Go green and save money

Photo credit:

iStockphoto/Andreas Kaspar

FREE

1) Get two for the price of one

A child’s birthday party that has no ify gifts, no mounds of unrecyclable wrapping paper and helps a charitable cause? It’s not too good to be true. Make it happen using EchoAge.com, the brainchild of two Toronto moms. Here’s how the website works: Parents send out evites, and guests make an online contribution of the amount of money they would normally spend on a birthday gift. Half of the money is donated to a cause that the party’s hosts support, such as Second Harvest or EcoKids, while the other half goes toward buying one special gift for the birthday boy or girl. (While the service is free, EchoAge.com collects 15 percent of the money donated to cover its administrative costs.)

2) Let it whirl

When it cools turn the blades the opposite way to pull heat down.

When the weather warms up, set your ceiling fan to spin counterclockwise. This will help to push the air downward, making the room feel about 10 percent cooler.

3) Blow ’em up

Canadian drivers would save a whopping 643 million litres of fuel this year if they kept their tires properly inflated, according to Natural Resources Canada. Read your owner’s manual to see what your vehicle’s tire pressure should be, and use a tire gauge to check tires when they’re cold (i.e., when the vehicle has been parked for at least three hours, or driven for no more than two kilometres).

4) Perform your drug diligence

Leftover medications end up in our water supply and soil if they’re flushed down the toilet or tossed out with the trash. Take prescription and over-the-counter drugs to your pharmacy to be disposed of properly through incineration. Visit medicationsreturn.ca to find a drop-off location in your area.

5) Cut your food-print

The food system is responsible for one third of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to eatlowcarbon.org, which features a low carbon diet calculator. At this site, drag and drop food items onto a virtual frying pan to see how your choices stack up. Then, head over to foodkm.com to find restaurants, farmers’ markets and suppliers in your community that stock locally grown food.

6) Return to sender

Stick a No Junk Mail Please sign on your mailbox. Download one for free at reddotcampaign.ca, an organization in Vancouver. Canada Post tracks the number of people who opt out of unaddressed mail delivery, which translates into advertisers printing fewer fliers. To stop addressed junk mail from Canadian companies, register with the Do Not Contact Service of the Canadian Marketing Association.

7) Pitch in, eh!

Pitch-In Canada Week is in mid-April. Visit pitch-in.ca to learn how you can lend a hand with projects that help clean, beautify and protect your community.

UNDER $10

8) Embrace your inner herbivore

The term “water footprint” describes the amount of water used to create a product. Bessie the cow, for example, leaves a hefty one! It takes 2,400 litres of water to make one burger, according to Waterfootprint.org. Choose meatless meals a few times per week. (For planet-pleasing recipe ideas, consult the Big Green Cookbook (Wiley), less than $20 through amazon.ca.)

9) Bag it up

Rather than putting apples and rice in plastic bags at the grocery store, reach for ultra-thin reusable bags. Try these made in-Canada options: Kootsac ($4 and up for cotton, nylon or silkbags) and Credobags ( $5 and up for drawstring mesh cotton bags at select retailers).

10) Sprout some delicious greens

Delicious crunchy sprouts and other “microgreens” are a hot food trend for 2009. Plus, they’re ridiculously easy to grow in your kitchen. Look for sprouting seeds in gardening catalogues or your neighbourhood health food store. Or visit Mumm’s Sprouting Seeds, based in Parkside, Sask., at sprouting.com to buy organic seed mixes such as Spicy Lentil Crunch ($3 for 125mL). Bonus: Sprouts show promise as cancer fighters, according to recent health research.

11) Opt for clover

Seed bare patches in your lawn with White Dutch clover. It’s cheap, tough, stands up to dog pee, requires little maintenance and no fertilizer, and stays green even through extra-dry spells. Buy it at a supplier such as oscseeds.com ($9 for 500 g of seed).

UNDER $20

12) Offset your life

Purchase carbon off -sets for more than just air travel. At Less.ca and Planetair.ca, two high-quality Canadian carbon off setters, $20 per month for a year will off-set five tons of greenhouse gas emissions the amount the average Canadian generates annually. You can even set up a preauthorized monthly payment.

13) Let a swarm of ladybugs loose

No need for poisons in your garden: Ladybugs will happily munch on aphids and other pests. If possible, buy local ladybugs, since those raised far away won’t stick around long, writes Marjorie Harris in her newly updated book, Ecological Gardening (Random House Canada). Check with a nursery, or visit natural-insect-control.com (Stevensville, Ont.; 1,000 ladybugs for $16) or thebuglady.ca (Fort Langley, B.C.; 500 ladybugs for $10).

14) Tote your lunch fare with flare

Cut down on paper, plastic and aluminum foil by packing your lunch or picnic in stainless steel, stackable tin boxes, used for decades in South Asia (about $15 at Lee Valley Tools and various kitchen retailers). Don’t forget reusable bamboo cutlery, such as a set from To-Go Ware; it’s stored in a washable sleeve made from repurposed plastic bags created by Conserve, a non-governmental organization in Delhi, India (about $20, visit togoware.com for retailers).

15) Use eco-sunscreen

Sunblock is a must, but if you’re wearing it when you hit the beach or lake, you risk creating a potentially hazardous chemical oil slick. To minimize your impact, choose a fragrance-free, paraben-free, biodegradable sunblock such as Mexitan ($16 and up).

16) Take a cue (a-choo!) from your grandmother

Two hundred billion tissues are a-choo’d into in North America every year, which means that an incredible amount of trees, energy and chemicals go into a product that’s used once and thrown away. Instead, stash a teeny package of three washable, made-in-Canada, organic cotton hankies in your pocket or bag ($17 at hankettes.com).

17) Pull the plug remotely

You can reduce phantom energy use (energy that’s drawn by appliances in standby mode) by unplugging items such as DVD players and cellphone chargers, but it’s tough to remember to actually do it. Enter Bye Bye Standby’s Plug and Play Energy Saving Kit ($20). It consists of two units that plug into wall sockets, and a remote control that operates from up to 30 metres away to quickly and easily cut the power to appliances.

18) Green your greetings

When only a handwritten note will do, choose greeting cards that are easier  on the earth. Pistachio, a new Canadian eco-retailer, carries chic stationery made of 100 percent post-consumer waste recycled paper that’s certified by the Forest Stewardship Council of Canada, processed without chlorine and printed in Canada using soy- or vegetable based ink ($14 for a set of 10 cards, visit epistachio.com for retail locations).

19) Plant a tree, cool the planet

Trees really do deserve to be hugged: They remove carbon dioxide and add oxygen to the air, provide shade and wildlife habitat, buffer noise and prevent soil erosion. Urban trees are particularly valuable for combating urban heat islands, result from concrete and pavement absorbing and then radiating heat. There are plenty of tree planting organizations to support: charitree.ca (kids tree-planting projectsand education), treecanada.ca (including  an innovative program called ReLeaf, which targets specific areas affected by forest fires, tornados or invasive insects), and mybabytree.org (a project  from the World Wildlife Fund, where trees are planted to replenish the Indonesian rainforest. You can even watch your tree grow using satellite imagery provided by Google Earth).

20) Don’t leave home without it

The next time you look at a plastic bottle of water, picture one quarter of it filled with oil that’s the amount of fossil fuels that went into the plastic manufacture and transportation. In fact, it takes more water to produce a disposable bottle than the bottle actually holds. Canadians guzzle a huge amount of bottled water each year: 30 percent of homes use bottled water as their main source of drinking water, according to new research from the Households and the Environment Survey from Statistics Canada. It only makes sense to tote a reusable stainless steel bottle. Check out the hip fl oral, skull and camouflage designs from Calgary based Otterbottle ($18 and up).