Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Environmental living

I wish I could say that we've got the green living thing down pat. I wish our house was powered by wind or the sun, or that I walk or bike everywhere. No, although we have taken some steps to lessen our lives' impact on the earth, we are far from fully there. We drive hybrids, but that is as much about saving money as it is about lowering emissions. One of the challenges of living a greener lifestyle is cost. It's often much cheaper to buy non-organic food or even non-local food. A hybrid vehicle is a huge initial investment, and some have speculated that they won't necessarily save money in the long run because of their initial price. Want to buy something that is non-toxic or chemical-free? Often, it's more expensive. It's a bit like the debate surrounding eating healthier... fresh fruit and veggies are so pricey compared to the inside of the store. (Someone once told me that the healthiest t way to shop a grocery store is to go on the outside only, to get to the produce, dairy, bakery, etc. and avoid the inside, filled with delicious processed products.)

Anyway. One thing we are doing this coming fall is buying half a cow from a local farm that has grass-fed, Angus (mixed with something else) cows. (Yes, the family from "Jon & Kate Plus 8" also bought half a cow - that isn't what made us do it!) The grass isn't sprayed, so the beef is organic. The cows don't eat grain, so their meat is supposed to be leaner and healthier for you. More Omega 3's or something. Frankly I was just enamored by the idea of buying half a cow. Call me crazy. (and call me if you want the name of the farm!)

I'm also on the lookout for organic/local chicken.... but while the beef is quite reasonably priced, it seems that locally produced chicken is not quite as cheap. Local produce is somewhat more accessible in the summer due to the farm markets and such. I've been thinking about going to the Avalon Dairy store that Chris mentioned, but the hubby thinks Avalon milk is overpriced. I'm sure it's a lot more than buying Lucerne or Dairyland, but maybe the hormone-freeness of it is worthwhile.

On the home front, we changed almost all our lightbulbs to CFLs. Saving money, but again with a larger initial investment. We also signed up for a water meter and we are always looking for ways to save water. Apparently in our city, you are not actually supposed to have low-flow toilets - this is just anecdotal information though. So, we'll have to settle for shorter showers and such. I've stopped using my dishwasher because it sucks. SUCKS. I should have gotten a new one, but I was too cheap. Half the time, this one doesn't seem to open the detergent holder's lid early enough so the detergent just clumps up instead of being used. I do try to save water while washing dishes. I sometimes will fill up a sink with hot soapy water and then use the other sink for rinsing. Other times I pile up the dishes, give a few seconds of rinse, then wash them without much water, just a wet soapy sponge. I think it's a miracle that I do any dishes, though :)

We also have a front load washer, which saves a lot of water and detergent. The matching dryer, however, seems to take longer than the old one ... I'm considering whether to hang my clothes outside, but that seems too public, you know? Anyway.

Anyone have a great environmentally friendly tip?

Monday, August 04, 2008


Let's say you are invited to a party at someone's house. Let's say it's not a house you've ever been to before, you know the sort of party I mean, where you are either good friends but not close friends, or relatives but not close relatives. In fact, imagine that it's the first time many of the guests have been there. Sort of an unofficial housewarming, officially just a summer BBQ. Let's say that the hosts specifically say "No gifts" in the invitation. What do you do? Bring something or not? Buy a gift? Give a gift card? Nothing at all?

I think it's just the way I've been raised, but my instinct is always to bring SOMETHING to someone's house unless it's just a whole bunch of close friends (sorry, close friends! you know I love ya!) Before we were married, we used to just tag along on gifts with the in-laws... but I would never do that now. These days, if I received that sort of invite from a good friend, I would either buy something small, or give a gift card... from a friend I didn't know as well, I would bring a nice box of chocolates or some fruit. If it was from a relative, I would probably give a red pocket of money or a gift card. (I can just hear my brother saying "But they said no gifts!! That means no gifts!!") I know! But you see, I would feel totally awkward showing up empty handed.

So, of course, the reason I'm asking is because this happened to us. Obviously I won't give a ton of details, but essentially someone came to our house without a gift. Now, I must say at the outset that this in itself doesn't offend me in the least.. We specified no gifts, but some people just chose to ignore that and brought a little something anyway. I have no problem with someone not bringing a gift, especially since we said no gifts. If you know us, you know we are brimming over with stuff anyway! But what happened to tip me over the edge is that this person came in, and the first thing they said wasn't "Nice place!" or "How's it going!" or even "Weird colour choices!". The first thing they said was, "Oh, sorrrrrry, I didn't bring a gift!" I can't make the tone of the voice show up, but it was quite flippant.

I know I shouldn't be offended. And yet somehow I still am. Maybe it's just that the relationship between this person and the two of us is already a little tense. Or maybe I am just a total jerk. I can't figure it out.