Category Archives: environmental news

Playing Chicken

In the past few years I have become obsessed with real food. Gone are the days of Flakey’s and Jolt. I am now a hip mama shopping at farmers markets and making as much as I can from scratch. I am fascinated by growing food, even though I am just learning to garden (unless you count potted herbs). I was really excited when I found Path to Freedom and I even blogged about it. I also found an awesome bed and breakfast in Kitchener that grows their own food and has their own hens.
Finally, we have reached THE POINT of this post. There are a lot of awesome people in Kingston trying to legalize backyard hens. It seems that it is really going to happen, and because that is so exciting and important to me, I want to make sure that it does. So, if you are in Kingston, go to the meetings, sign the petitions etc. And if you are not, then at least read THIS…unless you’re chicken…brooock brooack.
And just in case you are too lazy (or busy or what ever) to go to the link, here’s some of it:
Benefits of Backyard Hens

Affordable Food:

The cost eggs for backyard hens are between $1-$3/dozen depending on the season and the amount of kitchen scraps supplementing purchased feed. Cost also depends on if the feed is organic, and upon the size and breed hen. A final variable is what type of bedding is used and how it is procured (straw, wood shavings, etc). (info sourced from forums on backyardchickens.com, accessed April 9th, 2010)

According to a 2005 study of grade 5 students in Nova Scotia, 73.7% of the children did not meet the minimum recommendations of Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating for meat and alternatives (eggs) (redorbit.com/news/health/152025/dietary_intake_and_risk_factors_for_poor_diet_quality_among/ accessed April 9, 2010).

Accessible Food:

True free range eggs are only available at the farm gate of a farmer whose operation you can see. If people want to buy farm fresh free range eggs, they need a car, and will have to pay at least $4/dozen. Those who keep hens in backyards can easily be car-free and receive delivery of bags of feed. Carless people can buy free range eggs at upmarket stores for $4-$6/dozen, but are they really free range? According to the Chicken Farmers of Canada, “The term has not been legally defined in either Canada or the U.S” (www.chicken.ca/DefaultSite/index.aspx?ArticleID=3434&lang=en-CA April 9th, 2010).

Reduced Solid Waste:

Those who wish to can enhance their food-waste-food cycle at home. Composted hen manure provides an excellent source of garden fertilizer: higher in N-P-K, phosphorus, and calcium than any other animal (Rodale Guide to Composting).

There is no hard data on how much of an impact allowing backyard hens would have on Kingston’s solid waste volume: we expect a small but measurable (on a household level) reduction in waste. Mouscron, a small city in Belgium has twice distributed laying hens to willing residents, as part of a multi-faceted campaign to reduce waste (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8539877.stm, accessed April 9th 2010).

A Community-Building Food Source:

There are a variety of ways in which hens build community. In almost all cities that allow hens, there are henning societies that provide knowledge-sharing venues on-line and in groups. They often form buying clubs to secure better pricing and delivery arrangements. Like dog-owners, henners like to get together and talk shop.

Education:

Children will see where their food comes from and have the chance to eat healthy, ethical food.

A Sustainable pet:

Many owners report taking delight in the behavior and character of their hens. Most continue to care for them when they stop laying after around five years (they might still live another two years). Eight hens would weigh about half of a Labrador retriever, the most popular pet in North America. Eight hens would produce about 240g/day of feces, all of which can be used to make excellent fertilizer (http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract;jsessionid=3F5C48821BFEF99A572D92B6FD803481.tomcat1?fromPage=online&aid=606984 accessed April 9th, 2010). A typical dog produces about 340g/day of feces that must be landfilled (ftp://ftp-fc.sc.egov.usda.gov/AK/…/dogwastecomposting2.pdf accessed April 9th, 2010).

Humane Food:

Backyard hens allow people to detach from the industrial-egg machine. It is not feasible for most to go to a farm in the countryside each week, and the claims that free-range supermarket eggs come from hens with good lives are overstated. They are not in cages, but still live 20,000 to a barn, and though there is an open door in their barn, they never go outside.

An April 7, 2010 video from the Humane Society of the US which depicts the typical treatment of conventionally raised egg laying hens : youtube.com/watch?v=59f3xeUgChc

Canada has 25 million hens are kept in battery cages: http://www.humanefood.ca/battery.html

Food of High Quality:

There can be no substitute for a fresh egg that comes from a healthy hen eating a variety of green leafy matter. The yolks are bright yellow/orange and are much better for cooking and baking.

Healthy Food:

Eggs are a good source of dietary protein (Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating). There is a small but building body of evidence showing that pastured free-range hens that eat a variety of leafy greens (ie grass and carrot tops) are more healthy than barn-raised free-range eggs organic or otherwise. Aside from being free of pesticides and antibiotics, pastured poultry eggs have:

• 1⁄3 less cholesterol
• 1⁄4 less saturated fat
• 2⁄3 more vitamin A
• 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
• 3 times more vitamin E
• 7 times more beta carotene

(motherearthnews.com/Relish/Pastured-Eggs-Vitamin-D-Content.aspxa accessed April 9, 2010).
Animal Rescue

Unlike other pets, which can be bought on impulse because they look cute and are kept indoors, hens require significant input of time and money before they can be brought home. Coops cost upwards of $500 and must be delivered, and home construction is more time-consuming and can not likely be done for less than $200. Furthermore, hens are usually ordered, also requiring forethought.

We are taking steps to ensure that anyone who hens will be prepared and informed of best management practices. Based on this and the experiences of other communities, there seems no reason to anticipate a problem of abandoned hens.

Already there are henners in Kingston raising hens rescued from slaughter at local egg farms. We expect that there would be willing adopters for any hens that are abandoned.

Local veterinarians have expressed a capability to offer full service to hens: treatment, euthanizing, disposal.

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Filed under environmental news, gardening

The nitty gritty

I’ve had parts of this post written since February 2008!
It is due time I finish it, especially in wake of the city strike.This is a really hard post to write because I am trying to keep this blog positive and I also don’t want to be peachy so I keep having to take out parts, and redo them. It definitley isn’t my best piece of writing, but here it is, the post about the shortfalls of recycling and industrial composting.
Recycling
Recycling is completely different that reusing. I once talked to a woman who made crackers about the fact that she packaged them in plastic. I told her if I could get them without a package I would buy some. She got offended and said the plastic was recyclable so it would be the same, put it in the recycling bin and get new plastic-voila. Unfortunately it doesn’t work like that. The bag doesn’t get washed down and used again. It gets broken down into components and made into something else. Not all of the parts can be used, so the rest is waste. Plus you’ve got all the energy and pollution from the trucks and the recycling plants. It’s not an efficient system. I’m not saying don’t recycle, but don’t just recycle. Reduce as much as possible first and then recycle as a last resort.
The other problem with recycling is that programs accept much more than they can actually recycle just to get people to use the program. If there is too much sorting to do, many people just won’t do it, so the idea is to accept as much as possible even though many of the items accepted can’t actually be recycled.Here is the guide of what can and can’t be accepted I was surprised to see that paper can only be accepted if shredded and put in clear plastic bags. Does this mean none of the paper we’ve been putting in the bin has actually been recycled? I need to call and find out. We do use both sides of paper, and we reuse envelopes, but still once that is done, quite a bit goes in the plus bin.
Styrofoam can now be accepted, as well as plastic bags, but both items are difficult to recycle and the end product is not in much demand. For example plastic bags are made into plastic garden furniture-there are way more bags than the amount of furniture needed. In my research, I’ve discovered the #1 reason for recycling plastics is actually job creation.
The city of Toronto has made a goal to divert waste 70% by 2010. There have recently been media exposes on how they are doing that by including items they accept in compost and recycling but don’t actually divert. The city denies this, but does admit to accepting things that can’t be diverted to encourage people to use the programs.
Composting (green bins)
It really saddened me to see how many people got rid of their backyard composters when the green bin came. The green bin should really be for people who can’t have the other (better) kind of compost and maybe don’t want to deal with worms (vermicomposting). We also use it for egg shells and our flushable cat litter because the shells attract rats to our garden and the flushable litter sometimes clogs the toilet. It’s best to keep things in your own backyard, literally. Pretty much everything (food, waste disposal, household goods) is better and more efficient when done closer to home. As soon as you have to deal with transportation, factories etc, the greenness turns murky.
The other sad thing is seeing how many awesome and smart people decide to use disposable diapers instead of cloth because they are accepted in the green bin. The problem is they are not composted. They are accepted in order to up the numbers, but they get picked out in the filter. I called to ask if maybe some of the inside cotton parts get composted and they were reluctant to tell me, but the final answer was NO. The diaper is basically completely filtered out and sent to landfill. It just took a detour to get there.
Before I go, let me say, I think Toronto is putting forth a valiant effort in trying to divert waste. I just think we all need more information about exactly what is happening, and we need to remember that the first step is reducing. The idea of diverting our waste is a bit funny to me too. I think first off we should try to make less, and then divert what’s left. If I were queen of the city I would impose a big tax on garbage. Then people start leaving their packaging at the store and the stores start pressuring the producers and less packaging is made. I am not actually a genius. This is the exact model Germany used.

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Home Grown Revolution

There’s a line in a Modest Mouse song that is something like ” I sound the same when I’m happy and I’m sad” that’s always really resonated with me. I just watched Home Grown Revolution and cried with joy. I would love to meet this family. The one thing I noticed was that they do wrap their veggies in plastic, but it’s not a criticism at all because they are doing so many amazing things. I can’t express my excitement. Just watch or go to the website. Oh I love these people! WHEEEEEEE!

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Filed under alternative housing, environmental news, gardening, groceries, inspiration

Green Washing

A few weeks ago I met my brother (who lives in Midland) at IKEA for a fun family outing. He thought it was hilarious that he was meeting his anti- consumer sister at a big box store. Well, I’m not anti consumer. I have to admit, I love to shop! But, I do think it’s important to know what I am buying and try to make smart choices. Money is power, in more ways than one.

It is getting harder to make smart choices now that it is so hip to be green. So much is just green washing. My brother-in-law ( I usually say my favorite brother in law, but then I realized I actually do have another bro-in law and I don’t want him to be offended) just showed me this chart and it made me very sad. So many organic and fair trade food companies are actually owned by big bad corporations. I knew Converse was bought by Nike and Burt;s Bee’s is now owned by Clorax, but this chart shows that green washing has gotten way out of control.

The day after I saw it, I bought some EARTH’S BEST diaper rash cream for Aurora. The stuff I really like is made by woman in Guelph and she has had some sort of family catastrophe and is not in production right now. So I bought the Earth’s Best even though I knew they were owned by Hienz and I really shouldn’t have. First of all, there was a little styrofoam piece on the top between the cream and the container lid:secondly it doesn’t work very well, and thirdly the lid spontaneously popped up after 3 or 4 uses and won’t close now. That’s Karma for me!
Now to take Green washing more literally, I bought a very expensive mop ($70 after taxes and “shipping”) from Green for Life . I haven’t used it yet and was a bit disappointed that it came wrapped in plastic. I got a sweater stone from the same company and it also came wrapped in plastic. Anyhow it was too big to ship so Cassandra personally delivered it, which was awesome. She’s also really nice. I’ll have to let you know how I like the mop once I actually have time to use it. It seems to me that there are so many things to worry about when trying to shop conscientiously that most people drop one or two- and for some reason the issue of waste and over packaging almost always gets dropped. Even David Suzuki admitted to using disposable cups and food containers sometimes because “there are bigger issues to deal with.” It was kind of funny since he just finished giving a speech about how everything is connected and our society’s problem is that we forget that. Hmmmm Mister Suzuki, I think I found your one fault. That’s OK- you’re still my hero, but I do wish you and the rest of the world cared a bit more about trash!

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Filed under cleaning, cleaning supplies, environmental news, shopping(not groceries), Uncategorized

Less is more

When I first started this project, I quickly learned that recycling was really not the be all and end all. It takes up a lot of energy, causes pollution and only uses a small percentage of the material, landing the rest in land fill. Our society uses it as an easy way out- the more you recycle the better, but it’s not so. It’s best to just not get (or even better, create) the packaging in the first place. Recycling is good as a last resort, after reducing and reusing, but we use it as a salvation. This is old news. I’ve talked about it before and people as a whole are becoming more aware of the recycling myth.

The reason I’m talking about it again, is because there is a new “salvation” on the market. Another quick fix for the planet without changing our excessive lifestyle. It’s corn plastic take-out containers. Many environmentally friendly places are offering this option instead of reusable dishes because it is biodegradable and made from a renewable resource. We don’t have enough space to grow enough corn for the way we consume and again, it takes energy to make and ship the one time use containers. It also takes time and space to break down. It’s a great back-up but it’s not being used that way. Here are some examples. Urban Herbivore pre-makes all their lemonade and puts it in corn plastic cups- you can’t get it in a cup to stay. You can get fresh juices and smoothies to stay, so just don’t order the lemonade. Also the Big Carrot juice Bar has the option to get drinks and food to stay, but both times I’ve been there, they forgot. When I complained, they said “it’s ok because it’s biodegradable corn plastic.” I love the Big Carrot but I won’t be going to the juice bar again.

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No Trash Week!

I recently received an email from Elise from Seattle, Washington who is going to have a No Trash Week in her Community on October 7th -13th! I think this is a fabulous idea. She asked for tips and I replied:

1. Plan Ahead!!!!
-at least a week before you start, go through your house and see if you already have packaged goods or things on the verge of breaking. Get rid of it before you start
-find stores in your area where you can get the things you need package free and stock up in bulk
-if you can’t find your favorite food or snack package free, try to make it. This project is hard enough without having to go without your favorite thing
-get food and snacks ready so you won’t be tempted to run to the convenient store

2. Pack a little garbage free kit to take with you when you go out- a hankie, a reusable cup, may be a plate or tupperware container if you think you will need to eat on the go, and at least one cloth bag.
3. Take some extra time before you leave the house in the morning to make sure you have everything you need to be garbage free that day
4.Go to businesses in slow times if possible so you have time to explain exactly what you want (don’t forget to smile) and why. Ex)” I am doing a project where I can’t make any garbage for a week. I would really like french fires and a drink, but I need you to put the fries in this (hand container) and the drink in this (hand cup) without using anything disposable. Is that possible?”
5. Don’t forget the small things-straws, price tags etc. (fruit stickers are the worst but if you buy your produce from local farmers you can avoid them, or you can pick through for sticker-less ones at the grocery store;) Get used to saying “no straw please”  every time you order a cold drink.
6. This is a lot of work, if you are doing it with a group, use each other! Eat together, go out together-take turns making things you need.
For more long term:
-buy good quality products that won’t break as quickly or have replacement parts
-find your local community outlets-recycling depots, metal workers (who will sometimes accept your beer caps and bottle lids),web forums like Free-use and craigs list where you can give away broken or old things or find someone to fix them.

She has a website that I would recommend : http://notrashweek.com/

And just in case you decide to do it, I want to say it’s very hard, but don’t be discouraged. I try to keep this site on the positive site, but I don’t want to give you the false impression that it is easy. The key is to just do your best, and try not to be too serious. This week at the Farmer’s Market, I was hungry, so I stopped at the pre-made food stall. I asked for a spring roll and she reached for a bag. When I said “no bag please” she grabbed a napkin. I said “no no, I don’t want anything, just the spring roll please”, and she went on a big rant that went something like ” Oh I know your type. People come here all the time wanting to save the world by rejecting all the packaging, so go ahead, just touch all the food with your dirty little fingers…” I said, in a surprisingly calm and even voice, “I don’t want to save the world, I just want that lone spring roll. I don’t have to touch anything else to reach it, and I’m going to eat it.” She continued to rant as I was saying “how much is it?” over and over. I can’t believe that I actually bought it after all that, but I did. I won’t again. The key is finding people who are supportive of the project and make you feel good! The other incident this week was at Sears-not an environmentally friendly place to shop, but it was Sears Days, which means “Big Savings” and I needed nursing bras. I got two and they each came in a cardboard box. I approached the cashier and showed her my shoulder bag and explained that I brought it to avoid getting a plastic bag. She said “OK” and proceeded to wrap the boxed bras individually in tissue paper. I said ” Oh wait, no. I don’t want that. Can you use it again?” and she said “No, it’s all crinkly now” I said ” I really didn’t want any packaging at all-they are already in a box” and she said ” OK, I’ll use it for the next people”. Probably she trashed it as soon as I left, but I hope she really did use it again. These types of things are bound to happen, but I find it best to focus on the positive experiences. In doing so though, it is important to be aware, that it is not always easy, and not everyone is supportive.

P.S. For those of you wondering, I haven’t had the baby yet, but am expecting to any day!

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Filed under environmental news, shopping(not groceries), tips

Registries are fun fun fun!

Yesterday I went to Grassroots and registered for our baby shower. It is so much fun picking out your own gifts! It’s like looking at the Sears Wish Catalogue when I was young. I spent at least an hour there, and in hind site, probably just should have pointed out the items I didn’t want (as there were only 4 or 5).

Grassroots does registries for both wedding and baby showers. I was talking with the cashier there about also having birthday registries, but I’m not sure if that would fly. Showers and Weddings are something that definitely require gifts, but birthdays….not necessarily. May be it would seem demanding or pretentious to have a birthday registry?

We also received our second hand stroller yesterday.Thanks to Sean for driving it up from Midland! It definitely makes the impending birth seem more real with a stroller in our living room!

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