You Light Up my LIfe

20 Feb


In the Spirit of a Belated Valentines Day, No Waste Wednesdays is looking at things that make our lives a little brighter.Those things that we love i.e a good laugh, good food and great wine are often done indoors-using some sort of light to brighten up the room. This week we’re looking at light bulbs as part of our month on disposables.

CFL (compact fluorescent light bulbs) light bulbs have come to replace the ordinary incandescent light bulbs that many of use grew up with. Why is there a shift to these as a lighting alternative?

More Light with Less Heat Emission

They produce more lumens (the technical term for light emission) than an incandescent. A 13 Watt CFL light bulb produces the same amount of light as a 60 Watt incandescent. This means they use less energy while putting out more light. They may cost more initially but end up saving you more in the end.

They are Better for the Environment because they lessen Household Energy Use.

Compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs use 75% less energy than old-fashioned incandescent light bulbs and last up to 10 times longer. For every bulb you swap, you will cut greenhouse gas emissions and save up to $50 on your energy bill over the lifetime of the bulb.

Not All Compact Fluorescent Bulbs Last a Long Time

Some discount brands of compact fluorescents have disappointed consumers with short lives and relatively poor light quality. It is true that rapid switching is especially hard on them, so they often aren’t good candidates for closets. Cold temperatures also decrease their lifespans.

But to ensure quality, look for Energy Star-certified models, since they must meet a range of criteria that go beyond energy efficiency. They must come with a two-year warranty, have a minimum rated lifespan of at least 6,000 hours and cannot emit an audible noise. They must turn on in less than one second and reach at least 80% of their output within three minutes. They can’t have more than five milligrams of mercury. (taken from the daily green

CFLs are Safe

Any CFL that carries the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) or Underwriters Laboratories (UL) safety certification has passed rigorous


testing for fire, electrical safety and shock hazard. They do however contain trace amounts of mercury. This has deterred some people from purchasing them but new studies have shown that the amount of mercury actually present is less than the amount found in mercury based thermometers.

 But this does mean that they require special disposal.

Five ways to stay safe from Mercury in CFLs

What to do if a Bulb Breaks?

Check out Project Porchlight for a list of how to best care for your CFLs, what to do if one breaks, where to go for recycling, information on UV ratings and CFLs, and mercury in CFLs among other things.

Recycling of CFLs can happen at most Home Depots as long as the bulb has not broken. Look for the orange recycling bins in the store.

Find a store with this option near you

Inside a CFL
Compact fluorescent lamps, or CFL’s, emit light when electricity excites the mix of gases inside the bulb, creating high energy, invisible, ultra-violet light, which is absorbed by the bulbs fluorescent coating and transformed into visible light.  They are sold in a variety of color temperatures, usually specified in Kelvin (K), providing a range of options to suit your specific lighting needs.
If you need clean, soft illumination for the kitchen or bathroom, a cool white 3500K– 4100K CFL is a good choice.  And for reading areas and work spaces that require more light, the daylight 5000K – 6500K CFL bulb cast a bright, cool glow that is ideal for detail oriented activities.
When choosing compact fluorescents, you should always look for bulbs that are ENERGY STAR® qualified because they have been tested to meet stringent performance criteria established by the U.S. Department of Energy and the EPA.

Thanks for stopping by, see you next week!


Disposable Fashion? Try Reusable Fashion

12 Feb

When I think of one thing that I unnecessarily consume of in excess amounts of it is clothing. As a girl I take pride in how I look and find joy in dressing well and challenging my creativity through my closet. I suppose this isn’t necessarily wrong, but since coming to college I have tried to explore different ways to keep my closet fresh without spending extra money or feeding consumer culture. The reality is that most people (especially women) get sick of their clothes before they grow out of them, or have worn them out. I mean, I have clothes in my closet still that I bought in grade 9 (so 7 years ago) that still fit me, but I always think I will want to wear again some day so I keep them.

I am going to suggest some ways to rotate your closet without spending lots of extra money Imageand consuming more! Also, there are other benefits with these options such as having fun, building community and blessing others.

One tradition we have adopted at the college I attend is doing a “Dorm Sale” every winter. This has been such a neat way to bring girls in our dorm together and to raise money for local organizations. The male dorm also participates, and we have students go through their closets and bring anything they no longer need or want to a designated area in our dorm. For about a month we have this set up and for $2 we can buy anything from the sale. It has been really freeing for me to see clothes I have neglected in my closet for a long time be worn proudly by other girls who make my “old” into something “new”. As we have done this event it has really challenged us to really take a look at the clothes we own and reevaluate if it is necessary to have as much as we do. At the end of the month the clothing that is not sold in dorm is donated to a local ministry in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan called the Bridge on 20th.

The Clothing Exchange in Australia is a clothing swap service that holds events where people Imagecome with up to 6 garments of clothing and leave with up to 6 garments of clothing in exchange. People buy tickets to these events and can attend to down size their closet and/or find some new items for free while getting rid or something old! Just like our dorm sale events, the left over clothing is donated to the Red Cross or another local charity.

The Clothing Exchange is building a sustainable fashion community, bringing like-minded people together and working positively towards the future of a greener world. The swaps are run by devoted little teams across Australia who host events with the intention to swap towards a greener future through the fun of swapping.

Another alternative to clothing exchange is bringing your clothes to your local Plato’s Closet. Here they will go through your clothing and take what they would like to sell and give you either money or store credit for what you have brought in. I have become somewhat ritualistic with bringing clothing, purses, jewelry and other accessories to Plato’s Closet on a regular basis that have been sitting around my house for too many years.

I cannot think of a better way to get rid of my clothes I do not appreciate as much anymore. This way someone else can appreciate what I don’t. Do you participate in any clothing swaps? Tell us what your look like and what your ideas for clothing exchanges are!

Plan a clothing exchange for your next get together with your friends. It’s like going shopping for free- you really can’t lose! (and you’re putting your foot down in the midst of our consumer culture) Go to it!

Become a Waste Watcher

9 Jan

We stumbled upon an interesting story of collaboration this week – writers Jacquie Ottman and Jocelyn Deprez have gathered people together to share their stories of reducing waste in hopes that a shared story will inspire action.  Jacquie started a blog to create culture change around waste…

“Her goal is to empower ardent waste watchers to share the many ways they reduce waste in their lives, and to provide insights into new products, services and behaviors that can help all consumers use less waste.”

Jacquie writes about ways to reuse items, ideas for reducing waste through sharing, how less can really be more, travelling, conservation and many more topics.  We thought we’d share one story in hopes that you’ll go read more

Let’s Collaborate! Sharing as an Antidote to Waste

December 19, 2012 by Melissa OYoung

Lucy twirled around in a flamboyant red dress, struck a pose, and laughed. Lucy was new to London and was trying on a dress at a clothes swapping Swishing party. She loved these parties as she made new friends and could swap clothes she didn’t need anymore with other women. Little did she know she was helping reduce waste and part of a growing movement called collaborative consumption…

Introducing Collaborative Consumption – how wonderful!
Have a look around your home and think about all the things that are ‘wasted’ by not being used. In the US, 80% of items people own are used less than once a month. Waste isn’t just constrained to the garbage you might see on the street – think about the car which is sitting idle on average 23 hours a day or the power drill which is only used between 6-13 minutes of its lifetime. These items can definitely be used more – what a waste!

we hate to waste logo

Collaborative consumption is a term to describe the renting, sharing, and swapping of underutilized assets. The Internet has now allowed people to connect and collaborate in ways not possible before – ‘wasting assets’ can be used more efficiently by linking those who own things with those who want access to them.

Take for example, cars. If you don’t want the burden of owning a car, you can use a car-sharing service like Relayrides (every shared car equates to taking 20 off the road!). Do you ever look at the empty car seats you see on roads and wonder whether you could rideshare to your destination? helps facilitate 1 million rideshares per month.

Have clothes you don’t like anymore? Don’t throw them away! Use a clothes swapping site like ClosetDash which helps prevent clothes from ending up in landfill (and takes up to 400 years to decompose). Collaborative consumption isn’t constrained to just products – it can include things like time, space, skills, or money. Have amazing cooking skills that are just waiting to be shared? Don’t waste your talent! Teach a class on Skillshare and share your skills with your community.

Imagine a more Collaborative World
Imagine a future where sharing helps lead to a more sustainable world … Picture lawnmowers and tools being shared via a shared toolshed on each street or unwanted furniture reused and refurbished in new homes or offices. People having joint meals together through sites like Grub with us or using bike-sharing schemes to get to places instead of cars. There are many things that can be shared!

‘Lucy’ who is helping reduce waste by clothes swapping is actually a real person that I researched and represents many of the girls who are joining the clothes swapping movement today. I was fascinated with how these platforms could indirectly lead to people consuming more sustainably, which led to me writing my thesis on the topic.

My passion for collaborative consumption still remains and I’ve started Let’s Collaborate!, a collaborative consumption event series in New York to inspire and connect entrepreneurs, academics, VCs, and all people interested in the movement together. Through gathering people together, and raising thought-provoking debates, I hope to infect the greater community toward more collaborative, sustainable behaviors.

There is such delight from sharing, lending, or borrowing things – enjoyable experiences that can help reduce waste! Do you have ideas on how we can reduce waste by sharing? Please share your ideas in the comments below!

Open Source

4 Jan

Hello No Waste Wednesday-ers and welcome to 2013!
We’ve been on a little break in these parts but are eager to start up again for another year.

This month we are coming back to our January theme of collaboration and the many benefits associated with it, environmental and beyond…
Check back to our 2011 or 2012 series for posts on collaborative consumption, carrot mobs, skill sharing, etc.

This week we wanted to draw your attention to an incredible initiative called open source ecology:

Open Source Ecology

Open Source Ecology

Open Source Ecology is a network of farmers, engineers, and supporters that for the last two years has been creating the Global Village Construction Set, an open source, low-cost, high performance technological platform that allows for the easy, DIY fabrication of the 50 different Industrial Machines that it takes to build a sustainable civilization with modern comforts.

The GVCS lowers the barriers to entry into farming,building, and manufacturing and can be seen as a life-size lego-like set of modular tools that can create entire economies, whether in rural Missouri, where the project was founded, in urban redevelopment, or in the developing world.


You can check out the TED Talk by founder and director, Marcin Jakubowski to hear more or head to their website to peruse the many design plans to build your own technologies that make small or large scale farming more accessible…

Considerate Gift Giving

5 Dec

December is here and 2013 is right around the corner!  This month we will revisit December’s theme of consumer habits.  Check back to 2010 and 2011 for posts about re-gifting, environmental benefits of fair trade, living more with less, reducing waste in the Christmas season, and much more.

This week we wanted to highlight alternative gift giving for any of you who are looking for fair trade, zero waste, ethical, alternative, make-a-difference type of gifts – good news there is something for everyone!

Check out Ten Thousand Villages for fairly traded gift items in store OR consider their Living Gifts campaign and choose from these amazing options:


Here’s the write up behind giving trees…

TTV Living Gifts

TTV Living Gifts

In Haiti’s Dezam region, trees are vital to life, providing fruit for healthy diets, protection from erosion and a source of income. Recently, however, a combined lack of awareness and an increased need for income have resulted in deforestation of the region. MCC’s tree planting program provides not only trees but also the instructional materials and professional support to help teachers in 15 schools teach students how to care for seedlings and improve the soil. Teachers work with students to create small tree nurseries, transplant seedlings near students’ homes, grow plots of trees near schools and organize trash cleanup days. “My family grows trees so we can pay for school and other things,” says 13-year-old Beethovens Jerôme. “Now I know to plant ten trees for every one we have to cut down.”Your gift of hope plants trees and educates students about the important role they play in protecting Haiti’s fragile environment.

$20 plant a seed for the future
Provides trees and environmental education to ensure a greener future for Haiti.

If you’re looking for a gift that offers a shared experience consider MCC’s Christmas Giving Catalogue which offers lots of alternative gift options as well as instructions for packing kits.  All you need to do is collect the contents from a list, assemble them together and bring them to a local MCC office to get sent to out to where they are needed most!

Kits for Christmas

Collect the contents and assemble. A fun activity for families, congregations, classrooms or offices. These kits provide people with basic necessities such as towels, bar soap, toothbrushes, towels and bandages in times of need.

MCC urgently needs

[ width=”550″ height=”443″]




Small Space Living

29 Nov

To close off our month themed on home improvements we’ve invited Kara from BC to share her experience in small house building/buying.  Kara is a graduate student in Royals Road’s Environmental Education and Communication program…

As my husband and I began to shop for our family home, one of the biggest struggles we came across was finding a house small enough!  Majority of the homes currently on the market were 2000+ square feet.  We had family members debate with us about “what is a big house” and contractors that refused to build us a 1000 square foot house.  Though we initially felt quite alone in our thinking, we quickly discovered the “small house movement.”  This movement, which was largely initiated in the United States, provides an option for a healthier, more simplistic lifestyle that directly benefits the participants as well as the planet.

A shift towards this lifestyle can greatly help individuals, and communities with the state of the economy, and the reduction in available land for development, especially as the human population continues to increase.  If you are a current homeowner, many municipalities are starting to allow “alley housing” in which case, small houses are essentially being built in peoples backyards, reducing urban sprawl and providing financial incentive to homeowners.  For those who can no longer afford their current house, a shift towards a small house is a great alternative that allows them to still own, rather than rent.

What are the other benefits of a smaller house?


  • fewer resources to build the building – 40% of the earths resources currently go towards the construction of new buildings!
  • less energy to heat
  • able to use solar heating and environmentally friendly energy options because less energy required
  • less consumerism (clutter)
  • more time spent outdoors and enjoying nature – it has been shown that there is a connection between those who have a stronger connection to nature tend to be more invested in conserving the environment, etc.


  • cheaper to build (therefore can be a cheap option, or makes it affordable to build your dream house with dream materials)
  • cheaper to heat, etc
  • cheaper monthly payments (smaller mortgages, lower bills…)
  • less money spent on “stuff” – not as much space to fill


  • closer family relationships
  • healthier (physically and emotionally) families because tend to spend more time outside and together
  • closer community ties as you’re forced to use public spaces
  • all factors tend to contribute to a feeling of a stronger support system

And let’s be honest…who really enjoys house chores? With a smaller house, the chores are a lot fewer and go much faster!

The mentality of our generation tends to be bigger is better; keeping up with the Jones’; and our status and successes are often associated with the size of our house.  We would all be better off if this mentality shifted back to the way our ancestors lived…even just as far back as our grandparents or great-grandparents.  Only 100 years ago, the average person had 50-90 square feet of living space alongside their families.  In North America, we now have about 8 times that amount of space, with the average person having 400 square feet of space within their homes.

Brooklyn Tiny House Movement

The people who are already living this lifestyle stand by it and are incredibly happy with their decision.  Many people want to encourage others to experience this lifestyle, and want to help them with the transition.  If you are interested in seeing the beautiful, functional houses, and accessing some house plans, that some people are enjoying now, search the tiny house movement and you will be amazed!

Thanks Kara!  Any No Waste Wednesdays followers part of the tiny house movement already?  Leave us a comment and tell us about your experience.


21 Nov

No matter where you live there are always options you can choose to lessen the environmental impact that your lifestyle makes.  In terms of home improvements however, not everyone has the privilege of choice in the efficiency of their appliances, the size of their garden, or the source of their energy.

Fortunately for home owners in Canada there are choices that you can make to support cleaner energy sources.  If you’re not ready to go off grid or attach solar panels to your roof there is another option for you to consider…

Bullfrog Power, Canada’s 100% green energy provider, offers homes and businesses clean, renewable energy solutions. By choosing Bullfrog Power’s green energy, you can reduce your environmental impact, support the development of new renewable generation in Canada and help to create a cleaner world for today and tomorrow.

When you choose Bullfrog Power, Bullfrog’s generators inject 100% green electricity or 100% green natural gas onto the respective energy system to match the amount of electricity or natural gas your home or business uses.

Check them out at to learn more about the environmental benefits.

The convenient thing is that you do not have to disconnect anything or build an addition on to your home.  You can simply pay a higher bill and Bullfrog does all the work for you.  Within Canada Bullfrog is not accessible everywhere – currently they service only a few provinces across Canada. 


Are you already a bullfrog user?  Let us know what you think!
Not from Canada?  Leave us a comment about comparable alternatives offered in your region…

Lastly – as you’re already thinking about wind power – we thought we’d share this funny commercial from Epuron…

It takes a village to raise a farm.

15 Nov

Happy Wednesday all! Today we have a guest contributor – our good friend Joel from Hanley Saskatchewan who is a brand new farmer and was willing to share his thoughts with us on home improvements farm-style …

“My partner, Heather, & i live out on a farm just south of Hanley, SK, which is south of Saskatoon. In the past two generations it has been a farm that has been the mixed grain & beef sort. We are the third generation to be farming this land. I think that it is important for me to be clear about what i mean when i say we are farming this land.

This summer we grew vegetables in a garden that is about 2000 sq ft, which in acres is not a very impressive number (0.05). What does sound impressive is that it is 185,806,080 square millimetres. Regardless, from those vegetables we have made countless meals, & put up close to 100 jars of preserved goods including pickled cucumbers, beets, & zucchini, pumpkin butter, tomato jam & sauce, & salsa.

We have been milking a goat for the past few months. This provides us with about 1.5 lbs (usually about 2.5 cups) of milk per day. This will go up in warmer months, but for now we are easily keeping our consumption on pace with Cecilia’s production. From the milk we make cheese. So far we’ve made chévre, feta, ricotta, paneer, & some less than successful mozzarella.

out for a walk

We recently acquired 15 chickens, from which we get on average 12 eggs per day. We have not developed the habit of eating six eggs per person per day, so we’ve shared this abundance with friends.

This is what i mean when i say we are farming on this land. Our ideas are heavily influenced by people like Wendell Berry, Joel Salatin, & more recently Rohan Anderson. Theirs are views of self-sufficiency & frugality, but also of community & abundance. I have recently taken up fermenting, from vegetables like cabbage, green tomatoes, & turninps, to making beer & mead.

I need to pause again & say that many of these endeavours are in the beginning stages. We returned from an MCC assignment in South Sudan in April of this year. We have really only been farming since the spring & then it was mostly the garden. The goats & chickens have come only in the last two months or so. I still go between describing myself as unemployed & self-employed; it just doesn’t seem real sometimes.

Sometimes i stop whatever chore i’m doing & say to myself, “This is the life i’ve been dreaming about; i’m living the dream.” It is not always coming from a sense of overwhelming joy & gratitude for life. Sometimes it feels more like be careful what you wish for.

I’d like to come back to our vision for what we do here on the farm. One of my biggest struggles is that i need to constantly remind myself that we will not be able to do any of this on our own. We need community. Community offers a diversity of skills, knowledge, personalities, & experiences that can all feed into what it means to be self-sufficient. Is that self me? us? our church community? Hanley? Saskatchewan? I can tell you from these past few months that when you take up learning a new skill, new communities of people also taking up that skill or a similar one will present themselves, opening up new ways to learn & new people to learn from. Let’s not forget all the advice & help—especially with all things tractor—we get from Heather’s family, who have farmed this land for the past two generations.

It takes a village to raise a farm.

I propose that we consider skills like animal husbandry, fermenting, gardening, bread-baking, & cheese-making to fall under the category of home improvement. We live in a time when people everywhere struggle to eat well—some because there is not enough healthy food available, others because there is too much unhealthy food available. These skills help us not only to eat more healthy, whole food, but to know where that food comes from & what its true value is—both in terms of nutrition & effort. I think this promotes healthy homes—& therefore improved homes—as much as any renovation of one’s physical shelter.”

Many thanks to Joel for his contribution to No Waste Wednesdays!

Building Resiliency

7 Nov

Happy November folks and welcome to our month themed on Home Improvements.  In past years we’ve blogged about ecological footprints, electronics, renovations, local decorating, small space living and more.

Check back to our 2010 and 2011 posts to catch up…

This year we’ll be further exploring small-space and self-sufficient living amongst other topics.  We wanted to start off by sharing a new trend on green building that we learned from and is based on Steve Mouzon’s principles of Original Green – Sustainability is more than gizmo green.  He writes that sustainable places are:

  1. Nourishable
  2. Accessible
  3. Serviceable
  4. Securable

Sustainable buildings are:

  1. Loveable
  2. Durable
  3. Flexible
  4. Frugal

Building Green Is No Longer Enough, It is Time To Build Resilient

by Lloyd Alter (Green architecture designer)

Green living has often been about technology; about smart grids and hybrid cars and solar panels. But it is also about simplicity and low tech, about walkable communities and bicycles. I go on about learning from old buildings designed before the age of oil and electricity, so that we will know how to live after the oil is gone. One feature I often talk about is how our walkable communities and older buildings are resilient; they can cope better when the power goes out, and you can walk to the store when the car is out of gas.

Resiliency is the key to sustainability

…the resilience movement is growing, as is the dissatisfaction with the high tech green gizmo approach to sustainable design. You see it in houses with the Passivhaus movement, where one trades active systems for insulation and sunlight; you see it in the streets with the cycling phenomenon. It is a conscious choice to use simpler, repairable, resilient systems.

But what is resilient design, really? Here are 8 design principles from Craig Applegath a Resilient City. :

1. Use low carbon-input materials and systems
2. Design and plan buildings for low external energy inputs for ongoing building operations
3. Design buildings for maximum day-lighting
4. Design “generic buildings” for future flexibility of use
5. Design for Durability and Robustness
6. Design for use of local materials and products
7. Design and plan for low energy input constructability
8. Design for use of building systems that can be serviced and maintained with local materials, parts and labour

Check out the full blog post at

What have you done to make your living spaces more resilient? Leave us a comment!



31 Oct

Happy Halloween everyone!  As people across Canada and the US are getting costumed up today we got to thinking about our closets and the items in there that are the most versatile.    The skirt that doubles as a dress or a reversible sweater or that pair of jeans (not sandblasted of course) that you can wear with anything… As we know, over consumption and unethical production in the clothing industry has harmful implications both for the environment and for garment workers.
See Echo Verde’s write up on eco-clothing and ethics for more info…

One approach to this issue is clothing that is designed with versatility in mind – items that can be worn in multiple settings and are made to last through many seasons.

One idea we came across a few months ago was from Sheena Matheiken who developed The Uniform Project.

Uniform Project was born in May 2009, when one girl pledged to wear a Little Black Dress for 365 days as an exercise in sustainable fashion. Designed to also be a fundraiser for the education of underprivileged children in India, the project acquired millions of visitors worldwide and raised over $100k for the cause. U.P then continued into Year 2 with a monthly series of select Pilots taking on the 1-Dress challenge for causes of their choice.
(taken from


Many off shoots have been inspired through this project – watch Sheena’s TED Talk for her background story of how she grew this idea.

Other designers are purposefully creating versatile clothing to encourage the user’s ability to invest in quality made items that offer function as well as variety.  Check out Revolution Apparel, Echo Verde, and Loki.

versalette from Revolution Apparel

Do you have other ideas about versatility and how it relates to lessening waste?  Tell us about it!