Posts filed under ‘Green living products’

Another blow to plastic bags

Produce Bags with FruitI recently heard that at the end of November, Metro grocery stores will offer their customers reuseable mesh bags for their produce (four for $5) as an alternative to conventional thin-film produce bags. Metro has 484 stores across Ontario and Quebec, so there’s potential for a lot of plastic savings. The bags are reusable, washable and stain resistant, not unlike these Canadian-made bags I blogged about earlier.

Thin-film plastic is considered the worst offender among plastic bag material, since, among other reasons, it isn’t durable enough for multiple use.

I hope grocery chains will take additional steps, such as offering starch-based biodegradable bags, so they break down safely in soil, and allocate fewer rolls of bags around the stores to discourage people from using them for everything. After all, veggies should be washed before you use them anyway. (I use a tiny smidge of dish soap.)

Metro revealed results of a customer survey showing that 77 per cent are making efforts to limit their use of plastic bags when buying fruits and vegetables, while 76 per cent said they would be interested in buying reusable produce bags. According to the same survey, 87 per cent of customers prefer to buy individual fruits and vegetables instead of pre-packaged ones. I certainly think we could do without the plastic bags on celery, bell peppers heads of lettuce and more, and I really dislike buying packs of mushrooms, since they’re in a type of plastic that many municipalities don’t recycle, topped by cellophane.

I don’t blame food producers for wanted to add something to their products. Homemakers‘ nutritionist, Rosie Schwartz has mentioned that one the reasons we have a hard time eating healthily is that packaged foods have lots of enticing images and marketing copy on them, while the healthiest food – produce – does not.

How would you reduce shopping-related waste?

October 30, 2009 at 2:42 PM 2 comments

Great green choices now available in tissue and toilet paper

iStock_tissueLast night I breathed a sigh of relief as I walked down the paper products aisle of the grocery store. It wasn’t because I was about to sneeze — it’s ’cause in every category, from paper plates to toilet paper to paper towels to tissues, green options are now available.

Considering the volume of paper we use in our kitchens and washrooms every year, backing off our need for trees by switching to products made from 100 per cent post-consumer waste will make a huge difference in preserving forests, and thus habitat, not to mention the carbon savings. I’ve been buying PC Green toilet paper for years, but in the last year or so I’ve found that many other companies are stepping up to the plate with 100 per cent recycled, sometimes even EcoLogo certified products, including the Canadian company, Cascades, Seventh Generation, Selection, White Swan and now Kimberly-Clark brands including their “EnviroCare” line of Cashmere bathroom tissue, Scotties tissues and Sponge Towels. Now that it’s really easy to make a good choice (and even a soft, cushy choice!), let’s just hope that everyone does.

The next step: changing over entire product lines to EcoLogo-certified products, rather than considering them an option.

Are you also finding it easier to find green paper products?

October 20, 2009 at 2:25 PM 1 comment

Efficient Toilets: Less is more

Choose well

Choose well

My partner and I are warily embarking on a bathroom renovation. We’re skirting around it, starting with peripheral components and seeing how it goes. To give you an idea of what that means, we’re beginning our reno by repairing our downstairs bathroom first, so it will be OK to use when our other bathroom’s a mess. The downstairs bathroom has some cracked tile, and we found extra pieces of the tile in our basement (thank you, former owner!), so we’ll learn how to cut and affix tile in our “practice” bathroom first. We’ll also practice replacing a toilet. That sounds easy, but ahh, you have to choose a new toilet before you can install it!

After much review of the models at various home stores and manufacturer’s websites, and consideration of factors such as bowl shape, bowl height, insulated tank, style and colour, we wanted to consider the environmental factors as well. Luckily, most of the available toilets are now water misers at six litres per flush compared to the 13 litres some older models use. But I discovered a type of toilet that I think makes particular sense: the dual flush toilet. These toilets use half the water to do their No. 1 job, so you save a lot of water just by pressing the right button. And apparently the City of Toronto agrees: they offer $60 or $75 rebates for replacing a toilet with an efficient model, and the toilet we chose earns a $75 rebate. Even if you don’t live in Toronto, you may find their list of water-saving toilets helpful.

In purchasing a toilet, performance is the other major factor. After all, you’re not saving water if you have to flush twice. This page provides background on the American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ testing standards and links to a list of performance reports by toilet model.

Now we just need to install the toilet! Let me know if you have any tips!

September 1, 2009 at 12:44 PM Leave a comment

Eco Babies: Creating tomorrow’s stewards of the earth

iStock_holdinghandsYesterday I came across some research showing the links between parental environmental stewardship and the likihood that children will become environmentally minded. The research paper concluded that, “Children developed interest in nature when they had access to a safe environment and were encouraged to explore that environment by role models who demonstrated environmental stewardship.” My guess is that goes for respect for the environment in terms of daily habits as well.

One of my best friends has a baby nearing seven months, and she’s made a terrific commitment to her baby’s health, and the environment, by doing things like making her own baby food, using glass containers for everything, and using cloth diapers (cute, fancy ones from Fuzzi Bunz). When she’s away from home for a while, my friend switches to biodegradeable disposable diapers (so doesn’t have to carry dirty diapers around for ages). She likes the Seventh Generation diapers, as well as the PC GREEN diapers.

No doubt this little babe will be along for the ride on cycling, hiking and market shopping excursions, and she will learn much about the value of our earth and its natural wonders.  Of which she is one. 

Do you have a favourite childhood memory of being outdoors? Do you have suggestions for new parents about how to help kids enjoy the natural world?

August 26, 2009 at 12:05 PM 1 comment

Shopping for Antiques – reducing, reusing, recycling

At the Odessa Antiques Show, Aug. 9

At the Odessa Antiques Show, Aug. 9

Odessashow2As I hoped, I was able to get to the Odessa Antique Show this past weekend. I’ve been going to this big outdoor show, just west of Kingston, Ont., for years. My friends and I were thrilled to see a fabulous range of pieces, all at more reasonable prices than we’d seen in ages (far less than the modern equivalent would cost at a furniture store). There was a lot more antique furniture than usual, including some unique pieces made with hallmarks of French Canadian construction, but somewhat unusual in their design.

I ended up with a lovely wicker rocking chair (an old piece, apparent from the hardwood frame beneath), a few postcards for my collection and a couple of gifts.

While some items are a bit musty, a few in some need of repair, others simply requiring acceptance for their marks of character, all of the items at the show have stood the test of time, and many of them can go into regular use in a modern household. These are durable goods, built to last, and reusing them means not consuming something new (and, likely, less durable).

Beyond all the environmental factors, I just love wandering around the show trying to figure out what everything is and what everything does!

Are you an antiques hound? Do you have antique items in use in your home?

August 10, 2009 at 11:21 AM 2 comments

Test driving a lighter load on the road

The smart fortwo

The smart fortwo

I’m getting pretty excited about the lower-eco-impact cars coming on the market. I think Canadians have had a taste of high gas prices, and the concept of fuel efficiency has really taken hold. Why pay more to go the same distance? (And release more pollutants, including greenhouse gasses?)

I snapped up the opportunity to try out a smart car this week since it’s the epitome of efficient vehicles, so here’s me with the little white smart fortwo passion. I absolutely love driving it – it’s a speedy little beast with smooth braking and precise handling. I can park in places I wouldn’t consider in my (fairly small) hatchback. I thought I would be nervous about taking the smart car out on the highway in heavy traffic, but it’s very visible (the fact that it’s cute doesn’t hurt) and I can change lanes very nimbly.

I know the smart car is a good choice because my boss (Homemakers‘ editor, Kathy Ullyott) has one; she said that she filled the tank from running-on-fumes to full the other day for $15. Apparently the fortwo’s fuel consumption is 5.4L per 100 km. Not bad! smart has made the fortwo fuel efficient by making it light – not only is it smaller in size than most cars, it has plastic body panels. Apparently some of the car’s parts are made from 100 per cent recycled plastic, and, in general, many parts of the car are recyclable.

The smart (starting at about $15,000) may not be the right car for everyone, (nor will an electric version, which is currently being offered in Europe). But these kinds of vehicles are no doubt right for a lot of people, a lot of the time. (Me! Me!) Hopefully, within the next couple of years, we will see a mix of smaller, lighter and alternative fuel / electric cars on the roads made with parts that can be reclaimed and recycled.

Government incentives may help this happen; the Ontario government recently introduced a $10,000 rebate on the purchase of an electric vehicle, and they also offer rebates on alternative fuel vehicles.

What do you want in a “green” vehicle?

July 30, 2009 at 3:26 PM 3 comments

Make painting even greener

Enviro_GroupshotAfter blogging about recycled paint on Tuesday, I found out about some Canadian-made painting accessories made with recycled, recyclable materials. Dynamic Paint Products makes a paint roller made from 100 per cent post-consumer recycled plastic, as well as paint trays made from recycled, recyclable plastic. Their “Enviro-Brush” has a removeable handle, making cleaning easier and allowing you to reuse the handle if the brush component can’t be reused.

I have a bunch of renovations to do in the next year, including gutting the main bathroom as well as the basement, so I’m going to need some good tools like this to keep the waste to a minimum!

Of course, being green is also about not using more than you need. Click here for a helpful article on about estimating your paint requirements.

July 23, 2009 at 10:12 AM 2 comments

A better water bottle



SIGG bottle

SIGG bottle

As I noted in my earlier post about bottled water, it seems there is a link between education and deciding to consume bottled water. And as I’ve learned in reading health research for Homemakers magazine, a reuseable bottle isn’t a reuseable bottle. While the bottles that bottled water comes in are safe to drink from, they become less so over many refills, since it’s hard to clean the narrow-necked bottles thoroughly. And, of course, there’s the concern over the health effects of long-term exposure to bisphenol A (BPA) from some types of plastic food and drink containers.

Luckily there are lots of great reuseable water bottle options on the market. I really like stainless-steel bottles, since it’s a durable, food-safe material I can scrub away at and put in the dishwasher as well. I have an “Otterbottle”, which is from an Alberta-based company (although the bottles are manufactured in China), and I also have a larger SIGG bottle, made in Switzerland, which is aluminum, made with a can liner that’s BPA and phthalate free. I’ve even seen glass bottles shaped like plastic water bottles!

What’s your favourite way to tote refreshment on the go?

July 7, 2009 at 12:21 PM 9 comments

Great fashion finds in recycled clothing

At_Common_SortI dropped by the East-end-Toronto clothing boutique Common Sort on the weekend; a friend of mine installed computer-controlled heads on the mannequins in the window, so my partner and I had to check out just how well the speechless-yet-fashionable models would follow our movements. Not bad!

The shop’s owner, Nicole (that’s her in the snapshot), is a real talent at selecting funky clothing and footwear that you could call second hand, recycled, reused or “previously enjoyed.” Or, I suppose, sustainable. I found a knee-length hemp wrap skirt made in Romania (I thought it was linen at first, so I had a pleasant surprise!) and a neat knitted shrug with frilly green layers, perfect for wearing over a dress.

It was great to shop for clothing more or less guilt free – I found a few things to add to my wardrobe without requiring that something new be made for me, I was supporting a small business owner, and the clothes were very affordable too. What’s not to like about that?

Have you bought recycled fashion or other reused goods?

June 15, 2009 at 6:34 PM Leave a comment

Green cleaning contest

PCG-Cleaning PuttyToday I have a contest giveaway thanks to PC GREEN! They’ve provided two terrific prize packages full of cleaning products and paper products.
To win, just post a comment here on how you try to clean green. The first two comments to be posted will win.

For tips on healthier, greener cleaning, have a look at this article on

June 10, 2009 at 10:16 AM 6 comments

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