Kids Parties: Loot Bags

*Photo Credit: Ayla87

If you’re a parent no doubt at some point or another you’ve received or given a loot bag for a kids party. Loot bags can easily become the biggest form of after party waste along with some concerning toxins in cheap toys.

A typical loot bag will contain tons of little candies as well as small plastic toys. When it comes to small candies you are often left with a pile of wrappers. Sometimes unwanted candies end up in the garbage as well.

On top of the garbage left behind by candy, the toys that come in the loot bags often become clutter and the garbage. Usually they are so cheap they break within an hour. If they don’t break, the toys are so simple your child may abandon it after two hours. Even worse still, cheap toys made of plastic often run the risk of being filled with chemicals from dye and plastic.

So what are you to do when your kids next birthday roles around? It’s so customary to give a loot bag it’s not only disappointing for the kids, some parents even fear judgment from other parents. While you want to make it as waste free you probably also want to keep the cost down.

Working at a party store I have heard many suggestions for loot bags and have seen many choices.
Some parents are opting to give small gift cards of $5 to Malls or even local toy shops like Mastermind.
You could even consider giving one good quality toy.

If you are at the party store and can’t be bothered with shopping around and don’t like the 1 gift idea here are some other tips:
-Skip the candy. With chocolate there are peanut scares, and what kid needs even more candy?
-Consider the usefulness of the toys. Pencils, pencil crayons, notebooks, and pencil sharpeners are all things for school.
-Instead of filling plastic bags, consider using sand pails or lunch boxes which make great gifts on their own.


Drowning in a Sea… of Litter?

*Picture Credit: GlennPeb

Walking down a sidewalk, you’ll lose count of the pieces of garbage you’ll see strewn about. If there happens to be a ditch lining the sidewalk, well, let’s just say I hope you don’t fall in – you’d drown in a swamp of soft drink cups, grocery bags, cigarette butts and lighters, chocolate bar wrappers, and plastic bottles.

Although littering is incredibly common, seeing someone actually do it right in front of me is painful to watch. Just the other day I was waiting for the bus with an acquaintance who was sipping from a soft drink cup. As the bus pulled up, he set his half finished cup on the sidewalk and hopped on. Speechless, I stared at the cup until I realized I had to get on the bus before the doors shut. I just couldn’t believe that even sensible, intelligent people would litter. I thought about it, and I’ve concluded it’s not because they want to litter, it’s because it just doesn’t cross their mind that they are, to say it politely, “pooping” in their own bed.

Not only does litter look plain old disgusting, it can be dangerous to people, animals, and nature as well. Respect and pride for the city one lives in – as well as for nature and the environment – is a factor in littering as well, but that’s a whole other blog post.

Oftentimes I’ve been a pack mule of sorts for friends, lugging around their garbage or recyclables until I find a proper bin; it would otherwise just end up on the ground. According to, most litter occurs within 5m of a waste receptacle – apparently ten steps or so is just too far for most people to carry that cigarette butt or foam cup. I think it’s up to the people who take notice (and offense), then, to speak up and let people know what’s what.

I hear the weather’s looking good this weekend; care to join me for a warm spring stroll? I’ll bring the bags and litter grabbers.


Making the Playoffs Green

Photo Credit: Aklepsteen

The NHL Playoffs are finally here and I couldn’t be more excited! I’m prepared for two months of eyeing TV schedules, forcing myself to stay up late, cursing my bandwidth when attempting to stream games, and moaning over the lack of success of my hockey pool.

As wild as all that sounds, I know that I’ve got a responsibility to celebrate the most joyous time of the year in a safe and healthy way.

First of all, if I’m going to be drinking refreshments and eating snacks with most of the games I watch, I better make sure what I’m putting into my body is as harmless as a Toronto Maple Leafs powerplay (I say that with endearing bitterness of fan, of course). Popcorn can be a very healthy snack – if I lay off the salt and butter, of course – and so can carrot and celery sticks. I’m not going to name any names, but there are a few goaltenders who could probably benefit from eating carrots this off-season, if you know what I mean.

As for my beer consumption – I think that with every new playoff round, I’ll introduce myself to a new local beer; heck, for the Stanley Cup Finals I’ll try two. So for those bars showing hockey and carrying a variety of local beer… You shall have my patronage!

When it comes to travling to these jam-packed-with-fans bars, I’ll be forgoing the car ride and taking good ol’ public transportation. Not only is this reducing my own carbon emissions, this way I don’t have to worry about finding and paying for parking. And, if my team manages to win a game in overtime, say, I can safely indulge in that celebratory extra beer.

All in all, I have a feeling these playoffs are going to be a good time – health-, environmental-, and hockey-wise. If everyone does their part, maybe we can even manage to cancel out the riots from last year. In any case… Go Leafs go!


Your Trusty Water Bottle

Image: Keerati /

One of the simplest ways to reduce your waste is simply by replacing bottled water with water bottles.

Luckily water bottles come in many shapes, sizes, and designs to suit your every need.

Glass water bottles tend to look cool and leave no threat of BPA or other chemicals that some times lurk in plastic water bottles. The only down side is if they break someone can get hurt, and they tend to be a little on the heavier side.

When purchasing a glass water bottle make sure it has some sort of silicon sleeve on the outside to prevent the glass from shattering if you drop it.

Plastic reusable bottles are the most common type of bottles. Plastic bottles tend to be light weight and come in many sizes, designs, and colours. The problem with plastic bottles is that many contain chemicals that seep into your water when heated or left for a long time.

One way to avoid chemicals in your water is to look for BPA free water bottles. Many bottles come with a label boasting just that! Even if there is no BPA in your bottle, try and avoid leaving it in warm areas just for good measure.

Stainless Steel
Although not as light weight as plastic bottles stainless steel bottles still have their appeal. Stainless steel bottles are lighter then glass and like plastic bottles have many different designs. For the fashion conscious, stainless steel may be the best bet with the most types of designs available. They also tend to be more inexpensive then the other two.

When going for metal containers try and avoid aluminum bottles as they are lined with epoxy sometimes containing BPA in older or cheaper versions. Also sometimes stainless steel can leave a metallic taste.

Whichever you choose make sure to find the right water bottle for you!

Sustain a Day: Making Easter more Sustainable!

Image: Simon Howden /

With Easter fast approaching it’s time to do a little party planning. Then there is the same question with every holiday: how do we make this event more sustainable? I have some great tips on making your Easter a little more garbage free.


One of my personal favourite parts of Easter has to do with chocolates and sweets. As sweet as candy is, most of it comes with a ridiculous amount of garbage! Especially those giant chocolate bunnies wrapped in tons of cardboard.

Another option? Home baked goods!
It’s a little more work but cake and cookies made from scratch have that taste that you can’t deny. You also avoid the nasty PGPR chemicals that chocolate companies are now using instead of actual cocoa butter.


It’s easy to go out and pick up some cardboard easter bunnies and window stickers but you just end up throwing them out at the end of the season. And then buy more next year? Just a little more then wasteful.

Another option? Fresh cut Flowers!
Nothing says spring like flowers. So why not pick up some fresh cut flowers at your local greenhouse? Not only do they look great, they smell amazing and will be a great replacement for any chemical laden air freshener.

Still can’t keep away from those cardboard cut outs? Reuse! Instead of throwing them out make sure to find a safe and dry place to keep them for next year.

Also remember to toss any of your eggs into your Organics bin rather then the garbage. No organics pick up in your area? Consider starting a composte in your backyard, mother earth will appreciate it.


The Earth on a Smaller Scale

Image: luigi diamanti /

The other day when I was watching the Garbage! documentary by Andrew Nisker, I opted to multitask and clean my fish tank at the same time.

I’ve been keeping fancy goldfish as a hobby for almost 7 years now and learned a lot about keeping my fish alive. People are often surprised when I tell them my oldest goldfish lived to be 6, but even crazier is the fact that goldfish are actually supposed to live to 10 or older.

My fish tank is a contained 30 gallons with a large filter, some live plants, and an aerator. There are a few parameters that need to be constantly checked: Nitrate, Nitrite, and Ammonia. Now since my tank has been set up for a while there are lots of good bacteria on the filter and in the water that help keep my Nitrites and the Ammonia down. I’ve added plants and promoted growth of algae which feed on Nitrates, yet I still have to change the water every week to lower the Nitrates. Nitrates are constantly being created as food decays and the fish releases waste.

Past the science stuff what I’m getting at is that even though I have cultivated a system and environment, it still needs to be maintained. Say I avoid cleaning the tank for a while and the bio system crashes, the tank could still be crystal clear and yet the goldfish could be suffering from ammonia poisoning, nitrate poisoning, or nitrite poisoning. Since I’m on the outside I’m suddenly wondering why I have a sick/dead fish.

Much like the fish tank, the Earth, as large as it may be, is contained. It’s space and resources are fixed and if we abuse it we upset the balance we hurt ourselves in the process. We are given everything and like the goldfish, we unknowingly destroy our home with our waste, chemicals, and garbage. Unlike my lucky goldfish though, we don’t have someone to clean up after us. When we die from chemical poisoning or pollution we will be the only ones to blame.

It’s difficult to understand the expanse of the Earth and our footprint. I encourage everyone to keep a Goldfish to truly understand the difficulty maintaining, and the delicacy of a contained environment. It’s really eye opening.


This is Pilot. He knows everything about the environment.

This is Pilot. He knows everything about the environment.