I enjoy pretty much everything there is that has to do with the outdoors. Some of my most peaceful moments have been while walking through the forest, sitting on a beach, or boating (minus the loud engine). Accordingly I have a great respect for nature and enjoy learning about the plants and wildlife therein. My plan is to continue that learning process and hopefully enhance it by sharing what I learn. I intend for this blog to serve many purposes, but in the immediate future it will be a place for me, and hopefully others, to share ideas about reducing our individual impact on this planet, protecting wild spaces, and in general just to comment on the things we enjoy most in the great outdoors. I welcome all opinions as otherwise you cannot consider every aspect of a subject. However, I would ask that every opinion be expressed in a respectful way and considered with an open mind. Often there is no single right answer. Thanks.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Baking Soda kills Moss

My moss solution...
 In addition to its many other uses I often read about baking soda being used in combination with water and/or vinegar as a more environmentally friendly way to clean your home.  A couple of years ago I came across a tip in a newsletter that suggested using baking soda to combat moss.  I read the newsletter around the time we moved into our new home, which had moss on the roof of the garage that the house inspector recommended we remove.  A thoughtful relative gave us some leftover chemicals from when they had their roof done and the white powder sat inside the bags for awhile as I tried to decide whether to give the random tip a try.

I finally bought one large box of baking soda about a year and a half ago and got out on the roof of the garage.  The two sentence tip really did not elaborate on how you used it: Must the surface be dry?, Should you dilute it with water? So I figured I would start with the one box and see what happened.  A dry roof just seemed better from a safety perspective so I went out there on a dry day and just sprinkled the baking soda directly from the box.  It certainly was not instant death, but the fact that it was no longer green was victory enough for me. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Canadian Wildlife Federation

My family occasionally donates to the Canadian Wildlife Federation (CWF) and I recently received an issue of their Canadian Wildlife magazine.  I intended to do a posting about a couple of lesser known invasive species that people would not normally consider, but alas, I visited their website in my quest for information and have spent most of my time cruising around their website, subscribing to their magazine, and signing up to receive their free e-newsletters.

The Canadian Wildlife Federation was founded in 1962 and has grown to include approximately 300,000 members.  As a Canadian, non governmental organization they focus entirely on species and habitats at risk in Canada and are funded entirely by public donations.  Their stated mission is as follows:

The Canadian Wildlife Federation is dedicated to ensuring an appreciation of our natural world and a lasting legacy of healthy wildlife and habitat by:
  • informing and educating Canadians;
  • advocating responsible human actions; and
  • representing wildlife on conservation issues.
The amount of information contained on the CWF website is almost overwhelming.  I am sure it would take me hours to peruse the whole thing, but whatever you might be looking for with regard to nature you will probably find it on their website.  Mildly curious about butterflies, bats, bees or birds? They have a poster for you.  Want to know more about Canada's species of plants or animals? They have a whole section dedicated to flora and another for fauna, broken down into mammals, birds, insects, and reptiles and amphibians.  Check out the Hinterland Who's Who for ideas you can implement in your backyard or, for the more ambitious, see their ideas for broader community projects.  

In addition to their Canadian Wildlife publication they also have two magazines geared towards children.  One called Wild, geared towards 6 to 12 year-olds, and Your Big Backyard for children aged 3 to 5.  The description for Canadian Wildlife suggests that the articles are accompanied by some of the "best nature photography in the world".  I have to say that the magazine I received (March/April 2011) had some of the most beautiful pictures of birds I have ever seen. 

The photographs were taken by Roy Hancliff in the backyard of his Salmon Arm, BC home using a technique he developed using "multiple flashes and super-high shutter speeds of up to 1/20,000th of a second".  The result is some awesome action shots of a variety of birds including pine siskens, the northern flicker, stellar jays, and hummingbirds.  Of the photographs included in the article the one of the Northern Flicker is my favourite.  Coincidentally when I visited his website it was the first picture that came up on his home page.  If you like nature pictures I would highly recommend checking out his site.  He has a gallery and you are able to order prints of his pictures.

If you are someone who would like to help the natural environment around you, but are not sure how to get started, I would highly recommend the CWF website as a beginning.  Even projects as simple as incorporating native plants into your landscaping, or building a bat house, can have a positive impact on the surrounding environment.  For my part I have been working on plans to improve the boulevard outside my home for the last two years.  I have decided on planting native trees and shrubs and also plan to incorporate some of the other ideas from the CWF.  My project will be getting a boost on Thursday when the Municipality of Saanich puts in a big leaf maple tree.  I will post a picture of the current state of the boulevard and add pictures as things progress.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Recycling at London Drugs

My curiosity was piqued when I read the title of an advertisement in Saanich News: “London Drugs thanks customers for recycling over 90,000lbs of Styrofoam with BRING BACK the PACK”.  London Drugs recycles Styrofoam? Really?

A quick read and I soon found out that yes, London Drugs does take Styrofoam and several other items.  A “clip and save recycling list” details cell phones, PDA’s, batteries, ink jet cartridges, electrical and electronic goods, and CFL’s among others.  For a complete list see http://www.greendeal.ca/recycle.html.  According to the advertisement 90,000lbs of Styrofoam is about 90 tractor trailer trucks stuffed full.  This is the amount of Styrofoam that London Drugs customers have helped divert from Western Canadian landfills over the last three years.

Before you pack up your trunk, however, do note that they take back packaging materials only from items purchased at their store.  You must show your receipt when you drop off the packaging at their customer service desk.  This is a limitation that makes perfect sense to me.  I think the fact that London Drugs has a program like this in the first place is fantastic.  "BRING BACK the PACK" is part of a program instituted by London Drugs called What’s the Green Deal. 

A visit to their website http://www.greendeal.ca/ provided more information about their Bring Back the Pack program, an impressive list of corporate initiatives, a list of recycling fees for items that you can return to their stores and much more.  A message from the Senior VP, Clint Mahlman, describes What’s the Green Deal as a program that is “a source of useful information that can help you and your family shop a little greener, before, during and after your visit to our store".  Besides the recycling they also have products in store that are marked with a "green deal" sign.  For a look at the criteria used to determine whether a product qualifies for the label and a list of products check out green deal products.

I checked out their website one more time before publishing this post and a recent green deal blog entry had the picture below of a bike outfitted with styrofoam.  Apparently it has been travelling around Victoria over the last couple of weeks bringing people's attention to the recycling program.  You can even ask for a ride.  I have not had the pleasure of seeing it in person, but I find it very amusing.  I think it certainly shows some creative thinking on the part of London Drugs.

I often view corporations as large, impersonal entities that care more about their bottom line than looking out for the environment.  I think it is great that London Drugs is showing some leadership in this area.  I am sure that programs encouraging waste reduction, and promoting sustainability, take some effort to get rolling and have a price tag attached.  I feel that if a company is willing to put such programs in place they should be rewarded.  After checking out their green deal website I will certainly put London Drugs higher up on my mental list of places to shop.  I would also be interested to hear of any other companies that make taking care of the environment a priority...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Canadian Politics and Voting - Here we go again...

I have been struggling with whether or not to post anything political on my blog.  I am not a person who likes to shout my political opinions from the rooftops and I detest confrontational debates.  I have my reasons for my opinions and I would be happy to explain them and hear other peoples' opinions, but to participate in an aggressive debate is just not my style.  But, since my blog is not followed by thousands of people and comments are few and far between I figured what the hell.

Let's start with the leadership debate, which I attempted to watch a portion of last night.  First of all regardless of who I vote for I was not impressed that the Green Party was excluded and I happily signed the petition and sent an email expressing my disgust to the various media involved in the decision process.  Since they failed to rectify the situation I watched part of the debate on my computer from a Vancouver Sun link that was streaming it live with occasional comments from Elizabeth May.  Although my intentions were good I did not actually watch much as I kept walking away every time the leaders started talking over top of one another like small children, or presented their opinions in an overly rehearsed way.  To me it was a useless exercise.  The negative tone of politics today is a real turn off for me.  I would rather hear what a party plans to do for the country than constant criticism of what others are doing.  If you are going to point out a problem then you better follow up with your solution.  I long for a day when politicians can park their egos and turn off the political rhetoric long enough to find some common ground, formulate some policies that are based in compromise and at least get us moving forward.

Although I have a very negative impression of politics today I still drag myself out to vote every time we have a federal or provincial election (my record is not so impressive on the municipal front, but I pledge to do a better job of that).  Judging by voter turnout during the last few elections I am not the only one feeling rather discouraged by the options available.  I remember comments being made after the last election about a historically low voter turnout so I thought I would see what I could find that regard.  One site I found uses graphs to compare historical voter turnout since 1867 and breaks down the votes by party for the last two federal elections.  You can check it out at http://www.sfu.ca/~aheard/elections/historical-turnout.html
You might think that voting for the Green Party would be an obvious choice for someone who blogs about composting and recycling, enjoys hiking and all things nature, however, I have never voted Green in a federal election.  My perception of the Green Party up to now has been shaped by what I have heard from other people i.e. they do not have a real platform, all they stand for is legalizing marijuana, they would not know how to run a country, they are not a serious party, etc., etc.  However, given my passion for the environment I thought I should at least take a look at their website and see if there is more substance to their platform than what I have heard.  I also heard Elizabeth May, who is the Green Party candidate in my riding, speak during a radio interview and liked what I heard.

Over the last couple of weeks I have been a frequent visitor to the Green Party website trying to get an idea of what they stand for and how comprehensive their plans are.  I made it through a couple of sections of their Vision Green document, which is 132 pages and details their long term vision for Canada.  Today I read through their platform, which is a much more manageable 12 pages.  Do I 100% agree with everything in their platform?  No.  But it is a hell of a good start and I do like many of their ideas including those regarding forestry, food security, green energy and green jobs.  I also like the tone of their party, which promotes positive, productive politics instead of constant mudslinging.  This election I am determined to vote for something, rather than against something.

I would encourage anyone who is interested in making an educated choice in this federal election to include the Green Party Website as one their information resources.  Out of fairness, and the interest of informed decision making, here are the links to the other websites of the main federal political parties: Liberal Platform, NDP Platform, Conservative Platform, Bloc Quebecois.  Happy reading (try not to fall asleep) and please get out to vote on May 2.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Ogden Point - Restoration Walk #3

So many ideas and so little time!  Time has been hard to come by lately and I have a couple of posts that were started, but not nearly finished.  Not to mention several other topics that I would like delve into.  I figure I will begin by finishing this one about the last restoration walk and go from there.

After a delay due to snow I got a chance to head down to Ogden Point on Thursday, March 10.  For those not familiar with Victoria, British Columbia when I say “snow” I am talking about maybe 6 to 8 inches.  That is enough to keep most of us at home for a snow day as we are not accustomed to the accumulation of white stuff.  Ogden Point was the last tour in the restoration walk series offered by UVic.  I was fortunate enough to be able to attend two others: Esquimalt Lagoon & Viaduct Flats.  This walk was led by Val Schaefer, Academic Administrator of the Restoration of Natural Systems Program, School of Environmental Studies at UVic. 

Ogden Point Breakwater - taken today - in better weather...

Unfortunately we did not get lucky with the weather on March 10.  Walking on an elevated concrete sidewalk, albeit wide, with rocks and ocean on either side combined with fairly strong winds is not really ideal.  At one point I got splattered with the spray of a particularly frisky wave.  Also, a look at the sky made it pretty clear that there was rain on the way.  Accordingly, our walk was somewhat abbreviated, but in keeping with the previous tours the first order of business was a brief history lesson.