My Favourite Reusable Bags

If you do your grocery shopping regularly, you have probably purchased reusable grocery bags – you know the ones: the material ones that are emblazoned with the stores branding, I have green ones and black ones and multi-coloured ones with pictures on them from Walmart. These bags are cheap, usually $1 – $2.50, and make you feel good because you’re not using plastic bags.

But the next time you go grocery shopping you forget them, where are they? In the car? At home? Who cares if you buy a few more – they’re cheap and useful! And the next thing you know is that you’ve hoarded upwards of ten or more of these stupid grocery bags that are never there when you really need them.

What if you actually liked your grocery bag? What if it was chic and cute enough to go from clothing boutiques to the farmer’s market to the convenience store?

Maybe then you’d remember it!

Tote Bags

Now that sounds like something any of us can do. The only way I can remember my tote bags is by using my little system: I have three Flip & Tumble (#5) bags that I love, all in the black/slate combo, and I actually often forget that I have them. They roll up into a little tiny ball and I usually find them at the bottom of my diaper bag. My diaper bag itself often gets used as a tote bag because of its’ size, but I wouldn’t use it for fresh fruits or vegetables, such as at the Farmer’s Market. I go home, put my groceries away, roll up my bags, throw them at my kids and eventually put them bag in my diaper bag.

Eventually I won’t need a diaper’s bag and I’ll be looking for a more sturdier tote bag, and hopefully used the same sort of system. A Farmer’s Market tote needs to be a bit sturdier, to hold everything properly and not squish anything around. In my town the Reisenthel “baskets” (#3) are very popular at the market, but I find them a bit cumbersome, even if they are somewhat chic – with kids I need something I can throw over my shoulder or attach to the stroller, like #2 above or #7 or #10 below.

totes2

Going green can be as easy as choosing the right bag that works for you (instead of settling for what’s available at the grocery store), and create a system for yourself that works! I won’t debate why plastic bags are horrible for the environment, or why they should be banned, or how all the plastic in the ocean is creating a world rubbish bin… you can google it, you can read for yourself.

I just believe that we can all do our part, no matter how small or how big, and the more people using reusable grocery bags, the better. Do you have a system in place for remembering your reusable bags? Do you use bags for more than just grocery shopping?

Find the totes:

1 – LL Bean / 2 – Dolce & Gourmando / 3 – Reisenthel / 4 – Baggu / 5 – Flip & Tumble / 6 – Independent Reign / 7 – J. Crew / 8 – West Elm / 9 – Marimekko at FinnStyle / 10 – Manhattan Portage / 11 – Birdkage

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Getting Rid of Paper Towels

Cheeky Dish Cloths

Cheeky dish cloths!

One of the easiest changes I’ve made in my home is getting rid of paper towels. I was initially very intimidated by this aspect and put up so many barriers to doing this – if I use rags, what type of rags? how much more washing will I have to do? what if I’m out of rags? cloth towels cost more than paper towels!

As in most things in life, the initial investment in cloth napkins and kitchen towels can be a lot to pay at once, however the cost of paper towels is a lot more in the long run, costing families an average of $200 or more per year – and it’s all being thrown in the trash!

As I said, I was terrified by the aspect of not having paper towels in my home – I used them for everything, all. the. time. Wiping faces, counters, sticky hands, cleaning EVERYTHING, wiping up spills, used as napkins, cleaning make-up brushes – almost any cleaning task was done with a crazy amount of paper towels. And I couponed my heart out and got the best deal for my dollar, but at what cost to our earth? Going through 3 or 4 rolls of paper towels a week, just because I could?

Since moving into our tiny apartment, we’ve switched to cloth napkins, microfiber cloths, sponges and rags for our cleaning and wiping jobs. I have a drawer specifically for these cloths and have a few hooks for ones we’re currently using. Once they get dirty I just throw them in the wash with our other towels.

Not once have I been out of towels or napkins – I’ve been low, but I’ve always had a couple of clean ones lying around. And the fact that I’m not contributing to more waste than necessary while cleaning makes me feel good. The family is adjusting fine – my daughter gets a kick out of the ‘fancy’ napkins we’re using, while my husband I think misses the ease of paper towels (always there, ready on a roll, throw it out when you’re done), he is definitely on board with it and I think after a few more months he’ll eventually stop asking me ‘where we keep the paper towels’…!

PS. Full Disclosure: We do have ONE roll of paper towels in the back corner of the sink, just in case. In case of what? I’m not quite sure yet, but it’s there – just don’t tell my husband!

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The Zero Waste Home

Bea Johnson

the ever chic Bea Johnson

I moved to the West Coast in the Autumn of 2009. It wasn’t quite the cultural shock some would have you believe, say if you suddenly moved from Toronto to Istanbul, now that would be a culture shock, but moving from Toronto to Vancouver is quite a bit easier.

First, the country is the same, so everything that could possibly make things difficult – ie. language, currency, food – isn’t quite as shocking as one might think. The first true shock came to us in terms of real estate prices – we couldn’t afford a single damn thing. The other major difference I took note of is that people in Vancouver seem to work to live, instead of the other way around.

Case in point, in Toronto at 6 pm you will see the lights in office buildings still on, you will talk to friends who are finishing up their office work, their construction job, they will put in the extra work, even if it means staying until 7 or 8 pm on a Friday, and then they’ll go out and play hard. Toronto = work hard, party hard.

Try to make a phone call to most major offices in Vancouver at 6 pm on a Friday – and NO ONE WILL ANSWER THE PHONE. You will listen to the message and realise they close at 4:30 pm on a Friday??? How the hell is anyone supposed to get any work done? And of course these people are off kayaking, and doing yoga on paddleboards, rock climbing, playing golf, even shooting guns at the range – they’re doing stuff, not just going to some club and getting their drank on, which is why the city is dubbed ‘NoFuncouver’ because of the lack of selection in nightlife activities. Vancouver = work well, play hard, usually outdoors.

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This is a whole year of garbage. In one jar.

In order to help adjust to this West Coast lifestyle, I started reading Sunset Magazine, which claims to be my guide to living in the west. I adored it for restaurant recommendations, featured indie shops, yummy recipes using seasonal and local ingredients – and generally skimmed over the rest of the magazine. I don’t garden (yet), or kayak (yet), but I’m sure when I come around to it I will also find those sections interesting.

Anyway, a year after I moved to British Columbia, I came across an article in Sunset about a family in the San Francisco area that produces ONE JAR OF GARBAGE… PER YEAR! The ‘Zero Waste’ household was inspiring, but I didn’t feel like I could achieve it, not even close.

But how I lusted over her minimal (white!) interiors, her efficient and pretty pantry system, and the idea that buying used clothing for her children cost her $10 twice a year.

pantry

her pretty pantry

That was a couple of years ago, and since then I had loosely followed Bea Johnson’s blog, but really found inspiration for minimal living in other books and documentaries and websites. I think simplifying your life is a mental thing first. You can’t achieve it without having the proper mindset. You need to reason with yourself, give yourself a thesis and a mission statement and figure out what benefits you can achieve for yourself with a minimal lifestyle (and there are more than a few, thankfully.)

Since that first article, The Johnson family have become ‘Green Celebrities’, proving to people everywhere that even a “normal” family, 2 adults + 2 kids + 1 dog, can be so green it almost hurts!

And now, reading Miss Johnson’s book, Zero-Waste Home, I am happy that she is willing to share her tips with us, her attempts and her fails, and the life she used to live compared to how she lives now – yes, she was a major yuppy, with 2 cars in a huge house and living the American dream. Now this French transplant has gone back to her roots and realised the impact of living excessively and doing her best to overcome it. And hopes that we’ll all join in with her.

The book is easy to read, has no sense of pretension or judgement, and truly reads like your good friend giving you valuable advice.

I am no closer to having a couple handfuls of garbage per year, mind you, but our garbage per week has dropped down to one small bag instead of the sometimes two big black garbage bags that seemed to come out of thin air.

How achievable do you think a ‘zero waste household’ is? Do you think it’s feasible for most people? For yourself?

 

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living with less & loving what you have

charming book nook
source ]

My husband and I are currently in the process of building our next home, a modern dwelling built on a mountainside with beautiful ocean views. We currently reside in a rental, and we’re going on our third year here! I cannot wait to break free of these bare off-white walls and truly create a home for our family. As we start to pack away our winter things and place them in storage, I slowly start removing things we don’t need throughout the house. Instead of just packing stuff away to deal with when we arrive in the new house, I am going to take the next few months to really think about the place of each item, both in our house and in our lives.

I am on a constant battle with “stuff”, “junk”, and “clutter”.

There are simple solutions to living with less: find a place for everything, and always put everything in its’ place. If it doesn’t fit, doesn’t belong, doesn’t get used – it most likely doesn’t need to be taking up space in your home. It sounds simple but it’s obviously a much more tedious task to actually go through your drawers, your closets, and your shelves and purge everything.

I sometimes think my husband wants to literally just get rid of EVERYTHING and start fresh and new. But economically this just doesn’t make sense. I do see his point though…

When I’m on my minimalist kicks, I start with one ‘section’ of my home. It can be small, such as the ‘junk’ drawer in the kitchen or the bucket of toys in the bathroom that seems to always hold more duckies than can fit, or it can be  on a larger scale, like the pantry or the hallway closet. Regardless, giving yourself ONE task is a much easier way to delve into de-cluttering than psyching yourself out with a LIST of tasks to get done.

But there’s always a battle that happens, between what we really need, what we really use, and what we’re guilted into keeping because we’ve spent money on it.

There’s no sense in being archaic about it, allow yourself a collection or two that makes you happy and adds beauty to your space.

I adore books, but realise as life goes on that I rarely have time to read them. Over the years I’ve given much of my collection away and downloaded the ebook version of the ones I truly love. Yet there is no way I can rid myself of my cookbook collection, which honestly consists of over 100 books at last count. I can’t bring myself to do it. They are beautiful to look at, they hold memories of the past and ideas of the future – our family loves to eat and I love to cook and create. I will always make space for cookbooks in my life, as they make me happy.

Could I live without them? Sure. But I wouldn’t want to!

When going through your stuff, you start to realise what is important to you and what you could really live without…

Once you acknowledge that, the guilt of how much you spent on something is overshadowed by the prospects of having more empty spaces in your home to fill with love and light.

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