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The Dark Side of Black Friday Shopping

Black Friday shopping starts today and with The National Research Federation predicting sales for 2012 will increase over this US holiday – it seems that the movement to boycott this shopping day is not working. I’ve written about Black Friday in the past (click here) but this year I asked my friend Barb from Gibsons Recycling Depot to give me a glimpse into the after effects of consumerism through the eyes of a person who is an expert on personal waste. Hopefully the message of over-consuming is not missed by those planning on shopping Black Friday deals. You see, Barb sees the ugly side of the holidays and she also sees the side of Black Friday few people know. The majority of people see this method of shopping as a way to save a few dollars and perhaps even help support the US economy. What a recycling depot sees are the tons of un-opened gifts that start arriving in the trash after the holidays. Gift wrap and discarded gifts (that were never opened from their packaging!!)  are the dark side of a recycling depot in January. Face it or not, when you are purchasing a gift based off price – you are not shopping with any sort of Eco-conscience. When you are shopping based only from cost alone – several things are happening:

– the product is probably manufactured overseas. So how does purchasing it help the US or local economy?

– the product might be unsafe with lead or phthalate levels because the cheapest materials have been used in manufacturing.

– consumers overspend. We all probably head to the Walmarts of the world with a list but we look around and start seeing items in bins for $1. Thinking we can’t possible give up a bargain like this we buy it.

– stores that offer the greatest sale discounts are big box and do not think about packaging or the huge footprint it took to transport the product into their store. Is the cost of that $1 trinket still only $1 if it will exist on earth for 100s of years after it’s been trashed? Is that item still $1 if it’s wrapped in plastic or Styrofoam that cannot be recycled? The facts are – when the toll on the earth is so great from that $1 item – it’s true cost is no longer $1.

Barb actually gave me a quote today that was amazing and I’d like to share it. She works at one of the most progressive recycling depots in Western Canada. I’ve been there, seen how much they can recycle, so it’s important to listen to someone who knows waste.

We are culturally conditioned to want to create displays of abundance. In most cultures and history there is feasts and gifts, so we must create behavioral changes where we create and satisfy those needs but without all the consumption and waste. We need to get into “creative abundance” where maybe we put photos under the tree and everyone shares memories and stories about each other, Maybe those old plastic farm animals toys become symbols of donations we have given to aid organizations in someone else’s name. I see the ghosts of Christmas past throughout the year, bags of awful plastic toys, useless products…

To put a visual along with this quote from Barb, I found a video published by our friends at The Story Of Stuff. It’s called Tis The Season To Get Trampled… and it is driving the movement to ‘Buy Nothing Do Something’ over Thanksgiving this year. I sat and watched this video with my children and their mouths just hung open. Then of course they giggled because they couldn’t believe adults act like this over stuff! Have a watch with your children and then try to justify going shopping later that evening. You might just decide to stay in and choose family over frenzy.

Barb has also given me some stats regarding Canadian waste over the holiday season. I’m posting these facts so that you can think about personal waste while starting your Christmas shopping. Will you be contributing to another person’s personal waste by your gift giving choices?  Thanks for these Barb!

Every person will throw away an average of 110lbs of waste this holiday season

3,000 tons of foil will be used

Canadians will consume 4.3 million turkeys.

2,6 billion greeting cards will be sent

27.8 million real Christmas trees will be decorated

7.3 million fake trees will be purchased

6 millions rolls of tape will be used

250,000 tons of plastic packaging will be discarded

So with the high level of greenwashing that happens from ‘green gift lists’ this year – cut through the crap and ask yourself 3 questions: where is this made? what is it made from? how do I get rid of it? If you can get a positive answer on any of these questions while your shopping – you are no longer shopping based purely off price. You are now shopping based off price and thinking like an Eco Ninja – which is way cooler. Happy Thanksgiving to my readers in the US!

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ImagiBRICKS™ Giant Building Blocks

I needed to purchase an older sibling gift for a special 3 year old recently and it had to be awesome because an older sibling gift should be better than the baby gift!  The baby certainly won’t notice and it helps keep the older sibling feeling important and recognized. When I spotted the ImagiBRICKS™ Giant Building Blocks on the Organically Hatched site – I knew I found the gift! My sons had these blocks when they younger (ages 5 and 7) and we got such great use from them!  The best part of toys made from a highly recyclable material is when it’s time to dispose of the item I know I haven’t stuck my friend with a lump of plastic that will be destined for the landfill. My boys played hard with these blocks – stacking, building forts, jumping, pretending to avoid boiling lava on the floor, and building stair cases; just hours and hours of fun so they were in no shape to donate when it was time to say goodbye to the blocks. The blocks went out to curbside recycling and it was great to not feel guilty about sending another broken toy to the landfill.  Gotta love a happy ending! Here is a picture of the older sibling gift of blocks in action that shows their great size and how sturdy they are:

Further lending to the green level of this product, the ImagiBRICKS™ Giant Building Blocks are manufactured in the USA, made from recycled materials, printed with non-toxic inks, and their design makes them sturdy for all types of play. The recommended age on the box is 18 months + and I would give that range a rather long leash. I’m hoping to purchase a few of these sets for Christmas presents and the children’s ages range between 2-5. The blocks come in a very large box so this is something to keep in mind if shipping long distances. I know as a green gift presenter it’s nice once in a while to have a big box to give a little kid (it just gets them so excited) if you sometimes feel self conscience that your green gifts are always one of the smaller boxes.

My thanks to Organically Hatched for having these blocks in stock and ready for quick pickup! I love that the message of supporting local is reaching mainstream this Christmas. There truly is a movement sweeping North America and it feels good to shop with small businesses that have options made on this continent!

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Car Seat Reycling and Depot Tour

I’ve been given wings to fly from UsedVancouver.com – a company that is allowing me to put my wishes for the environment into action. They are a classified site where people list or buy used items so talking about up-cycling and reusing is right up their alley. We just completed an awesome car seat recycling campaign and the reaction to this community project was fantastic. Car seats are probably the toughest item to dispose of with an earth friendly focus (read this article to understand why) so it felt great to assist with keeping 44 car seats out of the landfill! And yesterday I had the pleasure of delivering these car seats to Gibsons Recycling Depot because they deconstruct car seats and recycle the metal and plastic from the base and straps. UsedVancouver.com absorbed the cost of this initiative and needs to be recognized for their dedication to community projects.

I first learned about Gibsons Recycling Depot when writing my predictions for 2012 and thinking about ownership of waste. Talking to their staff and checking out their website really inspired more meaning to what being Eco-conscience with consumerism is all about. Thinking about the life cycle of a product before we buy it is so important to our health and the environment.  Now after physically visiting the depot, I had another light bulb moment about improving my consumer footprint and it’s a sign located as you drive into the depot with a simple, but important message “what do things really cost?” I took a picture and it’s included below:

 

You just need to tour your local recycling depot to understand the answer to that question. Your answer might be different than mine, but I interpret it to mean that the little things we as consumers purchase – things that we don’t need to survive (clothing, shelter, food, education) that we can afford in the moment because they seem affordable and give us temporary/instant gratification. These items have a higher cost than we think. An example is the plastic toy that costs $2 and seems like a really inexpensive purchase, but what happens when you try to get rid of that toy in 5 years? It can’t be recycled and will hang around in the dump and outlive your children..is the true cost of that toy still $2?  No it’s not. And when you visit a recycling depot like Gibsons, you see the true cost of ‘stuff’. They have a place to put almost everything and if it can’t be recycled – they try to sell it in a little make-shift store. I’ll never forgot the container (where items go that need to be taken to the landfill) with plastic toy trucks around the top. There are containers for most plastics, tin cans, glass, dirty wood, clean wood, etc. but these toys were made up of too many pieces of non-recyclable parts. It’s what I pointed out to my son that I brought with me for a ‘field trip’ because it resonated with me. The true cost of these items can no longer be measured in what the owner originally paid – the cost of having something last on earth forever has a high cost.

But, don’t think I came away disheartened – actually it was the opposite. When you see how efficient a recycling depot is, the knowledge the staff has, and know items are closing the loop on their life cycle – it’s inspiring. My favorite part of the depot was the glass recycling section. For people that think that glass is too heavy, too expensive, etc. as a food packing option – if the glass gets to a recycling depot…magical things happen. The glass is sorted into different colors (green, brown, clear) and then tumbled in a huge machine and broken down into cullet. There are so many uses for glass and because it can be recycled an infinite amount of times – it’s a great material. Some uses are ingredients in paint or building supplies, sand on beaches, ceramic tiles, fiberglass, etc. If you look at the top picture with the sign, the white material that looks like snow is actually glass that’s been recycled into beach sand. Here is the glass going up the conveyor to become cullet:

 

So this week I got to complete a project of collecting car seats and delivering them to a recycling depot that is clearly setting the bar high with their dedication to efficient disposal – it’s been amazing to be on these field assignments and I thank UsedVancouver.com for sponsoring. I share my experience and highly recommend parents taking their children to see the behind the scenes of a recycling depot before the holiday season approaches. A clear message from my tour is how wasteful the holidays can be with people just buying to ‘buy’. Giving stuff that doesn’t have purpose or meaning needs to be curbed and helping children to realize what is truly important with gift giving or celebrating can be redefined and still create memories and fun. We just need to be creative and think about where things go after we are finished using them!

Related Articles:

My Guest Post for The Soft Landing called ‘New Year’s Prediction – Ownership of Waste

Who Should Shop At Thrift Stores?

Spoooky Disposable Tableware

Baby and Children’s Car Seats – How To Dispose or Reuse?

A Greener Christmas Plan

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Gamewright for Summer Fun!

Ever summer I like to find something new to keep down-time fun with four kids at home. So far this summer has been great for my kids understanding when their allotted screen time is over – it’s time to go read, play a game or head into the yard. I immediately thought of Gamewright because the last 3 card games we purchased were fantastic and that’s saying a lot since I was slightly addicted to Uno a few years back. <smile> Have you ever heard of the Gamewright games: Sleeping Queens, Rat-A-Cat-Tat, or Too Many Monkeys? They are awesome for ages 5 and up (we have a 16 year old cousin that loves them too) which is great in my house with different aged children. The only thing about these specific 3 games is they work better for 1-1 play. In our house we hold mini tournaments and kids just play the winner each time, but my clan is an impatient lot. Well Gamewright sent us their new card game called Zip Zap and it’s been super effective for keeping my kids busy for hours, again perfect for kids of different ages, plus all 5 of us can play together. It’s the only card game I’ve played that is actually more fun the more kids you have.

The basic jist of the game is you deal cards of different color sets and numbers up to 10. It’s a game of speed and each person is trying to get rid of the 9 or 12 cards dealt to them so they can ‘win’ the game and be first out. But you want to get rid of cards that are worth higher points because you play a full round and keep score for each game – tallying up points for the number of cards left in your hand. The person with the total lowest number wins. Great for strategic development, colors, numbers and quick thinking. It took many video attempts because the excitement level gets high but I’ve embedded my first video below for a product review!  It’s really cool because my older sons are always helping my daughters play even though they’ve developed excellent strategies for winning..my boys are almost unbeatable at this point so the game is challenging and fun for me to play too!  Here’s a quick video of a full game with three of my kids playing (ages 6, 6, and 10).

Thank you for sending me this card game to review Gamewright!  My kids and I love your card games and I’m glad to share our fun. For those that don’t know – Gamewright actively includes children in the development of these games. It must be why they are so entertaining and unique. For younger children, I would recommend the card game Too Many Monkey (ages 4 and up), Zip Zap (ages 5 and up), Rat-A-Tat-Cat (ages 6 and up), and Sleeping Queens (ages 6 and up). Can’t say enough about how much my kids love Sleeping Queens and Zip Zap. Go online to the Gamewright site to find out where these games are sold or ‘like’ their fanpage to hear about new games!

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Movie Review: The Lorax

I have been so excited to see the release of our favorite Dr. Seuss book classic The Lorax on big screen. I was most excited to see the Trufulla trees because I’ve loved them for so long…to see them move, get a sense of their texture, colors and beauty was a big treat. We returned home from the theater a few hours ago and I’ve been buzzing to write down my thoughts. It would be easy to hate a remake of a book that has meant so much to me personally and my children, but this movie is a good thing. It’s coming at a great time in the world where greenwashing is high, our love of excess is also high, and the wise reminders from The Once-Ler need to be heard. A few of my kids commented they found the movie a bit depressing and I have to agree at the beginning. You are introduced to a world where everything is plastic. Then you see the outskirts of this town and everything is dark, bleak, and barren. I also thought my twins might get scared of the Once-Ler when he’s in the tower looking out through the blinds, but this wasn’t a problem. The movie weaves through the retelling of the book The Lorax told by The Once-Ler. You don’t get his side of the story in the book, so it’s amazing through the magic of the movie to understand how greed and power are an easy lure. But before all the Truffula Trees disappear you get to see them on the big screen and they are beautiful. The forest of Truffula trees is amazing…it’s how you’d imagine it from the book. My kids also really like how funny the Humming-Fish are in the movie…kind of understated humour and they got it and liked it!

I’m not going to go through the entire movie with this review. I want people to watch it and don’t want to spoil it. I do want to talk about my two favorite scenes in the movie and they are so understated (and brilliant) but I don’t think you’ll mind if I share them.

When the Once-ler cuts down the first Truffula tree to make a sneed, the Lorax pops out of the tree stump. We know this part from the book. But in the movie I love how the character The Lorax starts to place rocks around the tree stump and it’s a beautiful moment where he works with the animals to create a monument around something of great importance that has died.  The animals in the forest (Humming-Fish and Bar-ba-loots) all lend a hand and soon the stump is surrounded by rocks. They flash to this stump at the end of the movie when all the trees have been cut down. This was understated brilliance number one from the movie.

My other favorite part in the movie was when Betty White’s character (the very fun and wise grandmother in the movie) sees the Truffula seed her grandson is given and says to the seed “Oh!  I remember you!” and is so excited. You see, she is the only character in the movie that actually remembers what a real tree looks like. I haven’t seen the movie producers or other movie reviewers talk about the importance of giving a grandparent such a key role in the film, but I think it’s brilliant that she is one of the main characters and heroes in the movie. I wonder if they are making reference to how today’s society is moving towards harkening back to how our grandparents did things in our desires to become more ‘eco’. Actions and everyday life that is ‘green’ to us was just how it was more than 60 years ago. Plastic did not exist and the environment was treated with so much more respect, but it wasn’t out of a way to be ‘green’ or ‘cool’ . . . it simply just was.  If they meant to do this – I got the message loud and clear. Relying on the expertise and knowledge of the grandmother in the movie truly helps save the day in the film and she was my favorite character.  A good lesson to take away from the movie – learn from older generations. They have so much knowledge on how to do things better…that includes not indulging in over-consumption of  ‘things’ and ‘stuff’.

I was expecting to face palm or roll my eyes at the ‘romantic’ element in the movie. I mean, really, it’s Dr. Seuss. . . but unlike other parents I’ve heard make mention of the romantic story-line, it was very low-key and gave the older crowd in the audience a laugh.  The elephant in the room I do need to write about is the amount of commercialism associated with The Lorax.  I’m a rational enough person to separate commercialism via car sponsorship, toys, and many other items of Lorax merchandise we don’t need….but is everyone? I’ve read the uproar over Mazda using the ‘Lorax approved’ button to sell gas fueled cars but the sponsorship relationship that got me upset was the one signed with Target. For me, Target (which we don’t have in Canada) is an equivalent of Walmart (which we have plenty of in Canada) and why this company was given the rights to distribute and mass commercialize this movie still has me shaking my head. If the movie producers wanted to really make a statement, they would have not have made more ‘stuff’ that adds to the problem of over-consumption and greed that is so harmful to the environment. This is the goal of the movie – to educate against consumption. “Biggering and biggering” was the problem and the song routine that really drove home these words and also included messages of greed and power. In my opinion, this was a colossal error and I encourage parents to not buy that stuffie or plastic toy their child wants with the Lorax’s face attached and explain to the child why you’re not buying the toy. Take that opportunity to talk about the message and true goal from the book and movie.

I think all parents and children will learn a positive message from the movie The Lorax. Not all children (especially young ones) are able to truly understand what Dr. Seuss  was trying to tell us from the book The Lorax. Sometimes it’s easier to see it on the big screen where there is more detail and a longer timeline to get the message across. I asked my sons what message they took away from the movie and Angelo responded “unless people care a lot about nature, bad things will happen to it”.  It was my older son’s short response that really surprised and delighted me “only take what you really need from nature”.  I’m glad I have a reference point now with my younger daughters when we talk about plastic toys, nature, and our own consumption. It is much easier to point to messages from the movie with the younger crowd. Thumbs up and I’m excited to see change inspired by the retelling of this brilliant and beautiful story!!

Related Articles:

I loved looking back on the article I wrote about the book The Lorax from 4 years ago. I still love the book this much and take away a new message every time I read it to my children. Here is the post:

The Greenest Book You’ll Buy….and It’s Dr. Seuss!

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