a poem

sweet child, as yours and the life of the world unfold
take great care for the world is much darker than you were told

not all fairytales rainbows and happy ever afters
or unicorns and books that give you all the answers

there are people in this world much unlike you and me
who move for power, breathe for greed unlike anything you can believe to see

but that is them and you are you
no one can take from your heart what is true

your voice will be much bigger, bigger than you can believe
and your voice and her voice and his voice and their voice
will make the difference in what you can achieve

sweet child, you have a choice what path you want to lead
you need not be consumed by the hopelessness they feed

gasp at the rainbow
stare at the raven
watch the pearl drops on the leaves glow

gaze at the mountains
follow the river
draw out the range like you are surrounded

listen for the birds
smile at the wind
smell the Ponderosa
taste the spring

and when the first snow glides early in the morning of your 30th year
stop and smile and remember you are here

For my Birthday

For my birthday I rarely have wishes
I rarely want presents
I rarely need a thing

But this year is different
For I want so many things
That it nearly feels selfish

What I want is something very valuable
Something incredibly vital
Yet inexcusably simple

I want you to care
I want you to change
I want you to accept

Care about your daily impact
Change one small thing
Accept responsibility

I want you to learn
I want you to unite
I want you to be

Learn about alternatives
Unite for the sake of our future
Be part of the solution

I’m only one
But you are too

Passion Project: environmental responsibility

Hi.  I am a teacher.  And to remain balanced in who I am, and also model for my students what balance is in their lives, I have to teach with passion.  To be passionate about something means you care deeply and wholeheartedly about something.  I suppose to be passionate will look different for every person.  One of my greatest passions, if you haven’t already figured it out, is the environment.  Oh, it’s yours too?!  GREAT!

One thing that bugs me about humanity is that too many of us are just living for today.  We get that message a lot; live in the now, be present now, be here now.  But what about tomorrow?  What about next year?  And what about when your kids turn 50?  And what about when your grandkids turn 50?  What kind of a mess are you okay leaving for them?  And are you doing your part to lessen the mess?  I ask myself this constantly.  What am I doing to lessen the mess?

My job is pretty cool because I get to weave my own passions into my teaching, and get the kids excited about the same things.  I get to model my own environmental responsibility, and show them not only how to better care for the environment, but make them think about why this is important; how does it affect me?

I remember a few years ago I was presenting compost education to a group of Grade 4s.  We had spoken about landfills and how to lessen our food waste and greenhouse gas production by composting, and this kid after a whole lot of information puts up his hand and asks, “But… what about when our landfill is full?”  I respond, “We will have to find and clear more land to build another one.”  He says, “But… that one will fill up too.”  I respond, “Yes, it will.”  I could see him SEE IT.  It was awesome.

Last year with my Grade 7s I did a Waste Reduction project.  #waytooproud.

This year I am teaching Grade 2s and we just had another Waste Reduction Week.  I knew I wanted to focus on one thing that irks me so much: plastic waste.  Our school is already nailing the composting and recycling, but I see so much plastic waste coming in via students’ lunches, so I thought that would be a good focus.

Task 1: ask custodial staff to not empty our garbage.  We gathered our week’s worth of garbage, and emptied it onto a tarp to view and sort it.  I picked up a handful of straws and said, “These straws will be on our planet forever.”  They got really upset!  But, like, angry upset that such a thing is even possible!  Ignite the passion!

Task 2: sort our garbage by type, then focus on the biggest amount.  We were able to sort out some food waste for the compost and some recyclables, but our non-recyclables left us with 7 straws, 2 plastic forks, 8 yogurt cups, 10 Styrofoam cups, 29 Ziploc bags, and 35 candy and granola bar wrappers, which we recorded by practicing our tally marks.  We then graphed our findings on the Smartboard to find our biggest culprits.

Task 3: small group discussion for reusable options to replace plastic waste item.  We shared our ideas as a class.  Some students mentioned they already had certain containers that helped them avoid Ziploc bags.  We viewed these as a class.  I also sent home a letter asking for help thinking of more options, and to tell families what our goals were.

Task 4: this week, each student receives a paper “garbage” bag.  Our garbage cans are out of order.  What cannot be composted or recycled, must be put into their own garbage bag.  We will review our findings on Friday.

My next steps are to discuss the whys.  I have already introduced the students to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and luckily a few weeks ago we had a Creek Science workshop and in that the kids learned about where our streams end up; namely, the Pacific Ocean.

More updates to come!  Since our conversations have started, students have been happily showing me their reusables, and double checking their items before throwing them in the garbage.  They are making conscious efforts to sort it out into our bins.  This alone can be a tough thing to learn!  But we are making it awesome.

Successful Saturday Kitchen Extravaganzas

Zero waste, DIY, minimalism, and all that crap pretty much go hand in hand.  If you want to reduce your household waste, you are going to have to start making some things yourself.  Packaging can be a nightmare, and not everything is recyclable; side note: recycling is not our best option.  Avoid packaging and garbage – make it yourself from bulk/unpackaged items.  If you want to reduce your household waste, you are gradually going to gel more with simplicity and minimalism because you are bringing less stuff into your home and making conscious decisions when purchasing items.

Generally, I frown upon all things plastic.  You can only recycle plastic once or twice before it becomes such frail quality that it will be discarded in the trash regardless.  And there it will remain until the end of time, seeping into our groundwater and ecosystems, left to pollute every corner of the earth forever; ahem, also likely to be re-ingested by us at some point.  Now, I don’t know about you, but I would really rather like to avoid such a man-made catastrophe.  So I do my part.  Every day.  Because it is my environmental responsibility.  And it is yours too.  Help a girl out, won’t you?  What was my point?  Ah yes, refusing packaging!

I just spent three weeks visiting with my Oma who, in the summer, decided to renew her passport and travel to Canada once more; she has not been here for fourteen years, so it was a big deal!  Now that I am teaching a full-time class, my time was divvied between school and Oma.  There was not a lot of time left over for my DIY extravaganzas.  But then Oma left this week *sad face* and I used part of my weekend to DIY the shit out of everything.  Perhaps to cope with my sadness of her departure!

We do not waste food in our house.  We do everything we can to avoid food waste: not buying more than we need at the store, not purchasing something just because it is on sale, making large batches of food, freezing, drying, baking, cooking, you name it.  It is quite the guilt-fest if we ever find a hidden something in the fridge that has spoiled.  It does not happen often.  But to avoid food waste requires our effort.

This weekend I made refried beans, whole wheat bread, chocolate syrup, apple bread, honey garlic sauce, chili, and I had a spare ten minutes and made ketchup.  Go ME!

The most satisfying thing about this creating extravaganza: no waste produced.  The second most satisfying thing about this creating extravaganza: using up food that was on the verge of spoiling.  The third most satisfying thing about this creating extravaganza: just to prove to myself I can.  Oh, and a many bonus: it was friggin’ delicious.

Take the time.  Make conscious decisions.  Take responsibility.

What are your favourite go-to recipes in your ZW lifestyle?  What have you not been able to find package-free?

ermahgerd it’s uuuurrrrrt!

It is the moment we have all been waiting for, folks!  Well, at least all of us at the Zero Waste Bloggers Network have.  With the coordination and leadership of Inge, we have finally published our Zero Waster’s Travel Companion, stock full of zero waste information for different cities around the world.  Get yours!

This was a great project idea from the start.  I love writing, and I loved writing for my hometown of Cranbrook, B.C.; we have limited options for zero waste, however, the options we do have have saved me from BIG time trash production!  I simply had to highlight the green-ness that we have to offer.

My summer was full of travel this year.  First, I went to Vancouver Island and Seattle with my sister for just under two weeks; the whole time I thought… I WISH I had access to ZW information for other places so I can continue to live eco-consciously on the road.  In July and August I also flew to England and Germany, and had the same thoughts; how great would it be to know the bulk shopping spots, and support local cafes/shops that follow an eco-conscious model.  Now that problem is solved!

The second edition of our Travel Companion will be in the works soon, so if you want to write for your own city, just contact us through our website or Facebook; there is ALWAYS room for more passionate tree-huggers like you to spread the word of zero-waste, and to highlight businesses in your hometown that offer conscious alternatives.

Love it!

So excited!

Check it out!

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Zero-waste opportunities in Hamburg, meine Perle…

It always surprises people when it comes up in conversation that I was born and raised in Hamburg, Germany.  With a lack of an accent (one that only five people have ever been able to hear), and a passion for Canada’s wilderness, mixed with an easygoing “We’ll figure it out” attitude, you may even think I am making it up!  However, my German roots run deep, and though I have been living in Canada for over twenty years now, not a year goes by that I do not visit meine Perle.

After visiting England and taking note of their lacking eco-consciousness, I jetted off to Germany to visit my Oma in our hometown that hugs the outskirts of the green harbour city of Hamburg, a place I will forever call my home.

My Oma does not live a zero-waste lifestyle, nor do I expect her to.  She lived through the second world war as a young girl, and grew up in a time in which every single thing and person in a household had a purpose.  Farmers were vital to the community, food was scarce and highly respected, and items or skills were traded or shared.  It was a different time.  Many times she speaks of scarce war times, in which they ate potatoes, potatoes, and more potatoes; no wonder Germans have hundreds of different ways of cooking with potatoes.

The point is – things were not wasted.  Everything was used.  Every piece of every animal was harvested and cooked and eaten or otherwise used.  Every vegetable, no matter how imperfect or shriveled, was peeled, chopped, diced, or eaten straight out of the garden; the scraps were composted and turned back into soil to be used again in the next growing season.

My Oma has seen it all.  Her family was one of the first to have a flushing toilet.  The first to have a telephone.  And the last to have a vehicle.  She has seen technology change the world.  She has seen the rise in our wasteful society.  She lives in a time that has hardly any comparison to her own childhood.  She still composts, gardens, and uses cloth bags.  But she is also nearing 90, and our world of convenience is truly helpful to her in her daily life.  Am I mad she doesn’t avoid plastic?  No.  Am I mad she doesn’t recycle glass?  No.  She does what she can for the environment within her physical limitations and I am proud of her.

The main difference I saw between England and Germany in regards to eco-conscious living was opportunity!  There are markets everywhere; it is a weekly task to get fresh vegetables, fruits, meats, etc, at the market.  Here you can easily incorporate your own containers, bags, and ask the vendors nicely with a pretty smile if you can fill your own containers and for them to take off the tare weight.  Delis and bakeries are plentiful in supermarkets, so it never hurts to ask.  There are many more loose fruit and veg in supermarkets as well, if you missed the last market.  They simply seem more aware, although I did not observe that many people shopping with their own containers aside from cloth bags.

Germany has a great recycling system as well, and offers home pick-up.  They are very particular about sorting garbage into the various categories and recycling bins.

I love reading up on what the ladies from alternulltiv have to say about zero-waste in Hamburg.  Typically when I visit Hamburg I just spend time with my family, but they have really shown me what Hamburg has to offer in terms of zero-waste, because they are doing it!  They have been featured on TV as well, showing us how easily it can be done.  Though I didn’t catch their broadcast, I did watch a few segments on plastic waste featured on NDR, which was the first time I have seen such a focus on this toxic problem.

The beautiful green city has so much to offer, but I typically avoid the city and stay on the outskirts to enjoy the protected forest habitats, which fill your heart with green, and reminds you what beauty really means.

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And typically I visit Hagenbeck for the sake of childhood memories…

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I did have a wonderful time visiting family, especially spending so much one-on-one time with my Oma.  I simply must share something ridiculous with you now, as you will appreciate just how ridiculous this is from a zero-waste perspective.  We had asked for some smoked salmon at a deli, and not knowing what kind of waste was involved, we were presented with this crap: five slices of smoked salmon, separated by five sheets of plastic, wrapped in a plastic wrap, placed in a plastic container, with an added honey dill sauce in another plastic container.  I nearly fell over.  None of it recyclable, doomed to pollute our planet forever.

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And this gem I found in a catalog that made me laugh, but also scratch my head.  This is an advertisement for men’s pajamas.  First of all, I think it is crap that they are encouraging the use of one-time-use to-go cups, but secondly… it doesn’t even make sense that he has one!  He’s in his pajamas, implying that he just got up.  Did he drive to the cafe in his pajamas and pick up a coffee?  Does he really think that that is more efficient than walking into his kitchen around the corner and brewing his own cup?  Oh, man.  Advertising at its finest.

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Have you traveled to Hamburg or elsewhere in Germany?  What was your zero-waste experience like?  What options did you have?  Did you come prepared with your zero-waste kit or did you have to get creative?  I’d love to know your thoughts, or even recommendations!

Seemingly unreachable zero-waste goals in England…

About this time eight years ago I packed up my things in the paved city of Calgary, and sped to the airport to fly overseas to my mother in England; escape my woes, and find new direction and purpose in life.  I fell in love with the rolling countryside, the dry humour, and the charming people that I got to meet.  I spent one year in my third global home, but then missed the mountains so much I could not bear to stay another day.

Every year or two I try to make a scheduled stop in England to have a visit; this does not always happen, but I do try!  This year I succeeded and spent one week in England before flying on to Germany.  I called this an “on purpose” stay, as I have “accidentally” stayed in England several times, as Heathrow is not always the kindest airport…

I have been on my zero-waste journey for two years now, so first I will tell you a little bit of my trip, and then I will have to share the shocking amount of waste that I discovered; it left me feeling hopeless for our fellow ZW bloggers who live in England (I thought, how on earth do they cope here?!).

It was unbelievably hot when I arrived in England; sticky, hot, and muggy conditions did not help my migraine that persisted for two days.  My mom and stepdad picked me up from the airport and we headed home.  It was a short week in England, but we did get to visit all of our favourite places…

I was not used to such hot conditions in England, so I thought…hey, it’s 30 degrees, we need to hit up a BEACH TOWN!  That was a very stupid idea, turns out, but it did bring us back to Bournemouth, which is a city I always found buzzingingly beautiful.

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My mom knows I like farms, flowers, damn it, I can’t alliterate!  I like stuff that is, like, environmental…so she took me to a lavender farm!  The rows of lavender were the backdrop, and there was a beautiful garden of wild flowers next to a small cafe.  The busy bees’ buzzing (nailed it) filled the air, with the scent of lavender following your every step.

We took a stroll in the New Forest, at which point we named our GPS’ voice Linda and had lots of fun as she guided us through the horse-filled forests.

One of my favourite little towns is Shaftesbury.  We go there for the incredible scones at the Salt Cellar.  And of course to walk the countryside and climb Gold Hill.

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Though it is very touristy, I once worked there and saw it daily, I still cannot leave England without having seen Salisbury, with a lunch at Alpino’s, and a stroll through the fields of sheep, geese, with views of the breathtaking cathedral touching the sky.  It is so peaceful here despite the buzz of tourism; one of my all-time favourite spots.

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England is filled with beautiful places, lush countrysides, rolling hills, farmland, incredible architecture, and awesome piles of rocks… however, living a zero-waste, and very eco-conscious lifestyle, you also see the ugly side, and that uglyness is trash.

Mom and I were prepping for a family BBQ and headed to a supermarket.  The produce aisle was horrendous; everything was pre-packaged in plastic.  I mean, I get upset here in Canada when I can’t find a cucumber that isn’t wrapped, but in England?!  Nectarines were plastic wrapped in threes, tomatoes, zucchini, potatoes, I mean everything.  You could buy some loose potatoes and melons, but everything else = plastic-wrapped.  And a bulk section?  Non-existant!

There was some seafood you could have possibly asked to get in your own container, but the deli was relatively non-existant, and there was no bakery.  I had been in other supermarkets, and they all seem to have the same theme.  When we were visiting our favourite towns, I also saw no sign of organic or whole-food stores, or any specialty shop that you could possibly shop in bulk.

I started thinking… how is it even possible to live zero-waste in England?!  Why are they so far behind in environmental aspects?  Recently they added a 5p charge in plastic bags; fortunately, the usage has decreased, but if all of their products are wrapped in plastic, does that even make much of a difference?

This couldn’t be, I thought, so I took it to our Zero Waste Bloggers Network.  I know there are a lot of U.K. bloggers in our network; surely, they would have the answers!  Here is the feedback I got:

Helen from Spot of Earth has had a long and difficult journey to hunt for zero-waste options.  Parts of the country, she says, are further ahead in environmental movements than others, such as Bristol, and parts of London, but it is difficult to find bulk options, and delis that allow your own containers.  She says the best supermarket to sell loose fruit and veg is Morrison’s, if there is not a market near you.

After Pip from A Refuge for Daffodils chimed in on the difficulty of finding bulk shopping  and having to ask many questions followed by funny looks, Kate from Plastic is Rubbish shared some helpful posts; one on refill stores, and another on shopping plastic free.  Pip recently also shared a post about green shopping in London.

The ladies from alternulltiv also mentioned to our network there was a new zero-waste restaurant in Brighton called Silo.  There were options, but seemed few and far between.

It was shocking to me that such a beautiful country with such incredibly lush views to offer is so far behind in eco-conscious living.  Hopefully this changes, and for now I can be very happy with what Canada has to offer!

What have your experiences been regarding zero-waste in the U.K.?  Where do you live and what do your towns/cities have to offer?  Is it achievable?  Can it be done?!  Oh, I hope so!

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