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.

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.

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5 Creative Things You Can Do in Quarantine

There’s a lot of negativity surrounding being stuck indoors while we quarantine to stop the spread of COVID-19, but there is plenty you can do while at home that will leave you feeling positive and lifted. It’s no secret that creative activity lifts mood and makes us feel better, as well as giving us purpose.

  1. Your To-Do but Putting it Off List

Now is the time to tackle some of the jobs you’ve been putting off. For a lot of people that is things like going through cupboards and purging their space of stuff they don’t need. Like it or not, there is only so much Netflix you can watch before something inside you will drive you to clean or tidy something.

What to do with all the stuff you find that you don’t need anymore? The Thrift Stores are mostly closed so now you have boxes or bags of clutter outside the cupboards. Hit Facebook and see what people need. In Vancouver there are Groups like COVID-19 Coming Together (Vancouver) where you can ask for what you need and give away what you don’t. Someone out there could probably use the bread maker or nutri bullet that has been cluttering up your kitchen for months/years without use.

73173629_10156754108028660_5801367216112795648_oThere is also The Buy Nothing Project search for the name of where you live and join a group. You can probably give away household items and clothes, reducing waste and giving new life to your unwanted items. You can also ask for what you need, so it COVID-19 has left you unemployed or unable to go into work, this won’t put additional pressure on you.

2.Combat Shop-pocolypse!

young salad

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People have been going nuts in the stores, empty shelves where pasta and rice use to be, and of course toilet roll. While you can’t grow these things, you can plant some of your fresh stuff indoors ready to plant outside as the weather improves. Even if you only have a small space like a balcony, you can easily grow salad greens, lettuces, beans (the bush variety will grow in pots), tomatoes etc. Seeds can be mailed in the post and plant pots can be sourced free on craigslist, and in the buy nothing groups references earlier. This is a fun thing to do with kids too. Struggling for pots? Cut the bottoms of 1 gallon milk jugs, plant greens in washed out cans or containers, they don’t need much space or root depth! We’ve used an empty shoe box and even a pizza box for greens and it worked! If you want to get inspired, here’s my favourite You-Tube Channel, Hollis & Nancy’s Homestead They give start to finish advice on growing almost any garden vegetable.

3. Make Your own Multi-Purpose Cleaner

man in gray shirt cleaning clear glass wall near sofa

Photo by Nathan Cowley on Pexels.com

If you’re stuck inside, or f you couldn’t get any at the store try making your own!

Here’s a basic recipe for your reusable spray bottle*:

Multi-Purpose Cleaner – Is not a disinfectant, there is no guarantee that it will kill bacteria or viruses on your surfaces.

• ¼ cup of white vinegar
• 1 tbsp. baking soda
• 1 litre of hot water
• ½ a lemon

If you’re looking for something to clean your kitchen surfaces, bedroom furniture, bathroom and general odds and ends with then look no further! This general, all-purpose household cleaner will freshen up, scrub and naturally disinfect all in one handy mixture.
Recipe: simplebites.net

A spray bottle of White vinegar will deal with lime scale and mould in your bathroom, but be careful to focus on the grout and do a test patch first. It can leave marks on stone tiles.

*If reusing a spray bottle that had something else in it previously. Make sure you rinse it out properly before adding the new cleaner.

4. Create a Home Office Workspace

If you’re short on space and finding that you need to work from home to avoid contact with others, first of all, congratulations on having a job that allows you to day that! Not everyone does.

You may not have a space where you can work. Many people certainly where I live, don’t have a second bedroom, and it’s really not good to work in bed, so no desk? No problem.

If you have a coffee table or a shelving unit with shelves that come out, you can build your own desk.

You will need, your coffee table top or a shelf large enough to put your laptop computer on. As many big books as you can find.

If you’re using a coffee table, I recommend building book stilts for it to stand on. You want to stack your books largest and heaviest at the bottom and work your way up. If you’re going to be working on your couch than choose a height that is about 3 inches above your knees. It works best if you can stack at all our corners.

If you’re using a shelf. Find a spot of wall and build two legs of books using the larges books at the bottom and working your way up. Again make it the height of the chair you’ll be sitting in and leave yourself about 3 inches space between your knees and the shelf bottom. You will need to be conscious of the shelf when you leave your desk to avoid knocking it over. It’s also a good idea to put a heavy book on top of the shelf at each end to hold the shelf steady while you’re working.

Another option if you’re really in a pinch is to remove your dishwasher or open the doors of a lower kitchen cabinet and empty it. You can sit on a stool and use the counter as a work surface. Desperate times, call for desperate measures. Instagram your desk creations and your friends will think you’re a mad genius!

5. Make Your Own Hooch (Must be of legal drinking age where you reside)

food healthy red blue

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Where we live people didn’t just go nuts in the grocery stores. The liquor store rush was insane!

When you’re stuck inside, with less cash and nowhere to go, you can get creative by brewing something tasty for yourself. Berries like blueberries, blackberries, raspberries or even plumbs have natural yeast on them. It’s best if they’re organic, but if you can see that pale white matt colour on the skin, that’s yeast! Organic ginger can also be used to start a brew!

Get a plastic or ceramic container to hold your starter (this is what the yeast mix is called before you start brewing.

You want to have a ratio 3/4 FILTERED water to 1/4 sugar plus the berries of your choice. Make sure that your containers is very clean. I boil mine in water for ten minutes to be sure, then cover with a cheese cloth and rubber band.

You need approximately 1/2 to 3/4 cup (120–180 millilitres) of yeast starter per gallon (3.78 litres). That’s one whole cup per gallon. You can google millions of recipes for homemade hooch based on your flavour preference. Organic juices work best in my experience.

After 3-5 days you will begin to see bubbles in your starter. Let it ferment for 6-10 days before adding it to your juice and fermenting (see your chosen recipe)! I recommend getting an airlock for large jars, or a basic kit. You can probably get some bits from your local buy nothing group, or online very affordably.

Most brews that we’ve made with wild yeast at home have been about 5% alcohol which suits us just fine. Higher percentages can be achieved with commercial brewing yeasts and wine yeasts. Enjoy!

Waste and Wonder, 7 Sustainability Tips for Christmas

man in santa claus costume

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Christmas is fast approaching, and like lots of families, we find our budget not only stretched, but when people ask what we would like for Christmas, they’re met with a long uuuhhhhh… We don’t need anything. Our wants are whimsical wishes like, a lottery win, so we can travel, pay off our mortgage and set up a university fund for our goddaughter!

Some of the strangest gifts I’ve received in the past were, toilet paper that looked like American money, a calendar with fish and quotes about fish, and a shovel (we live in an apartment). Don’t get me wrong, gifts are wonderful and I know for kids, Christmas is that time when they might get that remote control car, but ask yourself, do you need to spend $25.00 on a pumpkin spice scented candle?

Then there’s the wrapping (I’m heading back to the garbage room here, read my first post if this makes no sense). Christmas wrapping. You better make sure you’re the first one into that recycling room, because if not you will need a ladder to climb to the top of the paper pile to add yours to the bin. What a waste.

So here’s 7 sustainability tips for Christmas:

1. Keep the tissue paper or gift bags that arrive from Amazon, come from gift baskets in the run up to Christmas and use it for wrapping paper. If you have to ship gifts, keep the boxes too!

2. Save the Colourful Christmas ads from the newspapers or reuse old comics as wrapping paper.

3. I have a friend with a big family, so rather than buying his adult siblings a random ornament or gift, he writes them a letter and invites them to spend the day with him doing an activity and having lunch, so they can connect and catch up one on one.

4. Give something handmade, like a chutney, jam, baking etc. It’s easier than you think and people will love the personal touch, knowing that you went to the trouble of making something specifically for them.

5. Give vouchers by you! Instead of a plastic gift card, make up your own vouchers personalized to the person you’re gifting. For example: A night of Free babysitting, An afternoon of gardening, Dog walking hours. Be creative and try to come up with something unique for them.

6. Re-gift. It might not sound too classy, but people are more open to it than ever. Give something in good condition that is not being used, you’ll be de-cluttering and saving it from the scrap heap.

7. Buying for someone who seems to have everything? Consider a charitable gift. Sites like FH Canada have fab selections of gifts that make a big difference in the lives of people in places across the globe. You can even buy that sibling who is always sending the poo emoticon a Piece of Crap!

What are your ideas for Christmas sustainability? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Happy Holidays!