Earth Hour. Are you turning off your lights tonight?

Many lights around the world, bright and dim, will hopefully go out on Saturday March 28th, at 8:30 p.m. in honour of Earth Hour.  Earth hour 2015 is slated to be the largest of its kind to date.  An event that started in Sydney, Australia in 2007 as an initiative to stand up against climate change, 2.2 million homes and businesses turned their lights off for one hour.  This initiative was started by WWF and has now spread around the world with an estimated 7,000 cities in 172 countries participating.

When I first heard of this in 2008, I embraced this, and lit candles around the house and turned off the lights.  Each year I tried my best to participate in our home by turning off the lights, and keeping them off for at least one hour or more.  I do recall one year when my infant son was not well and we were feverishly trying to look after his ‘fever’, so unfortunately I was not able to adhere at that time, but I made up for it the next day and then some.  What I liked about Earth Hour was it felt primitive, disconnected, and it reminded me of travel to third world countries where the power is sometimes out.  It puts things in perspective, as we take for granted something so basic such as turning the lights on.

The two main goals of starting Earth Hour, were to reduce energy consumption, but as mentioned above, to stand up for climate change.  We live on this earth, we love this earth, but we are responsible for the change in climate.  As said by the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki–moon, “Climate change is a people problem. People cause climate change and people suffer from climate change.  People can also solve climate change.  Earth Hour shows what is possible when we unite in support of a cause: no individual action is too small, no collective vision is too big. This is the time to use your power”.

Some of the most famous landmarks around the world will dim their lights.  From the UN building in New York, to the Eiffel Tower, to Rio de Janeiro’s Christo Redentor, to the CN tower, these landmarks will reduce consumption for one hour.  Of course it would be impossible for such large landmarks to fully come off the grid for safety reasons, but hey, it is a step in the right direction.

There have been some naysayers who have said that there is no savings of energy, as people make up for it with our excess consumption. Others say that we should look at way’s everyday to look at reducing our consumption, and every day should be Earth Day.  I agree.  We do need to do our part every day to reduce our consumption on fossil fuels which contribute to global warming.  If you think there is no environmental impact from using fossil fuels, please watch the official Earth Hour video below and start at 12 seconds in where you will see the ice breaking.

So, are you turning your lights off March 28th @ 8:30 – 9:30 p.m.?  Grab the candles and enjoy the moment.

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Wait…is that compostable?

I must admit, when I first heard of the green bin practice about 10 years ago, I was revolted and thought it would be utterly disgusting.  At the time, I was living in Richmond Hill, and they were not utilizing this practice, but rather only the city of Toronto.  When it came to Richmond Hill a few years later, I read the literature and got a better understanding of ‘what goes where’, and I became an instant fan.  Understanding the benefits of waste diversion, I saw the value of separating the organics that would be turned into compostable material.  Fast forward to present day, this practice is something I wholeheartedly follow, endorse, police, push on people (shame on me), and take absolute pride in.  I truly stand up for things I believe it!

Vaughan a few years ago introduced a new rule that you had to use compostable bags for your green bin.  The benefits touted were that compostable bags would decompose faster, they are non-toxic, and eco-friendly. This all made sense to me and I saw the immediate benefits.  I was glad that the municipality mandated this across the board for all, but I was wondering how many people would adopt this.  The bags you get for free from the grocery stores were not compostable, or acceptable, and you now had to buy these compostable bags separately.  If you have been following my blog, dishing out additional dollars for me is not a practice that I like, but being committed to doing my part for the environment, I knew I had to do it.  After trying some of the first versions of bags that were gifted by the municipality, I noticed that the bags were decomposing at a very quick rate inside our kitchen mini bin, and this was not great.  The next batch of bags that we tried had no issues and we have stuck with that brand ever since.

bag1

Bag to nature compostable bag

Looking around my neighborhood on garbage day, I see that the majority of people are not using compostable bags, even though the city has said we are supposed to be using them.  Why is it that people in a relatively affluent neighborhood choose not to pay $10 – $15 for 100 compostable bags?  It certainly is not a matter of affordability.  I truly believe that it is lack of knowledge, people do not care, and they find the process already taxing that layering a specific bag component to the mix may be a bit much.  I believe the only way we can get to a higher level of adoption of the compostable bags is to have stricter levels of enforcement on this practice.  If homeowners were going to be charged a $15 fee for every time they did not comply with using a compostable bag, the sheer economics behind it would have people racing to buy compostable bags.

The green bin practice is one that I know many people (including members of my family who will remain unnamed) do not fully endorse for varying reasons.  There are many stats out there saying that many people are not adhering to this practice and are not doing this correctly.  People still throw garbage in the green bin, and compostable items in the garbage, people are using regular grocery bags as liners for their green bins and I don’t think that this is ever going to change until there are fines.  We have one earth, and we can all do our part one bag at a time.

Ripping out carpet?

Spring is here and renovation season is starting to ramp up for many households across the country.  In our household, we are in full swing trying to get a myriad amount of projects complete.  One of the projects that I wanted to complete was replace the carpet in my son’s bedroom as there are two stains from construction adhesive that will not come out.  Since his room is over the garage, it does tend to get a bit colder, and it was recommended to me that I get a good quality underlay and carpet (as opposed to builder basic) which may add a bit more R-Value.  The thought of ripping out 5 year old carpet and tossing it away, does not resonate well with me…

Did you know that in Canada each year there is approximately 6.5 billion pounds of carpet that is ripped up in Canada? Carpet equates to 4% of all waste in a landfill.  That does not sound like a lot, but that is enough carpet to cover the entire province of PEI.  Yes, PEI is small, but consider that it takes carpet 500 – 1,000 years to decompose in a landfill, we have a serious problem.

When we think of recycling, most of us think of cans, glass, plastic, paper etc., but did you know that recycling carpet is increasingly becoming a more common practice?  Since synthetic carpet is essentially plastic fiber’s, it can be sorted, and recycled into other post consumer plastic products.  I find this subject to be incredibly fascinating, who thought dusty old carpet can actually be recycled!  The video below explains a bit more about the process

As with all recycling caveats, the municipality must have a facility, or contract out to a company who can process this material. In the GTA, there a few companies that collect, and process old carpet for recycling, but it certainly is not widespread with only one municipality that has this capacity.  The region of Peel was the first in the GTA to accept this material back in 2012.  There are three drop off depots in Peel Region for you to drop off, and they are:

Brampton Community Recycling Centre, 395 Chrysler Drive, Brampton
Fewster Community Recycling Centre, 1126 Fewster Drive, Mississauga
Battleford Community Recycling Centre, 2255 Battleford Road, Mississauga

As with any type of recycling, it costs money to have these items have a second life, vs. throwing them in a dumpster.  The Region of Peel has nominal charges for you to drop it off ($5 for the first 50 kgs, and $0.10 for every kg after). Me being Mr. Thrifty, I would have no problem spending this money.  It is much cheaper than springing for a larger dumpster in a renovation.

In the coming years, I expect that this will become more widespread in Canada.  The US has been doing this for much longer than the Canadian marketplace,  Please consider this tactic when you are planning your next renovation at home, or your office.  Together we can all do our part in saving the planet, one bag at a time.

Donate that for two good causes

Canadian’s have a huge love affair with their homes and decorating.  A few years ago, this was coined, “The HGTV effect”. The thriving popularity of hit renovation shows on this channel has certainly impacted the market, monkey see, monkey do. What’s not to like about a new kitchen, new bathroom, new floors, and new fixtures?  In 2013 Canadian’s spent a whopping $64 billion on residential renovations and repairs according to the Altus Group, a Toronto based property consulting firm.

Way before the HGTV effect, I always had to tinker with something, fix it, paint it, change it, and make things look ‘good’. Over the years of home ownership, I have changed many things in my homes for new shiny items that appeased my desires.  From changing light fixtures, faucets, sinks, trimwork and mirrors, I take pride in doing this work ‘mostly’ myself. But then the question arises, ‘What do you do with all the stuff you took off?’

Vanity light, bedroom lights, hallway lights that I replaced

Vanity light, bedroom lights, hallway lights that I replaced

Well, apart from having it sit in a closet for eons, selling it on Kijiji, or Craigslist, you could donate it to Habitat for Humanity and their locations called, ReStore. What the ReStore does, it takes donated items such as that light fixtures, mirrors, counter tops, doors, and faucets (to name a few), and they sell them to the general public.  The proceeds help fund activities for Habitat for Humanity, who provides affordable housing and make home ownership a reality for many families across the GTA.  By donating your gently used items in good condition to ReStore, this allows them to give back to those in need.  You also don’t have to feel guilty about changing things in your home due to the HGTV effect.  By donating, you are doing good!

If you have larger items and wish for ReStore to pick them up, you can also arrange that. If you have smaller items like I do, there are many locations across the GTA that you could drop items off to, such as:

155 Bermondsey Road
Toronto, Ontario M4A 1X9
Phone: (416) 755-7353 X248
7 Queen Elizabeth Blvd
Etobicoke, Ontario M8Z 1L9
Phone: (416) 755-7353 X302

405 Rowntree Dairy Rd.
Vaughan, Ontario L4L 8H1
Phone: (905) 265-1079

1120 Caledonia Road
Toronto, Ontario M6A 2W5
Phone: (416) 755-7353 X301

1705 Argentia Road
Mississauga, Ontario L5N 3A9
Phone: (905) 828-0987

We can all do our part in re-using these items and giving them a second chance, and doing good in our community at the same time.  By reducing our waste and footprint, we are help saving the world, one bag at a time.

The little cup that leads to big waste

Like many households, we have a coffee machine that makes instant coffee by placing a pod inside the machine, you press the button, and whamo, you have a great cup of coffee in an instant.  Initially when I purchased this unit for my wife on Mother’s Day years ago, I was looking out for her best interest, and not thinking of the environmental ramifications.  Mea culpa.

Keurig machine

There is a tremendous amount of waste that is produced by these K-cups daily around the world, and for the most part, they are not disposed of correctly.  In 2013 there were enough K-cups used in the world to wrap around the earth 10.5 times.  For one, every office building I have been to for meetings dispose these straight in the garbage, and they probably go through 30 – 50 a day.  At homes across the country, these are going straight in the garbage as consumers are likely looking for something quick and not thinking about the environmental impact.  The creator of the K-cup, John Sylvan recently told the CBC that he regrets creating the disposable coffee pod system because of the negative environment effects. “I don’t know why people have them in their house”.

After spending a few hundred dollars on this little wonder, I am not ready to get rid of it as there are solutions.  One of the things that came with our machine was a filter where you can put your own coffee grinds inside and place it inside where the k-cup goes and it still creates a wonderful instant cup of coffee.  When your cup of coffee is finished, you throw the coffee grinds in your green bin, and rinse out the holder for reuse.  Environmental impact = nadda.

resusable k cup

One of the complains my wife first had with this was that it was lacking the flavoured coffee’s that she previously had with the K-cups that you’d buy in the store.  Solution: grocery store flavoured ground beans.  Way more fresh, way more flavour, and WAY cheaper!

Since there has been a lot of press on this topic over the past few years, many companies are pressing ahead with trying to develop either biodegradable, or recyclable pods.  While I completely agree with this, we are not there yet 100%, and in the interim, adopting the practice I recommend here will certainly reduce the amount of K-cups we throw away.  Just think, if homes and offices around the globe were to utilize this practice, there would be considerable less waste generated from our morning java fix.  This will not happen over night, but we can all do our part to save the earth, one bag at a time.

Wait…don’t throw that out!

We use small appliances every day for just about everything in our home.  When one of them no longer works properly, it can certainly throw your day off.  When you need your morning cup of tea, and the kettle no longer works, you need to iron a pair of pants or shirt and the iron does not work, it can certainly throw off your morning routine.

I remember years ago growing up, my father would fix these items by opening them up, changing a part, soldering something together, and whamo, you have a working appliance and is most of the time it was FREE!  As the adage goes, they do not make things the way they used to.  Fast forward to now these appliances are much harder to open, fix, and they certainly do not last as long.  If you were to send it out for repair, it would likely cost just as much as buying a new one, and it would not have on year warranty that could be doubled if you charge it to certain credit cards.

Over the past several months there have been various small appliances that have gone bad in my home, and I have been quietly setting them aside to take them for recycling.  See image below

Kettle, Laser printer, DVD player, Iron, and cords

Kettle, Laser printer, DVD player, Iron, and cords

There are some serious benefits of recycling this properly.  These items are bulky and will never breakdown in a landfill, so having this disposed of correctly is of utmost importance.  Electronic waste can contaminate our environment, and fill up landfills prematurely.  There are precious metals in these items in electronics such as, copper and small amounts of gold that are melted down and turned into other items.  Some of the items that you can dispose of properly are:

– Computers, laptops

– Cables

– CDs, & DVDs

– Monitors, printers, scanners

– Telephones, fax machines, photocopiers, cellphones, PDAs, answering machines

– DVD players, radios, stereos, electronic game consoles, cameras, video projectors

– TV’s

Most municipalities have recycling depots where you can drop items such as these off.  Check their website for details of what is accepted, and where you can drop these items off.

Some GTA municipality site:

Richmond Hill – http://bit.ly/1MAJJHe

Toronto – http://bit.ly/Wf9dqC

Vaughan – http://bit.ly/1ABrJWu

With the growing amount of electronics that we have in our lives today, it is very important that we follow these rules and ensure that we dispose of these items properly.  Together we can help save the earth, one bag at a time.

Spring is in the air! Time to clean house.

With the weather finally taking a turn for the better, many people will be embarking on cleaning up and trying to rid themselves of the stuff they accumulated over the winter.  For many people with the start of a new season it means putting away some of your woolies, and replacing them with lighter clothing and soon…shorts!

As styles change, there has never been a better opportunity to rid yourself of that plaid sweater your Aunt gave you for Christmas seven years ago, and you haven’t worn in 6.5 years.  You think to yourself, ‘There is not a person on earth that would wear this’.  You sort more material into piles of what to keep for next year, and what has to go.  In the piles you have your favourite pair of ripped pair of jeans that have a giant tear at the seat and can never be worn again, but it is so hard to get rid of them.  What to do?  Put them in the donation box, throw them in the garbage? Throwing them in the garbage is certainly not the right thing to do, and the donation companies that take old clothes do not want garbage that cannot be reused.

DO NOT wear these in public! (Unless you are a Victoria Secret runway model)

DO NOT wear these in public!

Well, there are alternatives to keep this out of the landfill and have this turn into reusable goods.  As a matter for fact, almost all of your old or ripped clothing can be recycled and turned into other fibrous, usable material.  This includes, ripped socks, ripped undies, shirt’s, pants, jackets, etc.  Collect all of your ripped, stained clothes that cannot be re-used, and drop it off to your local Salvation Army in a bag labelled, ‘ripped’, but at the same time, drop off a much larger bag of items that you want to donate.  The Salvation Army will then send off the ripped clothing for processing, and that old pair of ripped jeans can be turned into various items such as: upholstery stuffing, rags, and other post consumer material items.

Tips for recycling your clothing:

– Keep old socks that get holes in them in a plastic bag, so when you accumulate enough you can drop it off.

– Include panty hose that tend to rip quicker

– Include old bathing suits, or items that have the elastic inside that goes bad after a while

By putting these aside until they accumulate into a lager amount, it makes the trip worth it.  What makes this whole endeavour more worth it, is that you are helping to save the environment, one bag at a time.