No Junk Mail, Please

My hang up with ads, flyers and junk mail is long standing.

They are a misuse of resources.

“But Jill, they’re recyclable,” I’ve heard.

Yes, they certainly are.

What’s better than recycling? Not having to recycle.

The junk that shows up in mailboxes and doorsteps is a waste of resources, plain and simple.

Junk mail is a waste of trees, paper, water, ink, tiny plastic windows in envelops, thick plasticky bands that bind the piles together in distribution centres, gas, exhaust fumes and time spent on getting them out to households.

Ads, flyers and junk mail often contain information on services I don’t want, stores I don’t spend my money at, products I’ll never buy and political faces I don’t want to see in my mailbox.

Living in this technological world means easier access to the products we do want, at stores we frequent and for services we need.

We have apps and websites at our fingerprints that allow us to cherry pick what is of interest to us.

Stopping junk mail distribution is easy.

If you’re getting a pile of flyers on your doorstep at the same time as your free weekly local newspaper, call the distribution department and ask them to stop delivery.

If it’s in your mailbox, put a sign on it (or on the inside of your community box) asking for no unaddressed mail.

Save time. Save resources. Ditch the junk mail.

 

Turning Trash Into Puppy Love

Two local ladies are helping Ottawa’s pets in need by recycling and upcycling just about anything they can get their paws on.

Barbara Poulin and Melody Lachance run Empties for Paws – Barrhaven & Area, a not-for-profit group.

They turn appliances, textiles, empties (including wine box bladders!) into cash and supplies to help rescued cats and dogs.

The duo pick up, collect and sort broken Christmas lights, power cords, coffee makers, telephones and e-waste. 

They bring what they’ve collected to the scrap yard, where they are paid by the pound.

Local groups that benefit from the Barrhaven chapter of Empties for Paws include Adopt Me Cat Rescue, Safe Pet Ottawa, Pet Resource Bank and Vanier Street Cat Project.

The money helps the groups to get animals spayed or neutered, provide young kittens without their mothers with specialty food, assist seniors and low income pet owners with transportation to get to the vet and foster animals that need a home while their family members leave abusive situations.

The ladies have raised nearly 2,000$ since March 2015.

But it’s not all about the money.

Donations are another major factor in their achievements.

They pick up, collect and distribute donated carrying cases, cages, crates, beds, food, cat litter, litter boxes and toys.

These ladies are also crafty and creative. They upcycle gifted textiles, fabrics, towels and bedding; transforming them into animal beds, pads, toys and tuggs.

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Upcycled tuggs and beds.

I love this program. Helping local pets in need through a recycling and upcycling program has my two thumbs up.

So don’t throw out those random cords or telephones that don’t work! Don’t stick your beer cans in the recycling!

They have another purpose to serve: helping animals in need.

If you have anything that could help Barb and Melody on their mission with Ottawa rescued cats and dogs, please send me a message or be in touch with them directly.

They can be reached via the Empties for Paws – Barrhaven and area Facebook page.

If you’re reading this and are no where near Ottawa but would like to help, place a call to your local animal shelters or pet rescue organizations.

Living Locally Fair(ly)

The Living Local Fair is a must do event for locavores, foodies and craft lovers in and around Ottawa.

It was my first time attending this fast growing fair and it did not disappoint.

I headed out to St. Thomas Aquinas high school in Russell, Ont., yesterday with my 3.5 year old for some mother-daughter time.

She loves going to fairs and markets with me because she sometimes gets her face painted and always ends up with a tasty treat (or two).

I love it because it’s a wholesome approach to shopping that is unparalleled by any other shopping experience.

By taking my girls to community events like these, they will learn the value in meeting the growers and vendors whose very hands produce and provide top quality goods and edibles. They will see how people use their resources, skills and talent to develop thriving businesses. They will cherish the community in which they live. They will know where their food comes from.

Plus, it’s a really great social event and the cheese is always so amazing.

So off we went to the Fair in Russell, a quaint rural(ish) municipality, only 30 minutes from the capital.

It drew a large crowd of people from all over the region and there is something spectacular about a large group of like-minded people gathering to support local artisans, food producers, farmers, businesses and organizations.

There are so many vendors and exhibitors that the the lower level classrooms are transformed into vendor rooms. The gym, cafeteria and hallways were filled with wonderful products and people.

From locally produced cheeses, meats and honey, to organic seeds and teas, and a theatre group painting youngster’s faces, there was something for everyone. Including this little one.


It’s always nice to see familiar people from farmers markets around the city and to meet some some new faces.

Including this guy.

How I love this guy.

He is an eco exhibit created to bring awareness to the waste we produce. 

And what a great lesson he teaches and a perfect place to be displayed.

Pods are not recyclable, compostable, reusable or biodegradeable.

In fact, Keurig’s Green Mountain fiscal report for 2015 states that it sold more than 10.5 billion pods that year alone.

Ann, the very kind volunteer who greeted us on upon our arrival, and who later directed us towards the face painting booth, was the teacher behind this eco project.

She also brought a greenhouse and garden to the school. 

I am a firm believer that schools (and parents and caregivers, too) should teach students the importance of gardening and growing food and here is Ann, doing it.

I hope that my own children have teachers like Ann. I wish I would have had teachers like her.

A lot of people truly care about eco matters and it’s refreshing to see them educating the young and the not so young.

I’m sure she and her pod monster inspired a few people at the Fair to rethink the waste they produce. She undoubtedly inspires her students and colleagues everyday. 

The Living Locally Fair was a great experience on so many fronts and I picked up some delicious treats along the way.

I just wish it happened more than just once a year! 

My loot. Some are old favs, including the amazing blue cheese from the Fromagerie Montebello, peperettes from Trillium Meadows and duck eggs (a rareity this time of year). And some new products to try, including sausages from Korean sausages from L & J Foods, nuts from Owl’s Nest and organic seeds from Greta’s Organic Seeds.

Is Your Christmas Tree Still Around?

Ours certainly is.

But it’s not too late to do fun and beneficial things with the yet-to-be-disposed-of trees.

Check out some of these ideas:

Some local farms appreciate donated trees. Turns out that goats love them! So find a local goat farm and see if it wants your tree.

Tree trimmings make excellent wreaths so try your hand at making a winter-y themed wreath.

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Make a natural potpourri. Just grab a bunch of clippings, a quarter of an orange, a cinnamon stick and a few whole cloves and mix with water. Turn the stove on low and enjoy the seeping aroma. Do keep an eye on the water level though.

Put it in the backyard and load it up with bird friendly food. It’ll act as a sanctuary for small birds.

Have a bonfire.

I’ll be making another wreath and some potpourri before it’ll go in the backyard laden with treats for the birds.

We’ll bird watch until the snow melts away in the spring, then we’ll have a bonfire.

Happy New Year!

Jill

 

 

Jewelry Box Makeover

I found this very dated jewelry box at a second hand store in the summer and bought it with the intention of giving it a makeover and gifting it to my three year old for Christmas.


Naturally, I didn’t hide if very well and she found it (more than once). Every time she played with it, she told me how much she liked it. It was destined to be a hit.

I thought about reconstructing it to really make it unique but reason won. She’s three and a half and her little sister’s current nickname is “The Destroyer”.

I’ll be happy if the jewelry box makes it through to the end of January.

They will eventually each get an heirloom box but that can wait until they can appreciate, and not tear apart, pretty things.

For those reasons, I kept this makeover simple.

Luckily the itty bitty handle pulls are quite lovely and complement the colour I chose, “sovereign”, quite well.

I used four different but equally pretty pretty crafting paper I had kicking around. I applied Modge Podge to both glue and seal the paper to the glass.



On Christmas morning, it was a hit.

She loved the box and the bracelets I hid inside.

We bonded on a busy Christmas morning when I explained that was a special gift just for me to her. She understood.

Every time someone comes over, she brings them to show them her “special” jewelry box.

Awwww.

This was such a fun project to work on that I can’t wait to work on more custom jewelry boxes.

 

Green Giving 

My husband came up with the best Christmas gifts for his colleagues.

He cut off nearly a dozen baby offshoots from our large and happy spider plant and potted them in some old, unused and chipped mugs.

Since I can’t throw anything out, I’m so pleased that the mugs have been repurposed. 

I also love that our spider plant is going to improve the air quality while brightening up his stuffy workplace.

And, for bonus points, no waste was produced. 

I’m certain his colleagues will appreciate such a sweet and thoughtful gift.

Bravo!! 

Wreath making fun

We bought our Christmas Fraser fir from a local Kiwanis Club chapter. I had three feel good moments about the interaction: 1) all proceeds go to charity 2) the volunteers are a group of local older gentlemen that spent way too much time entertaining us and 3) I got two big bundles of boughs, for free.

And since I really wanted to put my own decorations together at minimal cost, free works for me.

Keeping with a natural theme, my plan was to make the wreath form with vine like branches, rather than plastic or metal.

I took my three year out for a stroll by the overgrown wooded area bordering our property. I found quite a few supple branches that would do just nicely for this project.

I ask my dear little sweetheart to put the branches in a large box for me. (She really loves to help.) I turned around to keep collecting branches and when I looked back, she was breaking each branch into tiny three inch sections, “so they could fit better in the box.”

Suddenly I had a lot more branches to find.

But it’s amazing what you can find when you’re looking.

Before long, we were warming ourselves inside and I had a wealth of branches to choose from.

I cut the boughs into manageable pieces and covered my twig wreath round with fir.

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I wrapped floral wire around the wreath after I’d finished laying the boughs.

After hot gluing a few pine cones we found on a nature walk and two sprigs of fake berries that a toddler can’t eat, I made a quick bow with Christmas ribbon I had.

IMG_1135IMG_1134I think it turned out quite nicely but the best part of all was turning my wreath making venture into a great couple of hours with my pre-schooler. With her own wreath to decorate, hot chocolate in hand and carols over the speaker, we made lovely holiday memories.

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But Sometimes You Need to Buy Things

I’m tired of being told by advertisers and retailers when to shop, what to buy and what I need.

Stores filled with St-Valentine’s hearts in December, St-Patrick’s Day paraphernalia and plastic Easter baskets in mid-February, orange Halloween decorations in the summer, Christmas in September and mega-sales on bonafide holidays have driven me to spend my money elsewhere.

There’s nothing of quality in most the aforementioned holiday stuff. It’s all junk, made overseas, brought here by exhaust producing transport trucks and packaged in plastic. Once broken or used a couple of times, the garbage truck will bring the items to the dump where they won’t decompose or degrade for decades.

That’s a pretty grim reality for most things were buy.

The anti-consumerism movements that have taken off in recent years are amazing. And some are even retailer supported.

Patagonia, the California based outdoor clothing company, is encouraging people who own their clothing to repair and trade amongst themselves rather than buy new. There aren’t many retailers who support and encourage consumers to extend the life of their products.

And the Canadian who started Buy Nothing Day is a prince among thieves, in my opinion.

As a consumer who is aware of my carbon footprint, I buy a lot of pre-loved clothing, toys and wares, I upcycle furniture while maintaining a minimal impact, I don’t buy throw away goods and I reuse as much as I can.

The last few pieces of new clothing I can remember buying were maternity or pre-maternity. Since I only go to playgroups and paint stores now, I’ve mostly gotten away with it.

But when I realized that most of my clothing is ill-fitting, off season or paint stained, I decided it was time to shop for myself. I can’t wear my tight paint stained shorts during a Canadian January.

So we packed up for an outing to the mall today.

And, ouch.

I stood in front of the only retailer that I knew would have a few things that would fit, that I’d like, that would be reasonably price and that would get my kids home in time for lunch: The Gap.

Then I saw the sign: “50% Black Friday Sale”.

Sigh.

I went in anyways because outings with two young children in tow are difficult to manage. I went in because I desperately needed clothing, for myself. I went in because I didn’t go there expecting a sale. I went in because it was the Wednesday before Black Friday.

I bought a few things because I know my track record. I’ll repair them when they rip and the buttons fall off and, once I can’t repair them anymore, I’ll cut them into rags and use them to buff wax from my latest piece of furniture.

Because sometimes we need to buy things.

 

 

 

 

If a Three Year Old Can Do It…..

I had a proud crunchy mama moment the other day.

My three year old was sweeping the remains of her younger sister’s meal from off the floor and putting them in the dustpan.

She starting picking items out and making two piles.

“One is for the outside compost, the other is for the compost under the sink,” she said.

And sure enough, the fruit and vegetables bits were in one pile while the meat and bread with other.

(We compost vegetable, fruit and leaves for the garden but send all the other compostables to municipal composting heaven.)

The next time someone tells me composting is too complicated, I’ll have my daughter explain how it works.

 

Paper Cup Chaos

The media seems obsessed with the Starbucks paper cup controversy and causing people to rethink the meaning of Christams and the colour red.

What a crock.

The whole debated is trivial and cause for distraction.

If anyone honestly thinks that Starbucks has the power to insult Christmas, it’s time to get their head out of corporate asses

What’s offensive are the paper cups themselves.

They’re a burden on our environment, a waste of precious resources and a prime example of how lazy and wasteful we’ve become. It’s time to shift away from our throw away culture and invest in long(er) term goods and services.

Ditch the paper cups. Get a mug. A pretty red one 🙂