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Ecosense - Part Two

When I present one of my ecosense workshops, I always explain to my participants that I don’t have a degree in environmental science, I’m not a teacher, I don’t hold a job in the environmental sector. I am an average citizen who wants to make a difference. I read books; I keep up to date on my township’s municipal waste department regulations. I read articles on the web.

If everyone felt that they couldn’t make a difference, where would we be? Maybe no one would recycle…or conserve energy…or compost. Maybe no one would care. Even if you do just ONE thing that makes a difference for the conservation of our planet, then you ARE making a difference. To put things in perspective, I ask my participants to imagine how they would feel if every day someone dumped garbage in their backyard, tossed old tires in their driveway, let dogs poop on their lawn, poured chemicals in their swimming pool, tossed rotted food on their patio, tied dirty plastic bags in the branches of their trees or flick cigarette butts into their gardens. Every. day.

THAT’S what happens every day to OUR EARTH. I tell them that I’m not here to yell at them if they don’t recycle, or buy bottled water. I’m not here to criticize. I’m here to share my knowledge, my experiences and my tips on how they can make a difference.

I’ve never given a presentation to cottagers in particular, but I hope that some of the following can help you make informed decisions with some earth-friendly, eco-sensible tips! It’s not easy to keep things simple in one small article as there is so much information I can share, but please feel free to message me or ask any questions about eco-living. I don’t pretend to be the most informed eco-geek on the planet, but I do my best as much and as often as I can!

~ I feel that I have to be extra diligent when I’m at the cottage, especially because I have to travel by boat. There is no landfill site close to me and we have limited space in our Jeep and in our boat for supplies.

Remember, it’s not waste until YOU throw it away!

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1. Conserve water.

We draw our water from the lake with a pump. We don’t have a septic system or a water heater so I can’t comment with any particular tips on those. The following tips are good ideas, no matter where you are.

· Don’t let the water run while brushing teeth.

· If you shower at the cottage, make them short ones.

· Water your garden only in early morning or early evening and only when necessary. Set a timer so you don’t forget the hose on [It doesn’t make sense to water in sunlight as the water will evaporate too quickly]

· Keep some water in a pitcher in the fridge so you don’t have to run the water for it to get cold enough to drink

· Run your washer or dishwasher only when full

· Wash your fruits and veggies in a bowl of water with a bit of soap or salt, don’t let the tap run

· Fix all drips and leaks

· Upgrade your toilet

· Use a Rain Barrel

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2. Compost and organics

· If your township doesn’t have a Green Bin organic waste program, encourage them to do so

· Compost all organic waste. I have read some reports that composting at the cottage may attract unwanted animal visitors. I suppose it depends where you are. I am sure I would have porcupines, raccoons and bears in my compost pile, so I collect my organics in a compostable bag and bring the bag back home for our Green Bin pick-up in the city. In winter, we burn some of our food scraps in the wood stove. In the warmer months, we store our meat scraps in the freezer so as not to attract animals with the odour

· There are many things you can compost [check your municipality for a specific list]:

o All food scraps including meat and bones, seafood, milk products, baked goods, sauces and gravy, pasta, rice, breads, eggs and shells, nuts and shells, cooled cooking grease and oils, chips and snacks, jams and jellies, peanut butter, pet food, – even sweets and candies

o Tea bags, coffee grinds and filters

o Tissues, paper towels, paper food containers, paper napkins

o Waxed paper, parchment, muffin cups, potato, sugar and flour bags, popcorn bags, butcher paper

o Dustpan sweepings, ashes, pet hair, dryer lint, [check your municipality]

o Waxed cardboard, like ice cream containers

o Cotton balls, Q-tips [check your municipality]

o Popsicle sticks, toothpicks

o And my favourite……..drink cups!!!!! How many Timmies cups do you see littered all over the place?

· Line your kitchen catcher with a brown paper bag, newspaper or popcorn bag. In a cup on your counter, insert a paper cup to collect your kitchen waste. When the cups are full, place in kitchen catcher….less ooey-gooey mess!

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3. Household Hazardous Waste

· Never throw HHW in the garbage, down the toilet or sink

· Collect all hazardous waste and bring to a depot regularly

· At the camp, I have a small bucket that I keep in a cool, dark place where I collect HHW. [Make sure it is not stored near any heat source]. When the bucket is full, it goes home to the HHW depot for collection

· Just some items that are HHW:

o Batteries

o Paints and stains

o Expired medications

o Fluorescent light bulbs [yes, the spiral CF kind too!]

o Nail polish

o Aerosols. Check if your community Blue Box program picks up empty cans.

o Herbicides and Pesticides

o Solvents, polishes and glues

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4. Scrap Metal

· Most municipalities have Scrap dealers who will buy your scrap metal. Keep a box in your shed or garage for anything metal that you would have previously sent to the landfill. Even a small box of metal can return enough cash for a great cup of coffee! And, if nothing else, you have prevented all that from going to the landfill and likely saving yourself from tipping fees J

o Broken appliances [small and large]

o Loose nuts, bolts, nails, etc

o Bicycles

o Bed frames

o Lawn mowers

o Barbecues

o Siding, doors, etc

o Cans

o Tools

o Wire

o Pretty much ANY metal!




5. Wise Consumer Choices

· Reuse, Reuse, Reuse. No explanation necessary!

· If you can repair it, do so.

· Buy second-hand and used items if possible. Visit thrift shops and places like the ReStore

· Have a cottage “yard” or “dock” sale. Organize with your neighbours….or hold a swap for unwanted cottage items

· Donate. Donate. Donate! There are many organizations that would be more than happy for the items you no longer want. Many even pick up.

· Use fabric shopping bags. Keep them by your door, in the car, a few in your purse or back-pack – so you don’t forget them at home when you go shopping. For the cottage, use a large tote or cooler to carry your groceries.

· Refuse excess packaging. Buy in bulk. This is especially wise when buying building supplies. It’s usually cheaper too!

· Use paper products like toilet paper, tissues and towels that have been made using recycled paper and that are non-bleached. Use cloth alternatives where possible.

· Stop buying bottled water. If the water at your cottage is not safe for drinking, install a water filter, use a water crock and use stainless or glass re-useable bottles. We bring drinking water from home. We use a 2 gallon container and pour it into our ceramic crock that has a spout. We keep a pitcher in the water for ice-cold drinking!

· Avoid processed foods, convenience packaging and pre-packaged meals. Cook from scratch. Buy in bulk

· Buy a Soda Stream to make your own carbonated soda and water

· Use a battery charger and good rechargeable batteries

· Buy products that are not tested on animals

· Use Low or No-VOC paints

· Use ceramic, glass, stainless steel or cast iron cookware. Don’t buy Teflon products.

· Avoid plastic and vinyl. Know your plastics and avoid those that cannot be recycled or reused. When I shop, I refuse to buy any product that comes in a container that I can not reuse or recycle.

· In general, before purchasing, ask yourself if you really need the product. You can’t always do it all, but every little bit helps. Answer these questions. :

o Can I do without this product…can I find something similar, an alternative?

o Can I rent or borrow?

o Is it environmentally friendly? Non-Toxic?

o Can the container or package be recycled?

o Is it tested on animals?

o What would Debb have to say about this? [haha, had to throw that in there J ]


6. Cleaners

Especially near our lakes and rivers, we want to be extra careful what kind of cleansers we are using at the cottage. From dish soap to shampoo, cleaning supplies to boat-wash, choose wisely.

· Avoid all cleaners with phosphates

· Use natural soap [brands like Dr.Bronners, Kiss My Face, Green Beaver]

· Avoid body and beauty products with the “mean fifteen” **(see below)

· Use reputable, eco-friendly, biodegradable shampoos [search the cosmetic database for all your body-product info –

· Remember that biodegradable only means that a product will biodegrade into millions of particles, but those particles are still there. If those particles are not not enviro-safe, they will still be introduced to your lake or river and every living thing in it.

· Use natural products for cleaning like lemon juice, vinegar, baking soda and salt. That’s all you will ever need. Trust me…I haven’t bought a commercial cleaning product in decades!

· Use cotton or bamboo cloths, natural sponges or natural fibre brushes

· Never wash or shampoo in the lake or river

If I have forgotten to cover a topic that you would like more information on, please don’t hesitate to ask. This is a passion of mine, this ecoholic stuff. You don’t have to be like me, but please try to be an example to your kids, your grandkids, your neighbours, your family.

Show them that YOU can make a difference.

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Please check out my blog at ecosense


Recommended Reads that I have enjoyed, cover to cover! :

ecoholic, ecoholic Home, ecoholic Body by Adria Vasil [Canadian]

Green Living –

Green for Life – Gillian Deacon [Canadian]

Green Guide – National Geographic

Living Like Ed: A Guide to the Eco-Friendly Life – Ed Begley Jr.

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** The Mean 15 is a list of the top body care ingredients to avoid. Adapted from Ecoholic Body by Adria Vasil.

1. BHA and BHT:Endocrine system-disrupting preservatives also linked to cancer.

2. DEA/MEA/TEA (diethanolamine): Can create carcinogenic nitrosamines when mixed with preservatives

3. Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives:(DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, methenamine, quaternium-15 and Bronopol, a. k. a. 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol)

4. Oxybenzone (BP-3/ benzophenone) and octinoxate (octyl methoxycinnamate):Two sunscreen chemicals that may disrupt our hormone system and that can trigger allergic reactions.

5. Palm oil (or anything with “palm” or “palmate” in its name, like sodium palmate):Avoid this rainforest-destroying crop unless it’s fair trade/organic

6. Parabens:Estrogenic preservatives also tied to damage to male reproductive system.

7. Parfum/fragrance:Laced with phthalates and other hormone disruptors and sensitizers. Note: some natural Euro brands with “parfums” are made with natural essential oils (it should say so on the label)

8. PEGs (polyethylene glycol compounds, and anything with “-eth” in its name):These are often contaminated with carcinogenic 1,4-dioxane.

9. Petrolatum/paraffin/mineral oil/petroleum distillates: Green your bodycare by avoiding these petrochemicals

10. PPD (also called p-Aminoaniline; 1,4-benzenediamine; p-benzenediamine CI 76060; p-Diaminobenzene; 1,4-phenylenedia- mine; 1,4-diaminobenzene) In all permanent hair dyes. Linked to some cancers.

11. Phthalates:Hormone-disrupting family of chemicals hidden behind the word “fragrance,” but you can look for the phrase “phthalate free.”

12. Retinyl palmitate:Keep this one out of the sun as it seems to speed up carcinogenic effect of UV rays in mice.

13. Siloxanes (Cyclotetrasiloxane (D4) and cyclopentasiloxane (D5):Eco toxic siloxanes (silicone based polymers). Cyclomethicone is a mix of D4, D5 and D6 siloxanes.

14. Sodium laureth sulphate:Foaming agent in soaps and shampoos often contaminated with carcinogenic 1,4-dioxane.

15. Triclosan/triclocarban:Suspected thyroid disruptor and may contribute to antibacterial resistance.