blackout night candles save energy A\J Alternatives Journal Photo: Semini Pathberiya

The A\J team is taking up Earth Day Canada’s challenge to Act for the Planet by trying out new habits during Earth Month. We’ll be following (roughly) along with the EDC’s list of 30 challenges, and you can follow our progress – and let us know how you’re doing – here on the Sustainable A\J blog! We’ll hear from everyone at A\J on the challenges they’ve tried out (and some things we’re already doing), in weekly blog posts hosted by web editors Emily Slofstra and Laura McDonald.

Week One: In your home

Emily: Hot showers and long baths are my guiltiest “bad for the environment” pleasures, but last Wednesday as I was getting ready for bed I noticed the Act for the Planet challenge for the day. That night I cut my shower time in half and completed the challenge, and I will continue to focus on water conservation as my main challenge for Earth Month. Here are more thoughts on last week’s “In your home” activities.

Monday, April 1 - “Purge your home of chemical cleansers and make your own”

Emily: Our house already uses mostly baking soda and vinegar for all cleaning jobs. Here’s a tip if you’re not fond of the smell of vinegar: when eating oranges (or any citrus), save the peel and soak them in vinegar for a few days. When your vinegar turns a nice shade of orange (usually a couple of weeks), compost the peels and use your new citrus-scented cleaning liquid to scrub your floors (or whatever else needs scrubbing).
Laura: Not a citrus fan? You can also cover the vinegar smell with a few drops of your favourite essential oil, though this doesn’t have the same waste-saving bonus as using compost on its way out.

Tuesday, April 2 - “Get rid of dryer sheets!”

Emily: Now that winter is just about done (hopefully), give your dryer a break and hang your laundry outside! Then you won’t have to worry about dryer sheets, and your clothes will get brightened by the sun. We don’t have a dryer, so I’m looking forward to finally airing out our cloth diapers as soon as the snow pile has melted and we can open the door to our deck.

Laura: If you need something dried in a hurry or don’t have space for a clothesline or drying rack (though, trust me, you can get pretty creative about hanging clothes to dry), pick up a reusable dryer ball, make your own out of tin foil or just use vinegar in the fabric softener cycle.

Friday, April 5 - “Black Out Night”

Semini, A\J Editorial Intern: With a candle and some tea-lights by my side, I eagerly awaited nightfall while munching on a bowl of fruits and nuts. As the evening sunshine kissed goodnight to the world outside my window, I lit up the candle and turned the tea-lights on.

My room was illuminated by a soft glow of orange. As the whirr of my laptop died down, the first thing I noticed was the silence. Usually, my laptop would be blaring music or playing a movie. But not this lightless night. I am sure that I heard the gears in my head turn as I took my camera and started snapping away, experimenting with the settings, adjusting the tea-lights and capturing the soft glow as best as I could.

Later, I pulled out a book that I had been meaning to read for a while but never got around to. Being a student sure occupies a big chunk of my time, but I realized that TV shows, Facebook and browsing the internet take more of my time than they ought to. Alternating between writing in my journal, reading the book and taking pictures, my night glided away until I blew the candle out.

This night I spent away from my computer, I was aware of how much I depended on electricity, and how one night without light can spark up the imagination.

Saturday, April 6 - “Plan an upcycling project”

Emily: I have dressers full of clothes and fabric that are waiting to be upcycled, but have been a bit busy over the last while with a 5-month-old and a thirteen-year-old at home. Here are some projects I’ve undertaken in the last few years with minimal sewing ability:
- turned organic t-shirts into family cloth (reusable toilet paper)
- turned an old blanket into a dog bed (sewed a zipper onto it, put foam inside)
- turned fraying jeans into shorts, and used the remaining fabric to patch holes in other jeans
Laura: This is maybe more downcycling than up, but I’ve turned worn-out cotton clothes into a bunch of things including headbands, bracelets and cleaning rags. I’ve also used them to replace cotton balls and pads for removing makeup and nail polish and applying toner. I collect used ones in a small mesh laundry bag and toss ‘em in the wash when I run out.

Take up the challenge yourself and download the Act for the Planet 30-day checklist and EcoKids ideas
Check out this year's campaign: Make it Count for Earth Day!

Emily is former A\J web editor and a graduate of Environmental Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University. Emily is an urban homesteader who tries to live as plastic-free, local and organic as possible, and can be intense about it. 

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