Christmas Trees – Real or Fake?

A Christmas tree farm in Iowa, United States.

A Christmas tree farm in Iowa, United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve had the debate numerous times with people about which is a more environmentally sound option, a real or a fake Christmas Tree and I have always believed that a real Christmas tree is the obvious choice.

I think some of the confusion comes from the fact that people don’t understand that there are Christmas Tree farms where the trees are grown for the specific intention of cutting them down for use at Christmas time. As the link to the story will tell you, it is actually beneficial to the environment to have these tree farms. I guess some people think that companies just drive around in remote area’s looking for Christmas trees growing wild to cut down.

Farmers do not cut down all of their trees at once so they always have trees in various stages of growth, this is beneficial to us as it serves as a wildlife habitat and helps to cleanse the air we breathe.

With all the new fake trees coming on the market it will be tougher and tougher for people to decide on a real tree but really, can you ever compare a fake tree to a real tree?  There is just something about them, that awesome smell of a real tree that you just can’t duplicate.

Of course, make sure the tree you are buying is coming from a local farm. If it has had to travel thousands of miles on the back of a truck to get here you have just upped the carbon footprint of that tree.  Also, make sure you have LED lights on that tree!

Check out this story if you are still undecided about which way to go,  I for one sure hope you decide to forgo that fake tree and buy a beautiful real tree!     If you cannot click on this link, copy and paste the link into your browser,

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Wind Farm near Tilbury, Ontario

Wind Energy

Wind Energy (Photo credit: janie.hernandez55)

I was recently driving along the 401 towards Windsor and came across a huge Wind Farm near Tilbury, Ontario just east of Windsor.

I tried to do a little research on this site but couldn’t find a lot of information. I found this site but I’m not  sure this is the correct one as it says that it will be started in the third quarter of 2012.  Judging by the site map it looked pretty close to where we were driving though.   Perhaps they are adding to the current location. My other guess is that it is a lot of little wind farms all beside each other.

According to the site the following are the benefits of wind power:

Benefits of Wind Energy

  • Is an inexhaustible resource,
  • Reduces reliance on imported fuel,
  • Benefits the environment and helps fight climate change,
  • Is compatible with mixed land use: grazing, agriculture, and hunting,
  • Creates job opportunities in local areas,
  • Provides a steady income to farmers and property-owners,
  • Strengthens the local tax base, helping to improve town services, including schools, police and fire departments,
  • Provides more direct economic impacts than new fossil fuel plants,
  • Produces energy with stable production costs, offering a hedge against other energy sources with volatile fuel markets

It is quite the site to see as most of us that were driving to Windsor all commented on it when we got there. We tried to count all the windmills on the way home but that is nearly impossible. You can’t really remember which ones you have counted as there are so many of them. We stopped well over 100 though.

I know there is a lot of opposition to wind farms and I’m not really sure why. I’m quite sure that if we had always used renewable energy as our primary source of power and now tried to build plants that used fossil fuels there is no way that anyone would agree to it, we would all think that is an insane idea.  It makes no sense at all to me.

We need to use clean and renewable sources for our energy needs. Just look around you, it can’t possible be an accident that the rate of cancers keeps rising with all the pollution we are feeding into our environment. Economically it makes no sense either, it is far too expensive to use.  Fossil fuels are not the way of the future, I think we all realize that.

I’m waiting for the day we drive past a wind farm or solar farm and we aren’t amazed by it. That’s when we will know that we have truly embraced clean energy.

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Happy Earth Day!

Yesterday I was at a birthday party for my nephew and the talk turned to different cultures  and how we disagree with some of the things that go on in different parts of the world and I got to thinking about that.

My daughter made a comment last week about how much we as North Americans consume, it went something like this – if the whole world consumed as much as North Americans do we would need five planet earths to sustain everyone. I’m not sure how accurate that statement is, however, I don’t think we can deny that North Americans consume way more than their fair share of the earth’s resources.

Oh sure, the rain forest’s are suffering, and some countries have out of control pollution but we here in North America are totally out of control when it comes to consumption and we have no idea about restraint when it comes to using the earth’s resources. It seems that everyone wants the newest gadget that comes out, we buy new furniture because we are tired of what we have.

Gone are the days when you bought a new table because yours was falling apart, now we buy a new one because something nicer has come out. It used to be that families had one main car, if they found they needed a second car you went out and bought a “beater” , now families have two new cars and then when your kids get old enough to drive they get a car as well.

My daughter commented a few days ago on how sad it is that the HOV lanes only require two people to be in the car in order to legally drive in that lane. Two people is considered high occupancy?

One of my main goals in life is to leave this planet a little better than when I came into it but I can honestly say that I don’t even know how to do that. I think my perspective on consumerism is so skewed by what goes on around me that I don’t even really know what over – consumption is. What I think is living a meager lifestyle would be considered abundance in most parts of the world.

I suppose the answer is to do my best  and take baby steps to reduce my carbon footprint. I believe every little bit helps, if we all do a little it will make a big impact.

I’ve read recently that the problem with eco- friendly products is that people use them and then just consume more. I know that there are ways to produce energy that does not use fossil fuels but perhaps the will is not there yet to mass produce, but I’m confident that one day it will be.

Today is Earth Day, I went to Starbucks today for a coffee and was pleasantly surprised when I asked how much I owed and she said, “it’s free, today is Earth Day and if you get a coffee with your tumbler, it’s free”.  I was pretty pleased with myself because I didn’t specifically bring my reusable coffee mug because of that, it’s just what I do. It will be a good day when the majority of people do that. I also went to Starbucks mostly because they really promote using a tumbler, Ok, I admit I’m addicted to their blonde roast as well but they really do promote bringing your own mug. They have signs throughout the store reminding you to bring your own mug to save resources.  I find Tim Horton’s promotion of throw away cups really sad, they really have to find a better promotion than Roll Up the Rim. Does anyone really know what they do with the cups they ask you to put in their re-cycling bins? I won’t get into that, the subject is a blog post for the future.

So as much as we have opinions on what goes on around the world and how we don’t agree with a lot of it, we really need to look at what we do as well and all try to leave this world a little better than the way we found it.

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Look How Far We Have Come

Remember years ago when we first started recycling?  It was hard to remember what you could recycle and what you couldn’t.  You also had to remember to put it in the recycle box instead of throwing it in the garbage by mistake plus you had to get everyone in the family on side.  We  had the blue and grey boxes at first, only paper in the grey box and you had to separate everything. It seemed like such a chore, funny how those things become second nature, isn’t it.

I know, we don’t have to separate anything any more but most people wouldn’t think of putting something they can recycle into the garbage. Plus we now have the composting bins that adds to what we do with our waste.

When the municipalities started to limit the amount of garbage we could throw away there was a big uproar, how were we supposed to live with all the rotting, stinking garbage we had to hold on to because we had reached our limits? I used to look forward to ‘unlimited’ garbage days so I could do extra cleaning and get rid of stuff I didn’t need.

I don’t think I cold produce two bags of garbage in one week now if I tried. This is the typical amount of garbage that we produce in one week. It always surprises me how little waste we have. How much more can I reduce this I wonder. Time to start paying attention to what is being thrown in the garbage and reduce it.

Our kids won’t remember a time when we didn’t recycle. I’m sure some would be surprised to see how much we used to throw away. It will be a good day when they also can’t remember a time when we didn’t use renewable energy, hopefully one day people will be surprised to learn that we used to rely on fossil fuels.

Development and Peace’s 2011-2016 campaign is rooted in six principles. The fourth principal is “New models of development are needed, those which prioritize the needs of the world’s poor while respecting the ecological health of the Earth. These new models require those of us living in the wealthy countries to change our lifestyles and our attitudes toward growth, and to reduce our disproportionate consumption of the world’s resources”

This statement is so very true, North America has become such a throw away society, other countries would be shocked to see the type of stuff that we dispose of.   Time to rethink our habits.


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Solar Power – My House is not Suitable

I had a representative from Certified Solar over earlier this week to get some details on installing photo voltaic panels on my house and then selling the power back to the province.

Apparently my house is not suitable for solar voltaic panels. Ideally you need a roof that faces south or south/east and I have a roof that faces east and west. East could be suitable but there are too many tall trees in the way. I wouldn’t consider taking those down, I figure leaving the trees and using fossil fuels to power my lights  is better than cutting down mature trees. We have cut down on the electricity dramatically already.

Basically here’s how it works. It costs about $82,000 to have the panels installed. Depending on what the province decides to pay for the power, they were paying .80 cents per kw but that is under review and it is suspected to be closer to .64 cents, and estimating approx 6.1 hours of sunlight per day the return would be somewhere around $1000 per month income from the power you sell back. You then need to pay your electricity bill, which would be currently what you are using, your electricity wouldn’t change, you still buy your power from your provider, the panels don’t directly supply power to your home. Then you need to pay the cost of financing the panels, I am assuming that most people don’t have $82,000 sitting around that they could pay cash for the installation. TD Bank will finance up to $50,o00 unsecured as a line of credit for the installation. So assuming you finance $50,000 of the $82,000 at 3% amortized over 20 years, your payments would be somewhere around $276 per month plus your electricity bill. Assuming that is around $150, you would have and income of approx $574 per month from the panels.

Ideally for me, I would prefer to be able to power my house with the panels, and then sell the extra back. My goal is to reduce my carbon footprint, I am not reducing my electricity but I am supplying a source of green energy.

The province will guarantee the rate for 20 years, (if my memory servers me, it is 20, could be 25), that’s a positive of course. The expected lifespan of the panels is in line with the power guarantee. It would also extend the life of your roof of course because your roof is not exposed to the elements.

Overall a positive I think. I’m disappointed that I can’t do it. I would like to connect with anyone who has done it though and get their feedback.






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Do You Know Anyone Who Has Solar or Geothermal?

I would really like to talk to people who have made any alternative energy renovations to their homes. Have you, or do you know anyone who has done any of the following:

I have talked to a few people who have tankless water heater’s and none of them were disappointed with them but I would really like to meet people who have done some of the other initiatives like solar or geothermal to get an idea of what they like or dislike about the systems.

If you do know of anyone put them in touch with me, I would love to chat with them.

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Solar Power – Selling back to Ontario Hydro

I few weeks ago I received a call from Certified Solar, a company that installs Solar Panels, and she gave me some very interesting information that she felt some of my clients could use.

She explained that you can have solar panels installed on your roof and sell excess power back to the province for extra income.  TD Bank will help with the financing by providing up to $50,000 amortized over 15 years at 1% above prime.

The benefit kicks in with Ontario Power Generation’s MicroFit program, where the OPG buys solar power at the rate of 80.2 cents a kilowatt hour from homeowners. The result can be a 13 per cent to 15 per cent returns on investment over the projected 25-year lifespan of today’s panels.

Sounds like a great idea to me. Next week I am going to call for an assessment of my home and see what this whole program is about. This could be a fantastic opportunity to cut down on my carbon footprint, learn a lot and who knows, make some money!

Check out Certified Solar’s commercial, might be something you want to look into as well. Sure seems like a win-win situation to me.


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BP Oil Spill – Putting Things in Perspective

I have just watched a You Tube video called The Conundrum, about what happens when we decide to become “green” and the problems that go along with it.

I was fascinated at the part about the BP Oil spill, while most of us were outraged by the amount of oil that was spilled into the water, and rightly so, this video puts things in perspective.

Did you know that the BP Oil spill was spewing the equivalent of 55,000 barrels of oil per day into the Gulf of Mexico, awful, isn’t it? Did you know that Americans use that much oil in 4 minutes.

During the 87 Days that the leak was active the equivalent of 5 million barrels of oil was released into the water. The world uses that much in 1.5 hours. Truly shocking!

The world uses the equivalent of 1400 BP Oil spills EVERYDAY. I’m sure while this oil was spilling, the folks at BP wanted to shout this from the rooftops.

We really need to find a way to curb our dependence on fossil fuels. We have all of the technology we need, we just need to start using it.

This reminds me of the fight that the residents of Mississauga and Oakville just had with the Ontario Power Authority about building a new power plant in Mississauga. There were a lot of people who opposed that power plant, I did for a while but then got a little disillusioned. Nobody wants that power plant in their neighbourhood, that’s a given, but never once did I hear discussion about how we can reduce our  energy consumption so we won’t need all these power plants. The area around that power plan is saturated with monster homes, being a realtor I see a lot of the homes in the area and I rarely ever see homes, old or new, that have sustainable options. The obvious thing to do would be to incorporate some of these things when you are building but I rarely see that. Now maybe there are some and perhaps those aren’t the ones going for sale because they are energy-efficient. I really hope that is the case.

At one rally, I saw numerous people showing up in Yukons and other huge vehicles, that’s when I stopped participating. Everybody wants the power but nobody wants the plant.

It’s the same with the oil spill, we are all disgusted by it, yet we don’t cut down on our own oil consumption.

Click on the link to watch the video, I promise it will get you thinking.

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Player’s Paradise Update – Good News

I posted earlier this week about Player’s Paradise in Stoney Creek and the conversation I overheard about the recycle material being thrown in with the garbage.

I emailed the facility to ask about their recycling policy and  was a little surprised to receive a response back at about 10:45  p.m  on Sunday night!

Tasha at the facility assured me that they take their recycling seriously, in fact, it is more cost-effective for them to recycle than it is for them to produce waste.

She also pointed out some of the environmentally friendly features of the facility, which I would have found myself had I searched their website a little longer. I looked at the site before my previous post but failed to find these great features:
The large insulated windows on the North, East and South side of the building allow copious amounts of daylight into the facility giving you as much natural light to play under as possible. This not only saves energy by reducing the need to have the lights on, but gives you a greater feeling of being outside.

A 10,000 gallon tank has been buried under the parking lot with a collection system in place to gather rain water and recycle it throughout the facilities toilets.

The rubber infill turf system is actually constructed from recycled tires that have been broken down, cryogenically frozen, and manufactured into the latest of turf technology.

I love the rubber infill feature, what a great way to use old tires. I also found out that they are in the process of getting approval to install solar panels on the roof that would feed back into the cities green energy grid.

So I’m pleased to say that Player’s Paradise is an environmentally friendly building that does recycle and  I wish them luck with their solar panel application.


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I Can’t Believe We Were Looking Forward to the Hydro Bill

It’s become an exciting day when we receive our hydro bill in my house. We actually look forward to it, if you can believe it, it has become a bit of a game with us.

Last year, my son, who is also environmentally inclined, decided to tackle our hydro usage. He has changed all of the lightbulbs in our house to either CFL’s or more recently LED‘s. (See my post from January 4th about LED’s), we only use LED Christmas Lights and almost anything  that is plugged in is now on a timed power bar. The only items that we don’t have on power bars are items that we need plugged in all the time. My alarm clock, the telephone, the oven and the carbon monoxide detector don’t get unplugged or powered off.  The oven could be powered off, however, it’s the only item that has a clock that we still leave on, everything else gets powered off.

Our TV, the PVR and the cable box are all powered off when not in use. PVR’s and cable boxes use a lot of power, even when they are turned off. See the chart here for examples of power usage of common items.  All of our phone chargers get powered off unless they are charging a phone. Those little devils are a really deceptive source of phantom power, they continuously draw power even when there is no phone plugged into them. An incredible amount of power is wasted in this country due to phantom power, this is power that is drawn from an item that is plugged in but not turned on. Anything that has a light, or clock draws power even if the item is not plugged into it or turned off. Even items that don’t have a light or clock can draw power, the cell phone chargers are perfect examples.

Computers that are left plugged in but not in use are another good example of wasted electricity. Laptops use a lot of power, unplug yours when you aren’t using it. Of course, even if you use CFL’s or LED’s turn lights off when you aren’t in a room.

Timed power bars are power bars that have a timer on them, you can set them to go on and off whenever you want. So you could set your TV to be powered off all day and powered on in the evening when you are home. Just to clarify, by powered off, I mean it is completely off, as if you had unplugged the unit, the TV would not turn on if you press power. So if it is set to power on between 6 and 11 pm when you are home, you would still need to turn the TV on to watch it.

I really can’t believe how easy it has become to save on our electricity, some months we have been able to cut our usage by 50 %.  According to this months statement, in the 30 days prior to January 6 2011 we used 1,726 KWH of electricity and the 30 days prior to January 3rd of this year we used 1,304 KWH of electricity, that’s a very large drop in usage. As time of day usage comes into effect if will be even more important not to be using electricity during peak hours, that phantom power we all use will really start to add up.

My son used our house, as well as a couple of others as experiments for his new business of helping consumers save on their electricity bill. I would say the experiment has been succesful and he has been able to assist some others along the way as well. It’s quite simple, for a small fee, he will do a consultation with the home owner to see how and where they use the most electricity and then he will supply a report on how to drastically reduce your usage. You can then either do it yourself, or he will bring in lights, powerbars, etc and set everything up for you.

As I mentioned, it has been a very easy transition for us, we are diligent about switching power bars off, it truly becomes a habit, and it has paid off for us. Not everyone in our household thinks green, believe me, it took a few months to get my husband on board, he hated the thought of switching things off, but as he started to see how much we saved he quickly became adjusted.

That’s why we look forward to getting the hydro bill, we want to see how much we have been able to save.

If you would like an electricity consultation contact Artigas Cruz at or by phone at 416 508 9482, he’d be happy to discuss your current situation with you.

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