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Eco Friendly Home Decor

July 23rd, 2015

By Jane Blanchard

When choosing the decor for your home, you’re probably thinking of many factors. Cost, durability and style are likely weighing heavily on your decisions, but it’s important not to forget to make eco friendly choices whenever possible. Choosing eco friendly decor will save you money in energy costs and reduce your footprint on our precious environment.


Finding ways to reuse what is already in your home eliminates waste and makes a more eco friendly place. A detailed list of repurposing tutorials can be found on Remodeling Therapy, but a few suggestions are especially eye catching. Use an old sweater to cover an ugly lampshade to create a cozy cottage-like decor.





Plugging your TV or stereo into a power strip instead of directly into the wall can save energy as well. Even when you’ve turned your electronics off, they continue to leak energy when they are plugged into an outlet. The amount leaked when they are plugged into a power strip is significantly lower plus you can turn the power off to save energy when you’re not using it. Reusing old bread ties to label your cords saves plastic and eliminates waste.



Most people are aware that some light bulbs are more eco-friendly than others. You may note that the bulbs labeled as eco-friendly or energy saving cost more initially, but these bulbs last significantly longer than traditional bulbs. If you are not able to get energy saving bulbs, you could add a dimmer to your lighting. This will make your bulbs last longer. Traditional incandescent bulbs are highly inefficient. Through the lighting process, the bulb produces 70% more heat than light and use up to ten times more energy than either CFL or LED counterparts. LED lights are relatively new to the scene but are an excellent energy efficient alternative that use hardly any energy, have a long life expectancy and don’t give off heat and have dropped in price in the last few years.



It may not seem important but deciding between a bath or a shower can impact the amount of water your home uses. A bath uses about as much water as a 10 minute shower. If you can keep your shower under 7 minutes, you could save about 3 gallons of water each time. Add a low-flow showerhead and you can save even more water and energy (the energy saved because less hot water is used, therefore less needs to be replaced). Look for the WaterSense symbol on showerheads.



When you’re choosing decor, there are lots of opportunities to make an eco friendly choice. From the type of tile you choose to the landscaping options, considering your choices will make a big impact. When you’re choosing a countertop, explore these environmentally friendly options from Apartment Therapy. With names like BottleStone and Squak Mountain Stone, they will make your home truly unique and beautiful.



You can also save water by choosing native plants for your landscape. A new trend called Xeriscaping uses 50% less water by including grass that is naturally resistant to drought as well as indigenous plants which grow naturally without extra watering. Xeriscapers plant their lawn for efficiency by grouping like plants together and advocating using mulch which retains moisture and keeps plants from drying out too quickly as well as preventing run-off.


By integrating these few ideas, you can make your home more eco-friendly and attractive. You don’t have to make any sacrifices to have an efficient home. Once you’ve begun the process of making your home more environmentally friendly, it will be exciting to see all of the ways you can cut back and watch your energy bills shrink more and more each month.


For more design ideas and inspiration, head to

Should Cities Ban Single-Use Plastic Bags?

June 29th, 2015

As Montreal debates whether or not it should ban plastic bags, it’s an opportunity for me to express my opinion on the subject, yet again. Toronto began charging a 5¢ fee for all plastic bags in mid-2009. A few years later that ever-forward-thinking mayor, Rob Ford, decided to eliminate the bag charge.

In mid-2010 I did some research to see what effect the policy had had on single-use plastic bag consumption within Toronto (you can read that article here).  In a nutshell, the 5¢ charge reduced plastic bag use in grocery stores by 70%. It was an effective policy mechanism that allowed consumers to make a choice about whether they wanted to pay for bags or bring their own.

Last year when New York City was debating charging 10¢ per single use bag, not surprisingly, the American Progressive Bag Alliance was outraged and sent out a press release saying:

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.

In California there will be an outright ban on all single use plastic bags introduced through bill SB 270 which comes into effect on July 1, 2015. Now, it should be noted that the bill permits alternatives to single-use plastic bags such as multi-use bags made with a component of post-recycled plastic content and post-consumer recycled paper bags which can be purchased for 10¢ each. It also appears that certain types of stores (such as convenience stores) aren’t included in the bill until July, 2016.

The website notes: “In 2010, 300 million tonnes of plastic will be made – about half of this will be used just once then thrown away.” According to this site, over one million plastic bags are used around the world every minute. The negative effects of plastic bags as waste are tremendous. They clog city sewer systems and cities such as New York deal with over 1700 tons of plastic bags per week and cost more than $12.5 million to dispose of them. When they get into the aquatic environment, they can also be mistaken as a food source. [source]

The point of this information is to show that regardless of what route a city decides to take, the epidemic of plastic bag use needs to be addressed, and quickly. So, should a ban be placed or should there simply be a charge per single bag? And should it be all single bag types (plastic and paper) or just plastic?

We need to look at the consequences of banning bags with respect to the larger picture of its effect on the retail environment — and a healthy retail environment is good for cities’ bottom lines. In cities such as New York and Montreal which not only cater to residents but also to significant numbers of tourists, banning single-use plastic bags may do more harm than good. While I carry a convenience fold-up bag in my purse at all times, I’m not about to stash a few more bags in my purse when I travel. If I’m a tourist in New York and I want to purchase some items — and let’s face it, it’s hard to leave New York without purchasing something — I need something to put them in.

What about reusable plastic bags?

In an age where reusable bags are being given out more and more often, I find myself with more durable bags than I know what to do with. In fact, these bags can completely off-set the intended environmental good of the bag ban in the first place since it takes about 28 plastic bags to make one reusable bag. Case in point: the SAQ (the Société des alcools du Québec — where you buy decent wine and liquour) no longer carries any single use bags, paper or plastic, and instead offers empty wine/liquour boxes or reusable bags for purchase. While I have never bought a single bag, our house now has over 15 of them. Sure, it might point to the need for an intervention, but beyond that, what am I going to do with all these bags? They are beverage specific and only allow four bottles max. I use a few of them for groceries and stuff concentrated frozen juices, condiments, and sparkling water bottles in them, but that’s about all they can handle.

A charge per single use bag, on the other hand, while unpleasant and may have tourists rolling their eyes, at least provides the opportunity for people who either forgot to bring their reusable bags, or tourists who don’t want to bring along bags when they travel, to purchase their items and have somewhere to put them.

Given the fact that a simple 5¢ fee had the effect of shrinking plastic bag use by 70% within a year, I believe that a small fee per single bag is the most effective method of reducing plastic bag consumption, regardless of the type of bag offered as the alternative.


Ecoraster Storm water solutions products

March 27th, 2015

ecoraste E40

Cities are grappling with storm water run-off more than ever as storms become more violent and development increases leaving less permeable land. In heavy rains, sewers sometimes aren’t able to handle the downpour that might happen (think Toronto in July, 2013, or Montreal, May, 2012). Encouraging more permeable areas allows the ground to absorb water helping to alleviate some of the pressure on sewer systems. Sometimes, however, finding the right solution to increasing permeability can be a challenge. Laying down loose gravel over ground makes it difficult to plow in winter, while small stones get caught in pedestrians boot treads get dragged indoors and ruining floors. Another challenge is that sometimes permeable paving needs a strong, impermeable base so that the blocks don’t crack under the weight of vehicles or develop ruts in the most heavily traveled areas. It kind of defeats the purpose of permeable pavers.

A great product originating in Germany, is Ecoraster, a grid system that is used to keep surfaces permeable. It can replace paved parking lots, driveways, pathways and can be used in various agricultural applications as well. The Ecoraster is available in different levels of durability depending on intended use.

It is an extremely versatile product and can be used in a variety of urban situations.

» Read more: Ecoraster Storm water solutions products

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LED Lighting will surely put me into an early grave

October 29th, 2013

Halo 4″ potlight

I’ve written a lot about LED lighting in the past, mostly because I find that LED lighting is not all that straightforward. Unlike super simple incandescent bulbs, LEDs are really high maintenance….I mean really high maintenance.

I told my electrician I was using LED lighting for the overhead lights and undermount fixtures (not the puck type, but the strip). The task then became what type of LEDs was I going to use? I thought it was simple, but the deeper I dug, the more confusing it all became.

Originally, I had wanted to use Halo 4″ LED potlights at 2700K because I’d seen how they worked in the Nexterra house. I commented that I was surprised they’d used halogen in an “eco-friendly” house and they told me they were LEDs.  The light intensity and colour were an exact match for 50W halogen which was what I was looking for. But for some reason I can’t just settle for the first thing that comes along, I have to research and dig and ask a million and three questions and get myself completely confused before I make a decision.

So I called three different LED lighting vendors and got three completely different answers. Yeesh. The first fellow I spoke with said “Whatever you do, make sure you buy an LED lighting kit. That’s when the bulb and the housing are attached. They are made to work together and will last the longest.”

Then I spoke with another guy who said, “I would never buy an LED kit – what happens if you want to change your lighting? You have to change out the entire kit, not just the bulb.”

Then I spoke to a third guy but he didn’t sell 2700K lights so he couldn’t help me out, although he did try to tell me that 2700K and 3000K colour temperatures are “pretty close.” Believe me, they’re not. I have 3000K LEDs in my living room and they’re a little too ‘daylighty’ for me.

After some hemming and hawing and head spinning I chose the 4″ Halo 2700K pot lights. They are the “kit” kind, which the first fellow recommended (note that I bought them through my electrician, the fellow I spoke with specializes in exterior LED lighting). One reason I decided on them was because I’d seen them in action and liked them. Another reason was because they were reasonably priced — not the cheapest and not the most expensive. I’m just waiting for them now because they have to be shipped from the US. Let’s hope they are as good as I think they are….

Tapmaster: One foot away from Water Efficiency

April 12th, 2012

A nifty product that helps keep your faucets clean while saving water at the same time, the Tapmaster line of products lets you turn water on and off using your knees or foot, leaving your hands free to do other things. Tapmaster is in Calgary, and developed its product initially for the dental industry, but the products found their place in other areas, and is particularly popular with gardeners. This is also a great gadget for cooks because it gives you that third hand you’re always looking for, when you need to turn on the faucet but your hands are either full or dirty. You don’t need to touch the faucet to turn it on — simply move the lever using your foot. The water stops when you pull your foot away. It helps keep faucet tap handles clean while washing your hands.

It’s apparently easy to install and has no need for batteries or electricity. The Tapmaster people told me that this is a DIY project (as long as you own a drill and screwdriver).  There are a variety of models available, each one suitable for different settings and uses.

 The Euro Foot Activators are simple levers that are installed at the bottom of cabinets. Model 1770 operates solely when your foot touches the lever. The water stops only when you take your foot away. Water temperature is controlled using the faucet handle. (CDN $325)

Model 1775 has a continuous flow option where, if the lever is kicked all the way to a 90-degree angle, the water will stay on (CDN $345).

Temperature is controlled by the faucet.

 Kickplate models: Available in brushed stainless, black or white, one touch to turn on, and another to turn off. There are three models available:

1750: Two options for use: touching the vertical space will keep the water flowing until you release it. Pressing down on the top part will lock water flow in place. A light touch to the vertical part will unlock it and stop the water flow. This is a great product for the kitchen. ($345).

1751: A combination kickplate and cabinet door activated control. Either press the cabinet door to operate the tap, or touch the kickplate. (CDN $447).

1756: Allows complete control over water temperature from the kickplate itself. There are hot, warm and cold settings available. It is available in black, white or silver.

  Cabinet door activator: Model 1720, installed inside a cabinet door, this model is ideal for bathrooms where only short bursts of water are needed for brushing teeth, washing hands or face. Once installed, it is activated when the cabinet door is pushed. Because it needs very little pressure to activate it, it is hardly noticeable when the doors are shut. It is also the most economical, at CDN$302. Note that this model is not suitable for bathrooms with pedestal sinks.

 In floor activator: 1780 is installed directly into the floor. The water is turned on and off with a quick tap to the floor plate (CDN $370). A new model, 1786 also allows for temperature control. This model would work well with pedestal sinks. I wondered whether it would be a suitable product with cats and dogs in the home, however, Lynne Pubbin, Operations Manager at Tapmaster explained:

We have built this product specifically so that cats and dogs cannot possibly turn these on.  We have actually tested this with large dogs (0ver 90 lbs) and had them walking on them and they cannot turn them on as it requires a specific force to activate the water.  It may not seem like much to most adults or children, but there is an actual purposeful force which needs to be applied.

Installation seems straightforward: For the kickplate and Euro models, drill a hole in the kickplate of the cupboard and the floor of the cupboard close to the faucet’s plumbing and feed the Tapmaster lines through it. Connect it to the water feeds to the sink faucet and that’s it. Visit the support page for installation instructions and videos.  Note that there is no need for electricity for any of the units a  they work via pressure.

For more information on each of these models, as well as installation information and exactly how it works, please visit the Tapmaster website.

To purchase the Tapmaster, order online through the website or call 1-800-791-8117.

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