Saturday, April 16, 2011

The W's of Savings in Vancouver

Two general stores the thrifty of Vancouver need to be aware of: Welk's and Wonderbucks.

Now technically Wonderbucks on Broadway is now called "Urban Alley", though the signage incorporates both names (On a side note, the internet never seems to be up-to-date enough for my needs: I went looking for a store on Main Street last month that appeared to be still in existence according to the Internet (Lazy Susan's), but the lovely lady at the Bohemia Gallery gave me the sad news that it had closed its doors for good nearly a year prior...).

Speaking of the internet directory letting me down - Arezzo Consignment in Yaletown is also gone, despite what Google may suggest. Bugger.

Wonderbucks wins the "Best of the City" awards from newspapers like the WestEnder for a reason - it is certainly cheap, often chic, and perhaps most importantly of all isn't Walmart. I hate Walmart, for all the usual green and ethical reasons, but mostly because it's a terrible, terrible place to be. The shopping experience has no positives at Walmart. (This is not a W which I am currently praising!).

Sorry about the image quality - taken with my phone. Great place to get glass storage containers if making the trip out to Ikea fills your heart with dread.

Read my post on Coffee at Home - $10 for a Bodum-style press!

Wonderbucks is great for cooking utensils, plates and glasses, laundry hardware, indoor plants and balcony planters, patio furniture, cheap wall decor, inexpensive rugs, etc. Definitely don't pass by without taking a quick trip through it's aisles! I've also discovered that it's a convenient place to purchase glass storage jars as well.

Not only did I get this all-time favourite tablecloth at Wonderbucks, I also bought the wire basket (which fits my Avalon milk bottles perfectly!), a grapefruit knife (finally - struggling along without one for years), 3 wooden spoons for $1, and a tea strainer/icing sugar duster. Blissful shopping.

Welk's (on Main Street at 19th Ave) is a very useful store, and like Wonderbucks, prides itself on being an old-fashioned 'general store'. It has everything, even Dr Bronner's famous Castille soaps (though I was tipped off by a fellow shopper that Trader Joe's in the US is the cheapest place to buy the large-sized peppermint one. The lady and her partner began to wax poetic on washing with peppermint castille soap in the shower after a workout and the tingly sensation it gives . . . it did not provide a nice mental image, so I haven't tried it myself yet. I used it to clean my patio furniture instead, and that worked very well!).

CHEAPEST place in town to buy Jiffy pellet refills!!! Even cheaper than mail order.

Welk's has a few things Wonderbuck's doesn't bring in (Hallowe'en costumes, pinatas and St Patrick's Day/Easter/Canada Day wearable crap, too), and perhaps most appealing of all (to me), they have racks outside the shop of seedlings - edibles and ornamentals. I loaded up on the usual there last year (alyssums, petunias, gazania daisies, etc.) as well as a few veggies and herbs (cilantro, strawberries, etc.). It's cheap, the selection is surprisingly good, and I didn't have to trek out to a nursery to get them. Reliable but predictable, the plant section is my favourite aspect of Welk's. Good and cheap!

Best way to avoid putting Drano down your pipes? Buy a hair catcher!

...and now for another installment of Green, Broke and Living in Kits Recycling Tips!

Q: Can I recycle my empty paper coffee cups in the 'mixed paper' recycling boxes?

I'm no saint. I make coffee at home, I *sometimes* remember to bring a travel mug, but every so often it's paper-cup time pour moi. I tuck them into my bag and bring 'em home, though, for repurposing!

A: No - you absolutely cannot, I'm very sorry to say.

This is one that stirs up quite a bit of controversy at my two principal work sites. I've seen signs admonishing people for attempting to recycle their paper cups in one area, only to find a stack of empties waist-high, and leaning like the Leaning Tower of Pisa in the corner of the lunchroom. On campus, I've even seen an invitation to recycle coffee cups in a paper bin, but I've never been completely certain if they are possible to recycle (I don't see why not, but that never seems to get me very far if the recycling depots of Vancouver feel otherwise).

This topic is not without controversy elsewhere in the city, either. On the Vancouver Coffee Blog, this article cropped up, mentioning that a Vision Vancouver counsillor had proposed a tax on paper cups.

And last month, David MacPherson posted "The Coffee Cup Conundrum" on SPEC's website (The Society Promoting Environmental Conservation). In it, he gives an estimate of coffee cups in Vancouver comprising 3.5% of landfill waste! That's a staggering statistic! Actually, this whole article is very well-written, and I think I'll defer to David on this subject. Please read on here.

And for those too lazy, I'll quote some of the good bits here (thanks in advance, Mr MacPherson!):

Please follow above link to this excellent article. It's a short one!

So what about those recycling bins for paper cups that the Tim Horton's have? (I never would have known this, were it not for this article - I hate their 'coffee'.). Pure, feel-good, white-washed crap, as explained in the article:

On Tim Horton's recycling bins for cups in-store in Vancouver

At this point (although I'm quite embarrassed to admit to it), I have to share that I have reached into countless trash cans around campus and at work to separate the plastic coffee lids from the cups, believing them to be recyclable. I have another post coming on this subject, and so considering the research I've done I ought to have known better. No matter, I'll leave this 'til the next installment. But in the meantime:

Depressing, yes? I thought so. I always enjoy the hefty ceramic cafe mugs and have been quietly lamenting their demise for purely esthetic reasons previously. Alas.

An final thought from Mr MacPherson:

I'm encouraging you (I hope)! :) Let's all try to avoid these EVEN MORE strongly.

And my advice then, to you: TAKE HOME YOUR COFFEE CUPS AND REUSE THEM!

They make excellent seedling containers (just poke a drainage hole in the bottom and fill with soil!), you can use them as gift packages (no, really! Clean it out (or paint it if it's stained and ugly), keep the lid, stuff the inside with strips of used newspaper or crumbled (reused! Go forth to the craft drawer!) tissue paper, put your small gift inside, and voila! With a bow on the top (loops of newspaper strips taped or glued in the centre would be so cute!), it will be the most talked-about gift at your next party. Also a great gag-gift box for the coworker who WILL NOT recycle - take that! The whole package is reused and recycled. Put in recycled metal bracelets or something from Ten Thousand Villages to really tick 'em off good!

And let's all then resolve to carry our reusable mugs. I know I will after reading the SPEC article above.


  1. Thanks for posting that SPEC article - I've shared it with quite a few people in an effort to reduce the use of paper cups. Love your blog!


  2. Thank you, Rose! I'm glad you're sharing that SPEC article with people! That really helps!!!! :) Thanks for doing this.
    Hayley :)