What a great idea — buying products once so you don’t have to ever replace them — or at least, you don’t have to replace them very often. It’s a concept our grandparents would be familiar with, but I’m not even sure most of our parents would fall into this category anymore. It’s sad, but true, and we can thank many different factors for this serious environmental problem (which I won’t go into here).
If you’re sick of having to replace everything, visit Buy Me Once to see what they offer. It’s a great idea and a good way to get away from the constant replacement of goods that shouldn’t need to be replaced as often as they are, including clothing. Buy Me Once sells jeans (admittedly pricey), that are meant to last. The website calls them “practically bulletproof.” The steep price tag – US$319 (CDN $431), might be incentive enough to help you maintain your weight. However, Buy Me Once also stocks some great clothes from Patagonia and other suppliers, including socks (!?), that are reasonably priced.
The website offers a variety of goods from kitchenware to clothing to toys. If you’re a parent of young children, you will appreciate the low-tech creative aspect of the solid wood toys on the website!
For the time-being, the products are available in the US and the UK. I hope they will ship to Canada.
In May, 2010 I wrote a post about the then spate of waste management efforts that had been implemented by the City of Toronto. One of those programs was a 5¢ charge for single use plastic bags by retail organizations in the city. Anyone who has the unfortunate circumstance to live in Toronto under the current mayor, Rob Ford, will know that that city by-law was repealed by that forward thinking leader. In 2010 I had wondered if the ban on plastic bags was working, and after doing some research, contacting the city, reading grocery chains’ annual reports I discovered that indeed, a simple 5¢ charge had effectively reduced single plastic bag use by a whopping 70%. I would say that that is an effective policy! I guess Mayor Ford didn’t agree.
In another forward thinking move, the car dealers of New York state are trying to put pressure on the state government to revoke Tesla Motors’ sales license. Tesla sells direct to consumers and avoids a 6-9% mark-up fee included in car dealers’ prices. While it doesn’t make the cars affordable for most of us (in Ontario they start at $68,000), it does put them in the same league as other luxury cars. North Carolina, Texas and New Jersey are just three states who’ve succumbed to car dealer pressure and forbidden Tesla from selling direct to consumer. I don’t really know how forbidding the sale of a clean running electric car protects consumers’ rights, but I’m sure someone can explain it to me.
The city of New York is now contemplating charging 10¢ for any single use bag, paper or plastic. In another giant step backwards for the environment, the American Progressive Bag Alliance has issued the following statement regarding this proposed by-law:
Denying that this legislation is a tax is disingenuous to the hardworking residents of New York City. This proposed ordinance will drive up the cost of already expensive groceries for New Yorkers while failing to achieve any environmental goals.
Given that there is evidence to the contrary (see aforementioned research done on Toronto’s past efforts), they may want to revisit that statement. They also might want to take a look at the website plasticoceans.net where they’ve estimated that over one million single plastic use bags are used every minute. Now that’s a good use of resources! (not.)
The single use plastic bag industry is one that should happily die a quick death, and it is only through policies such as charging for plastic bags that will help change our consumer habits. They are easy policies to implement while promoting a cleaner environment for future generations.
Carson Arthur, Landscape designer and TV personality writes about how to tackle your outdoor spring clean-up. Carson sits very much in the green camp and encourages the use of non-toxic products and conserving water in our outdoor activities. Thanks for you contribution Carson!
When the warm weather arrives, every homeowner has an inventory of outside chores: cutting the lawn, weeding the garden, washing windows and cleaning the eaves are at the top of every list, including mine. This year however, I’m adding some new ‘must-do’ items to make the outdoors more enjoyable.
Top dress the lawn. I’m taking top-dressing a step further and reseeding my entire lawn this spring! Every July when the hot weather hits, I have yellow patches in my grass. I’ve been told slugs or hot dry weather are the culprits. The truth is…most of our lawns are Kentucky Blue Grass which naturally goes dormant in the heat and but also needs a lot of water. By moving Canadians away from the ‘all consuming’ Kentucky Blue grass and into the rye grasses, we will see less water consumption but also less pesticides and fertilizers. Check out this new seed which I am a fan and spokesman for. I will add this grass seed, a rye fescue, because it stays green all season long and uses 30% less water. Do this by adding a 2-kilogram bag of seed to a 20-pound bag of top soil, mix them in a wheelbarrow, and spread across your existing grass. The ‘seed-to-soil’ contact is what makes this work!
Cleaned using Concrobium House and Deck Wash and Mold Stain Eraser
Remove the Mold. As an allergy sufferer, getting rid of the mold that forms in damp, warm weather is extremely important. Washing the outdoor cushions is only one part of the equation. Mold can form on decks, furniture, siding and eaves troughs. I use a two-step process to effectively remove the mold. First I wash away all the surface dirt, grime and mildew with a product called Concrobium House & Deck wash. Not only is it safe around the plants, so I don’t have to cover all my shrubs, it doesn’t contain bleach so it won’t damage the deck. I also have old stains that are deep in the wood so the second step I take is to use Concrobium’s Mold Stain Eraser product that removes just the staining without damaging the wood. I also love that it doesn’t require any scrubbing. Now my siding is spotless, everything made of plastic looks new again and I can finally get rid of those mold spots on my wooden deck.
Wash the Salt. I never use salt outside my home but it still gets tracked onto the path and driveway from city streets and sidewalks. Salt damage to plants and grass happens as the snow melts or as rain carries the deposits into the yard. This build up in the soil can be very damaging and can increase after every winter. One of the best ways to remove the salt from damaged areas is with a mild vinegar-water solution. A half teaspoon of white vinegar to one litre of water makes a great rinse for removing salt from concrete or asphalt. I use a stiff bristle boat mop to make the job quick and easy.
Mulch Late! Mulching in the spring is very important but most people do it too early. I’ve always tried to mulch when the snow melts to conserve water by keeping the ground moist. Unfortunately, this slows growth in my gardens. Mulch acts as an insulator, protecting the plants from the elements. However, if you spread it before the soil is completely thawed the mulch keeps the ground colder for longer! The best time to mulch is when the ground is 5-7 degrees C. You can measure ground temperatures by completely burying a thermometer in a re-sealable bag.
Our time outside is short in Canada so everyone wants to be outside as much as possible. My tips will help keep your spaces looking their best all summer long!
After: Using Concrobium Mold Stain Eraser
About Carson: Carson Arthur started his television career as a behind-the-scenes prop coordinator for a national garden call-in show. Very quickly, Carson turned an opportunity to host his own show into a landscape design staple. With international coverage, Carson has become a voice of environmentally friendly landscape design on a global scale. By addressing outdoor challenges with a keen sense of style and a passion for eco-consciousness, Carson continues to reinvent the definition of gardening. With his first series, Room To Grow, Carson created inspired outdoor spaces for homeowners and taught a generation of viewers how to increase their own living spaces by expanding outside. Following on the heels of his first success, Green Force provided Carson with the opportunity to take on some of the largest challenges associated with urban living. Carson and his team travel throughout a large urban center and tackle some of the most depressing, under-utilized, and forgotten spaces around us turning them into parks and beautiful art installations while using environmentally friendly techniques and products.
Carson takes pride in where he lives and what he does. As the spokesperson for RTF WaterSaver Grass seed, PureRain North America, and Black and Decker Canada, Carson has made the most of his television career to date by being active in helping to develop a better understanding of green living within a social context. When not in the dirt; Carson stays busy building, planting, writing or designing as a featured guest on CityLine, Steven & Chris, and as a contributing writer for Wal-Mart’s upcoming retail magazine. Look for Carson as the newest guest expert for The Shopping Channel as he roles out amazing new products for the great outdoors in 2013. Carson is also now the outdoor expert for Better Homes and Gardens Dream Team.
On yet another monotonous drive down the 401 (thank goodness for audiobooks!) from Montreal to Toronto, I broke up the trip with a stop in Kingston. Living Rooms, owned by two brothers, John and Michael Sinclair, is a mixture of healthy lifestyle products and green building materials.
The brothers had started their professional lives as painters. But the more they interacted both with the paint and with clients who were becoming concerned about what they were putting on their wall and breathing in the air, the more research the brothers did, the more they sought out alternatives to traditional paints. They started searching for paints that were less toxic to human health with little to no off-gassing of toxic chemicals. Fast forward to the present and low and zero VOC paints are so yesterday. You won’t find any petroleum-based paints in their store, rather, they’ve sourced some really interesting alternatives.
When they began developing their store concept, they worked not on the philosophy of supplying green building products, but rather, they source products while living by standards developed by Bau-Biologie and Permaculture. Bau-Biologie was developed in Germany and is all about creating a healthy indoor environment. The movement focuses on using building materials and home products that don’t off-gas toxic chemicals. Permaculture (which I have written about before), recognizes that all biological systems are closed so that one living thing’s waste product is another’s food source. To that end, on their website they note that their store is not so much about green building materials as it is about sourcing products that are low impact, responsibly-made and better for your health as well as that of the planet’s. In other words, they stay away from a lot of what might be considered electronic green gadgets. The kind of items they stock focus on healthy sleeping, healthy eating and fresh interior air.
Building products: In addition to paints, there are several other better building products to choose from. To name a few that I’ve already written about, there is American Clay, Log’s End flooring (timber salvaged from the bottom of the Ottawa River), IceStone, PaperStone, (for counter tops) Nature’s Carpet (100% wool carpet), Safecoat paints and sealers, Ultratouch cotton insulation….
BUT, they also introduced me to a few new and intriguing products such as insulation made from leftover sheep’s wool, paint made from linseed oil, an intriguing exterior stucco-like product that’s made in Fredericton, New Brunswick, and a new concept: modular built strawbale homes. I’ll discuss each of these products in future posts.
Because they are located in a building which also has artisans and trades, they can also set you up with cabinetmakers and contractors who will take care of any building project work you want done in the Kingston area. Their objective is to source better building and living products as locally as possible and to use local trades and craftsmen to complete their customers’ projects.
Lifestyle products: Another aspect of this store that is the selection of lifestyle products they offer. When John took me around the store he was most enthusiastic about Xtrema, the ceramic cookware and baking line they’ve brought in. He explained that the problem with ceramic cookware in the past has been that it can’t be used over direct heat or it will crack. The manufacturers of this line have solved that problem and Xtrema cookware can be used directly over gas or electric elements (However, it can’t be used with induction cooktops, which use a magnetic pull between cookware and energy source). The cookware is also reasonably priced compared with high-end stainless steel pots and pans. A 24 piece set sells for $530.
Also within the kitchen category, there were tea and coffee makers, and my personal favourite was Presso, a manual espresso maker — perfect for cottage living (although you still have to heat the water).
There are plenty of products that focus on sleep as well. A buckwheat pillow by Eco et Eco, is as local a product as you can get. Except for growing the cotton, all parts of the pillow are made in Quebec. Apparently, buckwheat is a great material for people who sweat a lot around the head and neck area at night as the buckwheat wicks away moisture and heat and allows the sleeper a more even body temperature.
Other bath and sleep products include organic cotton towels, mattresses and mattress pads, and duvets.
In the household cleaning category, Living Rooms carries natural coco scrub pads, natural luffa sponges and soap nuts. Soap nuts look a bit like acorns and are the fruit (called a drupe) of the Sapindus genus of bushes and trees, which grow in tropical climates. The drupe produces a natural soap substance that can be used as a laundry soap. Soapnuts are very versatile and can also be used to make household cleaners, shampoo and even toothpaste! Usually soapnuts can be reused four or five times before they lose there effectiveness. At end of life, they can be composted.
To explore the products they offer on line, visit their website.
If you’re in Kingston or surrounding area, Living Rooms is located at:
Yesterday we had a downpour, the likes of which I haven’t seen since I lived in Mexico City 15 years ago. It was a downpour that brought 80mm of rain in under an hour, which caused problems and chaos galore throughout the city. Toilets, drainpipes and sewers overflowed, manhole covers blew off giving way to lovely geysers of brown sludgey water. And of course, it happened during rush hour!
I came home to find a flooded basement — we were lucky because we were spared sewer backup and our basement is only used for storage and laundry. Our neighbours came home to 6 inches of water in their finished, and now flooded basement. Fortunately, having experienced a similar flood seven years ago, they were prepared and went to work right away, unplugging electronics, moving furniture, pulling up the wall to wall carpeting and getting rid of the water, and cutting the first six inches of drywall away.
To their surprise and mine, a few of our neighbours said that they were okay and only had an inch of water sitting in their basement. They would wait for the insurance people to get there before taking action. Let’s be clear about a flooded basement — even an inch of water can do a lot of damage, especially if things are left sitting in it for a long period of time. The faster you attack the problem, the more likely you’ll be able to save items and the less damage the water will cause. The problem with still and dirty water is the potential for mold growth, not to mention bacteria build-up. Mold growth not only ruins walls, furniture, carpets, flooring, etc., it can lead to poor indoor air quality and cause respiratory problems including asthma, and can lead to severe illness. Preventing mold growth is key to keeping your basement’s air clean and healthy. So in addition to calling your insurance company, Here are a few tips to deal with your flooded basement and minimize the water damage.
Disconnect the power, unplug any electronics, and remove it and all furniture and movable items immediately. The faster you get items out of water’s way, the more likely you’ll be able to save them. Definitely move all electrical items first, and if you can, turn off your power leading into the affected area, especially if water rises above electrical outlets. Pull up any carpets and underpadding, including wall to wall. You may be able to save the carpet, if you get it cleaned, however, it may shrink and be good as an area rug afterwards. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to save the underpadding, which acts like a sponge and absorbs a lot of water.
Get rid of the water. There are several ways to get rid of the water, in our case we used old towels, a bucket and mop. If I’d had a wet/dry Shopvac I would have used that, being very careful to plug it into outlets away from any water source. Water and electricity don’t mix! Other people were renting sump pumps from Home Depot. Getting rid of all the water is the most important thing you can do to prevent mold growth. If the water is coming out of your drains, dump buckets of water on your lawn so the ground can soak it up. Don’t throw it down the sewer, it will just recirculate into yours or your neighbour’s house.
drywall cutaway, after flood waters are mopped up
Dry out the affected area. Once you’ve mopped up all the water, use fans, a dehumidifier to help dry out the area. If it’s stopped raining open doors and windows to allow for air circulation and faster drying. You want to dry the area out as soon as possible. If you have a finished basement and the drywall was affected, you’ll probably have to cut away the areas that were touched by water. If you have baseboard trim, take it up first, and if it’s made from pressboard it will likely not be salvageable. If it was wood, you might be able to save it.
Disinfect. After the area has dried out, including wood beams, insulation, drywall, etc., use a good disinfectant to get rid of any bacteria that might have come up through sewers, toilets, etc. My preference is Gloves Off Disinfectant, a non-toxic but powerful disinfectant, but there are several great eco-friendly options available at hardware stores. Disinfect all areas affected by the flood waters including walls and wood and non-upholstered furniture that was sitting in flood water.
Prevent mold growth. After you’ve disinfected and let the basement thoroughly dry out, apply Concrobium throughout the affected area, according to directions. I can’t say enough good things about this product; it is non-toxic, made with distilled water and inorganic salts. You can use it on furniture, walls, floors, basically anything that is susceptible to mold growth. Once a thin layer of Concrobium is applied, let it dry overnight. As Concrobium dries, it forms a thin layer over any mold that may be growing and actually crushes the roots of the spores. Wherever it’s sprayed, it will prevent any mold from growing, providing continued resistance. If you’re spraying an entire room, you might want to consider renting a mister from a hardware store such as Home Depot. It’s easy to use and very fast. Note: I have absolutely no affiliation with Concrobium, I just really think it’s a fantastic product. It’s safe, non-toxic, and more effective on mold than bleach.
For the most part we rely on third party organizations to determine what is and isn't a "green building material." The only time we might not is when products are locally produced or no third party green designation is available for the product.