Burning Wood, Oh So Nice

As the nights grow longer and the air a bit colder, many of us are thinking about that first fire of the year.  Burning wood in a fireplace or wood stove can make almost anyone feel good.  There is a myth that burning wood is bad for the environment but actually it’s the opposite.  A few things to keep in mind are to always make sure your fireplace or stove is cleaned and never burn paper, cardboard, wet wood or anything with paint or glue on it.  Keep the fire hot, which reduces the amount of smoke going up the chimney.  Also, by closing down the damper to allow just the smoke to go up the chimney will keep more of the heat in the house.  Wood is a renewable resource unlike gas, oil and coal and if grown properly can be a great source of fuel.  When wood is burned the energy released is stored energy from the sun and the carbon dioxide is the same whether burned or left to rot on the forest floor.  When buying wood, buy local wood and stay away from the plastic wrapped bundles sold at the grocery store or gas station.  Most of that wood is not local, it is shipped thousands of miles and can even come from overseas.  So, go ahead and use wood to help heat the house, just keep it hot, use fat pine to start the fire instead of paper, and buy your wood from local suppliers.  Oh yeah and the people burning household trash in the country, now that is really bad for the environment…more information on that soon.

Plastic or Paper….. Instead Bring your own bag

On Saturday October 15th Portland, Oregon’s plastic bag ban went into effect.  Grocery stores, large box retailers and drug stores are now using paper bags  instead of those thin, hard to recycle, plastic bags.  While the paper bag is much easier to recycle then the plastic bag, the real solution is to always, always, yes always bring your own reusable bag.  Put several in your car, near your bike and even one in your school bag.  After using them at the store the best thing you can do is put them back in your car or bike bags.  The biggest excuse I hear from people is that “I keep forgetting them”.  Another sure way to never forget them is to force yourself to buy more if you leave them at home.  Our family has 20 plus reusable bags and have been using them for over 10 years.  I enjoy taking extra reusable bags with me to the store and giving them away to people who might not be able to afford them.  They are easy to clean, stronger then plastic or paper and by using them you are saving millions of barrels of oil which are needed to make plastic bags.  Some people will  be upset, and changing habits is not easy, but removing the plastic shopping bag in Portland was and is the right thing to do.  Hopefully other cities and states will follow Portland, Oregon.  It makes me proud to live in the Pacific Northwest and call Portland home.

Using bike trailer and reusable bags grocery shopping with my son.

The Pumpkin Patch Goes Green

Just as my acting career takes a back seat to being a stay at home dad and part time environmental writer, I landed a acting job as a zombie at The Pumpkin Patch Haunted Corn Maze.  The farm is located on beautiful  Sauvie Island just a few miles north of Portland, Oregon and has a proud history of being environmentally friendly.  With recycling bins located throughout the farm, the Pumpkin Patch has taken it to the next level.  All produce that isn’t “shelf quality” is donated to local shelters, used cooking oil is used to heat the maintenance shop and they compost food scraps to keep the soil on the farm healthy for future generations.  Coming this winter the Pumpkin Patch is installing solar panels to  power the farm.  The farm continues it’s Halloween tradition with it’s Haunted Corn Maze Friday and Saturday nights from 7pm-10pm and even more nights the week of Halloween. So, if you’re in the Portland area this weekend come find me at the Pumpkin Patch hiding in the corn.  Check out their website The Pumpkin Patch




5 Minute Shower

We all like a nice hot shower to wake us up in the morning but it is estimated that over 1 billion people in the world do not have access to clean drinking water.  Now is the time for all of us to step up and start saving water.  In Portland, Oregon we have some of the best drinking water in the United States,  so standing in the shower watching this natural resource wasting away down the drain got me thinking.  How about we challenge ourselves to limiting showers to 5 minutes a day or even skipping a day once in a while.  Another way to save water is to use a bucket to catch the cold water running while you wait for the water to get hot.  That water can then be used to water the garden or house plants.  Try limiting your shower to five minutes using a simple timer and before long you will be saving not only money on your water bill but helping save clean drinking water.  By reducing your shower by just one minute you could save thousands of gallons of water a year.  Other simple ways to save water in the bathroom is turning the faucet off when brushing teeth and shaving, flushing if it’s brown not yellow and my favorite is showering with a friend.  So grab a buddy, a stop watch and help the environment by reducing your shower time to 5 minutes.  Mother earth will thank you.

Low flow shower head

Toilet sink with a sign from my Grandma's Canadoan Cottage


Taco’s by bike

Living in Portland, Oregon I have seen a little bit of everything the past 6 years.  Goats being walked at the park, naked bike riders, folks in all sorts of costumes and even a dog on roller skates.  But Saturday evening while I  was at a house party in NE Portland  I saw dinner being delivered and prepared by two young cyclists pedaling tricycles.  “Taco Pedaler” is a green company that delivers fresh, organic taco’s, homemade tortillas and fresh salsa via two traditional Mexican tricycles.  Using local produce, meats and cheeses these amazing tacos are  served on compostable plates with biodegradable forks all powered by pedals.  Erica and Melanie pedal throughout Portland, setting up for several hours in different locations but always drawing huge crowds.  It’s great to see amazingly fresh, local foods being served to neighborhoods in Portland without using any fossil fuels.  As an avid cyclist and bike commuter I’m happy to share that yes I also road my bike to the party.  Check out Taco Pedaler’s website at http://www.tacopedalerpdx.com

Photo by Mark Gustafson