Archive for the ‘general info’ Category

A hand up not a handout

helping-hand-logo

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.

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PEACE and LOVE

A truly GREEN way to move

greenfrog

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!

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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!

Saving the world is only a click away

I know we are all busy with our daily lives but we want to help to make a difference for the planet and it’s inhabitants. Now you can do something simple, free and right now.

Here is one thing I do, and you can too. Every day, I log on to my email at care2.com. On this site and email host you can click to donate to many charities such as helping the environment, endangered species, to end violence, to find a cure for breast cancer and more.

There is no catch, just sign up. You can use their email service and that also donates money to charity.

It is easy and only  takes seconds a day.  We can all do something from home and with no further obligations! Care2 has agreements with sponsors to donate money, save habitat of endangered species, write letters of support to end domestic violence,and  provide food for hungry children.  You can track your progress as well.

So go ahead, it’s quick, free and couldn’t be easier! Even the kids love to help “save the world” and it is as easy as a few clicks!

Earth Month

03-20-09-081 Recently I found out that some people are calling April “Earth Month”  The first Earth Day was held on April 22 1970. Now 39 years later Earth Day is still  celebrated  April 22.  After a very successful earth hour last month people are building on the momentum and continuing to keep the environment in the news.

What a great idea! A whole month  of activities to support the earth and raise awareness about what we can all do to protect the environment and make sustainable choices.

Planting trees come to mind as one way people celebrate earth day.  Trees are essential to the health of people and the planet.  If you can,  there is no better choice then to plant a tree, but what if you don’t have land to plant a tree on? What can everyone do to take action and help the earth?

Leave the car at home

bike Bike, walk, or transit are all better choices for the environment, your health and your pocket book. Now that the winter snow has melted it’s time to pump up your tires and wipe the dust off your bike and hit the trails and streets!

Compost

You can recycle most food scraps with a back yard or balcony composter, natural recycling, we have a worm composter and it couldn’t be easier, just keep a bowl near you when you are preparing dinner and all the vegetable waste you have can go  into the composter. You can also add coffee grounds, filters, tea bags, egg shells and even small amounts of newspaper. Some municipalities even have curb side composting!

Bring your own bag

shopping-bag

Many retailer will give you a rebate if you bring your own bag. This cuts down on the amount of plastic in our landfills. It is easy to accumulate a number of good bags, canvas, cloth, or nylon are all good choices. Many companies have sprung up to offer a variety of different choices and I will be reviewing many of them in the next few weeks to let you know which ones we like and use.


Buy recycled products

recycle3 Recycled products are everywhere. One major thing everyone can do is use recycled paper products. Be sure to check the post consumer content on the package to be sure it is really recycled an not just picked up off the floor of a plant that uses virgin timber for it’s pulp.

TURN OFF THE LIGHTS

Something as simple as a power bar is a great way to reduce your power consumption. Turn it off when you are out or at night. This also works as a surge protector.

These are just a few ways you can start to make a change for the health of the planet.  Every choice you make is cumulative, it all adds up. You can and do make a difference!

the night the lights went out

Last week I was at home with the kids searching on the Internet when the power went out.   I live in a major subduction earthquake zone and we are ready for anything, or kind of ready anyway.  Since it was mid day, I figured it was a good time to take the kids for a little walk and go and find some lunch. A quick listen to the portable radio revealed nothing major was underway, so we departed. We walked a couple of  minutes  and noted the power must be off for at least a few blocks. If we lived in the country it may not have felt very different at all. When the power goes out in one of the most densely populated neighbourhoods on the west coast of North America there is a different feeling in the air. The lack of electricity flowing is noticeable, and a wonderful and rare occasion.

A number of years back we had a power outage that lasted many hours in the still of the night. What fun! We could actually see stars in the city! Mid day the only notable difference was the 7/11 was closed, and a few traffic lights were out. Luckily the weather has been mild and most people do have candles and flashlights at the ready. For an hour or two, there was really not a problem.

Coincidentally, we had been out last week with posters from the WWF, no not the world wrestling federation, the World Wildlife Fund. They are gearing up for EARTH HOUR. This is the third year people around the world will turn off their lights at 8:30   for one hour to send a message of solidarity to stop climate change and to raise awareness about environmental protection issues. We have been taking posters around to local stores, community centres and libraries to ask people to join us, to turn off their lights in their shop or at home, to put up a poster and help spread the word. This little bit of activism is easy for us as we live right downtown and have access to many people and places.

I even joined the Earth hour face book group. In case you have not joined a “controversial” group on the Internet, you may not know that there are always naysayers that will  question or belittle your ideas. Earth Hour is no exception. People scoff at the idea of it. What difference will it make? Who cares? Hey there is a HOCKEY game on at the exact time… on and on people always have a reason for not wanting to participate.

So how about a reason to do it? Besides the obvious being a part of something positive. Doing something easy to send a message not only to the power company, but also to our families and neighbours that we are aware we are not alone in our thoughts and actions. How about just shaking things up a bit? Turn off the T.V. and computer, light a fire or some candles, read, play games, tell stories, play your guitar, teach the kids how to play hearts, have a picnic, sit in your backyard and look for stars, walk around the neighbourhood, have a candle lit dinner party. The possibilities are endless. If you happen to be the childless sort you can think of many, MANY, ways to spend an hour in the dark can’t you?

This will be our second year participating and we will do many of the above mentioned activities. We may keep the lights off for even more then an hour, as long as my ten year old doesn’t beat me at hearts too badly in the first hour!

Keeping it fresh

No matter what your age, it is likely when you were young you carried a lunch box.  It may have been  a standard metal dome lid or a stylish plastic or vinyl one.

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It could have had displayed Fraggle Rock, fraggle

Star Wars, vintage-1977

or

Superman lunch-54superman11

or even something else.                            lunchboxshop_hendrix

Whatever you carried, it was not only practical and necessary, but a fashion statement to boot! I clearly remember my plastic dome lid, Care Bears lunch box with matching thermos! It was the highlight of the day to see what Mom had packed into my treasure box, fruit roll up? candy bars? Most likely raisins, regardless, everyone loved their lunch boxes!

As time passed we lost the lunch box in favour of a brown paper bag or a cafeteria bought lunch (you can’t beat the fries and gravy from my high-school cafeteria, YUM!).

These days most students and adults resort to a fast food lunch. If they do choose to bring a lunch, the brown bag is still quite common but what if you want to bring something other then a sandwich? How about  something hot  or messy? The lunch box has become hip again, and not just for kiddies!

You can still find hundreds of boxes with the old flair, many of them now boast a lead free lining, are ecologically produced, and many  are reproductions of the old Snoopy or Wonder Woman ones of days past.

For the environmentally conscious consumer there are many options on the market today. We use all of the following, and not just to pack a lunch but also to use instead of the disposable Styrofoam (why is this still legal?) option to take away some fast food.

Our first purchase ( and still favourite)is the To- Go Ware two tier stainless steel tiffin box. We have the original style, it has been revamped, with what looks likes clips instead of the original closing mechanism. The handle makes it easy to carry and when getting hot food at the food court the server has something to hold on to when serving and handling it.  The new design has a fold down handle which would make it easier to pack. The lid doubles as a plate and the size is sufficient to hold a decent amount of food.

togoNew design To-Go Ware Stainless Steel Container.

Another option in stainless steel is this container from Sanctus Mundo

ssThis simple design is practical and straight forward. It also has a silicon seal to make it water and air tight. We have all the sizes and have found these to be very handy for travel and storage of leftovers.

zebra

Anther option is the Zebra containers. These are light weight and  made in Thailand. The clasp is easy to open and close so kids can use them. The size is the only limitation on this one, but for a snack or left overs this container fits the bill.

For hot items we use these lovely little containers from thermos called FooGo. foogosmpinkfoogosmblueThese containers are leak proof, keep food cold or hot, light, stainless steel inside and out, with a wide mouth opening they are perfect for kids and adults alike.

The lunch box has evolved into many forms and these four are the ones we use in our house and on the go.  Whatever you choose, chances are you will have the fond memories of lunch times past.  When you choose to go with an environmentally sound option of reusable containers you can be sure your choice is the “green one”.

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Sunny Days

Second beach Today was so beautiful and sunny, the fog finally lifted from our rainy city. Although it was cold we decided to head down to the Seawall and Second beach.

First we enjoyed veggie dogs from our favourite hot dog vendor at   English Bay, Mike.  (his veggie dogs are only $2.75, a full $1.25 – $1.75 less then  the vendors downtown).

We then walked along the seawall to Second beach and played at the two playgrounds. The kids were playing on the flying saucers (as we describe these swings)  a crow was busy looking through the top of our stroller.  As we know from many times past, the crows will steal anything they think is interesting, once including  my set of house keys! We are always sure not to leave any food there, last time they stole the bag of sunflower seeds we brought to feed the Chick-a- Dee’s! Today the crow decided to take my lip balm! I am sure it was quite a sight; me and the two kids running from tree to tree around the park as the crow led us about with the balm firmly in his beak. He even tried to break it open on the basket ball court by dropping it, then quickly picked it back up again and flew to another nearby tree! He finally decided he had enough fun with us and dropped it down to Justin waiting under the tree.

After that we headed to the sand to practise the 18 movement Qi Gong that my lovely friend Clair Rainbow taught me more then seven years ago.  It was cold, the water was very calm and the sky was clear. We also practised some Karate. Justin is almost going to grade up to his green belt, and that will mean he can start sparring! I am still working on my Katas and have a long way to go to my next belt. I have my yellow belt and have been there for a while. I love to practise Qi gong on the beach or any park.  I can’t wait for the warmer weather,  I will go barefoot!

All together it was a very sunny  and wonderful day, a great way to start a new year!

Imagine

You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one

Another day in paradise / making a difference

I wonder what difference one person can make.  I often feel overwhelmed when I read stories about what is actually going on in this world. I have kept this site mostly about issues that affect the environment, some resources links and some images and quotes that I like but I want to do more.

I am starting a new chapter at URBNgreen. how about URBN awakened? is that a word?

I want to share positive things that have happened and continue to happen. As you can see I recently posted a picture of the new president elect, Barack Obama. I feel like with his election to the position of the “most powerful man in the world” that there is change in the air and what better time then now to be a part of the change we want to happen.

What does the American political scene have to do with me?  a Canadian woman, well I don’t know yet. My grandmother always told me to stay out of politics. I think i always felt drawn to make a change or be a part of something bigger then I am.  Instead of the politics I have chosen to live a private life, and an alternate life to many people.

In many ways I am very typical. I am married and have two children.  I run my own business, volunteer, cook dinner for my family every night and generally live a typical domestic life.  On the surface it may appear that I am just like so many others out there, except there is a difference, at nine o’clock when the school bell rings my ten year old son is not running across the street to the school, but probably sitting in his pajamas reading a book or playing with his little sister, happily! 

We homeschool and have for five years.  I am my son’s teacher, but he is also my teacher. Our days are busy most of the time with classes, field trips and playdates.  We do have some days when we are working at the kitchen table with workbooks and researching at the library or online. Some days we are out at the beach or in the forest, or running errands.  The kids and I volunteer every week, this is an opportunity for us to give something back to the community and feel the satisfaction of  helping others.

We try to incorporate a  mind body connection in our daily routine, this may happen through sports, dance, karate, or Tai Chi, and even just by walking to our destinations. ( we don’t own a car).  We try to eat consciously by buying organic and locally grown food, eating low on the food chain, a mostly plant based diet, and recycling our leftovers to our worm composter. These are small choices, but they make a difference in our lives and consequently in the lives of others, ( the animals we are not eating, the farmers we support, the less waste to the landfill, not contributing to the auto industry. it actually seems like a lot when i look at this way )

We are by far not perfect and don’t claim to have all the answers to the mysteries of life, but we are living this life together and happily existing in this beautiful city and country.

I started this post talking about what one person can do to make a change in the world and surprisingly I talked only about what I am doing in my family. Maybe that was my point today. We have the power to choose each day how our lives will be. Each day is full of potential and we can choose to create what we want in this life.

I read a quote recently that I can not agree with more.

Loving people live in a loving world. Hostile people live in a hostile world. Same world.   Dyer, Wayne

HOPE

In the end, that’s what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or a politics of hope?
URBNgreen
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.
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delicate little plant in need of freedom. Einstein quote at DailyLearners.com