Green Ways to Keep Away the Blues

The third Monday in January is said to be the most depressing day of the year. So what causes this? I’ve explored a couple options and solutions below! If you’re feeling a little extra down this coming week, try out some these green ways to keep away the blues!

Lack of Sunlight

This definitely gets me! Leaving for work in the dark and coming home from work in the dark is enough to make anyone feel blue. Try going for a walk at your lunch hour! Get some excessive, fresh air and a blast of vitamin D. It’s also a good idea to take some Vitamin D tablets in the winter, as a lack of this vitamin can have you feeling depressed.

Lack of Exercise/Fresh Air

It’s easy to get into a habit of coming home from work and snuggling up in a warm blanket in front of the TV. Not a bad way to spend the odd evening, but too much can have you feeling bored and blue. In addition to going out at your lunch hour, make sure you’re getting outside on the weekends instead of staying cooped up. A walk outside will do you much better than a dark basement gym! Check here for some fun and inexpensive outdoor winter activities!

Food isn’t Fresh and Satisfying

Nothing grows in the winter around here, right? Well greenhouses have in season veggies all year round so that you can swap that canned food for fresh. There is something about fresh food that can lift spirits, and it can be hard to by for a good price in the middle of winter. Check out what veggies are in season and hit up your local farmers market! Browsing isles of fresh produce will take away the winter blues in an instance!

Not Keeping up with your New Years Resolutions

Three weeks from New Years, and maybe you haven’t been keeping up with your goals as well as you’d hoped. Goals don’t need to be set in stone, and you still have time to re-evaluate and re-focus. Was your goal too broad or too specific? Try readjusting it to fit you better. You can also see if a friend is willing to work at a goal alongside you. Did you try and Green Resolutions? Let me know how you’re doing!

Too Much Snow

Visit some local green places, like a botanical garden or farmers market. A plant for your house will also do the trick, and will bring some fresh oxygen to your rooms in the stale winter.

 

Get outside, get some exercise and eat healthy… No one has ever said that before. But it can really help you get through the winter blues and back to the green spring. Try out some of these ways to bring some green to your winter. I hope it helps!

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6 Green Resolutions for 2017

It’s December 31, 2016, time to reflect back on the past year and make some resolutions for the New Year!

I wanted to focus my resolutions this year toward being more eco-friendly! I feel I’ve made great strides in that regard in 2016, but there is always room for improvement! It’s been a very busy year, and I haven’t posted now in months, so my first resolution of the year will be to blog more consistently!

Here are a few green resolutions for the New Year!

  1. Get Outside! This may seem like a standard resolution as it’s usually associated with exercise (which is always good anyway!), but getting outside connects you directly with nature. If you’re looking to adopt a greener lifestyle, I found the best first step is connecting yourself back to nature and focusing on what’s important.
  2. Take time to disconnect from the world. This one is a balancing act for me. A connected world, with internet and social media makes it easier to connect to like-minded people and see the impacts, both good and bad, that drives us. But remember to take time away from the screen, disconnect yourself, and enjoy time with family, friends, nature, pets or just quiet time by yourself.
  3. Cut Back. Do you really need a 50th shirt? Probably not! Minimalism is my focus for 2017, and its something you can ease into. Start by saying no to a sale, then work on a room in your house and donate the items that are just cluttering up your life. Cut back on what you don’t need, to focus on what’s important.
  4. Give Back. I’ve spent time this year donating my time to volunteering for the Nature Conservancy, Shoreline Cleanups and animals shelters, and it’s been a highlight of my year. Lots of volunteering can get you outdoors, and places like the Nature Conservancy offer environmental volunteering so you can directly make a positive impact on the world around you. Connect with like-minded people, without a screen!
  5. Challenge Yourself. Last year, there were a few coordinated challenges that popped up, such as Plastic Free July and OMEGA. Reducing plastic/waste/emissions in your daily life starts by challenging yourself to notice the problem, and keep working for a solution. These little games are a great way to get involved and make it fun. I’ll be sure to share any new ones I come across!
  6. Reduce meat and dairy consumption. This is not an easy one, so I’ve left it till the end, but it is a powerful one. Studies have shown that adopting a plant-based diet greatly reduces water consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, and is a positive change for the planet. Start by adopting Meat Free Friday, or incorporating more plant based proteins into your meals. I transitioned from vegetarian to vegan back in April, and I’ve been wondering why I didn’t do it sooner!

 

Have more eco-resolutions to share? I’d love to hear them! It only takes a series of little actions to make big change!

 

Planning an Eco-Wedding

Been completely MIA lately, but I’ve been busy planning my wedding! Throughout my planning, there have been a bunch of instances where I’ve either been able to find an eco-friendly option or wish a better option was available. Any other eco-brides/grooms out there? Hopefully these few tips can help!

  1. Venue – This should be one of your first steps in planning your wedding and one of the most important. An eco-venue could be one that has great recycling/composting, powered by renewables, or low water/energy use. The best eco-venue of course, is the outdoors! With our wedding so close to winter, we wanted a safe indoor option, but outdoors is perfect in the summer. An outdoor venue has free lighting, free air conditioning and you can usually save on decorations!
  2. Food – Unfortunately, we realised too late that all the extra food from our wedding has to get throw away due to their policy. Make sure to ask your venue about this in the planning stages. If the food can be donated, or packed into doggy bags, that’s a lot of saved food waste. In addition, the buffet option is usually better than plated as guests can choose to grab only the amount of food they’ll eat. You’ll get a lot less food waste that way.
  3. Decorations – Importing out-of-season flowers costs of lot of resources and you’ll usually end of paying for it. Try local flowers or wildflowers that you can harvest yourself. If you’re going the fake route, opt for paper/fabric decorations instead of plastic for a more eco-friendly option.
  4. Apparel – Renting over buying, simple as that! Clothing that gets reused again is a much more sustainable option that clothing that’s just going to sit in your closet after the big day. Also look for clothing that is made with natural fabrics and produced/designed more locally to avoid unnecessary transportation.
  5. Favours – Importing hundreds of trinkets is not only bad for the environment, but they’re also not as special. Try making your wedding favours or getting something locally. Cool ideas right now include tea/coffee, jams, candles, succulents, snack bags, and mini wine bottles (local of course!). Your guests will love receiving a homemade gift from you that they can actually use!

All-in-all, you can have a eco-friendly wedding by following these simple guidelines:

  • Buy locally
  • Opt for natural materials
  • Make or rent, instead of buy
  • Watch out for waste

Got any other tips to share? I’d love to hear them! Happy Wedding planning!!

 

Plastic Free July – Success?

Plastic Free July was a success in that I reduced my plastic intake and learned A LOT, but I was definitely unable to completely eradicate plastic from my lifestyle.

I got better as the month went on and learned where and how to cut back on plastics, but this was not an easy task. In today’s world, plastic is so ingrained in our lives that I was finding it in every single thing I bought. I thought I’d share a few things I learned over the month:

  1. Buy less or buy more! Contradictory I know, but if everything you buy comes packaged in plastic, think to yourself if you really need it (usually you don’t). If it is something you need, see if you can buy it in bulk. Buying bulk saves a lot of plastic packaging and it usually comes out cheaper. Pasta is a great example of something you can buy in bulk, is non-perishable, and will reduce your plastic use (even the boxes of pasta have silly little plastic windows!).
  2. Plastic bags were the easiest thing to get rid of! The only plastic I managed to completely eradicate was the plastic bag, and it was a lot easier than I thought. Keeping a canvas bag in my purse (for impromptu purchases) and bringing numerous canvas bags for grocery shopping was the way to go!
  3. Convenience = Plastic! Getting drive-thru instead of making food at home = plastic; same goes for delivery (unless it’s pizza!). Coffee/Tea places were far better set up for reusable mugs than other places. Every time we got a cold beverage, it came with plastic. And let’s face it, it’s summer!
  4. Reusable food containers are the best! You can do without plastic sandwich bags and cling wrap if you have enough reusable containers. We’ve got a big drawer full of them ranging in size from dip containers to ones hold a whole loaf of bread.
  5. Buy local! Buying bread from the local bakery is less likely to come packaged in plastic than bread you buy from the store, and the same goes for loads of fruits and veggies. Visit your local farmer’s market, help local farmers, get better tasting food, and enjoy plastic free!

Next step? Not stopping tomorrow! The point of this challenge is not to go plastic free for a month and then slide right back into old habits. Make the changes and stick with them. Don’t beat yourself up when you get stuck with some plastic; simply recycle it and plan on how to avoid it next time!

Cutting Down on Food Waste

Contrary to popular belief, food in landfills does not decompose. Landfills are not designed to break down items. Their compact design, plastic liners and soil cover means that the trash is exposed to very little oxygen and moisture, which makes it very hard for items to decompose.

In addition to increasing our garbage output, food waste is also costly. It was estimated in 2014 that over $31 billion dollars of food was wasted in Canada alone. Cutting down on food waste not only helps the environment, but you’ll find you have a lot smaller grocery bills by following these simple tips:

 

Meal Planning

I seriously do not know how we did our grocery shopping before meal planning! Meal planning is the ideal way to reduce food waste by simply buying less at the grocery store. Once a week, we sit down and make a list of 7 dinners that we’d like over the next week. By doing this, you can make your grocery lists consist of only items you actually need. There’s only two of us, so lunches are usually leftovers and we’re fond of a simple cereal breakfast.

The biggest thing with meal planning is making sure you are using all of an item. For example, if a recipe calls for half a cauliflower, make sure you are only buying half a cauliflower, or finding another recipe to use it up. Some extra foods can also be cut up and frozen, so that’s a good option as well and I’ll cover that below.

Proper Storage

This is key! Food is usually thrown out because it goes bad before you get to use it. This is especially common with fruits and vegetables and usually comes down to not storing them properly. Here is a really handy guide on what to refrigerate and the order to eat certain fruits and veggies based on their shelf life. This can also help with your meal planning if you’re trying to decide dinner. If your avocado only has a day of life left, you should probably eat that meal tonight!

Freeze Food

Everyone has that recipe that just made waaay more food than you thought! A lot of food waste is from this because you simply cannot eat all of your leftovers before they go bad. Of course, some meals can’t be frozen (like all that spaghetti) but soups, stews and chili are great examples of recipes that make a lot of food, but freeze really well. So if you made enough soup to feed 20 people, keep in the fridge what you’ll eat in the next 3 days and throw the rest in the freezer for the next time you’re craving your favourite soup.

Fruits and veggies can also freeze really well. Bananas are something we freeze quite often and just use them in smoothies. Each veggie and fruit usually has a special way to freeze it, so check out this guide here. Bananas for example just have to be peeled and thrown into a container.

Best Before

Just because your food has a best before date, does not meal that item goes rancid the very next day! Best before dates are usually required for safety and liability purposes, but more often then not they are arbitrary days or a calculated guess. Follow your nose and eyes when deciding if food is bad! If it smells different or has visible mold, don’t eat it. But otherwise, you’re probably okay to stretch that date a little longer.

Composting

If you’re following the above tips and still have bad food, the next best option is composting. The City of Calgary is currently building a composting facility and is planning to have curbside compost pickup by next year! Other cities already have the same pickup or drop-off in place, but if not, don’t fret. You can easily compost your own food and yard waste at home. Here‘s a handy guide to get you started!

 

Once you start getting the hang of reducing your food waste, I guarantee you’ll see a reduction in your food bill. Just by meal planning we have noticed a big change in our bill because it limits grabbing food that you think you might need. Every bit of food diverted from the landfill goes a long way in reducing your ecological impact and saving our natural lands from being turned into more landfill space!

Eco July Update

Between the OMEGA project and Plastic Free July, I have spent the past few weeks trying to kick-start my eco-friendly living into overdrive! What I’ve discovered, this is a lot harder then I initially thought!

The goal of Plastic Free July is pretty self explanatory, but I can’t believe the amount of items with plastic in them! The Top 4 Plastic Items (lids, straws, bags and bottles) is a much easier challenge because we already have the alternatives in place. Reusable cups and coffee mugs exist for your beverages and reusable bags for your groceries and purchases. I found by keeping a compact reusable bag in my purse led to less unintentional plastic bags when I had to stop in and pick something up outside of my usual shopping.

This same thinking has also helped with the OMEGA project; completing little eco-acts everyday in every aspect of our lives. The act that gotten me the most points (it is a friendly competition after-all!) is being vegan! Plant based living is definitely easier on our environment than relying on animal agriculture for our food. The next biggest act for me has been general waste reduction: using reusable items, recycling instead of tossing, and preparing food instead of getting take-out or opening up a packaged snack. On average, we have to empty our recycling bin over twice as often as our garbage per week; and they’re the same size!

My biggest challenges this month have been reducing water consumption and plastic in packaging; so that’s where my focus for the next couple weeks is going to be! Plastic packaging really surprised me. I figured it would be easier to opt for non-plastic options when shopping, but when I really starting analysing what I was buying, I realised that most of the packaging is at least part plastic. Working on a spotlight post for each of these issues shortly so I can start to tackle these areas in every other month of the year too!

What’s your biggest challenge to living eco-friendly?

 

 

 

Plastic Free July

The title basically says it all! This July, join me and countless others at www.plasticfreejuly.org and reduce our use of single-use plastic items!

Coffee lids, straws, plastics bags and much much! These plastic items are made to be used once (for a half an hour mostly) and thrown away! Plastic lasts in our environment longer than we do and much of it winds up in our oceans where wildlife ingest it.

First step, identifying all of my common single-use plastic items! It was honestly surprising realizing how many items are ingrained in our every day lives.

Second step, replacing all of these items with a plastic free alternative (or at least a multi-use plastic alternative).

So here’s my starting list:

  • Coffee Lids. The best option is to just avoid getting beverages to go in the first place. it’s better for the environment and better for your pocketbook! If you’re still stopping at your local Tim’s or Starbucks, use a reusable mug instead. Lots of places actually offer discount if you bring your own mug, so there’s another incentive. I’ll be leaving a mug in my car for those spontaneous trips!
  • Plastic Bags. Whether its your grocery bag or sandwich bags, both are meant to have a very short life span. Luckily however, you can substitute both for reusable options! Take canvas bags when you’re headed for groceries. The bags hold more, and you can avoid the 5 cent charge for plastic bags too. Packing a sandwich for lunch, opt for the Tupperware containers instead.
  • Plastic Straws. If the liquid is in a glass, you don’t require a straw. If you’re at a movie theater though, it’s a little harder to drink from your cup and you still get the unavoidable plastic drink lid. Here’s another option that’s also cheaper; sneak in beverages in reusable drink containers or at least bottles that you can recycle.
  • Water Bottles. Another reusable option that happens to be cheaper (there is a trend here)! Fill a reusable water bottle at home before you go out and keep it in your purse, car or backpack. Lots of places have fountains where you can even refill your bottle.
  • Packaging. This one is trickier! Look for alternatives to the plastic packaging. Examples include buying pop in cardboard cases instead of plastic rings or using paper bags instead of plastic bags for your bulk items.

I’m off to a rocky start today already since we decided to order in food for Canada Day. My current tally is:

  • Two forks
  • One bag
  • One straw
  • One lid

Everything got recycled at least, and now I got my game face on! The point of this is to try and reduce your plastic, not beat yourself up over a straw. If you get stuck with some single-use plastic items, make sure you’re reusing or recycling them to keep them out of our landfills.

Catching the Sun

I tend to put documentaries into two categories – ones that make me feel bad about humanity, my contribution, etc. or ones that inspire me or make me feel good. It’s kinda silly, but I guess I’m just emotional like that! So here’s an inspirational one!

I have to give it to Netflix for all the amazing documentaries they available to watch, and tonnes of them are related to the environment! My List is always full of new documentaries to watch and this weekend I got around to watching “Catching the Sun“.

We are far from perfect when it comes to implementing sustainable, renewable energies in our cities and homes, but the trend is starting! I feel like, since the Paris Agreement especially, I’ve been reading more and more about people and cities adopting renewable energy in an effort to reduce greenhouse gases and slow down climate change. Like I said, it’s taken a while, and will take a lot longer, but its starting! And that is inspirational.

This documentary really showcased the start-up companies that are getting their foot in the door and making things happen, against all of the push back of oil-loving society. All they require is the demand! So go ahead, get solar panels, or write your local government or any major corporation and let them know how much this means to you. We still live in a supply and demand society, so let’s get demanding!

If you’re like me and can’t afford to outfit your whole home in solar panels just yet, you can still make a difference by reducing your power consumption and therefore reducing your greenhouse gas emissions.Every little bit counts!

Got a favourite eco-documentary? I want to hear about it!

 

Little Eco Acts

Earlier in the week I decided to challenge myself to incorporate more daily “Little Eco Acts” to become more aware of the impact I’m having and find ways to reduce my footprint. Funny enough, the next day OMEGA (One Million Everyday Green Actions) started in Alberta!

I of course signed up immediately, as it has a wonderful way to track your green actions and gives you points for each one completed. I love games, so I’m already hooked on trying to beat myself every day!

If you’re in Alberta, you should definitely get set-up on OMEGA at Calgary.verdigo.com and play along with me.

Part of my personal challenge was to share these little eco acts and hopefully bring more green actions into my lifestyle and inspire others to do the same. So here are my favourite eco acts of the week:

  • Picking up some paper and plastic trash in my alley and putting in in the recycling bin
  • Mixing a new chemical free fabric deodorizer (we have a few cats, this comes in handy!)
  • Opening windows, shutting blinds, and turning off lights to cool the house instead of opting for a fan (also cuts down on your electricity!)
  • Focusing on taking shorter showers, running the tap less and using grey water to water my plants

This is also my 2 month anniversary of being vegan! So I’m excited to be contributing to our planets health in a whole new way. I’ve been vegetarian since I was 12 years old, so I honestly don’t know what took me so long!

So that’s week 1 of my Eco challenge! I hope I can inspire some of you to add some eco-friendly actions to your daily routine as well

Respecting Nature

It’s nearing the end of Environment Week here in Canada and I’ve been lucky enough to have been able to spend most of it working outdoors. Unfortunately in Alberta, this week was just one rolling thunderstorm after another, but I did get to see some neat cloud formations!

Capture

While working outside this week, I thought a lot about my respect for nature and the environment and where it stems from. I realized that the more I learn about the world around me, the more I learn to respect and cherish it. Learning about the plants and land around me is the basis of my job. As a reclamation consultant, I need to know all the puzzle pieces in the world around me so that I can make sure they are put back properly.

Getting to know nature has helped me fall in love with it more and more every day. I want to share some of that so that you too can come to love and respect nature more as well!

Let’s start with some trees! They’re big and beautiful and there are fewer species to learn about than other aspects of nature.

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Trembling Aspen is a deciduous tree meaning it has soft fluffy seeds and loses its leaves every fall. It gets it name from the way its leaves “tremble” in the wind.

 

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Lodgepole pine is a coniferous tree with hard seeds located in cones. Its long soft needles are flat and grow in pairs of two.

 

Seeds_and_Fluff_of_Cottonwood

 

 

Cottonwood is another deciduous tree that is most commonly found along river banks where it can get plenty of moisture. The cotton fluff can usually be seen floating through the air in the spring.

White-Spruce-needles_(top)

 

 

White spruce is a pretty common coniferous tree in this area. Its short sharp needs have an almost white tinge to them. In comparison to the pine needles, white spruce needles are square and roll between your fingers.

 

So next time you’re at the park, take a closer look at the trees around you and try and learn what species it is. Hopefully you’ll also come to feel a closer connection to the world around you!