Tag Archives: Eco-Friendly

We’re going to South America!!

So I’ve been keeping a secret for the past little while but now that I’ve finally put in my notice at work I have some exciting news! We’re going to South America!!

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Mount Fitzroy, Patagonia. One of the hikes we have planned for while we are there. They say Patagonia is a real life Narnia. I can’t wait to see it in person! Photo credit: http://www.tcktcktck.org

Like the hippies at heart we are we both quit our jobs and are going backpacking again! This time with a proper backpack instead of a giant suitcase on my part.. As you can tell I am extremely excited! I’m also super excited about what we’re going to learn down there. We first heard of the wwoof organization (Willing Workers On Organic Farms or World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) while in Australia 3 years ago. We actually just stumbled upon a membership book on the free bookshelf at our hostel and thought it was the coolest thing ever. We contacted a couple farms nearby and heard back from one with a kangaroo petting farm and eco-tourism style venue where they held parties and weddings and hummer tours through the rainforest. I know a hummer is not the most eco-friendly vehicle but it was pretty cool nonetheless. We had planned on wwoofing again while we were there but sudden flooding in the area forced our plans to change as the farms we contacted were now housing their neighbours.. It also cut off our route south so we stayed put at another farm planting watermelons and pruning mango trees.

Anyways before I get too side-tracked reminiscing.. This time around we knew we wanted to learn as much as possible about sustainable living and what better way than get some hands on experience in a place we can’t wait to visit.  Many of the organic farms are almost completely self-sufficient with water collection units, solar panels, woodstoves, and yes even composting toilets. Not only do they grow all their own food including animal husbandry for meat or wool they try to use their own water, heat, and energy sources. I’m hoping that after spending a few months living like that we will pick up on enough tips and tricks to put it in action back home.

If you haven’t heard of WWOOF I suggest checking them out. It’s an international organization with branches in many countries and probably has some farms enrolled close by to learn from if you don’t feel like traveling. Another awesome thing about the organization is that the only fee is your membership unlike some eco-tourism trips where you end up paying thousands of dollars just to go volunteer with them. In exchange for a few hours work a day (normally 4 or 5 with a day or two off a week depending on the farm) you get free accommodation and food. It’s really a perfect way to travel the world, learn about their culture, and for us hopefully learn some Spanish as well! We’re landing in Patagonia and will be working our way up Chile, then hopefully heading over to Argentina, Brazil and back through Bolivia and ending our trip in Peru or back in northern Chile. We’re hoping to do lots of hiking while we’re there as well. So far we’ve planned two hikes in Patagonia. The Torres del Paine “W” circuit in Chile and another 4-5 day one to Mount Fitzroy, Argentina. Maybe a little ambitious after only ever completing a 3-day hike lol.

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Stunning photo from the Torres del Paine hike in Patagonia! Photo credit: http://www.wikipedia.org

I’ll try to blog as often as possible while we’re there and share what I’m learning and probably a million pictures of cute animals since we’re both big animal lovers. Anyways that’s all for now! Hope any of you in the US are having a wonderful thanksgiving!

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From an article on wwoofing in Chile. Photo credit: http://www.oneearth.org

Eco-Friendly Friday (Sunday..) – Energy use in winter.

ECO-FRIENDLY FRIDAY: Reducing energy use in the winter.

With all the snow we’ve been having here lately and the temperature continuing to drop I thought a post about regulating the temperature in your house would be appropriate for Eco-Friendly Friday… Errr Sunday… Also I really wanted to share this TED talk! It brings up some really great points and I love the idea of using behavioural science to find more and better ways to motivate people to reduce their energy use.

The best way to lower your energy use in the winter is to have a strong insulative barrier for your house. This includes windows and doors. At our current rental property this is a huge issue. We lose so much heat to the windows and doors. I can actually feel the cold air when I get close to them. Last year we tried to put plastic sheeting over all our windows. The kind you tape on then use a hair dryer to shrink to trap in the heat. It didn’t work out too well. What plastic didn’t fall off on its own got shredded by our cat.. So now I have heavy fabric curtains in front of the windows and keep them drawn 90% of the time. It makes for a gloomy living room but at least it’s semi warm. We also keep an abundance of cozy blankets in there at all times.  Plus we kinda got used to wearing sweaters, long johns, and wool socks most of the time (not that it’s freezing in our house but I like being warm).

I also recently set our thermostat to lower during the day while we’re at work hopefully that will make a difference in our energy bill as well.  A programable thermostat is a must for energy savings! As the days get shorter we also tend to use more energy lighting our homes. One way we try to reduce this is by both being in the same room. This is easy since our house is so small that our living room is also our computer room/office. By both hanging out in the same area we only need one light on in the house instead of two or three. It also means we spend almost all our time together when we’re home even if we’re doing different things. Although this doesn’t work when I’m in the kitchen cooking or sewing/crafting in the basement.

It’s been snowing like crazy all weekend and it’s making me wish I were in the mountains right now. A weekend trip is in order stat! For now, I’ll just go play in the snow outside. Snow fort!!

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Our yard last winter. So pretty!

Happy Remembrance Day Everyone 🙂

Eco-Friendly Friday! – COFFEE

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Coffee time with my awesome Grumpy Cat mug 🙂

This is the first of a weekly series where every Friday I’ll share a tip for being eco-friendly or some environmental news. Whether it’s a DIY project or something you can do in your home I’m hoping these posts will help in simplifying and greening up your life.

Today’s eco-friendly tip:

Swap out your coffee maker to a non-electric appliance. I’m a huge fan of the French press! Most of us leave coffee makers plugged in and turned on all the time. Especially when they have a clock on them or a timer so that it makes coffee for you on schedule. I agree it does sound totally amaaaazing to wake up to fresh brewed coffee everyday but this can waste a lot of electricity. Electricity that’s not going into heating the water for your coffee. If you want to keep your old machine you could unplug it after every use. It would be better but traditional coffee makers also use paper filters and most have a heating pad underneath to keep coffee warm (another energy waster). Swapping it out completely, I think, is the most environmentally friendly choice.

Some people think that the single serving coffee makers are better since they only heat up enough for one cup but most models on the market are meant to be left on and do keep the water warm at all times. Plus don’t get me started on those disposable cups.. Worst invention ever. I recently read an article on Treehuger.com that showed that even when those little cups are recyclable (which most aren’t) most recycling centers aren’t equipped to keep them from going to the trash (due to their small size). As well as another more in depth article called Waste: The Dark Side of the New Coffee Craze. If you do opt for the single serving machines or already own one there are reusable cups available made out of wire mesh and if you always remember to turn off and unplug the machine it may be better than a regular coffee machine. 

Now onto my pick. The French Press. With a French Press the only energy required is to heat up the water, which can be done in a kettle or on the stove. It has a mesh wire strainer that separates the grinds from the coffee, no paper filters required. Plus they look so fancy! The only issue I’ve had with my French Press is due to the fact that I usually buy whole beans which means I grind them at home with my magic bullet.. A technique which is far from perfect at getting a consistent grind. I normally end up with sediment in my coffee due to some of the beans having a more fine powder-like grind than others. Once I run out of the coffee beans I have on stock I want to try grinding it at the store to see if that makes a difference.  

Tip: Only heat up the amount of water you need instead of wasting energy heating the full kettle.    

I own the Bodum Chambord. I bought it last year and it’s still going strong even after being knocked over a couple times.

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My French Press. You can see me and Shadoe in the reflection lol

There are also other options like this beautiful Chemex:

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photo from Chemexcoffeemaker.com

Also when selecting coffee beans try to buy as local as possible, even if that just means locally roasted and fair trade!  I love Kicking Horse coffee. They use fair-trade, organic, shade-grown and bird friendly (insert many other environmentally friendly sounding terms, just kidding..) sources for their beans. It’s roasted here in canada and they support the Nature Conservatory of Canada. Yay. Plus it’s delicious.

 

Hope you all have a wonderful Friday and pre-Halloween weekend!  

Preserving Adventures Pt 1 – Pickles and Tomato Sauce

I’m finally getting around to sharing my canning adventures! My past two weekends have been spent in the kitchen prepping, cooking, and attempting to make some preservatives for the winter. I ordered 10lbs of pickling cucumbers, dill, garlic, and 40lbs of canning tomatoes from my local organic box. The first weekend I did up my pickles. It was really pretty easy! I followed some online instructions and it literally only took about 30 mins for all my pickles (five 1L jars). I found a ton of different ways to make dill pickles from fermenting them first to super easy fridge pickles but I settled on a canning recipe. Maybe I’ll try a different method next year, depending on how these turn out.. The recipe/instructions I followed is here. Making pickles is definitely something I want to do every year, hopefully with my own home-grown cucumbers next year! I can’t wait to taste them. Seeing them sitting on the counter everyday yet having to wait a whole month to eat them is probably the worst part of doing it at home.

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All my cukes. Washed and ready!

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The jars looked so pretty with just the dill and garlic in them.

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Finished pickles! Waiting to be eaten..

Next up was homemade tomato sauce. My friend is Italian and every year at the end of the summer her mom, and pretty much entire neighborhood, spend days upon days making enough tomato sauce to last for the entire year. We got the recipe from her mom and set to work. This was much more labour intensive than the pickles.. We set up stations in her kitchen for each step. The first station was for rinsing the tomatoes and prepping them for blanching then the blanching station (a pot of boiling water and a pot of ice water). Next was the peeling station where the skins were removed from all the tomatoes. After that came the blending station and finally the cooking station. It took us 5 hours the first night to finish cooking most of the tomato sauce and get about half of the sauce into jars and those jars processed. After about a half day total of work we finished with 12 500ml jars each. Not too bad for our first time! I tested out an unsealed jar that night on spaghetti and it was delicious. I can’t wait to try it out for pizza too!

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Finished tomato sauce. We also added fresh basil leaves to each jar. Yum.

Next on my list for home made food is salsa and vegan cheese. So far I’ve got some sprouted grains fermenting as a starter liquid for my cheese. Hopefully that will be ready to use either today or tomorrow. It’s such a satisfying feeling making everything from scratch. A lot of work but so worth it!

10 Tips for going green in the New Year!

Here’s my 10 tips for going green in the New Year! We started out slow, making changes as we could. In the end it’s all about doing things that you’re comfortable with and that you’ll actually commit to doing long term!

1) Don’t use disposable items! This one is huge, and can make a big difference. This one also covers a lot of bases. By disposable items I mean plastic grocery bags, paper/Styrofoam coffee cups (both from shops and at work), bottled water, coffee filters, feminine products, etc. Instead invest in some quality reusable items, maybe a couple of each if you think you won’t remember to bring them with you. One for at work or stashed in your car and one at home!  After a while it becomes second nature to always have these things on you.  Some reusable items I like to use: A good metal water canteen, canvas grocery bags (there are some really cute ones on Etsy and I also have compact bag I keep in my purse at all times for general shopping), a travel mug / thermos, for feminine products check out the Diva cup and cloth liners.

2) Buy local, organic, non processed food! Sign up for a food delivery service if available. Buying local not only helps the economy it’s also great for the environment seeing how your food isn’t being shipped around the world. Buying organic food is important for reducing not only the toxins in your body but also reduces the amount of pesticides, herbicides, and synthetic fertilizers being used. If you can’t afford to buy all organic produce print out a wallet sized copy of “the dirty dozen”, a list of the foods with the highest and lowest concentrations of pesticide.  Buying non-processed foods with minimal ingredients is also important not only for your health but also the environment. The plants producing these foods use up a lot of resources, energy and normally use GMO corn and soy, which has had few, if any independent food safety studies.

3) EAT LESS MEAT! This is seriously so important. On so many levels.. The environmental impact of the meat industry is insane, (click here to read an article in scientific american). Not to mention most of the meat on the market is produced inhumanely, full of hormones and antibiotics. Reducing your meat consumption is probably the number one way to make an impact on the environment and it’s healthier for you! I’ll be posting lots of yummy vegetarian recipes throughout the year so hopefully you and your family can commit to at the very least Meatless Mondays!

4) Stop buying everything brand new. This one is also great for your wallet! Check kijiji, craigslist, freecycle, or any other local website that allows users to sell, swap, or give away items! I also like to frequent local thrift stores whenever there is something I need. If I can find it at the thrift store I usually save at least half the cost.

5) Obviously follow reduce, reuse, recycle! I try to reduce waste by buying products with minimal packaging and I don’t use those plastic produce bags for my produce (I never really understood them anyways). I also try to buy products in glass containers over plastic ones so I’ll be able to reuse them in my pantry. I also wash any yogurt or other plastic containers and keep them for storing stuff later. Finally Recycle. Set up bags for recyclables, compost, and bottles to be returned for cash. It’s really not that much extra work once you get in the habit and as a bonus you won’t need to change your garbage as frequently.

6) Stop throwing away all your old items. Someone else may have a use for that old toaster, or your unwanted clothes. Instead donate them to a local secondhand store, as long as it’s in decent condition they’ll be happy to take it off your hands and it saves these items from the landfill.

7) Invest in quality items. When you’re purchasing things for your home, or clothes, shoes etc make sure you’re buying good quality products. They last longer, can be repaired instead of thrown away, and in the long run replacing cheap items will actually cost you more than investing in more expensive ones. Also, if possible try to shop more locally, at little shops in your town rather than big chains. Or look on Etsy! You can find some great homemade products there!

Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps! They also make all kinds of other great bath products.

8) Use environmentally friendly products in your home! For cleaning supplies I started making my own using simple ingredients like vinegar, essential oils, borax and Dr. Bronner’s magic soaps.  I even made my own laundry and bath soap, so much cheaper! If you’re not into making your own soaps there are lots of other environmentally friendly options. Just check at your local “green” store. I also love Lush soaps but they’re pretty pricey!

9) Try to stop using energy draining appliances like dishwashers and dryers. I find dishwashers never really get dishes as clean as hand washing anyways. Instead just hand wash all your dishes and let them air dry. If there are lots of people in your family take turns or have one person wash and one dry after meals. Instead of drying your clothes set up a clothesline or dryer rack. Clothes smell amazing after being dried outside in the summer and for the winter months I set up a clothesline in my basement.

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The first seedling to appear in my garden last summer!

10) Start a garden! Planting a garden is so rewarding! Yeah it’s a lot of work, but when you get to eat free food that you produced it’s totally worth it! Plus now you have somewhere to use all your compost and you’re helping produce oxygen! Win win!

Hopefully these tips will help you start making little changes in your life in order to live more sustainably! Let me know what other tips/tricks you’ve picked up along the way =)

Introduction!

So this is my first attempt at blogging! I’m sure everyone’s first blog starts the exact same way.. AND since it is my first post I figured I’d say a little something about who we are and the purpose of this blog!

First off,  my name is Sara and my boyfriend is Shadoe (He’s actually got a real life hippie name! I’m a little jealous). A little over a year ago we were living and working up in the Yukon Territory of Canada, which is an extremely beautiful place, and I urge everyone to take a trip up north at some time in your life! Anyways up in the north there’s really not much else to do but go hiking, fishing, and other outdoorsey stuff, seeing how you’re in the middle of nowhere! So when the weather was crappy we used to stay inside and watch our  2-3 TV channels, one of which used to show all kinds of eco documentaries. Well we fell down the rabbit hole.. I couldn’t get enough and when we moved back to Edmonton, AB I started watching and reading everything I could over the next year. Food Inc., The Corporation, No Impact Man, Eating Animals by Jonathon Safran Foer, just to name a few. We decided that we needed to change the way we were living. It started out very slowly and very difficultly. I remember so many arguments over who was doing more, or what was ok, what was not ok. It was and still is a tough process to go through. To try to live consciously but to also be happy and ok with the choices your making.

At that time I was studying Neuroscience at the University of Alberta, but it just did not feel right.. I felt I was trying to make myself be something I wasn’t and wasn’t sure who I wanted to be. I quit after that one semester back and got a job. I had a Biology degree from the U of A but I could not find a single job I was interested in (probably cause I did not know what my interests were) and like so many other grads found a job in an unrelated yet booming field.. Working for an oil company.. I lasted about 4 months there until I found I could not justify it any longer and I quit. My boyfriend started his own construction business which we are hoping to one day turn into building Eco-Friendly homes and I decided to stay home and start really trying to lead a more sustainable lifestyle.

Our new backyard! Much better than the cement slab behind our old apartment..

We moved from the city to the country. I started a garden in my yard, which for my first time turned out very sucessful! I even got a couple chickens from a neighbour and my landlord, who lives next door, let me clean out and use their old chicken coop which hadn’t been used in 10 years. I started baking and cooking everything from scratch (and using only organic ingredients of course!). I tried my hand at homemade pesticides, homemade laundry soap, homemade everything! I got an old sewing machine and started sewing my own clothes, mending old clothes, making rugs, and reusable sandwich bags!

The very first sprout to emerge in my garden. It’s a sunflower that will end up being 8′ tall! You can see our tiny house in the background too!

It’s been almost 3 months since I left my job and I couldn’t be happier. My boyfriends business is doing well, and although it’s a lot of work I love our new lifestyle! As the fall and winter approaches I am going to be looking for a part time job, since there won’t be as much to do around the house without the garden and chickens (I have to give them back for the winter so they don’t freeze). But I’ve discovered organic stores nearby that I’d feel proud to work at.

CHICKENS!! They were timid about going outside at first (they came from battery cages) and they walked a little funny but now they love it out there!

I wanted to start a blog to show others out there going through the process of making changes to become more sustainable that everyone struggles and to not give up because it gets so much easier over time! And it just feels so rewarding when you look back to see how far you’ve come! We still have a ways to go before obtaining our dream of living completely off the land and creating our own energy and harvesting our own food, water, etc.

Knowing that there are so many others out there willing to help and work together makes it a lot easier to see our dream one day becoming a reality!

~EcoCouple