Friday, April 22, 2016

10 Easy Ways to Go Green

As a 'green' mama, I have spent quite a bit of time reading similar lists made by others and analyzing my life to see how I can be more green and earth friendly myself.  

It's a work in progress, but I have taken baby steps towards improving my family's green-ability score.   

In honour of Earth Day, I would like share 10 of the easier things we've done to green our everyday life:

1. Cold Water Wash & Hang to Dry
Almost all of our laundry is done with cold water.  I have heard people say that they are afraid to wash in cold because, a) their powder detergent may not dissolve, or b) their cloths may not get clean.  

I can honestly say that we haven't had an issue with either, even with our front loader.

Drying using a clothes line is a great energy saver. Don't have a clothes line? Drying racks are a great alternative and can be used indoors or out.

2. Use an Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergent
There are so many detergents to choose from now boasting environmental friendliness.  I prefer to make my own.

3. Don't Buy Bottled Water.
Get a good filtration system that will last you for years to come, and filter tap water rather than buying water in those pollution causing, wasteful plastic bottles. Read this post on what we use, and check out this filtration system.

4. Purchase Products with Reduced Packaging
Plastic drives me wild, especially plastic packaging.  Use products that aren't packaged in plastic at all, or that have less packaging.  
For example, take a look at all those plastic bottles lining the walls of your shower stall, and the ingredients they contain.

Our family has made the switch to natural products that aren't packaged in plastic, have the added bonus of safer ingredients. Doing this, we have been able to reduce the plastic in our shower to 1 bottle.  That one bottle is an (old/reused) plastic sports bottle that holds our natural hair conditioner (ACV & Water).

5. Use Natural Home Cleansers
I stopped buying traditional store bought cleansers years ago.  I've found that there isn't much that a little vinegar, baking soda, or this soap can't get clean.  When I need something with disinfecting properties, I use our Thieves Cleaner by Young Living. It's concentrated, natural, and a little goes a long way.  Want to learn more about Young Living's products and how I save 24% on my orders?

6. Rain Barrels are a Green Gardener's Friend
We put our rain barrels in when we started our vegetable gardens, and haven't looked back.  The year we started gardening was the year we had a drought though. In this instance I used grey water from our sinks and showers to water the garden.  It was water down the drain, so I figured that it might as well be put to good use.  It got us through a couple of long stretches with no rain and it was probably the best year our garden has seen.

7. Recyclables Turn Children's Crafts.
Like most kids, Son is creative. He loves to dig through the recycling bin and find cardboard or bottles that he can craft into something great.  For instance, for Halloween, a plastic bottle became a fireman's air tank, and a cardboard box became a shield for his nerf gun battles.  There's no end to what can be reused.

8. Fix Appliances instead of Replacing 
We recently had a washing machine break down. Turns out the computer board in our washer crashed.  Instead of replacing the machine and sending it to a landfill, we chose to have it repaired.  

9. Use newspapers to Line Compost Buckets 
A few years ago, our city started offering curbside compost collection.  Prior to this we used a backyard compost bin.  I don't know about you, but one of things I didn't like about composting is how 'yucky' the mini-bucket under the counter would get.  You can purchase paper bags meant to line them and contain the compost waste, but that just seems wasteful in itself when there is an endless supply of newspapers in this world.

Don't get the newspaper? Surely one of your neighbours do and they could save you some.  Here's a handy tutorial on how to fold newspaper compost liners, but I've since found that it's easier just to grab a sheet of newspaper and line the bin without folding it.  It means carrying the whole bucket to the composter rather than lifting out the liner alone, but it's a time saver, and it's a green solution to yucky compost buckets.

10. Buy Used
There are plenty of people selling their used items and it's likely just what you've been looking for.  Save yourself a few dollars and keep items out of landfills buy perusing your local newspaper or buy and sell web pages (we like to use Kijiji) to find what you're looking for before turning to buying it new.  It's a great green strategy but also a great money saver.

Our most recent used purchase was a car top carrier. With Baby #2 on the way and a small car we realized that our options were a) buy a larger vehicle, or b) get a car top carrier for those times we'll need a little extra space.  A larger vehicle was out of the question for a few reasons (some financial, some environmental), so we chose to get a roof top carrier.  We looked in stores to see how much they cost (for reference) and then started our Kijiji search for a good used one. Within a couple days of deciding to purchase one, we had it in our hands at a fraction of the cost of a new one. 

There are so many ways to green our lives, many of them simple.  I had a hard time limiting this list to 10! 

In what ways have you greened your life?  
Share your favourites and help us learn!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Oh Berkey Water Filter...How I Love Thee

I am absolutely in love...with my Berkey water filter.  
Just over a year ago, our family invested in a Berkey water filter.  We purchased the the Travel sized stainless steel unit with 2 black Berkey Carbon filters that remove bacteria, chlorine and other unwanted elements like bacteria and lead, but also 2 PF2 Fluoride reduction filters.  At the time, we also purchased a filter for our shower head.  I wrote about them here.  

Prior to purchasing our lovely Berkey, we had been buying our water in large jugs from the grocery store because we didn't feel confident with the quality of our city water.  But we also didn't feel all that confident about the quality of water coming out of these big PLASTIC jugs (you know how I feel about plastic, right?).  For all we knew, this water could have been bottled city water, packaged in plastic, sitting days/weeks/months sitting in hot warehouses before it reached supermarket shelves, leaching harmful chemicals into the water we then ingested.  

The Berkey was our money saving, health saving alternative to these plastic jugs.  It is easy to set up, easy to fill, and (in our opinion) the water tastes so much better than what comes out of tap, which to us means that it contains far less contaminants. 

We absolutely loved our Berkey, but the Travel size just wasn't producing enough water to sustain us.  With our family expanding (Baby#2 is due in June), it was time to upgrade to a larger unit.  

We decided to purchase the Royal Berkey, which is stainless steel as well.  Yes, these units are a bit of an investment.  But before purchasing our Berkey we researched other similar units as well as those that hook up to the home water supply and found that this is a far more affordable and effective filtration system than the competitors.

And what did we do with our original Berkey?  Well, these units certainly do hold their value.  We sold it on our local buy and sell website (but not before we received our new Berkey of course!) to another new and happy Berkey owner taking charge of their health through the quality of water they are consuming.  Berkey to the rescue.  

I won't get into the benefits of not ingesting chlorine and fluoride here and will instead leave that for another post...but if you would like to learn more about what all the Berkey will filter, visit this Berkey site for some of their stats and contaminant filtration test results.  I will mention though that with our new Royal Berkey, we purchased the Black Berkey Primer pump which made the job of priming the filters a LOT easier.  I also took the time to purge the original Berkey's filters before passing it along to it's new owner.  The stuff I saw come off those filters made me SOOO happy that we have invested in and are using a Berkey water filter.  Better a Berkey filter than my body filtering all that gross stuff out of the water.

It can be difficult to locate a Berkey Water Filter distributor in Canada. As I recall from our initial search, there don't seem to be many of them.  But this time around we didn't even bother researching retailers since we already found one that proved to be trustworthy and has excellent customer service.  Conscious Water is based in Collingwood, ON.  but ships all over country (and offers free shipping for those making a purchase over $175 in Canada). They also have coupon codes for those purchasing 2-3 units (5%), and 4-5+ units (10%), which is a nice way to save a bit of money.  When we purchased our first unit we knew a couple other family members who were interested in purchasing a unit as well so we all received a discount by purchasing our units together.

Just like the first time, Scott from Conscious Water came through for us. They were super fast to process and ship our order. We ordered on a Friday, it shipped on a Saturday, and we received it on the Monday morning. Did I mention they offer free shipping?  I noted above that we purchased the filter primer/purging tool, but we also purchased the sight glass spigot this time.  Having used a Berkey both without and with this feature, I can honestly say that the sight glass spigot is invaluable and well worth the extra investment.  Now we never have to wonder if there is enough water in the bottom unit, how much water we should be refilling the top unit with, or whether we are putting in too much (which will cause the bottom unit to overflow).   I can't say enough good things about the Berkey filter or Conscious Water.  If you would like to check them out, here's the link to their website.  

If you have any questions for me about using these Berkey units, let me know. I'd be happy to help if I can.