Thursday, January 31, 2008

City of Ottawa joins Earth Hour!!

Ottawa's mayor has added the City of Ottawa to the list of cities that will be participating in Earth Hour on March 29th, 2007. Woo hoo! I was REALLY hoping that Ottawa would officially join this effort and I'm SUPER happy that the city decided to officially join.

Our family will be definitely participating in this and I hope yours will too. All you have to do is turn off your lights and appliances on March 29th from 8 to 9 pm. Take the opportunity to light a few candles, maybe play cards or have a good chat with your significant other. I can think of another fun (and green) thing you could do for an hour in the dark... to quote my friends last night at dinner 'Waa-chika-Waa-Waa'...

I'd love to say that my petition had something to do with it. Sadly, my first attempt at Green-activism didn't amount to much (only 29 signatures, which actually isn't so bad).... but the end result happened and that makes me very happy! Thank you to all of you who signed the petition and offered your support!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Change #5 - More Blue Than Green

We've been feeling more blue than green the past little while in the GreenLunn household. First the TV died, then the internet connection went on strike, the computer refuses to function in anything but safe mode, our new $8,000 roof leaked, Ian has started to wake up again every few hours after three weeks or so of blissful sleeping, I’m pretty sure the dog is depressed and I think the two adult GreenLunns may have a mild case of the blues too. It’s mid-January in Canada… who isn’t a bit blue this time of year?

So I’m finding it a bit hard to come up with the motivation to make a green change this week… and admittedly last week’s change was a bit lame. That being said, I can’t let a little bit of bad luck and a case of the blues derail our green'olution.

This week our change will be to minimize our use of baby wipes when we are at home. Instead of using disposable wipes to change Ian’s diaper I’ll set aside a few of the many baby-sized facecloths we have and use those instead. This is green because 1) I’ll wash them with the cloth diapers so we won’t be increasing the amount of energy we use 2) it will minimize Ian’s exposure to chemicals which I suspect will help with his occasional diaper rashes 3) we will produce less garbage by consuming less packaging and plastic 5) it will save us money.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Change #4 - Our old computer... gets fixed again.

I'm writing this post in 'safe mode'... computer is acting up (again). Instead of buying a new one we'll be fixing it. Again. That's our green move this week... sure would be nice to have a fancy computer with a flat screen monitor etc... but we'll be fixing this old thing instead.

How is this green? The fewer computers we own in our lifetime means fewer computers in the landfill...

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Update: Energy Audit

We had our energy audit yesterday afternoon. The entire experience was really interesting and well worth the $367.50 (minus the $150 rebate we will be getting back from the government) it cost us.

First of all, we are very happy with the company we went with (it was dumb luck really, I just called the first company I found online). Jonathan, the owner of Green Home Inspections Ltd was super friendly, very knowledgeable and just an overall nice guy. I would highly recommend him to anyone in the Ottawa area who is thinking of have an audit done. My initial feeling that he was a decent guy was confirmed when he mentioned that he used to employ four staff but he let them go because he realized that he really enjoyed doing the field work himself and that having staff made him feel like he didn’t have any control over the quality of the work that was being done… so he chose to make less money and do the work himself.

The audit was almost three hours long. He spent that time touring the entire house with us (inside and out) looking at our heating system, our windows, outside doors, our attic, he checked to see if we have insulation in our outside walls (we don’t). He did this cool draft test with a huge fan and computer to find all of the air leaks in our house (there were many). He patiently answered all of our questions (even those which really had nothing to do with energy efficiency). He suggested many practical things that we can do to improve the efficiency of our house and we learned a lot! We are looking forward to receiving a detailed report of his assessment by mail in the coming weeks.

A few things we learned:

1) Even though our windows ‘sweat’ a little they are energy efficient windows which is a good thing.
2) Keeping your windows locked (as opposed to just closed) increases their efficiency by 10%.
3) You can borrow a ‘watt meter’ at the Ottawa library (or you can buy one at Canadian Tire for $25). It tells you how much phantom energy (and money) your appliances cost you when they are plugged in but not in use. I checked all of our appliances (coffee maker: 0, lamps: 0, computer, printer, modem etc: 150, TV etc: 15).
3) We would really improve the efficiency of our house by having Insulation blown into our walls. The government offers a $3000 rebate for this work, which will cover over 80% of the cost. We will likely be doing this sometime in the next year.
4) The provincial government recently announced that it will match the rebates offered by the federal government … so if you’ve been thinking about having an audit done. Now is the time!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A word on cloth diapers

When I first became pregnant, my sister suggested I use cloth diapers. I resisted at first. As much as I love the environment, I really wasn’t sure whether I could commit to using cloth. I pictured the worst: diaper pins, yucky hard cracked plastic covers, smelly diaper pails, having to wash loads and loads of stinky, stained diapers.

Much to my surprise I am really enjoying cloth diapering. It helps that the diapers are super cute (they are a bright lemon yellow and have soft fleecy insides). They even have a cute name: Fuzzi Bunz!

I know this makes me weird, but I enjoy washing them (I hang them to dry in order to save energy and to avoid unnecessary wear on them). I enjoy it because it’s so easy, but mostly because I know that every time I wash my cloth diapers I have avoided sending the equivalent number of diapers to the landfill. I must admit that things have gotten a little bit more interesting since Ian has started solids –but I still don’t mind.

Some argue that the energy/water needed to wash the diapers outweighs their ecological benefits, but I don’t buy it. When you consider the energy, the chemicals and the plastics used to make disposables, the energy to transport them, the plastic wrapping they are sold in and how long it takes for them to biodegrade, cloth definitely wins. Having said this, we do use disposables sometimes (like when we travel and overnight).

Things you might not know about cloth diapers:

1) They come in cool colors and are super easy to use (no pins or plastic covers needed)
2) There are lots of different kinds of cloth diapers now which range in price from $40 for a dozen to $23 each
3) If you hang them to dry in the sun stains will be ‘bleached’ away (I didn’t believe this but it actually works!)
4) You can buy a special bag that hangs at the back of your door to put the dirty diapers in, when you wash your diapers you just throw the bag in with the diapers (so no cleaning dirty diaper pails)
5) Some stores have a loan program which can help you figure out what kind of diaper you might like (some types fit some babies better than others)
6) Many come in one size fits all (so one size fits your baby from newborn to toddler)
7) Your baby will need fewer diaper changes as he/she gets older so the number of diaper washes diminishes which makes it even easier.

If you live in the Ottawa area ‘The Extraordinary Baby Shoppe’ is definitely the place to go for cloth diapers. They have a huge selection and they are very knowledgeable.

I know a few woman who do elimination communication (I wouldn't have believed it, but I've seen it done with my own eyes... totally makes sense if you think that most of the world doesn't have access to disposable or cloth diapers). Now THAT's GREEN!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Change #3 - bye bye 'free' stuff

A long time ago, a friend introduced me to ‘Clinique Bonus Days’. Every few months either at The Bay or Sears if you buy over a certain amount of Clinique beauty products they will give you a free makeup bag filled with sample size goodies of creams and lipstick - I have been hooked ever since. What’s more fun than a makeup bag full of free stuff?

The sad truth is that I have a dozen lipsticks that are the wrong color and little jars (that can’t be recycled) of different types of cream that I don’t need, and have never used, sitting in my closet. I realize now too, that most of these products contain toxins and chemicals (formaldehyde and phthalates to name a few) that I probably shouldn’t be slathering on my body.

If you want to see how toxic your own beauty products are, go to the Environmental Working Group’s cosmetic database at:

So change #3 is that I will be changing my moisturizer from a Clinique product to Druide's pur/pure certified organic face and body lotion. There are lots to things to love about this product: 1) 100% of the ingredients are of natural origin, 2) it is biodegradable 3) not tested on animals 4) made in Canada 5) MUCH less expensive than my old moisturizer 6) certified organic 7) the tube it comes in can be recycled (the Clinique jar can't be) and 8) the company is ethical, they respect the environment and human health. Check out its company Charter:

Something tells me I won't miss any of that 'free' stuff.

Update: Our energy audit is scheduled for this Friday January 18th at 13:00. I'm super excited about it!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Change #2 – Ian’s closet

Ian was born on May 2, 2007… a whole twelve days past his due date. As any pregnant woman will tell you, every day past the due date is excruciating (it really is just an estimate apparently). I spent those uncomfortable and exasperating days: eating (cheese chips), watching Oprah (yes, I watch Oprah) and leaving nasty messages on my answering machine for friends and family calling to inquire about the whereabouts of the baby.

I also spent a great deal of that time folding and unfolding, organizing and reorganizing his cute little baby clothes. There is something about baby clothes that is incredibly irresistible. Even now, I get a great deal of satisfaction from washing and folding his clothes and picking out what he will wear for the day. The absolute best part though is shopping for those cute clothes! It’s VERY hard for me to resist going into those baby stores (you know the ones I mean) and adding to his wardrobe, even though we are very lucky to be getting great hand-me-downs from Derek’s sister Karen and my sister Annie.

So change #2 will be to stop buying Ian clothes (no matter how cute they are) unless he really, really needs something. When he does need something (we don’t get many socks as hand-me-downs) I will go looking at the great consignment stores we have in Ottawa such as Boomerang Kids and Hush Baby, before I buy things brand new… (though I’m not sure how I feel about buying previously worn socks -might have to make an exception there). Derek is fine with this, as long as Ian doesn’t look (to quote my Aussie friend Shannon) ‘daggy’. The really green thing to do, is buy organic clothing…but seriously, who can afford that?

There are many benefits to this change: 1) we will save money (especially important now that daycare costs are looming) 2) I will be supporting independent stores in my community 3) we will be reducing our consumption of 'stuff' 4) the clothes won’t come with (according to Adria Vasil ‘a sheen of wrinkle-resistant formaldehyde' that new clothes have and 5) according to the green book, for every second hand article I buy, energy is saved in the making and transport of the new clothes I didn’t buy.

Even though this change makes sense on so many levels (and it really shames me to admit this) whenever I walk by Gap Kids, I will be filled with a deep sense of longing, much like how I feel when I walk by a chip truck advertising ‘the best poutine in town’…

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