Articles by: Courtney RichardsonCourtney Richardson
Courtney Richardson holds bachelors degrees in both Environmental Studies and Education. She is an avid traveler, and therefore interested in both global and local environmental issues. An equine enthusiast, Courtney can usually be found at the riding stables! To contact please e-mail:

Two Canadian Fashion Designers with a Green Vision

April 16, 2012 4:03 pm
Two Canadian Fashion Designers with a Green Vision

The fashion industry is a lot of things – glamorous, ever-changing, and certainly big business. However, in terms of being environmentally conscious, many argue the industry needs to clean up its act. From the fast trend cycle, which promotes disposable clothing, to the wasteful and harmful practices during production, we evidently have a long way to go.

Fortunately, some forward-thinking Canadian designers are paving the way for a more sustainable future. Adhesif Clothing Company’s designer Melissa Ferreira uses sustainable materials in her collection, and produces everything locally in Vancouver. Even better, she looks forward to designing all of her future collections from recycled materials! We totally fell in love with Adhesif’s candy-inspired 2012 spring/summer collection.

Adhesif Clothing Company's Spring/Summer 2012 collection is colourful, feminine, and best of all, eco-friendly!

Sonja den Elzen’s eco-collection, Thieves, uses organic and sustainable fabrics. The Toronto-based designer combines her love of high-end fashion with her passion to seek materials and construction methods which are more respectful of the environment. The result – total haute eco-ture!

Ottawa Life Magazine was excited to chat with both Melissa Ferreira and Sonja den Elzen, to find out exactly how they’re making the fashion industry more sustainable.

Ottawa Life Magazine: So many things are labelled “sustainable” or “eco-friendly.” How exactly do you put those labels into practice?

Melissa: All of the garments produced under the Adhesif Clothing label are not only locally handmade in Vancouver, but also made with up to 98% reclaimed materials. It really doesn’t get more sustainable than that!

Sonja: With Thieves, I source sustainable textiles – ones that are considered less harmful to the environment than what is often readily available. Fabrics like hemp that don’t require pesticides; Tencel, which is produced in a closed-loop cycle with less toxic chemicals then most rayon type jerseys; organic cotton, which is grown and processed without pesticides and toxins; fabrics with low-impact dyes or natural dyes, and organic wools which are processed in ways that are animal and earth kind. I also like to use local manufacturers. This helps keep our own community diverse and strong, and keeps jobs and money within our own community. I am also able have regular contact with them and know that they are working in pleasant environments and treated fairly. I like to work with people directly so that there is a sense of connection and community.

Ottawa Life Magazine: A common perception is that environmentalists are fashion-challenged, granola-crunching, wearers of hemp skirts and Birkenstocks. Is it possible to be eco-friendly and fashion-forward at the same time?

Melissa: When I started Adhesif Clothing 9 years ago, there really wasn’t all that much available in terms of sustainable fashion. Today, there are dozens of brands that have some kind of “eco-edge” to them. Some of my personal favourite eco-designers include Cokluch from Montreal, Vancouver’s Nicole Bridger and Elroy Apparel. Larger companies like H&M are even trying to follow suit with what they offer in terms of sustainable materials. It’s all quite relative I suppose. It just depends on what an individual is into. If environmentalists are being viewed as fashion-challenged, then I guess they just need to pay a visit to our shop for some free fashion styling advice!

Designer Melissa Ferreira produces one-of-a-kind garments from reclaimed materials.

Sonja: I think at this point our world is so dynamic that environmentalists come from many different style groups, and are more linked by their deeper sense of connection to the planet that sustains us than to a specific outside clothing style. It is definitely possible to be eco-friendly and fashion-forward, as it is a matter of how one applies their design aesthetic to the textiles they choose to use. All designers can be eco-friendly if they choose to be, and still maintain the aesthetic they choose to convey to the world – sometimes it just takes a little more creativity and intention.

Ottawa Life Magazine: What practices frustrated you in the fashion industry, before inspiring you to create more sustainable garments?

Melissa: On a grand scale, the fashion industry is still one of the most wasteful industries. Although cutting and creating a garment line from giant rolls of fabric is more time and cost effective, it is also a very wasteful process. I would like more light to be shed on the designers such as myself, who are not only creatively resourceful but also strive to literally reduce waste in the environment. I would like larger companies to take responsibility for their actions by figuring out a strategy for reducing the waste they create from mass production.

Sonja: I am definitely frustrated by the unnecessary waste and toxins used in textile and manufacturing processes, as well as the abuse of human labour and un-holistic treatment of people and the environment.

Ottawa Life Magazine: What are some of the challenges in producing garments that are more sustainable?

Melissa: Speaking as a designer who creates garments made primarily from reclaimed materials, it is definitely more time consuming and thus more costly to produce. All materials must be handpicked, cleaned, and in most cases deconstructed before used in the creation of the garments. The pieces can’t be mass produced or else they lose their charm in terms of having a “thought process” or a “soul”. Needless to say, educating the public/consumers on the cost differences between something mass produced overseas and something locally handmade is the way to overcome obstacles.

Thieves by Sonja den Elzen is classic, elegant, and uses sustainable textiles.

Sonja: Some of the challenges are finding textiles that are affordable and interesting, and overcoming people’s experiences of cheap clothing, towards understanding the “true value” of clothing made (where everyone is paid fairly and fabric is processed with environmental concern).

Ottawa Life Magazine: Is eco-fashion a niche market, and if so, do you think it will become more mainstream?

Melissa: When I hear “niche market” I think of anything that is a specialty item. I think it just depends on who your market is. With that said, I think style is subjective and that’s part of what makes fashion so interesting. Regardless, I see eco-fashion as becoming more and more prominent. I’m seeing more and more designers popping up who are using some form of sustainable or reclaimed materials for production of their garments. Many products are being offered with greener options, like post-consumer waste in paper goods and building supplies, as well as biodegradable plastics, as an example.

Sonja: It will become mainstream as we become more aware of our connection to the earth and learn to be respectful of our resources and learn to place a higher value on this then a piece of paper with a dollar sign on it.

Find out more about Adhesif Clothing Company (, and Thieves (

The Environment Loses in 2012 Federal Budget

April 2, 2012 9:02 am
Canada needs to be looking for long term energy solutions, not short-sighted ones.

While there are always winners and losers come federal budget time, there’s an issue when our own government is putting the interests of big oil corporations ahead of the interest of Canadians. Our right to a clean and healthy environment, as well as our right to democratic debate, is under attack.

Pegged as one of Canada’s most anti-environmental budgets ever, the federal government announced it is overhauling its environmental assessment timelines for natural resource projects. The new streamlined environmental assessment process would tout a ‘one project, one review’ principle, downloading some responsibilities on provinces, limiting the scope of reviews, and imposing shorter timelines.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty

The budget report goes on to highlight several major economic projects that will benefit from the fast-tracked environmental assessment process – three oil and gas pipelines, a gold mine, and a uranium mine. Clearly, the government is interested in axing sufficient environmental review in the name of big business. Environmental assessments were put into place to prevent problems before they happen, and to ensure the health of both Canadians and our environment. Shouldn’t we be striving for an environmental assessment process that is more participatory and rigorous, not less? By cutting back on environmental protection, the government has shown us they are willing to give up stewardship of the environment in favour of economic projects.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty justified the ‘one project, one review’ principle by stating, “it has become clear that we must develop new export markets for Canada’s energy and natural resources, to reduce our dependence on markets in the United States. The booming economies of the Asia-Pacific region are a huge and increasing source of demand, but Canada is not the only country to which they can turn. If we fail to act now, this historic window of opportunity will close.” But instead of ensuring our resources are developed sustainably, critics are arguing our government is open to any foreign investor who wants our resources – and we will have to clean up the mess.

The assault on the environment doesn’t stop there. The budget also includes a 6% cut to Environment Canada and a proposed 40% cut to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency for the new budget year. The EcoENERGY renewable energy program was not renewed, and the National Round Table of the Environment and the Economy was slashed altogether. Worse yet, the budget includes an $8 million dollar plan to “monitor” environmental charities and prevent them from becoming too political in nature. (Or as some would suggest, to silence the voice of critics). What wasn’t touched? The over $1 billion dollars taxpayers hand over to large oil, coal and gas corporations every year in subsidies.

Canada needs to be looking for long term energy solutions.

While Canada used to be a global environmental leader, now we are losing ground. While climate change was only mentioned in the budget twice in passing, other countries are addressing the problem head on. Germany is aiming to derive all of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2050. Currently, 80 percent of energy supply in Iceland is derived from renewable energy sources, and 20 percent in Denmark. Yet the Harper government has shown they are not serious about responding to the climate crisis or protecting Canadian energy security.

Canada is blessed with an abundance of natural resources. Our future and the future of our children depends on our ability to protect and sustain our environment. In light of the current climate change crisis, environmental protection should be at the top of Canada’s agenda, and not overlooked as it was in this budget.

March: In Like a Lamb, Out Like a Lamb

March 27, 2012 8:43 am
March: In Like a Lamb, Out Like a Lamb

The normally wildly unpredictable March has come in like a lamb, and is, well, going out like one too.

And while spring officially commenced on March 20th, many parts of Canada, Ottawa included, have already been experiencing spring-like (and even summer-like!) weather for weeks. In fact, Ottawa smashed nine daily temperature records this month, and a quick stroll through the capital’s streets last weekend revealed all the signs of July or August, not March: flip-flops, shorts, ice-cream cones, bustling patios, and blooming flowers, to name a few.


Many of us are quick to welcome this early onset of warm weather (after all, who doesn’t like being able to walk around in a t-shirt mid-March?), but some experts caution there are consequences, too – some of them unforeseen.

Ottawa Life asked some of our faithful readers what they thought about the recent mind-boggling weather. Is the early onset of spring cause for celebration, or worrisome? Could it be a sign of global warming, or simply part of the Earth’s natural cycle?

“I can’t complain,” admitted Kerri Aldridge, 49, “but it’s probably not good for the environment. Maybe the Mayans were onto something with their whole 2012 end of the world prediction.”

“Well I’m in a sun dress and it’s March,” laughed Jeanine Baxter, 35, “but I guess in the back of my head I’m a bit perplexed, to say the least. We are definitely experiencing global warming, but whether or not it’s natural or caused by man, I’m not sure.”

“Some unusual weather here and there isn’t anything that worries me. One year, or even ten years, is a small amount of time to make any conclusions about the climate,” stated John Wisenberg, 24.

Gardener Brandon Jones, 50, is worried about his plants, saying he hopes they do not “die in a cold snap. From a few barely chilly days to this heat-wave, I’m wondering if summer will be just as fickle!”

Experts warn we can expect a lot more pests this season.

While us humans can easily adjust to shifts in temperature, it can be much more difficult for certain plants and animals. Charles Davis, of Harvard University, explained that, “certain groups are hit harder than others, and those species that are not able to respond to climate change are being hit the hardest.” An early spring can create disconnect when some plants bud earlier than usual, and then are caught out by frosts. This is particularly a cause for concern for those of us who make a living harvesting plants, fruits and vegetables.

Early budding can bring other concerns, as well. Some insect specialists are worried that pest populations might soar in certain areas, because there wasn’t a hard winter to kill insects off. The combination of a mild winter and an early spring means we can undoubtedly expect a lot more bugs this season.

Thought sweet, this early taste of summer, which started before winter had even officially ended, is a bit jarring. The unseasonably warm weather has undoubtedly left many of us wondering – one way or another, will we pay for this?

Go Natural With Rocky Mountain Soap Company!

February 20, 2012 11:56 am
Go Natural With Rocky Mountain Soap Company!

Beauty is no longer just skin deep. The average Canadian uses up to 10 different personal care products on his or her body every day – potentially exposing ourselves to more than 100 chemicals in just twenty-four hours. In that most of these chemicals are not being tested by either the Canadian Food Inspection Agency or Health Canada, it is impossible to have peace of mind regarding the real effects. Although we may be using small doses, consider that the average woman ingests as much as four pounds of lipstick in her lifetime, and you begin to comprehend how a little dab here and there adds up! But thanks to increasing awareness and some health conscious companies, natural and safer personal care products are proving serious competition for their synthetic counterparts.

One Canadian company is dedicated to creating products that are safe for their customers. Rocky Mountain Soap Company is passionate about finding the most nurturing and therapeutic ingredients nature has to offer. Their bath and body collection contains 100% natural ingredients, and all products are free from parabens, chemical fragrances, sulfates, or any other synthetic ingredients (some of which have been linked to cancer, reproductive abnormalities, birth defects, and more). Why natural? Rocky Mountain Soap Company stated, “For us, it’s simple: natural is clean, safe, sustainable, and it just works. Chemicals are unnecessary and not worth our health or the earth.”

Rocky Mountain Soap Company's Skin Care line is 100% natural.

Ottawa Life Magazine decided to put some Rocky Mountain Soap Company products to the test. For one week, writer Courtney Richardson put aside her old face wash, toner, and moisturizer, and went au natural! The healthier replacements were Rocky Mountain Soap Company’s Rosehip Transformative Cleansing Oil, Aloe Hydrating Toner, and Pomegranate Day Cream.

The first observation: unlike the old, synthetic products (with their sizeable share of unpronounceable ingredients), the Rocky Mountain Soap Company products’ contents really could be found in nature, from jojoba seed oil to witch hazel to marigold extract. It’s nice to know you’re not slathering nasty ingredients on your face – after all, when it comes to your beauty regimen, who do you trust more, Mother Nature, or some guy in a lab coat?

All of the company's ingredients can be found in nature, such as aloe vera.

While Richardson was already enthused about the 100% natural ingredients, it was time to put the products’ quality to the test. After all, many of us fear that skipping out on synthetic ingredients will also mean skipping out on effectiveness! The Rosehip Transformative Cleansing Oil was used first – by applying 1-2 pumps onto a cotton pad, and wiping away make-up and dirt before bed. While it did feel a tad greasy, it effectively removed all make-up and left the skin feeling soft and supple. This was followed by the Aloe Hydrating Toner, applied by misting the skin and wiping any excess oil away with a cotton pad. The toner left the skin feeling fantastic – both clean and refreshed. Finally, the Pomegranate Day Cream was applied the next morning, which smelled good enough to eat, and left the skin feeling invigorated and soft.

One week later, and Richardson is a Rocky Mountain Soap Company convert! In addition to smelling unbelievably scrumptious, the three products revitalized her winter-dry skin, evened her skin tone, and best of all – didn’t expose her to a cocktail of harmful ingredients. Rocky Mountain Soap Company said it best – “if there is an ingredient that could potentially be harmful or could have adverse long-term effects on our health, why would we use it in our products when there are healthy and safe alternatives?”

Choose from a wide range of safe and healthy products.

Rocky Mountain Soap Company has 10 stores across Canada. Those locations not in a mall are powered with 100% wind power. Their packaging is developed with sustainability in mind, and is either recyclable or made from post-consumer recycled material. All shipping boxes are re-used as much as possible, and packed with biodegradable cornstarch ‘peanuts’. While Ottawa is not lucky enough to have a store yet, customers can shop online and purchase natural products ranging from soaps to perfumes to deodorants to hair care. (Richardson also sampled – and loved – the company’s lip glosses, in delicious flavours like peppermint, berry, and cinnamon!)

When it comes to your skin and body, don’t take any chances. Be an informed consumer, and err on the side of caution when it comes to the use of chemicals. Thanks to companies like Rocky Mountain Soap Company, making safe and non-toxic product choices has never been easier.

Celebrate National Sweater Day!

February 9, 2012 8:45 am
Celebrate National Sweater Day!

Winter can be the toughest season for those of us trying to maintain a green lifestyle. Daylight is limited, the vegetation is buried under snow, and it’s uncomfortably cold. While it can be tempting to simply turn up the thermostat and be done with it, today marks the day you should do exactly the opposite. February 9th is National Sweater Day, a day for you to put on your favourite threads and turn down the heat to take action against climate change.

The campaign is put on by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), who state if every Canadian turned down their thermostat by just 2 degrees Celcius each winter, 2.2 megatonnes of carbon dioxide could be saved every year. That is equivalent to taking 350,000 cars off the road! While it’s not a complete solution by any means to our energy problems, it’s a step in the right direction, showing us that relatively painless individual actions can create positive collective action. Josh Laughren, Climate and Energy Director for WWF stated, “National Sweater Day is an important reminder that we need to value our energy. It’s a chance to think about how we use energy, and how we can all play an important role in fighting climate change by using energy wisely, not wastefully.”

A team of Grandmas hopes to educate the younger generation about conservation

WWF has also partnered with Loblaw’s for National Sweater Day. The campaign is supported through partial proceeds from Loblaw’s Charge-for-Plastic-Bags program. Loblaw’s shares WWF’s commitment of preserving our environment for future generations, and their efforts have paid off. Since 2002, they’ve reduced the number of plastic bags in their stores by 2.5 billion. Loblaw’s partnership with WWF sets an example for other corporations, and shows their commitment to creating a more sustainable future.

The slogan for this year’s National Sweater Day is, “Turn down the heat, turn up your sweater.” The creative advertising campaign features a full roster of actual Grandmothers, who have been making personal calls February 6th, 7th, and 8th, to remind Canadians about today’s special date. The National Sweater Day “Spokesgranny” Gladys said, “Members of the Greatest Generation are natural energy conservers – grannies don’t turn up the heat when it gets chilly, they put on a sweater and a pair of slippers!” The team of elderly ladies hopes to inspire the younger generations to “make their grannies proud” by catching the conservation spirit.

Turn down the heat and turn up your sweater! Today, anything goes.

And that spirit has been caught – many Canadians are optimistic about “turning up their sweaters” today, and making a better world for their grandchildren. Individuals, schools, and workplaces across the nation are participating, often finding the most outlandish sweater possible. In terms of fashion, today is the day anything goes.

While it’s evident simply wearing a sweater for one day and turning down the heat is not the answer to our environmental problems, it is a symbol of a shift in values when it comes to energy. With a goal of 100% renewable energy by 2050, WWF is successfully inspiring individuals to achieve that target, one sweater at a time.

Let There Be (non-toxic) Light!

February 3, 2012 3:55 pm
Let There Be (non-toxic) Light!

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, many of us will be buying candles. Luxurious, calming, and exotic, it might appear to be the perfect gift. But the burning question is – do candles harm the environment and our health? The short answer: yes! The seemingly innocuous candle can be a source of lead poisoning, synthetic chemicals, and indoor air pollution.

Paraffin is the predominant wax used in the candle industry, simply because it is the most inexpensive. It is essentially a skimmed wax made from petroleum oil which has reached it’s melting point. When you burn paraffin candles, carcinogenic soot is produced. This soot contains many of the same toxins found in diesel fuel. A 2009 study by researchers at South Carolina State University also found paraffin-based candles emitted toxic chemicals like ketones, toluene, and benzene, which have been linked to cancer and birth defects. They concluded that lighting candles in unventilated spaces could aggravate asthma, cause allergy-like symptoms, or irritate the respiratory tract. Talk about an ambiance killer!

The seemingly innocuous candle can be a source of lead poisoning, synthetic chemicals, and indoor air pollution.

Some candles may also have wicks that contain lead, which is said to make them burn more slowly and evenly. When you burn these candles, lead vapours are produced, particularly dangerous for children or pregnant women. Votives, pillars, tea lights, or any candle which produces puddles of wax are more likely to contain a lead wick. While Health Canada advises you avoid lead candles, there is no currently no ban in place.

Synthetic fragrances also pose a number of health hazards. Many contain phthalates which are hidden under the term “fragrance” on an ingredients list. Phthalates have been linked to hormone disruptions and infertility. Fragrance ingredients can also contain neurotoxins, synthetic musks, and many can trigger asthma attacks or sensitivities.

The best way to enjoy the beautiful glow of candles is to ensure the candles you use are made with natural products, so they don’t release dangerous toxins into your home. Spending a little more money or time finding non-toxic candles will be well worth it with regards to your health and the environment. Look for candles made from beeswax or soy, which is much safer than paraffin. Make sure to look for products that are 100% pure, as some candles contain paraffin blends. Also look for candles scented with essential oils, not synthetic fragrance! And finally, make absolutely sure you avoid lead wicks.

Soy Candles ~ a great and healthy alternative!

Companies are beginning to catch on that Canadians want to promote a healthy home environment. Willow Tree Collection, Upper Canada Soap and Candle, Natura Soylights and Freen are just some of the many companies offering healthy and safer choices. By supporting a Canadian company, you’re not only giving back to the local economy, but also cutting back on carbon emissions from lengthy transport. As always, the more local the better.

All of us can make minor adjustments in our lifestyles to have less impact on our environment.There’s no need to put out the fire this Valentine’s Day, but simply a need to make more informed choices when buying candles.

This Valentine’s Day, Green is the New Red!

January 26, 2012 8:33 am
This Valentine’s Day, Green is the New Red!

When it comes to being eco-friendly, Valentine’s Day has a pretty ugly reputation. Millions of flowers are sold in Canada in the days leading up to the holiday, the bulk of them grown using toxic pesticides. Likewise, we buy vast amounts of chocolates, greeting cards, wine, candles, and jewellery, many that are manufactured, packaged, shipped, or discarded in ways that don’t exactly say “I love you” to the planet. This Valentine’s Day, emphasize romance rather than consumption, and show your loved one how much you care in a way that’s sensitive to the planet.

Make informed choices - when possible, buy organic and fair-trade flowers

The flowers that you usually buy for your Valentine were likely grown in a foreign country, and travelled long distances to get here. About half of all roses sold in Canada were imported from Colombia. Because environmental standards vary from country to country, your flowers could contain a heavy amount of pesticide residue, endangering both the health of the environment, flower industry workers, and your own. Fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides, nematocides, and plant growth regulators are often heavily sprayed to avoid pests and diseases. If that’s not frightening enough, many foreign flower farms use labourers who are overworked, underpaid, and exposed to a plethora of dangerous chemicals.

Don’t be an uninformed consumer. Ask your florist questions before making a purchase – where do their flowers come from? Are they sprayed with pesticides? What kinds of working conditions exist for the flower labourers? Try to buy organic, Fair Trade certified flowers. Or, better yet, start a new Valentine’s tradition, and grow an indoor potted plant.

Chocolate is another popular gift choice for Valentine’s, with its aura of being an aphrodisiac. Yet most chocolate is far from sexy – according to the Pesticide Awareness Network, the amount of pesticides used to grow cocoa is second only to cotton! In addition, ninety percent of the world’s cocoa is grown by small producers in third world countries, many of who live well below the poverty line. And we haven’t even mentioned transportation or packaging!

Choose organic, fair trade chocolate for your loved one!

When making a chocolate purchase, ask yourself – where is the cocoa grown, how was it grown, and by whom? Does the farmer earn a fair wage? Are pesticides used? These are tough questions, but important nonetheless. Look for products with the Fair Trade Certified and Certified Organic marks. These means the product has been independently audited, and found to have met agreed environmental, labour, and developmental standards. With organic and fair trade chocolate becoming much more widely available, you can still indulge while simultaneously supporting sustainable agriculture and worker health and rights.

Known for being a ‘Hallmark holiday’, many of us will buy a greeting card for our Valentine. But stop to consider that manufacturing paper has a surprisingly large environmental impact. Not only do paper mills use huge amounts of resources, but they also discharge large quantities of chemical waste. To boot, recycling only goes so far, as many cards contain materials that cannot be recycled. Unfortunately, this means millions of Valentine cards end up in landfills, ultimately producing nasty greenhouse gases.

DIY cards are cool, cute, and eco conscious.

If you’re going to give a card, get creative! Make your own DIY cards using materials around the house, including newspapers, magazines, or wrapping paper. (Bonus – you’ll get points for thoughtfulness and creativity!) If arts and crafts aren’t your strong point, consider sending an e-card. If you absolutely must buy a card this year, choose one made from recycled content and non toxic inks.

If you’re planning on giving wine to your Valentine, remember that it may have travelled long distances to get to your liquor store. To reduce the environmental impact of such lengthy transport, choose a local wine. Not only will you be lowering your carbon footprint, you’ll be supporting the local economy. Ontario is abundant with wineries, and author and wine enthusiast Tony Aspler suggested our ice wine is the world’s best kept secret! Try to also buy organic, to ensure pesticides were not used during production.

Show your love by being green this Valentine's Day!

One of the best ways to go green this February 14th is simply to spend time with your Valentine on an environmentally friendly date. Choose a restaurant or make a meal at home with local food, organic food, or both. After dinner, get in touch with nature by going for a walk, going skating, or participating in any outdoor activity. How much greener – and more romantic – can you get by simply spending quality time with each other?

However you choose to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year, make an effort to keep both the romance and the planet alive!

A Vision for a Global Green Economy

January 23, 2012 8:45 am
A Vision for a Global Green Economy

We are living in a time of multiple environmental issues. 2011 saw news headlines of nuclear contamination, oil spills, and natural disasters, to name a few. Policy makers are facing serious – and at times, overwhelming – questions: How do we provide clean water, adequate sanitation, and proper nutrition to the world’s surmounting population? How do we manage the seemingly endless amount of waste humans create? And perhaps most importantly, how do we face these challenges amidst a global financial crisis?

While undoubtedly overwhelming, these challenges offer us an opportunity to rethink how these dimensions – economic, social, and environmental – can actually go hand in hand. I’m referring to a “green economy,” which the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) describes as one that results in “improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities.” (UNEP, 2010). Put simply, it’s an economy which generates growth while simultaneously improving lives and staying consistent with sustainability goals.


Some might think that a ‘green economy’ is simply idealistic academic discourse, and not relevant to our day-to-day lives. In fact, there are countless examples of successful green economy initiatives in practice, one in Canada’s own backyard. Ontario’s Green Energy Act and it’s Feed-in Tariff program has driven local development amongst Ontario renewable energy companies, brought in billions of dollars in investment, and will create an estimated 50,000 jobs by the end of 2012 (David Suzuki Foundation, 2011).

In Germany, investment in renewable energy has risen 20%, employing over 300,000 people (World Resources Institute, 2010). They have an unprecedented, ambitious – but achievable – goal of relying on 100% renewable energy by 2050. And despite a prevalent myth that a green economy is a luxury for “rich” countries, many developing countries have tremendous success stories too. Check out UNEP’s report “Green Economy: Developing Country Success Stories.”

Become educated about what you can do!

Moving towards a Green Economy is a hot topic – in fact, it is the theme for the 2012 World Environment Day, held on June 5th, and the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, held from June 20th-22nd. Yet the topic is not only relevant to governments and policymakers, it’s relevant to individuals too. So you might ask – what can you do? Perhaps most important is to become educated. While the topic can seem complex, it’s necessary to investigate – clearly, doing business as usual is no longer an option. Get involved – support companies, governments, and initiatives which help the green economy vision, and look for alternatives when they don’t. Finally, let your voice be heard! Tell your government what kind of economic, social, and environmental system you want. Together we can make sure the ‘green economy’ discourse is not just a passing fad, but in fact a solution to the complex problems our planet faces.

Proposed development threatens Jasper National Park

January 12, 2012 10:59 am
Proposed development threatens Jasper National Park

A recent decision by Parks Canada regarding the national treasure that is Jasper National Park is cause for alarm. Given that Parks Canada is mandated to protect our landscapes and ensure ecological integrity for present and future generations, many Canadians are outraged by the possibility of a new ‘visitor experience’ development proposed for Jasper National Park.

The park, located in Alberta, is a UNESCO World Heritage site, admired for stunning mountainous landscapes and abundant wildlife. The proposed ‘Glacier Discovery Walk’ would see a roadside viewpoint along the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93) turned into a 400 metre interpretive boardwalk, complete with a glass-floored observation platform. The viewpoint, which overlooks the beautiful Sunwapta Canyon, would be built and operated by Brewster Canada, and thus effectively privatized. Visitors would arrive on site via shuttle bus, take a guided interpretive walk, and finally reach the vista point. In addition to the walkway and viewing platform, further amenities would be built, including washrooms, ticketing booths, and parking facilities.

The proposed 'Glacier Discovery Walk'

If approved, many worry the project could set a perilous precedent of using our parks for profit. Instead of protecting Canada’s natural resources for present and future generations, Parks Canada’s focus could shift to visitor experience. Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada, stated, “Canada’s National Parks are not meant to be money-makers. They are primarily supposed to protect a range of ecosystems and to allow Canadians to appreciate the wonderful natural spaces and wildlife that we are so lucky to have in this country.” The beauty of Jasper National Park speaks for itself, and man-made intrusions should be kept to a minimum.

The beauty of Jasper National Park speaks for itself - without any manmade intrusions.

Worse yet, profits made from the Glacier Discovery Walk would not stay in Canadian hands – Brewster Canada, who would build and operate the project, is an American company. This begs the question– should American or other foreign private companies be profiting from Canada’s treasures? Ultimately Brewster Canada would value financial gain over ecological integrity, or the preservation of our unique heritage, which has potentially frightening possibilities. And once again, if approved, the project could set a dangerous precedent of allowing foreign companies to gain from Canada’s natural heritage.

Avaaz, a global civic organization, is campaigning to keep Canada’s parks in public hands. Their online petition ( has over 125,000 signatures, in an attempt to “save Jasper Park before it’s too late.” Thousands of other concerned citizens have written to Parks Canada and the Harper government in an attempt to have their voice heard. Stating they strongly value public input, Parks Canada will allegedly make a decision regarding the proposal late January.

“I just can’t believe we would have to pay an American company to see what is in our own backyard,” said Ottawa citizen Janet Robertson, 45. “It is just unbelievable that Parks Canada didn’t immediately act to say this is unacceptable.” Canada’s parks are a legacy truly worth celebrating – let’s keep it that way!

New Year’s Resolution – Eat Local

January 4, 2012 10:02 am
"Eat Local!"

Out with the old, and in with the new! A new year is a great opportunity to consciously start over and do things differently. It should come as no surprise that resolutions are usually centered around health and fitness, but this year, why not try a new kind of diet? With every meal you eat, you have the power to reduce climate change. By embarking on a “local diet”, you can take global warming into your own hands.

"Eat local-good for you, good for the community!"

The average Canadian meal contains ingredients from more than 5 different countries, and travels thousands of kilometres before reaching a plate. With such lengthy travel, greenhouse gas emissions are created. Buying locally produced food eliminates the need for all that fuel-guzzling transportation, and therefore takes less fossil fuel to get to our table.

By embarking on a “local diet”, you’re not only helping the planet, you’re helping both yourself and your community too. Your food will be more fresh, taste better, and likely be safer as there is less opportunity for contamination during mass production, transportation, and storage. Your dollar given to local farmers will stay close to home, working to build the local economy rather than a corporation in another city, province, or country.

Farmers' markets in Ottawa are catching on!

Buying local is catching on in Canada – conscientious consumers are recognizing that their eating habits can make a difference in the planet’s welfare. Ottawa’s farmers markets are growing. Try visiting to find local farmers as well as businesses that support local farmers in the Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec region.


While the weather outside isn’t exactly conducive to bountiful harvests, you’ll be surprised that in Ontario, despite the cold weather, local vegetables are still available. Beets, cabbage, carrots, greenhouse cucumbers and lettuce, parsnips, some onions, some potatoes, mushrooms, sprouts, garlic, and leeks are available at most markets throughout the winter season. When you start to eat seasonally, you truly begin to appreciate each time of year for what it has to offer.

Despite the cold weather, seasonal vegetables are still available.

Canadian author Lynn Ogryzlo is interested in changing Ontario’s food system. Her book “Ontario Table” will appeal to anyone interested in buying and eating local food, and supporting Ontario’s farmers and economy. In Lynn’s words, it is “a full colour guidebook, resource book, and agricultural storybook wrapped together as a consumer user-friendly cookbook.” There are stories about farmers and regions in Ontario, over 100 recipes, and a resource section on where and how to buy local food.

Making the transition towards eating local doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Each food dollar spent is a vote for the type of food system Canadians want. For an easy start, try taking the $10 a week challenge ($10_Challenge.html). If every household in Ontario spent $10 a week on local food, we’d have $2.4 billion dollars in our economy at the end of the year!

Let’s help Canada create healthy food networks that sustain our land, our community, and our homes. Embark on a local diet today – it’s that simple!

Green Cleaning

December 19, 2011 9:13 am
Green Cleaning

With the holiday season in full swing, many homeowners are busy cleaning their homes in preparation for company. Unfortunately, many household cleaning products are laden with harmful chemicals, including harsh cleansing agents and artificial dyes and fragrances. These chemicals produce indoor air pollution, which is dangerous to both human health and the environment. Additionally, our over-use of many antibacterial products is actually making some strains of bacteria stronger, and more resistant to antibacterial drugs. Read on for some effective, natural, and safe green cleaning ideas.

An easy green solution to cleaning-try baking soda!

Baking Soda
Baking soda is easy to use and a versatile natural cleaner, which can be used in nearly every room of your house. A sodium bicarbonate, baking soda neutralizes both acids and bases, fully eliminating odours rather than simply covering them up. Sprinkle baking soda anywhere there is an unpleasant smell – ideas include at the bottom of the garbage can or litter box, in the fridge, or when cleaning up a spill. In addition to combating odours, baking soda is an excellent cleaning agent as well. A mild abrasive, it can be used to remove stubborn stains and grime. Use baking soda on its own, or combine with water to create a scouring paste. For those extra tough stains, add some kosher salt.

Vinegar is a multipurpose cleaner and deodorizer. Pour white vinegar into a spray bottle and effectively clean surfaces, glass, stainless steel, and carpets. Because it is acidic, vinegar can dissolve mineral deposits from glass, coffee makers, and more. Best of all, it has strong antibacterial properties for disinfecting. Effectively clean windows and mirrors using vinegar and newspaper (to avoid streaking) – you’ll be amazed at this simple cleaning solution.

Use ketchup to clean your copper and brass cookware.

Ketchup is an unexpected natural cleaner. Use it to remove tarnish from copper and brass cookware. Squeeze ketchup onto a cloth and rub liberally – in just minutes your cookware will be brighter. Rinse and dry.

Corn Starch
Corn starch is great for those persistent greasy or oily stains. Use 3 parts corn starch to 1 part water to create a paste, and then apply to counter tops, stove tops, vent hoods, or other places where grease has gathered. To remove those stubborn grease stains from your clothing or fabrics, first blot as much as you can with a cloth, and then sprinkle cornstarch over the spot. Let it sit for several minutes, then remove. Dab the stain with white vinegar and launder as normal.

The humble lemon is a powerful disinfectant to add to your cleaning regimen.

Lemon juice, whether freshly squeezed or in concentrated form, is a powerful disinfectant able to kill most bacteria in your home. The acidic cleaner has the added benefit of leaving your home with a refreshing citrus aroma. Lemon juice can be used on its own or mixed with vinegar or baking soda for double-duty cleaning power.

Baking soda, vinegar, ketchup, corn starch, and lemon are just some of the many versatile natural cleaners you can use around the home. This season, as you invite friends and family over to celebrate, make your home a healthy one. The planet (and your wallet!) will thank you.

I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas…

December 8, 2011 9:05 am
I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas…

Many people dream of a white Christmas – but what about a “green” Christmas? While the holidays are notorious for being an environmentalist’s worst nightmare (think tonnes of extra waste, overconsumption, and chopped down trees, just to name a few)! This holiday season Ottawa Life magazine offers ten suggestions to reduce your eco-impact.

1. Use LED lights to decorate your home and Christmas tree. They come in the same styles and colours as your old incandescent lights, but only use about one tenth of the energy.

2. Recycle your fresh Christmas tree after the holiday is over. Not only does this clear up space in the landfill, but the recycled wood can be used as mulch, adding nutrients to soil. A real tree is an environmentally friendly choice this season, as most are found on tree farms and will be replanted (as opposed to being cut down in the wild). Real trees help to remove carbon from the atmosphere while they are growing. While an artificial tree can be reused year after year, they consume a significant amount of energy and petroleum-based materials during their manufacture.

Decorate with gifts of nature

3. Decorate with the gifts of nature. Instead of rushing out to buy fake wreaths and decorations, have a look in your own backyard. Pinecones, branches, and evergreen boughs can make creative and interesting conversation pieces. Alternatively, use decorations which have been recycled or are ethically and fairly traded.

4. Instead of giving traditional gifts, donate to your favourite environmental charity. The Nature Conservancy of Canada, World Wildlife Fund, and many other Canadian charities offer Christmas specials that allow you to give back this season.

5. Bring reusable bags when shopping for both gifts and food for your celebrations.

6. When possible, buy local and organic food for your feast. Buying local means you are supporting your community while simultaneously reducing your carbon footprint. Buying organic means you’ll be skipping the artificial ingredients, preservatives, and pesticides.

7. Get creative with your holiday cards. Consider switching to e-cards this year, reducing the amount of waste being sent to landfill. Or, reuse last year’s Christmas cards to make gift tags. (After all, most people don’t write on the inside cover of the card). If you must buy a traditional paper card, buy one which is printed on recycled or hemp paper or one that donates a portion of proceeds to a charitable cause.

Get creative with your gift wrap for greener giving.

8. Skip buying new wrapping paper whenever possible, and get creative! Reuse last year’s paper, or find materials around the house – tablecloths, newspapers, magazines, sheet music, kid’s colouring pages, and more.


9. Host a mindful party. For your holiday celebrations and feasts, be sure to use reusable dishes and cutlery. Compost food waste, and buy your food products in bulk to cut back on packaging waste.

10. Simply cut back. The holidays are known for being a time of materialism, but it doesn’t have to be that way. The swiftest way to eliminate waste is to merely give less. If you have a large family, consider drawing names, that way each person is only responsible for one gift. Or, make gifts – handmade gifts are not only more eco friendly, but more sentimental too.

Now that we’ve presented you with ten eco-friendly holiday  ideas, why stop there? As we approach 2012, keep trying to make eco conscious choices in the year ahead and spread the green word to your family and friends. Christmas is all about sharing the love – so let’s share some love with Earth, too!

FrogBox: An Alternative to the Traditional Cardboard Moving Box

November 16, 2011 2:59 pm
FrogBox: An Alternative to the Traditional Cardboard Moving Box

A new company has “moved” into Ottawa this fall, providing savvy consumers with a new convenience-oriented and eco-conscious way to move house. FrogBox, which originated in Vancouver in 2008, began with a simple yet effective idea – provide environmentally friendly, affordable, and convenient reusable plastic boxes for home owners and businesses to rent. Frogbox is simple – a customer places an order at, and the company delivers the boxes, and picks the empty boxes up after the move is over. Customers can access these boxes on a per-use, on-demand basis. This brilliant concept offers a less stressful and more eco-conscious alternative to the usual cardboard boxes used for moving.

You might recognize the bright green boxes from television. FrogBox founder and entrepreneur Doug Burgoyne appeared on Dragon’s Den in 2010, impressing the dragons and leaving with two investors. Today, FrogBox has grown exponentially and is franchised out across Canada and the Northern United States in 19 (soon to be 20) locations.

A reusable FrogBox can be used hundreds of times, as opposed to the cardboard box, which can only be used a limited number of times.

The success of FrogBox reflects an increasingly environmentally conscious society. Put simply, Canadian consumers are thinking outside the box and demanding alternatives to wasteful practices. Each plastic FrogBox will be reused hundreds of times during its lifespan, a stark difference from a cardboard box which can only be used a limited number of times. Even if cardboard boxes are recycled, they will have to be reprocessed before being used again, making the carbon footprint that much larger than simply reusing. Ottawa franchise part-owner Rob Durie stated, “Our boxes can be used on average 400 times, compared to a cardboard box that might last for two moves. I have always recycled since Ottawa started it’s programs here, but it wasn’t until I joined this company that I learned about the amount of energy that is actually required to recycle a cardboard box.”

In addition, FrogBox is doing their part to be an ecologically responsible business. The company, which won the 2011 Small Business BC Best Green Business Award, donates 1% of gross annual revenues to frog habitat restoration. Durie pointed out that at the current rate, frogs are disappearing at a faster rate than dinosaurs did. The most threatened vertebrate group on Earth, nearly one third of the world’s frogs are in danger. Frogbox, which is named to draw attention to this issue, is putting words into action and encouraging change. Also, whenever possible, Frogbox tries to lower their emissions by using waste stream bio-diesel fuel for their vehicles.

FrogBox donates 1% of their gross revenue towards frog habitat restoration.

In addition to the obvious positive environmental implications of using FrogBoxes, put simply, it is less of a hassle. Customers do not have to worry about finding, putting together, stacking, and disposing of cardboard boxes. Durie said, “No more bugging the guy in your shipping and receiving area, no dumpster diving for them, and no finding new boxes to put together. It will all be there and ready to use as soon as they are dropped at your door.”

Canadians need to look for ecofriendly alternatives to traditional products and services. Frogbox is an excellent example of a company that is stepping into that role, and as consumers, we need to support innovative companies like this.

Canada loses show jumping superstar

November 9, 2011 3:05 pm
Canada loses show jumping superstar

Canadian and world equestrian enthusiasts were left shocked and saddened this Sunday after the death of show jumper Eric Lamaze’s legendary stallion Hickstead. The champion horse died shortly after he and Lamaze completed a course at the Rolex FEI World Cup in Verona, Italy, in front of an arena packed with horrified onlookers.

Veterinarians tried unsuccessfully to revive Hickstead. While Lamaze has stated his teammate died of an apparent heart attack, the exact cause of death remains unknown until an autopsy has been completed.

Hickstead’s death tragically ended a partnership that helped push Canada to the top of show jumping, a sport usually dominated by Europeans and Americans. The superstar stallion, who has often been referred to as the “Michael Jordan of the Equestrian world”, had a legendary track record. Hickstead’s accomplishments include an Individual Gold and Team Silver at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, 1st place at the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Kentucky, USA, and winner of the $1 Million CN International at the Spruce Meadows Masters Tournament in Calgary, Alberta. Together Hickstead and Lamaze have fetched over $3 million dollars in prize money. To say that Hickstead was one of Canada’s greatest athletes would be an understatement.

Hickstead and Lamaze won an individual gold and team silver at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Lamaze, who is currently the number one rider in the world, is deeply saddened by his loss and mourning his long time teammate. The Montreal-born athlete had a special bond with Hickstead which he will likely never duplicate with a new mount. And with less than nine months before the London Games, many are wondering if Lamaze will be able to find one that is Olympic-calibre. Akaash Maharaj, the CEO of Equine Canada has stated, “It’s fair to say there certainly isn’t another Hickstead in the world, and that will be a misfortune for Eric.”

Hickstead is the horse which largely helped to redeem Lamaze as a rider. During team tryouts for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Lamaze tested positive for cocaine use, and was subsequently banned from competing for four years. (Later this suspension would be reduced to seven months). Lamaze earned a spot on Canada’s Equestrian Team again in 2000, but once again, tested positive for banned substances. The athlete spent the next six years rebuilding both his showjumping career and damaged reputation. When Lamaze met Hickstead, who was surprisingly turned down by the American showjumping team, it was a match made in heaven. Lamaze’s riding style, which is often described as fast and aggressive, was a perfect match for the bold, quick Hickstead. Together the team went on to be arguably the most dominant pair in the world of showjumping.

Generations of future equestrian enthusiasts will draw inspiration from Hickstead's career.

Thousands of fans are showing their support for Lamaze and paying tribute to Hickstead on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites. In addition, many memorial videos are being uploaded to Youtube, which highlight Hickstead’s raw talent and the incredible bond between Lamaze and his mount. Equine Canada has a tribute page, in which Hickstead fans can both share sentiments and grieve his loss.

On the tribute page, one person eloquently wrote: “Once in a lifetime comes a really great team who absolutely inspires everyone around them – Eric, you and Hickstead were such a team and you thrilled us each and every time we saw you. Hickstead, you will always be loved and sadly missed.” While Hickstead will never truly be forgotten, fans can take pride in the fact that thanks to him and Lamaze, we all flew a little closer to the stars.

Have an Eek-o-friendly Halloween

October 28, 2011 1:31 pm
Have an Eek-o-friendly Halloween

Once upon a time, Halloween was a Celtic ritual which celebrated the end of the harvest season and the coming winter months. Fast forward to today, the holiday is a little less spiritual and a lot more commercial. From costumes to candy to decorations, Halloween is a billion dollar industry. Unfortunately, with that kind of consumption come downright spooky impacts on our environment that last long after we’ve gobbled the last of that Halloween candy. While Halloween can be a wasteful holiday, it doesn’t have to be! There are lots of places where you can make more sustainable and eek-o-friendly choices this Halloween without giving up the spooky good times to keep it green.

What to Wear

What baby boomer doesn't have a ghastly outfit waiting to be reborn?

Costumes, masks, and props go hand in hand with Halloween. It’s the one night of the year where anything goes, wardrobe wise. Dress-up can be scary: zombies, vampires, ghosts, witches, and devils. But what’s in many of these manufactured costumes is the scary part: chemicals such as lead, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), cadmium, and other toxins. Not exactly something you want covering your face or body (or your child’s) – plus, they usually can’t be recycled. So this Halloween, skip the mass produced store-bought costumes. After all, the hidden dangers and negative environmental impact outweigh even the best compliments from other Halloween goers!

So, what to do instead? With a little planning and creativity, even the least savvy DIY-er can whip together a great costume. Look around your friend’s and family’s closets – what baby boomer doesn’t have a ghastly outfit waiting to be reborn? (Think hippie, disco, or 80’s work-out chic). And you don’t only have to stick to the closet – bed sheets make great ghosts, Greek gods and goddesses, or mummies, to name a few. Get creative – almost all costumes can be made with things around the house.

If you simply can’t find the right items at home, head to a second-hand store such as Goodwill or Value Village. After all, one person’s trash is another’s treasure!

How to decorate

Make great Halloween decorations with items from around the house, like these egg-carton spiders!

Just like costumes, most Halloween decorations are made from non-recyclable plastics, and ultimately end up in a landfill. Why not have a fun and craftacular weekend by making eco-spooky decorations yourself using items around the house? It’s amazing what you’ll find, and how much fun you will have in the process – egg cartons, cans, bottles, bedsheets, and other items can be transformed into spiders, spooky lanterns, ghosts, and more.

If you’re not feeling particularly creative, take to nature, as the forest in fall has plenty of wonderful, organic, local, and best of all – free, decorations. Pinecones, leaves, and branches can be transformed into a wreath, or used on their own as decoration. Failing that, make a pilgrimage to a nearby farm to stock up on gourds and pumpkins. All of these items can be composted after Halloween, leaving you and your family with a healthy eek-o-conscience.
If some natural and recycled decor simply isn’t going to cut it, there are still eco-friendly options available. Some stores offer interesting alternatives, such as a solar-powered light-up zombie, tombstones made from purely recycled materials, or decorations using LED lights. Be a savvy consumer, and find out exactly what is in the products you buy. Better yet, properly store your decorations so you can use them year after year, and therefore be far less wasteful.


"Trick or Treat!"

The tradition of trick-or-treating dates back to an old English tradition – All Souls’ Day. On this day, poor citizens would beg for food, and wealthier citizens would give them pastries (“soul cakes”) in exchange for a promise to pray for their family’s deceased kin. Today, trick-or-treating embodies an exercise in greed and overconsumption. The average child comes back from trick-or-treating with loot in excess of 10 pounds – not good for either the child’s health or the Earth.

Most families tend to give out individually wrapped candies to their trick-or-treaters. While it would be great to give out baked goods or fruits, due to health and safety concerns this is often frowned upon. Instead, try to find organic or fair trade sweets, to escape many of the chemicals that are scarier than your neighbour’s zombie costume. Or, think outside the candy-box, and give out small toys or school supplies instead. If you absolutely must give out classic individually wrapped and sugar-high candies, simply hand out less. Instead of offering a handful to each child, give one. This will be both better for the child’s health, and better for the planet, because fewer resources go into making, packing, transporting, and disposing the candy.

When it comes to hauling the loot around, make sure to choose a reusable sack. Pillow cases, canvas bags, or sports bags are far better for the environment than the alternative, paper or plastic. Use non-toxic paint to decorate, and your sacks will sure to be a neighbourhood hit!

You can still have a scarily good time without costing the planet. From costumes to decorations to candy, you can make your Halloween less wasteful, but just as fun. Ottawa Life wishes everyone a safe and happy Halloween!

Nature – the Antidote to Stress

October 26, 2011 2:33 pm
Nature – the Antidote to Stress

We’ve all had those days – the computer crashes, the car won’t start, there is a traffic jam and as a result you are late for work, the dog ate your homework and the list goes on.

The fast pace of modern life can easily get us all wound up. Not so long ago, humans, like all animals on the planet, moved through time at nature’s pace. We measured time by cycles – the rising and setting of the sun, the changing of the moon, and the passing of the seasons. Today, it feels like humans’ relationship with time has been both disconnected entirely from the earth’s natural cycles, and is dizzyingly fast.

Spending time outdoors has a profound effect on your well-being.

Luckily, there is an antidote to stress, and it’s right outside your door – nature. More and more research shows the profound effects that fresh air, plants, trees, and water have on humans’ well-being. When individuals spend time in the natural environment, this has the ability to elevate one’s mood, feel more internally calm, think more positively, and be in greater unity with the world’s surroundings. Scientist Roger Ulrich found that patients whose hospital window overlooked natural settings recorded shorter recovery times, required less potent pain medication, and evaluated their stay in the hospital as much more positive than patients who overlooked a brick wall. Similarily, researcher Dr. David Lewis found that the scent of grass can actually help drivers avoid road rage – the heart rate and blood pressure of motorists drastically lowered when smelling grass.

Real relaxation is not found on the couch watching television. Instead, we need to change our paradigm and get outdoors.

These two studies are just two examples which link faster recovery from stress, elevated mood, better overall health, and increased self esteem with nature stimuli. Yet we seldom indulge in the natural environment, spending most of our time in our homes, offices, shopping centres, and cars. Still, this does not necessarily mean we have to all pack up camp and move to the boondocks. It does, however, mean that we have to change our paradigm that real relaxation is found on the couch in front of the television, and get outdoors!

There are opportunities all around us to get outside, whether it be eating lunch in a park, walking the dog, going for a jog, birdwatching, or simply stepping outside, taking it all in, and listening to the wind in the leaves. And just because it is getting colder out does not mean you have to go into hibernation mode. There is no such thing as bad weather – only bad clothing! Dress appropriately and enjoy the same things you do in the warmer months, or better yet, take on a winter sport such as cross country skiing, snowshoeing, or iceskating. Ottawans (and many Canadians for that matter) are lucky to live in close proximity to many natural spaces, including the beautiful Gatineau Park, just north of the city. Take advantage!

Staying connected to the natural world not only helps alleviate stress, but also benefits us spiritually, mentally, and physically. So take a chance and get outside! You’ll be glad you did.


Have an Eco-Fabulous Thanksgiving

October 7, 2011 2:30 pm
Have an Eco-Fabulous Thanksgiving

With Thanksgiving weekend just around the corner, families across Canada are shopping, cooking, cleaning, and getting ready to stuff themselves silly with turkey and mashed potatoes. As part of your family’s Thanksgiving celebration this fall, why not say thank-you to the Earth by having a green holiday that is as good for the environment as it is for your family. By following the suggestions in this article, you can ensure you are giving thanks to not only your friends and family, but planet Earth, too.

Check out your local fa.rmer's market for fresh, delicious, and eco-conscious ingredients

Be a “Localvore”
When shopping for your Thanksgiving feast ingredients, buy local! Buying local means shopping for food that is grown, raised, or produced as close to home as possible. Not only does this support your local business community, but it also has tremendously positive implications for the environment. By decreasing the distance your food travels, you are helping to reduce carbon emissions and therefore leave a smaller ecological footprint. Additionally, local food is usually fresher, and therefore probably contains fewer preservatives that would have been necessary for food travelling long distances. Check out your local farmer’s market or health food store, and impress your guests with tasty, fresh, and environmentally conscious regional specialties!

A hollowed out pumpkin makes a great vase.

Decorate With the Gifts of Nature
Instead of rushing out in a consumer frenzy to buy Thanksgiving-themed decorations, consider using the gifts that nature provides! Get creative – leaves can be coasters, a hollowed out pumpkin can be a vase, and a dried corn arrangement can be an interesting centerpiece, to name a few. Thanksgiving is all about spending time with family, so consider working together to create your own decorations. Non-toxic, simple, biodegradable and beautiful – your guests will be thanking you for these natural decoration ideas.

Travel Smart
Over Thanksgiving weekend, millions of Canadians will get in their cars and travel far and wide to get together with family and friends for the holiday. While Thanksgiving is a great time to bring people together, all this travel can be downright detrimental to the environment. This year, consider alternative transportation to get to your destination, such as the train or bus. Just think – you wont have to worry about fighting traffic and at the same time you can have a better ecological conscience. If you must drive, carpool (Aunt Edna would love a ride!). Finally, consider offsetting your carbon emissions (See The money you pay for offsetting your travel goes directly to projects that reduce carbon in the atmosphere, such as renewable energy or reforestation efforts.

Use the China!

Avoid disposable utensils and reduce your ecological "forkprint"

If you are hosting Thanksgiving at your place, it can be tempting to use disposable utensils, cups, and napkins, to make clean-up easier. Resist the temptation and go for reusables. If you are washing by hand, fill up the sink with water (don’t keep running the tap), and if you are using the dishwasher, fully load it before running to ensure no water is unnecessarily wasted. If the sheer number of guests means you must use disposable items, consider the materials used. Most disposable utensils, for example, are made from petroleum based plastics which are hazardous, and often paper plates are made from paper containing nasty chemicals. Opt for tableware items made of recycled and nontoxic content.

Don’t Overindulge

While Thanksgiving is a time where we give thanks for the abundance of the harvest, we mustn’t get too carried away. When planning your Thanksgiving meal, try to cook the right amount of food for your guests. By reducing food waste, Mother Nature will be saying “thanks” to us. If you do have leftovers, give some away to your guests in reusable containers. Continue to eat the leftovers post-Thanksgiving (sometimes it tastes better!) and compost food scraps where possible. Less food thrown out equals less food in a landfill.

Remember, an eco-fabulous Thanksgiving can be fun, creative, and easy (especially on your conscience). Say thank-you to the environment by following the tips in this article, or by starting a new tradition with your family. Get creative: the possibilities are endless. While Thanksgiving is notoriously bad for ruining personal diets across Canada, it doesn’t have to be responsible for ruining the Earth’s carbon diet!

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