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5 Painless Ways to BE GREEN!

Okay, so maybe a few more than five....I got a little carried away. But first, let me explain.
Too many of us out there are full of good intentions but are too stressed out, busy or overwhelmed to make the effort it takes to be green. Most of us mistakenly think it's too much work. Well, it doesn't have to be. With a little creativity (and some fettucini), we can all save the world in our spare time (even if we don't have much time to spare).

Watch the video here

Okay, so maybe a few more than five....I got a little carried away. But first, let me explain.
Too many of us out there are full of good intentions but are too stressed out, busy or overwhelmed to make the effort it takes to be green. Most of us mistakenly think it's too much work. Well, it doesn't have to be. With a little creativity (and some fettucini), we can all save the world in our spare time (even if we don't have much time to spare).
Watch the video here

Here are some things you can do to go green where you'll barely feel the effort (and probably save some money!)

1. Wash your clothes in cold water. If you're using a good quality eco-friendly laundry detergent, there's likely no difference at all in cleanliness. AND you're going to save a ton of money! Check out these figures from Hydro Quebec578:
If you follow the link, you'll see a very interesting chart about what you spend via your appliances.
As for laundry, here's some pretty compelling math:
Let's assume you're washing a full load of laundry (which, by the way, is the most efficient way to wash. Half loads are wasteful):
Cold water wash = $0.02 per load
Warm water wash = $0.21 per load
Hot water wash = $0.47 per load

For a single person who doesn't have a lot of laundry to do, the savings maybe be modest. But the moment you're talking more than 2 loads of laundry a week, the money begins to mount!
At 2 loads a week, your annual hydro bill will look like this:
Cold wash = $2.08
Warm wash = $21.84
Hot wash = $ 57

So, if you do something as simple as switching to cold water while washing your laundry (which is hardly a lifestyle change), you could save $54.92 per year
And the more laundry you do, the more you save, so bigger families (who can probably use the extra cash, take note!)

2. Make your own low-flow toilet!
In an ideal world, you'd be able to renovate your bathroom and install a dual flush system (that has two separate buttons for "number 1" and "number 2" flushes). And if you are handy (and have a couple of minutes for this Youtube video), you can modify your toilet tank to use water from hand-washing to flush! But if you're a klutz like me, and a renter to boot, forget the expensive reno. Just get yourself a glass or plastic bottle (finally a good use for THOSE bad boys!), fill it with water to weigh it down. Then, press flush and WHILE YOUR TANK IS EMPTY, place the full bottle in the tank. It will displace water and make your tank THINK it's full. Meanwhile, every time you flush, you'd be using less water! Yay!

3. Get a "No Junk Mail" sticker from your local eco-cartier (or just make one!) Heck, make some for friends and neighbours and banish those horrible reams of useless paper (and plastic bags) that show up every week to tempt you into buying things you don't really need. Phew!

4. THE RE-USABLE SHOPPING BAG: Yes, l know what you're thinking. Ahh, the nag! That's such an obvious one! Oh yeah? Well, it turns out that a recent CROP poll showed that 34% of Quebeckers STILL don't know that you can even recycle plastic bags (so they've been throwing clean ones in the trash). Plus, it takes Cascades $84 dollars to recycle a ton of plastic that has a market value of $10. I could go on and on (let's not even talk about the bags that end up being used as trash bags (more bags, more plastic) and therefore can't be recycled). JUST STOP! Buy yourself some beautiful, chic (but cheap) fabric bags. I love my Envirosacs They're beautiful, sturdy, lightweight and go EVERYWHERE with me. I'm super disorganized, hey? But with a couple of these in my purse (you can throw them in your car or hang 'em on your keychain), you can shop on a whim and never worry about using another plastic bag! So there!

5. Bring your own mug and spoon C'mon, mugs are cheap. Most of us have too many at home. Bring one to the office and use it on your coffee break. And talk to other folks and ask them to join the trend. Can you REALLY live with your one-use styrofoam cup of coffee sitting in a landfill for 400 years? When I look at just how much java our newsroom alone consumes, well... it makes my heart beat a lot faster than just the caffeine can! So ditch the styrofoam and make a statement!
And don't forget a spoon (or finger) to stir your coffee with.
138 billion plastic stir sticks end up in landfills in north america alone each year.
For all the times you forget your spoon, stock your coffee enclave with fettucini instead!
(I know I said linguini in my piece... I apologise to my Italian compatriots... doh! is all I can say in my defense!)

6. Change to CFL bulbs They've come a long way since the flickery, blue nightmares they once were. If you don't have a lot of capital, just change one or two in highly trafficked areas (like the bathroom). You'll end up saving $30 per bulb in hydro dollars over the course of its lifetime. That can add up. And if you feel like you're uncomfortable with the safety aspects of compact fluorescent bulbs, this might help.

7. Water your lawn either early in the morning or after sunset
Your plants will have much longer to absorb the water before it evaporates, and you'll save water because you have to use less!

8. If you drive, inflate your tires!

Flattish tires produce drag. It's unlikely you'll save a queen's ransom in gas, but you WILL have to replace your tires much less often. And THAT'S money saved!

9. Use rechargeable batteries! Yes, okay, towards the end of their lives, they do tend to run down faster or less predictably than regular batteries, but you'll save tons of money in the long run once you switch. How much? Well, the initial cost of rechargeables IS higher. It'll cost about $30 with a pack of 4 rechargeable pencil cells and a battery charger. The average Duracell pack of 4 AA batteries costs about $5. So if you merely use your rechargeables 7 times, you've saved money. And I'm told you can run them through at least 20 cycles if not 50! So, umm, maybe all that could be money towards an ipod or similar lithium-powered device (that just sucks juice off your computer to charge up).

10. Unplug vampire devices: Standby power (or the electricity used by devices like your video or microwave while they're supposedly turned off) apparently costs as much as 7% of the average family's hydro bill! Now I'll admit that the idea of going around the house unplugging every single device (especially with plug points being behind furniture etc) is a nightmare. I resisted this particular "be green" move for the longest time myself. BUT, a power strip could be the answer to your problems.

You'd have just ONE switch to turn off. And if you can find one with a longer chord, you can position it conveniently as well!

Do YOU have an idea that can help folks be green without spending too much time or money? I'd love to hear it. Almost all of these ideas were inspired by conversations with friends and colleagues. I'd love to have you join the conversation. Leave me a comment or call our talkback line: (514) 597-5626

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Comments (8)

Eric Huelin


It should be more like


1. If you like using hot water, use hot water! Who is it gonna hurt, not the ecology? Hydro Quebec make the cleanest electricity in the world. And if detergents were bad for the environment then they would be banned form use it only makes sense. So get the one that smells the nicest that makes your laundry feel the softest.

2. Make your own low-flow toilet! This mean you only have to flush 3 times instead of once. OK maybe it works for some no t for me and remember your efforts are pointless if you live in Montreal since at any time of the day a constant 10% of all the water made to flow in the city pipes are lost to underground leaks.

3. Get a "No Junk Mail" sticker means you still get a Publisac hooked to your mailbox, you still get ads with your address on it. It means that millions of tons of paper is still used every day to make ads. You want to feel better about doing your part for the environment write your MP on banning mailed paper advertising bulk or otherwise.

4. No need to drag a bag with you. You got the so-called biodegradable plastic bags available at all stores, remember that line they fed you. Instead let's make a law that add a penalty tax to stores that offer free bags.

5. Yes do bring your coffee mug cause when no one is looking steal all the foam cups and sticks.

6. Change to CFL bulbs, they last half as long as regular bulbs so you need to buy more, they weigh more so you're adding more weight and also more mercury to the landfill. None are made here so they all have to be shipped from China.

If you follow theses band-aid solutions it only makes it worse. It gives you a false sense of comfort in the abusive ways we want to keep and preserve. You should feel guilty about the environment but not by what you do but what you let happen in the world you live in. Everything in this guide is equivalent to a mosquito trying to stop a lion.

Posted June 17, 2008 07:45 PM



In response to Eric's comment, I'd like to debunk some myths. First of all, going green is a process. And everyone has to start somewhere. Some, for reasons of personality, background, financial status and time, are more committed than others. More and more of us are finding ways to reduce our impact on the environment that fit with our lifestyles. But many are still struggling. This guide was for them.
You can't expect the average person to suddenly go all eco any more than you can expect a pack-a-day smoker to quit cold turkey. It's unlikely, is all.
So Eric, I hope you're implementing some of the changes you suggest (like writing your MP, etc), but I'm a little disturbed by some of the "facts" you've stated. Some of them (as far as my research shows me) are not true at all. For starters: I don't know where you shop, but most grocery stores DO NOT offer biodegradable plastic bags. And even those use corn and may not be entirely eco-friendly(i.e. they use wood fibre which DOES break down, but also regular plastic bits which get smaller but never fully biodegrade). So it's IMPERATIVE to get into the habit of using as few plastic bags as is possible.
Secondly, I've been using my flush the way I described it in my piece and I don't need to flush any more often than I did before we put in the bottle. Most north American tanks have TOO MUCH water in them. And really, if you take a pee, do you really need 10 litres to wash it down?

Posted June 18, 2008 02:35 PM



I DO support a plastax. And the lack of good sustainable environmental policy frustrates me as much as the next person. But we all have to start somewhere and going green is a habit. Like all habits, good or bad, it will probably start small and gain momentum. I just want to give folks a viable place to start.

Posted June 18, 2008 03:02 PM



Even better than decreasing the amount of water used for a flush, why not reduce flushes? Do you really need to flush EVERY time? Adopt the "Two Pee Policy" and you can reduce your number of flushes and amount of water used by nearly 50%!

Posted June 23, 2008 11:43 AM

Eric Huelin


Re to: Geeta. My point was to show that at one time the so called biodegradable plastic bags made us all feel like we were being green by using them. Feeling better without making a real difference only makes it worse.


1. Favor locally made products over shipped products. This will reduce the amount of pollution all those truck travel to deliver goods that may already be available at your local store and made locally.

2. Download music and movies or rent movies rather than buying movies. It reduces the amount plastic when they eventually find the same path as those millions of VHS tapes.

3. Too often I see at small hours of the night tall empty office buildings with all the lights on and every monitor on. Remember screen savers don't save electricity. Last person out shuts off all the lights.

4. In winter wait til you have many errands to do if you need to use your car. The time your car heats up is when your car is the most polluting. A block heater helps only marginally. Don't leave your engine plugged in all night, only plug it in a few hours before you intend to drive. You can use a timer. Also a block heater wears out the oil prematurely by cooking it.

5. Drive in anticipatory mode, countless times I see people floor it when the light goes green but the next light just ahead just turned red. Traffic lights don't change that fast so why waste fuel just rush to get to the next red light. Coast your vehicle as often as possible. Learn the patterns of your traffic lights. If you know ahead of time that there is no point in rushing then it's pointless to floor it and you'll save on break wear too.

6. 2 TV Myths busted. A TV uses less energy if left on rather then just turning them on when needed. A TV won't wear out faster if you turn it on and off. In truth a CRT TV fails when air eventually enters the tube blurring the picture or burning out the cathode. Plasma and LCD depend on time spent on to determine its life cycle.

Posted June 26, 2008 08:46 PM



I understand what you were trying to point out in your first post about the small impact of those small actions, but Geeta is right that change is a slow evolution, so starting with the small things can very well lead to more significant things.

I make huge efforts to be green, all the while knowing that my individual actions are equivalent to the grain of sand that stuck to my nephew’s pinky when he stepped put of his sandbox. But I do it anyway because I know it does actually matter. We all have to do our part and someone has to go first and lead the way. Hopefully my actions will inspire others and then that grain will become a handful, and then the handful, a bucketful, etc, etc.
We have to start somewhere, and progress from there.

So, I just wanted to point out a few misleading comments you made.
Regarding our “clean” hydro electricity. Yeah, once the dam is there, it produces relatively clean power, but that is very misleading, especially here, because:

1- For every kilowatt-hour (that’s a unit of energy) that you don’t use, it can be in turn sold to other provinces like Ontario or neighbouring states, who use polluting sources of power. So when you don’t use it, it can actually result in someone else not using energy from a coal fired power plant.

2- Hydro QC is planning to build new mega-hydro dam projects in the next few years, such as the controversial Romaine River project. Why? Because we need more dams to support our gluttonous use of energy in Quebec. New dams are environmental disasters. They flood HUGE swaths of Canada’s Boreal forest, thus not only reducing our natural carbon sinks, but also releasing huge amounts of methane (a very, very potent GHG) due to the flooding, and they destroy huge natural habitats. New mega-dam projects are not all that green.

Posted July 5, 2008 01:45 AM



As for the comment about how products would not be for sale if they were bad for the environment… well that, no offence, is a ludicrous comment. I can name you hundreds, if not thousands of products for sale that have a negative impact on the environment. Um, ever heard of that little niche market of petroleum products and gasoline? I think that is sold occasionally for a few things. Big, gas guzzling cars, oh, they don’t have any impact on the air or the climate. That low quality gadget from the dollar store wrapped in tons of packaging and shipped over from China? Nah, I’m sure that was environmentally benign. Get my point? Even things that are bad for human health used to be common and still are. At one time lead pipes, asbestos filled insulation and PCB filled transformers were the norm. Canada is just now evaluating thousands of chemicals that have been sold to us for decades… Just because you can buy it, does not mean it is not harmful.
OK, I think I’ve said enough.

Posted July 5, 2008 01:57 AM

a campion


In respond to Eric, my dear after & years you haven't changed, still stuck in another world. Get with the program and be more oppen to the problem that everyone is living.

Posted February 5, 2009 11:08 PM

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