Tracey Allen, Simplify and Save, The Sustainable Table, Passive Solar House
We have family and friends who are out of our Province and we therefore need to ship gifts to them.  Anyone who needs to ship 'stuff' will tell you the cost depending on where it is going, is often more than the gift in some cases.  This brings me to the point.....cost vs value.

If you are sending an item that is a nice gift but not an item that can't be purchased in their area then don't....just send a card with the money to purchase that item.  Or in one case I ordered online and had the gifts shipped direct to them saving a ton on shipping as the online store offered 'free shipping.'

When you are shipping books, or other items ask yourself, would it be cheaper to buy the item again than to ship it? Looking at the cost vs value - how valuable is the item to me? Is it worth paying doubt for or is there another way to remember the item or re-purchase the item etc.

Why waste money? If you think it through and you still want to pay to ship the items then at least you know you have consciously decided to pay double for the item.

Eliminating waste is one of the best ways to go green - if we use resources wisely we are greener and saving money too in most cases. 

Ideas on eliminating waste:
1) Don't replace something if you can repair it, borrow it (especially one time or limited use items), do without it. 

2) If you buy something if it is feasible buy the item second hand, and if not, research for an item that is good quality rather than a product that will break in short order...often buying cheap puts more items in the landfill.

3) Don't buy it unless you need it. 

4) From an electricity point of view - if you aren't using it, turn it off and unplug it...phantom power (using power even when it isn't turned on, just plugged in) is a true waste of resources and the electricity costs add up over the year.

5) Do you need a second car, really? Really look at your transportation usage and decide if you could take a bus, cab, borrow a ride occasionally, car pool, use a carshare program, or rent on occasion.  The cost of two cars going to similar areas can really add up financially and add to the pollution. We have been married almost 30 years and have never had two cars. A car can cost approximately $5,000/year or more a year to operate (Registration $100, Gas $300/month, Insurance $100/month, car loan?, Maintenance?) and add "A typical passenger vehicle emits about 5.1 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year." Check out Car Share PEI

6) Use mother nature's resources like the sun to heat your home rather than oil or even electricity.  See cheap and simple solar air heater

On PEI and elsewhere the 3 R's are often recited but rarely fully practised.  The recycling part, well we are all getting there...since it is pretty well mandated that we do so by law in many ways.  The reuse one might get some practise with the number of re-stores around from Value Village or Goodwills for my USA friends and of course we have all been doing the 'yard sale' thing since we were born!

So 2014 to me should be the Year of Reduce: 

  1. Reduce our spending - most will need to reduce their spending anyway with all the other increasing costs).
  2. Reduce our consumption - Food, we eat too much, Consumerism - we consume/buy too much, Electric - we waste so much and so on.
  3. Reduce our dependence on Stuff - we have too much, we are cluttering our lives, depleting our pocket books, and creating a sea of waste in the process.  Purge and cleanse of a different kind.

    This the challenge for 2014 try to do one of more of these things:
This year the challenge is to reduce - even if you do one thing you will make a difference.  Get a group together and start to chart your progress.  Will you start a budget? Will you carefully examine every purchase- buy a quality product from a local retail store rather than multiple items you will replace over and over in short order? Will you reduce your shopping trips, look at replacing your CFL bulbs with LED or do an energy review of your you 'need' three TVs in your house? Do you really have 'no space' or is it an illusion and really you have 'too much stuff'.... Purge, clean, examine your spending and your waste and see how you can REDUCE your spending, consumption and stuff in 2014.

My husband and I took a short vacation to the south shore of Nova being celiac - the trip is through the eyes of a celiac.  We stayed at Alicion Bed & Breakfast where their concern for the environment was appreciated - organic gluten-free shampoo and breakfast friendly for celiacs - yum, just watch the hand soap as it has oatmeal in it...body wash was gluten-free though.  Kate's Café had wonderful coffee and gluten-free raspberry squares.  Then off to Mahone Bay where we ate at Biscuit Eater Café - the best grilled gluten-free sandwich anywhere! Also a trip to Eil's Expresso for a Florentine cookie (gluten-free)!  In Chester the Kiwi Café had triple chocolate chips cookies...worth the stop.  We then stayed at Inn on the Lake in Fall River, NS - I was given gluten-free crackers for my soup - also gluten-free....what a treat.  It seemed that eating gluten-free wasn't a problem anywhere we of the best gluten-free adventures I've been on. 

I had the fortune the other day to receive a free sample of Dissolve Laundry detergent.  It is pretty neat, it comes in strips, very shippable, compact and easy to use. 

Environmentally friendly - check.

Economically friendly - check 144 loads for $14.99 (.10cents a load) compared to my current brand but not as cheap making your own.
And you can Buy One, Get One FREE until Oct. 31!

Socially Responsible - support a cause such as Sierra Club Atlantic Wild Child and Sierra Buddies

Try them today and see if they work for you. I plan on using them for my next load of laundry.  Note, you might dissolve them ahead of time in water for a front load washer, as they may not break down enough in a low water load.

As you know I live in an earth-bermed passive solar house in Prince Edward Island, Canada.  Today is a rainy, overcast, and relatively cool day at12C or 60F and our house's current temperature without any heating is  at 69F or 20.55C.

It has been a year and two months since we moved in and we are very pleased with the results.

I was given a wonderful gift of garlic scrapes powder and it was delicious. It had me thinking about making my own, unfortunately, I had already harvested my garlic, so that will be a next year project.  I decided to use the same idea of drying my garlic tops, but use onion tops, so I did and highly recommend it.  Often we just throw the tops out but they can provide a very flavourful powder for cooking soups/stews etc.

Step 1 - Harvest the tops.  Grow your own onions or harvest the tops from a friend with a garden.  

Step 2 - Dry the tops.  You can cut them up slightly or leave them whole it is your choice, depending on how you are drying them.  I used a dehydrator but you can use a solar dryer, or an oven. 

Step 3 - Grind them into powder.  I have small spice grinder but you can do it by hand or use a food processor, whatever works for you.

Step 4 - Store in a dry airtight container out of direct sun.

This powder is more green since it is from the tops rather than the onion itself.  Great way not to waste anything grown and the taste is wonderful add just like onion powder to give an onion taste to your recipes.  Enjoy!

I love this time of year....harvest and preserve, not to mention walking out the door to pick fresh veggies for the next meal, just can't buy that feeling of knowing you made it yourself.  I used to make all kinds of salsa, chutney, pickles, etc but decided this year that if there was leftovers then I won't make any more this year, or if it wasn't a 'loved' preserve then I would pass.  Dill pickles win hands down.  It can be difficult to make them if you are looking for dill pickle size but lucky for me it doesn't matter how they are cut as long as they taste like dill pickles.  Pictured at the left I've sliced them or cut them length wise...the choice is yours.

NOTE: Processing time for sterilizing jars for different altitude
and other safety items for pickle making.

Supplies - What you will need?
About 5 medium-large sized cucumbers, 1 cup vinegar, 8 cups water, (7) 500ml mason jars with lids/covers, 1/3 cup coarse salt, 2 garlic cloves per jar (14), and fresh dill enough for a sprig on top and bottom (14).

Step 1 - Fresh Cucumbers. Option one grow your own cucumbers in a raised bed with dill planted around the edges.  Pick your cucumbers fresh or Option two buy your cucumbers at the farmers market or store and preserve the same day. This can make or break good pickles...freshness.

Step 2 - Sterilized Jars get all your jars, lids, covers out and your canning pot with jar rack (see pictures below).  Fill the pot half way with water and then put the washed/clean jars, lids/covers in the canning pot and make sure they are covered with water. Bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes.

Step 3 - Prepare ingredients - cut your cucumbers in wedges, slices or whatever you like. Peel your garlic and put the dill in sprigs ready to put in your jars. 

Step 4 - Brine - in a pot mix the 1 cup of vinegar, 8 cups of water, and 1/3 cup coarse salt - bring to a boil, boil five minutes and then let cool.

Step 5 - Put garlic, dill and then cucumbers in jars and top off with garlic and dill then pour brine over up until just below the top.  Seal the jar with lid/cover and place back in canning pot - boil for another 5 minutes and remove to cool.  You should hear popping of the lids as they properly seal.  If you lid doesn't pop or indent it may have an incorrect seal and you will want to refrigerate and use. 

Enjoy them! See the pictures of some of the process below....

Herbs provide many benefits including great for teas, flavouring foods,  and herbal remedies.  This year I've planted a number of great herbs pictured from left is Cumin - great in flavouring foods especially Middle Eastern foods, Chia - healthy for you, Marshmallow, Motherwort - herbal remedy, and Astragalus

We plan to continue to add 'different' herbs to gardens for both diversity and possible future uses.

Originally this year we thought we would construct an underground greenhouse, and we still might, next year.  We changed our minds due to the fact that our land is a mix of hard and soft and you just don't know until you dig....and the thought of a building a retaining wall within the underground green house put us off this year and it would interest the expense and well we only budgeted so much to built one. 

So we decided to use what we had to modify and that gave us this almost finished straw bale greenhouse that you see to the left. 

Process: We started with our existing shed and its south facing exposure and added three raised beds using recycled pig penning or PVC with some recycle wood.  We then built the frame using the raised beds and shed structures to support clear plastic roofing made to let the sun in.  We considered framing it in all the way, however decide we could remove the straw next year and use it to grow potatoes while letting our green house breath for the summer.  We haven't yet and it isn't shown but we will be adding plastic sheeting on the inside and outside of the straw bales to keep moisture out.  Since the shed is directly outside our east end door of the house we have easy access to water, however we plan to eventually add a rain barrel to collect water. Finally, we plan to add shelves on the wall of the shed to use in seedling/starter seeds in the spring.

This project cost just the price of the roofing - clear corrugated roofing panels was approximately $300, the remaining materials were free to us, including the straw. The size of the greenhouse is 10 feet by 14 feet.


save, environment, simplify, blog, herbs, preserving, reuse, pallets, gardening, sustainable