mommyonthegreen

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


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The End is Not the End

April 2016

I know I said I wouldn’t do this, but here is one more blog post.

I was sitting here wasting time on Facebook (it’s amazing how much time I can lose just clicking on the garbage that comes up on my newsfeed) when I could be doing something more productive. Like writing. Or like not using electricity at all. Like reading.

While I’ve been on mat leave I’ve been reading a lot. I recently read the Mitch Albom book “The First Phone call from Heaven”. In the story, one of the characters mentions the phrase “The End is not the End” in reference to heaven, and is also apparently a House of Heros song.

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I’ve also been trying to wean LM. I’ve decided I’m just done. He’s almost 9 months. It’s ok. I did my best. He’s going to be ok either way. Just when I think we’re done, we’re not. He asks for me (he does a little bobbing bird on my chest when he wants the boob. It’s kind of sweet. 🙂  When he’s really hungry he doesn’t care where the food comes from as long as it comes fast!). And I can’t believe I only have three months of mat leave left  😦

It’s time I put this blog to bed and move on. The amount of electricity I’ve used researching and writing this blog is not lost on me. My family needs me. I need me. And as much as I love blogging, it’s taking up more time than I can put into it to make it the way I want it. I’m too hard on myself for not posting or tweeting regularly, or making timely posts related to current events. I often feel rushed when doing a post and I make mistakes.

My plan was to go back to each post, add tags, edit grammar and spelling, add links for interesting things I’ve found out since I wrote the original post, update my progress, etc.  But lets be realistic – as they say “ain’t no one got time for that”!

And I’ve realized, just like I’m not perfect, just like we don’t parent perfectly or the way we might like too, this blog isn’t going to be perfect. So what if it’s not written like a Pulitzer Prize winning novel. Just like parenthood, it’s raw and its real. So why change it now?

I started this blog for New Year’s 2014. Today, my 35th birthday, seems like a good day to finish it off.

So as a final post, here are some things I wanted to write about. I’ve been trying to clean out my e-mail accounts, where I e-mail my blog ideas to myself, and I just seem to have so many green ideas I want to write about while incorporating them into events in my life.  I didn’t want to be one of those websites that just lists a bunch of tips without actually trying them myself. But I want to share them for my readers anyway. Who knows, maybe some day I will try them. I guess I can always go back to this list. And some of them just made me laugh.

For each of you who reads this blog, try out a green challenge from the list below. In this way, the blog has no end.

Here they are, by category/topic/tag:

Waste Reduction

How did a sea turtle get a straw up its nose?

Worms could help reduce waste

101 uses for Mason Jars! (well actually just 18, but who’s counting;-) )

The Destiny of Restaurant Crayons

The Unintended Consequences of Banning Bottled Water

Waste Reduction on Campus

Upcycling

Repurposing an Old Toothbrush

 

Food Security/Waste

Tax Break for businesses that donate food

Just Eat it Restaurant Waste Video

Use it don’t lose it!

denHaan Greenhouses – local source for tomatoes and cucumbers

Fair Trade Recipes

French Law Bans Food Waste

Ugly Food!

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I was going to participate in the National Geographic Hashtag challenge, but as with a great many things I ran out of time. So here’s the photo

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#UglyFoodIsBeautiful

 

Sustainable Seafood – Loblaws

 

Infant Feeding

Breastfeeding Dairy Free

Lactose Overload

Breastfeeding & Alcohol Consumption

Formula FYI

Pump & Dump

 

Sustainable Diapering

The Diaper Divide

7th Generation Training Pants

 

Environmentally Friendly Sanitary Pads

Now that Aunt Flo is back in my life I’ve been thinking about this a little more.

The Honest Company

Goodbye Diva Cup

 

Environmentally Friendly Funerals/Burials/Estate Planning (not that I plan on trying these any time soon – for all the right reasons!)

Refound!

Burial Pods

 

Pets

Our kitty has recently had some health problems, which got me thinking about this even more

Ethically Sourced Pet Food

Crystal Cat Litter

Silica Cat Litter

Ecofriendly Cat Litter

Homemade Cat Litter

Homemade Cat food

More Homemade Cat Litter

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Natural Pest/Weed Control

Ants

 

Water Conservation/Pollution

Drugs in Drinking Water

The Surfrider Foundation

Gold in Sewage

Water used to grow favourite foods

Microbeads Banned

 

Eco-friendly Shopping

The True Cost of Clothing

Germs in Cloth Bags

The Green Mom Review

Toxic Items at Dollar Stores

Chemicals in Dollar Store Products

Dollar Store Product Contaminants

 

Parenthood

Advice to Fathers

The Most Expensive 2-hour Nap

A Day at Home with a Newborn

10 things kids should see their parents doing

Journey from Anti-Vaxx to Science

Please don’t visit my Newborn

10 ways to really help someone with a new baby

 

As I’ve said before, through this blog, I’ve learned that as with every thing in life, we have to make decisions. Just like we can’t always be that perfect parent, we can’t be the perfect environmentalist. But we try. We try and we hope it’s enough.

And then there’s this guy. Am I him? I don’t think I want to be him. If you can’t follow my blog, follow the frog.

http://www.upworthy.com/never-before-have-i-laughed-so-hard-at-one-guys-non-attempt-to-save-the-planet?g=2&c=ufb1

 

THE END


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February

February 2016

I come to you today from my dining room table. And no I’m not writing about food, I just needed to relocate my writing space while we have some renovations going on in our home office. Renovations which will hopefully create a warmer, cozier space for me to be creative, and save some energy as well. I’ve been hungry for this space for a while.

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And that’s not the only thing I’ve been hungry for. According to one of my favourite authors, Barbara Kingsolver (or her sources at least), the word for February in Cherokee (and other Native American languages) is “hungry”.*

Not that I’m starving by any means, but my weight loss struggle continues. One week I’m down three or four pounds, only to gain one or two back the next week, then stay the same for two or three weeks before dropping another five. I’m sure there’s a physiological explanation for this, but I’m not inclined to look it up.

I’ve been trying to be really diligent and careful about what I eat, and even my husband is noticing. I’m also frustrated at the lack of healthy options this time of year. Local produce, other than root vegetables, is hard to come by this time of year. In the words of Ms. Kingsolver, the time to think about eating local is in August, not January or February. After the spring and summer we had this year, I of course had very little put away in the freezer. And the grocery store isn’t much help either. All produce is ridiculously expensive, organic or not, and the winter has been full of recalls – spinach one week, cantaloupe the next.

I’ve also decided to stop buying almonds. We had been eating almonds regularly, but was recently reminded of how fattening they can be (though good fats I know). More importantly, they require a lot of water to grow and are often imported from California. Not the most eco-friendly nut choice.

Nevertheless, I am trying not to let this all get me down and I keep plugging away. In the back of my mind I know my weight loss goals may have been unrealistic (the timeframe in which I wanted to lose the weight, not the overall weight loss) and I should be proud of how far I’ve come. In fact, at the 6.5 month mark I am back in the 180s (only a few pounds above my weight when we moved into this house nearly ten years ago), and only have twenty pounds to go. This is cause for celebration, allowing myself the occasional beer- local of course (and no, the irony of consuming beer over almonds while trying to lose the baby belly is not lost on me. And yes I’m still breastfeeding I’m being careful. Just give me a break;-) ).

Garrison Brewery makes a lovely Nut Brown which both my husband and I have been enjoying in place of a Stella or other import. I don’t usually like dark ales, but this particular brew has a milder flavor, is not as thick or bitter as some others I’ve tried and leaves almost no aftertaste. I’ve also had a chance to test their geekier flavours at Hal-Con – The Klingon War Nog and The Vulcan Ale – both of which are potent but excellent.

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I’ve been in a happier place lately too (and no not due to the beer). We’ve made it through the darkness of January and are almost through February. Longer days, milder, damper weather and the sweet songs of birds mean spring is just around the corner. While we’ve had our fair share of snow, so far it pales in comparison to the Snowmageddon of last winter I still feel traumatized by.

Whenever possible, I’ve been feeding my soul with good books. I hope to post my mat leave reading list here on the blog when nap schedules allow. Recently I read Margaret Trudeau’s book Changing my Mind; probably one of the best I’ve read this year so far. Her story is encouraging to anyone suffering from mental illness, and a good education for the rest of us. I’ve learned a lot from her, and Wil Wheaton, who I’ve recently started following on my Facebook page and twitter. From both of them I’ve been reminded that it’s ok, and “normal” to feel sad and down sometimes. That it happens to all of us, and you just can’t let it consume your whole being.

With spring on the horizon I’ve also been doing lots of spring cleaning. I’m still using “green” cleaning products as much as possible, a challenge I started back in Week 34. Lately I’ve been doing less actual cleaning and more just “purging” of stuff. We have too much stuff, stuff that other people could probably use. Closets and storage spaces are getting a thorough inspection by me. And there’s a lot to go through. I had no idea how much stuff we held on to.

It all started after LM arrived. With an extra person, even if a mini-person, our house is feeling smaller day by day. Also, everything we had held on to from MD that we now knew we weren’t going to use (mostly clothing) was given away to friends of mine with little girls. And as LM keeps growing we’re continually giving things away. A good friend of mine just had a little boy too so lots of stuff went to her, and my sister in law is due any day and she doesn’t know the gender.

Other items, baby and non baby alike, are going on Kijiji and HRMGiveaway or to the Fairview Family Resource Centre.

Anything that we don’t think can be used by anyone but may have a purpose are going to Value Village. I was encouraged to learn that they have a textiles recycling program. Horray for the three Rs!

The basement reno also has encouraged the purging process. We had a lot of rearranging to do to make room for the contractor. And I just have the time. Between feedings (including trying new solid foods) the inevitable diaper changes and household chores, on days we can’t get outside because of the weather and now that LM is finally sitting on his own and content to play with toys in a semicircle around him, I have a little extra time to sort and get rid of things.

And one of these days I’ll open what I’ve started calling our Pandora’s box. An unlabelled cardboard box that’s been sitting on the same shelf in our basement since the day we moved into this house nearly ten years ago. I have no idea what’s in it. For a long time I was afraid. Very afraid. But not curiosity is getting the better of me, and plus I just want the shelf space.

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Well, here goes . . .

Cheers!

If you don’t have a Value Village in your area, use this nifty textile recycling search tool.

*Animal Vegetable Miracle

List of CFIA recalls 

Harder to loose weight breastfeeding

Losing weight after baby #2 

 

 

 


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Pooped!

October/November 2015 – Updated February 2015

I have to say that LM is a better sleeper than MD, at least right now. Sure I’m up a couple of times in the night, but he usually sleeps a four or five-hour stretch before waking, then another couple of three hour stretches before waking for the day. He’s even slept a few six and seven hour stretches! (Would love to find a way to keep that up!) He also seems to be a better napper, so far. So while I’m not fully rested, I definitely don’t feel the same level of exhaustion that I did at this point with MD.  I’m a bit worried that I might still hit a wall, but my husband just says that we’re pacing ourselves better this time. I also find that getting up at about the same time every day (even if I’m tired), maintaining a semblance of routine, napping when he naps, and getting some regular exercise and eating well has done as much for my energy level as sleep.

In fact, I’ve even had the brainpower to think about this blog! Over the last couple of months we’ve been experimenting with the disposable diapers I described in a previous blog post (see The Home Stretch). Here’s what I’ve found:

PC Green (~24 cents ea.) – these were my favourite. These were the most absorbent day and night and best at containing blow-outs, easy to put on, and I just like the look of them better. The price point is the best as well.

Seventh Generation– (~37 cents ea.) – I liked these diapers. They were great for daytime usage, however did not contain blow-outs as well as some other diapers we tried, and were not as absorbent overnight.

Naty (~38 cents ea.) – these were by far my least favourite diaper. They were not very absorbent at all, day or night, number 1 or number 2, did not fit well, and to be honest I kept putting them on backwards because I could not easily tell front from pack (important for middle of the night changes).

I also tried another brand, BabyGanics from Babies R Us ($ 16.99 per pkg of 40 stage 1 (8-14lbs) or ~ 42 cents ea.). This brand also claims to be chlorine free and made from plant-based materials (which all paper or cotton diapers would inherently be). The company also makes a whole line of “eco-friendly” and “baby-friendly products”. These were the most expensive diapers I tried, which is unfortunate because they were a great diaper as well. Easy to put on, looked great and most importantly were very absorbent day and night.

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For the record, a package of Pampers Swaddlers size 2 is ~44 cents each – making the “green” option less expensive for once!

For comparison’s sake, I would also like to try Huggies Pure and Natural. They claim to be made of organic cotton. I think I used them with MD, but I can’t find them locally at the moment.

Huggies is a division of Kimberly Clark . Interestingly, they’ve been working with a group in New Zealand to create a composting diaper. You can read all about it here. I wonder if they could do that in Canada?

The Honest Company also makes diapers, with the same green features as the diapers I’ve listed above, and are only available online as far as I can tell.

We also have a whole bunch of regular disposable diapers that my mother-in-law bought us. At first I was offended – like, doesn’t she know me well enough by now to know that I would be using cloth or at least an “eco-friendly” disposable diaper? Like couldn’t she just have bought us a package of those? Is she trying to get under my skin on purpose? But since then I’ve learned to follow MD’s idol’s advice and “let it go”. I think her heart is in the right place and she really was just trying to help us out. And to be honest, the diapers she bought us certainly come in handy when we’re running low on the ones we bought and I can’t get to the store, and don’t have time to do laundry! I also shouldn’t be a hypocrite. I mean, come on, we just put a whole other person on the planet with their own ecological footprint! And the way I’m going through granola bars in their shiny disposable wrappers, and the amount of paper MD brings home from daycare probably balances out anything we gain by using reusable diapers.

When LM was about eight weeks old we started experimenting with the cloth diapers again, a few days a week. They still don’t fit super well because his thighs are still small, but other than that so far so good. I picked up a few extra supplies, such as bioliners and Allen’s detergent, from Nurtured, but other than that I don’t feel like investing a whole lot into them when we don’t know how much longer they’ll last. I’ll let you know how it works out!

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Update – February 2016

Well we’ve been using the cloth diapers for about four months, and I think they’ve just about reached their best before date. We were told by Nurtured that their life expectancy is about two years, and after using them on and off for about 18 months with MD and now four months with LM, we’re just about there.

We’ve been doubling up on the inserts to improve absorbency, but they’re really only good for short-term usage (a couple of hours). The microfiber liners have just worn out. I don’t really feel like investing in new ones, because once I go back to work (in six months time – yikes!) I know I’m not going to have time to do the extra laundry, and I don’t want to take the diapers to daycare again (they nearly ruined them the last time. While they were completely open minded and supportive of us using them, they kept using diaper cream with them which is a huge no-no in the cloth diapering world, because it makes the covers impermeable to water).

There are a few other reasons why we’re going to take a break from the cloth for a while:

  • Now that LM has started solids, his poop is really gross. Like, I know, poop is gross no matter what, and I don’t understand why I didn’t have this problem with MD (maybe I didn’t notice because my wonderful supportive husband was washing the diapers at that time, or maybe I’ve developed a weaker stomach with kidlet number 2).
    • We’re using bioliners, these just go in the garbage too (we don’t flush them – see Week # 6), and while it is less waste than a disposable diaper it’s still waste.
  • He seems to get a bad diaper rash whenever we use them.
  • It seems like they’re getting too small. There’s lots of room around and in the thighs, but in the rise they seem a bit short, like they’re crushing his “jewels”. He is the same size now as MD was at a year old!
  • Most importantly for us right now, while the water usage washing cloth is supposedly still less that the production of disposables, what we didn’t take into consideration was the wear and tear on our washing machine and dryer. Which both seem to be on the fritz lately, and I don’t want to be stuck with a pile of dirty diapers that we have to run to a laundromat!

We’ll hang on to them for a little while longer in case we change our minds again, but I suspect they will find another life for another baby via Kijiji. So at least someone will still be using them.

I’ll be disappointed and sad in some ways to see them go, as cloth diapers are something I really believe in, but at least I can say I tried them. For a short time at least, I practised what I preach. Some might say I’m not dedicated enough. But I’m going to try to not be too hard on myself. We all have to make choices and we all do our best. And like being the “good enough mom”, maybe I’ll have to learn to be ok with being a “good enough environmentalist”. Besides, there are probably some other areas of our lives where we can make changes that will have a greater, more lasting impact. And when I figure out what those are, I’ll write about them here. And speaking of poop, someone needs to be    changed . . .


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The Home Stretch

June/July 2015

This is likely my last blog post for some time: expecting the arrival of Number 2 in the next few weeks. Then again, who knows, maybe we will be blessed with a mellower child and I’ll be able to post a few lines here and there. At my last Dr.’s appointment she says to me “that belly is filing out nicely isn’t it”. I felt like responding with “really, I hadn’t noticed”. If I don’t have this kid soon I’ll need to go shopping again – my clothes are starting to reach their maximum stretch point! Almost muumuu time! ( I wonder if I could find one of those at Value Village . . . ).

June has been a frustrating month. I have a giant to do list, but I am feeling frustrated at the level of helplessness pregnancy imposes on me. Physically I either just can’t move my body the way I need to do what needs doing around the house, or I just don’t have the energy level. My amazing husband is doing all that he can, but we’re going to have to find some help elsewhere. I’m tempted to research some green house cleaners in the city, but as with many of my projects it ends up ballooning into something I don’t have the time or energy to handle. Hoping the neighbours kids come through and can help with the yard work at least.

Physical limitations aside, June was also been a very busy month for us:

  • 100 in 1 day went off without a hitch (except for the rain). We exceeded our goal of 100 interventions, and collected over 60kg of food. There were lots of great environmentally-oriented projects too, such as The Wave of Waste.
  • Went to physiotherapy to treat my hip/foot problems and it was successful. Tried to do some gardening but ended up twisting my knee (which heeled after a week or two, but I don’t want to tempt fate a second time). Trying to do battle with the Japanese Knotweed which returns with a vengeance every year (see Week 20 and here for more information on this awful, awful invasive plant).
  • My Dad had to have surgery, which while he knew he would have to have some day and was not life-threatening, the health care system made it seem like it was nothing more than a tooth extraction, when in reality the recovery period has been a lot more uncomfortable and long than expected.
  • I taught a three day course at work, which I love doing and am thankful I was able to get through without having to boil water.
  • And completed my French oral exam – which at the time I thought I hadn’t done well at all (I had studied, but I hadn’t been in a French class since February, and with everything else going on I just couldn’t get into the right head space). I am thankful that I achieved the mark I need to keep my competitive edge in the workplace.
  • And with all of this going on, our daughter is experiencing a bit of regression toilet-training-wise, wetting herself at nap time. So at her request back to pull ups for a little while 😦

Needless to say, while blogging has been on my mind and very much something I’ve been looking forward to wrapping up before Number 2’s arrival, it hasn’t exactly made the To Do list each weekend.

Now that June is past, I’ve pretty much got things wrapped up at work (only three days left!), and the baby’s room is ready to go, I’ve been trying to maximize mommy-daughter time. Last week we spent the morning at the farmer’s market (which we also hadn’t done in several months) and yesterday we went to the beach.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to not get upset with myself for all of the driving and take-out packaging that seems to have re-entered my lifestyle – I keep telling myself it’s only temporary.

What “green things” have I been doing (when I have the mental, emotional and physical energy to even think about it):

  • Buy local – it is growing season – finally! – and speaking of Farmer’s Markets, I found a lovely little fruit and veggie stall in our neighbourhood. All they need is a fish truck, an artist and a few musicians and they’d be a full fledged market! Which connects nicely with one of my 100 in 1 day projects related to community building (read about it here);
  • Reuse baby gear – we’d kept just about everything, so it all came out of the closet and got cleaned up;
  • Purchase used baby gear instead of new – for things that we needed to replace or add to the collection. It is yard sale season after all so I was able to find a couple of things, like an infant seat (for the house, not a car seat). When I was pregnant with my daughter I didn’t think we needed all of the “extra” stuff that went with a baby (like swings, infant seats, breast-feeding pillows, exersaucers etc) and that it was materialistic – but learned very quickly that it wasn’t a capitalist ploy at all but a matter of survival, as I’m sure anyone reading this who’s a parent can appreciate. We did purchase a new stroller, because they take such a beating (and we got a good deal)!
  • Speaking of reused baby gear – my husband and I finally reached a compromise on the diaper front. We spoke with some apartment-dwelling friends who also used cloth diapers both children and learned of some tricks that will hopefully make cloth diapering less work than before. So the cloth diapers we used for our daughter are freshened up and ready to go. I’ve also agreed to use disposable – if we can use “environmentally-friendly” brands.

There are basically three brands available at our local grocery store:

PC Green – materials are 50% recycled and/or sourced from sustainable sources; fragrance, latex and petroleum free (including no bleaching). Stage 1 (8-14 lbs) $15.99 per pkg of 66 (~24 cents ea.). The President’s Choice company offers a number of other “green” products, and has a number of other sustainable programs on the go, such as Sustainable Seafood. Nevertheless, “greenwashing” is always in the back of my mind (see Week xx).

Seventh Generation– Another company offering a variety of green products. Diapers are fragrance free and unbleached. However I have read and heard from reputable sources that they dye their diapers the light-brownish colour to make them appear more natural. This marketing technique, if true, kind of defeats the purpose if you ask me. Stage 1 $14.99 per pkg of 40 (~37 cents ea.)

Naty– Made by a Swedish company that offers a number of other eco-friendly products. Made from biodegradable materials, unbleached, and latex and fragrance free. Stage 2 (6-13 lbs) $ 12.99 per pkg of 34 (~38 cents ea.). Not sure if they’re made in Sweden and shipped over.

So it looks like the PC Green might be the best option, and it is also the option that Nurtured once recommended to me.

Depending on what you have access to, here are some other options that might work. Cloth are still thought to be the best option, especially when reused for a second child – all of the water and electricity usage that goes into making and cleaning them is apparently still less than what goes into repeatedly making disposables. For some other options, read here and here.

Once the baby powder settles we’ll experiment and see what works best for us in our “new normal”.

  • I’ve also been collecting links related various environmental issues that I have blogged about. I’ll share a few on the blog and via Twitter. One is “plastic free July”. A good challenge for some day, but not for me today.

Until next time, have a great summer! (And yes, I will post baby news!).


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Waist-not

May 2015

So I’ve been worried that I might have gestational diabetes. As with my previous pregnancy, being pregnant has completely changed my relationship with food. Cravings, aversions, seemingly needing to eat higher calorie foods to avoid the nausea that is always lurking just under the surface of my pyloric sphincter. It didn’t help that we had the winter of our discontent and I couldn’t be as active as I was before, or the foot injury early on (an injury that came back to haunt me from Week 31), or the weekly lemon Sanpelligrino with 33 grams of sugar each! This time I’ve put on a lot more weight at a faster rate than before, and my doctor is monitoring it. I recently had the glucose tolerance test done, and it all came back normal, as is my blood pressure. A lot of the extra weight is likely fluid retention in my legs and feet, which seems to improve as I increase my activity level and keep them elevated when I’m not on them.IMG_0249

I was pleased I was able to be active for our recent adventure to Montreal. Yes, we took a “baby-moon” (1 ½ hour flight with carbon emissions and all), leaving our daughter with her grandparents for a week while we took a pre-baby # 2 escape. While the weather was dampish for the most part, it is a beautiful city with lots of history, friendly people, and man do they know their food! I don’t think we had a bad meal the entire time we were there.

I felt incredibly guilty after one particularly good meal that I just couldn’t finish, leaving behind what for some in developing nations would equate to a week’s worth of food. As I mentioned above, my relationship with food as totally changed during pregnancy, and I find I end up wasting a lot more than I normally do. Often this is because I’ll have a craving for something and want to eat it every day for several days, so I’ll buy a batch of whatever it is in bulk, then suddenly I can’t look at it any more without feeling nauseous. And often it is something that no one else in the house wants to eat either. So we end up throwing it out 😦 I hate food waste knowing that so many people go without. My goal for the remainder of the pregnancy is to try to keep food portions in perspective and not waste as much food.

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I’ve been continuing to drop off yoghurt containers at Feeding Others of Dartmouth, so they can send leftovers home with their clients, thereby reducing their food waste (see Week 13). This is also why my intervention for 100 in 1 day – Feed 100 Families – is so important to me. I’ve been putting a lot of effort into it this year, which is why I’ve had less time for blogging. The blog is also going to take a back seat to other more important matters very soon.

Speaking of waste, we bought metro day passes one of our days in Montreal. Instead of throwing mine away at the end of the day, I passed it on to a homeless person who was hanging out in a bus shelter near our hotel. Hopefully he was able to make some use of it.

  • Read more about food waste in North America here.
  • And one woman’s story of how she strives to live a waste-free life here.


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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.