By on February 15th, 2009

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By on October 23rd, 2008

This article was originally published on

Editor”s Note: This article was reposted here in hopes that today”s CNN video (see bottom of article) will spark more interest in this issue. The video states that “sweet tooth Britain” will have no honey of its own to sell after Christmas. Can we change that this Halloween?

The honey bees are dying off around the world, and yet still many people have never heard of (CCD). [Last month] the Italian government banned several pesticides that are thought to be linked to the honey bee decline. More research (funding) is required to find out exactly what is causing the disappearance.

During Honey Week, Meridith Melnick wrote:

“One-third of the food we consume comes from pollinators. Bees are responsible for pollinating almonds, apples, soft fruit, and berries among other crops. Without them, we will

lose more than honey (a tragedy in its own right!), we will lose a large portion of the biodiversity we now enjoy on our plates.”

I shared my own honey bee concerns with my preschooler a few months back, and I was amazed how quickly and easily she accepted the need to protect this species. Sunflowers have taken off all over our yard, and while I’m no bee expert there are definitely some pollinators in our presence. My children do their own waggle dance whenever they see a flower visitor. (Planting bee friendly flowers is one of the easiest things you can do as a family to support honey bees.)

Since our governments aren’t acting fast enough, perhaps we need to send our children off buzzing with this CCD news. Have you thought of a Halloween costume idea for your youngest tot? If not consider turning your little honey into a bee. You know your friends and family are going to ask what your precious bundle is going to be on his first Halloween. With your baby on board, spreading the word about CCD will be easy. (And people will be less likely to judge you as a greenie in front of little buzz.)

You don’t need to run out and buy your baby a new costume. You don’t even need to be all that creative. Yellow pajamas (or snow suit) and some black tape may be all you need to get your neighbours going goo goo for your little stinger. Parents who like to join in on the dress up fun might consider pairing a yellow shirt with black pants to form a bee colony.

Here’s another idea for young families who rarely make it down a whole street on Halloween night before little ones tire and are ready to buzz home. Instead of accepting candy that your baby won’t eat, offer pouches of sunflower seeds to your neighbours, with a link to the Hagen Daaz website (

Eco Challenge: Please use the comment section to send your ideas for crafting homemade (earth friendly) bee antennae that don’t fall off. (My own kids are old enough to decide what they want to bee for Halloween. The Hungry Caterpillar and Monarch Butterfly are going to need antennae too!)

Related Posts on Bees

Image: flickr user Tommie and Georgie under a Creative Commons License

By on August 15th, 2008

When I think of August a few favourite activies come to mind…floating on Lake Okanagan… drinking a cold beer on a busy patio… sneaking fresh berries and peaches into every meal…the list goes on. While these activities sound harmless and fun, they would all be considered no-no’s (or at least major challenges) for Christine Jeavans who has given up plastic for the month of August. Plastic floaties, plastic chairs, plastic packaging. Even the beer caps have plastic in them, according to Christine.

I first came across Chris’s story in BBC’s news magazine, where she published a list of plastic waste that her family of three used in one month. In her own words, the list of 603 items “isn’t pretty”. Here’s her abridged version:

  • 36 carrier bags
  • 67 food packaging bags and films such as bread bags, cheese wrappers (and a jumbo pack of Maltesers!)
  • 23 polystyrene tea cups with lids and 24 coffee cup lids
  • 15 fruit punnets and vegetable trays
  • 13 yoghurt pots
  • 16 water bottles, 10 milk bottles, 7 juice bottles
  • Two toothbrushes

Toothbrushes? That might make some of you laugh, and I admit to thinking that this was a bit extreme. But after a glance at some of Christine’s posts in her blog I came across this fascinating anecdote:

“Scientists studying seabirds in the North Pacific have found toothbrushes (and many other plastic objects) in the stomachs of dead birds.”

Christine’s list got me thinking about how much plastic my own family uses in the span of one month. With my 16 year old stepson here for the summer, there are at least 7 extra single sized water bottles in our recycling box every Sunday night, not to mention twice the amount of milk jugs and juice containers. It’s hard to convince a thirsty teenager that watering down the apple juice is better for his health, not to mention that it reduces our family’s environmental impact.

Am I going to switch my family to wooden toothbrushes, and join Chris’s “plastic-free-wagon,” no. But the story did remind me that all of the little plastic pieces can really add up, and that one person’s commitment, even for a short time, can make a difference. If there’s one thing that drives me bonkers these days it is the criticism others give to those who are merely trying to do their own small part for the earth. A quick glance at Chris or Danni’s blog and you’ll find plenty of people wasting their energy with negative comments. But, let’s focus on the positive comments like this one to Chris from a Texan named Jeremy. He congratulates Chris on her effort and reminds readers that “coffee and tea should be enjoyed sitting, not on the go.”

I’m happy that we live in a city where most of the items on Chris’s list are recyclable, including the recent addition of plastic bags and yogurt pots which go straight into our blue box. However, I am still interested in reducing our plastic use wherever we can. I’m in the process of thinking of my own plastic pledge, which I hope to tie into my family’s monthly-earth-hour challenge at the end of August. Stay tuned. And if you have made a personal commitment to the environment, whether big or small, we want to hear about it here!

“And yet we used to manage without all this plastic. In the 1950s, less than five million tonnes of plastic was produced worldwide, today it is close to 100 million tonnes.” Christine Jeavans

By on August 1st, 2008

With the way things are going, children who are born today will probably grow up associating “green” with the environmental movement more so than with the Crayola colour required for frogs and trees. Gone are the days when ‘The environment’ was a single chapter covered in a science textbook. In classrooms around the world, millions of teachers are doing their part to educate young people on the importance of caring for the earth. This is also true in the ESL world, where students come in all ages. According to over 1 billion of the world’s people are currently learning English. Students taking preparatory exams such as the TOEIC and TOEFL will now find that the environment is a topic commonly covered in reading and listening sections.

Millions of ESL learners rely on online resources. One of the most popular FREE e-learning sites for ESL learners and teachers is English This month English Club launched a section for learners who are interested in environmental issues.


Each English Club environment lesson includes a pre-reading vocabulary list, an English article on a current environmental issue, comprehension questions, and discussion topics. Readings range in difficulty from low-intermediate to advanced. English Club members may also enjoy the Our Planet forum. These resources can also be used by teachers in the ESL or young learners classroom (print them or use them in a computer lab setting). If you have an ESL learner or teacher in your circle of friends, please share the good news.


By on July 23rd, 2008

If you’re a parent like me, you’ve likely ended up with more stuffed animals than your children need. There will always be those few favourites that collect at the head or foot of your child’s bed and end up in keepsake boxes in basements to be found as treasures by subsequent generations. But due to birthdays, holidays, and not-so-special occasions, there are also dozens that your children likely pay little or no attention to and never will. Parent to parent, we all know that most of these misfits do not get adopted at your annual garage sale. (Though some do get rescued by our own children, or their pals, only to end up back in the same dark closet.)
For hygienic reasons, many thrift shops no longer accept old stuffies, no matter how ugly or cute they may be. You may also have difficulty finding a place to donate towels, blankets, baby pools, and cleaning supplies. I recently learned from a mom friend that the SPCA and other similar shelters welcome items such as stuffed animals that you may think belong in no other bin but the trash. This was great news, as my pile of “we don’t take that” was getting bigger by the day.
Whether you’re moving, downsizing, or doing your summer cleaning, now may be the time to contact your local animal shelter to find out which of the items below are on their wish list. Before you drop off your stuff, be sure to contact your local shelter to make sure your donations will be accepted.

SPCA Wish List

Animal Needs:

Office Supplies:

  • Paper (letter, legal)
  • Cartridges
  • Scotch Tape
  • Whiteout
  • All Occasions Greetings Cards
  • Stamps
  • Legal size file folders
  • Gift Cards from local retail stores


  • Small children paddling pools
  • Planters

Have you and your family started a monthly Earth Hour yet? July 26th is the last Saturday of the month. Why not call your local shelter and find out what they are in need of? As you go around the house turning lights and power bars off for the evening, why not collect a few donations for your local animal shelter. You may find that your children are less attached to those unnamed teddies if they know they’re going to be the new best friend for an orphaned puppy or kitten.

WARNING: You may be asked by the shelter to poke out the eyes and noses of those stuffies to prevent choking hazards for the real animals. This may be an activity you want to save until after bedtime!

By on July 18th, 2008

Do you ever stop to think where your old T-shirts and blue jeans end up after you donate them? If your clothing is adopted by Canadian fashion designer, Kim Munson, chances are your favourite threads  of yesteryear could now be worth more than you paid for them.  Orphanage Clothing is a Halifax based business that uses recycled clothing to make one-of-a-kind garments, including T-shirts, dresses, and jackets. Munson, who has always had a thing for vintage T-shirts, started her business in 2003 after graduating from Toronto’s International Academy of Design and Technology.

In an interview for Here Magazine, Kim explained the eco-friendly aspect of her business:

“The emphasis on recycling is very important. It’s definitely the part of my company that I’m the proudest of. This fabric would go to a land fill if it wasn’t saved. So, in a way, we are saving it twice. First, saving it from the landfill, then by recycling it in to something that can be resold.”

But you won’t find these babies on just any old hanger anymore. Munson’s eco-savvy designs are sold exclusively in specialty stores across Canada.

Here are some locations where Orphanage Clothing is currently available:

Vancouver : Thriller
Calgary: Junk Star Vintage
Ottawa: Workshop Studio and Boutique
Peterborough: Buttercup and Co
Montreal: Friperie La Gaillarde
Fredericton: ReNeu Boutique
Moncton: Artsy et Vintage
Halifax: Love, Me Boutique, Lost and Found
Charlottetown: The Green Man

Orphanage Clothing recently showcased its Summer 08 line at the One Life Surf School Fashion Show in Halifax.  For more information, contact the designer via the Orphanage Clothing website. 

So go on…donate that old shaker knit sweater that you’re sure no one will ever wear. You never know who might adopt it.

By on July 16th, 2008

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By on July 10th, 2008

Though we normally drag our air conditioner out at this point in July, this year it is still packed in the storage room below our shelf of ice skates. Neither my husband, nor I have made a move to roll it out, despite the temperatures hitting the usual Okanagan highs of 35+. Maybe I’m putting it off because our children are no longer babies and I know they can tell us when they feel too hot to get to sleep (which they haven’t yet). Or perhaps I’m just feeling a little nostalgic. Seeing them asleep on top of the covers with their hair stuck to their foreheads reminds me of my own childhood in Southern Ontario.

We were the only family I knew that didn’t have central air. Our common rooms had noisy ceiling fans, but if my brothers and I wanted a cooling system for our own rooms we’d have to buy a fan with our own money. I remember how Dad used to come down from his evening  shower wrapped in his summer robe and smelling like Irish Spring. He’d tell us how refreshing a cold shower was, and we’d all groan and feel sorry for ourselves for not being invited to an air conditioned sleepover.

Bedtime was the hardest part about not having air conditioning. My mom used to give us wet washcloths to take to bed, but some nights I’d steal the squirt bottle that she used to spray the houseplants. I’d mist myself by my screened window, falling asleep to the sound of the bug zapper next door. During unbearable heat waves we’d drag our pillows down to the basement floor and wake up later than all of our friends.

Though I remember feeling jealous of our cooler neighbours, I’ll never forget how my father defended his decision, each time a visitor complained. It’s summer. It’s supposed to be hot. Give it three months and you’ll be complaining about how much snow there is to shovel.  This leads me to think that perhaps, if we start early enough, we can condition our own kids to enjoy the breeze of the oscillating fan.

Today I found some good tips on beating the heat on the blog at the Eco Box website. This post inspired me to share some of my own ideas.

Tips for keeping your kids cool at bedtime without AC:

  • Give kids a spray bottle (or water gun) to take to bed. (Bring one with you when you’re out of the house as well.  Spritz your kids down in the car or when you’re out for a walk with your stroller.)
  • On really hot nights throw damp sheets in the freezer for a short time before bed.
  • Give young kids a quick sponge bath in cold water right before bedtime.
  • Get one of those tacky old-fashioned outdoor shades for the front of your house. We rolled ours out for the first time this year and can’t believe the difference.
  • Teach young kids to flip their pillow over to the cold side when they get hot.