Friday, 29 February 2008

This is Democracy?

I was speaking with our local Alberta Green Party candidate a few days ago: our conversation was both inspiring and frustrating for me. The inspiring part was speaking with someone who, apart from living an ecologically connected life herself, has the conviction and motivation to bring the principles of ecological wisdom and sustainability into the sphere of public life and run for public office. This isn't easy, especially in our rural riding, which has had largely Conservative representation since 1971. But she is out there, campaigning diligently so that people know they do have a choice to vote for someone who, unlike the Conservative Party, actually knows what it really means to 'conserve.'

Phyllis was talking to me about some of the challenges she has faced while campaigning, and this is where my frustration set in. She spoke about talking to business people who said that while they would like to vote for her, they "couldn't" because if they didn't vote for the party in power, their area wouldn't get any government grants or other favorable financial consideration. She also said that business people were afraid that if it were to become known that they voted Green, people would stop patronizing their business. Think about that: people are afraid to vote for someone other than who is already in power. Afraid that their infrastructure or community grant needs will be turned away if they don't tow the line. Afraid that they will be ostracized.

Does this sound like Canada? Does this sound like a democratic process? NO! No, it does not. It sounds like the tyranny of an arrogant, elitist group of people who think they are entitled to continue ruling this province how they see fit, bullying citizens by partisan disbursements of their own tax money. Maybe they don't go around overtly bullying and intimidating people (just covertly so far), but we all know how bullies operate: through creating an atmosphere of perpetual fear and uncertainty. A bully doesn't have to actually hit you to get your lunch money, a bully just has to have a reputation that makes you afraid enough that you give it up 'willingly' and say thanks for the opportunity. Pretty soon you just get used to handing it over. We've been handing it over for 37 years -- it's time to stop.

So, Albertans, get out and vote! Vote for who you believe in. Vote for who will do the right thing, do right by this generation and the ones to come. Do right by the only planet we have to live on.

Oh, and vote while you still can. Not all Albertans are getting an equal opportunity to vote, because there aren't enough returning officers to go around - just part of the "Alberta Advantage" I guess. Some ridings that had polling stations in the last election will have to go without this time. But apparently The leader of the Conservative party, Mr. Stelmach, doesn't think this is an urgent concern:
"After the election is over we want to make sure that every area has an equal opportunity to cast their ballots," Stelmach said. (emphasis mine)
Ah, democracy: Alberta style.

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Earth Hour 2008

I have signed up for Earth Hour 2008!

On March 31st, 2007, Sydney, Australia turned its lights off for one hour. Over two million Australians turned off their lights, along with 2100 businesses. The project had aimed for a 5% reduction in energy use during that hour - they got over a 10% reduction, the equivalent of taking 48000 cars off the road for a year!

It is often asked, What can just one person do in the face of global climate change to make a difference? Why bother trying when what I do isn't even a drop in the bucket? The thing is, drops add up into rivers, and snowflakes add up into avalanches. No, I can't do everything, but I can do something! The people in Sidney knew this, and their Earth Hour 2007 demonstrated that small actions done by many people can have a huge collective effect.

Earth Hour 2008 is a global event, being held on Saturday, March 29th, at 8 pm your local time. Particpants are asked to do just one thing: turn their lights off for sixty minutes. Imagine how much we could reduce global carbon emissions by just this one simple action! What if, this year, ten times as many people, 22 million, turned their lights off for an hour. That would mean that in the course of that hour, we would take the equvalent of nearly half a million cars off the road for one year. I can almost hear the planet sighing in relief at the prospect.

Now, imagine this: the people who turn their lights off for an hour on March 29th, decide to do the same once a week from now on. Then they figure they can turn the TV and computer off too, for an extra hour a week, and maybe don't need to leave the water on when they brush their teeth. Maybe a child or teenager will decide to make water and wildspace conservation their life's work, or an adult will stand up to the property "developer" trying to pave over the community green space. Imagine!

Events like Earth Hour and Earth Day could be seen as symbolic at best, or as gimmicky and shallow at worst. But I don't think so. As more and more of these kinds of events occur, it won't seem weird to be "green" anymore. Some people may not go beyond changing their behavior more than intermittently, but others could have a 'eureka' moment where their world view changes forever. If anyone had told me 5 years ago that I would be a vegetarian who flushes her toilet with greywater from the shower, I wouldn't have believed them. But it only takes something small to change your outlook forever. Who knows what big changes could come from some small action during Earth Hour 2008!

If you would like to join in this event, you can sign up here. Then, get ready to flick that switch to "off" at 8 pm on Saturday, March 29th!

Picture courtesy this guy's photo album.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

A meme tag...

I've been tagged by Rural Aspirations for a six quirky things meme. did she know I was so quirky! How will I keep the list down to just six!

Here are the rules of the meme:
1. Link to the person that tagged you. 2. Post the rules on your blog. 3. Share six non-important things/habits/quirks about yourself. 4. Tag six random people at the end of your post by linking to their blogs. 5. Let each random person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their website.
This sounds like good fun! OK, here are my six quirky non-important habits/things:

1) I like to sing off-key on purpose along with the radio, just to see how horribly discordant it sounds. Fortunately for my friends and family, I generally do this just when I'm by myself, driving in my car.

2) One of my favorite snacks is ice-tea powder. Yes, just the powder. It reminds me of those "Lik-a-stik" things we used to have as kids, where you would dip the candy 'stik' into little packages of tart-sweet powder. This stuff is really bad for me, but I love it.

3) I despise pantyhose and pretty much refuse to wear them these days. They are an evil, horrible invention. No leg (or any body part) should be encased in nylon! I get itchy just thinking about it. Blech.

4) When I print, I write my lower case letter 'a' in the typewriter style, instead of in the usual circle-with-a-vertical-line-attached style. This can lead to confusion when the 'a' is thought to be a 'z' instead, leaving me with the name "Theresz."

5) I can't wink. I have to hold one eye closed manually if I want to do so, which kind of ruins the effect. Oh, wait, I can wink on the internet: *wink* See!

6) I love to use big words. Why say "lucky" when you can say "fortuitous?" Why say "smelly" when you can say "malodorous?" This has the side effect of people nodding off when I try to get what should be a quick point across, but it can be good for Scrabble.

So now to tag some 'random' people. I am not sure how to go about doing this in a way that would be even close to truly random, so I will tag some people I have never tagged before, and see what happens:

Mustard Seed Journal - a beautiful, spiritual and peaceful blog.
Label Resistant Life - a fellow Alberta blogger also trying to live more sustainably.
Learning to Step Lightly - also involved in the Riot for Austerity
Kale for Sale - such lovely posts, that draw you right into her lived experience.
Life Less Plastic - lots of tips on how to get the plastic out of your life.
Green Bean Dreams - relaxing posts about simplicity and slowing down.

There are so many blogs out there talking about simplicity, sustainability and and slowing down, it makes me think that change really IS possible! Hopefully this idealism of mine isn't just another quirk!

Picture of kids playing tag courtesy 'Kim and Jason'

Friday, 22 February 2008

Zero Mile Diet Seed Kit

Well, that was fast! I just ordered this seed kit last weekend, and here it is already, not even a week later! How exciting! I think I finally have all the seeds I want to try growing this year. Time to make a cup of tea and flip through the handy growing guide....

90% Reduction - Corrected Natural Gas Usage

I sure am glad I read other people's blogs - it's keeping me on my toes! And a lesson in humility is never a bad thing.

I was visiting over at Learning to Step Lightly yesterday and in perusing her natural gas usage numbers I noticed a large error in my own calculations. I've been mistakenly touting our household as having achieved a 90% reduction in our natural gas usage, for both 2006 and 2007. I was proud of this, proud about how frugal we were in our house, even before jointing the Riot For Austerity. In fact, just the other day I turned the gas fireplace on because I was a bit chilly and thought I could comfort myself with both the warmth from the fire and the knowledge there was some 'slack' in our numbers. So what the heck eh? Turn on the fireplace.

Well, it turns out I made a miscalculation when I was converting Therms to gigaJoules, and put the decimal point in the wrong place. I thought the average North American household used 106 gJ of natural gas per month, but it turns out the average is only 10.6 gJs per month! Our 2007 average of 9.29 gJs/month is under this, but just barely! So instead of thinking we were only using 8.8% of the North American monthly average, we were in actuality using 88% of it. Time for some re-assessment here. I'll have to cloak myself in a sweater rather than in smug self-righteousness.

I'm fairly certain the rest of the numbers are I've posted in the past are correct, but if anyone notices any strange anomalies (past or future), please let me know!

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

British Columbia's New Carbon Tax

I hardly ever watch the TV news, but I was watching yesterday when I was pleasantly suprised to hear about BC's new carbon tax. The BC government outlined their budget yesterday, and it contained details about a tax on all types of fossil fuels. The tax will take effect on July 1st of this year. I will start out small and increase over time. It is "revenue neutral," in that other personal and business taxes will be lowered and a "Climate Action Dividend" cheque will also be paid out to each BC citizen. I'm glossing over some of the details, but you can read more about it here and here.

Not everyone is happy about the carbon tax, as you would expect, but I found one argument against it to be somewhat wrongheaded. A small business person interviewed on the newscast was unhappy that the government was "so quick to bring out the stick" with a punitive measure such as a carbon tax. But I don't think it's punitive at all. People who use less fossil fuel will be be able to keep more of their earnings - that's a reward, not a punishment! The business person could have just as easily asked why it's taken "so long bring out the carrot."

I would love to see other such 'carrots,' such as lower electricity rates for those who use very little, and higher rates for industries that consume in bulk amounts. I'd like to see progressive billing methods applied to all resources -- mass consumers would pay a premium for mass consumption and frugal users would be rewarded for using less. In my Utopian dream, this would mean that people in the lower income brackets could afford to heat their home in the winter and not have their water cut off.

So good for you, BC! You're the first North American jurisdiction to bring in a badly needed carbon tax! I hope the rest of North America follows suit, and quickly.

Picture courtesy this website.

Monday, 18 February 2008

Family Day: We are all One Family

Today is Family Day in Alberta, and in a few other Canadian provinces too. It is a good day to remember the scope of Family, and that we are all part of the same One.

Crunchy Chicken has started an organization that doesn't just recognize this connection, but helps us to extend our good will and compassion to others in a concrete and practical way. Goods 4 Girls is an organization that provides reusable menstrual pads for girls in Africa. People can donate money to the organization, or sew the reusable pads themselves to donate.

Often girls in African countries are prevented from going to school, because they do not have adequate supplies to deal with their menstruation while they are there. Often, girls will stop going to school altogether after they reach puberty. The Goods 4 Girls site has a lot of eye-opening information about how menstruation can be a barrier, practically and culturally, to so many things that we in the western world just take for granted.

Even with the use of my Diva Cup and Luna Pads, there are days I'd like to wimp out and stay home from work. But imagine if you were prevented from going to work or school, just because you didn't have any reliable menstrual supplies at all, and had to use rags, or newspaper or animal skins to absorb your menstrual flow.

Some makers of disposable feminine hygiene products are getting kudos for donating their products to girls in these countries. But don't kid yourselves - this isn't because they want to be generous. It's because they want to expand their market and make money off those who can least afford it. It's part of the spread of the culture of waste and disposability that has helped to get the world into the over-consumptive mess we're in now. Plus, disposable menstrual products also contribute to the underlying societal message that menstrual blood is 'dirty' and is 'garbage.' It's not. Its part of the natural cycle that brings us ALL into being. Into the One Family.

Tao Te Ching, Chapter 6:
The valley spirit, undying
Is called the Mystic Female

The gateway of the Mystic Female
Is called the root of Heaven and Earth

It flows continuously, barely perceptible
When utilized, it is never exhausted

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Bread is Beautiful

I am a lover of bread, and all things starchy. When I saw this recipe in a recent issue of Mother Earth News magazine, I was itching to try it. While the recipe doesn't involve kneading, it does involve some foresight and planning, which my scatterbrained self has a hard time coming up with sometimes. But last night I remembered to mix the ingredients together, so they could sit overnight and do magical and yeasty things.

I have just taken the loaf out of the oven, and it is the most beautiful looking loaf of bread I have ever made. It looks like something from a fancy bread shop, and as you can see from the picture, it actually looks like the picture in the magazine! When I cook, it never looks like the picture in the magazine, so I was pretty happy! Now I have to wait an hour for the loaf to cool so I can finally have a taste of this delicious looking creation. Hmmm....that might be just enough time to whip up some handmade butter, a la Crunchy Chicken Cooks.

Friday, 15 February 2008

The Zero Mile Diet Seed Kit

The weather today was unseasonably warm. That distinctive Spring-like smell was in the air, and what's more, I could take a deep breath of this lovely smell without my nostrils freezing together. That made it official: it is time to order seeds!

I have ordered seeds from the Salt Spring Seeds company over the past two years, and I was perusing their website again today, when I came across this new addition to their seed catalog: the Zero Mile Diet Seed Kit. It contains a variety of seeds for growing plants suited to...well here, Salt Spring Seeds owner Dan Jason explains it best:
This kit is for gardeners or groups of gardeners eager to become more self-reliant in food. The 12 seed packets contained in it are Blue Tinge Ethiopian Wheat, Faust Barley, Golden Flax, Multi-hued Quinoa, Amaranth Mix, Heritage Bean Mix, Darlaine Soup Pea, Winnifred's Garbanzo, Manitoba Soybean, Russian Kale, 20 Lettuce Blend and Amish Paste Tomato. Included in the box, apart from the seeds, is a 20-page comprehensive growing guide. A treasure trove of possibilities for the ardent grower!
Dan and his colleagues have been saving seeds for over 20 years and he encourages and teaches others to do the same. His seed and plant sanctuary is a repository for heritage and heirloom seeds and plants, all of which are non-treated, open pollinated and non-GMO. Dan emphasizes the importance of saving seeds, and taking back control of our food supply from agri-business:
The agriculture we now have is all about ownership, secrecy and control. It designs Terminator seeds. It blasts genes from foreign species into seeds so that plants can survive powerful herbicides and pesticides. It tells farmers what seeds they are allowed to grow.
This isn't right. Food shouldn't be privatized and monopolized by a select few. Instead it should be a common, public, diversified endeavor. We can change this, one garden at a time.

So I will place my order for the Zero Mile Diet seed kit this weekend, and probably order a few other herbs and vegetables as well. And I'll daydream of a garden filled with plants from which I can gather seeds, like I did when I was a kid with my mom, collecting seeds from the daisy-like flowers growing beside our house.

Here is a taste of Dan Jason's vision: (go here for the complete text)
The knowledge of how to grow sustainably already exists. It can be tapped into and enhanced in myriad ways. Around the world people are feeling and thinking that it is time to create the world we want rather than to fight the world we don't want.... When you save seeds, you realize with each harvest how magnanimous nature is in gifting us with the opportunity of multiplying her goodness.

...We need to replant our earth garden with the diversity that is so innately hers. We need to nourish ourselves by nourishing and celebrating the carrying capacity of each place instead of insanely transporting food thousands of miles.... We can turn wasteland into farmland and deserts into forests. We can make the earth a place where no one suffers for a lack of healthy food, pure water or clean air.
That's a vision that can become reality, one seed at a time.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Alberta Green Party Platform 2008

An election is underway in Alberta and all the political parties are releasing their platforms. Today the Alberta Green Party released its 2008 platform. It is a concise, 15 page document that covers the essentials of the Alberta Green's position as to how to engender a "Happier, Healthier and Wealthier" Alberta. I think some people still consider the Green Party to be a one-issue party, but this just isn't true. Take a look at the platform document and see for yourselves! And all you Albertans out there: consider voting Green!

Monday, 11 February 2008

I am not a billboard

Yesterday evening Gord and I were talking about whether or not we might attend the local hockey team's skills competition. We weren't sure where is was being held, at which point I said it would be good if it were held at the ________ Centre. I then stopped myself and said out loud, "I'm not using that term anymore, I'm going to call it what it used to be called, before that arena was corporatized: the Coliseum."

In fact, I'm not calling any building by its corporatized name anymore - I'm going to make a point of calling public spaces by their public names, even if it is more cumbersome to do so. Those companies can pay someone to do their advertising for them, I'm not doing it for free.

This also goes for the clothes I buy from now on. I'm not going to buy anymore sweatshirts or T-shirts or anything with an obvious logo or corporate name emblazoned on it anywhere. I have a couple of these, from my pre-pondering days, and I'll still wear them because they're still in good shape, but I won't be adding anymore of them to my wardrobe. And, I'll encourage others to do likewise. I am not a billboard. People are not billboards.

Also, Gord and I are boycotting those two large carbonated beverage manufacturers, but that story's for another post.

Picture courtesy this site - it took some extra searching to find a picture without the corporate logo all front and centre!

Sunday, 10 February 2008

A quick repurpose and reuse....

I had a combination of inspirations over the past couple of days that led me to "invent" this orange peel woodstove fire helper. I read in a magazine from the health food store that dried orange peel can be used for kindling, because the orange oil in it combusts nicely.

Then I read in my Mother Earth News magazine that you can use toilet paper rolls cut in half with the ends folded in to make mini seed-starting pots. I tried that, but they were too small to be practical. (I will probably take Chile's advise and use newspaper instead.) But I figured if I tossed the dried orange peels into the toilet paper rolls and folded both ends: eureka! And the "orange peel fire helper" was born.

Friday, 8 February 2008

A blog award!

Wow! Alexah at Learning to Step Lightly has awarded me with the Excellent blogging award! It is really an honor to have this award passed on to me, especially considering the other bloggers that Alexah awarded as well.

When I started out blogging almost a year ago, I really never expected my words to be read by many other people. My motivation for starting to blog was two fold: First, my sister started a blog about her experiences as a first time mom, and really enjoyed it. Second, I had the perception that I was really starting to get on my friends' and family members' nerves with all my spouting off about sustainability, energy reduction, tai chi and the like and I wanted to have a place to pour out all my thoughts while giving the people in my life the choice to hear/read about them or not. And now it has turned into an activity that gives me an outlet for my rants, opinions, thoughts and ponderings, and has also led me into a community of people who are doing their best to live more in tune with all the myriad things. I learn something new every day, am inspired every day, and every day I get more practice at living within the means of the planet I share with all other beings. Knowing there are others out there pondering too, is more of a blessing than I ever imagined.

Per Alexah, the description of this award is as follows:

Now according to the information I was given - the person who started it all said:

“I love being a part of the blogging community and part of all the friendships that I’ve formed, so I wanted to give a blog award for all of you out there that have Excellent Blogs.”

Of course, there is a catch…

By accepting this Excellent blog award, I have to award it to at least ten more people whose blogs I find Excellent.

So, if you’re listed blow, please, consider yourself “Excellent” and thus worthy of this honor which I bestow upon you. And, if you have not yet visited these sites, I invite you to do so and experience some Excellent Blogging.

My list of blogs that I read daily or almost daily is evolving and expanding, but here are the ones that I go to most often at this point in time. I know the award says to list at least 10 other blogs, but I will stop at 10 because, well, I have to stop somewhere!

Nature Bats Last - an acerbic blog that tells it like it is - brace yourselves.

Chile Chews - without Chile I would not know to simmer the citrus seeds in with my marmalade! Plus, Chile writes prolifically - you know that there is going to be something new to 'chew' on almost every day. (No pressure though, Chile!)

A day in the life of Connor - my sister's blog - the blog that started it all for me. Lori's joy shows through in every post, and is a real pick-me-up when I need to turn my focus away from peak oil and assorted social and political frustrations.

Crunchy Chicken - she's been nominated for this award already, but it just doesn't get any better than Crunchy. She inspires like no other blogger I know!

Cluttercut - daharja writes with passion and her prose becomes near-poetry at times. Plus she has lots of great advice for getting the literal and figurative clutter out of life.

Everyday Yogini - a great blog about a mom in Italy practicing yogic ideals both on and off the mat. And she writes gathas too!

Simply Authentic - a grad student's blog all about living the sustainable lifestyle and thinking about deeply spiritual matters. Earnest, sincere, authentic - a lovely blog to read when I need a mental respite.

Casaubon's Book - this has been a life-changing blog for me. Sharon writes about critical environmental, socio-political, and ethical issues in a way that personalizes them and makes you want to change how you're doing things, right now.

The Importance of Being Sentient - this is a blog I came across recently by a well-spoken young adult. At times sarcastic and angsty, it strips things down to basics, which is very refreshing in a society where layers of crap are often heaped upon things, making them more complicated than they really need to be.

Hippie Girl - this is another fairly recent addition to my blog list. Another Canadian blogger, with lots of tasty vegan recipes and assorted neat tips, links and ideas.

Do enjoy these blogs - I sure do!

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

An Inspiring Lunch Hour!

Of all the ecological things that we ponder in our household, Gord is the one who thinks about water-related issues the most. He noticed that one of Canada's (and maybe the world's) foremost experts on water ecology, Dr. David Schindler, was speaking at a lunchtime town hall meeting at CBC Edmonton's interactive space. So we both headed down there at lunch today, me walking from work and he half-driving, half-taking public transit to listen.

Accompanying Dr. Schindler was Dr. Steve McLean, Canadian astronaut. The purpose of the meeting was to talk about Edmonton author Thomas Wharton's award winning book, Icefields. The book was written in 1995, in a time when the prospect of glaciers disappearing wasn't thought possible.

But, it has turned out to be all too possible. Dr. McLean spoke about how seeing the Earth from space made him feel more connected to it than before, because he could see how fragile and amazing it is. Dr. Schindler spoke about how frustrating it is to have scientists' efforts at measuring climate change and other scientific phenomena undermined by decades of government funding cuts. Both of these speakers pointed out how essential it is that we measure things like oxygen emitted from the Earth's atmosphere into space and the flow rates of our rivers before they are seriously affected by climate change. Otherwise we have no baseline of information from which to measure what is being affected and how.

At this point I turned to Gord and said that this lack of data is what climate change deniers would want. That way, there is no solid evidence of how things used to be, which would mean there can be no solid evidence that things are actually changing. This lets the deniers say that the science and the scientists are "imprecise," and gives them more ammunition to delay taking any restorative action.

We need to demand that our governments restore funding to those agencies that monitor the weather, the rivers, the wilderness, the glaciers. We need this information so we can take pro-active steps to mitigate against the worst effects of climate change.

Picture courtesy CBC Edmonton flickr site

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Alberta Election Call

Well, here we go. It's election time again in Alberta. The reigning Conservative party has been in power for 37 years - almost my entire life. Ed Stelmach is the current leader of the party and premier of Alberta -- Steady Eddie as he's known. He hasn't been elected by the people of Alberta though, just selected by members of the Conservative party at the last party convention over a year ago.

It's only been in the last several years that I was aware enough about political things to start caring about who was in government and what they were doing or not doing. As the years went on, I became increasingly disgusted, especially with the previous premier of Alberta, Ralph Klein. I was a bit more hopeful when Stelmach was appointed, but recent correspondence with him has reinforced to me that he is just the same old story in a less overtly arrogant package.

Things are changing here in Alberta. 37 years of rule by one party is a long, long time. More people, including me, are willing to stand up and say we want something different. We want a government that isn't in the pocket of the oil companies. We want to be treated as people, not just as consumers or contributers to the Gross Domestic Product. We want a government that takes seriously its mandate to represent all the people of Alberta, not just the ones with lots of money.

So when your local candidates come to your door or to a local candidates forum, ask them the tough questions. Here are some of the questions I'll be asking my candidates:
  • What steps will you take to move Alberta towards developing sustainable energy sources such as solar and wind power and move away from fossil fuel usage?
  • What will you do to encourage Albertans to conserve energy? What steps do you take in your household to conserve energy?
  • What is your view of peak oil?
  • What is your view of climate change?
  • How will your party enhance public transportation in both rural and urban areas?
  • Will your party institute a moratorium on all new oil sands leases until there is a provincial land use plan including protected areas, cumulative impact limits, integrated land management and oil companies are mandated to employ best practices?
  • How will you regulate industry such that absolute reductions in greenhouse gases can be realized at Kyoto levels (i.e., a reduction of 6% below 1990 levels).
  • What is your view of carbon taxes?
  • What is your position on building a nuclear power plant in Alberta?
  • How will you protect Alberta's water? How will you ensure that water is not considered a tradable commodity and sold in bulk to the US or other countries?
  • What is your understanding of the Genuine Progress Indicator and will your party consider it as a replacement to the Gross Domestic Product?
  • How will you support family farms?
  • How will you encourage the development of safe, affordable housing? What is your view on rent control?
  • How will you ensure that public primary and secondary education is actually free and that the numerous and burdensome extra school fees are removed?
If you haven't already guessed, I'm voting for the Alberta Green Party. Their policies are ones with which I wholeheartedly (and wholemindedly) agree. No matter who you decide to vote for, do get out and VOTE! Alberta politics are changing - be a part of it!

Picture from the Edmonton Sun

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Mega Marmalade

One drawback of having one's husband go grocery shopping one week and oneself going the next, is the risk of making duplicate purchases. Especially when certain oft-used items are on sale.

This happened to our household over the past two weeks, in the form of a vast overpurchase of grapefruit. We will usually buy 2 or 3 grapefruit a week (of which Gord eats 99.9%) but two weeks ago Gord bought a six-pack of grapefruit which were on sale for a really good price. I didn't realize this until the next week when I bought another six-pack, still on sale, thinking it was nice to get grapefruit on sale for a change! Only when I unloaded the groceries and told Gord about the great deal I got did I find out that we already had lots! So I thought: now is a good time to learn to make marmalade.

Gord's mom makes really good marmalade, so I dug out her recipe and decided to give it a try. It's a really easy looking recipe, with just chopped citrus fruit, water and sugar and a lot of boiling thereof. This melange is on the boil right now. I hope it turns out because otherwise I will have 13 jars of grapefruit soup!

Edited on February 5th to add: The marmalade turned out pretty good! It is a little bit runnier than it should be, maybe because I added less sugar than the recipe called for, but it tastes very good!

Friday, 1 February 2008

At Last: 2007 Riot for Austerity numbers

Over at Learning to Step Lightly, Alexah has been diligently posting her Riot For Austerity updates on a monthly basis. In contrast, I've been procrastinating for many months, always telling myself I'll post them when I get one more month of numbers tallied up. And always hoping that the next month would lower my averages. But, this never happened and it's time to face up to the truth of the numbers for 2007.

In a nutshell, we consumed less of some things and more of others compared to 2006. I had hoped to make further reductions in every category, especially since we weren't even actively trying to reduce our consumption in some areas yet in 2006. Halfway through 2007 we joined the 'Riot' and really stepped up our efforts - at least I thought we did.

Here are the comparisons. The first number listed is the North American Monthly Average (NAMA) for a 2-person household, where applicable.

Electricity (lighting, cooking)
  • NAMA: 916 kWh
  • Our 2006 average: 316.7 kWH which equals 34.6% of the NAMA
  • Our 2007 average: 327.58 kWh which equals 35.8 of the NAMA. We subscribe to Bullfrog Power, which is 100% wind power. According to Riot rules, we get a 4:1 credit for wind power, so we do actually meet the 90% reduction target in this category. But it would be nice to reduce the actual kWhs, nonetheless.
Natural Gas (heating, hot water)
  • NAMA: 106 gJ
  • Our 2006 average: 8.93 gJ which equals 8.4% of the NAMA - 90% reduction goal met
  • Our 2007 average: 9.29 gJ which equals 8.8% of the NAMA - 90% reduction still met, but it's close.
  • NAMA: 6000 gallons
  • Our 2006 average: 1600 gallons which equals 26.7% of the NAMA
  • Our 2007 average: 1416.67 gallons which equals 23.6% of the NAMA - a bit lower, so this is good. Using the shower/tap grey water for flushing the toilet seems to be helping.
  • NAMA: 270 lbs
  • Our 2006 average: 15.125 lbs which equals 5.6% of the NAMA - 90% reduction goal met
  • Our 2007 average: 67.41 lbs, which equals 25% of the NAMA - this is a big jump but I know why it went up so much: we took some things to the landfill for some people who would otherwise have had to pay to put in in their city landfill. The good news is that we salvaged quite a lot of what had been originally slated for the landfill and we are using that stuff ourselves around the house and yard/garden.
Vehicle Fuel
  • NAMA: 316 litres
  • Our 2006 average: 308.58 litres which equals 97.7% of the NAMA. This is our Achilles heel - we live in the country and drive to the city for work. One vehicle is a diesel and logs about 600 kms per week. The other vehicle is gasoline powered and logs about 250 - 300 kms a week.
  • Our 2007 average: I only have the figures for my diesel car so far, and we seem to be headed for about the same level of consumption as 2006. The good news is that the second vehicle is now a smaller car instead of a pick up truck, presumably with better mileage, so our 2008 numbers should be lower. But until we move closer to work, or find some way to work fewer days a week, this number will remain too high.
Consumer Goods
  • NAMA: $1667 (US or CDN, they're at par with each other these days)
  • Our 2006 average: $1019.51 which equals 61.2% of the NAMA
  • Our 2007 average: $1010.63 which equals 60.6% of the NAMA - virtually identical. We have started changing what we spend money on more so than how much we spend, as we slowly acquire things like gardening tools, some hand-crank lamps, some good kitchen knives and other things on our list of things to prepare for a self-sustaining lifestyle. This number could well go up, as we invest in rain-collecting equipment, and maybe dig a well.
  • I didn't keep very good track of our proportion of bulk, locally grown, organic foods vs. long-distance/non-organic food consumption, but I do know the former increased, since we had a little garden in 2007 and went to the farmer's market almost every week for fresh produce. I doubt I'll keep good numbers on this actually, we're just steadily working on eating more and more locally as time goes by.

So there it is - we've done alright in some areas and not great in others, although we are at least below average in every category. And I'll try and post these numbers monthly from now on!