Sunday, 21 March 2010

Love 'Em Or Hate 'Em

Big banks. We love to hate 'em. Canadians agree on 3 topics we love & hate to discuss: the weather, hockey (that's ice hockey, for those who are not of the Canadian persuasion) and banks. The banks who nickle and dime us to death with their silly service charges. Who have us on a leash with their mortgages. Who make record profits in times of desperate economical hardship.

Still, it could be worse, and there are alternatives. We bank at a local credit union, owned and controlled by its customers. It's small, friendly, and most of its profits get plowed back into the community. I like that concept; it's called good citizenship.

But love 'em or hate 'em: unless there's some sort of sudden monetary revolution, those banks are here to stay. So better get used to them. And as their customers, it's up to us tell them what we expect from them. How we think they should behave as good corporate citizens.

Some banks seem to listen. The TD Bank, for example, has a little-known division called "TD Friends Of The Environment Foundation". It's not big and operates on a modest budget (God forbid we seriously invest in our environment!), but has its heart in the right place.
It awards modest grants to environmentally friendly initiatives all over the country. Any Canadian organization with a charitable status can apply, and it's not complicated to do. What I like about it is does its thing quietly in the background, not blowing its own horn (much). It seems to suggest it's just something any corporation should do. I like that concept.

We only found out about it because Jacomyn was asked to participate in the board of the Thunder Bay chapter. Of course she said yes. This is a wonderful opportunity to witness from up close and personal how a big bank lives up to its promise to be a good corporate citizen. Or, will it turn out to just be another example of Greenwashing...?
For now, just the fact they invited us is encouraging. We'll keep you posted!

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Must Be Spring

This weekend we "sprung forward" to Daylight Saving Time, and we had the Seed Swap event in the Gillies Community Centre. All sure signs that spring will be soon upon us. That, and the fact it was a steamy 13C.

The Seed Swap is a wonderful local initiative, bringing people together to share, well, seeds for their gardens. Healthy, wholesome, pesticide- and genetic manipulation-free seeds. This local event has expanded beyond seeds, and now includes composters, local beekeepers, water awareness, planting & growing tips and much more - anything related to feeding a small community in an environmentally sustainable way without "big agro".

We went home with a good collection of new seeds, lots of new ideas & inspiration - and something unexpected: a brand-new cold frame, donated to us!

A cold frame, you may well ask, what the bleep is that? It's a glass-covered frame used to protect plants and seedlings from frost as well as for hardening off seedlings before they go into the ground. Very low-tech and very effective.

Our spiffy cold frame before going outside to help germinate veggies

This particular cold frame was designed and made by Jessie Pineault, a grade ll student at ESC de la Verendry in Thunder Bay. He did a great job on it, using left-over acryllic sheets used for window insulation.

So thanks to Jessie, we'll now be able to get a head start on our veggies, grown from organic seed-swap seeds!
Life can be good. Must be spring...

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Cool Kitchen Tools

One more thing about last week's Duluth Sister Cities delegation we had the pleasure to host. Not only was it a pleasant experience, they also left us an interesting gift: a very cool cutting  board made out of recycled card board, made locally (i.e. Duluth) by Epicurian!

 It's well-designed, tough, knife-friendly, even dishwasher safe. And it's got these cool-looking silicone gripper edges so it won't slide all over your counter top.

And not only that: the company has some inspiring ideas about how to run a business in an environmentally responsible fashion, investing in wind power, using renewable and/or recycled resources, diverting nearly all excess heat and materials to a co-generation plant, and only using non- or low VOC-emitting manufacturing processes.

You gotta love it when a company sees the bigger picture and not just the bottom line - and makes a good product to boot! Check them out at