Greening the Cottage | Easy Swaps to Minimize Waste and Environmental Impact 0
Nothing makes you think about your ecological footprint like a stint in the great outdoors. You breathe in the clean air, take a dip in the cool water, and hope with all your heart that future generations will also have the privilege to enjoy this.
However, camping and traveling can often take us into "convenience" mode, where we don't mind the extra plastic, the disposable cutlery, and the lack of recycling options. Let's challenge this mindset this year and make this the summer of the #greencottage. You'll see that a lot of the times, the switches we make benefit both us and the environment, and there will definitely be less on your conscience when you sit to enjoy the beautiful sunset on the dock in the evenings.
Invest in Reusable Items
You might be shocked to find out that many people use disposable plates when camping or cottaging. Or, you might have done that yourself in the past. It's true that it means less washing up, but it also means a lot more garbage! Instead of bringing stacks of the disposable stuff with you, invest in a set for the cottage or for camping. They can be something as simple as old plates and cutlery from the thrift store, or recycled plastic versions from ReplayRecycled. In the long run, this will also be better for your wallet, as you won't have to keep dishing out for the trashy stuff.
Get a Compost Bin
The smelliest kind of garbage is usually the kind of waste that should be composted: items that rot. So instead of collecting it and driving it to the local dump on the one day a week it's open, or, even worse, having to drive home with it, set up a composting system on the cottage property. This will also mean less waste to deal with in general, something to consider if the dump charges you per garbage bag. An extra consideration, however, might be how your food scraps might attract animals. Be conscious of it being properly sealed and safe from little (or big) paws. Bonus: next spring, you might have some soil to use for an herb or pollinator garden!
Refill When Possible
Before you go up to your home away from home, refill on all of your favourite snacks, soaps, cleaners, and more. With recycling being an issue in some remote municipalities, refilling what you already have for the season is a better use of containers and then less hassle when it comes to disposal. Using glass or seal-able metal containers for foods like pasta, rice, flour, and more also keeps them safe from little critters and bugs who like to take up residence in our cabins when we're away. Pro tip: have some cottage mates that like indulging in beer while vacationing? Fill up your growlers with your favourite craft beer before you leave or being your growlers along to fill up at the local brewery.
Use Natural Products
It doesn't take much to connect the thought of putting chemicals in your water, on your surfaces, and on your plants with the thought of it ending up in the ecosystem that surrounds you, especially when surrounded by nature. In the city we tend to forget, but with everything reminding you of intricate (and sensitive) systems in place, the motivation to switch to natural should be there. From sunscreens, bug sprays, through dish soaps and shampoo, consider what you are putting into the environment when you engage with it. Make the switch from harsh chemicals that don't do good for you or the planet, to products that are biodegradable, derived from nature, and do little or no harm.
Get a Water Purifier
When camping or when at the cottage, we often doubt the quality of the water that comes out of the faucet, especially when we plan on drinking it. Instead of bringing packs and packs of bottled water, come up with a plan that engages a smaller footprint. Some ideas include refilling those big water jugs at the grocery store in town and using that to fill personalized water bottles. Alternatively, use a filtering pitcher to clean the water that comes from the well. Lastly, there are more and more options for bottles that filter water. That might be something worth exploring if you are moving around a lot during your outdoor adventures and wouldn't be able to refill from a big pitcher or bottle, ex. Backpacking trip or portage.
Reuse What You Have
While you can definitely invest in a set of beeswax wraps or silicone zip lock bags to keep your kitchen as waste and plastic free as possible, be resourceful with what you have. Finished the jam? Use that jar to refill with snacks when you go into town or use it to store leftover noodle salad from lunch. Finished off the orange juice? Use that container to bring up as much kibble as you need for your pet. Be more conscious of what you do bring with you, planning to either keep it there as an addition to your resources available, or to bring it back.
These are just some of the ideas that we came up with that would make the average cottage a little greener this year. What do you do differently when vacationing in nature?
5 Great Ways to Spend Earth Day with the Family in the Hamilton- Niagara Region 0
Earth Day is here again and we can't think of a better way to spend this wonderful occasion than with the family. We have always been of the opinion that environmentalism is something that you share with your community rather than keeping for yourself, and that's precisely what Earth Day is all about.
We've created a small guide for those looking for interesting Earth Day 2017 events in the Hamilton-Niagara Region. While we know that it's impossible to participate in all of them, getting involved in at least one will no doubt be the start of a wonderful day and a chance to create memories for years to come!
Earth Day at Mrs.Greenway [Downtown Dundas & Downtown Grimsby]
While the parents shop around for the things they need for "greening their life" like eco-friendly food storage, water bottles, cleaning products, and personal hygiene items, the younger family members can get to work planting flowers during the FREE Earth Day Activities available. Enter into a draw to win a Plan Toy Flower Kit, while every purchase gets you a chance to win our special Earth Day Gift Basket. Though the 25% off cleaning and laundry supplies can be claimed by everyone, there are limited kits available for the children's activities. Call in advance or visit either the Dundas or Grimsby store to reserve as many spots as you need!
April 22nd, 10 AM- 5PM, more information available here.
Tree Planting Festival [Churchill Park, Hamilton]
Nothing screams "Earth Day" more than a little tree planting, right? The goal on Saturday the 22nd is to plant all 1,000 trees available while taking advantage of the live music, themed exhibits, and food vendors! Don't miss the Mayor's welcome at 10:30 a.m. and get ready to start planting around 11:00 a.m.
April 22nd, 10:30 AM, more information can be found here.
Recycling Centre Guided Tour [Niagara Falls]
A unique opportunity to see what happens with the things we throw into the blue bin, Niagara Region is giving the public the opportunity to tour its Recycling Center. Participants do have to be at least 10 years old and dressed appropriately in long pants ad closed toe shoes, however it could be the trip of a lifetime for some of your older kids who are interested in green living. The curiosity is sure to extend to parents as well, so reserve spots for everyone who can go on Friday, April 21st! It's worth skipping school for!
More information and reservations can be found here
Earth Day Extravaganza [Welland Farmer's Market]
If you want to celebrate Earth Day surrounded by local produce, the Earth Day Extravaganza event on Saturday morning might be your event of choice. There will be children's activities, face painting, and an opportunity to beautiful the market. Come bright and early at 9:00 a.m. with a bag of used clothing for Textile Waste Diversion and receive a Free Market Tote!
More information on this April 22nd event can be found here
Malcolmson Eco-Park Earth Day Celebration [St. Catharines]
Earth Day is the perfect time to start your own little garden, and the Earth Day celebrations at Malcolmson Eco-Park is the place to acquire your native plants and trees! In addition to helping with planting on location, you will be able to choose your own Paw Paws, Trilliums, Black Eyed Susans and more, helping with restoring natural species to this area in Ontario.
More information about hours, location, and parking can be found here.
Remember that Earth Day is about reinforcing all those Green Living Resolutions we have made over the years. Try to cycle or walk if possible, and encourage conversations about the environment with all members of the family, from 3 year old Junior to Grandpa Bob.
Happy Earth Day!
12 Tips for Camping Sustainably with the Family 0
Many people enjoy spending their free time outdoors, but camping sustainably is truly the best way to appreciate the beauty and importance of our natural environment.
Breathe in the fresh air, start noticing those little ants under your boots and never mind the fact that you lost your data signal 3 kilometers ago.
When we are close to nature, we more fully understand the effect that our lifestyle has on the earth and we come up with solutions that respect its integrity.
Here are some tips that will help you have a "green-er" experience next time you go camping with the family.
Pack package-less foods
Hiking a pristine and wild trail, full of amazing flora and fauna while snacking on a pack of Doritos seems wrong. Not only is the food itself full of chemicals and artificial flavours, it leaves you with a non-biodegradable bag that you will have to carry the rest of the way. Instead of ruining your nature experience with your choice of junk food, embrace natural and healthy snack and meal options that either come in reusable, biodegradable, recyclable packaging or none at all! Look for reusable snack pockets or other containers to store your food so that you won't end up carrying an extra bag of garbage at the end of your trip.
Refill your water bottles
Staying hydrated is especially important when you are spending time outside. Store your water in sustainable water bottles that will keep it cool and are easy to carry and drink from. Want to go the extra step? Look into investing in a water filter pump that can purify any water you find, weather from a stream, river, or a lake.
Throw dry sage leaves on the fire as natural bug repellent
Love the idea of keeping warm by the fire on those cool evenings? Make the experience even more delightful by throwing in a bundle of sage leaves. As it burns, it acts as a natural bug repellent, meaning that you get a wonderful nuisance-free bubble, centered right around your main attraction.
Use natural sunscreen and bug spray
Is an environmentally sensitive and protect area really where you want to be lathering yourself with chemical and toxic sunscreens and insect repellents? Especially since you will probably have a lesser chance to shower all of these harmful products off of your skin at the end of the day? Sub these camping essentials out with natural alternatives that will protect you from the sun and insect bites without polluting your environment and your own body. Don't think it's a big deal? Check out those rings of "oil" floating around you when you get into a peaceful lake. Yes, that is your sunscreen washing off of you and polluting the water.
Opt for washable and reusable feminine sanitary products
Having your period is always annoying, but especially so when you are out camping or hiking. The lack of facilities can create a big problem in terms of comfort and hygiene. The most sustainable solution is to use washable and reusable feminine sanitary pads or biodegradable tampons. Bummis Flo pads come with a little baggie to store your used pads until you have a chance to wash and dry them, and tampons can be buried as biodegradable waste.
Pack all-in-one biodegradable soaps and shampoos
Shampoos and soaps can be full of not just artificial fragrances, but detergents and other chemicals that can be harmful to sensitive natural environments. Pack biodegradable soaps, washes, and shampoos, as they naturally decompose and don't pollute the water. Just be sure to read all the instructions on the labels to see if you can rinse directly in bodies of water or if you have to rinse the product out into a pit to allow the process of it moving through the soil to properly purify the water.
Bring dry shampoo
If you aren't going to be bringing a natural biodegradable shampoo along with you, but you aren't a fan of looking like a cave man/woman, consider packing natural dry shampoo. Just a few shakes of this powder and your natural hair oils are soaked up and you smell (and look) amazingly fresh and clean.
Use washable diapers
Even if you find washable and reusable diapers as too much of a hassle for day-to-day use, a camping or hiking trip is a great time to have a few on hand. You won't want to be storing and carrying a week's worth of soiled single-use diapers. The smells and the weight will become an issue, believe us. Reusable diapers, like Bummis, can be washed, dried, and used again.
Bring a baby carrier/wrap
You've seen the signs asking you to keep to the trail. Though sometimes it's to protect the hiker or camper from harm, like dangerous wildlife or plants like poison ivy, it is mostly to protect the integrity of the ecosystem that exists there. Respect nature and ditch your huge stroller in favour of a more sustainable and comfortable carrier. It will be easier for you to stick to even small paths and you know you won't be encroaching on nature more than necessary.
Use solar energy to charge electronics
Instead of using electricity that you know comes from non-sustainable sources, invest in some portable renewable energy source that you can use while you're in the wild. You can find all kinds of flashlights, battery packs and even backpacks that harness the sun's energy to store or provide electrical power.
Bury biodegradable waste
You'll find that during your camping trip, you will have some biodegradable waste to dispose of, like apple cores, dishwater, or even toilet paper. Instead of just scattering it as you go, dig a pit as deep as you can, throw in your biodegradable waste, and cover it up. This will speed up the rate at which the materials will start to decompose and will keep small animals from digging it up easily.
Start your fire naturally
When you go camping, sometime you can smell the unfortunate odour of people trying to jumpstart their fires with liquid firestarter or just any liquid flammable. Not only is this unsafe, it is unhealthy, both for the environment and for the people inhaling the fumes and cooking over it. Look for natural alternatives to this desperate measure, such as stuffing a cardboard toilet paper roll with dryer lint, burning stale chips, and waterproofing your matches with beeswax for the times when the situation is a little…damp.
Camping sustainably can be a challenge and take more preparation and considerations than a regular camping experience. However, it shows so much respect for our beautiful natural environments and is a great tool for teaching kids to honour and conserve our Earth, not just with our words but with our actions. Use it as a springboard to jump into sustainable habits in your everyday life and you'll see that the next time you're out in the wild, it won't feel like an effort, it'll just be life as usual. Except maybe for the firestarters….