Friday, February 29, 2008

More About Helping by Accident

If I keep this up, I'm going to save the world without even realizing it.

I recently wrote about, how I apparently signed up for it without really noticing, and how it seems I'm raising funds for a charity more or less blindly.

Now it would appear I've accidently bought 30 biodegrabable shopping bags.

Good for me, I guess. The thing is, I was going to make a whole other point entirely.

I first learned about these from an Ideal Bite e-mail. In it, they listed a handful of companies that offer these types of biodegradable bags. I'm sure I could find some locally, but I never think of it when in a grocery store and I don't recall noticing them at the green products store I frequent most. Besides, I that store tends to be a little price-heavy and these were only about $5.00.

One company (I could have sworn it was the one making the above bags) specified that their product disolves (is that a correct word to use?) in the space of about ten months.

After use, this plastic is safely returned to the natural bio-cycle as ‘organic carbon’, ingested by micro-organisms. PSI"s Products accelerate the natural process by factors of 100 to 1,000 or more. This contributes to the fertility of compost, frees-up air space in landfills and protects against plastics in our environment and watersheds.

Sounded good to me, so I went to make my purchase.

I forget the details now, but if the bag themselves were about $5.00. the shipping was something like $14.00. Postal service charges made it a ridiculous purchase, and THAT was the point I was aiming to make.

Yet today, preparing to write this post, I went on the ecosafe site and attempted to recreate that experience. I was only seeking, for the sake of accuracy, to get the specific amounts for shipping that I'd been charged before.

I entered my mailing address, no problem.

I entered my credit card information, no problem.

I went to the final checkout page, no problem.

And when it was all said and done...

Subtotal 4.99
Shipping 0.00
Handling 0.00
TOTAL $4.99

So...No shipping charges? That can't be right. I kept waiting for them to be added but it never happened.

The only thing I can think of is that I bought from the USA site as opposed to the Canadian one, but still. I do recall that the phone number to call for more info had a 604 area code which I believe is British Columbia.

So I don't know what gives, or whether I'll have a nasty surprise later, but for now I guess I can look forward to using biodegradable garbage bags.


March 2nd Edit: I've received an e-mail to the extent that my order was cancelled and asking me to shop through the Canadian store. Let the record show that I was led to the American store automatically when I visited the site and did not know about a Canadian option. Let me also remind everyone that the phone number to call for inquiries was a BC one, so I had no reason to believe I was in the American store.

In any event, I tried again and sure enough my result was the same as my first experience. The bags I wanted (I went for a larger size this time) were $7.99 and shipping costs $14.93. Sorry, I find that excessive and will look to see if I can score some locally.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Foam Party!

I picked up this story, about a bizarre foam being created on the Australian coast, from the Urban Legends reference Page. Click the pic for a recent article about this little phenomenon.

I can only say that if I saw an unidentified, foul-smelling foam building up near the beach, I'd probably show a little more restraint before diving in. I can't deny I'd be curious, but I'd rather know what it's made of BEFORE I cover myself with it from head to toe. Ick.

There's some debate as to the cause, but one theory is...

Dr Kutboke said when sea droplets mixed with crude oil discharged from passing ships or motor oil and sewage from stormwater run-off, and became mixed in ocean turbulence, the resulting emulsion became more persistent than the original oil and appeared as “chocolate mousse”.

Sounds like a recipe for fun!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Give 'til You Can't Feel It.

I'm going to try to describe something even though I have no memory of doing it and I'm not entirely sure how it works.

At some point, probably as a result of seeing it in a newsletter, I signed up with

It would appear that if I make purchases online, a donation of some kind is created. During unrelated online trips to ebay and Canadian Tire, I got a pop up stating that a certain percentage of my purchase will be donated to the charity of my choice.

Since I'm not certain about how it works, we'll let them speak for themselves:

How does work?
When we say 12.5% or 8% or 10% to your cause next to a merchant at the Mall, each and every penny goes directly to your favorite cause. No administrative costs, no fees, nothing -- 100 percent to your cause. is paid a sales commission (over and above the charitable contribution percentage) when our members make purchases, allowing us to continue to expand our services. Also, many merchants pay us to advertise on our Web site.

Somehow, I selected the Animal Alliance of Canada as my charity of choice. I don't recall doing so. On the other hand, I have no objection to it either. No doubt if I wanted to change it I could.

Earlier today, I received an e-mail telling me that a cheque was being sent on behalf of myself and the other AAC suporters to the charity. It's an accumulation of the dollars and cents gathered here and there from our collective online shopping.

Oh. Good!

Well, I'll just keep on going then! And if you're the online shopping type, you might want to sign up and raise funds for your favourite charity.

Saturday, February 16, 2008


This is a portion of an article on today's Ottawa Citizen. It's a story about the Carleton University soccer team going to Cuba to donate soccer equipment. Nice enough in itself, one paragraph in particular caught my eye as a lesson on how best to appreciate what you have.

Richard Starnes, The Ottawa Citizen
Published: Saturday, February 16, 2008

Stuffed in with their luggage, the girls have enough soccer gear -- used and new -- to make the whole of Cuba jealous and it is all winging its way to a very excited bunch of youngsters in Sanctus Spiritus.

They have 300 soccer balls donated by Umbro -- even the Cuban national team has nothing like that, Sebrango says. There are bibs and cones, used Carleton shirts, shinguards and socks. There has even been a donation of toothpaste and tooth brushes from a woman who overheard chatter about the trip and made the donation through her dentist husband.

I wish the Carleton group, who left yesterday for a seven-day trip, had had the chance to talk with former Canadian international Craig Forrest, who is an ambassador with SOS Children's Villages, an organization that uses soccer to raise funds for orphanages they build all over the world.

Forrest would have told them what he saw and how it affected him when he visited one orphanage -- partly sponsored by the Canadian Soccer Association. It's called Canada House in Rustenburg in northern South Africa.

Forrest and Kelsey Lemon, of SOS here in Ottawa, carried as many soccer balls as they could when they visited, although it was nothing like 300. And he remembers how excitedly wide-eyed the kids were to see even one ball.

One kid was particularly talented and a candidate for a university scholarship so they gave him a ball for himself. What did the kid do? He took the ball over to his friends and told them it was theirs -- not his. There was never any thought of not sharing.

Now I know the Carleton girls are not going to someplace as poor as that. But what they are bringing will thrill the kids. So will their soccer skills.

This promises to be a life-altering adventure on both sides.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Krazy 'bout Kiva

I was introduced to Kiva through an online newsletter I get, and I'm addicted.

When I started this blog, I admitted to some unease with making regular donations to charitable oganizations. Typically, I prefer to support a charity by making a purchase so that if my funds are squandered at least I have something to show for my money, whether it be a shirt, ball cap, whatever. I wouldn't feel totally hosed.

Also, a browse through the charity navigator reveals that many top dogs in the more commonly known charities are listed as having 6-digit salaries. Well, I don't have one, so a plea to donate "whatever I can afford" sometimes rings hollow (and the particular selection in my link is not coincidental; I could probably count on the fingers of one hand the number of times their newsletter did NOT ask for a donation in the course of a year).

Kiva does away with this nicely though; They ask for loans, not donations.

Kiva lets you connect with and loan money to unique entrepreneurs in the developing world. By choosing a loan on Kiva, you can "sponsor a business" and help the world's working poor make great strides towards economic independence. Throughout the course of the loan (usually 6-12 months), you can receive email journal updates from the entrepreneur you've sponsored. As loans are repaid, you get your loan money back.

I was still a little reluctant because I wondered whether the onus wold be on me to retrieve my funds. A year later, one can easily forget. But after surfing for a while, I became very interested. So no chance of forgetting now, I check it every day.

Here's my Lender page.

I first loaned to one lady in particular because she was looking to make repairs to her home. Frankly, I was more looking for someone looking to expand on a business, but she was $25.00 short at the time that I came across her profile, so I went ahead.

I later found a group of 15 ladies who want to invest in their businesses and also seek to "...(clean) abandoned lots, the streets and alleys in their neighborhood, on order to stop the breeding of mosquitoes"

You're on, ladies! They had under $1000 of their funds when I made my contribution, and by the end of the next day, they had the whole thing. The funds have apparently been disbursed to them already by Kiva's partner in the region.

I love this idea and I plan to basically have a small budget that I rotate around. And if you're the type that wants to help but doesn't believe in making donations, well, maybe a loan is more your speed.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Need a Reason to Eat More Chocolate?

Ah, Friday nights! The best part of the week! The furthest point from having to go back to work!

When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I do (actually, the second after realizing it's a work day and using profanity as a really third) is look forward to my evening of world-saving while the Mrs watches some Nascar-based programming (ugh) and Oscar snores away. Batman has his various gadgets to help him fight crime, I usually use something along the lines of a bottle of port and a bar of organic chocolate.

Whatever works. Chocolate may suck to apprehend The Penguin, but try to save a real penguin with a batarang, smart guy!

Ah, but I can hear the gears turning already! "How can you save a penguin, or anything for that matter, with chocolate, dumbass?"

Well, with this chocolate, you can at least help a little bit:

Here's the deal:

At Endangered Species Chocolate, we provide exceptionally delicious chocolate made with only the finest, 100 percent all-natural ingredients. We offer organic choices to support human health as well as the environment. Plus, recent studies confirm that chocolate contains flavonoids that help blood vessels work more smoothly, perhaps reducing the risk of heart disease. Chocolate also acts as a powerful antioxidant, reducing dangerous free radicals at a higher rate than vitamin C or green tea. And, combined with exercise, research shows that chocolate works to reduce fat in the body.

Just as important, we see chocolate as a medium to save species, conserve habitat and honor human life. Our cacao beans are sourced and harvested from small family-owned properties and are ethically traded. ESC also pays fair prices for harvested products so cacao farmers can maintain their properties. We add to the impact of each bar by donating 10 percent of our net profits to environmental organizations that work to help endangered species and their habitats.

Their site is quite good, as is their variety. It's also hosted by solar energy, apparently (see bottom right).

Occasionally when I come across these products, they turn out to not be available locally. I've purchased these at Super Store (do they fight crime too??) locations, so it's relatively easy to find.


Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Winds of Change

This is probably the most overused title for articles related to the environment after "It isn't easy being green" *groan* but here I am using it and hating myself slightly for me. It's all good though, I love myself for plenty of other reasons. ;-)

Ottawa is crawling with free daily newspapers. It started with Metro and Dose, but the latter apparently failed. Since then, one named 24hrs has taken its place as some people's bus and bus shelter litter of choice.

I tend to avoid them but the other day the cover of 24hrs had a picture of a windmill on it (the most overused environmental symbol after the swirly light bulb) using that very same unimaginative headline.

I wasn't able to get my hands on a copy until later in the day, due to forgetfulness on my part . It certainly not due to lack of availabilty, since you can find a copy of in pretty well any puddle in town. Once I did, I found that the article wasn't quite what I expected; It was about how certain laws are impeding progress at becoming greener.

Be that as it may, later that night I found a press release in my e-mail inbox.

Government officials, local dignitaries and landowners, and green power advocates will gather in Forest, near Grand Bend, Ontario, to celebrate the official opening of a new, six-turbine wind farm. This wind farm was erected, in part, to address the growing demand of Bullfrog Power customers, who have chosen to purchase clean, emissions-free, EcoLogo(M)-certified power for their homes and organizations.

Well, someting is apparently going fairly well somewhere then. Good for them! Maybe if I'd joined about two years ago, like I said I'd planned to, I could feel like I was a small part of that. *ahem*

Mind you , what we've considered doing is getting our own windmill. Mrs THIT saw one in a flyer about a year ago and immediately liked the idea. She just didn't dig the cost (I can't recall what it was now) at the time, but Canadian Tire has them for about $800 now.

We're certainly not lacking for wind around here. There are no tall buildings in the area so very few things can block a stiff breeze. A couple of weeks ago, Christine called me at work to tell me that, following a warm spell and resulting thaw, she decided to move the BBQ from outside into the garage. The first big snow of the year hit before we'd brought it in, so it was stuck outside.

While going around the house, she tells me that a gust of wind got under the cover, tore the BBQ from her hands, threw it six feet intot he air and smashed it into the driveway. That sounds about as convincing as a dog eating homework, but she's not the type to fib.

But if I'm going to take the plunge of buying a windmill, I want to know what I'm getting into. If my little windmill only generates enough power to run my electric razor, I'm hardly going to bother. And mentions of installation in "three easy steps" make me wary. Easy is in the eye of the beholder for someone like me, who struggles to even open an ironing board.

So we'll see, but I suspect that before long, we'll be wind-powered one way or another. Really this time.

Oh, and it IS easy being green.