The Mindful Merchant

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Two Green book Suggestions December 17, 2009



Looking for a little green inspiration for 2010?  I received two great gifts last year that you might want to check out.  These books are suited for someone thinking about making greener changes in their life, or already trying. These are NOT suggestions for a anyone that has eliminated toilet paper, lives off the grid, and grows their own food.  Just sayin’




My first suggestion is “Sleeping Naked is Green” by Vanessa Farquharson, a reporter for the National Post. It is a funny and self-deprecating account of her attempt at making one green change every day for a year. This diary style paperback is suited for women…my husband would call this a ‘girly’ book because Vanessa happens to fall in love during the process. I laughed my way through this book.  Some of the changes are silly, but I suspect that comes from having to think of 365 days of green ideas. Many of Vanessa’s ideas are inspiring, realistic and attainable for the average person. (Except eliminating toilet paper…that one I cannot wrap my head around yet.) Unlike many green books, this one is cheerful and makes you want to make changes, even if it is in small ways. If you like a little entertainment with your education then this is a book for you.






bookCoverCan My second suggestion is another Canadian book with what I suspect has the longest book title in the world. It is “Your Guide to the most environmentally friendly information, products and services in Canada – ECOHOLIC [When you’re addicted to the planet]” by Adria Vasil. She is a writer for NOW magazine. The layout is similar to many green guides, food, beauty, clothes, gardening, cleaning, baby products, and pet sections. More examples of topics include eco-tourism, rebates for your home, ethical investing, renovating and even greening your sex life. Oh yeah!

What makes this book stand out is it provides research, background information with vocabulary explanations, and a detailed  provincial green resource guide.  I like that her research includes Canadian facts and statistics. I also love the helpful tips provided for every topic. This is a good book for anyone trying to make smart environmentally friendly changes.

Boy I wish I had it when my children were born. I find it hard to read some sections without guilt. Adria’s writing is cheeky, but the startling information, health concerns and environmental realities keep me awake some nights. What can I say?  I am a worrywart.  Be assured this is not a ‘You suck and we are all going to die negative-angry-finger-pointing book’.  It is more of a ‘This is the reality/concern; and here is better eco-friendly, healthy suggestions you can try’ kind of read. Ecoholic is an excellent resource book that every home should have.




If you are looking for a green book to inspire you for 2010, a green gift idea, or a good read over the holidays these are my picks.    Happy reading!






The Jig is up December 6, 2009

Filed under: eco-friendly,environmentally friendly,green — MindfulMerchant @ 11:54 pm
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pcw_paper_towels_thumb[1] Forgive me Al Gore, David Suzuki and Alicia Silverstone for I have sinned. The Mindful Merchant is on a green path of eco-friendly living…but it is a bumpy journey with slippery spots.

It took a weekend with good friends to shine light on some landfill lunacy going on in my life. This was Jen and Jerome’s first visit with their children since we moved to Ottawa. We were all counting down the sleeps until they arrived.

Jen is a green pal and big supporter of my writing, this blog and making healthier, environmentally friendly changes. She always cheers my green efforts…until Friday. We were in the kitchen chatting and preparing dinner when I spilled something on the counter. I automatically whipped out my giant roll of paper towel to mop the mess. “What are you doing?” she looked at me with big shocked eyes. “You are supposed to be The Mindful Merchant Laura!” she said with disgust. I stopped mid-wipe and looked at my hand.

What was I doing? I was a fraud. Did it matter I was using non-toxic, all natural cleaner to clean organic chicken juices when I had clear-cut trees and bleached/chemically processed landfill balled up in my hand? The jig was up.  Jen even whipped out her cell phone to try to capture this crime on film.

I provided silly excuses and explained that I am trying to be green. I even mumbled something about never claiming I was perfect.  We laughed, they teased me about it, and the weekend was utterly fun and relaxing.

Now they are gone and I realize how ridiculous this is. Here I am implementing many earth friendly changes in our home, and yet cannot give up my use of paper towels and napkins. Oh, did I forget to mention I also purchased “fancy” printed paper napkins for our dinner?  Yup…did that too.

< I can feel your disgust.>

I hope my guilt eases now that I confessed my cleaning crimes. Starting today, I will no longer use paper towels and paper napkins.   It is o-v-e-r.  Thank you to Jen for pointing out the error of my ways, and for not posting my photo on Facebook.  I am going out tomorrow to buy reusable cloths for spills and cleaning.  I am committed.

The Mindful Merchant is back on a greener path.



Two Sale$ that look green and Interesting December 1, 2009

Filed under: coupons,environmentally friendly,save money — MindfulMerchant @ 3:10 pm
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I received an email from a company called Planet Forward. They are a Toronto based company that carry hip, functional eco-products that promote living a greener lifestyle. Their on line store offers organic fashions, reusable baskets and bags, stainless bottles etc.  I will pass along two sales that look green and promising. The first is a warehouse sale coming up this week in the GTA.


    Planet Forward 3-Day Blow-out Warehouse Sale 40-50% OFF!! 

Location: 5-51 Roysun Road, Vaughan, ON L4L 8P9  (2 blocks South of Highway 7 on West side of Martin Grove Ave)

Thursday December 3, 2009 10 am 8 pm

Friday December 4, 2009 10 am-8 pm

Saturday December 5, 2009 10 am –4 pm

For more details click here for the Planet Forward website and here for a closer look at the flyer.



Warehouse Sale Flyer[1]



The second sale is for those of us living outside Toronto.  Planet Forward is offering a 25% discount off their online purchase with coupon code XMASDL25. to all Mindful Merchant readers!  Plus free shipping on orders over $50.00. Coupon expires December 24, 2009.

Eco-friendly gifts and discounts?   My frugal senses are tingling.  Please let me know how the warehouse sale was…if you decide to go shopping.





It’s all in the Bag November 26, 2009

Opeaongo farm 004 I have finally trained my brain to bring my own reusable bags when shopping. It only took about two years. Now that most grocery stores charge for bags, it is rare to see someone walk out the store with a cart full of plastic. Green thinkers and frugal shoppers are now on the same page. It’s a beautiful thing. 

Today I stood at the end of a long line at Loblaws. A woman at the front had full cart of groceries and forgot her bags. The cashier in a booming voice said, “Do you need to buy plastic?” The woman sheepishly whispered yes. I have been in her shoes feeling judgement ooze down the line.  Moments like that reinforce the need to bring my own bags… and why I own about 30+ of the suckers. Avoiding the dreaded plastic = no panic sweats and red flushes. (Oh…and it helps the planet.) It is not a good environmental story, but there is a bit of truth to that.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. throws away 100 billion plastic bags each year and less than 2% gets recycled.  Planet Green writes “The petroleum to make 14 plastic bags could drive a car 1 mile” and “Over 100,000 marine animals die every year because of plastic bags”.   Disturbing statistics.

It has always bothered me that I use plastic bags to buy loose produce like beans, mushrooms, and fruit. I discovered a store here in Ottawa called Nayla Natural Care that sells reusable produce bags and ordered a few to try. Turns out, they were an excellent purchase.

Steward Bags makes 100% organic cotton reusable produce bags in various sizes. Located in Cornwall Ontario, it is a growing Canadian company. Their strong mesh bags have an easy drawstring closure and are washable too. Steward Bags’ mission is to support fair trade labour, and help fund regional environmental projects.

You can find a retailer near you buy clicking here or order directly from the company. Ottawa residents can buy them this weekend at the Nayla Natural Care Open house Saturday Nov.28th from 10 am-2 pm. I will be going to pick up more to ‘wrap’ holiday gifts. (act surprised Mom) 

If you are concerned about reducing the amount of plastic in the landfills, I recommend trying this product.  Happy shopping!




Inspiration November 20, 2009

Filed under: children,eco-friendly,environmentally friendly,reduce — MindfulMerchant @ 4:14 pm
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plastic bags 003 I have known Amanda since the day she popped out into the world 8 years ago. I think that is why it surprises me when I hear how she is growing up…much quicker than my brain can process. Amanda is a happy, smart, theatrical, imaginative ball of energy. Somewhere along the line, she learned to read, write and become a concerned, active citizen of the world. I cannot pinpoint exactly when this happened but I suspect it has something to do with parenting, the educational system and Barney.

Yesterday while chatting with my pal Alli, Amanda (her daughter) came into the room. She had news so exciting it was worth interrupting our conversation. She told us about a letter she received from the “Lunch Lady”. Apparently, Amanda was very concerned about the amount of plastic (specifically plastic bags) the Lunch Lady used for the school lunch program. Amanda voiced her concerns to her teacher who in turn, suggested she write a letter to the Lunch Lady directly. High five teacher!

Amanda received a lovely letter from the Lunch Lady explaining that the plastic bags she had been using were biodegradable and made from corn. She told Amanda that reducing plastics and garbage were her companies concerns too. The result was that Amanda’s letter prompted the Lunch Lady to eliminate the use of plastic bags all together, even though they were biodegradable. She also committed to reduce the litter generated at all the school lunch programs. (Lunch Lady provides lunches for schools throughout Toronto.) Way to go Lunch Lady!

I am impressed. Thank you Amanda for the important reminder to take action and that every individual can make positive environmental changes…even a child.





I know more about computers than my 8 year old…maybe. November 14, 2009


6e62514e9aa0e1c6[1] I remember being so impressed there were computers in my daughter’s junior kindergarten class. It did not take long before she was comfortable navigating her way around a computer. Now I learn useful tips and shortcuts from my eight year old. That is humbling.

The other day I casually made one of those stupid “When I was little” comments when a few of our children’s friends came over to play. Never say anything that begins with “When I was little” unless you really want to feel prehistoric. The kids were chatting about their favourite computer games while sitting down for a snack. I piped in with “When I was little, there were no computers at school or at home…we used typewriters”. The room fell silent. Everyone turned to look at me in amazement. No computers? What is a typewriter? Followed by the inevitable “Wow, you are OLD!” comments. That night before bed, I dug out a neglected jar of wrinkle cream and tried to target certain areas.

The girl’s school does a great job educating children about environmental issues. They come home with new earth friendly ideas, (see my post on candlelit dinners) pressure us to make more green changes…and be consistent.

Now that the children are a little older, they are starting to learn about pollution, endangered animals and the effects of climate change. My husband and I do not always know how to answer their questions. While searching for information I discovered a few educational web sites that I like to explore with the kids. They talk about environmental conservation, concerns, wildlife protection and making a difference in the community. The best part is they deliver the information in an interactive, and  fun way. These websites are not just for children or teachers – I learn something every time we play a game or take a quiz.

First, I must give my cyber safety shpeel. Just a reminder to make sure your children’s computer time is a safe experience. Sit down with them, read instructions together and pay attention to their activities on line. Sometimes being in the same room while they are working on the computer is not enough supervision. Be careful and cautious.

Here are three educational websites that I think are worth checking out.


National Geographic Kids.

Our kids like the People & Places section (See and read about the 7 wonders of the world or tour Greece)

Space and Science section (Find out if Pluto is no longer a planet)

Just Joking (Me, I am not so crazy about the jokes after a few weeks – but our kids love it and it gives them a good reason to call the Grandparents)

Recipes from around the world (like Kwanzaa Creole Bread Pudding)


Eco Kids Canada

What a good site for quizzes! We love quizzes.

This is a great resource for information under Homework Help – Climate change, renewable energy, First Nations & Inuit, Earth Day, Waste and Wildlife.

Very good print outs for colouring. A fun craft for young children.


EEK ! – Environmental Education for Kids

This is my favourite site.

We like Critter Corner to read about all the critters of the world. It shines a light on endangered species.

Our Earth discusses our environment and environmental issues in an easy and direct way.

Natures Notes taught us about Phenology. (Nope. I am not telling you what that means) It encourages observation, something all children do so well.

They even discuss environmental jobs…like a Hydrogeologist. How cool is that?


Children learn from modeling. They follow our lead in life and when it comes to environmental issues, we should try to discuss, be enthusiastic, and act. If you are curious or interested in eco-friendly websites for children these are my suggestions to start. Have fun!




Save Energy – Save Money – the old-fashioned way November 6, 2009



I am very blessed to have both my parents with us in their senior years. They are inspiring, loving people.  Both have incredible life experiences and stories to tell.  My parents have taught me about being frugal, and I am proud of that. I also joke about it…often.

Recently I sat at their kitchen table, enjoying a delicious lunch of leftover soup made from the Thanksgiving turkey. We were using cloth napkins Mom made when I was a Girl Guide and Dad was wearing a fleece jacket done up to the neck. We discussed how to reduce my family’s energy consumption and lower monthly bills. You are probably aware of all the ideas listed below. I found it a good reminder to crack down on bad habits and make some significant changes. Here is how Art and Audrey save energy in their home.


Turn down the heat. Put on a sweater (or a jacket in my Dad’s case). Wear slippers and use an extra blanket at night. Install a programmable thermostat. In my parent’s home, Dad just cranks the dial down himself – no need for the technical gadgets. Mom simply turns the dial up when the dog starts to shiver. If you lower the thermostat just 3 C  (5 F) while asleep you will save up to 6% on heating in the colder months. 


Run the dishwasher only when it is full, late at night before you go to bed. When the wash cycle is complete simply open the door and let it air dry overnight. My parents time it with “The National” and open the dishwasher door when Peter Mansbridge is finished delivering the news.


Wash your laundry in cold water. Hot water laundry is only for sheets, towels and nasty stuff. Hang everything you can to dry.


Unplug everything you can. Appliances and electronics draw electricity even when they are powered off. The only way to stop this is to unplug them.


When baking, roasting or broiling resist the temptation to peek. Opening the oven door causes the temperature to drop 20%, wastes energy and prolongs the cooking time. Mom says that is why cakes fall and cookies flatten. (I do not have this problem because Loblaws apparently does not peek at their baking)


Turn lights off when you leave a room. Replace burnt out bulbs with compact fluorescent lightbulbs. (cfl’s)  They use 60% less energy.  I used to laugh when my husband and I used to drive up to Art and Audrey’s house. “Oh, your parents must be asleep” my husband observed. “Are you kidding?” I would laugh, “They are inside huddled under one lamp watching TV”. Sure enough, we rang the bell and the lights would turn on as they made their way to the front door.  Install motion sensors on outdoor lights to reduce energy use.  It is a good security feature too.


Do not forget to clean the condenser coil at the back of your fridge. It will help the appliance run more efficiently. While you are there, you might as well clean under the fridge too. That is not an energy saving tip, but Mom always insists your house is only as clean as it is under your fridge and stove. (?)


Change direction on your ceiling fan blades. They should operate in a clockwise direction pushing warm airflow down in the winter. Hey Dad, there is no need to argue under the fan this winter – I looked it up – the correct direction is CLOCKWISE.


As much as I make fun of my parents, they are right (and smart!). Reducing our energy consumption this winter is better for the environment and saves us money. All these little things add up. I am going to call Art and Audrey tonight to tell them about this post…just as soon as I put on another sweater.