Reduce, Reuse, Recycle- Finding New Uses for Old Things! June 25 2015

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. We often associate the three R's with our household trash, however they should really apply to every element of our lives. We've all likely appreciated the odd item of vintage clothing that stands the test of time and only gets more amazing as it ages. Vintage clothing is one way to reuse. One person's trash is often another's treasure. This is important to remember when discarding "old" clothes and other household items. I personally put an old, torn up couch, and a beaten up old table from my patio on the front lawn this month. The couch had been ripped to shreds by my dog, and yes, could have been salvageable if recovered, but was in awful condition. The table had good bones, but the wicker drawers had been rotted and eroded from several harsh Canadian winters. Both items, however, disappeared in less than 24 hours. This is a perfect indication that something that I consider to be junk can have potential for someone else. 
It's important to implement this creative thinking ourselves before hastily deciding to get rid of our used household items and replacing them with something "new and fresh." It can be really easy to make things feel new again, you just need some inspiration. Yes, I appreciate that most people have full time jobs and a family and commitments, so the idea of a "fun project" doesn't actually sound so fun. Once you get into it though, DIY fixer upper projects can be a great creative outlet, and a nice way to spend some time with your spouse (or even kids) doing something other than errands and grocery shopping.
Lacking inspiration? Here are a few ideas. Got an old table? Sand it down and paint it an entirely different colour. (With a non-toxic paint, of course.) If you're feeling really bold, add an interesting stencil on top. It will seem brand new again and totally give the room a whole new feel. If you have an old water jug, repaint it and use it as a vase for flowers. Pull out your grandfather's old travel trunk from the basement. Put a fresh coat of paint on it, a piece of glass over top, and Voila! You have a very cool looking coffee table. You can even make use of old soup cans! Once you've cleaned them and removed the plastic labels, paint them in a pretty pastel colour. They make great little containers for holding pencils etc. on your desk. Got some old wooden crates lying around in the garage? Paint them a nice soft colour and use them as bins for your kids toys. Old clothing is my personal favourite DIY project. You know that awesome rocker tee from the 70's your dad gave you that you only wear to bed? Give it a makeover with some scissors! Cut off the sleeves and crop it a bit. You can even pull in the sides if you're skilled with a needle- It's so easy to reinvent your clothing by giving it a different look. 
Not only will refurbishing old items to make them new again save you a ton of money, but the more people cut back on buying new items, the less demand there will be for production, hence less air pollution from manufacturing plants, and so on. This whole "giving things a fresh start" concept should be applied to dirty items as well. It's so easy to see a filthy cushion, appliance or other household item and feel that its had it's day. However, it's always surprising how much of a difference a proper clean can make. Sometimes it's just about finding the right product to target exactly what the dirt is. For example, the Hot Tub Company just picked up No Sweat to sell with their tubs to help get rid of that nasty bacteria and grime that builds up after a few soaks. The reason this works so well is because the grime that builds up in hot tubs is a product of the bodily oils and biological substances that we leave behind in the tub... just the stuff No Sweat targets! The point is, find a product that targets the exact cause of the dirt, and give it a proper clean before deciding whether it's salvageable or not. 

Teaching Your Kids About Sustainable Living June 11 2015

There are so many things we do on a daily basis that burn extra energy or consume unnecessary amounts of natural resources. These habits have become such an ingrained part of our daily routines that we often don't even know we're doing it anymore. As we continue to suck up what's left of our earth's precious (and limited) resources, it is especially important that we give the next generation all of the tools and awareness they will need to live the most sustainable and efficient lifestyle possible. With your kids, start with the basics. There's no point in trying to explain the benefits of eco-friendly paint and appliances. Try by first explaining the big picture to them. Find a way to best articulate to them that the earth's natural resources (which we rely on for human life) like water, fresh air, wood, and oil, are somewhat finite. We, however, are not. Our population continues to grow, and without controlled consumption, we will soon burn through these precious resources. 
The cars we drive every day, and the chemicals emitted by factories and plants are polluting our fresh air. Carelessly long showers and pollution of our lakes are depleting our dangerously low fresh water supply. Some countries, like Ethiopia, Jamaica and Trinidad, don't even have regular access to fresh drinking water! Show your kids pictures like the one above of the people in Ethiopia bringing dirty water from the river to be boiled and decontaminated.  Explain to them that oil has been over consumed for years to create gas that fuels our air polluting automobiles, causing a real depletion in our oil reserves beneath the earth as well. This has been the reason for the recent development of alternative energy sources, like electric cars and solar power. Encourage them to make wise choices going forward and as they grow up, to always choose the more eco-friendly option. Make them understand that if everyone takes these small steps to save the earth, together they will make a big difference for the future. Here are a few easy steps to take at home to get them started. 
1. Teeth Brushing.
I myself am guilty of turning on the tap and letting it run as I scrub my pearly whites. (Something I've been trying to work on!) Encourage them to turn off the water after they've wet their toothbrush, and not to turn it back on until they're ready to rinse. 
2. Lights
Create an incentive for them to ensure that lights are always turned off when they leave a room. Keep a quarter jar, and create a rule where anyone caught leaving a light on has to contribute a quarter (including mom and dad!). Once they've done this a few times, they'll be fed up with losing their allowance.
3. Don't flush for number one. 
I know- kind of gross. But if there are only a few of you in the house, it's just family, right? It's a great way to reduce water consumption, as flushing and refilling the tank uses a great deal of water each time. You can obviously make an exception if you have guests over.
4. No Aerosol cans!
As they get older, encourage them to avoid aerosol deodorants, hairspray, room sprays, etc. These are huge pollutants (they contain harmful CFC's) and there is always an alternative.  
5. Doors and Windows
Encourage the kids to keep the doors and windows shut in times of extreme cold or heat. This will reduce the need for your heating/ AC to kick into overdrive to compensate for the change in temperature. This can burn a ton of energy! (Not to mention rack up your hydro bill at the end of the month.) Perhaps implement the quarter jar rule for this one too? 
In those milder in between months however, you may find that you can turn off your heating/ air conditioning system altogether, keeping windows open to maintain air circulation. This burns the least amount of energy!
These are just a few ways to get your kids thinking about the environment and to create sustainable living habits from an early age.

Detoxifying Your Home May 14 2015


Detoxifying your household

Let’s be honest, most of us aren’t going to start tearing apart our homes to make sure we’re using the most eco-friendly, non-toxic products and materials possible. If you plan on staying a while though, I highly recommend you consider some of the following tips on how to reduce the amount of toxins you and your beloved family are breathing in on a daily basis, even if it’s one step at a time. Doing a reno? Even better, this is a perfect time to consider replacing any harmful materials and finishes with a more environmentally and health conscious alternative.



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A lot of paints are misleading. Most are marked as “zero VOC” on the can, but actually emit a ton of harmful chemicals and toxins into the air! Until recently, most paints required these “Volatile Organic Compounds” to work effectively. Growing knowledge about the harmful chemicals and toxins released by these paints and finishes has resulted in the rise of many Natural Paints (made from natural, organic ingredients). Make sure when choosing your paint that it’s clearly labelled “non-toxic” or “natural paint.” There are a few great brands to try, all of which are relatively affordable. Try Ecos Paint, Mythic Paint, and  Air Pure Paints (these actually purify your air of VOC ‘s and Toxins!) Also check out the Earth Easy website, as they talk a bit more about what harmful chemicals are in generic paints, and give several great recommendations for non-toxic paints and other green household materials.

Re-purpose your old Furniture:


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You don’t have to break the bank buying brand new, sustainably made furniture with non-toxic finishes. However, if you can afford it, we highly recommend this for your family’s long term health and well-being. You can re-purpose your existing furniture, or for those looking for some new flare on a budget, there are tons of fun vintage pieces online or in thrift stores that can look fab with a little TLC. The trick is to have them professionally sanded down, (there could be all kinds of toxins hiding in old varnishes and finishes) and then apply a new non-toxic, eco-friendly paint colour of your choice. White makes anything look fresh and new, but it’s also fun to play around with pops of colour if you’re feeling bold.

Re-Seal your Floors:

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Hardwood is obviously the most natural and desirable material to use for flooring. It’s hypo-allergenic, easy for cleaning, and doesn’t emit any harmful chemicals. You should be careful however which sealants you are using after laying down your floors. Many sealants contain VOC’s and harmful chemicals. Did you know that carpets also emit these horrible Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s)? These are the “soft, cozy” floors we put down for our kids and infants to crawl around on, yet they are actually one of the biggest sources of indoor chemical pollution, especially when they’re new!  These VOC’s contain chemicals that can cause respiratory damage, hallucinations and nerve damage in human beings. Horrifying, right? There is a solution! There are many sealers for carpet which apply like a shampoo to seal in those nasty gasses being emitted into the air. AFM Safecoat  provides safe sealants for both carpets and hardwood.   

Use Green Cleaning Products:


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This one’s kind of a no-brainer but I wanted to touch on it none-the-less. There’s no point in taking all of these steps to use non-toxic materials if you are going to use poisonous chemicals to clean them! Here are a few easy rules to follow. Stay away from bleach. Don’t buy anything with the hazard symbols on them, ex. “corrosive, irritant, or poison” symbols on them.  After using these products, the toxins linger in the air for days after use. We breathe them in, and absorb them through our skin from residue left behind on dishes, cutlery etc. Avoid products with the following chemicals: 2-Butoxethanol, Ammonia, Coal Tar Dyes, MEA (monoethanalomine), DEA (diethanolamine), TEA(triethanolamine)  Nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs), Phosphates, Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES). The list continues really, but these are a few good indicators of a toxic product. Look for labels with “bio” “organic” and “natural” on them when buying your cleaning (and Laundry) products, but be sure to read the ingredients also!

Outdoor Workouts- So Hot Right Now. May 07 2015

With spring in the air and fitness rising on the priority meter, (hello, bikini weather) I thought I’d share with you the benefits and multi-uses of Mother nature’s back yard. Outdoor fitness is becoming more and more of a popular phenomenon. From fitness mobs  and running groups, to park workouts and TRX training, there are dozens of ways to use the outdoors as your gym, and soak up some vitamin D while you’re at it! Just follow these few easy steps and you’re on your way to an awesome beach bod, and some extra cash for summer fun!


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Cancel your gym membership (for now).

Every spring, I cancel my gym membership. Why? I don’t see the need for a treadmill when I can run outside. I don’t see the need for machinery when I can use the monkey bars at the local playground for chin-ups and other exercises. I don’t need a floor mat when I can use my yoga mat in my back yard to stretch and do ab exercises. Most importantly, I save a solid few hundred dollars, and don’t burn fossil fuels driving to a gym or waste energy on electrically run machinery!  Most gyms will offer a 6 month membership. If you can do month to month, even better! Save money, travel time and energy consumption by using the outdoors until the weather no longer permits it.

Join a running group.


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As we’ve discussed before, community is a key element of staying motivated and driving performance when exercising. Most neighborhoods have a local group that gets together a few times a week to run. It’s a great way to meet people, and will keep you motivated to stick to a workout routine.

Use the outdoor elements.


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 Often if you drive past your local park or even the beach, more and more you will see people exercising. Many beaches (south Beach, Miami for instance) actually have designated bars set up designed for strength conditioning exercises! Otherwise, any local playground will have monkey bars and other useful equipment that have multipurpose use, you just have to get creative!

 Some tips:

1.  Use the stairs. Find a set of three or four stairs (or even a picnic table). Step up 2 stairs with your left foot, then back to the ground with your right. Repeat with the other foot. Then step  up 2 with your left, then 2 more with your right, then back. Repeat. Who needs a stair master?


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2Use the monkey bars. For chin-ups, grab on with both hands, pull yourself up to chin level, release and repeat. You can also use the monkey bars to strengthen your core. Hang on to the bars with both hands, and slowly lift your legs up as far as you can. Hold, and release. Repeat. Or, try any of the exercises above. They're tough, but will give you killer abs!


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Don't Bite the Hand that Feeds You- Loving Mother Earth. April 22 2015

We’ve talked a lot about Laundry, what to use, how to use it, and how to keep it Earth friendly. (Hand wash or wash in cold water, avoid the dryer when possible, use a natural/ grey water friendly detergent.) In honour of earth day, I wanted to touch on a few other inexpensive ways that we can reduce our Ecological Footprint on a daily basis.

Bricks in the Toilet.

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No, I did not make a typo. This new fad has been getting some serious buzz lately as the newest trick to keep your water and energy consumption down in the home. This technique involves dropping a brick or large rock into the reservoir of your toilet (the back part) to conserve water when flushing. (Make sure when trying this that you don’t block the actual flushing mechanism!) By dropping a brick sized blocker into your toilet, you will save approximately 2 gallons a day per person. In an average 4 person home, this means you’ll save about 50 gallons of clean, usable drinking water per day! As real bricks can eventually ruin your toilet with time, try another eco- friendly brick sized solution. Check out this initiative started in California last year for more information. Unfortunately this initiative has now closed so these rubber bricks are no longer available for purchase, but I improvised by filling up a small brick sized glass tupperware container with small rocks for the same effect.

Public Transit and Carpooling


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This one’s fairly obvious but shouldn’t be neglected. Simply put- don't be lazy, gauge your distance. Do you need to get in the car, or could you just as easily get to your destination by bike or bus/subway etc.? If you must drive- carpool. Reduce the number of cars on the road by picking up a friend or colleague on your way to work, school, or wherever you are headed. This will reduce air pollution and save energy and gas.       

 Hand Washing and Composting

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Washing your dishes (and laundry) by hand as often as possible reduces energy and water consumption significantly. This is something we can make an effort to do more on a day to day basis to have a significant long term effect; not only to the earth’s well-being, but to our energy bills as well!


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Composting is important as it reduces the amount of household waste that ends up in the garbage can significantly, thus also reducing the amount of compostable garbage that ends up in our dangerously full landfills. By recycling what we use, compost restores nutrients to the earth and soil and fuels regrowth, acting a natural fertilizer and eliminating the need for harsh chemical alternatives. Obviously, the abundance of plant growth and reduction in chemical pollutants leaking into the atmosphere is very beneficial to our air quality. To read more on how to get started check out this article:            

Turn down your thermostat! 

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  • Another simple yet important step- forget the creature comforts. Turn down the thermostat a few degrees and grab a sweater. On those mild spring days in particular, when it’s neither too hot nor too cold, turn your AC off altogether to save a ton of energy.

    Turn off the lights!


  • This one seems like another “duh”, but it’s shocking how many people leave their lights, electronics, and so on turned on when they’re not in use. We need to make a conscious effort to turn off every single electrically run item when we’re done with it. Closing your computer for the night? Turn it off. Going upstairs to get ready for bed? Make sure every single light is turned off. Also- it goes without saying that you’re using LED energy efficient bulbs by this point, right?

  • Laundry- How to Keep it Earth and Wallet Friendly! April 17 2015

    One of the most common misconceptions is that you need hot water to properly clean your clothes. Heating water for laundry is one of the largest consumptions of energy in a typical home. Fact- your clothes will be just as clean if you wash them in cold water! There are so many cold water detergents available today that are just as efficient as traditional detergents, which are full of harsh chemicals and require hot water to do the job right. The cost is about the same, and they reduce energy consumption by over 75%! 


    In particular, detergents like No Sweat’s sports wash that use natural enzyme technology will be just as efficient in cold water, while using less energy and therefore costing you less every month. Boom- one bill reduced! Who knew it was that easy. Not only will switching to cold water for all your laundry cost you less, but using a natural, cold water detergent in conjunction will reduce carbon dioxide emissions significantly and be much kinder to our earth and waterways.

    Want to cut your costs (and ecological footprint) even further? Forget the dryer! Hanging your clothes to dry not only saves energy, but it extends the lifespan of your clothing as it’s far gentler on the fibers. This will save you money long term as well, as your clothes will last longer and reduce the need for new items. In a crunch for time? Dry your clothes partially and take them out while slightly damp. Air drying them at this point reduces the need for ironing as well, which can further cut energy costs.        


    Other energy efficient laundry tips:

    • When possible, hand-wash clothing to save a load here and there. This is even gentler on the clothing (particularly delicates) and will save money by reducing energy use and make your clothing last longer.
    • Do full loads! Don’t waste energy on a partially full load of laundry. Wait until you have a full load before doing your laundry.
    • Keep an eye on your cycle times. If your clothes are gently worn and not heavily soiled, they need less time than those that are dirtier. Try to separate these items to save time on various loads.
    • If you must use the dryer, try to separate lighter clothing items from heavier ones. A tank top and some undergarments will take far less time to dry than a pair of heavy jeans.

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