Archive for the ‘Vancouver’ Category

gifts that last

Metro Vancouver has a new campaign to curb excess garbage created over the holiday season.

This time of year is a retailers delight, with many businesses making the majority of their sales in the month of December. Our consumer culture reaches a crescendo at holiday time.  Increasingly we see “green” gift ideas, and while supporting local businesses, buying  ethically fairly traded products is a good choice, this new campaign has come along to remind us there is another option.

The website gives ideas for low waste gifts. Some idea’s include giving the gift of experiences; classes and memberships, a new soccer ball or a bike,  dinner out, tour local light displays, visit a historical site or experience a live presentation of some kind.

Be creative and have fun; make a wreath from things in your backyard, cut out paper snow flakes,  look through thrift shops for treasure, give a family heirloom to a loved one, or offer to fix a broken step or paint a room for a friend or family member who may not be able to do it themselves.

The gift of time is often the most welcome of all.  What is more valuable then memories we create with the people we love?

This holiday season if you find a way to give more of yourself you will be richer for it.

And No Message Could Have Been Any Clearer

If You Wanna Make The World
A Better Place
Take A Look At Yourself, And
Then Make A Change

Vancouver Earth dance 2009 photo credit: Katia Somerville

Vancouver Earth dance 2009 photo credit: Katia Somerville

Man in the mirror – Michael Jackson

Ethical Consumerism?

Your garbage for one year

Your garbage for one year

DSCN0986 I am volunteering again this year at EPIC the sustainable living expo that runs every year at the Vancouver Convention Centre. I have written about it each year I have been there (this is year four of the event and my involvement).

What is EPIC ? – the acronym stands for Ethical Progressive Intelligent Consumer. This is a trade fare after all, we are all still buying things, we need to eat and sleep,  and buy coffee , chocolate, clothing and transport ourselves around.

EPIC is a showcase for all consumables that are fairly traded, ethically produced, local and sustainable; for companies that plan events and sell solar panels, for fashion designers and chefs. There are speakers and representatives from all over Canada and the U.S. who believe, like I do; that our choices matter and we can talk with our dollars.

The fact is that we are all consumers of this earth, and we don’t just take, in return we create mountains of garbage like the one above.

Can we sustain this way of life? No, we need to enter a new paradigm where each purchase is considered in it’s entirety. Where was the product made / grown? What will happen to that packaging it comes in? Do I really need another (fill in the blank) ?

The fact is that we will not stop consuming, we have needs, but what they are and how much is enough is another question.

If you are looking for a way to spend a rainy afternoon, check out EPIC; you may just find out that you too are EPIC and you can make choices that help the earth.

Everything grows and grows

Babies do, animals do, everything grows…. 02-17-09-002That’s how it goes, under the sun

That’s how it goes, under the rain…  Everything grows, everyone knows

that’s how it goes…

So goes the famous song by children’s entertainer Raffi.  If you are a parent of young children there is no doubt you know Raffi, his songs are the theme of childhood for many generations. Baby Beluga, the More We Get Together, One Light One Sun.

Raffi actually played a significant role in my life, one I never expected and I will always be grateful for.

It was the year 2000.  I was a new mother to my first born son. I was offered a job, part time weekends, not bad money, easy work being a product demonstrator in a grocery store.
The product was a Tide roller ball, not knowing very much about Tide I decided I would do a quick search on the Internet and see what I could find out about Tide and what they were doing for the environment.

At first everything looked good, I found the Tide website, the detergent was phosphate free, all looked good. Then I thought maybe I should search anti-Tide to get the other side of the story. That was when I first started to learn about Proctor and Gamble, the parent company of Tide and thousands of other everyday products.

P&G remains one of the biggest companies in the world. They also are one of the biggest exploiters of animals. They regularly practise vivisection (testing products on animals). At the time, I had never even heard the word ‘vivisection’. I was  vegetarian but didn’t really think much about what huge corporations were doing everyday under the nose of the public.

The more I read, the more convinced I was that I would not promote the Tide ball or any product made by P&G.

I found this logo no_animal_testing-100x100which is the industry standard that tells a product is made without animal testing.

I learned that many products, things I would never have thought of,  were still being tested on animals. I decided right then to never buy any product that was tested on animals, had animal by-products in them or where made of animals. I became vegan. I still hold dear the vegan ideals and strive to be conscious of any animal products in my  life.  I joined earthsave and the fur bearers (now fur bearer defenders)

What does this have to do with Raffi? Well at the time I had decided to not take the job, a friend of mine who had offered it to me was perplexed as to why I would turn down such easy money.  It was at the exact same time the children’s entertainer Raffi had publicly withdrawn from a performance he was to be a part of in the Vancouver Children’s Festival. He decided it had become to commercial ( if I recall the festival had decided to have a number of cars on the lot as well as corporate sponsorships galore). Raffi stood up to the big corporations and said he would not be a part of it.

I decided I too would follow my heart and not be blind sided by money or any other tokens, I would listen to my own heart and no one could buy that. I felt like Raffi showed me the way. That if we only have our values then we are richer then many.

I have learned a lot about myself as a mother, a consumer an activist and person since then. I will always remember how Raffi made a difference in my life. His songs are a wonderful ode to childhood, the earth and the love and light that is a part of all of us.

(originally published February 17th 2009)

work parties in the new millenium

The words “work party” may conjure up images of office staff at a Christmas party, drinking too much, and smooching over the photo copier. The type of work party that is gaining popularity these days has little to do with office workers socialising over sugar cookies, and more to do with people coming together to create something, share information and of course have fun!

Some parties are held  around Vancouver, B.C. by a local group The Sustainable Living Arts School. They host “learning parties” or “work parties” to build gardens, preserve food, learn about herbs and foraging for food in nature, or building a fence. The parties are bringing back the arts our grandparent’s generation learned along with the alphabet and addition, that have  been almost lost in our  modern day lifestyle of convenience and instant gratification.


I took part in a local work party this month. It was not about saving the planet this time, but about brewing beer! I am Canadian and beer is part of our culture here in the great white north.  I heard about the party on a local email list and wanted to learn more about the organisation SLAS and beer making. It was a perfect opportunity to experience learning in a community environment and that we were brewing beer was just a bonus!

Hosting numerous events to share knowledge  in an intimate atmosphere strengthens a community. The SLAS  brings people together to learn and work.  The party I attended was hosted by a local family. I knew I was at the right house when I walked up to the house and noticed the front lawn had been transformed into a vegetable garden! The friendly people at the party and the relaxed topic of brewing  beer was a wonderful introduction into a way of learning and skill building that one could not help but feel has been almost lost.  Not so long ago there was a time when people would  come together regularly to raise a barn, harvest a crop, cook for a sick neighbour or a new mother. We can get back to that way of living one step at a time.

Today an even  larger party is being planned. is planning a global work party on October 10, 2010 – or 10 10 10 – and you are invited!  Working together we can create the changes we need  for a sustainable future. The science of is simple, there is too much CO2 in the environment.


The number 350 is the parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide that the planet can safely manage. The number today is 387 ppm and still rising.  The website displays colourful photographs taken all over the world in an attempt to show that people do care about the planet and want to help make changes. Environmentalists, educators, and prominent global leaders like David Suzuki, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and  Vandana Shiva are some of the supporters of this movement.

By hosting climate leadership workshops people are educating themselves and drawing attention to the fact that the planet needs us to help restore what has been lost.

Advances world wide since the industrial revolution have stripped the earth of it’s innocence and depleted natural resources, while pollution and global population has exploded at an unprecedented rate.

The sad fact is that we may see half the species on earth become extinct this century, if that is not a sobering statement you have not been paying attention.

All hope is not lost, and people like me and you can make a difference. The local food movement is strong and growing. Schools and community centres are taking the lead, with many adding solar panels, creating recycling programs and incorporating environmental education into curriculum. Children represent our future, and what legacy they inherit is up to us.

Championing movements to improve the environment, young people have historically been the ones to bring changes to the for front. Maybe because they are physically closer to the earth, they are still optimistic about the future. Children are naturally interested in learning about how the world works, this is  why they are not only our best hope, they are our inspiration to do better.

You can organise a work party and be a part of the largest world wide movement for the environment.  This is one party you should  mark on your calendar, and invite all your friends!

As you are


One day not too long ago I was walking past the local elementary school and noticed something in the tree. It was a wooden sign nailed on the tree that read “AS YOU ARE”

I looked at the other tree’s around me and noticed something, more signs, they all included messages. Who were they intended for? Who put them there? It turns out that these questions don’t really matter. The only thing that matters was that I saw them, other people saw them and will see them.

These messages are for everyone.

They read; “AS YOU ARE”






What better message to give or receive?







(Originally posted January 13 2009, some things are worth repeating)

A hand up not a handout


We have just made our fourth loan through  KIVA!

When we started our retail business we decided we would donate  a portion of our profits  to charity, but this is even better.

Kiva is an organization that gives micro loans to small business owners the world over.

We have given loans to four people so far.  One to a Tailor in  Sierra Leone, one for construction in Cambodia,  our third was to a woman in  Nigeria who owns a food market.   This week we made our fourth loan to an apricot seller in Tajikistan. ( I had to look up where that is exactly in the atlas, the former U.S.S.R)

Kiva is in the business of helping people help themselves. I read on  Kiva’s site that the impact made this week is equivalent to one  loan made every 14 seconds!  people like me and you, loaned over 4.4 million dollars in April alone!

There are  many ways to help people help themselves.  We support a local man who sells “The Megaphone” This is a bi-weekly paper  sold by homeless or underemployed and street involved people in our city.   In a city the size of Vancouver there are lots of problems but there are people working together for a solution.

Another organization we support wholeheartedly is The Canadian Flowers for Food Society Homeless people are given donated flowers to sell, the profits are for their own use.

These are just three ways people can help others to make a change in their situation and still maintaining their dignity.  We can all find ways to give back to our local or global communities. You will never regret lending your time or  money when in your heart you know you have done it with honest intentions of helping others. The rewards are instant and immeasurable.



A truly GREEN way to move


I have just finished moving. It can be stressful to get organized, sort and pack all the treasures one accumulates over time. Luckily there are green options to help you move.

Our family of four moved from a two bedroom 1000 square foot apartment downtown, to a three bedroom duplex further out of the city. We lived in our last place for six years and in that time we managed to accumulate more things than we would ever use or need.

Our first step was to sort and purge. We had very little time, so we choose to give away all the items we didn’t want.  We used the “free” section on Craigslist and were able to have all our extras piked up within a few days. We had lots of toys, clothes, a toddler bed, stroller, broken dresser and carpet cleaner, magazines and books. All of it was gladly taken by a few wonderful people who promised to pass on what they could not use.

Our next step was finding boxes.  There are many options when it comes to moving boxes. You can buy new boxes with all kinds of wrapping paper and bubble wrap. We decided our budget would not allow for this. Instead we searched for, and found, dozens from the local book stores, coffee shops and grocery stores. We used newspapers to wrap, and all we ended up buying was packing tape!


If searching for boxes is not an option and you want an Eco-friendly one, try FROGBOX, a local company I first discovered while volunteering at an Eco Fair. Frogbox offers a convenient, affordable and GREEN option. They will deliver to your home reusable containers, no tape needed! They even supply recycled blank paper for wrapping.

frogboxFROGBOX also donates 1% of their profits to frog habitat restoration.  There a many links and information on their site describing the plight of frogs. They are disappearing at a rate that rivals the dinosaurs! If you are planning a move, consider this alternative. You can make your move easier and greener then ever imagined!

Something is a BUZZ in Vancouver


This spring, when I volunteered at the new Vancouver Convention Centre, I was thrilled to learn about just how “green” it is.

While the building itself is impressive, the view from the centre is worth the trip to see it alone. The real beauty in it is the six acre rooftop garden and Apiary (Bee Yard). The garden boasts some 400 000 native plants and grasses, and houses hives for 60 000 bees!


The green roof can be seen here by anyone flying over the city.  This is quite a green sight!


Some local hotels have also begun to keep bees in their rooftop gardens. The Fairmont Hotel, known as Hotel Vancouver, has added bees to their rooftop garden, and honey to their menu.  It’s fresh, local, sustainable and most of all, delicious!

bee condo

Bee Condo

Vancouver has taken the initiative to bring over 50 new Bee Condos to parks. They are manned by volunteers.  Bees face a number of threats, and none are greater than the toxic pesticides used on crops and ornamental flowers in the city.

A traditional food in all sense of the word, honey has been used to heal, as a beauty aid, stomach remedy, allergen cure,  and hundreds of other ways.

However you look at it, the benefits of adding these animals to our urban oasis are sure to be felt and tasted for years to come!


Eco Garden Art


Now that the season of gardening is in full swing, many of us are spending long days and evenings in our backyard green oasis.  Many gardens have art, fountains and bird feeders, what if the art you choose to ad to your garden  could make it even greener?  Have you heard of Water Works Garden Sculpture ?

While volunteering at Epic this May, I  discovered these wonderful pieces of art made of recycled materials such as musical instruments , copper, silver, brass and glass collectibles.  Made  in the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada!



The artists name is Douglas Walker. While browsing his site and looking at many of these amazing one of a kind pieces I also checked out his blog , where I saw some more photo’s of his shop and work.

With a few weddings and many warm nights ahead I think that I may consider one of these for gifts this summer.

These pieces are truly Eco art, beautiful, functional and like nothing you have seen before! Be sure to check out his upcoming festival dates to check some out in person, you will not be disappointed!


URBNgreen is committed to education and environmental stewardship. Our objective is share information about what people are doing locally and around the world to create a sustainable future.
delicate little plant in need of freedom. Einstein quote at