitely helped our house to maintain a more liveable temperature.

Let's be honest, though - renovating is a big step, which isn't necessarily practical for everyone. It's also not enough, all on its own. There are a number of other, smaller, steps I've taken to help make my home more liveable at cooler temperatures. Here's what's helped me adjust to a lower thermostat.

What's Kept me Warm in Cooler Temperatures

  1. Wearing a sweater. Kind of obvious, I know, but having a number of sweaters on hand and ready to wear has definitely helped.
  2. Basket of blankets. When I'm up and walking around, I don't really feel the cold. When I'm sitting still, however, it's a different story. Keeping a basket of blankets beside the couch for when I'm watching TV, and having a blanket to wrap around me in my computer chair, have both made a big difference.
  3. Wearing slippers. When the house is cold, the floors are cold, and by extension my feet are cold. Wearing slippers avoids that and keeps me much warmer.
  4. Drinking hot tea. I am what you would call a tea hoarder. I can't pass a tea shop without buying tea. However, until recently I didn't drink much of it. Now I have a hot cup of tea every morning, which is not only a lovely way to start the day, it also helps warm me up.
What about you - how do you stay cozy when your house turns cooler?

Friday, November 15, 2013

I Would Do Anything For Love, But I Won't Do That

Queen Composter discusses her toilet paper habits.

Everyone has their line in the sand, the one thing that goes too far. For some people it is too much to ask them to compost their food waste. For others it is too much to ask them to use a menstrual cup.

I believe I have found my line in the sand. For all that I love the environment and would do anything to protect it, I won’t use “family cloth” instead of toilet paper.  As the lyrics of the Meatloaf song say, I would do anything to be more eco, but I won’t do that.

What is family cloth you ask? In the quest to reduce single use disposable items, many people are using small pieces of cloth, like a small face cloth, instead of toilet paper.  The idea is that the cloths can be kept near the toilet, like toilet paper, and placed in a sealed container when soiled or wet. Then they are washed in the washing machine and reused again and again. A quick Google search will bring up hundreds of blog posts on this subject, the pros and cons and how to use them. One of my favourite companies, Luna Pads, sells them and promotes their use

In theory I am down with this idea. After all, I used cloth diapers with all three of my daughters and I use cloth feminine pads. I think nothing of washing them. Why would I throw away diapers and pads when I don’t throw away my underwear?

In my mind, however, using reuseable “toilet paper” just seems different. Without getting too detailed, I think it is the soiled part, rather than wet part, that has me squeamish. It’s just a bit of toilet paper, no big deal, right?

Actually it is a big deal. The more paperless society goes, the less recycled pulp and paper there is available for recycled toilet paper. And all that ultra comfortable pillowy softness we like for our business? It comes from virgin wood, as in not recycled. Never mind that it is bleached to achieve the whiteness we seem to like. We use it for a moment and that’s it. In my family of five we go through a great deal of toilet paper, too. Like many families, we buy ours in bulk.

I have a little secret…

Once in a while, when I’ve run out of toilet paper and there’s none nearby, I’ve been known to grab one of those little facecloths I bought when my girls were babies and use them instead. I guess it is fitting, as I liked using those cloths for reusable baby wipes when at home.

So maybe this isn’t my line in the sand? It would be easy to keep a lidded container like a garbage can beside the toilet for the dirty cloths.
I could easily keep the basket with the cloths (and some reading material)
by the toilet instead of by the bathtub. I use the toilet more than I have bath.

I won’t be adding this to my new year’s resolutions anytime soon because I think this would be a hard sell with my family. I've learned to be careful what I wish for - we taught our girls to only flush for number two and now they never flush, even when outside the home. Rather embarrassing. But it is something I might consider down the road, or perhaps just for myself. 

What about you? What is your eco line in the sand? Have you tried family cloths?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

How to Reconcile Being Crafty and Being Green

Mindful Echo is lost in a tangle of wool roving, glitter, and scrapbook paper.

Although I titled this entry as a "How to," I really meant it more of a question. Seriously. How do I reconcile the two corners of this dichotomy?

In some ways, being crafty and being green make total sense together. Craftiness can be borne from a desire to be thrifty, to reuse, and to repurpose. However, if you're anything like me, it takes no time at all to get lost in a list of attempted projects, many half-completed, and most requiring mountains of supplies.

I made this Venn Diagram to help me better understand this complex issue. :)

Now that the holiday season is rapidly approaching (side note: Christmas music was playing in the grocery store yesterday!), I'm starting to organize myself for handmade gifts. Sure, there are some no-brainers that amalgamate being crafty and being green such as consumables (homemade jams, soaps, etc.), but what about the other stuff? What about the ornaments, decorations, and toys?

I guess the big question can be broken down to this: Is it worth purchasing *new* craft supplies for the purpose of a handmade gift? The answer, I think, is yes (but carefully). 

It is SO EASY to get caught up with every "____-in-a-jar" recipe, and book-page garlands, and designs for winter jackets made entirely from coffee filters. So I think the solution is two-fold: first is to get organized and second is to embrace that inner environmentalist.

Organize Yourself
  • Make a list of the handmade items you're going to attempt. 
  • Find detailed instructions or tutorials that clearly outline what products you will need. 
  • Take an inventory of what needed craft items you already own.
 Embrace your Inner Environmentalist
  • Decide if there are any items on the list that are particularly harmful to the environment. Does your wreath project really need a styrofoam base? Can those items be substituted for a less-harmful alternative?
  • Consider if you can find any of the items in your recycling bin. Jars, cans, paper bags, magazines, are often valuable items in the realm of craftiness. 
  • Check your thrift stores. It's no guarantee but I have often found packages of brand-new craft items at my local thrift store, including yarn and scrapbook paper.
Once you've gone through these steps, consider yourself cleared by moi for a trip to your craft store. I think by this point it safe to say that you've done well to stay green. Now, go forth and craft. And may the force be with you.

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Plea for Compassion This Holiday Season

From the bean of Green Bean

I'm feeling a little down today.  Its not the upcoming holidays bringing me the blues.  Not the post-Halloween, I shouldn't have eaten so much candy depression.  Nor the shorter days and the colder weather.

I made the mistake of letting myself read comments on an Internet article.  Which article?  It doesn't matter.  Which news outlet?  That doesn't matter either.  If you have ever read any comments on any article in the last few years, you know what I'm talking about.

Comments are nearly always dominated with vitriol, hate, and sheer giddiness at the discomfort/pain/suffering of others.  I'm not the only one who has noticed.  Two months ago, Popular Science took the unprecedented step of shutting off its comments, noting that "[u]ncivil comments not only polarized readers, but they often changed a participant's interpretation of the news story itself."  (Read the article here.  It's quite fascinating and more than a little disturbing).

As I sit here, down in the dumps, I'm not sure if turning off comments is the right way to handle this.  And I wonder, do these comments represent a prevailing view or an angry and loud fringe?  Why do so few compassionate voices rise up to counter this negativity?  Are we too few?  Too busy?  Too quiet?

I have no answers but simply a plea for compassion this holiday season.

A plea to remember that the person who cut us off on the freeway may be rushing to an emergency.  That the gentleman who gestured rudely to us at the stop sign may be in the midst of a divorce.  The disorganized shopper in front of us at line may have a mental challenge that makes it hard to focus.  The overly loud diner next to us may be trying to drown out loneliness.  The squirrel who dug into our front planter is just preparing for winter.

A plea for compassion for all of this planet's inhabitants - humans and non-humans.   Please can we move past the hate, the anger, the happiness over someone else's misfortune and realize that we are all on this planet together.  We all have something in common.  We all have been "there".  We all can understand and maybe, just maybe, be a little more patient, a little more accepting and a little more compassionate as we embrace the true meaning of the holidays.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Lululemon is Now the Walmart of the Yoga World

EcoYogini shares yet another rant on the bane of the yoga corporate world... the big L...

Lululemon. Just the name evokes a whole slew of feelings: most negative and derisive for myself. Even if you don't practice yoga, you've likely heard the brand name, seen the pants (maybe you own a pair).

Lululemon is becoming the Walmart of the Yoga world.

When I make that comparison, I AM referring to cheaply and non-environmentally friendly made materials (overpriced), made on factory, cheap (and arguably unsafe and unfair) (child) labour and shipped across the world in huge, polluting container ships and trucks.

The coup de grace; Lululemon's outrageous, insensitive and often offensive advertising tactics within stores as well as directly from former CEO, Chip Wilson.

Lulu and I broke up about five years ago, not long after the sold the majority of their shares to American stakeholders and changed their clothing from "Made in Canada" to "Consciously Formulated in Vancouver, Made in China". Weirdly, Lulu's popularity has continued to grow. It's like no one else got the memo that trashing the planet and being offensive and sexist just isn't cool.

The latest fiasco: offensive comments regarding the female body made by former CEO Chip Wilson (video interview here), is just one more reason why hip yogis don't wear Lulu. When asked about recent complaints regarding Lulu's new pants (a response to last years see-through mess), Chip responded with:

"There's always been pilling.The things is that women will wear seat belts that don't work (with the pants), or they'll wear a purse that doesn't work, or quite frankly some women's bodies just actually don't work for it"

"Even our small sizes will fit an extra large. It's really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there, over a period of time..."

I'm sorry, adult women's thighs are supposed to touch. It is an anatomical reality. Many body image and eating disorders organizations are concerned about the "Thigh Gap" trend. Yep. There is a scary trend where "thighspiration" pins on pinterest, tumblr and the interwebs encourage girls and women to lose dangerous amounts of weight to try to achieve an (unachievable) gap between their thighs.

So, according to Chip Wilson, Lulu pants are for prepubescent girls who aren't fully developed yet, or women who are dangerously unhealthy. Right.

Instead of feeling like the Lulu logo is a status symbol, I now feel ashamed when I'm sporting my old Lulu clothing... it's a symbol of all that is wrong with the yoga corporate world.

There are so many other, environmentally friendly, options out there for yoga clothing! A quick search and you can quickly find some alternative options, many of which are most likely carried in specialty stores in a larger city centre near you.

Say NO to body shaming, to clothing made from non-eco material, to clothing made by people in factories under unsafe and underpaid conditions. Say NO to Lululemon.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Homemade Deodorant Recipe

Interested in making your own deodorant? The Climate Crusader shares her favourite recipe.

I've spent a number of years working to shift my personal care routine to safer options. I've been washing my face with honey since 2006. I've been washing my hair with baking soda and apple cider vinegar (also called 'no poo') since 2010. And for the past year and a half when I need a little bit of moisture on my skin or hair, I've been using coconut oil.

Earlier this year I decided to try greening one more of my personal care products: deodorant. I was a little bit leery about this one. I've tried so many 'green' deodorants, and I haven't really been happy with any of them. I was skeptical that something I made myself could really work. However, I'm happy to report that after some months, homemade deodorant is my favourite deodorant. I use the crystal as a back-up, and I'm perfectly satisfied with it, but I don't love the crystal like I love my deodorant.

This isn't the first time we've talked about homemade deodorant here on the Green Phone Booth. You can find a homemade deodorant recipe round-up here. All the same, everyone has their own favourites, and so today I'm sharing mine:

Homemade Deodorant

  • 4 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 Tbsp beeswax
  • 5 Tbsp arrowroot flour
  • 2 Tbsp baking soda
  • 12 drops grapefruit seed extract
  • 10 drops tea tree oil
  • 10 drops lavender essential oil
  • 5 drops peppermint essential oil
  • 2 old, clean deodorant tubes

Melt the coconut oil and beeswax in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring to blend. Remove from heat. Stir the arrowroot and baking soda together in a medium-sized glass bowl and add the melted coconut oil and beeswax. Mix well to combine. Add the grapefruit seed extract, tea tree oil, lavender and peppermint. Stir well again, and then use the mix to fill the deodorant tubes. Place the filled tubes in the refrigerator, with the lids off, until they've thoroughly hardened.

  • I grate the beeswax so that I can measure it more easily, and so that it melts more quickly. I recommend warming the beeswax for a minute in your hands before grating it, to make it easier.
  • Many people use corn starch instead of arrowroot flour, but I've heard it can encourage the growth of yeast, which is why I use arrowroot.
  • You can replace the lavender and peppermint with essential oils of your choosing, or skip them altogether.
  • It's really tempting to try to fill the deodorant tubes all the way to the top, but don't, because it's messy, it will be harder to use later, and the lid may not fit.
  • The reason you leave the lid off while it's hardening is because a little bit of the deodorant often ends up on the outside of the tube while you're filling it, and if that hardens with the lid on, the lid will be very hard to get off.
  • If you don't have enough to fill a whole tube, move the dispenser up until it's at a better height.
What about you - have you made your own deodorant? How did it work for you?


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