My Green City Life

My kingdom for a compost pile!
July 31, 2008, 5:57 pm
Filed under: in the kitchen, the green apartment

OK, so I don’t have a kingdom to trade for a compost pile, but it would be really nice to have one. Or access to one very nearby would be great. Or curbside organic matter pick-up would be fantastic. (This last one is supposed to be coming to Montreal… sometime.) This is one of the downfalls of living in an apartment: no yard for a compost pile.

This week I am not collecting my organic matter for my worms. They didn’t seem to be eating as fast as I was feeding them, so I’m giving them a week off. Even when I do feed them, though, there are many compostable things that end up in the trash. My worms can only eat so much! Nearly all of Matt’s coffee grounds end up in the trash. Banana peels go in there. Most of the egg shells too. Anything that is too hard or too big (and unable to be reduced in size) or too protein-y (like beans) or too seedy or too slow to break down ends up in the trash. It makes me sad because I know that it would all happily decompose and turn into beautiful compost if only given a chance.

If you have a yard and are able to have a compost pile, please do so. It’s very low-maintenance, and I bet you will be surprised at how much your garbage is reduced. You can put your yard waste in there too. And you will end up with lovely compost to use on your lovely yard!


I’m makin’ a list
October 17, 2007, 5:12 pm
Filed under: the green apartment

I decided to make a Christmas list because I’m sure my mom will want to see it soon. I don’t really like gift-giving. I mean, I do. I like giving people presents that they’ll really love. I like making things for people. I just don’t like being forced into it. And I don’t like other people being forced into giving me presents. But if it’s going to happen, I might as well play along and make sure that the stuff on my list is as green as possible.

This year, a gadget made it to the list. I’m not a gadget kind of gal, but this is one thing that I think would be awesome. It’s a solar powered battery recharger. It works like this: you buy your rechargeable batteries, you use them till they go dead, you recharge them using sunlight. How rad is that? And how green! Suddenly, I don’t have to buy any more disposable batteries that have yucky chemicals in them that will just end up in the landfill. (Yes, rechargables have yucky chemicals in them, but they only have to be produced once, and they don’t end up in the landfill.)

I don’t utilize solar energy at all — no solar collectors, no solar food dehydrator, no solar water heater, no garden, etc — so solar stuff is all pretty cool to me. I’ve also been eyeing two portable solar chargers: the Freeloader and the Solio. They both collect solar energy and use it to recharge small stuff like your cell phone or your iPod. Yay, free energy!

I’m a skinny, selfish wuss
October 12, 2007, 4:39 pm
Filed under: the green apartment

One week ago today, Matt and I walked downtown and enjoyed a couple beers out on the balcony of my favorite brewery. My only complaints were that it was a little bit too warm out for the long-sleeved shirt I was wearing and that wasps kept flying too close to me. (I am afraid of [and slightly allergic to] insects that sting people.)

Today Matt and I took the metro to a thrift store and upon our return home were both cold, sniffly, and in the mood for warm drinks. What a change in weather in the past week! The cold weather is here to stay, I’m afraid, and will only be getting worse from here on out.

Happily for me, the heat in my apartment building was turned on today. I’m very pleased about this, because I was tired of wearing long johns under and blankets over my clothes to stay warm in my apartment. You must understand that I am a huge wuss when it comes to being cold. I doubt that the daytime temperature in my apartment ever dipped below 65 F (18 C), but to look at me, you would have thought there was a blizzard and the power was out.

What is good for me is probably not so good for the environment, though. My building is old with old radiators. I am guessing that the hot water running through the radiators is heated with an old gas water heater. This is unfortunate not only because it’s most likely inefficient and a natural gas hog, but also because the electricity in our city is hydro-electric. I realize that damming up rivers to create electricity also wreaks all kinds of ecologic damage, but at least hydro is renewable. Natural gas is not.

So for now, I will toss off my blanket with glee and snuggle near the radiator with a smile, all the while trying not to dwell on inefficiencies of the building’s heating system and the natural gas being burned. And when it is upwards of 75 F (24 C) in the apartment and there are inches of snow on the ground, I will curse the building managers and the fact that I have no thermostat. I will exclaim that I’d rather huddle with a blanket than burn all this fuel to keep me ridiculously warm and toasty. (But secretly I will be happy to be so warm because I’m a skinny, selfish wuss.)

October 4, 2007, 9:15 am
Filed under: the green apartment

Yesterday I bought some Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap. I have never used it before. It seems that people who like it really really like it, so it is possible that I may turn into one of *those* people in the next week or so. We’ll see. The reasons I want to try it is that it is organic, and it’s non-toxic and completely biodegradable. As a hobbyist soap maker, I know that ingredients in it are exactly what they should be — good solid soap ingredients — with no weird chemicals added in. Wow, I already sound like one of *those* people! I also like that it is multi-functional. I plan on trying it as a hand/body soap (I usually use homemade soap, but I have run out!), a shampoo, a dish soap, and a surface cleaner. Maybe also as a laundry soap since I am not so certain that the soap I have been using to make my laundry powder (yep, I make that myself too) is so environmentally friendly. Anyone have any Dr. Bronner’s tips for me?

Electric Goal Met!
September 14, 2007, 9:15 am
Filed under: the green apartment

I just got the electric bill, and hooray! We did it! We averaged 85 kwH per month, which is 90% less than the average American uses per month. I think this is a pretty big jump considering that last time we got a bill (two months ago) we averaged 125 kwH per month. We didn’t even make terribly big changes either. We did things that I think anyone could do:

Switched ALL the lights from regular incandescents to compact fluroescents. This was expensive for sure. We did qualify for (will soon receive, hopefully) a rebate from Hydro Québec. I think this change made a big difference.

Unplugged appliances that don’t get regular use. This one is mostly aimed at devices that have a “wall wort” — that big power adapter thing attached to the plug. I’ve read that they continue to pull a bit of energy even when the device is not turned on. This one also applies to devices that are not really off when they are off; things that have clocks or lights that stay on as long as their plugged in. Our coffee maker is one of these.

Unplug everything at night. OK, so I don’t unplug the fridge when I go to bed. But I do unplug the TV and cable box as well as the cable modem and wireless router. I was already used to turning off my computer at night, but now it gets unplugged too.

Of course there are little things we already did that will help bring down your electric bill: turn off lights when you aren’t using them. Turn off the TV, radio, computer, etc when you leave the house. Don’t leave your cell phone recharger plugged in for longer than it takes to recharge the phone. There are more tips here.

August 5, 2007, 9:20 pm
Filed under: the green apartment, your green lifestyle

Last night, I was flipping channels and ran across a Canadian football game — CFL on CBC — which made me happy because it means that football season is just about upon us! It also reminded me that I needed to bite the bullet and buy some CFLs. In this case, the CFLs in question were compact fluorescent light bulbs which use way less energy and last way longer than regular incandescents. They are pricey, but because of their aforementioned advantages, they will actually end up saving you money. Switching to CFLs even before your incandescents burn out will probably end up saving you money, so if you think about it the right way, you’re pretty much losing money by not switching.

If all the households in Québec replaced just one incandescent bulb with a compact fluorescent, this could save about 54 million kWh a year, which is equivalent to the consumption of about 2,700 households heated by electricity. —Hydro Québec

And if you get your electricity from Hydro Québec, as I do, you can take advantage of a current promotion: for every $10 you spend on Energy Star-rated CFLs, they’ll send you $5, up to $25. In essence, you can get 10 CFLs for the price of 5 (they cost about $5 each) after the rebate. I seem to recall that a few months ago when I first found out about this rebate, the deadline was the end of August. But now the form says the deadline is the end of December. So yay for Hydro Québec for extending the offer!

If you don’t live around these parts, check to see if there is a rebate program in your area. A quick Google search yielded quite a few! One note: CFLs contain a small amount of mercury, so when they finally do burn out, you shouldn’t just chuck them in the trash. You municipality should have information on how to responsibly dispose of them.

Two ways green
August 3, 2007, 3:44 pm
Filed under: on the town, the green apartment, your green lifestyle

In Montréal, July 1 is the crazy day when most leases are up and everyone moves. It’s also the time to head to the streets and look for treasure! When people move, they don’t necessarily want to move everything, so a lot of pre-loved furniture and other goodies end up on the street. I took a few walks in the first few days of July and didn’t find much worth nabbing. (Although, there was an 8.5 x 11.5-foot brown and white shag area rug that Matt and I dragged up to our apartment only to find it to be too dirty and worn out to keep. Back to the curb it went.)

Then last weekend, some girls down the hall moved out. I guess their lease was up August 1. I watched them load up the U-Haul all day. It pulled away. I went downstairs to check the curb. Those silly girls! They left behind a perfectly good drying rack! When I say perfectly good, I mean that it was slightly bent with a few bars missing and others being held on only by duct tape, but these things can be forgiven when it’s sitting right there on the curb, waiting for you to take it home and make it new again. I love curbside freebies!

Today I got to use my new drying rack for the first time. Matt is fixing the broken parts, so I only got to use part of it, but that’s OK; the load of laundry was mostly sheets, and those go on the clothesline anyway. I get to pat myself on the back for being green two ways today: I used a very functional drying rack that would have otherwise ended up in a landfill, and I didn’t use the dryer. Electricity saved, gasoline saved, raw materials saved, money saved. I’m a happy camper!