Saturday, February 28, 2009

The last of our tomatoes

Found these babies under a box in our sunroom. I'd completely forgotten about them! They are our favourite variety - sweet orange cherries. Hadn't held out much hope that they would ripen. These were the hard green ones that were left after the plump green ones had ripened and were eaten. Was going to compost them but thought I'd leave them out just in case. Glad I did. They will make a yummy light pasta sauce this week. :)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

I blame the good life

Lately I've been asked a lot about my influences - what was it that made me embark on this reduced footprint lifestyle?

My quick answer is my most recent influence. The amazing bloggers I discovered in the last year and a half who are doing it and showing everyone that it is possible. First I found No Impact Man. Then I learned about the Riot for Austerity and found Sharon, Crunchy and Greenpa. All of whom have become my sustainability heroes.

For those who have some time, I might talk about my life changing 6 month trip to India in my mid-twenties where I learned that it's possible to live with a lot less (and actually be happier) and also of the extreme poverty and food scarcity that is found in developing countries and often worsened by the western world.

And if we are sitting down, having some tea and a good chat I'll probably also tell you that I was lucky to grow up in a house where composting, line drying clothes and food made from scratch was the norm. Although I wasn't such a fan at the time. "Why can't we use fabric softener and eat cheese whiz like everyone else??!?!?!" and "oh my god mum if you pick recycling out of the garbage in front of my friends again I WILL JUST DIE!" and the like were frequently heard around my house during the teenage years.

But an influence I never mention because it seems so subtle is a tv show called "The Good Life" (or Good Neighbors in N. America). It was a British show made in the 70s. The premise is that the main character Tom Good decides after his 40th b'day to quit his job and live off the grid. He and his wife are soon making their electricity from pig poop, bartering for goods with eggs and homemade wine and turning their suburban garden into a hobby farm (complete with chickens, pigs and a goat). Hijinks of course ensue with the next door (well-to-do) neighbours who aren't always thrilled about suddenly living next to a working farm.

What I think stayed with me all these years is not just that it is possible to live in a completely sustainable way, but how unbelievably happy Tom and Barbara are compared to their next door neighbours the Leadbetters. I think I've longed for a life like the Good's since that time (even if for a number of years that was locked in my subconscious).

And so here for your viewing pleasure is a clip of the show. This is the last part of the first episode where Tom is convincing Barbara that they should do it. Please watch it. It's great. And LW - check out the glasses.:)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Riot for Austerity - where we are at

Got a few bills recently so thought it would be good to do a proper tally of how we are doing in all the Riot for Austerity categories:

Not doing as well as last year. A number of factors have contributed to this
1. my health has not been great for the last 3 months. Getting better now but because of this we've had our electric heat in our bedroom turned up, and have been watching a lot of tv.
2. we did massive amounts of canning in the fall.
3. seems like it was colder than last year (certainly the cold weather seemed to start earlier this year).

Here's our most recent bill:

This gives us an average of 5.5kWh/day and keeps us at 17% of average (for now) for the last year.

Still doing well with water. Got another credit on our most recent bill.

Here it is:

This puts us at an average of 400L per day for the last year. Divided by the 4 people in the house, that is 100L per person per day or 30% of average.


Last week our totals were as follows:
Garbage: 3lbs
Compost: 4lbs
Recycling: 6lbs (was plastic and glass)

This puts us at 32% of average for the last 5 weeks (28%+62%+12%+30%+28%)/5

We have used 1755 m3 of natural gas for the whole house for the last 8 months (we had a new meter installed in June so it's easiest for us to start from there - before that most of our bills were estimates). Divided in half that's 877.5m3 for each apartment. This puts us at 46% of average. Also I read somewhere recently that the average yearly consumption of natural gas for heating for Ontario is actually in the 4,000 m3 range (much higher than the national average I'm working with of 2,871 m3

This is an estimate but here goes:

12 trips to work in the car during the bus strike: 192km
9 trips to work on the bus (yay!): 144km
1 trip to see family: 50km (divided this in half because hubby was with me)
1 trip to Toronto: 500km (divided this in half because hubby was with me)
random trips in the car: 200km

This puts me at 58.6L of gasoline so far this year or 35% of average.

Consumer Goods:

Still doing well with this.

So far this month I have bought:
  1. tapestry needles (new): $2

  2. 1 urban forest soap: $5

Total spent on consumer goods in the last 51 days=$111.78
This puts me at 6% of average (for now - big expenses still to come).

Have been totally sucking in the food category. Due to the health issues I lost a lot of weight (didn't really have much to lose in the first place). As a result I dropped all my rules and allowed myself to eat whatever I wanted (had to because I really didn't want to eat anything). Meant I ate a lot of non-local and overly packaged food. But I am on the mend. Appetite is back and so is my interest in cooking so I'm back on the local, homemade food wagon.
But all that to say my averages for food for the last 3 months have probably looked like this:
Local: 10%
Processed: 60%
Non-local: 30%

Friday, February 13, 2009

Welcome CBC radio listeners!

Hope you liked the interview!

If you are interested in hearing me blab more about my experiment with the fridge, you can check me out here, here, and here. If you want to read about the other things hubby and I are doing to reduce our carbon footprint, check out any categories that catch your interest in the navigation bar on the right.

If you aren't up for unplugging your fridge but want to use yours more efficiently, you can try the following:
  • Keep your fridge 2/3 to 3/4 full at all times

  • Keep your leftover food in glass instead of plastic - it holds the cold better

  • In the winter make ice in pop bottles outside and put them in your fridge - your fridge won't have to work as hard to keep your food cool (if you live in a place that is cold enough)

  • In the winter put your left-over food outside (covered of course) for a few hours so that it is cold when you put it in your fridge

For those who didn't catch the interview, it's up on the Ottawa morning website under 'Extreme green couple...'.

For those who didn't hear it - sorry I didn't let you know about it. I actually didn't know when it was going to air so haven't heard it myself yet!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Weekly garbage tally

Garbage: 4.5lbs
Recycling: 5lbs (this week was paper recycling)
Compost: 3lbs 12oz

Total garbage and recycling = 9.5lbs (not counting compost as it is composted in our backyard)

The average for 2 people is 32.2lbs. At 9.5lbs we are at 30% of average.

So for the last 4 weeks: (28%+62%+12%+30%)/4=33% of average
Photo by Editor B

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Why you need a tummy warmer and how to make one

Ok girls, if you are like me you have some low waisted jeans (because let's face it, the high waisted jean was a bad scene). If you do, you are definitely familiar with the 'cold back' phenomenon.

You know what I'm talking about.

You're wearing a great top that comes to just below the top of your jeans. No belly is showing. Things are good.

And then you sit down.

And bam! Suddenly your back is exposed to the elements. And in my house lately the elements have been cold (although in honesty, we turned the heat up this week - we were all miserable - tenants included. The temps in our apartment are now in the 18-19 range as opposed to the 17-18 range).

So what do you do to solve this problem if you are trying not to buy a lot of stuff?

You make yourself a tummy warmer!

If you have the time, and some stretchy fabric you can make one yourself. (I love how June describes wearing one as "having a hug all day long")

Or if your back is cold right now and you don't want to wait, you can do what I did.

1. Take an old top and cut a straight line from one underarm to the other underarm.

2. If you want, you can sew down the cut edge. Or you can just put it on right away and enjoy the warmth.

Friday, February 6, 2009


Well I did not expect quite this amount of interest. The no fridge story has since been picked up by various papers from The Globe and Mail to the Times of India.

It's also been picked up by various bloggers who have said, among other things, that I am a:
idiot and

Well hi how are ya!? Thanks very much for formulating those opinions with very little information.

Since the Times didn't mention my blog, I doubt any of those folks will end up here but in case they do, here are some facts that didn't fit into the article (which by the way I do not blame Steven for - as it was the article was 3 pages on line!).

  1. We make the ice in pop bottles outside in the winter

  2. The ice only needs to be changed every two days in the winter and once a day in the summer (we don't have a/c so it gets pretty warm in here)

  3. We've never had any food go bad due to lack of sufficient cooling in the cooler

  4. We are not having to shop more than we used to. On average I go to the farmers market once a week and to the grocery store two times a week. Do other people really go a lot less than that? I don't think I've ever gone to a grocery store less than 3 times a week. I always need an extra something to make a certain dish. I'm not so great with the planning.

  5. This is by no means the only thing we are doing to live lightly. To reduce our electricity consumption we have also stopped using a dryer (line dry in the summer, dry inside in the winter - means we don't need to run a humidifier), and we turned the electric heat (one room in our house is heated this way) down to 13 (or 55). And that's just electricity, feel free to check out the categories in the right nav for more things we are doing.

  6. The freezer in our basement is brand new, small and v. efficient. The fridge we have is very old, big and very inefficient

  7. I am not on a crusade to get people to unplug their fridges. Although I've found it to be a fun/interesting experiment and would recommend that people try it to see if it works for them

For those who want to know more about going fridge free, and for anyone wanting to wade into the debate, I would recommend going to Greenpa's blog. This man is the third of my green heroes (Sharon Astyk and Crunchy Chicken being the other two), and he knows a thing or two about living without a fridge. He's been doing it for 30 years.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

I'm in the New York Times!

Will post more later but woo hoo!!

New York Times baby!

(think you have to log in to read it - but it's free)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Weekly garbage weigh-in (2 days late)

Garbage: 4lbs
Recycling (plastic and glass): 0lbs *
Compost: 4.5lbs

*there were a few cans in the box but nothing worth weighing - I'll include these items 2 weeks from now at the next plastic and glass recycling weigh in

As far as the Riot goes, for this week we are at 12% of average.

4lbs (us) /32.2lbs(average)= 12%


28%+62%+12%/3=34% of average over 3 weeks.