Monday, March 31, 2008

Time to step it up

As far as the Riot for Austerity goes, I've been kind of lax in the following areas:
Consumer Goods and

Basically I've been feeling too lazy to keep track of it all. But what I'm finding is that if I'm not keeping track of it, I'm not so good about keeping to the rules.

Plus a couple of articles shook me out of my inertia today.

First was Greenpa's post today which among other things included a link to a NY Times article on food shortages/price increases around the world. It talks specifically about the rice situation and it seems riots for rice can now be added to the riots already happening for soybeans and corn.
The situation is pretty bad and it reminded me how important it is to buy food from local farmers.

Second was a note from a friend that pointed me to this Time article. It's about biofuels (aka the biggest item on the green washing agenda). Deforestation is set to double in Brazil (the Amazon) this year. All to make way for biofuel production . I feel a bit teary about it to be honest.

Third was 'Dispatches' tonight on CBC radio - 'the nuclear renaissance'. Was a fairly well balanced program. I recommend listening to it. Personally I'm against nuclear. I know its 'clean' but is just too plain dangerous for my liking. Especially on a huge scale (as in if most our energy were to come from nuclear - which is where we seem to be going). I think there are better options - George Monbiot in his book Heat has some good suggestions. But ultimately if we all used a hell of a lot less electricity (which IS possible and really doesn't impact life that much), we wouldn't even need to have this debate.

Anyway, all that to say, I'm reminded why what I'm doing what I'm doing. And so I'm pledging to do the following here on Experiments:

Sunday's will become Consumer Goods Day - I'll blog about everything I bought that week that wasn't food or a service. Hopefully it will be a short list.

Wednesdays will become Gasoline Wednesdays - I'll blog about how many km I travelled by car and by public transport and under my own steam. And I'll post how I'm doing percentage wise for the riot.

Fridays will become - Foody Fridays - I'll blog about my % of local food consumed that week and also about my 'best' and 'worst' meal.

I hope can stick to this. Feel free to give me a nudge if I forget.

Oh and my favourite quotes from the Time article on biofuels:
"There was just one flaw in the calculation: the studies all credited fuel crops for sequestering carbon, but no one checked whether the crops would ultimately replace vegetation and soils that sucked up even more carbon. It was as if the science world assumed biofuels would be grown in parking lots. The deforestation of Indonesia has shown that's not the case. It turns out that the carbon lost when wilderness is razed overwhelms the gains from cleaner-burning fuels."

"The lesson behind the math is that on a warming planet, land is an incredibly precious commodity, and every acre used to generate fuel is an acre that can't be used to generate the food needed to feed us or the carbon storage needed to save us."

Low impact gifts

Here are some examples of gifts I gave recently. Since I'm trying to keep my consumer goods purchases to 10% of the average, I stuck (mostly) to second-hand and handmade gifts.

For hubby's b'day:
-4 second hand books from All Books and the Book Market
-a gift certificate for our favourite restaurant
-an antique whiskey glass from Champagne dit Lambert
-some candy from 7-11 (because it's a strange tradition)
-some hand made chocolates

For a friend's b'day:
a hand made journal:

I followed these instructions to construct the journal. And then these instructions for the embroidered cover. What you can't see in the pic is that I used paper that had already been printed on one side (non confidential paper from a friend's work). Also I used cardboard from discarded computer boxes from work and fabric I bought from used ottawa in the summer.

And these fingerless gloves:

I refined my earlier design - pattern to come (I'll put it in the comments). I made these ones with the yarn that was freecycled to me.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Earth Hour

Lights on:

Lights off:

This last pic was at city hall. All the lights were out and it was getting quite dark at this point so my camera didn't want to take the picture. Managed to get this one but the exposure time was so long that it looks like it was all lit up even though it wasn't. I like the pic all the same though.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

One of my favourite days of the year

Is the day that I can hang the laundry outside for the first time. For 2008 it was today! Such a beautiful day. Didn't get above 0 degrees but the sun was warm enough and the wind was strong enough to totally dry a full line of clothes. Hopefully tomorrow will be the same.

To top off this great day I spent an hour or so in the sun room working on my latest crochet project. There isn't much better than sitting in the sunshine. So relaxing.

And now I'm about to unplug my computer in preparation for earth hour - tonight 8-9pm.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008


It feels odd to be blogging about heat now that the snow is finally starting to melt. I could blame a number of things for my delay, but the biggest reason is that it's just, plain, old, hard to measure. See our natural gas supplier has been over estimating our bills for ages which means we have really skewed numbers for our historical usage. And this makes it impossible to compare month to month usage like - last year this time we used x cubic metres, this year we used x.

What I can say is that our gas bills have been reduced by approx. one half over what we paid last winter.

So what did we do?

Well we turned the heat down to:
64 during the day, 67 in the evening and 61 at night.

Since our apartment and our tenant's apartment are on the same heating system, we were reluctant to go much lower. But that's for the best really as our apartment ends up being 2 degrees cooler than our tenant's apartment.

(the second floor in our apartment is heated with electric heat and we've kept that at 55 degrees day and night)

Taking navy showers has been helping to reduce our gas consumption as well. Shorter showers = less hot water used = less natural gas used to heat the water.

What did I learn? That lower household temperatures are totally manageable. In fact the temperature we had our thermostat set at was still higher than the average temperature 30 years ago. According to 'How to Live a Low Carbon Life', the average internal temperature in UK homes in 1971 was 59. Now it is 68. The current North American average is probably even higher.

As for the Riot, while we have reduced our consumption quite a bit, I don't think we are on track for a 90% reduction. At least not if you consider this house to be one household.

According to the stats I found, the average Canadian household uses: 2,871 cu metres of natural gas a year.

Last year we used more than that (approx. 3,297 cu metres). So what will make a real difference for us is whether a house that is split into 2 apartments is one household or two.

I'm leaning towards two. But is that just messing with the numbers to make them work in my favour?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Green travel

I had to travel for work recently and so I thought I'd blog about some of the things I did to green it up.

  • Brought my stainless steel water bottle so I didn't have to buy bottled water

  • Took the train instead of flying

  • Continued to selectively flush and take navy showers

  • Cancelled the newspaper left outside my room every day

  • Cancelled my turn down service (came back to my room the first night to lights and radio on!!)

  • Brought my own food in reusable containers for breakfasts and snacks

  • Hung up my towels each morning so they didn't get washed

  • Before leaving home, I researched nearby restaurants that I could walk to (found a great veg. restaurant)

  • Brought home all my paper waste to make sure it got recycled

  • Resisted the urge to use the cute, nice smelling bottles and tubes of shampoo, lotion, soap etc. in my bathroom. Instead I used my own shampoo, lotion, and soap that I'd brought from home.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Baby crochet

Six weeks ago yesterday dear friends of ours welcomed their daughter into the world. She was in such a hurry to get here and meet everyone though that she arrived more than 7 weeks early. She was healthy right from the word go but was tiny at only 2lbs. As soon as we got the news I went on line to look for preemie crochet patterns. I really wanted to make her a tiny hat and booties right away to keep her warm in the NICU. But I was still just learning and couldn't figure out the patterns. So when I found this pattern for a blanket and it wasn't too complex, I decided to try that.

Since I'm trying to not buy anything new (for the Riot I'm keeping my consumer spending to 10% of the average), I used the yarn that was freecycled to me for this project.

The blanket worked up quite quickly and I got to learn some new stitches (slanted shell stitch). Once it was finished I felt a bit more able to try the booties. After trying a few patterns and not getting it, I found this pattern which worked. I modified it a bit to add a border at the top of the leg of the bootie in the same colour as the blanket.

Then I got really adventurous and decided to make her a little wee headband of my own design (ch x - until the chain is approx 12 inches, 14 for a newborn, sl st to join, rd1: sc through both loops, rd2: sc through both loops. Finish. For the flower: ch6, sl st to join, *work into the ring 2sc, ch4, repeat from * 3 times. sl st to join. Finish). -I'm guessing a bit on the flower because I forgot to write it down as I was doing it.

Anyway, long story short, little Eryn is now home from the hospital and we got to meet her last night. She is perfect.

And here are a few pics of the finished crochet project:

**confession: I had to buy (new) a set of needles for this project to sew the yarn through to finish. They came from India.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Some cool video clips

Video One
The dudes from Make Magazine demo how to make a messenger bag out of fused grocery bags. Very cool. I love the buckle.

Video Two
George S. interviews Micheal Pollan about his latest book: 'In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto'

Summary = Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

I haven't read the book yet but I dig that summary. I've also been skim reading the discussion about it going on at Crunchy Chicken's blog.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Free Money!

We got a surprise present from Bullfrog Power today.....

How sweet is that? Especially because that was before we unplugged the fridge.

I hope they run that challenge again this summer. :)

Friday, March 7, 2008

This one's for the public servants

Canadian federal public servants that is.....

Did you know that it's possible to stop getting paper copies of your pay stubs and your annual pension statement?

I was really pleased to find that out today. I've been trying to reduce the amount of unnecessary mail I receive and my pay stub is right up there in terms of its uselessness. Waste of paper and subsequent waste of space as I diligently file it.

So I put a stop to it.

You can do so too by going to this site and clicking on 'Getting Started'.

Don't panic when it takes you to the SAKMS site. Just click on English and then either register or login with your Entrust profile (PKI). Once that's done you'll be redirected back to the PWGSC site. Now you'll need your superannuation number and your most recent pay stub to finish your registration.

When you are logged in you can then go to the Pay section and then the Pension section to cancel your paper copies.

And if you need any more incentive, how about this:
'publishing the annual Pension and Benefits Statement and the Pension and Benefits Guide uses up to 70 tons of paper each year'

FYI, the next pension statement printing happens in April.

Sunday, March 2, 2008


A friend sent me the link to the website of a photographer called Chris Jordan a few days ago. His latest work 'Running the Numbers - An American Self Portrait' is brilliant. In his words:

"Statistics can feel abstract and anesthetizing, making it difficult to connect with and make meaning of 3.6 million SUV sales in one year, for example, or 2.3 million Americans in prison, or 410,000 paper cups used every fifteen minutes. This project visually examines these vast and bizarre measures of our society, in large intricately detailed prints assembled from thousands of smaller photographs." - Chris Jordan

Also good news re: the Uranium petition. On Feb. 27, the city of Ottawa voted in favour of petitioning the Ontario government to impose a moratorium on uranium prospecting, exploration and mining in Ontario until the health risks and aboriginal land claims are resolved. Woot!