Posts Tagged ‘environment’

How to Save on Phantom Power

When you run an organic vegetable gardening company you get to be known as the Greenie amongst your friends.  This means each time someone finds an article or hears a story about ways to be green (and save green) they let us know.

Today a friend passed me a clipping from the Globe + Mail from back in February.  (Our friends are thoughtful if not always punctual).  It was a great overview of all the phantom power you may be consuming (and paying for) each year).  And we wouldn’t be a good friend if we didn’t pay it forward and share the good advice with you.

Here a chart of which products cost what in terms of phantom power (approximate stand by usage)

Product Annual Phantom Power Cost
Two Desktop Computers $0.29 – $11.50
Notebook Computer $0.22 – $23.00
Scanner $0.12 – $3.77
Inkjet Printer Up to $1.84
Game Console (in ready state) Up to $29.31
Stereo $0.14 – $11.31
Two Televisions $0.28 – $9.47
Set Top Box with DVR $19.91 – $20.05
Cable Modem $0.74 – $3.04
DVD/VCR player Up to $5.84
Garage Door Opener $0.83 – $3.36
Air Conditioner $0.41
Two Cordless Phones $0.46 – $1.66
Coffee Maker Up to $1.24
Microwave $0.64 – $2.25
Gas Range $0.32 – $0.78


I know that some things are harder to unplug when not in use (like the microwave) but there is no denying there is a great opportunity to be green and save green here.

We use the Belkin power adapter to help save on phantom power and we love it.  We use one in our home office, and one in our home theatre and feel good about ourselves.

What green tips do you use to save money and be planet friendly?

Eat drink and be merry.

The At Home Organic


Fooling Mother Nature: Summer Edition

I have a company that builds and maintains organic vegetable gardens for home owners, businesses, schools… everyone!  So it makes sense that I employ a few tricks to grow food faster or help extend the growing season both earlier and longer.

Like knowing which plants to plant when. 

To keep it simple, let’s split the Torontonian growing season in to two categories: Summer and Not-summer.  Or more specifically, hot and not-so-hot. 

Let’s use hot peppers as an example of a summer vegetable.  Peppers hate cold wet weather and frost often has a detrimental effect on them.  So how can you get them producing earlier in the season?

  1. For starts you must get a head start by purchasing seedlings or starting them on a sunny window on your own.
  2. Second you need to make sure they are in a warm/hot environment early on in the season when the temperature outside isn’t in the 30’s.  A simply way to do this is to grab a plastic garbage bag and cover the plant ensuring that there is soil overtop of the opening to guard against wind.  Now you have created a greenhouse effect so that you can have warmer temperatures in the bag and the plant will grow and produce faster. 

A note about pollination, I suggest that you remove the bag during the warmest point of the day to allow bees to pollinate the plant or you have to do it yourself. 

  1. Another neat trick is to put a jug of water inside the bag with the plant.  The water will warm up and slowly cool down overnight allowing you to keep warmer temperatures over night too.


Now for the not-summer plants; most greens go to seed (bolt) when the warm temperatures come in. 

  1. You need to go out of your way to make sure you search out heat loving greens during the summer to make sure you have a supply all year.
  2. Alternatively, you can setup some shade (if you already don’t have any) over top.  I like to grow ground cherries in the summer so I usually grow greens underneath the plant as there is a nice shade canopy that the plant grows into. 

A note about bolting plants.  Usually the greens turn bitter when the hot weather comes in, but if you enjoy bitter greens then make sure you clip off the flowers when they start to grow.  The plant will continue to yield leaves for a while longer.

Have any tips or tricks that have worked for you? Please share them along. 

Stay tuned for our Winter Edition of Fooling Mother Nature next week.

Eat drink and be merry.

The At Home Organic

100 Miles, 161 Kilometres or Just 10 feet?

All this talk about the 100 mile diet means that more and more people should understand the concept of the locavore

 For those who might not, the gist is that you should be able to sustain yourself and your family on food found within a 100 miles radius of your home.  And as a Canadian, 100 miles is about 161 kilometres, which seems like it’s further, which is always a plus.  Yes I understand it doesn’t have the same ring to it as 100 miles but that’s not the point.  How many yards are in a mile anyway?

 The idea is to support local growers and lessen then footprint of transporting food.  How many boxes of California strawberries did you eat last December? I know I had about 31. 

 In the modern, global economy different foods are available to us that are grown all over the world.  Locavore eating takes into consideration the fossil fuels spent in bringing that food to you. 

Some food transports leave a bigger footprint than others. For example, white truffles from Piedmont are flown all over the world whereas Moroccan tangerines are shipped by boat.  I’m not even going to get started on wine and cheese…

There are so many delicious foods that come from all over the world that would be a shame not to indulge in, but that doesn’t mean that you should not take advantage of your own capabilities. 

Why would you bother buying Californian strawberries in June when you could have your own crop right in your backyard that took only a few steps to harvest rather then a few days on a refrigerated transport truck.  Nevermind the fact that your own strawberries would be harvested at the perfect moment when they taste the best.  They also freeze well so you can have some in December too!

The same is true for so many foods that come from outside our 161 kilometre bubble.  Foods like red and green peppers are some that I find come from somewhere in the States as with many herbs and lettuces.  It is very true that there exists a longer growing season in the Southern USA but that shouldn’t stop you from growing your own foods while you can.  The more you are able to grow and harvest from your backyard the less green house emissions you are contributing to, through purchasing imported foods.

 Some skeptics may say that if you don’t buy those California strawberries that someone else will, but hopefully they’ll be Californian.  Ghandi said, be the change you want to see in the world.  I do love my truffles and French wine, but also, my mustard green lettuce, basil, thyme, dill, arugula, watermelons, tomatoes, cucumbers, ground cherries, hot peppers 10 steps from my back door.

 Eat drink and be merry.

The At Home Organic

What Cuts Your Lawn?

Gas, Electric or Good Old Fashion Push Mowers?

Yesterday (actually August 26th when I wrote this blog) I cut my lawn for the first time using a neighbour’s push mower.  It was awesome and not so awesome – usually occurring at the same time throughout the experience. 

It started with the borrowing of an old push mower that they got who-knows-where. After some liberal application of WD40, a quick sharpening and adjustment of the rear rollers I was off. 

Pushing was hard – made much worse because I hadn’t cut the grass in a while and it was a little thick and long in a few spots, but that’s my fault.  I should mention that my lawn is a little larger then your average push lawn…my property is about 20m x 40m – not a little yard.  However! I had a blast.  The old mower that I was using wasn’t the greatest model, the blades were dull and it cut fairly uneven – but after a few passes the job was done.

I did have a hard time making sure the lines were straight, but that will improve with the quality of my lawn.  I have sparse parts that don’t lend well to following tracks. 

I have been looking for a green alternative to traditional lawn cutting for a while now.  I started with a gas powered mower (which I inherited from my in-laws) but that ended quickly.  I’ve been using an electrical corded mower for a little more than a year now and have gone crazy almost every time I use it because of the cord. SO, I decided to look into push mowing.  Those of you who have done the same quickly understand that all yard tools are not created equal and there is a get-what-you-pay-for equality that’s very apparent.

There were some pro-lawn cutting guys in my neighbourhood that decided to watch me cut my lawn with a push mower, sort of giggling about it while they watched.  I briefly thought about lecturing them about the environment and their use of fossil fuels, but decided against it.  I rather enjoyed the sense of self superiority and didn’t want to spoil it.

I am very proud of myself for accomplishing this task.  I am eagerly doing research on a top of the line model with all metal parts so that I can end my insane relationship with my electric mower and sell it or something.  Maybe I’ll turn it into a leaf shredder. 

 Eat drink and be merry.

The At Home Organic

Are You a Locavore?

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