Archive for March, 2009

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!

The colours of spring


Spring has arrived in Vancouver, this is what it looks like;























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.


It could have had displayed Fraggle Rock, fraggle

Star Wars, vintage-1977


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.


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”.


Vegan Chocolate Cake


I came across this wonderful Vegan Chocolate Cake recipe recently on my homeschooling message board.

I have made it close to a dozen times already and each time it is perfect!  It is so simple and really moist.


Gather all your ingredients together first.

Preheat your oven to 375.

Grease and flower your cake pans, I use two 8″ rounds or 24 muffin cups.

Ingredients                                 03-02-09-023

1 1/2 Cups Organic flour

1/3  Cup Organic Cocoa powder

1 tsp (tea spoon) baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 Cup Organic Sugar

1 Cup Cold Water or Coffee

1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil

2 tsp Vinegar

1 tsp Organic Vanilla Extract (optional)


In a large mixing bowl combine flour, salt, cocoa, and baking powder, mix and set aside

In a second mixing bowl combine water, sugar,oil, and  vanilla.   reserving the vinegar until all is mixed


Mix well

Add the dry ingredients to the wet

Add vinegar as the final step, this will cause a reaction with the baking soda and will look swirly


Pour into greased pans and bake for 10 – 12 minutes depending on how hot your oven is.



Remove from oven and let cool a few minuets before removing from pans, then let cool completely on wire racks.



Frost with Organic frosting ( made from Earth Balance margarine and organic powdered sugar, or melt a chocolate bar in a double broiler ( I use a stainless steel bowl on top of a pot of boiling water, works great!)


I always add a layer of jam between my two cakes, this makes them stick together, and my mom always did this so I do too.


Buying Green?

I know the market today has thousands of items on the shelf that claim to be environmentally responsible. Words like “organic” , “fair trade”, ” natural”, “sustainable”and “good for the earth” even “good ecology” and you know that it also means good profit margin.  It is true that most organic or fairly traded products cost significantly more then the conventional alternatives, are organic products superior?

06 21 09 garden 019

Yes organic food is grown without pesticides, with the environment in mind. Typically an organic yield will be smaller then a conventional one, it is more labour intensive to farm and harvest, and therefore more expensive at the grocery store.

Fair traded products are just that, traded or bought in an environment that pays a decent wage to the producers, coffee and chocolate are two products that have flourished under the name of  “Fair Trade” but what is the hidden environmental cost of these and many organic products.

They may well be “certified organic” but if a product travelled from Chile in February, how “environmental” or “sustainable” is it?

What is the answer? To buy local, in season, at farmers markets.  What about that 100 mile diet, to live on things that are grown within 100 miles of where you live.  What if there is very little grown in that radius? What if where you live has a very short growing season? What about during the winter? In generations past people, (women traditionally) would can and pickle, preserve and store food for the winter. This is not a lost art, but a lot more work and planning is required! We have gotten into the habit of just running over to the local grocery chain and picking up what ever your hearts desire, almost any time of year. Convenient yes, is this progress though? Is this sustainable or good for the planet?

06 06 09 farmers market 007

I live in a big city, weekly heavy trucks barrel down the alley toward the Safeway loading docks. Bringing the cache of treasures for you and me. Pineapple in January, okay, strawberries in February, no problem, fresh produce year round is what sophisticated consumers demand and that is what Safeway, and everyone else who is in the grocery business supply.

The fact that the ground is frozen and buried under four feet of snow does not faze us as we dive into the delicious “fresh fruit” grown thousands of miles away,  sometimes travelling further then most of the people who will eventually consume it, ever have.

Is the answer to only consume local food, well maybe if the choice is between local and organic that has trekked hundreds of miles, then is the conventional choice is better for the environment?  Should we not buy the raspberries or mangoes in the depths of winter? That choice is of course up to you. If consumers demand it, then it will supplied. If people decided to really make sustainable choices they need to look at all the factors, conventional or organic? local or from another continent?

It’s up to me and it’s up to you.

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