The Mindful Merchant

Shop – Eat – Live – Mindfully

It ain’t easy being green January 7, 2010

Filed under: Ottawa, composting, environment, gardening, organic — mindfulmerchant @ 2:00 pm


Change is sometimes difficult. I have been following public response to the new City of Ottawa Green Bin composting program that officially began this week, trying to understand why many are against the program. I think an organic composting program is a good thing and feel it is long overdue. Unfortunately, it has flaws that have sparked debate. Here are comments about the Green Bin collected from local newspapers and Twitter. Ottawan’s are feisty and sometimes funny (witty) people. The following responses I think sum up the main issues and public sentiment in an eloquent way.

If you do not live in Ottawa, I hope you will continue to read since the comments provide an interesting view of environmental awareness.





“Not using it, couldn’t find anybody in my family who will take the time to do green bin management.” ~ Nomad


“As for all you greenies that just say you need to do your social responsible thing, well you are a bunch of suckers that will do anything anyone TELLS you to do than SEEMS green. Please just go and cuddle with David Suzuki in a corner somewhere and suck your green thumbs! ~ Ecogreed


“Number of green bins at curb side this morning on my street…1.  Great use of taxpayers money. ~ P


“Nay-sayers-lighten up on the whining about re-cycling and composting as municipal objectives. Do your bit. Act like grown-ups.” ~ Johnnycomelately

“It’s gone! Someone stole my green bin! I hear some people are using them to store bird seed.”  ~ Sam


“Mine is frozen to the ground this morning and will not budge. Great planning Ottawa. Did the global warming people convince you there will be no cold temperatures? ~ Liz

“Come on folks, quit your whining. It’s about time Ottawa started composting city-wide . Other cities have been at it for years – that’s right, Canadian cities, cold-Canadian cities. I think we can do as well folks by applying some common sense. What’s the big deal about odour in the summer? Now you bag your garbage now – news flash – it smells bad in a regular garbage can too! Overall, this is a move that’s been long overdue. Congrats to the city – as for us we’ll work out the bugs and in a few years we’ll wonder how we ever did without it.” ~ Jimmy


“Spend a little more time and make something more reasonable than these bins. I think that they are disgusting. We have seniors that don’t even understand how to use these bins. How do you expect them to understand? Then picking up the garbage every two weeks is also disgusting. You also mention to put left overs meat and fish in the freezer till garbage day this is also disgusting. How you would like to have leftover garbage in your freezer and take it out for dinner by accident. I suggest that the city comes out with a better idea and put more people out to work to collect the smelly garbage that we have to waste.” ~ Tracy


“I support the green bin initiative but the way the city handled it was incredibly amateurish and downright stupid. First of all – a twenty year contract? That is most likely the most boneheaded thing I’ve heard. Twenty years??? Second of all, we should not have to pay for the service – it’s garbage pickup but in a different form – it should all be covered by our normal garbage pickup. As for Orga making a profit on the compost – give me a break – that money should come back to us taxpayers. I do plan to use my bin but I also plan to compost all over my yard. If that attracts vermin, so be it.” ~ East of Eden


“We are the capital of this country, and as such, we should be showing leadership on many issues. To date, on the organic waste file, we’ve shown nothing but how to dawdle and twiddle our thumbs. It’s taken more than a decade for this city to get from the initial idea of collecting organic waste to actually picking it up at the curb. That’s far too long, and frankly, embarrassing.   But now that we’ve reached this point, residents need to give up their grumbling, put their potato peels and egg shells in the green bin, and recognize that it’s for the betterment of this community that we stop sending organic waste to landfill.”  ~ Kerry Thompson (Ottawa Sun)


“There is considerably more that can go into the green bin that cannot go in your backyard composter. I’m a backyard composter too. Over the past two weeks, I emptied my kitchen catcher twice in my backyard composter. On Tuesday, I also put out a full green bin. What I did not do on Tuesday was put out garbage. There wasn’t enough.” ~ Steve


“My green bin will be taken out for my annual pool party and stocked.” ~ Anderson

“Come on people…no matter how badly administered the programs is, something needs to be done about solving the landfill problem and cleaning up the environment. And we’re the only ones who can do it – inconvenient or not.” ~ Bagelcat  


    Interesting isn’t it?

I am excited about the program and want it to be successful. Time will tell. I do believe it is essential to compost for a better planet but then again, I’m a “greenie”.  Guess I better go suck my green thumb.  Now where did I put my David Suzuki doll…



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can Canada’s capital compost? January 5, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — mindfulmerchant @ 8:49 am


I am excited about the new Green Bin composting program that began yesterday in Ottawa. It will be interesting to see how many homes will participate since it got off to a bumpy start with complaints, opposition from residents living near the composting facility and other issues.  I think it is a positive thing for the environment and the city.  It is about time since many other municipalities have been composting for years.


The last few weeks we use the small kitchen container to collect organics and empty it into the big green bin at night. I am surprised at how quickly our family of 4 is filling it.   My frugal side is reluctant to spend almost $6.00 for 10 small food paper waste bags, (the City will not allow biobags/plastics in the compost) but  I am not willing to use the small bin without some type of liner. Green Bin Ottawa provides an economical alternative. Here is a short video on how to make easy origami bin liners out of old newspaper.  Do not worry the urge to wear it around as a hat wears off quickly.





I find the origami liners work only if you monitor the contents. The more liquid, the quicker it requires a dump and lock. No one wants to scrape up chicken chilli, dryer lint and coffee grounds off the garage floor. Trust.  I have a few friends experimenting with newspaper liners and the results are mixed. If you would like to compost with a liner this might be worth trying, especially if you want to save some money.


For more information visit the Green Bin Website where you will find instructions, teacher and parent guide and video, children’s activities and other helpful tips.  Click here for the 2010 pick-up schedule.


Have to be honest…I am not excited about cleaning and maintaining the green bin in the humid Ottawa summer. I look forward to reducing the garbage we set out on the curb and helping the planet. We all have a responsibility for our garbage. I hope the new composting program is a success.


How is your composting experience going?




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Little House on the Prairie Babble December 30, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — mindfulmerchant @ 6:58 pm


prairie3 Eventually I had to talk Prairie talk…it was only a matter of time.

I discover through years of friendship (and sometimes-red wine) that I know many people who grew up watching Little House on the Prairie and are closeted fans. This kinship runs deep, not obvious by our wearing of bonnets, lemon verbena perfume, or our distain for the name Nelly. It is our ability to quote verbatim Charles Ingalls and an odd yearning to write with chalk. We also share fears of falling down a well or waking up yelling, “I can’t see Pa!” If you did not grow up wishing you lived in Walnut Grove then you probably will not appreciate this post.

Planning my New Year’s resolutions for 2010, I decided to turn to the Little House for my inspiration and ask the question “What would Ma or Pa Ingalls do in our home?” Here is what I have come up with….

  • I am going to use a broom and sweep more instead of hauling out the vacuum for every little mess.
  • I will use cloths to clean and wipe up spills. I think I can fashion some out of old clothing too worn to donate.
  • I will try to cook and bake things from scratch and move away from buying processed stuff.
  • We are going to plant a vegetable garden this spring and live off the land. Actually…from whatever we can grow in containers on the patio.
  • We will try to eat seasonally and support local farmers and merchants.
  • We will make more effort to help in our community.
  • Lastly, I want to learn to “air fiddle” just like Charles. By golly, that man could play a mean fake fiddle! I hope my family will dance around and clap while I air fiddle after dinner on Fridays. 

  Well those are my thoughts as this year ends. All silliness aside, I do want to live a simpler, greener life in 2010. Who is with me?


I wish you a very happy and healthy New Year!


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Happy Holidays to you! December 20, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — mindfulmerchant @ 1:36 am



                             I wish you all a peaceful and joyful holiday.




                               And a healthy and prosperous New Year!



                       Looking forward to making 2010 a little greener…together.





Technorati Tags: holidays

are organics fuelling my lottery addiction? December 20, 2009



I have started buying lottery tickets. Not for a dream vacation or fancy car…just so I can buy organic food. (I kid, I kid…sort of)

Lindsay, my sister-in-law and I often discuss our escalating grocery bills. She has a frugal gene too. We are both interested in buying organic food but wonder who can afford to pay the prices? There is no getting around it, organic food is expensive. Lindsay has asked me to put my frugal skills to the test and research how we can lower our monthly grocery bills, yet eat as healthy as we like.

Many argue that organic is not worth the money. My husband is one of those “anti-organic – it’s all a marketing ploy” thinkers. When he spies the price of organic grapes (after I have put them in the cart) the vein at the side of his head pulses. We debate, we share interesting articles and he does not shop with me anymore.

Since money does not grow on organic trees, I have to start prioritizing where I spend our money in the grocery stores. I have discovered I can save money buying fresh produce. Why do I bother buying organic fruit and vegetables? After researching the topic, it is much more than being pesticide-free. Organic means that farmers cannot use sewage sludge to fertilize crops. Yes folks, that’s right human feces is a popular fertilizer in Canadian municipalities. Yum! Organic also means free of hormones, free of processing aids and nothing genetically modified. Other reasons include higher nutrient/vitamin content, earth friendly farming practices and supporting local family farmers when possible.

Forget my reasons. Check out some websites and come up with your own. This is an interesting one  The Environmental Defence’s website has a Toxic Nation Reports section full of many different studies.  You can view the toxic chemical profiles of Canadian Adults and Canadian families tested.  You can also head over to their Metallic Lunch Report to see which foods contain the most lead (frozen dinners) nickel (cookies) and other unhealthy metals. What a fun way to spend an evening!

Another website is The Environmental Working Group. They used results from 87,000 tests collected by the U.S. Food and Drug administration and ranked pesticide levels of 46 fruits and vegetables. According to the E.W.G. people who eat the 12 most contaminated produce consume an average of 10 pesticides per day. Rinsing reduces pesticides but does not eliminate them. Peeling helps but unfortunately we lose the good nutrients in the skin.

 Here is a list of items you might want to consider buying organic, and which ones matter less.  Click here for a printable pocket guide.

The Worst Offenders

1.   Peach

2.   Apple

3.   Bell Pepper

4.   Celery

5.   Nectarine

6.   Strawberries

7.   Cherries

8.   Kale

9.   Lettuce

10. Grapes (Imported)

11. Carrot

12. Pear

This is not all doom and gloom though. Good news! Turns out there are many non-organic fruits and vegetables tested that had minimal pesticide residues.  Here are the top results.

The Clean 15

1.   Onion

2.   Avocado

3.   Sweet Corn

4.   Pineapple

5.   Mango

6.   Asparagus

7.   Sweet Peas

8.   Kiwi

9.   Cabbage

10. Eggplant

11. Papaya

12. Watermelon

13. Broccoli

14. Tomato

15. Sweet Potato

The shopping lists will likely change as I continue to research this topic. In the meantime, I will be less concerned about shopping organic when it comes to items on the Clean 15 list.  I have noticed a small reduction in our grocery bills while still trying to eat and cook healthier meals.  Every little bit helps.

I think the lotto is 20 million this week…come on lucky quick pick!



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
Tags: eco-friendly, good ideas


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.



Climate Change – a child’s perspective December 2, 2009

Filed under: children, climate change — mindfulmerchant @ 11:37 pm
Tags: children, climate change


The United Nations Summit on Climate Change begins December 7th  in Copenhagen.  Leaders from 192 countries will gather to discuss and hopefully agree to effective and aggressive new environmental solutions.

While sitting around the kitchen table doing crafts I asked my children and some of their friends what they knew about climate change, and told them about the meeting in Copenhagen.  I asked them this question.   “Do you think it is important Stephen Harper, and the other world leaders make better, tougher laws to protect the earth?”  Here are their responses and pictures.



“People who pollute on purpose should get into trouble, maybe go to jail.  Then more people would listen and stop doing it.” 

Gillian – 9 years old










Ella – 9 years old








“They should stop people littering.  Litter and garbage makes everything sick.”    Ashley – 7 years old










“They should make better laws so the water is not polluted…I have to drink it.  So does my dog.”      Chloe – 7 years old









“I don’t get why you need laws…just don’t hurt the earth!”     Charlotte – 6 years old









“We need good pollution laws so all the animals on the earth are healthy and happy.  Hey, are we animals too?     Sarah – 7 years old











“Too much global warming means we will be worried about water.  Without safe water we can’t grow food.  We can’t live.”  Amanda – 8 years old








“People should stop throwing garbage in the water, cutting down trees and polluting the air so we don’t hurt animals.  Leaders have to care about these things”  Marin – 9 years old





Why is it children understand the gravity of this situation, yet so many grownups cannot?   Climate change threatens our prosperity, our health, the environment and our children’s future.  Let’s hope this summit ensures long-term commitments, strong agreements and real environmental benefits…for the world.   We will soon know if Stephen Harper and the other world leaders have the comprehension, wisdom and compassion of a young child.




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

Filed under: coupons, environmentally friendly, save money — mindfulmerchant @ 3:10 pm
Tags: $ave $$, eco-friendly, information


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

Filed under: eco-friendly, environmentally friendly, green, non-toxic, organic — mindfulmerchant @ 9:31 pm
Tags: eco-friendly, good ideas

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!