Bruce, My Pet Worm | Build Back Better

Washington (GGM) Analysis | June 12, 2021 by Catherine Zacuto, M. Ed.; source expert contributions from Pamela Scaiff 

Some people fall easily into the “dog people” category, some into the “cat people” one. If you are not either of those, you may be a “worm person.” Even if you love dogs and cats, you might be surprised to discover the advantages of worms for your lifestyle and your garden. Though not cuddly, worms make great pets. They don’t smell, they are clean, and they don’t have to be fed every day (or even every week). Worms don’t disturb the neighbours. They have a symbiotic relationship with insects. Worms don’t need pet sitters when you go away for a month. Even if you don’t need a new pet, the advantages of worms are worth investigating.

Friend or Slimy Bug? 

According to Pamela Scaiff, a Canadian sustainability expert, worms are both the perfect pets and partners in growing an eco-friendly garden. Pamela, who’s been living a sustainable life since 2010, recognizes the value and fun of raising worms. (She calls her worms Bruce, after the “Monty Python” philosophers sketch where all the professors are called Bruce.) Worms are a natural way to fertilize plants and aerate the soil without harming the ecosystem. Because living sustainably, in harmony with nature, is our goal, worms are the way to go. 

Act Now for the Earth Cafe wants you to join our ecosystem and have fun learning valuable tips about nature, carbon drawdown & sustainability. We’re all about community. Be a part of our vibrant ecosystem by CLICKing here today and checking out Earth Cafe!

What are the benefits of worms?

The principle advantage of worms is the natural fertilizer created by worm castings. Pamela calls this “the uppity word for worm poop.” This “black gold” yields nutrients that create strong and healthy plants and provides a viable alternative to harmful chemicals. At the same time, worms aerate the soil, allowing the roots of your plants to easily absorb the nutrients necessary for healthy growth. A secondary advantage, according to Pamela, is that worms are fascinating. From starting the bin, to adding the worms, to harvesting the casings, the journey is engaging and fruitful. 

Check out worms’ other benefits:

  • Increased soil nutrition from worm castings rich in nitrogen and adding four times the phosphorous that’s normally found in soil
  • Improved drainage and water storage, helping  alleviate drought and extreme heat conditions
  • Water infiltrates the soil more easily
  • Plant roots often descend lower and reach more water and nutrients
  • Improved soil structure
  • Improved productivity

How can I get started? Following simple guidelines will help you create and maintain healthy worm bins. Pamela began with a very small collection of Red Wiggler worms and worm cocoons and has had great success. She created an expert list of steps to get you started:

Location. First, decide where you are going to keep the bin – indoors or out. If you live in a cold environment, indoors is best. (Be selective about what you add to it, though, to avoid odors.)

The Container. Get a ratty old Rubbermaid tote — not the big kind, but the smaller one. Red Wigglers are surface dwellers, which means they are happiest just below the surface, not down deep. Drill air and drainage holes all over the tote, including the lid. (Pamela’s worms don’t escape because they don’t like light and also her bin is not toxic – so far). 

The Habitat Ingredients. Pamela recommends the following generally agreed upon ingredients for your bin:  

Browns: To keep your bin balanced, absorb liquid, and cool, you need bedding (carbon). Pamela uses shredded newspaper, egg cartons, coconut coir, manure, and more.

Greens: Add food scraps (they don’t have to be green). But be mindful about what you use. Brassicas like broccoli and kale cause odors. Acidic food such as onions and citrus upset the worms. 

Grit: Grit helps worms digest. Some (but not all) possibilities include sand, used coffee grounds (no longer acidic), and ground eggshells (they can’t use the shells otherwise.)

Water: Pamela advises, “Goldilocks style: too much and the bin goes anaerobic, starts to smell, and all kinds of bugs flourish. Not enough and your worm castings dry out and become useless.”

Compost: Add a handful of compost to inject helpful bacteria into your bin and get it working.

Worms: Many different varieties of worms will work. Pamela prefers red wigglers. Earthworms are an option, but they are not as productive as the red wigglers. They also escape more often.

Feeding your Worms

Pamela feeds her worms 2 – 4 times a month, and only when there is no food or almost no food left. You may need to adjust the time period as your worms grow. Be careful not to overfeed them, or it will be too much to process before it gets smelly or hot.

Here is Pamela’s formula, in her own words: 

Bedding: I rip up newspaper and egg cartons.

Greens:  Apparently, the worms love avocados and bananas. So, I chop up banana peels, gleefully much the brown bits of avocados… and freeze them. The freezing helps speed up the decomposition by breaking membranes. Only at this stage will the worms be able to eat them. I have added science experiments from the fridge.. mouldy berries, for example, but nothing cooked and no meat. 

Grit:  I mix into the food a handful of used coffee grounds and ground egg shells. I got an old coffee grinder off my local buy nothing group, so I grind shells as I collect them. 

Water:  This took me some time to figure out – how to feel the right amount of water. But the next day, I lift the lid.  If I suddenly see lots of white bugs or worms climbing the sides, I keep the lid off and let it air out. I often have a large piece of paper over the castings. 

More Worm Wisdom 

To fluff or not to fluff – there is some debate. Pamela fluffs her bin about once a month. Not only because it is fun, but also because it allows her to see if the bin is too wet or too dry and to check for uneaten food and changes in the population. 

Don’t worry about the worms overpopulating. According to Pamela, worms self-regulate. They stop reproducing if there are too many of them, if it’s too dry or too wet, or if there is not enough food. If the conditions are right, they can double their population in 60 days. 

Adding composting worms to our home composting bins and/or directly to the soil in our yards will dramatically improve the amount of carbon we can store in the soil. Climate solutions are much easier than we realize. Act today! CLICK here.

You might notice other bugs in your bin. Don’t overthink this! A healthy bin is an entire ecosystem. Pamela explains, “The worms need other bugs that are also decomposers to start the process. Basically, the other bugs and bacteria are food processors for worms.” Pamela was vigilant in identifying the bugs, so as to avoid a bug problem in the house, but, in the end, they were all so happy that they got to stay!

You may wonder how to harvest the castings without losing the worms. Pamela has two suggestions: Feed only one side of the bin for a month; the worms will all migrate to that side. Alternatively, put a basket in the middle and only place the food there; the worms will hang out with the food while you gather the castings. Be careful! Castings and cocoons look remarkably alike.

Next Steps

  • Have fun setting up your bin.
  • Buy, find, or trade for worms.
  • Dump the worms on top of the habitat and watch them immediately start burrowing.  
  • Watch your worms grow.
  • Harvest the “black gold” add to your plants – indoors or outside.
  • Share extra worms with like minded gardeners.
  • Read up on how to shrink your carbon footprint
No rose without thorns. —French Proverb.
Groundbreaking YA book series for all ages. Not only a gripping modern day nail-biter with Machiavellian villains, but also one that opens our eyes to the brutal war going on beneath our feet that controls our destiny, despite our obliviousness to this potentially civilization-destroying threat.

© Copyright 2018 – 2021. ALL Rights Reserved.


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Build Back Better | Our Personal Lives

Washington (GGM) Analysis |June 12, 2021 by Noreen Wise

It’s a brand new day. We’re six months into the new administration, everything is opening back up, and things are beginning to seem back to normal. Lots of positivity is in the air with inspirational words of wisdom and transformative goals, as well as outlining the steps forward that will lead us toward the achievement of these goals. Each of us are expected to participate. 

The importance of participation in our democratic form of government—of the people, by the people, for the people — cannot be overemphasized. It should be one of the main takeaways of the very dark, oppressive and traumatic last four years that we’ve just survived. Majority participation is what led to a successful outcome. Let’s absorb and wrap our minds around this reality. We must promise to never forget that participation is everything.

Act Now for the Earth Cafe wants you to join our ecosystem and have fun learning valuable tips about nature, carbon drawdown & sustainability. We’re all about community. Be a part of our vibrant ecosystem by CLICKing here today and checking out Earth Cafe!

Build back better. We’ve heard this message repeatedly for the last nine months. But, how about if we do more than just build our economy back better. How about if we build our lives back better too. This means trying to regain our physical and mental footing, which will result in us being that much healthier, happier and stronger.

Gallant Gold Media’s Hill Report is very excited to announce the Sustainable Living Build Back Better Guide, a weekly article featuring tips provided by sustainable living guru, Stephen Santangelo. Stephen will share the how to’s of lowering our carbon footprints and improving our own health and happiness. It’s highly probable that Stephen’s insightful knowledge will also provide us with that many more economic opportunities. Sustainable living saves participants a lot of money.

Stephen and his wife Lori, launched into the all-in sustainable lifestyle scene by making the bold decision to relocate from Southern California to Kentucky. Stephen explained that the price of land in Kentucky for farming was that much less expensive than Southern California. In fact, the California price for the same amount of land was prohibitive. 

Time to face the music. In order to succeed at carbon drawdown, we have to return to the Garden of Eden. #ActNow Take a listen.

What is sustainable living? Sustainable living is a circular economy lifestyle with a goal of zero waste that includes all the common buzzwords that flood Instagram, and other social media platforms daily. A series of small, seemingly insignificant daily choices and habits, that collectively, if we all participate, will lower carbon emissions dramatically. Additionally, these same small, daily choices will restore our environment, reduce global warming, and reverse climate change. This includes everyday decisions such as:

  • Reusable shopping bags 
  • Reusable drink containers, especially when stopping at Starbucks
  • Reduce-reuse-upcycle-recycle
  • Composting kitchen scraps 
  • Applying the compost to our soil
  • Growing our own food as much as possible, ie herbs, fruits and vegetables
  • LED bulbs
  • Shorter showers
  • Run full loads of laundry
  • Air dry laundry
  • Renewable energy
  • Regifting
  • Bamboo paper towels that can be washed and dried quickly, one roll can last an entire year
  • And so much more

Stephen and Lori are overachievers on many of these levels, particularly food sustainability. Stephen explains that they’ve always been health conscience and raised their children that way. They’re now 97-98 percent food sustainable, and never eat out. This is mind boggling. The photos of their gardens are an amazing example of what appears to be relatively achievable for all of us. Such an inspiration. Stephen assured me that healthy soil is a big deal and he’ll provide tips in the upcoming weeks. His farming schedule is as follows, in his own words: 

  • From April – October, 4-12 hours per day.
  • From November – March, virtually none…
  • …the soil has been prepared and fed in late October, and the microbes do the rest. 

How does this benefit you personally? Not only does sustainable living restore the environment, improve our quality of life, and lower our carbon footprints — which again, if we all participate, will dramatically reduce carbon emissions, and thus reverse climate change — Stephen enthusiastically explains that there are numerous additional personal benefits. These benefits have significantly improved Stephen and Lori’s well-being, most notably health and fitness. After suffering through a year of Covid, isn’t that what we all want? To be healthier. Thankfully, Stephen has agreed to share his wonderful health and fitness tips in the upcoming articles. 

Stephen and Lori have become so connected to the earth through farming, that Stephen digs extensively into the scientific research side of things. In fact, Stephen emphasized at the very beginning, that he’s all about science, and that all of his habits and routines have been acquired through intense investigating. His scientific research list is 32 sources long. Stephen’s knowledge is so deep and broad that writing this brief pilot article was daunting. 

Adding composting worms to our home composting bins and/or directly to the soil in our yards will dramatically improve the amount of carbon we can store in the soil. Climate solutions are much easier than we realize. Act today! CLICK here.

The next steps:

  • Stephen advises that the very first thing we need to do is admit that we have to make lifestyle changes.
  • Additionally, Stephen points out that there’s science behind sustainable living lifestyle choices, especially as they pertain to farming, nature, health and exercise and it’s important that we take the time to read up and do the necessary research. Science based podcasts can be very informative as well.
  • Print the above sustainable living list and check off each item daily until each becomes habit.

Be sure to check back next Thursday for the next Sustainable Living Build Back Better Guide with Stephen Santangelo.

No rose without thorns. —French Proverb.
Groundbreaking YA book series for all ages. Not only a gripping modern day nail-biter with Machiavellian villains, but also one that opens our eyes to the brutal war going on beneath our feet that controls our destiny, despite our obliviousness to this potentially civilization-destroying threat.

© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.


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Say Yes to French Press | Ditch Your Keurig

Washington (GGM) Analysis | April 20, 2021 by Sarah J. Kings

For years now, we have known that Keurig K-Cups are an environmental hazard.  Made from plastic, these little cups are too small to be properly sorted by recycling centers and machines.  Billions of K-Cups are piling up in landfills around the world, and many have been incinerated in Keurig’s program, Grounds to Grow On.  

John Hocevar, of GreenPeace USA, said “coffee pods are one of the best examples of unnecessary single-use plastics that are polluting our planet”. 

Twitter- @grtamericanovel

Heart of the matter. This past year was supposed to be Keurig’s year. After many cities banned commercial use of K-Cups, the brand promised that their products would be recyclable by the start of 2020.  However, that promise has not been fulfilled, only replaced by an ambiguous delayed timeline of the “end of 2020.”  They also promise to convert to a combination of 100% recyclable and compostable materials by 2025.

Until then, consumers can get their at home caffeine fix a more sustainable way: using a french press.  According to eco-friendly resource and magazine, TenTree, the french press is the most environmentally friendly way to fuel your caffeine habit. Using a french press is less wasteful than traditional coffee pots, in that they do not use filters.  The design is simple, and the process is easy: boil water, grind the beans, pour the water over the growns, and press.

Twitter- @essential2learn

Next Step: The result is a classic, fresh, and eco-friendly way to start your day! Now, make sure your coffee grounds are ethically and sustainably sourced– and pour your delicious elixir into a reusable mug– and you have just become an eco-pro!

Tl;dr

  • Keurig K-Cups are an environmental hazard
  • Billions of K-Cups end up in landfills
  • Keurig’s program, Grounds to Grow On, is responsible for incinerating the plastic cups
  •  “Coffee pods are one of the best examples of unnecessary single-use plastics that are polluting our planet.” – John Hocevar of GreenPeace USA
  • A french press is the most environmentally friendly way to fuel your caffeine habit
  • No coffee filters are needed & little every is used in the process
Adding composting worms to our compost bins or directly to the soil in our yards will dramatically improve the amount of carbon we can store in the soil. Climate solutions are much easier than we realize. Act today! CLICK here.

© Copyright 2018 – 2021. ALL Rights Reserved.

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Overhauling Packaging of Consumer Brands | Circular Economy

Washington (GGM) Analysis | March 19 , 2021 by author and journalist Noreen Wise

With the circular economy now in full swing outside the United States, it becomes that much more clear just how many everyday items cannot be recycled. The reality is alarming. We’ll never reach zero waste unless we find innovative solutions to meet this imperative.

Further, even the plastics that can be recycled, often aren’t. Many items become litter or are tossed in a landfill. It takes 450 years for plastic bottles to decompose and 50 years for tin cans. Plastics breakdown into microplastics, which, unbelievably, land in our food supply as a result of their microscopic size slipping through water filters. On average, we humans eat 100 bits of microplastic with every meal. Microplastics cause toxicity that negatively impacts our life history.

Recycling existing plastic is highly beneficial. But, the following is a list of common plastic packaging/ additional items that cannot be recycled:

  • plastic single use shopping bags
  • straws
  • plastic film wrap
  • frozen food bags (nearly all vegetables are sold in non-recyclable bags)
  • cereal box liner
  • chip bags
  • granola bar, candy bar and nearly all snack items wrappers
  • six-pack rings
  • plastic hangers
  • any plastic containers that can’t be cleaned, ie toothpaste tubes
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The heart of the matter. After a year of Covid and staying home, who’s pumped to go out and live? Surely, the vast majority of us are. So, let’s factor the health impact of plastic into our decision making, for surely it will have health consequences. We must be more cognizant of all the plastic we consume.

Thankfully, innovative sustainability companies have gone plastic free for our safety. According to Healthy Human, the following are the top sustainable packaging innovations of 2019:

  • Loop, Returnity and Share Pack – companies that enable consumers to conveniently return packaging either by dropping off at targeted locations, or sending back in company provided totes
  • Plant based packaging – plastics made from plants
  • Edible packaging – typically this is seaweed, hopefully they’ll soon find additional alternatives
  • Plantable packaging – contains seeds so the packaging can be planted after use
  • Compostable plastic alternatives
  • Minimal packaging design
  • Upcycled or recycled packaging

What you can do about this.

Consumers have the power to change the world by how we shop. Sustainable packaging solutions are here. All we need to do is grow the demand by purchasing the products and posting about it through social media. We must be motivated to seek out the brands packaged in recyclable material such as paper and thin cardboard, and use our wallets to influence corporations like Heinz and Coke to invest in overhauling their plastic packaging or lose their customers. If we all refuseto buy particular brands because of the packaging, corporations will make the change.

Nest steps:

  • Laundry detergent sheets wrapped in paper instead of the big plastic jugs
  • Toothpaste tablets replace plastic toothpaste tubes
  • Shampoo & conditioner bars, and ditch the plastic bottles
  • Glass packaged condiments and soft drinks instead of plastic may cut the cancer rate dramatically
  • New loop companies that package food in reusable containers that they pick up each week when they drop off the next week’s grocery order

Let’s go! We can do this.

Order now so you’ll receive in time for spring! Takes about 3-4 weeks to arrive.

© Copyright 2018 – 2021. ALL Rights Reserved.

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Paper Towel Alternative! | Build Back Better

Washington (GGM) Analysis | March 5, 2021 by Pamela Scaiff (Canadian)

When was the last time you reached for a paper towel to clean up a mess?  Has COVID got you using more? How much do you pay for paper towels each week?  Each month?  Each year?  Or in a lifetime?  Do the personal finance math and then the ecological math and you may find yourself questioning whether paper towels really add quality to your life!  Did you know that Americans use more paper towels per capita daily than either of their neighbours?!

My daughters, 29 and 26 years old, never had their gorgeous baby faces wiped with paper towels, their spilled milk mopped up with paper towels, or their bedroom windows cleaned with paper towels.  In 2021, they never think to buy paper towels for their own homes.  Oh, the power of motherhood to plant sustainable living habits into future generations!  Muahahahahahaaa!!!

I think I am a bit weird, but I find the commercials for paper towels as morbidly fascinating as zombie shows.  Just as I wonder how zombies can keep walking when they have no blood circulating to keep the muscles working, I wonder how come people reach for paper towels when they can use a kitchen cloth to wipe up a mess?

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The heart of the matter. In order to wipe dirty faces, mop up messes, and sop up bacon grease, Americans use 8.5 million trees per year plus 144.5 million gallons of water per year, to manufacture the paper towels they consume, according to The University of Minnesota, the EPA, and Statista. Add this loss of natural resources to the consumption of fossil fuels used to make paper towels, wrap them in plastic, and transport them to the local store might give some folks pause for thought.  Is this use of resources worth it when there are easy, cheaper alternatives?

Back in the 1980’s, paper was already an environmental issue, so my husband and I decided to kick some paper habits out of our lives.  The easiest was paper towels.  Heck, we could save money and the environment!  A win-win, as far as we were concerned!

We had a stack of rags and made more from old towels and shirts.   

Peter, the fastidious window cleaner, felt that paper towels were still the best for not leaving streaks on windows and mirrors.  That was then. I used to clean the windows with rags and then polish them with newspapers as the ink really made the glass shine!  Ok, so who am I kidding… I probably only did this once as Peter was passionate about clean windows so this chore rarely fell to me. Now, microfiber cloths work as well as paper towels. And now that Peter and I are friends, not husband and wife, I have to clean my own darned windows!

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Sometimes, I wistfully dream of paper towels when cooking bacon, but less so now that my daughter’s boyfriend introduced me to baking bacon and letting the fat drip away!  I have a special cotton tea towel that I have been using as my bacon degreaser for years, but washing it was annoying… so baked bacon it is!  (And yes, not cooking bacon at all would be the better decision… one transition I have yet to make.)

Window cleaning and bacon degreasing used to be the only two tasks when paper towels seemed better than rags;  today,  microfibre cloths and baking are better than paper towels. 

You might wonder what to do with the paper towel alternatives.  Under my bathroom sink, I have a bowl for dirty rags, hankies, and dinner napkins which makes about a quarter laundry load each week.  They get washed, usually with towels on a hot wash.  By washing rags, I have one less kitchen bag of trash going to the curb each week.  

My rags take up less space than a two-roll pack of paper towels. 
My garbage bins are lighter. 
My purse is heavier.
My house is just as clean!

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Red wigglers are amazing pets. Children love to care for these wonderful worms. Not only do they help with composting food scraps, but they’re exceptional garden engineers. Click here to buy today.

Next Steps

  1.  Buy only paper towels made from recycled paper as at least you will save trees.  
  2. Bamboo paper towels are reusable and cost effective but they are transformed into rayon through a toxic process and are not compostable once they become rayon.  So although they are an alternative, be aware of this eco-trap.  
  3. Reduce the number of paper towels you buy. 
  4. Notice when you use paper towels.  What else is nearby that you can grab to wipe up that mess?  Becoming aware of our habits is the most important step in any transition. 
  5. Start stockpiling rags made from old clothes. 
  6. Purchase some good quality microfibre cloths and learn to take care of them. 
  7. Feel good about reducing your paper towel consumption and share that feeling with your friends and neighbours!  It is in the discussions that seeds of change are planted. 
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Sources

https://www.theworldcounts.com/challenges/consumption/other-products/environmental-impact-of-paper/storyhttps://gallant-gold-media.myshopify.com/products/bow-bag-cork-vegan-leather

The environmental effects of paper production include deforestation, the use of enormous amounts of energy and water as well as air pollution and waste problems. Paper accounts for around 26% of total waste at landfills.

https://www.statista.com/statistics/275731/us-households-amount-of-paper-towels-used-within-30-days/#:~:text=The%20data%20has%20been%20calculated,of%20paper%20towels%20in%202020.

https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2018/12/paper-towels-us-use-consume/577672/

EPA

http://www.mntap.umn.edu/industries/facility/paper/water/  17,000 gallons of water to make a ton of paper

© Copyright 2018 – 2021. ALL Rights Reserved.

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A Sustainability Journey | Build Back Better

Washington (GGM) Analysis | February 18, 2021 by Pamela Scaiff; introduction and closing by author and journalist Noreen Wise

Spending the past nine months in Canada during Covid, all in on sustainability immersion, taught me a lot. In fact, I’ve completely reinvented myself in such a short period of time. The most startling aspect of my metamorphosis was understanding how easy it is to live sustainably when everyone in a given community is doing so. Stronger together. My bud, Canadian sustainability guru Pamela Scaiff, is the master of sustainability and has been my supreme guide for the past four months. I’m thrilled that she agreed to share her wisdom with all of us.

The heart of the matter. The Guardian reported back in 2015, that adopting to the circular economy lifestyle of refuse-reduce-reuse-upcycle-recycle-rot (a few more buzz words will be added soon, I’m sure) will reduce carbon emissions by 71 percent by the year 2030. This seems absolutely mind-blowing after a year of intense, sustained wildfires, horrific freeze-outs in warm weather states, and endless flooding up and down the East Coast. Seeing 71 percent cut in carbon emissions in black and white a few years ago, published on a highly regarded news site, stopped me in my tracks and inspired me to jump into this new world. 

How do we all transition to a sustainable life? Pamela Scaiff shares her notes so we can follow along the same simple and easy trail of transformation.

PAMELA SCAIFF: Somewhere along the way, I transitioned from Eco Warrior to just me getting on with life and loving it. I have spent the last 35 years transitioning to sustainable living… a fancy phrase that means that my family and I have been developing habits that have reduced our contribution to pollution.  

Cleaning windows with paper towels to using rags and newspapers.

Blowing my nose with paper tissues to using handkerchiefs.

Drying my clothes in the dryer to hanging them up to dry.

Cleaning with a variety of chemicals to cleaning with vinegar, baking soda, and murphy’s oil.

What climate change project are you involved with? We hope you’ll be part of ours! We’re growing a forest in North Dakota. CLICK to find out the awesome details and find out how to become a sponsor.

Buying food to growing some of it.

Not noticing packaging to reducing the packaging I buy.

Buying plastic bags to using reusable bags.

Buying plastic reusable bags to buying natural fibre reusable bags.

Pulling weeds to cultivating them.

Putting out a full bin of recycling garbage to celebrating when there was nothing to put out!

Using disposable menstrual products to discovering the joy of the Diva cup… and then hitting menopause!

Buying strawberries all year long to enjoying them seasonally. 

Housing a food morgue, otherwise known as my freezer, to managing the contents so they got used.

Combing through malls to abandoning them for the consignment and second hand shops so I could get better clothes!

Buying stuff to sharing stuff.

Buying stuff to trading stuff.

Buying food wrapped in plastic to making the bread, yogourt, and cottage cheese from scratch just to avoid the garbage. 

Wrapping gifts in gift paper to presenting them in pretty scarves. 

Buying gifts of stuff to giving experiences. 

Using my dollars for products that were designed for the dump to participating in the closed loop economy.

Drinking coffee in a disposable cup to bringing my own cup to the coffee shop.

Loving a huge mug of tea to savouring a small cup of a fine brew.

Buying Easter chocolate rabbits to making them — to reduce the impact on the environment. 

Thinking about buying disposable diapers to choosing cloth instead.

Tripping over too many plastic bottles in the shower to eliminating plastic in the shower.

Hating garbage day to celebrating it.

Dealing with kids who were anxious about the future to watching kids embrace transition to sustainable living.

Composting in my garden to vermicomposting in the house.

Buying all my plants at a garden centre to sourcing them from a variety of people… and seeds.

Looking at my black thumb to wondering how it became green. 

But the biggest transition was realizing that each little thing I changed along this journey of 35 years, eventually faded into the background and just became a habit that I no longer think about. Each little habit took effort and mindfulness and commitment at first.  Then, without me noticing, there was no excitement or discipline to continue.  I just do things differently because I have been doing them for years, now. Not every transition has been sustained or successful.  However, most have!  My most important take-away is that perfection is not the goal.  Everyone transitions differently. 

My family embraced transition, but one day I was told:  Mum, if you dare transition away from toilet paper, you will have gone too far.  (Secretly this is a plan for the future, but for now, don’t tell them.)

Remember learning to ride a bike?  Do you remember how much you wanted to do it but you fell off and got lots of bruises? And how about the adrenalin of pedalling like a maniac and not falling off for the first time?  Oh, and hopping on the bike to go to school or go see friends because it was easier than walking?  At some point, riding a bike just became something you did naturally.  

Transitioning to sustainable living is like learning to ride a bike — it takes work and boy is the adrenalin rush fun!  Eventually, each little habit will feel as natural as riding a bike. 

Thank you, Pamela! That was excellent. We look forward to learning more of your secrets so we can Build Back Better and reach the targeted 71 percent cut in carbon emissions by 2030. 

Next Steps

  • Pick one or two easy daily habits to begin with to build your confidence in how easy sustainable living is.
  • Refusing paper towels is one of the suer quick transitions. You can save a lot of money. One roll of bamboo lasts a year.
  • Saving kitchen scraps in compost bins is also a simple way to become an overachiever and feel great about sustainable life.
  • Gifts wrapped in scarfs is another basic that saves so much money, you feel incentivized to transition quickly.
  • Be sure to pass along Pamela’s tips to your neighborhood friends. When you’re surrounded by others doing the same thing, it creates positive, forceful energy that gets you from point A to B that much faster.

Be sure to check back each Thursday for more on how to Build Back Better with sustainable living.

© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.

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Bruce, My Pet Worm | Build Back Better

Washington (GGM) Analysis | February 3, 2021 by Catherine Zacuto, M. Ed.; source expert contributions from Pamela Scaiff 

Some people fall easily into the “dog people” category, some into the “cat people” one. If you are not either of those, you may be a “worm person.” Even if you love dogs and cats, you might be surprised to discover the advantages of worms for your lifestyle and your garden. Though not cuddly, worms make great pets. They don’t smell, they are clean, and they don’t have to be fed every day (or even every week). Worms don’t disturb the neighbours. They have a symbiotic relationship with insects. Worms don’t need pet sitters when you go away for a month. Even if you don’t need a new pet, the advantages of worms are worth investigating.

Friend or Slimy Bug? 

According to Pamela Scaiff, a Canadian sustainability expert, worms are both the perfect pets and partners in growing an eco-friendly garden. Pamela, who’s been living a sustainable life since 2010, recognizes the value and fun of raising worms. (She calls her worms Bruce, after the “Monty Python” philosophers sketch where all the professors are called Bruce.) Worms are a natural way to fertilize plants and aerate the soil without harming the ecosystem. Because living sustainably, in harmony with nature, is our goal, worms are the way to go. 

What climate change project are you involved with? We hope you’ll be part of ours! We’re growing a forest in North Dakota. CLICK to find out the awesome details.

What are the benefits of worms?

The principle advantage of worms is the natural fertilizer created by worm castings. Pamela calls this “the uppity word for worm poop.” This “black gold” yields nutrients that create strong and healthy plants and provides a viable alternative to harmful chemicals. At the same time, worms aerate the soil, allowing the roots of your plants to easily absorb the nutrients necessary for healthy growth. A secondary advantage, according to Pamela, is that worms are fascinating. From starting the bin, to adding the worms, to harvesting the casings, the journey is engaging and fruitful. 

Check out worms’ other benefits:

  • Increased soil nutrition from worm castings rich in nitrogen and adding four times the phosphorous that’s normally found in soil
  • Improved drainage and water storage, helping  alleviate drought and extreme heat conditions
  • Water infiltrates the soil more easily
  • Plant roots often descend lower and reach more water and nutrients
  • Improved soil structure
  • Improved productivity

How can I get started? Following simple guidelines will help you create and maintain healthy worm bins. Pamela began with a very small collection of Red Wiggler worms and worm cocoons and has had great success. She created an expert list of steps to get you started:

Location. First, decide where you are going to keep the bin – indoors or out. If you live in a cold environment, indoors is best. (Be selective about what you add to it, though, to avoid odors.)

The Container. Get a ratty old Rubbermaid tote — not the big kind, but the smaller one. Red Wigglers are surface dwellers, which means they are happiest just below the surface, not down deep. Drill air and drainage holes all over the tote, including the lid. (Pamela’s worms don’t escape because they don’t like light and also her bin is not toxic – so far). 

The Habitat Ingredients. Pamela recommends the following generally agreed upon ingredients for your bin:  

Browns: To keep your bin balanced, absorb liquid, and cool, you need bedding (carbon). Pamela uses shredded newspaper, egg cartons, coconut coir, manure, and more.

Greens: Add food scraps (they don’t have to be green). But be mindful about what you use. Brassicas like broccoli and kale cause odors. Acidic food such as onions and citrus upset the worms. 

Grit: Grit helps worms digest. Some (but not all) possibilities include sand, used coffee grounds (no longer acidic), and ground eggshells (they can’t use the shells otherwise.)

Water: Pamela advises, “Goldilocks style: too much and the bin goes anaerobic, starts to smell, and all kinds of bugs flourish. Not enough and your worm castings dry out and become useless.”

Compost: Add a handful of compost to inject helpful bacteria into your bin and get it working.

Worms: Many different varieties of worms will work. Pamela prefers red wigglers. Earthworms are an option, but they are not as productive as the red wigglers. They also escape more often.

Feeding your Worms

Pamela feeds her worms 2 – 4 times a month, and only when there is no food or almost no food left. You may need to adjust the time period as your worms grow. Be careful not to overfeed them, or it will be too much to process before it gets smelly or hot.

Here is Pamela’s formula, in her own words: 

Bedding: I rip up newspaper and egg cartons.

Greens:  Apparently, the worms love avocados and bananas. So, I chop up banana peels, gleefully much the brown bits of avocados… and freeze them. The freezing helps speed up the decomposition by breaking membranes. Only at this stage will the worms be able to eat them. I have added science experiments from the fridge.. mouldy berries, for example, but nothing cooked and no meat. 

Grit:  I mix into the food a handful of used coffee grounds and ground egg shells. I got an old coffee grinder off my local buy nothing group, so I grind shells as I collect them. 

Water:  This took me some time to figure out – how to feel the right amount of water. But the next day, I lift the lid.  If I suddenly see lots of white bugs or worms climbing the sides, I keep the lid off and let it air out. I often have a large piece of paper over the castings. 

More Worm Wisdom 

To fluff or not to fluff – there is some debate. Pamela fluffs her bin about once a month. Not only because it is fun, but also because it allows her to see if the bin is too wet or too dry and to check for uneaten food and changes in the population. 

Don’t worry about the worms overpopulating. According to Pamela, worms self-regulate. They stop reproducing if there are too many of them, if it’s too dry or too wet, or if there is not enough food. If the conditions are right, they can double their population in 60 days. 

You might notice other bugs in your bin. Don’t overthink this! A healthy bin is an entire ecosystem. Pamela explains, “The worms need other bugs that are also decomposers to start the process. Basically, the other bugs and bacteria are food processors for worms.” Pamela was vigilant in identifying the bugs, so as to avoid a bug problem in the house, but, in the end, they were all so happy that they got to stay!

You may wonder how to harvest the castings without losing the worms. Pamela has two suggestions: Feed only one side of the bin for a month; the worms will all migrate to that side. Alternatively, put a basket in the middle and only place the food there; the worms will hang out with the food while you gather the castings. Be careful! Castings and cocoons look remarkably alike.

Next Steps

  • Have fun setting up your bin.
  • Buy, find, or trade for worms.
  • Dump the worms on top of the habitat and watch them immediately start burrowing.  
  • Watch your worms grow.
  • Harvest the “black gold” add to your plants – indoors or outside.
  • Share extra worms with like minded gardeners.
  • Read up on how to shrink your carbon footprint

© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.

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Build Back Better | Elevated Beds for Higher Productivity and Nutrient Dense Food!

Washington (GGM) Analysis | February 2, 2021 by Catherine Zacuto, M. Ed.; source expert contributions from Stephen Santangelo

Sustainable farming methods form one of many paths toward reversing climate change. Through informed decision-making and perseverance, every person can increase their sustainability factor and make a positive change for the planet. Shrinking our collective carbon footprint begins with each individual making conscious choices to achieve balance and harmony with the planet. Elevated beds for growing fruits and vegetables is one step in this direction.

Why Elevated Beds?

According to sustainability expert Stephen Santangelo, there are vast benefits to this type of farming. Stephen relies on science-based resources to inform his decisions as he creates rich, healthy soil that increases the nutrients in his crops and adds beneficial carbon to nature. These advantages might spur you on to switch to elevated bed farming, especially if you are growing food for family sustainability rather than monoculture development.

According to Stephen, advantages include:

  • pH balancing
  • Promoting beneficial bacteria & fungi for rapid microbiotic growth
  • Balancing minerals
  • Developing plant hormones & enzymes
  • Cover crop specificity
  • Mulching for nitrogen/carbon ratio
What climate change project are you involved with? We hope you’ll be part of ours! We’re growing a forest in North Dakota. CLICK to find out the awesome details.

Wondering where to start?

The research Stephen has conducted and his experience are valuable to those who want to follow his lead into the world of raised bed farming. When Stephen and his wife, Lori, began farming as a lifestyle choice, like most of us, they planted straight into the ground. They soon discovered that the clay earth and slate in the soil was not favorable for producing a wide variety of crops or providing high nutritional values. Stephen explains that clay locks up many of the needed minerals essential for productive crops. This interferes with beneficial bacteria and fungi from doing their jobs. 

In raised bed gardens, you can solve this problem by using healthy soil. Stephen explains, “In just one gram of the best garden soil are millions of living and vibrant organisms all creating a balanced micro-cosmos.” The microbes metabolize nutrients which are then carried to the roots and fed to the fruit. If the soil contains clay and slate, water can’t be absorbed, which causes root foods to rot. Having lots of healthy microbes helps aerate the soil, fight disease, and gets rid of the need to till the soil.

Mineral balance is critical to the success of your raised bed garden. Stephen and Lori found that the soil in their geographical location lacks selenium and magnesium, both of which are needed for proper growth of plants. This creates problems for other minerals. The minerals work together to grow healthy crops. Elevated beds make it easier to achieve just the right balance of minerals. There are a range of mineral tests available for purchase. Decide if you need to know all of the minerals or just the most common ones. 

pH balancing is another consideration. One of the benefits of elevated beds is that you can control the pH balance of each crop. Balancing the pH is critical to plant growth and it is also good for the soil. Stephen says it beautifully. “Soil is a living world of many intricate life forms to sustain numerous living organisms.” You can buy inexpensive pH tests to do yourself or find local resources such as agricultural extension offices or colleges. 

Disease and weed control are also important factors to consider with elevated beds. Stephen warns that factors such as high humidity, rain, and extreme temperature changes increase the chances of disease. One important weapon to fight disease is having the right balance of minerals and pH. Secondly, Stephen recommends placing elevated beds far enough apart to prevent harmful bacteria and fungi from hopping from one bed to another. As organic farmers, Stephen and Lori, do not use chemicals to thwart harmful agents. Not only do chemicals kill the harmful agents, they destroy the helpful ones, as well. Organic farming practices preserve the soil and contribute to the overall health of the crops and the planet.

What difference will you make?

Your choice to engage in sustainable farming practices is a gigantic step towards shrinking your carbon footprint. Stephen and Lori have become 97-98% food sustainable through developing an awareness of soil fertility. They have set the example for us! Stephen’s insight on soil health is the foundation of sound, productive agriculture that we can all practice. A healthy global ecosystem in which thoughtful agriculture and land-use practices cool the planet, are all part of what even a single family can achieve. Using science-based research and time tested practices, we can move toward a more earth-friendly and productive approach to farming. In Stephen’s words, “Dedication and a sincere approach to farming are factors which encourage biological diversity, creating a living ecosystem for our flora and fauna to flourish in harmony.” 

Next Steps

Balance and harmony are themes that resonate throughout the sustainable farming process. With this in mind, consider how you can add balance to your life by living even more sustainably:

  • Create a raised bed garden to begin producing your own food
  • Reduce waste by creating compost from your kitchen scraps and add it to your raised bed garden
  • Access scientific research (via text resources or podcasts) to increase your understanding and awareness of our carbon footprint
  • Share your sustainable farming practices with friends

Be sure to check back for the next Sustainable Living Build Back Better Guide with Stephen Santangelo and other sustainability experts.

© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.

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A Nation That Destroys Its Soil Destroys Itself — FDR

Washington (GGM) Analysis | January 18, 2020 by Noreen Wise

Soil and dirt are not the same thing, according to geologist and author David R. Montgomery. Dark brown soil is life, teaming with microbes that are the engineers of all the nature that flourishes above ground. Microbe rich soil contains major amounts of carbon and moisture. Soil is the very thing that sustains our existence on the planet. 

Much paler dirt on the other hand is lifeless, containing little or no microbes, carbon or moisture, making it very difficult for plants to grow on their own. There is nothing that holds the dirt together, which often results in the wind sweeping the dirt away, creating heaps along fence lines and structure walls. 

David Montgomery warns readers in his book, Growing a Revolution, Bringing Our Soil Back to Life, that soil degradation is what destroys civilizations. The Great Dustbowl of the 1930’s was a result of a decade of soil degradation brought on by plowing during the 1920’s which removed the nutrient rich topsoil, released all the stored carbon into the air, and left behind nothing but dirt in its wake.

What’s the heart of the matter? Soil, rich in microbes, can store major amounts of carbon. Nearly 70 percent of the carbon sequestered in a forest is stashed in the soil. Plants push the carbon they absorb down to the roots where it is released into the soil and safely trapped, reducing the atmospheric carbon level. The higher our atmospheric carbon level, the more the globe heats up. 

How does this impact you personally? Global warming impacts all of us negatively. The warmer weather often results in droughts which impacts agriculture, decreasing our food supply. This is occurring at the same time the global population is rising, creating a greater demand for food. Global warming causes the climate around the globe to change. It has melted glaciers, which in turn has increased the water levels of our oceans, lakes and rivers. Property values along shorelines have plummeted in many areas. Additionally, coastal homeowners are now finding it very difficult to get insurance for their homes and property. The wildfires out West have destroyed millions of acres of forests and billions of mature trees which has exasperated the climate crisis creating catastrophic climate blowback. According to David R. Montgomery, the United States has already lost 50 percent of soil’s organic matter, leaving behind dirt in its place.

Gallant Gold Media is planting a forest in North Dakota to remember all those we lost to Covid. Ponderosa Pines Ranch forest. All thanks to ranch owner Byron Richard!

How can you fix this? Every household in the United States must compost. Composting kitchen scraps is an imperative for restoring our soil. Compost is filled with the vital microbes that are essential for soil health. Local grocery stores now have biodegradable compost bags. These kitchen scrap compost bags can be safely stored in your refrigerator if you don’t have an outdoor compost bin with a snap clip lid that will keep wildlife out of your compost. The majority of developed countries in the world have mandatory composting with curbside pickup once a week, but not the U.S. unfortunately. Private compost pick-up companies are popping up in the majority of US cities. Additionally, many U.S. towns now have compost drop-off sites. 

The next steps:

  • place kitchen scraps into a small kitchen bag instead of the sink or garbage
  • store in refrigerator if you don’t have an outside bin with snap lid
  • drop off at town compost site once a week or call to have a private company pickup your compost
  • Voila! So easy. You’ve just helped save our existence on earth.

We can do this!

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Glass Packaging Curbs Plastic Waste | Boycott Plastic Packaging

Washington (GGM) Analysis |December 12, 2020 by Noreen Wise

My obsession with glass packaging is based on the fact that we as individuals and families can easily make a difference in curbing plastic waste through our product choices. We saw during the 2020 presidential election, the power that 80 million people acting in unison hold, and the positive influence it has on society. Let’s keep going and use this same force to unleash significant action on climate action. All that’s required is that we’re more aware of what brands we select and how our selections impact the decision making at each corporation.

First, let’s be clear, there will always be a standard 30% of the public who will never care and will refuse to change their habits, not matter how much proof is provided. So we can’t worry about this. They’ll be forced to adapt when corporations stuck in the past go out of business.

But for the rest of us, the facts are compelling. And if we are to safeguard our children’s futures, it’s imperative that we change our daily and weekly habits appropriately.

Condiments really are a game changer
  • The hotel industry has done a remarkable job of ditching all the tiny plastic bottled of incidentals and switching to giant dispensers in the showers. As soon as Bonvoy Marriott announced their decision, the majority of hotels immediately followed suit. Imagine how quickly the plastic nightmare would end, if Heinz did the same. Condiments and soda are two plastic heavy hitters. Coke has responded. Coke, Sprite and Fanta, along with a handful of other familiar soda brands, are sold in both glass and plastic in super markets. But Heinz refuses to compromise. Ketchup, BBQ sauce, salad dressing across the board, all Heinz-Kraft products are only sold in plastic.
  • According to Mashed, Heinz sells 650 million (plastic) bottles of ketchup per year, 1,000 bottles per minute. The tip of the Heinz plastic iceberg though may be the 11 billion packets of ketchup that Thrillist asserts Heinz sells per year. If Heinz would simply do what’s best for the public and for the planet, there would be an immediate and dramatic reduction in plastic waste.
  • National Geographic stunned the world in early 2020 by announcing that only 9% of plastic is recycled.
  • The majority of spaghetti sauce brands are sold in glass bottles, possibly 95%. BBQ sauce is at nearly 85% sold in glass, with the only two significant plastic holdouts are Heinz and Kraft.
  • So many new everyday essential products have debuted in 2020 minus the plastic packaging: laundry detergent sheets, toothpaste tablets, shampoo & conditioner bars.

Interestingly, spaghetti sauce sold in glass is priced lower than Heinz Ketchup sold in plastic. What gives? This makes no sense.

There doesn’t appear to be any data supporting Keinz’s stubborn refusal to adapt to the climate crisis. There’s just one way left to motivate Heinz to do the right thing… boycott Heinz!

I found organic Red Duck Ketchup, a brand new ketchup that’s positively delicious. I love finding a reason to enjoy it every single day.

Boycotts are the American way. They work. Corporations respond to consumer demand that hits them in their wallets. It’s the upside of capitalism.~

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