The Mindful Merchant

Shop – Eat – Live – Mindfully

The Big Reveal July 14, 2010


Ta-Dum!  The Mindful Merchant got a makeover!  What do you think?


Last summer my pal Chris handed me a birthday card. Inside were two words – start writing! He surprised me by setting up all the things I needed to start a blog; domain name, set up a site, accounts etc. Awesomely nice, isn’t he? This pushed me to stop talking about what I would like to do and actually try something new.


After geeking out, studying WordPress guides and blogging 101 books, I felt by mid-August I could give it a whirl. I wrote my first post, and nervously sent it out to a small group of friends and family. Thankfully, my peeps cheered me on with kind words and helpful feedback. I am grateful for their encouragement.


My computer/social media knowledge was…minimal. (o.k. – I am was technically challenged) The learning curve has been HUGE. I finally joined Facebook (told ya) and the magical world of Twitter. A shift in thinking about green, healthy, more earth-friendly living has grown into a fun hobby that I absolutely love. Now I have readers from different parts of the world – and they are not my relatives. Wow.  Through blogging, I have made new friends, met interesting/creative people and feel more connected to the Ottawa community.


Here we are a year later and it is time for a change. I have grown tired of the drab brown and green WordPress template. Thanks to Maria and Dawn at Sweet Blog designs for their creativity, computer tech-wizardry and “getting” my intentions and humour. I hope you like the new design – I do!


Thanks Chris for the inspiration and all the computer help over the year. Thank YOU for subscribing, joining the MM Facebook Page, sharing posts, the kind shout-outs, and taking the time to comment. I especially love the comments – so please keep ‘em coming. 


Here’s to another year making small changes for a healthier home and planet.  Cheers!



If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito. 

                                                                                                                                       African Proverb





Number Knowledge July 3, 2010

Filed under: environment,heath and safety,recycling,safety,shopping,toxic — MindfulMerchant @ 9:49 am



No matter how eco-conscious we are, it is challenging to get away from using plastic. Manufacturers use resin ID codes to help us with recycling making it easy to sort our household garbage. Did you know that these numbers can also help us determine the safer plastics and which ones we should try to avoid?  I tend to put more thought to the food/products I buy and less attention to the packaging involved. Now I am starting to reconsider after reading about the differences.  Here is some information about the most commonly used plastics.



#1 Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET or PETE)

You will find it in water bottles, shampoo and pop bottles. This might be the most commonly recycled plastic.


#2 High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)

Most commonly found in cleaning product bottles, milk jugs, some water bottles, saline, medicine bottles and shopping bags.


#4 Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE)

Found in sandwich bags, some newer plastic wraps, grocery bags. This plastic is not as toxic to manufacture as other plastics, but it is not as commonly recycled.



#5 Polypropylene (PP)

Yogurt containers and a variety of food and beverage containers. More studies are needed since research is unclear about chemical leaching. Researchers are unsure if the chemicals/substances pose a health threat.


Try to Avoid

#3 Polyvinyl Chloride (V  or PVC)

According to Greenpeace – this plastic ranks as one of the biggest environmental bad guys. PVC (also known as vinyl) contains vinyl chloride, a known human carcinogen. It is most commonly used in construction (PVC pipes in our homes) Found in some plastic wraps, cooking oil bottles and unfortunately many children’s toys. It is rarely recycled but plastic manufacturers still stand by its safety. Apparently many plastic wrapped foods like meats and cheeses in the grocery store are wrapped in polyvinyl chloride (PVC).


#6 Plystyrene (PS) Styrofoam

It is not commonly recycled. It contains benzene which is a suspected carcinogenic. Avoid consuming hot liquids, fatty foods or alcoholic drinks from Styrofoam containers since they may increase leaching. Transfer foods from Styrofoam containers to glass or ceramic as soon as possible.



#7 Other (often polycarbonate made with BPA)

This number covers any other plastic other than #1-6. This mixed bag is concerning since there is conflicting data about this plastic. Often marketed as “non-leaching” and sold as a good green alternative, it is often made using a highly toxic chlorine gas derivative and carcinogenic solvents. The data is conflicting about leaching of bisphenol A. Industry says even low doses would not be enough to hurt you, others suggest that even small amounts this hormone-disrupting chemical can be harmful. Found in microwavable plastics, eating utensils, linings for canned goods and beverage containers, sometimes baby bottles.



Eliminating all plastic packaging from our homes would be an extremely difficult task. Studies suggest that when plastics come in contact with food, certain chemicals migrate and may cause an array of health problems. Try to store food in glass or ceramic and transfer food out of plastic containers before reheating in the microwave.


I used to assume that all recyclable plastic was the same. After reading more about the number codes and what they represent, I am giving more thought to the type of plastics and the products I buy and bring into our home.





Mindful Gnome June 4, 2010

Filed under: climate change,community,environment,gardening,stupidity — MindfulMerchant @ 8:34 am


blog_stuff_010 Lawn ornaments are not green or good for the environment but they sure make a select group of garden lovers happy. I happen to like lawn ornaments. Go ahead and laugh…that’s o.k.  I know that lawn ornaments are tacky and I rein in the urge to have our yard covered in whirligigs, and bright chatchkas.


Some garden art is green, like repurposed bicycle parts, machinery and other recycled objects that artists turn into beautiful pieces. Garage sale finds are another good way to reinterpret and reuse treasures outdoors. A plastic solar leprechaun with a pot of gold that glows (sadly) is not eco-friendly, no matter what the tag says.


My philosophy for garden decor comes from unfinished magazine Feng Shui 101 articles at the doctor’s office, brutally honest comments from friends and family, and my husband’s patience limit. This philosophy also takes into consideration maintaining a positive relationship with your neighbours. Community is so important, after all.


Here is my approach to lawn ornament placement. blog_stuff_022


1. Less is more. Overcrowding is a tacky. Even small clusters are risky – depending on arrangement.

2.  Size matters. If your ornament is the biggest item in your garden…you might want to scale back a wee bit.

3. Save the religious icons and statues for indoors, or at the very least…keep them in the backyard. While I completely respect that amount of devotion, you run the risk of looking like a cemetery or place of worship. (Unless that is a look you are trying to achieve – by all means)

images 4.  Be one with the ornament. Ask yourself “If I were a gnome…would I live under this hosta or stand out in the middle of the lawn in the blazing sun?” Guaranteed you will find the perfect location every time.

5. Please rethink cut-outs of robust women with bloomers showing, fountains of cherubs peeing, a homage to Tweety Bird and other potentially offensive displays.

6. Practice realism. Sleeping bunny on a table = fake. Sleeping bunny placed under a low pine bow = real-ish. Sort of.


The other good thing about garden ornaments is that as climate change and disappearing habitat endanger certain species…we can replace them with fake replicas and with proper placement…hardly notice their absence.  That is comforting.





Pin It For The Planet June 2, 2010

Filed under: Canada,climate change,environment,fitness,health,save money — MindfulMerchant @ 8:49 pm


May 31st – June 6th  The World Wildlife Fund of Canada launched Pin it for the Planet Campaign. They are inviting Canadians to do the unthinkable and use creative car-free transportation options the week. The idea is to pin your car key in a visible spot to make a personal act public, show your commitment to the environment and inspire conversation.


I find it hard to give up my car. My first instinct is to grab the keys and drive without a thought about the distance…especially when I am in a rush. The crazy thing is that I live in an area where most stores are within easy walking/biking distance too.  I am trying to change that habit, plan ahead and make small changes.


Driving the car less may sound like a big inconvenience, but there are benefits to consider. Decreasing your use of the car will save money on gas, insurance premiums, parking, etc., increased health benefits from exercise, and helping the planet.



Here are some interesting facts from the WWF website.


– If every Canadian left their car home just one day a week, we would save about 4.86 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, the equivalent of taking about 800,000 cars of the road per year.

– Approximately 70-80% of Canadians drive to work regularly.

– According to the Canadian Automobile Association driving a mid-sized vehicle, 18,000km/year averages more than$8400. in fuel, maintenance and other costs. (A mini-van is approximately $11,200.)


It is mid-week into the Pin It campaign, but not too late to get involved. You can track your contribution on their website and enter to win cool prizes too.  They are not asking Canadians to stop driving completely…just a little less.




Jack Pine Trail May 28, 2010

Filed under: Canada,community,environment,family,fitness,hiking,Ontario,Ottawa — MindfulMerchant @ 8:44 am


P1018198 Ottawa has a wonderful Greenbelt Trail system that connects to the Rideau Trail, the Trans Canada Trail and the Capital pathway.  We are slowly exploring different trails around the city and all are different and beautiful.


Prime Minister King appointed a French urban planner named Jacques  Gréber work on a master plan for Canada’s Capital. In 1950 Gréber proposed that the Greenbelt would protect the Capital and the rural land surrounding it from unchecked spreading of urban sprawl. This met with complaints from developers who called him “Jacques Grabber”. Following his plan, the Federal Government began acquiring land in 1956 that today encircles the Capital from Shirley’s Bay (west) all the way to Green’s Creek (east). Now we have 20,350 hectares of beautiful land to enjoy and 200 square kilometres (124 sq mi) of greenbelt in the downtown core alone. Merci Monsieur Gréber.



This past weekend we visited Jack Pine Trail.  It is a popular trail  because friendly chickadees and other birds will eat right out of your hand.  Hanging out with good friends and the gorgeous weather inspired us to enjoy the outdoors with the kids. It is an easy, flat terrain and there are a few loops to choose from depending on ability.  We filled containers with birdseed and off we went.


Unfortunately, I did not stop to think that the great feeding stories all took place during the winter months. Maybe it was the time of day, the abundance of bugs and other food, or our large group but the birds were not interested in our birdseed…or us. We did a lot of standing around with our hands outstretched and it was disappointing.  We even tried singing “Ah-a-aah-ah” just like Cinderella calling the little creatures over to the window…to no avail.  Could it have been our singing?



P1018202 “This is the worst hike EVER!” my daughter informed us when the bird feeding activity tanked. (Made our friends feel special – I’m sure)  Thank goodness, things perked up once we saw other interesting things like ducks, a beaver, fish, minnows and at the bottom of the pond…a large camouflaged snapping turtle. Can you spot him/her in this photo? The turtle discovery brought the fun back to a memorable level.  Whew!


If you are looking for a free and fun outing, the Nation’s Capital Greenbelt is definitely worth exploring.  Bring your camera and maybe a picnic – it’s marvellous.








The Dirty Dozen May 20, 2010

Filed under: Canada,environment,environmentally friendly,heath and safety,shopping,toxic — MindfulMerchant @ 10:50 am


whatsinside-shoppersguideI  received an email from Lindsay Coulter. She writes The Queen of Green Blog for the David Suzuki foundation and has all kinds of inspiring tips for earth friendly, healthy living. Lindsay wanted to let me know about a new campaign just launched, the first of its kind in Canada. The David Suzuki Foundation is asking Canadians to look around our bathrooms, open makeup bags/purses/gym bags and take a closer look at the personal care products we use daily. They are interested in specific toxic ingredients. It only took a few minutes to complete and I have to say – it was surprising.


I thought there would be little to report since I have changed my shopping strategy, trying to purchasing healthier natural products.  What I realized is that some products I use have no ingredients listed on the bottles.  How did this escape my attention?  (warning – excuse ahead)   Well…I think the outside packaging had the ingredient information but even if that was the case, the information is long gone in the recycling bin.  The worst offender is toothpaste.  None of the three brands we have in our home list any ingredients on the tube.   Another surprising discovery was how many products I use on a daily basis. According to The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic  Safety Database, most people use an average of 10 personal care products in a day. I calculate I consistently use about 12 products and if I wear makeup – it is even more. Does that mean I am a high maintenance gal?


Whats_inside_logo_long_EN_sm If you are curious about the products you are slathering on daily or what your family is using, consider taking the survey. I thought it would be time consuming with lots of typing but it was a few quick clicks – super easy. Lindsay has arranged for fun earth friendly prizes and frequent draws as an incentive to participate. The more Canadians that participate, the more significance the study will have.


The David Suzuki Foundation has simplified things by identifying twelve chemicals/toxins we should try to avoid. You can download a handy wallet-sized list of the “dirty dozen” chemicals for a quick reference when shopping.  It is something to consider since industrial chemicals are basic ingredients in personal care products and our exposure is extensive. I am interested to learn more about the findings from this study.  Stay tuned.  🙂




Earth Hour 2010 March 16, 2010

Filed under: Canada,climate change,environment,reduce energy,sustainable — MindfulMerchant @ 11:55 pm



Saturday March 27th marks the fourth annual Earth Hour.  The WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) is asking residents and businesses to turn off non-essential lights and appliances for one hour 8:30 – 9:30pm local time.

Earth Hour began in Sydney, Australia in 2007, the idea of The Sydney Herald Newspaper and the WWF. 2.2 million residents and businesses participated by turning off non-essential lights.  It is a symbolic movement to raise climate awareness and inspire people around the world to play a part in a sustainable future.

Since then other cities and countries have joined the event…and the movement is growing. WWF-Canada says this year exceeds the number of countries participating from 88 officially last year to 105 and counting.  Here in Ottawa, the Parliament Buildings lights will go out (nah, too easy a joke) along with other famous Canadian landmarks.

In 2008, the Toronto Star Newspaper reported that the city of Toronto dropped 900 megawatts during Earth Hour. Apparently, this amount of electricity is enough to power about 434,450 homes. The following year was even more of a success with a 920 megawatt reduction and roughly 10 million Canadians took part in the event. Expectations are high for better numbers this year.

Here is a cool link for more information about Earth Hour celebrations in your part of the world…and a little video for  inspiration.




Last year my family participated in Earth Hour when thirty-five of us gathered to celebrate a big birthday. We kicked off the hour by turning off the lights to sing Happy Birthday and kept them off. We lit other candles and kept a close eye on them. The kids thought it was fun running around with flashlights and making “woooo” scary sounds. Unfortunately, it caused a raucous with the men when we tried to turn off the TV. Turns out Earth Hour coincided with some NHL hockey game…blah blah. A disturbing vote took place in which the TV that night became an “essential” appliance. Although we unplugged everything we could and turned off all the lights…the living room glowed by the light of the screen. It is not a great green story…but it is a positive start.

Earth Hour is more than turning lights off for an hour. The hope is that people will feel a part of a global movement, and make small energy saving changes going forward. How about you?  Are you going to be part of Earth Hour 2010?   I could use some fun ideas.