Best Green Tip: Mindful Consumption

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When I think of favourite green tips, long laundry lists come to mind, so I’ve opted instead for maybe one over-arching tip.  I think ultimately, if you want to respect the earth you’re living on and dependent upon, you need to practice mindful consumption.

What does mindful consumption mean?  To me, it means being intentional about buying and consuming goods and services, with an explicit, unwavering knowledge that everything we buy requires resources from the earth.  Being mindful about those purposes means thinking about whether our consumption has appropriate value to us considering its real cost.

This real cost goes beyond the sticker price and asks what was the cost to the person who made or grew it, and the earth that produced it?  How much energy did it require to bring it to you and how much packaging will go in the garbage after it is consumed?   How much pleasure does it give you and for how long, and what is the quality of that pleasure?

I read somewhere that spending money means voting with our dollars, and I believe it’s true.  Money talks.  Whether we are conscious of it or not, the way we spend our money translates into supporting people, companies and practices.  I may not have much money, but I’ve got some, and I like the idea of wielding whatever power may be in it in the direction I choose.

The beautiful thing about mindful consumption is that it brings one’s purchases into alignment with what you actually believe, and maybe even helps you to define what that is.  Spending less on the-everything-that’s-everywhere will mean having more to invest in what matters most to you.   Being mindful about how we consume is a path to clarity, respect for the earth, and peace of mind, which naturally makes it priceless.

 

 

 

 

“The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

DSC_0431My best green tip?  It’s simple. Be more open-minded.  Being “green” isn’t a movement or a trend.  It’s not about not shaving your armpits and using a rock for deodorant.  Although I suppose it could be.

Being green is an act of social responsibility, being an adult, being a kind human.  It’s our duty to leave this world a better place than when we came into it.

Since my friendship with Carol has blossomed over the years, Carol has pushed me to consider how I live my life and raise my children.  She has encouraged me to be more conscious, more observant and more thoughtful.   She has shown me that’s possible to live a cleaner, calmer, healthier life.  That one size parenting, one size greening, one size simple living doesn’t fit all.  She doesn’t do this with an air of superiority rather she quietly encourages.

The changes that I have made to our day to day may be subtle but they are lasting and the result of thoughtfulness not a fleeting trend.

Plan Ahead to Stay Green

Eldest is currently writing a science report on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.  I’ve put a link instead of a picture because, frankly, I find it too offensive to post a picture of what we have done to our oceans.  It is to weep.

This month’s posts have been loosely about renewal and rebirth, but before the riot of green that is spring, we are surrounded by the heaps of garbage that emerge from the melting snow, the bleak brown land reminding us of our hidden winter sins.  Chip bags, candy wrappers, pop cans, water bottles.  Oh, the water bottles.  As T. S. Eliot wrote,

APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering          
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.

I am no fan of spring, and even less of a fan of the sins that the forgetful snow exposes.

Food and drink packaging has to be the easiest green sin for a parent to fall prey to.  We were recently asked to review a food product that I had to decline to review because the ratio of food to packaging was so poor.  In this enlightened age, packaging seems to me to be proliferating, not disappearing.  Why manufacture, sell or buy 24 mini-bags of crackers instead of one box?  Why??  How much more time or effort does it take to throw them into a reusable container?

Don’t answer that.  My rhetoric belies my own waste.  How many times have I failed to plan ahead and had to buy snacks and drinks on the run, leaving a trail of garbage in our wake?

untitledLast year, when the kids’ school instituted a full-time boomerang lunch (all litter goes back into the lunchbox to be disposed of at home), I embraced it wholeheartedly.  I had been a pretty eco-conscious lunch packer even before that, but now I aim to be letter perfect.  Everything goes into reusable containers for lunch.  I avoid at all costs individually wrapped snacks.  Granola bars are not healthy anyway, and if we want a treat, we go to the bakery some days after school and eat the treats right off of the shelf.  The drink boxes, about which I still feel a twinge of guilt, can at least be recycled at school.

This year, also, I made a conscious decision never to leave home on weekends and after school without packing food and drink that would also limit our garbage output.  Sliced fruit, a tub of raw almonds, some quickly-cut slices of cheese.  Water bottles.  It takes less than a minute to prepare and assemble these things, and it saves a world of whining and pleading about vending machine and snack bar “food” at the various rinks and arenas where we often find ourselves on weekends.  Less waste, better food.  Win win.

I am not an eco-warrior, or trail-blazer or even an exceptionally good consumer.  But I am a planner, and planning has made a huge difference this year.  Now, if I could just learn to love drinking coffee out of a reusable, portable mug….

 

Theme Week: Favourite Green Tips

“Take care of the earth and she will take care of you.”

This week, in honour of the spring, the re-birth and earth day we share our favourite “green” tips.  We welcome Sara Vartanian, an urban, green mom of two little boys.  

Sara is the founder of Green Moms Collective, where she helps moms to take simple steps to add green living practices into their family’s lives through eco-consulting and workshops. If she’s not on Twitter talking all things green, she can be found wandering the city’s green spaces and farmers markets with her family.

As always we encourage you to join the conversation!  What are some of your green tips?  How have you made simple changes to your life to make it more eco-friendly?    

Imperfections

049Yesterday when I was at a restaurant with a friend and our collective five children, she turned to comment on how my two year old’s speech has really blossomed.  His talking also included borderline yelling, lots of demands, and utensils banging on the table – this in addition to the racket from the other kids.  “Actually,” I replied, “I just want him to stop talking.”

I don’t, of course, not really, so I should have known something was off.  I promptly fell asleep with all three kids at 8pm and waking up half an hour later realized I was plain sick, and so were two of my three boys, which was a big part of the reason why dinner wasn’t more fun.

Morning came too soon, with dripping nose and ringing head, presenting a full, uninterrupted day with toddler bearing similar symptoms.  Judge me if you must, but I asked my five year old to stay home from school to help me take care of his younger brother (they play with each other, and having two is often easier than having one).  The angel said yes.  My kindergartener said, and I quote, “I can take care of him and maybe you can take a nap.”

The nap didn’t happen, but the childcare by the child did.  My two younger boys played forts and some other things that I didn’t register.  They watched some television and ate whatever leftovers I put forward for lunch.  I floated around in a fog.

After picking up my oldest from school, the usual mayhem of late afternoon led me by the nose into a couple of parental tantrums.  I was unreasonable, I know, but I did make some efforts.  We made people sandwiches of ourselves on the bean bag.  We did pull out the woodworking that they are always asking to work on.   I cooked, as opposed to warmed up, a dinner.

Doing isn’t the same as being, so listing these efforts gives me only partial comfort; I really wasn’t great to be around.  The best part of the evening was facilitated by the house illness that had facilitated the worst bits:  my two year old asked during dinner to go to bed, and fell asleep early.  This meant more reading time for the older boys, and because my middle had fallen asleep without me noticing in the car, he was awake at his bedtime and joined my oldest and me during our homework window.

My boys flanked me on either side while we read chapter upon chapter of On the Banks of Plum Creek of the Little House series.  So far as I can tell, these books are largely a love letter by Laura Ingalls Wilder to Ma and Pa, who are a perfect combination of loving, firm, gentle, giving, and playful parents and spouses.  I think about this sometimes as I am reading to my boys, and the contrast to the imperfect combination of traits that is me.

Then again, that is a book while these are actually the days that we’re living.  I believe more than ever that perfection is the enemy of the good.  I called on my five year old to help me today because I am imperfect, I was impatient with my children because of same.  But I was also there, in the bed, holding them with stories to close the day, as I am almost all of our days.  It is not perfect, but it is good, and maybe it is good enough.

 

Crafting with Kids: Pour Painting

008A new commitment means my mother hasn’t been able to come over for her weekly visits; instead she’s been offering weekly day visits and a sleepover to my youngest. This has opened up a window of opportunity for the bigger boys and me to do some things that aren’t so well suited to toddlers, and we actually have time to do them because some extra-curriculars have waned.

Without further ado, we tried pour painting. There should be a better name for this, there must be and I’m too encased in my own little cave to know.  Pour painting is so… literal.  Because the method is as simple as this:

1. Take a canvas (or sturdy piece of cardboard) and prime the surface (including the sides) with a coat of paint. (Try to do next steps while primer is still wet.)

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2. Pour or squeeze pools of paint (we used acrylics) onto the paint surface.  We did this two ways:  first, pouring little pools of paint hither and thither and then tilting the canvas in various directions to let the paint run; and second, pouring multiple colours of paint in the centre of the canvas over and over until it spilled off the edges.

3. Repeat step 2 as many times as needed until the surface is completely covered with paint.  (I was doing this project alongside the kids so didn’t take pictures during the process, but here’s more detail and instruction from the Housing a Forest.)

And that’s it! It’s hard to go wrong, and you’ll end up with a painting that’s colourful and evokative.

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A couple of notes… our paint cracked a bit as it dried where the colours met each other. I’m not sure how to avoid this and was a bit disappointed at first, but I think the paintings still work overall.

Also, we used a lot of paint. Not nearly as much as I bought, mind you, but the paint was very thick and required more than a day to dry. The canvas could handle this easily but if you’re using another surface, it really needs to be sturdy for this project. I also used cardboard under the canvasses to capture the paint that will spill off as regular paper will get wet and tear.

I have a few much bigger canvasses and think this project would be beautiful for decorating a wall; I can also imagine a few collected together. Also, doing the pour painting over an object, such as an inverted clay pot, is another fun project with beautiful results, so it’s on our spring list too (maybe to use as a special holder for a special seed).

And if you really want to be inspired by the possibilities of pour painting, check Holton Rower’s Tall Painting:

Favourite Springtime TV Binge: Call The Midwife

imagesI have been down and out with the flu, so forgive me if this post is less than inspired.  I have spent the past week living like a shut-in with hopes of containing this retched bug and smothering it with plenty of rest.

The result of a week confined to bed rest?  TV brain.

I am sure there is no need for me to lament the lack of quality television. The truth of it is even most commercials are painful to watch.  Who waves about a pregnancy stick, laden with URINE, in their friend’s face (husband’s face, okay) while proclaiming that they are 2 weeks pregnant?  I don’t know about you, but I tend to take my friend’s word for it when they tell me they are pregnant.

There are an abundant number of plot lines that focus on trying to get pregnant, looking good while pregnant, being pregnant, birthing babies, surviving baby . . . you’d think that babies were a relatively new phenomenon.

Most of these programs can’t hold my waning attention for more than a few minutes except for the BBC series, currently featured on Netflix, Call The Midwife.

Call The Midwife is based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, whom worked as a midwife in the late 1950’s in London’s poorest quarter.  Upon starting work with the nuns of Nonnatus House, Jenny is confronted by the reality of life in the tenements, a far cry from her sheltered middle class childhood: soiled living conditions, infestations, condemned buildings.  With each birth she’s present, Jenny’s pre-existing ideas of love and family are challenged and in time she begins to see the women in her care not as charity cases but as heroines.  These women are raising broods of children, and trying to make the most of their pittance, sometimes while overcome by illness or heartache.

Call The Midwife is a reflection on post-war England, the start of the National Health Service and the changing role of women in society – so much more than getting pregnant/being pregnant/having babies!

I happily devoured the first season while nursing my aches and pains and judging by the response on Twitter, I am not the only one!

 

Fabulous Things For Spring

It’s spring and it’s time to welcome the warmer weather and longer days.  The budding flowers offer encouragement that new life after a long, bleak winter is not only a possibility but also a definite reality.  For many the spring, and these changes, mark a time of re-birth.  Emerging from the heavy clothes and mundane routine of winter, spring offers the perfect time to revitalize all aspects of our lives.  Get outside: enjoy the sunshine, reap the health benefits, get fit!  Pack away the winter coats and gear: purge the closets, donate to those in need, assess what it is your wardrobe really needs (if anything!).

Here’s a list of some treasures and troves that may make your spring just a little bit brighter!

For Her

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Why not update your make-up for spring?  Make Up Forever sent me over their new HD Cream Blush that naturally sculpts and highlights the cheeks.  Easy to apply with just a sweep of a fingertip, this lightweight blush is long lasting and natural looking.  Mae Up Forever has quickly become one of my favourite make up brands.  The colour remains vibrant without fading throughout the day or smudging off. Their new blush is available in 16 shades and is available at Sephora stores across Canada.

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Carol bought me a punchy box of tissues from Ann Taintor but now that the winter has gone by the wayside hopefully so to has my need for tissues but this lip balm would make for a great substitution.  How great is this to gift to your bestie?

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With the warmer weather I notice more and more joggers taking to the streets.  4id Powerbudz sent me their ear buds that light up with movement.  If you’re so inclined to wear earbuds while exercising consider 4 id Powerbudz to help make you more noticeable in the early morning light and at under $15.00 they are worth the investment.

I won a contest for two tickets to the spring One of a Kind Show from The Homeslice (a fun and fabulous blog worth visiting) and as always I enjoyed taking in the sights of the show.  I am never less than amazed by the artisans, their talent and commitment, who make the show truly remarkable.  Here’s a round-up of some of my favourites:

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These gorgeous hand crafted mugs from Mena Dragonfly.

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This incredibly whimsical yet sophisticated dress from Aime.

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Whiteout Workshop was my favourite artist at the show.  I walked away with this (in a dress!) but could have easily taken the entire lot!

For Them

I always seem to be buying lots of baby shower presents.  I found this via The World According to Jessica Claire (new mom of twins!) and think that I may just buy the large one for myself!  I am sucker for Love You Forever and Carlymegan has made it into a blanket!

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And if you are buying for a new baby don’t forget about the big brother/sister too.  Two of my favourites for spring:

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Melissa and Doug sticker faces from here and anywhere they sell Melissa and Doug.

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Mealtime set from The Drake General Store.

When Your Kitchen Goes from Functional to Diva in one Afternoon

You know how it is: you are expecting guests, baby shower guests, for instance, and all of a sudden, your house begins to appear … less than perfect.  There’s nothing like the expectation of company to make you see your house in a whole new light; you are suddenly hyper-aware of the many faults and foibles of your kitchen.  And guest bathroom.  And back door.  And front steps.  And….

There’s the kitchen faucet which works perfectly until someone new comes along and tries to move the spigot.  Then the aerator just pops right off, and he or she gets drenched.

And the freezer, which has to be closed with Velcro because it pops open every time the fridge door closes.

And the back door out of the kitchen, which only opens on alternate Wednesdays, unless there is a full moon, in which case you have to wait until the next solstice.  Its handle went missing for three whole months once.  Just flew off.

And the powder room toilet which flushes perfectly well because you’ve paid to have the plumber come back three times, and each time he’s told you, “It’s fixed!” And it is fixed, unless you forget to manually lift the flusher after you’ve flushed, in which case, you end up with a flood in the basement, like last weekend, for instance, when there were 30 kids running around the house.  At least shower guests can be depended upon to be able to read the sign about the proper care and feeding of the Temperamental Toilet.

And the front porch steps, which you don’t ever notice from day to day but which look absolutely dreadful when company is coming because they are crumbling and have lost all their paint after a winter of having hockey bags dragged up and down them.

Sigh.

In some ways, I take a quiet joy in knowing just how to negotiate my diva kitchen sink spout that has to be handled just so, and, yes, even in knowing how best to care for The Temperamental Toilet.  I know the sound of that toilet when it is well and when it is ailing, and we rush to its aid when it’s ailing.  It’s just what we do.

And really, it’s not so different from having kids with diva tendencies that you don’t notice, until you do.  Some things you aim to change, others, you live with.

The last of the shower guests left at 5:00.

At 6:00 the doorbell rang.  A painter to give us an estimate for fixing the front steps.  I take no joy in peeling paint.

Best of the Blogosphere

Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy these goodies!

Did you read Charlotte’s Web as a kid?  It was one of my favourites.  Last year, Letters of Note featured a letter written by E.B. White explaining why he wrote the book.  It’s a delightful letter and made me yearn for the days of typewriters and when the word “dandy” was used with more frequency.

If you’re a child of the 70’s or 80’s you may have been a latch-key kid or if you weren’t a latch-key kid, you were probably a child of the “laid back” parenting generation. Translation: your parents let you play with lawn darts, eat microwavable meals and watch pretty much anything on television. In today’s world people gasp and call child protective services if your toddler has a complete collection of Happy Meal toys, but in the olden days our parents were teaching us basic survival skills, like how to pour your own cereal.  Lady Goo Goo Gaga reminds us that those days are long gone in her blog post Pottery Barn Lunches.   If you are a mom that makes tic-tac-toe sandwiches or cheese into the shape of a daisy, you may be slightly offended.  If you’re like me and think that you’ve packed a killer lunch for the kids if it covers two of the food groups, then read on . . .read on!

This post by comedienne Kelly MacLean about Surviving Whole Foods made the rounds a few months ago but I recently re-read it and I can honestly say that after a good belly laugh about the craziness that is Whole Foods (even though I have only been to Whole Foods once), the gloomy, winter day was a bit brighter.  Best lines:

“Whole Foods is like Vegas.  You go there to feel good but you leave broke, disoriented, and with the newfound knowledge that you have a vaginal disease.”

“You know you’ve really made it in the world when you get Candida.”

And my favourite laugh-out-loud, snort your coffee line:

“I went on a cleanse once; it was a mixed blessing.  On the one hand, I detoxified, I purified, I lost weight.  On the other hand, I fell asleep on the highway, fantasized about eating a pigeon, and crapped my pants.  I think I’ll stick with the whole eating thing.”

In the age of post-baby bikini bodies gracing the cover of every tabloid that line the grocery store check-out stand, it’s refreshing to see what a post-baby body really looks like for the majority of women.  Photographer, Ashlee Wells Jackson, documents several women in their 4th trimester for her intimate and evocative 4th Trimester Bodies Project.

The Truth about the Rainbow Loom by Kim Bongiorno for In the Powder Room had me thinking one thing: F’ing right!

I have spent years and years and years and spilled countless tears trying to get my husband to understand how to be there for me.  When I saw this video by Katy Davis and Dr. Brene Brown, I emailed it to him and do you want to know what he said?  Thank you, I get it now.

He said that he get’s it!

And the Heavens rejoiced.

And if you live somewhere that hasn’t experienced this ghastly winter, watch this video by Rick Mercer for a taste of what we’ve experienced.  I would like to say that it’s an exaggeration, but honestly he’s not that far off the truth.  Hang in there East Coasters!