Thursday, May 5, 2011

Poppies from PowerSmart & a Popping of the Inflated Eco-Ego

The whole purpose of my blog is to share tips and tricks that I've come across to better assist someone on a tight budget in Vancouver on how they can live greener, more economical lives, and wherever possible, make more ethical choices.

I signed up with Team PowerSmart, and was already doing what I could do to keep my electricity bill low. See my previous post on how I was accomplishing it!

But unfortunately, once the occupancy of your apartment doubles, it seems that electricity consumption goes up. I had planned on saving energy by 10% in a year, only apparently I'm up 21 kWh.... You see, honesty is important, so I'm going to have to admit my failures and shortcomings on this blog, too!

I'm going to continue to pledge to reduce electricity use, but once you've gone bare-bones, it's really difficult to scrap anything else! Especially when you live in a rental suite - I can't change my old, inefficient appliances; I can't make major changes in insulation in the floors and walls or the roof; I've put in fluorescent bulbs everywhere I can (some old fixtures won't even take them!); turned down the heat; used a single burner on the stove to reduce 'warming up' wasted energy; unplugged all unused electronics and I've put both computers and their equipment on powerbars, which are switched off during the day.

I've even stopped blow drying my hair! I also avoid using the dryer (and use a clothes rack - my clothes and my hair have benefitted from these practices!), but the dryer electricity is not tied into my suite's readings. There are apparently many challenges associated with reducing your electricity bill, though it is entirely possible to reduce your actual consumption overall, despite the fact that PowerSmart might not pick up on it. Your efforts at work, for example, will also not be reflected on your personal bill.

Oh well. I'll keep trying. I can console myself that remembering that between my partner and I, we've likely decreased our combined energy usage in the grand scheme of things.

Although I'm embarrassed to see my consumption has increased, I'm quite happy to enjoy the perks of Team PowerSmart membership! Which included free WestCoastSeeds in the mail! Shirley Poppies - they'll look great in the street garden!

If anyone has any additional tips or insight on how best to further reduce energy consumption (I want that $75 reward!), I'd love to hear them, particularly if they're rental apartment specific! I promised a "raw food" entry on my blog (it's coming - but probably after the wedding! So busy!), and in the summertime it's particularly welcoming to enjoy an unheated meal. That's another great way to reduce energy consumption - cut back on stove and microwave use!

And now, it's another.....

Today's Green, Broke & Living in Kits Recycling Tip is on Aluminum Foil!

Q: Can aluminum foil be recycled, even once it's all crumpled and used and slightly gross from food residue?

A: Yes! Though I'm sure they'd prefer it to be clean, but yes, even grimy, used aluminum foil can get put in the recycling bins in Greater Vancouver. So can empty aluminum take-away containers (like the round foil ones that Chinese food comes in, or pasta from a Greek/Italian restaurant). Like pop cans, it's all melted down and reused. (Don't forget foil yogurt caps, too!).

Some examples of aluminum food containers that can be recycled

The best thing you can do, as always, is to reuse the container or foil a few times more before recycling it, thus extending its use and hopefully preventing use of more foil in the process. I reused a big empty container left over from my partner's volunteer position at a soup kitchen for holding seedlings on my kitchen table or living room floor for a few seasons. Once it had finally become a pain, I simply put it into the recycling bin. Who knows - I may have even purchased the same foil when I bought recycled aluminum foil from the store (which is a fantastic thing to do!).

The label is a bit 'guilt-trip' heavy, but it's a good choice regardless!

Chuck the foil scraps in the recycling bin!

You can also use empty containers as paint palettes, as seedling pots themselves (the deeper ones anyway), or as trays for storing yucky, drippy bottles in (i.e. if you have half-used motor oil containers and you don't want a greasy ring on the cement floor of your garage, put an empty Chinese food tin under it and voila!). There's about a million kid's craft ideas with empty aluminum containers as well, so if you have small children you'd like to entertain on the cheap, stack these up in a cupboard somewhere! (These butterflies are great - I would have loved to make them as a kid!).

Recycle me! And the yogurt-tops, too!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Go and Vote!

Happy Elections Day, Canada!

Time to put your ballot where your heart is. This election campaign season has been FULL of surprises (Jack Layton's NDP squashing the Ignatieff-lead Liberals in the polls 2 to 1? The NDP taking over Quebec? Harper up to his usual slimy tricks and making disparaging, fear-mongering remarks about the competition, but NEVER committing to any real promises that we can hold him accountable to? Oh wait, they ALL do that!).

(I see the irony of putting the badge on imported fruit, yes. It was esthetically pleasing, though).

I think this is the election where voting with your heart & mind for the party and/or candidate you feel best represents your needs is the best possible move.

For once, we can't for sure say that it will be a Conservative majority, and maybe we'll force a minority. Or that a vote for anyone BUT the Liberals is effectively a vote for the Conservatives.

Not this year!

Vote how you will, but please vote with your heart. Vote for the candidate and/or party that you actually WANT to win, in an ideal world. Don't vote for someone to keep someone else out (I think someone else has done a good enough job of that himself!).

Myself, I'm voting GREEN. I don't dislike Hedy Fry, but I really want to give Adrienne Carr a voice in Ottawa. I want the following:

  • No supertankers travelling along our coast. (Read more from my friends at The Dogwood Initiative here)
  • Actual committment and movement on the sensible/sustainable/sanity front in terms of environmental impact goals (i.e. the Kyoto accord, which Canada has thus far welched on!). Did you hear Harper's rousing speech on making Canada a "leader" amongst nations? I agree! So vote green (or heck, even NDP is probably a greener option)!
  • Someone elected by Canada's citizens to remind the fat white guys in Ottawa (who are constantly wined and dined by Big Pharma, and 'Big Business' in general) that what we're chiefly concerned about are environmental issues (among other important things as well, of course).
Adapted from - Please see their website for the full story!

Don't let the white-bred Right tell you that a vote for the Green Party (or the NDP's or the Liberals for that matter) is a vote for anarchy! C'mon, the country won't collapse if Layton's in charge, and having Green party members does not mean holding Woodstock in the House of Commons. How gullible do the Conservatives think Canadians are?

Grow some change! Let's have a Green Member of Parliament! Even just one!

I guess after so many years of letting our public health care system and education systems suffer (and giving lots and lots of tax breaks to their rich industry buddies instead!), they can probably safely assume that our brains collectively aren't running at 100%.  Maybe they've succeeded in adopting American-Republican style politics North of the 48th parallel. I hope not. (By the way, props to Obama for releasing a video of his 'birth' to silence Fox News! Ha! Love it!).

So fight back, buy into NOTHING, and vote for the candidates that you most want forming our government. I feel quite confident that if we all vote for who we truly want to vote for, Green or otherwise, we'll have a much better House of Commons, getting things done that we the citizens want done and need done. Not what Monsanto wants done, not what 'Pharma' wants done, and not what the Oil Companies want, but what the tax-paying, hard-working Canadians actually want done.

If you're in Saanich-Gulf Islands (and I know many of you who are!), let's get in Elizabeth May! Make history! Just one Green MP will make a difference, giving a fresh voice and a real perspective to our elected representatives! Do it!

Go and vote! :)