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.


By on July 3rd, 2008

Many Canadians likely caught the news story a few days ago about the truck that flipped over on a New Brunswick highway with 12 million honey bees on board. The concern for those who are allergic to bee stings got plenty of media attention, however, I was surprised how little was said about the poor endangered honey bees. After reading the recent CNN article about Colony Collapse Disorder, I was certain the truck accident would be a good excuse to educate the Canadian public about the plight of our precious pollinators. Visions of Bee Movie 2 filled my head after learning that the mysterious disappearance of honey bees has devastated North American beekeepers for the second year in a row. I was shocked to learn that 25% of the western honey bee population has disappeared due to CCD, a phenomenon that is blamed at least partially on various man made interferences such as pesticide use, loss of nutrition, global warming, and commercial migration (a.k.a transporting bees in trucks on highways).

Here are some other stinging statistics:

  • Approximately 1/3 of the food we eat relies on bees for pollination
  • Some researchers believe that without research and protection honey bees could go extinct within ten years
  • Many North American beekeepers are reporting a loss of up to 70% of their bee populations in the last two years
  • According to the World Bank, food prices have risen over 80% in the last three years. Some farmers say that if beekeepers go out of business the cost of nuts, fruit, and vegetables could increase tenfold.

Here are some things you can do with your kids to promote awareness about the honey bee crisis:

  • Rent Bee Movie and talk with your kids about the role the bees play as pollinators.
  • Buy Hagaan Dazs Ice cream –a portion of bee dependent flavours goes to honeybee research.
  • Buy honey products (to support local beekeepers)
  • Visit educational websites for free lessons on honey bees
  • Plant a bee friendly garden with flowers like sunflowers, lilacs, and cosmos
  • Donate money to honey bee research

Einstein has been falsely quoted as saying that humans would begin disappearing four years after the honey bee. Even if it wasn’t Einstein who made this prediction more than fifty years ago, it is obvious that a disappearance of these pollinators would have a major impact on the world’s food supply. How many years would you give us?

By on June 26th, 2008

What better way to celebrate Earth Hour with your kids than with a little Dr. Seuss? Including an earth friendly bedtime story in your monthly earth hour ritual is a great way to get kids on the green page. And no, I’m not talking about serving green eggs and ham for a bedtime snack. This Saturday, my family will be delving into The Lorax, a seventies classic which was once denounced by the American logging industry. This colourful story, is a great way to introduce children to the dangers associated with consumption.

In this story a young boy learns about a fluffy tree called the Truffula that once grew wild in a forest and provided a home for numerous Suessy creatures. A man named the “Once-ler” explains to the child how he discovered that the fluffy Truffula tree could be used for knitting “Thneeds” (objects that all people need). Despite protests from “the Lorax” the Once-ler watches his business grow and grow until the sky turns grey and there is only one seed left.

As with all Seuss books, The Lorax can be enjoyed at different levels by children and adults of all ages. This book may be the key to convincing your children (or spouse) that they don’t thneed anything new to play with this summer. Maybe they will be inspired to help you plants some seeds beneath the blue sky instead of going shopping.

Other Recommended Reading for Kids

Here are a few other kids’ stories that deal with ecological concerns. Look for these in your local libary or bookstore, and make sure to have one on hand at the end of each month for Earth Hour.

Recycle Every Day By Nancy Elizabeth Wallace
A bunny named Minna has a school assignment to make a poster about recycling.

The Great Trash Bash By Loreen Leedy.
Mayor Hippo and his animal citizens investigate the trash problems in Beaston.

The Tower to the Sun By Colin Thompson
A rich grandfather decides to build a tower so that his grandson can see how the sun once looked before air pollution took over the world.

Uno’s Garden By Graeme Base
Adorable creatures, including lumpybums and frinklepods welcome Uno into their garden. Life is beautiful until the tourists settle in and take over. What becomes of the Snortlepig?

By on June 15th, 2008

Ever thought about traveling to the olive groves of Marrakech? How does a boutique hotel called Peacock Pavilions sound? Designed by an American couple who dreamed of opening a guesthouse far far away, the opening of Peacock Pavilions this coming November is a fairytale come true. Thousands of readers already know more than they could ever ask about these fantasy suites, via the award winning blog, My Marrakesh which has been documenting the family’s journey since 2006. For those who haven’t been there to see the story

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unfolding, you’ll be happy to learn that Peacock Pavilions is an eco-friendly building.

Though it can boast of 300 days or more of sunshine each year, Marrakech only receives 4 inches of annual rainwater. As the family describes in their website, this should be a major cause of concern for olive growers. However, most native farmers take part in a wasteful practice of flooding their land. While Maryam and her husband Chris adore Marrakech and its culture, they were not comfortable with this practice: “Soon after buying our olive grove, we installed a drip system to irrigate our trees and plants. With this technique each dripper puts out about 1 gallon of water on the ground per hour. The water slowly seeps in the ground with almost no evaporation. We also use grey water for irrigation.”

Maryam admits that it is next to impossible to go fully “green” in Marrakech. She cautions guests that there won’t be environmentally friendly linens to sleep in or hybrid cars to rent. You may not even be able to recycle your cans or bottles there. However, this family is doing its best to incorporate green initiatives, and we can only hope that their local neighbors and international guests will notice their efforts and be inspired to take their own step in the green direction.

Not only does Peacock Pavilions give everyone permission to chase big dreams, this family serves as a good reminder that it aint easy being green. Yet, if we all do our part, (including our youngest tadpoles) we’ll have a cleaner pond to swim in.

Peacock Pavilions opens in November 2008 and is currently taking reservations. Why not go and hug an olive tree?

List of Green Initiatives (
To reduce electric energy consumption and carbon output, Peacock Pavilions also incorporates the following elements:

  • Insulation in the walls and on the roofs more vulnerable to heat gain or loss. This step is almost always skipped in Marrakech, because of the extra costs entailed.
  • Aluminum windows with air tight seals.
  • Rumsford fireplaces which radiate more heat into a room and less up the chimney. We may just be the only people in Marrakech with these.
  • Radiant floor heating. Hot air passes through pipes buried in the concrete floor slabs. The heat is then radiated into the room over a period of hours. This is more efficient than heating air, and nicer for the feet, too. So rare is radiant heating in Marrakech that people have been trooping though Peacock Pavilions to ask Architect Chris how to install it.
  • Air conditioning through evaporative cooling. This system draws 70% less energy than conventional air conditioners and is well adapted for arid climate. Used frequently in the southwest of the US, evaporative coolers blow a mist of water over a filter and then air is passed through the filter. Air temperature can be reduced as much as 30 degrees F.
  • Solar water heater panels. Hot water for our own house and our 3 bedroom Pavilion is provided by the Moroccan sun, with back-up provide by instant gas heaters (no need to keep kettle warm when no one is drinking).
  • Primarily fluorescent lights. Why use 75 watts when 20 watts will do the same job? (California plans to ban sale of incandescent light bulbs by 2012. What a concept…!)

By on June 12th, 2008

As the environment continues to show its wear and tear, “eco-community” will likely become a household name. Yesterday CNN featured a sneak peak at some of the up and coming regions racing to become the world’s first zero emissions zone. At the front of the race is Dockside Green in Canada’s own Victoria, BC, which has already opened its first phase of residential suites. A quick look at the plans and one will see that the builders of Dockside Green are going much further than energy efficient light bulbs and energy saver washers. They also guarantee residents 100% fresh air inside the buildings and are committed to reusing at least 90% of their construction waste. Go Victoria!

By on June 3rd, 2008

A high school teacher I know showed “The Story of Stuff” to a group of students the other day. It’s nothing they probably didn’t already know (except maybe some scary statistics that are worse than most people realize), but the way it is presented really makes you want to stop shopping for anything that is not a necessity. My favorite part was about how women were once valued for how thrifty they were…

By on May 31st, 2008

We just returned from a trip to Ontario, where I”m proud to report that recycling is in much fuller swing than it is here in the Okanagan. With a house full of B.C. guests, my father was constantly pointing to various containers for this and that type of garbage. One for paper products, one for food waste, one for plastics and one for

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regular garbage. I was impressed how little “garbage” there actually was (and also that it only gets picked up every other week). One of the main items that filled up the actual garbage container (especially while we were there with small kids) was packaging from foods.

I”m not sure about other families, but in our household, breakfast is the main event. We go through a lot of cereal, and while the cardboard boxes are recyclable, the inner best casino bonuses bags generally end up in the trash. To get around this problem I have stopped buying freezer bags and started reusing the bags that hold our kids” favourite cereals. These inner bags are sturdy and large and work well for holding baking and other portioned food for the freezer. And, even though the cardboard is recyclable, I”m trying to teach my kids that it is a good idea to reuse before we recycle. After all, the recycling process from start to finish still requires some major energy sucking. My four year old loves to cut things out, so instead of always buying plastic or stuffed toys of her favourite characters or animals (speaking of excess packaging) we draw the latest Backyardigan or My Little Pony and she colours it, cuts it out, and adds it to her cardboard collection. While this may sound too good to be true, she often takes these lovable friends to Show and Tell with her.

Tomorrow is the last Saturday of the month, and my family will be observing Earth Hour again. In case you”re new to Talk Green, please take a moment to read our monthly plan. We”d love if you would join us in encouraging kids to care for the earth by designating a no power hour in your household at the end of each month. If you”re planning on having an Earth Hour with your kids, ask them to go on a tour of the house with you while you unplug all of the power suckers for the night before putting them to bed.

Next month we will be suggesting some Earth Friendly storybooks for kids.

By on May 2nd, 2008

At 8pm on March 29th 2008, people around the world showed the earth a little love. Initiated by Sydney’s effort in 2007, Earth Hour became a global movement this year, with millions turning off their electricity and appliances to take a stand against human-induced climate change. While the media hype was focused on the darkened city skylines and landmarks, little mention was made of the young children who forfeited their night lights and lullabies in the bedtime hour.

An article in the Sydney Herald today reported that two thirds of women took part in Earth Hour, while men (especially older, single men) showed much less interest. The report also suggested that the majority of Australian households with children took part while those without kids were less likely. If you are a parent like me, and you took the time to participate in Earth Hour with your family, I have to assume you got more back than you sacrificed. Not only was Earth Hour a great excuse to teach our children earth-friendly practices, it was also an opportunity to bond and make life-lasting memories. Whether you played a board game by candle light, watched the sunset from a window, or read a bedtime story on the front porch, chances are you remember that evening better than the one before.

Most mothers I know became more environmentally alert after having children. The reason young families were quick to participate in Earth Hour is obvious. We want our children and their children to inherit the Earth we know and love. Instead of accusing elders or singles for not caring

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enough, why not take a stand to show that we parents care more?

If you’re a parent who is serious about raising earth friendly kids, consider celebrating Earth Hour once a month instead of once a year. Does the last Saturday of the month work for you? If not, pick a different day. Hand your child a green marker and ask him or her to mark your calendar! Talk will issue a monthly Earth Hour reminder in the last week of each month. Visit regularly for tips and suggestions on how to help your children maintain tiny carbon footprints as they grow.

Please take a moment to comment if you plan to participate. Thank you!