Spring Awakening

Although it seems like all’s been quiet on The Green Bin front for the last few weeks, there’s actually been so much happening behind the scenes!

Now that I’ve got a couple large commissioned projects finished and happily tucked away in their new homes, I’m ready to officially unveil a new The Green Bin website and logo!

They reflect the direction that The Green Bin has been taking for the past few months: a furniture and home goods upcycling business that blogs about eco related topics.

How did this happen?

Well, The Green Bin began as an eco blog.

At around the same time, I rediscovered my love for refinishing and upcycling furniture. Before long, I was selling pieces and having fun doing it.

It just made sense to combine the two elements under The Green Bin.

Upcycling falls into the green movement as it offers a more conscientious alternative to buying new goods.

Refusing to buy new products reduces our carbon footprint and upcycling keeps items with life left in them out of landfills.

It also helps reuse items no longer wanted or loved, repairs anything that needs attention and extends the life and beauty of furniture and home goods.

Plus, there are so many gorgeous, vintage, unique and custom pieces out there to find!

Welcome to the new and improved The Green Bin.

 

 

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.

Composting for Dummies

The compost bin has arrived!

I’ve been yearning for a backyard compost bin for years so this is a big thing in my life.

When I lived in an apartment, my friend suggested I put one on my 11th floor concrete balcony. I instead decided to wait until I had my own backyard.

The first house we bought was a cute townhouse with a backyard the size of a large swimming pool. It was in the middle of a suburban neighbourhood that managed to successfully ban clothes lines for a number of years. (That ban was finally overturned in 2008.)

A neighbourhood that fights against line drying isn’t going to be receptive to composting and I didn’t want to ruffle the feathers of the other homeowners.

Plus, we bought this home knowing that it was going to be a short term purchase.

Faced with three options, the choice was easy: move a big pile of rotting food, leave it for whomever buys our home or hold off on backyard composting.

So we waited.

Three years, and two babies, later we sold and moved to our forever home.

We upgraded our pool sized yard to a half acre. We ditched wall to wall neighbours for one neighbour and a farmer’s field. We moved to a place that never disallowed drying linens outside. We moved to a place where I could compost.

But we moved in November so I had to wait until spring.

Thanks in part to having months to scroll through Pinterest, I’d been secretly wanting a rustic DIY compost with two bins made of chicken wire and wood pallets. I could eventually put the chicken coop and bee hive nearby and tether the grass cutting goat on the side yard.

My husband does not share this vision. He’d be happier having nothing to with composting but he humours me.

So I was overjoyed when he went to the hardware store and picked up a compost bin.

It’s not the one from my Pinterest boards but it’s made from one hundred per cent recycled material so it’s okay by me. Compromise.

I assembled it and put it in the most compost friendly spot in the yard. It’s sunny and accessible and far away from our only adjacent neighbours.

I followed the instructions and layered twigs on the bottom to help with aeration. I then put a layer of “brown” or “dry” material, so mostly leaves. Then I layered the “green” or “wet” material, that’s where food stuff comes in.

Alternate green and brown waste. Et voilà. I’m a composting queen.

It’s pretty basic actually. We stick with the basics and only put fruit, vegetables, eggs and coffee grinds in the bin. I’m really good at the coffee grinds. Next year’s tomatoes are going to be coffee flavoured.

It’s surprisingly clean and totally odourless. It doesn’t even smell like coffee.

Despite our new found backyard composting ways, we are continuing with the city run composting program. We’ve been participating for a few years and it’s great. It takes items that are discouraged in our backyard compost: meat, oil, dairy, weeds and questionable leftovers.

We’ve been surprised by the amount of nighttime visitors our backyard receives. The local wildlife, probably raccoons, was getting the lid off the bin. I know that raccoon are clever but are they really able to lift the lid off that’s more than three feet off the ground? We must have really tall raccoons.

An impressive feat no doubt but not one that can be a regular occurrence. What raccoons don’t know is that we have an arsenal of bungee cord so I McGuyvered the lid and haven’t had an issues since.

With the pests at bay and the new routine of two separate compost bins figured out, all I have to do is wait until the old food turns to dirt. And dream about chicken coops and bee hives.

Crafts With the Power to Defy Earth Day Logic

Happy Earth Day!

It’s a day to celebrate this gorgeous rotating orb we live on and to pledge not to do anymore bad things to it.

In my quest to find a fun and eco-friendly craft for my toddler, I’ve discovered the thick irony of Earth Day crafts for toddlers and young children.

And it’s boldly written in paper and plastic.

I’m not anti-crafts, we do paper crafts at home and at playgroups. They are an easy, creative and inexpensive way for children to develop fine motor skills and develop critical thinking skills while making pretty things.

However, are paper and plastic crafts the best way to celebrate Earth Day?

Er, probably not.

Schools, daycares, nursery schools and homes around the world will be printing colouring pages and buying construction paper to educate children on the importance of Earth Day.

Sigh.

Now that the trees have been chopped down, children will be writing their eco-pledges on pieces of paper that will be glued to construction paper and taped to the wall. Egg cartons will be cut, painted and glued to cardboard in the shape of a tree. Paper plates will be coloured in the green and blue hues of the planet. Paper mâché globes will hang from ceilings.

Oh, how ironic. Paper crafts that teach the importance of conserving resources.

And now for the plastic. I have a really hard time with the plastic.

I gave up plastic bottles and their beverages years ago so you’d be hard pressed to find any in my house. So for us to do to a plastic bottle craft, I would have to get in my vehicle, drive to the store, buy a bottle of soda, sugary juice or (gasp!) water, empty it, wash it and then craft it. A lot of the plastic bottle crafts I’ve seen involve painting, filling with dirt, gluing, shredding or cementing.

Now that doesn’t seem to be in the spirit of Earth Day at all.

Dare I even wonder how many parents, caregivers or nursery schools are going to take the time to clean those bottles and put them in the recycling after Earth Day? Many of these crafts will end up directly in a landfill.

And let’s face it, plastic bottle crafts kind of suck. No one really wants a plastic bottle bird feeder hanging from a tree. Not even grandma will hang onto that for very long.

Let’s not forget how terrible those plastic bottles are. Not only are they often filled with questionable beverages with no nutritional value, the plastic itself is laden with chemicals that can leach into drinks. They’re also a nightmare for the environment.

Now I can’t totally knock plastic drinking bottles. There are places in the world that desperately need clean drinking water and bottled water saves many lives. They are a short-term solution to a very real and pressing issue: 750 million people worldwide lack clean drinking water. That’s simply unacceptable.

Celebrating Earth Day by gluing paper and painting plastic bottles isn’t good enough for our children. How can they possibly learn the value of using less plastic and paper when they’re taught from a very young age that plastic is used to celebrate Earth Day?

There are better, more permanent, ways to commemorate this significant day:

  • Planting trees and vegetable seeds in biodegradable cups
  • Bringing egg cartons to local egg farmers to be reused
  • Turning turn off the tap while brushing teeth and washing hands
  • Involving children in food buying
  • Using a rain barrel to water gardens

We won’t be crafting today, but we will be planting some tomato seeds. Earth Day isn’t just a day. It’s an opportunity to sow a project that will last well beyond April 22.

Happy Earth Day,

Jill

Going Green(er)

Going green isn’t about achieving a destination: it’s a journey on a path.

That path is sometimes so clearly identified and well trodden that anyone can find their way around. What do I mean?

Well, recycling pops into mind:

  • Rinse the can.
  • Drop it in the blue bin.
  • Put the bin at the road.
  • Pick up by recycling truck.
  • Put empty bin in garage.
  • Repeat.

I’ve got that down pat.

Other times, the path breaks off into so many other overgrown paths that the options become muddled. What do I mean?

Well, composting pops into mind:

  • Buy expensive compost bags for the city run program.
  • Use bags (for a number of years).
  • Put allowed items in the bags.
  • Put bags in green bin.
  • Put bin at road.
  • Feel good about effort.
  • Refuse pick up by compost truck.
  • Call the city.
  • Explain to the city that we’ve been using same bags for years.
  • Discover that local stores sell compostable bags that the city doesn’t accept.
  • Feel ashamed that effort has been in vain.
  • Listen patiently as city says only option is to remove all compostable bags from bin.
  • Remove two week old compost from the bags in the bin.
  • Return bin to the road, sans compostable bags.
  • Return of compost truck.
  • Pick up by compost truck.
  • Put empty bin to garage.
  • Vow to never buy compostable bags again.
  • Look into home composting.
  • Become overwhelmed by options: location, bins, worms, winter composting.
  • Scratch head.
  • Buy compost bags sanctioned by the city until another solution is found.
  • Feel somewhat good about effort put in.
  • Wait until spring for new solution.

True story.

What I find interesting about going green, other than watching husband’s face as he rifles through two week old compost bins, are the endless options available.

Back to my example.

There are levels of composting: you can use the city run program or go totally hardcore and start a worm colony. I’m not sure where we’ll end up on the spectrum, probably somewhere in between. I’m not a particular fan of worms.

Nothing is black and white. It’s….well….green. And there are many shades of green.

Although I’ve been treading on a light green path for a number of years, having children made me really reconsider how much more I can do.

Being green(er) is thinking about and putting effort into waste reduction, eliminating household toxins, buying local, gardening, rearing green babies, becoming energy efficient, cooking, re-using, enjoying a conscious way of living and being more natural.

This blog is about my effort, no, my vow, to be more naturally green.

Happy health,

Jill