10 New Years Resolutions Everyone Should Make

If you’re staring down the barrel of a weight loss resolution you know you will fail at in a matter of weeks, try pledging to do better by the planet this year with these 10 easy New Year’s resolutions.

1. Compost

Photo by Edward Howell via Unsplash

Yes you read that right. Compost. Even if you live in an apartment building and don’t have a garden, you should be composting so that kitchen waste and food scraps don’t end up in the land fill.

We have a garburator at home and nothing is easier than shoving egg shells, carrot tops and left overs down the drain, but composting improves the planet’s soil condition, helps ensure nutrients for plants and will make you more aware of what you’re wasting. When you know what you throw away because its all in one place you are less likely to overspend at the grocery store and more likely to cook your fresh produce instead of saying good bye to it. Find out more about why soil health is so important in this documentary.

Most apartment buildings in Canada have a composting bin, so there’s no excuse. If you live somewhere that doesn’t have a composting program, contact the building management or your local council about getting one. There may be a community garden near by that would be happy to take your compost. Ask around!

We use Bokashi Composting at home. Find out more here.

2. Recycle your electronics

Photo by Frank Wang via Unsplash

With Christmas behind us there are a whole host of obsolete electronics in our homes, full of useful components and metals that can be recycled. Some companies, like apple will take there old products and recycle them themselves, but there are stores like Staples that have recycling programs for printers, computers, phones, TV’s you name it and they’ll take it. It’s free and more recycled materials reclaimed from old electronics, equals less being mined from the earth, which has already been plundered.

3. Recycle Light Bulbs and Batteries

These items are super poisonous to the earth and each year tons of them end up in the land fill despite other options being available.

You can recycle batteries and lightbulbs easily at most hardware stores and may recycle depots now take them as well. Just because you can’t put these things in the recycling where you live, doesn’t mean they can’t be recycled, it simply takes a bit of effort.

4. Stop buying plastic

When you’re in the grocery store, think about the packaging on the goods you buy.

Photo by Devi Puspita Amartha Yahya via Unsplash

Unfortunately most companies won’t change unless it hits them in the pocket, so to effect change you have to vote with your purchases.

Take reusable produce bags to avoid plastic there. Make better choices. For example, when you go to buy mushrooms there are usually two options, the ones that are loose that you put in a paper bag, and the ones in a plastic or styrofoam box that are wrapped with cling wrap for convenience. Choose the former. If enough people did, supermarkets would stop packaging mushrooms in plastic!

Does this mean that sometimes you won’t find a non plastic option? Yes. Maybe it means you have to go to a farmers market or purchase your rice or flour from a bulk bin store, or maybe it means that you don’t get to eat fresh strawberries year round. The upside is that you will discover things that you don’t normally eat!

4. Count your air miles

Not all of us can grow our own food and depending on where you live it can be difficult to eat food grown locally, but we can still reduce environmental impact.

Where did those apples come from? If you have the choice between apples from where you live or a neighbouring country or a place on the other side of the world, choose closer. Foods that are flown from somewhere you’ve never been to and can’t find on the map, were probably harvested early and ripened on their journey across the oceans or through the skies where tons of fuels were burnt up, and seas polluted in the process.

5. Use your scissors

If you buy beer and it comes in one of those plastic ring holders, cut them up before you get rid of them. The same goes for anything netted or looped. Even disposable masks! Sea life and birds get caught and die in these items and you can save them by currying the loops.

Photo from the Missouri Department of Conservation

Ideally, you want to purchase things that don’t have loops or extra plastic but if you can’t and you really want that six pack from your favourite brewery, do the right thing and cut up the loops.

6. Turn off the lights

Pledge to turn off the lights when you leave the room and unplug electronics.

Photo by Josh Calabrese via Unsplash

Don’t leave appliances on standby, they are still drawing electricity and contributing to heating up the planet by burning the energy they use.

In your home, your TV and cable box are probably the biggest drain! You’ll save yourself some money at the same time as caring for the planet.

7. Get Thrifty

Photo by Nick de Partee via Unsplash

Shop second hand when you can. I made the decision to stop buying new clothes last year and since then have been thrifting. I’ve managed to easily find what I need clothing wise at two thrift stores near where I live. I’ve also gotten rid of old clothes there which has freed up more closet space!

8. Give Stuff Away, someone will use it!

We dispose of things all the time that still have plenty of life left in them. Everything from clothes to pottery goes in the bin, because we decided we want a change, or were gifted something new.

Join or start a Buy Nothing Group on Facebook. The idea is that when you have something you no longer want you take a picture and post the details in the group. People express their interest and you give it away. Most groups have rules in place about how to select who gets the item when multiple people are interested.

It feels great to get rid of your clutter, and knowing that it’s going to someone who will use and enjoy it will fill you with good vibes!

9. Go Paperless

Stop receiving mail that you look at once and throw away. Bills and other documents are almost always available via email or as digital copies. Storing things like this on the cloud or in your computer reduces paper waste, and the energy expended to print, and deliver your letters. Plus if you need to reference something quickly, you can just check on your phone or computer and have it instantly.

In stores, you can often get email receipts or get your receipt by text, you won’t lose it, so if you need to make a return you’ll have everything you need.

10. Say no to single use

Photo by Jasmin Sessler via Unsplash

Stop using single use everything. Plastic bags, coffee cups, straws, cutlery, food sachets etc.

It is always going to be more convenient to grab what you need on the go, but if you start being intentional about not using single use items, over time you will be more prepared with things like your morning coffee, or grocery bags. It takes practice, like anything, but it’s worth it.

There are compostable alternatives to straws and cutlery, reusable items are available in lots of high street stores and you know you can carry a reusable cup for coffee or water.

Take on all 10, pick a few, or choose just one, but commit to your resolutions and you will be on your way to becoming an earth warrior! Plus it will make you sound way more interesting when people ask what your New Year’s resolutions are, than saying “join a gym…” Good luck, and Happy New Year!

3 films for the planet that you need to see this holiday season

Aside from all the usual holiday, girl meets boy, comedy ensues, they fall in love etc. Movies you may get dragged into, perhaps this holiday season is the time for something more meaty! (stay with me vegetarians)!

2020 has given us time to reflect, if you’re thinking has brought you to a place where you want to evaluate your impact on the planet, and you’re looking for New Years resolutions for 2021 that don’t involve joining a gym, look no further.

These three movies will make you think seriously about the environment, and your kids can enjoy them too. What would you be willing to do it you know there were only 60 years or harvests left?

2018 documentary directed by John Chester

1. The Biggest Little Farm

I watched this on a plane a couple of years ago, when I got home I sat down with Tara and see insisted she it too.

Based on a true story, the movie drew me in with a story about a couple who adopt a dog called Todd. He was easy to buy into being black with bright blue eyes. Todd accelerated this couples plans for leaving the city, for the country life in California. The move involved buying a farm where The soil was barely soil.

Dry barren land, that seemed as though it was hopeless. in fact the past few owners had failed to successfully the land work The story follows Todd and his humans along their journey into permaculture farming, showing the pitfalls and triumphs along the way.I challenge anyone to watch this film and not came away feeling inspired about how working with nature can yield transformations in more than just the soil.
Available on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video

Want more on transforming soil?

2020 documentary directed by Rebecca Harrell Tickell and Josh Tickell

2. Kiss the Ground

Narrated by woody Harrelson, the film leads the viewer by the hand, demonstrating that a solution for getting the carbon from the atmosphere back the soil where it’s needed is both simple amd possible. The process reduces global warming, produces oxygen, and reduces carbon dioxide in a massive way.

I confess, this movie blew my mind. I sat there thinking, “why aren’t we doing this? It’s not a spoiler to say it boils down to money and a splash of “this is how we’ve always done it,” but infact this isn’t how we’ve always done it, we just have to look back far enough.

If you have children this is a must see.
Food security is the issue of our time, but those of us living in wealthy nations like Canada who are w(for the most part) not impacted on the daily. I’m not talking about food bank line ups here, I’m talking about not being able to grow enough to stock supermarkets or food banks!
Available on Netflix

Need a scientist to lead you on your way? Number 3 is for you.

2020 documentary, directed by Alastair Fothergill, Jonnie Hughes and Keith Scholey.

3. David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet

His “witness statement” for our planet.

Well known for nature programs an a voice that will lull you to peaceful sleep, Attenborough guides us through his 60 year career as as a naturalist, demonstrating the decline in the health of our planet and its inhabitants over time.

Attenborough shares his vision for how things could be, and calls us to action, with a plan for how to stop the destruction and get back to how things should be, if this, our island home is to survive.

Available on Netflix

I hope these documentaries will leave you with New Years resolutions that are not just good for you, but also good for the planet.

Zero Waste Grocery Shopping

On average, Canada generates 720 kg of waste per capita (see the average by province).

Yikes!

The grocery store is one place you can quickly reduce that number by making some simple changes.

grocery cart with item

Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

Re-usable bags have been a staple in Vancouver Grocery stores for a long time, but you can still choose to buy a plastic bag for 5c. if you need one. In Canada, the town of Leaf Rapids, Manitoba banned plastic bags in 2007…countries like Italy, China, and Bangladesh have done the same (Read more), but Canada wide it hasn’t happened yet.

Here in Vancouver, I’ve found that reusable bags at the grocery store cost between $1.00-$5.00. You can buy fancy ones from lots of places now, garden centres, farmers markets, even our local library has them (generally more expensive)!

thomas-le-pRJhn4MbsMM-unsplashPhoto by Thomas Le on Unsplash

For fresh produce you can choose net bags. They are sometimes on sale in the produce section. We use a cheaper version: small laundry bags for separating delicate items. They are made of nylon usually, which is obviously a plastic but you can reuse them for years if you’re careful.

The completely plastic free option is to use paper bags. When you’re at the store, the mushrooms often have paper bags with them for packaging to stop them going soggy. I’ll grab a couple of these and write the bin number of bulk foods on the side to avoid the plastic bags. The checkout assistant has yet to complain.

Tea bags are no longer compostable in many cases! I know! I didn’t know either! To make the bags more durable and to stop them splitting, many companies have incorporated plastic into the fine mesh of the bags! You can check with the manufacturer of your favourite blend or try loose leaf teas.

nathan-dumlao-tCddc_YOGRQ-unsplashPhoto by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Coffee can also be bought at bulk stores, you can also visit smaller chain coffee shops like Bean around the World or independents and many of them will refill your coffee bag and give you a discount for doing so! This is also a great way to check that you’re buying free trade ethically sourced coffee.

Change your habits

This is a big part of it, the COVID-19 pandemic has given me plenty of time to reflect on this. We all want convenience, but it’s not difficult to make a few small changes.

If it’s bagged in the fresh produce area, don’t buy it. This may require a change in your shopping habits, but the truth is, there are plenty of smaller grocers (independent and family run) that sell their produce unpackaged. Coleslaw mix is convenient, but you’ll save money and get better flavour if you by the carrots and cabbage and shred them at home yourself.

Boycott Styrofoam – mushrooms and meats seem to be the main offenders here. If you go to a local butcher or the butchers counter in the supermarket you can get your meat hand selected and wrapped in paper if you ask.

Bagged frozen fruit and veggies: instead by fresh and freeze them at home yourself. Buying bulk dried beans and peas will save cash and save on plastic. They keep longer and you won’t get freezer burn!

In the cosmetics aisle avoid scrubs and washes with plastic beads in. They get washed out to sea are contaminating oysters, clams and other sea life, limiting their ability to reproduce (Read report here).

Cleaning products, this is a tough one. We’ve yet to find a toilet cleaner at the bulk store, but you can buy laundry detergent at places like The Soap Dispensary (Vancouver), or try making your own (see post).

You can also select shampoo bars instead of bottles. Looking for more tips? Take this quick inventory at home.

Bokashi Composting Review

variety of green plants

I was skeptical when the Bokashi Composter first came home, but I’ve become a convert. this is the best way I’ve found to accelerate the composting process and be able to compost in an apartment.

Traditionally, you need a yard and space to get a decent compost heap going, but above all, you need time. We live in 850 square feet in Vancouver and consider ourselves very lucky. We love to Garden and have a huge garden box that takes up most of our outdoor space.

Compost and garden supplies are expensive, and while we’re able to compost via a bin in the recycling room, nothing beats using our scraps to make compost that we don’t have to buy. The goal initially was to make the garden cheaper, the result is that it’s less work than going downstairs.

So what do you do? In a nutshell you take your food scraps and chuck them in the composter instead of the bin downstairs. Add some of the Bokashi bran and wait. The official wait time is 4-6 weeks. We live in Vancouver and maybe it’s our climate but it generally take a bit longer, I like to leave it 8 weeks if I can.

After its had two weeks in the bin with the bran, I drain the liquid (Which can be used as a tea for plants when diluted) and mix it with reclaimed dirt from the planter box in a tote on the balcony. It smells pretty bad, but its worth it! 6 weeks later the earth and compost mix is a rich soil that can be used to start seeds or plant out mature plants, and what’s better is that after the initial investment it’s free!

How does it work? I think magic, but apparently it’s microbes. Healthy soil is full of it and kitchen scraps are what they like to eat, the Bokashi bran aids the process and speeds things up!

We’ve had our composter a year and got two bags of bran with it. I’m still working through the second bag. our “soil factory” (the tote) cycles through easily, its sealed so it doesn’t smell and irritate the neighbours and we haven’t spent a penny on compost in the last 6 months.

If there’s a downside, it’s the smell. It’s like sour fish garbage, but like our tote the composter is completely sealed so you’ll only get a whiff when you open it to deposit your scraps. We’ve found that thinks like nut shells and avocado pits take too long to break down but I generally add them anyway. When I add scraps I rough chop them first to aid the process. I wash our composter out whenever I empty it. It’s a quick rinse on the balcony, and it’s way better to do little and often, than leaving it until you can’t bare the smell, trust me.

Our composter came from “Bokashi Living” and we’ve found their service super fantastic. I’ve not shopped for anything else related to the composter since then so I can’t compare, but the experience was good. If we ever live somewhere bigger, I’ll probably get a second one. I know some people start out with two, so that they can keep filling while one is breaking down in it’s two week “sit” before it goes in the soil garden.

At the end of the day, our cash is hard earned, composting is always the right thing to do for the planet, but I’d rather find the saving in my wallet than give our food waste away.

Photo by . ▃ on Pexels.com

The Religion of Less Plastic

I received a calendar from the Anglican Communion Environmental Network covering the season of Lent, each day with a suggestion of how to use less plastic. Why? Well it turns out that Anglicans in Canada promise to strive to safeguard the integrity of God’s creation, and respect, sustain and renew the life of the Earth when they are baptized.

Interesting.  If being religious means relating to or believing in a religion, then can refusing, recycling and reusing based on faith become a religious practice?

Looking at this calendar it’s easy to argue yes.

I shared this calendar with a couple of non-Christian friends and asked them for their feedback. They could agree that it made sense, and expressed that it was a cool thing for the church to be doing. Beyond that, it wasn’t an evangelistic moment, merely something to be noted.

Shopping with one of them for groceries later in the week I watched as my friend opted specifically to buy peppers that were not already in a plastic bag, despite them being more expensive than their value pack alternative.

“I’ve never thought about it before,” she said. I put that calendar up on my fridge for the kids and realized there’s a whole bunch of stuff on there I don’t do.”

If a behaviour is repeated based on a belief that it is good for the environment and a “small thing” one can do, are we doing it religiously? Perhaps the answer depends on your use of language. I hope you enjoy the calendar and perhaps find some tips or reminders about saying no to plastics.

The Last Straw: Zero Waste at Home, a Quick Inventory with Solutions

assorted plastic bottles

Photo by mali maeder on Pexels.com

We continue our journey to living a cleaner life and we’ve been inspired by the recent decision in Vancouver to ban all plastic straws. Single use plastics are the latest thing under scrutiny, so aiming to live clean we took an inventory of the single use plastics in our apartment and have begun compiling a list of ways to reduce. The goal is to cut them our altogether.

The inventory and the solutions

Kitchen

Plastic bags

  • Take your own reusable bags to the super market.

Plastic and foil single use food wraps.

  • We’ve tried reusing paper bags which we can then compost, and are going to give some of the beeswax reusable wrap products we’ve seen advertised a try.
  • Use existing jars and containers to store food in rather than wrapping it up
  • Use a lunchbox that you take to and from work instead of Ziploc bags.

Food and beverage containers of almost every kind, bottles, containers, bags

  • Save jars and make condiments like salad dressings, ketchup & other sauces from scratch.
  • Purchase grains, pasta, cereal, beans, herbs, spices, vinegar and oils from refill centres like The Soap Dispensary in Vancouver and reuse existing containers.
  • Instead of buying drinks in cans or bottles, take an on the go bottle with you whenever you are out and about. Keep a cup in the car for water, coffee or tea, so there’s no excuse for using a disposable cup.
  • Craft beer lovers, buy a glass growlers and then get it refilled with your favourite brew. It’s reusable and more affordable! Our favourite Brewery? Storm Brewing in Vancouver

Cleaning supplies for surfaces and dishes

  • Get refills in existing containers for dish soap from dispensaries. If there isn’t one near you, look up local places that sell unwrapped soaps.

Plastic bags on fresh produce

  • For fresh produce, don’t use a plastic bag to separate ranges, apples etc. It will take a bit longer at check out to get everything on the scale but not by much.
  • Some places will let you use your own bags. It is better to check with the store before you check out.
  • Go to a farmers market to get your fresh produce, you can put it straight into your reusable shopping bag!
  • For smaller produce there’s a simple cheat. Go to where the mushrooms are in the supermarket. There are generally paper bags available there. Use those and write on the bag what’s inside ready for check out. Then re-use, recycle or compost the bag.

Garbage bags

  • Compost, if you’re doing all the recycling you can and refilling other containers, there should be nothing to put in the garbage. Zero Waste is the goal.

Take out containers and plastic cutlery from delivered and takeout meals.

  • We’ve trialed this where we live. If you take your own container to places you order food from, we have found that the restaurants are generally happy to put our food in them instead of using their Styrofoam or plastic take out containers.
  • Carry a spork or pair of reusable chopsticks with you and you can say no to single use cutlery.

Living Spaces

  • Packaging on hard and soft goods

Contact your local municipality about recycling Styrofoam and plastic bags. It is possible, but you can’t put them in your recycling bin (Vancouver).

Bathroom

Shampoo & conditioners

  • Refill shops like The Soap Dispensary let you refill shampoo, conditioner and body wash! Stores like LUSH have shampoo bars that have no packaging, take less energy to make and as there’s no bottle, there’s nothing to recycle. If you’re traveling, pop the bar in a tin, it takes up less space in your luggage and won’t explode all over your clothes in flight!

Face and body wash, toothpaste containers

  • Refill on the body wash
  • Toothpaste? Open to suggestions on this one. I’m going to ask my dentist because I can’t find a refill for this. If you know of one, please let me know in the comments!

Vacuum packaging on soaps

  • Don’t buy soaps with vacuum packaging!

Toothbrushes (while we use them more than once, they are disposable)

  • Toothbrushes! Try these bamboo toothbrushes – sustainable, non-plastic from Giving Brush We’ve tried these brushes and love them. At first getting used to the feel of them on the inside of the mouth while brushing was a bit weird, but that passed. Highly recommend these.

Cleaning supplies

  • This one we’re looking at refills as well, but you can make some of your own cleaning products that have the added benefit of being natural and thus safer for pets and children. Keep the spray bottles you have and reuse with your home made cleaners. Yet to try this, but this looks like a good place to start if you are going to try and make your own.

The list isn’t exhaustive, but we had to start somewhere so this is what we’re doing! As we go, we’ll share any up-cycling tips we discover. So far cleaner living feels pretty good. We’re also going to take the Zero Waste Pledge Come join us!