mommyonthegreen

Converting back to a green life, one week (and nap time) at a time


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A Look Back in the Box

December 2015

Christmas will soon be upon us, and I’ve been thinking a lot about where I was last December and the December before that. What a difference a couple of years makes.

Christmas, for me, also brings anxiety. While the Christmases of the recent past have been joyous occasions for the most part, and I try to conjure that joy, I am also reminded of past Christmases which brought stress instead of happiness, disappointment instead of gratitude. Arguments over what gifts to buy family members, duplicate gifts, spending too much money or not enough. Frustration displayed as anger over outside decorations not working or being put up to early. Drama over Christmas dinner not getting cooked enough due to a power outage or a stove malfunction, or overdone due to the unexpected arrival of a neighbour or family member. Someone’s drink invariably gets spilled or plate of food dropped on the floor. Finding a last minute gift tucked away in a closet that needs a midnight wrap job. Be being too young to understand why my parents were annoyed I was off school. A lot of “normal” things that I think most families experience, except always with seriousness. National Lampoons, without the humor.

But as I said, I am trying to remember the happy times and not dwell on the not so happy times, move onwards and upwards. And again this Christmas I am struggling to buy local, simply for logistical reasons. I have been making a lot of charitable donations for family instead of material items, as per usual.

There is one gift I am proud of, and that is a shoebox. Not just any shoebox. A shoebox given from one woman to another. A shoebox filled with personal care items and yummy treats for a woman at a local women’s shelter. A woman whom I will never meet, but that I hope can benefit from the items inside. It’s all part of The Shoebox Project. So in lieu of a large gift for my mom, I’m giving another woman a shoebox. And I know they’ll both appreciate it.

I have also been thinking about where I’m going to go with this blog. Last year brought me to a fork in the road, and I kept going. As I mentioned then, there’s still so much I want to write about, so many challenges I want to try. But now I can see an end in sight. Let’s face it – with two children now, one of which will be starting school around the same time I go back to work, at this point I can’t see how I can possibly continue. This doesn’t mean I’m going to stop being an environmentalist overnight. I am going to keep trying to keep up with the green challenges. I just won’t have time to write about them. But I know I probably will. I know myself well enough to know I need a creative outlet, and for me writing is usually that outlet.

And this blog needs some work. I was new to blogging what I started this blog, as can be seen by the layout. A number of the posts are missing references, contain grammatical errors, and could use some general “sprucing up”. I would like to take a look back to see what challenges I stuck to, which I had to let go, and tie up any lose ends with “progress updates”. This process will bring me closure, and allow me to take pride in what I have accomplished over the last two and a half-ish years.

So that will be my focus over the next few months until I go back to work. I may have the odd post if something really gets me going, and I would like to have the odd “guest post” on topics I know little about and don’t have time to research or try myself.

For those of you following my blog (and I hope you’re still out there), follow me on Twitter @mommyonthegreen to see what I’m up to.  Tweet you later!

 

For local gift ideas check out The Local Wishlist 


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Week # 46 – Poppies and Parades

As I “came down” from the excitement of Hal-Con, and receiving a tweet from Garrett Wang (which I later realized he was doing just to be polite – since I tweet using this alias he wouldn’t know who I was), it was time to turn my attention to a more somber occasion – Remembrance day.

When I was in grade 11 I had the opportunity to attend a leadership summer camp organized and operated by the Royal Canadian Legion. For 10 days they tested our physical, emotional and intellectual limits, making us stronger in all ways by the end. I have fond memories of that camp and will always have a special place in my heart for the legion for giving me this opportunity.

Even when I was much younger, I always felt it very important to acknowledge and remember the sacrifices these men and women made so that we could be free to live our life to its fullest. I wear my poppy proudly immediately after Halloween, and I have attended the Remembrance Day parade and service every year (I can count only four occasions I missed – once when I was a child and had the flu, when I had my wisdom teeth out, when I was pregnant, and when my daughter was an infant). I am also outspoken against decorating for Christmas prior to Remembrance day.

But something that has always bothered me about Remembrance Day is its very symbol – the poppy. Every year, while I am among the first to purchase one, I find myself repeatedly in search of little tables staffed by veterans in grocery stores and shopping malls to continually replace the poppy (poppies) that are inevitably lost.

You’d think in the 100-odd years that the poppy campaign has been around the Legion would have come up with a better design. I know the Legion doesn’t have a lot of funding or resources to put into this kind of thing, but I’m sure some co-op students somewhere could come up with something better. The little pin does nothing to hold the poppies on, and if you twist it you risk multiple stabbings by the needle-sharp tip.

And while the custom is to leave ones poppy on the cenotaph after the service, what happens to all of them? Are they left to blow in the wind, off into the ocean to find their new home in a gyre of plastic on the ocean waves? Or do they lay in wait for some unsuspecting animal, hungry for its lunch, only to have its innards blocked or worse by the plastic bits.

It just seems awfully wasteful to me. Why not sell biodegradable paper poppies, with actual poppy seeds embedded in the paper? It seems to me I read about just such a thing last year, but I can’t find the article now (if anyone sees it please let me know!)  And I know I’m not the only one who feels this way – a fellow blogger has a much more detailed post on the same topic.

So this year I’ve decided to change my poppy purchasing habits. I will continue to support the Legion by making a monetary donation each year, but I will reuse my poppy, using a Canada flag pin or a safety pin to hold it on. I also have a poppy pin which I got from work that I can wear. Now, I’ve heard varying reports about whether it is proper to use any kind of pin to hold it on, but I guess I could stop wearing one altogether if they’d rather.

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Don’t get me wrong, I mean no disrespect here, I just think, since they fought so hard to protect our freedom, the least we could do is protect the planet for them so that their legacy can in fact carry on.

(On the notion of reusing, my daughter and I have also spent some time reusing our Halloween glow sticks to make into butterflies, and took some leftover paint gathering dust in our basement off to the local paint recycler.)

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If I can say one thing about the Remembrance Day service, my daughter thoroughly enjoyed the parade; as I learned Canada Day, she loves marching bands. Last Saturday evening was the Halifax Parade of Lights. I turn into a little giddy kid when it comes to Christmas. Not because of the presents (though I do love finding unique gifts for others) but the baking, the decorating, the lights. And I love the parade. But I feel guilty. Though the vehicles are only going at about 2 kph, there must still be some emissions (unless they are all hybrid-electric cars. Pretty sure they’re not, but that would be great, right?).

In the words of my husband, everything I do doesn’t have to be through the lens of the environment. But doesn’t it?Isnt that the point? Isn’t that how we should behave? Doesn’t it make me a hypocrite if I don’t? I suppose devoutly religious individuals battle the same questions.

In any case, I tried to put it out of my mind and enjoy the parade with my family. And now on to other adventures . . .

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Update November 2015

This year I purchased an official poppy pin from the Legion, which you can see in the photo above. I’m told by the poppy-selling staff that it is acceptable to wear the pin through a poppy. Hopefully that will prevent me from losing it!

 


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Week #45 – CONtaining my Passion

I wake up in the wee hours and count – 1, 2,3. Good, they’re still there. The multi-coloured paper bracelets that have adorned my right wrist like gold for the past three days. Hours later, as the sun’s first rays of day poked out from the low hanging clouds, typical of November in Halifax, I waited for the bus, my shuttle if you will, to whisk me off to the third day of Hal-Con 2014.

I love this convention. I’ve been faithfully attending each year since its inception- that first intimate gathering at The Lord Nelson hotel in 2010. Since then, it has expanded, experienced its share of growing pains, and come back to life.

Why do I love it here? Because I am surrounded by characters and ideas that have charged my interest since I was a pre-teen. My creativity is inspired by my surroundings (I am writing this while waiting in line). Science fiction, Star Trek, Star Wars, fantasy, revisionist history, steam punk, comics, cartoons – you name it, it’s here. For a weekend, I can be myself. We are all equal and share a common interest. There are no expectations or deadlines to meet. No one cares who I am or what I think or what I do for my day job or what I look like; where I can blend in by being different. (It’s unfortunate not everyone has had this experience, and the convention has struggled with bullying and harassment. But that’s a post for another day #cosplayisnotconsent).

My first encounter with Star Trek was the original series (TOS). I tried, and failed, to see the entertainment value at first, despite my friends insisting that I would like it and being stumped when I didn’t. I don’t know if it was the cheesy 60’s graphics, the over-zealous music track, the adult themes, or the time slot (competing with the NKOTB and other Saturday morning cartoons), but I just couldn’t get into it.

A year or so later (I think I was in Grade 5 or 6), I’m watching reruns of my favourite childhood show, Reading Rainbow, waiting for Bill Nye or something like it to come on PBS. [Reading Rainbow and David Suzuki’s The Nature of Things had first sparked my interest in science. One particular episode showed LeVar Burton on a boat looking at mud samples with a marine biologist – which is when I decided that was what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I eventually did.] This particular episode featured LeVar Burton doing a tour of the set of his other “day job” – Star Trek :The Next Generation (TNG). I have an “ah-ha” moment – “OH MY GOD you mean there’s another one?!?!?” I ran into the living room to grab the TV Guide (no internet back then to check what was on) to see when TNG was due to air next. Successfully located, I spend the hours after supper learning about Picard, Data and the rest. Since then, I was irrevocably hooked.

Back to the present, and Hal-Con. This weekend I had the opportunity to meet Garrett Wang, who played Ensign Harry Kim on Star Trek: Voyager, a spin-off from TNG and DS9. There were a couple of things that he said during his Q&A Session that really resonated with me.

The first was that STV, with its female captain, was empowering for young women watching the show to see a woman both in a leadership role and with a strongly scientific and technical background. If Reading Rainbow got me interested in science, Janeway kept me interested. I had always kind of looked up to this character. It was so validating for me to hear Wang speak those words, to know that I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. So it seems Garrett Wang and I agree – if you want more women in science, let them watch Star Trek! (Ok, I’m paraphrasing but you get the idea).

The other thing that Wang discussed during his Q&A was his love for travel, and how travelling to non-first world countries puts things in perspective and makes him more aware and grateful for his lot in life (again, I am paraphrasing). This reminded me of the experience I had when I visited India several years ago. My husband was on an assignment there for work, and I went to visit for a week. The people were wonderful, as was the food. However there was more than one occasion I questioned my presence there. I questioned how I could be in a decent, comfortable hotel room, while just across the street I saw children in metal and cardboard shacks, solemnly staring at me.

I had to drink bottled water the entire time I was there to avoid getting sick, and it broke my heart. Not just because of the waste it produced (the government did a pretty good job promoting recycling, and there were huge fines for littering), but also because so many people there don’t have the choice.

This is why, within a year of returning from our trip we sponsored a child through World Vision. The money we give helps provide clean water (through proper wells and plumbing, not bottled), solar lights (no polluting electricity needed), and education to our child’s community, which indirectly benefits the environment as well.

This brings me to why attending events like Hal-Con always make me cringe to some extent. The WTCC does a great job of sorting trash into the correct waste streams by providing colour-coded receptacles throughout the building. But what about the CO2 emissions from all the flights and driving for the guests and participants? And the electricity for the AV requirements. The paper that goes into programs and tickets and whatnot. And the bottled water.

On several occasions I noticed a number of the volunteers (who were excellent by the way) carrying small pallets of bottled water, and all of the guests and conference organizers appeared to be drinking bottled as well. This year when I attended the convention I made a point of bringing my own refillable metal bottle, and packed a lunch as well to cut down on packaging from take-out containers.

This week’s challenge is to continue bringing a refillable bottle wherever I go. I’m usually pretty good at it. The problem I encounter is when I travel, if I’m going somewhere where I don’t trust the tap water, or if I’m travelling by air and only bringing carry on (which is usually the case). Due to the 100ml rule when flying I can’t pack a water bottle, even if it’s empty.

I think I will also suggest to the Hal-Con organizers that next year they provide refillable water bottles with the Hal-Con logo to guests and VIPs, and available for purchase for everyone else, instead of using bottled. I don’t know how feasible this would be for them, but I could help them research the costs. In addition, here are a few other ways the convention could reduce its environmental impact:

  • Offer programs and schedules as a dowloadable pdf, only posting a few paper copies through the building;
  • Use only electronic tickets;
  • I noticed a lot of brochures in the “swag bags” – I understand vendors wanting to advertise their goods and services, but maybe they could do so in the form of something more useful, like a coupon (a few vendors did so this year). Any printing that is done should be done on non-glossy recycled paper using biodegradable ink.
  • The convention organizers might also try offsetting the CO2 impacts through a volunteer tree plant (reminiscent of the DS9 episode The Children of Time, where Worf and Dax’s Klingon descendants help the colonists plant their field before sunset. Can you imagine a group of Klingon cosplayers tree planting with Evergreen! Community service and free advertising!).
  • Travel & accommodations: Delta hotels, the hotel chain right next to the WTCC, are already part of the Green Key program which is great. Perhaps the conference organizers could also suggest to guests to fly direct, economy and bring only carry on. But that might be pushing it. Participants might be willing to go the distance though.

Maybe I should volunteer to be the event’s sustainability coordinator! Combining my two life-long passions – science fiction and the environment- it would be a dream opportunity!

All of this led to my thinking about celebrities and charities. You’ll often hear different celebs speaking about mental health, animal welfare, or children’s diseases. For example, one of my favourite actors, Sam Heugan, supports Leukemia and Lymphoma research.

But you rarely see actors speaking out against environmental degradation. I expect this is because it is often seen as more political, and as I heard in one of the Hal-Con panels, saying something unpopular or offensive can really damage your career. The one exception I can think of is Leonardo Dicaprio, who routinely speaks out against oil and gas developments and diamond mining. Having said that, he probably has enough money banked that he can do and say whatever he wants.

I did recently see a video of Batman star Ben Affleck talking about bats, which are threatened by a fungal disease known as white nose syndrome. So I will leave you with that thought and video today.


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Week # 31 – Water Woes, Broken Toes and other Adventures in Greening

August 30, 2014

Wow this summer went by fast. I was afraid it would. But you know what they say, time flies when you’re having fun. And while I haven’t been blogging as faithfully, I did manage to keep up on a few of my green challenges.

The second wedding this summer, at the end of last month, went off without a hitch. I was able to wear the silver dress I had hoped to (with the help of some strategically placed undergarments), and we had our hair done at an Aveda certified spa. The wedding was beautiful 🙂

I definitely indulged a bit more than I should have though, driving too much, buying to much bulk chocolate, bought a new book rather than waiting for it to come out from the library. But I just couldn’t resist picking up Diana Gabaldon’s new release, and it saw me through the whole summer.

One of our drives did involve my grandfather’s 90th birthday, and we took a detour to Jost Vineyards, picking up a bottle for ourselves and my parents.

I did start taking the bus to the library and then walked back (instead of working-out inside). I’d been meaning to start that challenge for a while. Usually I would drive to the Canada Games Centre every Tuesday for yoga, but I’d make a point of parking in one place and walking to do other errands, like getting gas, picking up groceries, banking, and dropping off and picking up books at the library, so the trip (and CO2 emissions) wasn’t completely in vain. I also picked up a “Share the road” bumper magnet for our car. Which we lost, ironically enough, when my husband put the car through a car wash. Replacing that is on the top of the list for this fall.

As sad as I am to see the end of summer, I do enjoy the foods of this season. It seems like the green peppers I started back in the spring haven’t grown any in height, but the gourds, tomatoes and turnip have really taken off. And I continue to do battle with the Japanese Knotweed.

To keep the garden watered I’ve been using rainwater collected in two buckets at the end of our front. This is not a new challenge for me. I did research more stylish rainwater collectors, but they run a bit out of my budget compared with the buckets I have which work perfectly well. I also used water from my daughter’s kiddie pool to do my watering. And I’ve decided that if I am nominated for the now famous Ice Bucket Challenge I’ll stand in the garden to do so.

Dealing with misplaced water seems to be a regular issue for me. From the time we moved into this house we’ve had water problems, from a leak in the basement the previous owners failed to disclose, to a drip through the kitchen ceiling which required gutting the bathroom. More recently, this past winter we ended up replacing our hot water heater (which, luckily, is leased) when it suddenly began spouting excess water onto the basement floor. While replacing the tank allowed us to upgrade to a (supposedly) more efficient model and gave me the opportunity to turn down the thermostat on the water heater, it did not fix the problem of coming home to pools of luke-warm water on our basement floor. So, a few weeks later, a plumber installed an expansion tank. Which probably wouldn’t have been necessary if the city wasn’t constantly replacing the piping under all the streets in our neighbourhood and messing with the local water pressure. But that is a necessary evil compared with the alternative.

I’ve also started using my daughter’s leftover bathwater to shave my legs, and water from boiled vegetables (such as corn on the cob, plentiful this time of year) to water the house plants.

Lastly, I need to start taking shorter, colder showers. I’ve been putting this challenge off for a long time. I’m famous for long, hot showers – another by-product of giving birth – showers were the only alone time I got in the early days after my daughter was born. In addition to the alone time, the heat not only relaxed my ravaged body, it also helped my milk let-down. But four years later I think it’s time to break old habits.

Now you’ll excuse me while I go back to drying out our camping gear from our latest camping adventure, cut short by a ill-timed rainstorm, and mending my broken toe (the result of a 4am game of musical beds. And no I don’t want to write about it now.).

 


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Week # 17- I Got a Goat – No Kidding!

May 4, 2014

 

Spring has finally arrived, hopefully to stay this time. It’s too nice to be sitting inside at a CO2 consuming computer, so I will keep this week’s post short and sweet.

Last week was my birthday, and in keeping with my challenge to stay green I asked for donations or practical gifts. My parents got me a gift card, which allowed me to purchase some kitchen and gardening supplies. And my husband made a donation to World Vision to buy a goat for a needy family. My mother-in-law, however, got me a pair of moccasins that are fringed with fur – and I think it’s real. I’ve never worn fur, and I make it a point not to. Last Christmas she bought everyone winter coats, and mine had a fur-fringed hood. Pretty sure that was synthetic, but since she included the receipt and the coat was red (I’m not a big fan of red) and didn’t really fit anyway, I subtly returned it for something more appropriate.

This time, the slippers cannot be returned. Having said this, I’m fairly certain that the slippers are hand-made and authentic – meaning real animal parts. I only hope that the people making it were up north and made use of the whole animal, including eating the meat. This would be a perfect segue into the debate on seal hunting, but I’m not going to go there. Not one bit. Too many issues. Let’s just say I think my mother-in-law’s heart is in the right place. I decided a long time ago she and I have different values, and both of us are far to stubborn to change the other so just let bygones be bygones. She is the mother of my husband after all, so she did something right ;-) ( I say this in jest of course – she really is good to us).

Back to my birthday – my husband twisted my parents rubber arm and had them babysit our daughter so that he could take me to lunch at Ela!, a local Greek restaurant which serves local foods whenever they are available. I try to “walk the talk” and go to restaurants that serve local food whenever possible, including a visit to The Wooden Monkey a few years ago.

With Mother’s Day coming up next weekend, I plan to stick to the challenge of not buying actual gifts and making donations or making a gift (granddaughter photos are usually popular).

Now I must run and get clothes off the clothesline. This week’s challenge – hang up clothes as soon as they are dry so they don’t need to be ironed. Heat-generating appliances use a lot more electricity, and clothes right off the clothesline or out of the dryer (on cold or rainy days) are usually pretty wrinkle free. I’ve also been trying to use our toaster oven instead of our regular oven when we need to heat/cook, as toaster ovens use less electricity.

Enjoy the sun! :-)