Buy Nothing Day, Here and Gone

Written by guest blogger Denise Deby, who has worked in international and community development, and is currently trying to figure out how to connect the local with the global in her everyday life.

November 27 was Buy Nothing Day in North America. It passed by without much attention in Ottawa. But at least I can say I didn’t buy anything.

Or can I?

I didn’t spend any cash that day. No paper, coins or credit cards came out of my wallet. But my financial transactions continued.

On Buy Nothing Day, I still consumed electricity, water and heat, and was charged for them. I used bus tickets, purchased a couple of months ago. I ate food that I bought earlier in the week. I used my phone, cell phone and internet connections, all of which I’m paying for monthly.

Buy Nothing Day definitely made me think about how tied in I am to a financial system that doesn’t even need my active involvement. Maybe that’s the point. Adbusters would say I should also be turning off my computer and lights – the only way to draw attention to our default mode, consumption.

Still, Buy Nothing Day’s message is largely negative – don’t buy, don’t consume. Good to think about, but hard to engage people. What if it were about Doing Something as well? Are there alternatives to purchasing and consuming that we can participate in, to remind ourselves that there are other aspects to life? What about:

  • Spending time with friends and family, taking a walk in the woods or neighbourhood, reading a book, talking to our kids and to each other about having less stuff?
  • Trading or giving away something (e.g. on Ottawa Freecycle / Ottawa Full Circles), or finding a reuse for something no longer useful?
  • Volunteering — for a favourite organisation, or through Volunteer Ottawa (click on “I want to volunteer”)?
  • Writing a letter to an MP on climate change or another issue (for tips see David Suzuki’s website)?

I’ve been impressed by the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s campaign called “A Dare To Remember,” in which people commit to doing something brave or crazy or fun, to raise attention and funds for addressing HIV/AIDS in Africa. It’s a great way to capture people’s imaginations, and to prompt lots of people to do something, in their own way, to generate awareness about an issue. Maybe some lessons here?

Then, hopefully, we could sustain some momentum from Buy Nothing Day as we head into the December holiday and shopping season.

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Conscious Consumerism – what’s that?

Today, it is my pleasure to publish a post from another local-to-Ottawa environmental blogger, Katherine Forster.  You can check out her blog at: http://greeneststuff.blogspot.com

Greenest Stuff, by Katherine Forster

Katherine writes…

Last week someone sent me the video  The Story of Stuff and it got me thinking some more about how we can raise awareness about “thinking before you buy”.  I love reading about “freegans” and talking about “buying local” and seeing so many people “freecycling” or using Kijiji Ottawa – but when will these activities become more mainstream?

I do think that there are signs that we are coming around the corner – from the stores of Dalhousie North selling lots of local, handmade, and recycled items, to hearing that my fashion savvy friend is having a clothes swap rather than buy new this fall.  But seeing Karma Wear close was a huge black cloud for the local Ottawa environmental scene.  Will this movement ever be able to compete with the cheap buys that can be had at the local big box store or the bargain centers?

So I was thrilled to see “The Story of Stuff” video.  I sent it to friends, and I want to try to encourage it to be shown in schools.  I’m also so happy that local communities, provinces and territories are celebrating “Waste Reduction Week” in Canada this week – the 2009 theme, Too Good To Waste, emphasizes conserving Earth’s resources to make life on the planet sustainable.  This is a great way to make people think about the impact they have on the Earth and to encourage everyone to start some new habits.  I hope that through activities like these people can start seeing how powerful they are as consumers and that with even small changes they can become activists too.  As Jane Goodall pointed out “You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you.”   Her efforts today focus on empowering people to “recognize their personal power and responsibility to effect positive change through consumer action, lifestyle change and activism”.

Come share your thoughts on sustainable consumption and your efforts on purchases that make positive changes at “Greenest Stuff”.  This is where I’ve been posting about purchases (from Ottawa or further), trying to consider the impact these purchases make.  I’m hoping that at the end of the day, I can make better choices as a consumer.  If you have any great finds in Ottawa or are interested in the topic send me an email.

My next purchase?  Canadian-made vegan winter boots!

Guest blogger, Katherine Forster can be reached at: kifness-at-hotmail.com

Local, Eco-Friendly Daycare

Guest blogger Courtney Bizeau is owner of local green business The Cleaning Crew and is proud mother of a three-year old girl.

daycare

When we discovered Hart Home Daycare it was with such a big sigh of relief. Finally, we could go to work knowing that our daughter was in a safe, secure environment that is totally geared to her well-being. Owner and child care provider Sara Hart devotes her life work to the care and development of children and every aspect of this daycare is proof of her solid commitment.

Sara has transformed her home into a wonderful child care facility that is also an eco-friendly environment, proudly boasting the distinction of being the first in Ottawa and Ontario to be endorsed by the OEC. The indoor play area is fresh and spotlessly clean, bright and sun filled, child-friendly, colourful, and well organized. Sturdy storage bins and shelves house copious amounts of toys, games, blocks, costumes, etc., all geared for imaginative interactive play and conversation. A large chalk board lines one wall to encourage budding artists. The outdoor play space is a safe, fun area where the children are encouraged to run, jump, climb, slide, dig and play to their heart’s content. All activities are well planned months in advance and designed to meet and challenge the mental and physical development of each child. Nutritious meals and healthy snacks are deliciously varied and include organic fruits and vegetables, locally grown as the season permits. The children are encouraged to participate in food preparation and taste testing of new foods.

Every morning Sara greets my daughter and me at the door with a wonderful smile and a warm greeting. I barely manage a quick kiss goodbye before little chunky hands of happy faced friends reach out to welcome my daughter into the group. The excited chatter of tiny voices begins a day that will be filled with laughter and song, music and movement, fresh air, quiet time & naps, skill building, learning, arts and crafts, kitchen science, stories and much much more. Those are the days of childhood dreams.

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P.S. from Alette Willis (editor).  I emailed Sara Hart from the daycare to ask how they came to be certified by an Oregon-based environmental group.  Here is her response:

Hi Alette,
I came across the Oregon Environmental Council while looking around the web to see how other daycares were greening their centres.  Unfortunately, I could not find anything similar, or even close, in Canada. I was happy to find that the OEC had recently expanded to a US National Program and was also willing to endorse Canadians who met their criteria.  The OEC now endorses approx.1223 providers which care for 47839 children across the United States and Canada.  Although the program is not well known in Canada,  I applied for endorsement as a symbol, to parents and myself, of my commitment to creating the healthiest possibly environment for the children in my care.  If you are interested in learning more about the OEC and the resources they provide, you can visit them here.

Sara Hart

Hart Home Daycare
●Learning Through Play●
www.harthomedaycare.com

Re-use Tip: Giving Your Furniture A New Home

Written by guest blogger Denise Deby, who has worked in international and community development, and is currently trying to figure out how to connect the local with the global in her everyday life.


furniture2

Sometimes I like to think that one or two individuals can start something that will make a positive difference. Recently, I had the good fortune to meet some people who have done exactly that. Two women in Ottawa, Nathalie Maione and Buffey Cassidy, with the help of some enthusiastic volunteers, have formed a non-profit organization called Helping With Furniture (www.helpingwithfurniture.org).

Helping With Furniture’s approach is straightforward: collect good quality used furniture and household items from people who no longer need them, and deliver them to people who can use them. Once a week, Helping With Furniture volunteers pick up “gently used” items and drop them off at the homes of refugee claimants. Items which might have ended up in the landfill or unused are instead helping families who would otherwise have very little to start their homes.

Since its first delivery in November 2005, Helping with Furniture has assisted well over 200 households, with families coming from some 40 countries, among them Afghanistan, Burundi, Congo, Colombia, Haiti, and Nigeria (to name a few). Helping With Furniture provides a welcome as well as some basics such as beds, tables, chairs, and kitchen supplies. Helping With Furniture’s founders estimate that they recycle an average 1000 cf of furniture a year.

For me, finding a good home for a few treasured items that have been collecting dust in my basement – a rocking chair, a mattress that my children have outgrown, a handmade blanket, an extra lamp – was easy. I filled in Helping With Furniture’s on-line donation form that outlines what types of things they’re looking for. I received a prompt and friendly reply. On a recent Wednesday evening, Helping With Furniture’s volunteers arrived with a bright yellow moving van and loaded everything for transfer to temporary storage and on to new owners.

I was struck by the strong sense of purpose that motivates Nathalie Maione and Buffey Cassidy, by their commitment to addressing poverty and the environment. A growing demand has prompted them to expand the service provided by Helping With Furniture, which amazingly they run in addition to their jobs and families. For more information or to donate items, check out www.helpingwithfurniture.org.

Other organizations in Ottawa which accept donations of used household items are listed on the City of Ottawa’s Take It Back site (www.ottawa.ca/takeitback/).

Support Local Artisans Who Use the 3-Rs in Their Crafts – April 18 and 19

Here’s an event that I wish I was in town to attend:  The third annual Salon des Artisans-Récupérateurs de L’Outaouais.  This craft fair will be on April 18th and 19th at the Tétreau Community Centre in Gatineau.  There will be over 50 crafts-people selling everything from jewellry, to clothing, accessories, paintings, sculptures, and household items.

The show is being organized by Friends of the Earth Outaouais and Véronique Bérubé of Design-Vert.  Everything for sale must be designed and made by the artisans present.  In order to qualify for the show, the items must be made primarily out of re-used or recycled materials, and be of high quality workmanship and artistry.

Alongside the craft fair there will be workshops, a recycled craft area for kids, items on display from an international contest to make toys out of reused materials, and a café.  Please note that there is no ATM on site and that many of the artisans will only be able to accept cash.

I’m honestly astonished (pleasantly) that there are 50 such artisans in our local area.  So please take the opportunity to support local environmentally-friendly crafts-people and let us imagine a day when most of the goods we buy are locally produced from sustainable sources.

Salon des Artisans-Récupérateurs de L’Outaouais

  • When: 18th and 19th of April from 10 am to 5pm.
  • Where: Tétreau Community Centre (Parc Mousette), 361 Boulevard de Lucerne, Gatineau
  • Admission is free!
  • Parking is also free, but the Community Centre is easily accessible by bike along the path that runs on the North bank of the Ottawa River.  So why not use environmentally-friendly transportation to get there.

On-line Directory of Green Shops and Services in Gatineau

Marie, a blog-reader from Gatineau, sent me a link to a fabulous resource for everyone in the region: an on-line directory of environmentally-friendly shops and services on the Quebec side of the river.  The Green Directory (Le Bottin Vert) includes a guide to green living in Gatineau with lots of useful links, as well as a searchable directory of where to find green goods and services and where to bring used goods for re-use or recycling.

The Green Directory is a service provided by the City of Gatineau:

The Green Directory for the English version.

Le Bottin Vert for the French version.

Water: Connecting the Local and the Global

By guest blogger Denise Deby, who has worked in international and community development, and is currently trying to figure out how to connect the local with the global in her everyday life.img_0634

World Water Day, March 22, got me thinking more about water. In Ottawa, a coalition of organizations called Sanitation and Water Action Network (SWAN) Canada delivered petitions written on toilet seats to Parliament Hill, to draw attention to Canada’s role in addressing the global water crisis. Meanwhile, recent media reports have highlighted the unacceptable quality of water in many First Nations communities, sewage overflow runoff into the Ottawa River (more than 10 times in the last few weeks, according to the March 21 Ottawa Citizen), and the debate over bottled water.

Is there a connection among these water-related issues? Can I possibly influence any of them? The statistics can be overwhelming: 1.1 billion human beings without clean drinking water; 2.6 billion without sanitation; numerous species at risk. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far.

Become informed

About where the water we consume comes from. The City of Ottawa’s website sets out how our water is managed and distributed. For a comprehensive perspective on the river system on which we rely, check out www.ottawariverkeeper.ca. Ottawa Riverkeeper was established by citizens to monitor and protect the health of the Ottawa River, as no one agency or group has responsibility for this important water system.

About our water within a national and global context. Environment Canada, and Friends of the Earth Canada offer information about water resources and management in Canada. The UN’s World Water Day site has loads of information and links about global water issues. For more on the politics of water and water as a human right in the Canadian context, see the Council of Canadians’ site.

Consume thoughtfully

It’s easy to despair, especially when you consider that Canadians are among the highest water users in the world. Still, many small changes can add up. Environment Canada states that about 65% of indoor home water use occurs in bathrooms, with toilets being the greatest water user. In summer, half to three-quarters of all treated water is used on lawns (http://www.ec.gc.ca/water/en/manage/use/e_facts.htm). Suggestions, and on-line tools, can be found on the City of Ottawa and Environment Canada websites, among others.

Take action

Here are some opportunities to raise awareness or make a difference in the quality of Ottawa’s water:

  • Become a member or volunteer for Ottawa Riverkeeper. Volunteers can get involved as “riverwatchers” who help monitor the health of the river, in public outreach, on scientific or other committees, or at events such as the annual Riverkeeper Triathlon. Contact Ottawa Riverkeeper at 613-321-1120 or outreach@ottawariverkeeper.ca.
  • Send a World Water Day e-postcard to a friend.
  • Write to local or federal elected representatives with your concerns, and ask them to make water a priority.