Sustainable Living

Posts about sustainable living, gardening, outdoor living and, of course, trees!

Halloween Costumes from Thrifted Items - You Can Wear Again!

This Halloween, be smart - not scary. Create customized second hand Halloween costumes with items you can add to your regular wardrobe and wear again!I may cause those of you who love Halloween to scratch your wig-covered heads - because you're already wearing your costume, obviously - when I tell you that I'm not a fan. Then you ask through your plastic glow-in-the-dark vampire teeth, "What's not to love?"

Don't you like costumes? I'm a dancer - of course I like costumes! What about candy? I've been known to down an entire bag of sour Skittles in one sitting. A big bag too. And scary stories? I'm not a fan of the super gory stuff, but a tastefully told ghost story? Yeah, you got my attention.

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5 Reasons Why You Should Buy Secondhand Instead of New

Saving money isn't the only reason you should buy used items! Most importantly, shopping secondhand saves the environment from resource overuse and waste.

Guys, I am obsessed with secondhand shopping. I've always loved a good thrift find and grew up on garage sales and antiquing, but only recently have I switched to buying only clothing and household items that are pre-loved. I actually have not bought an item of clothing for myself or my kids since the spring and the last time I bought anything home-related was last year for my nature-inspired holiday decor.

Sure, I still buy new things sometimes. Ballet shoes, craft supplies, gifts. But man do I have really good luck thrifting.

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Eco-Friendly School Supplies

Green your school year by investing in eco-friendly school supplies such as binders made from recycled materials and glue made from natural ingredients.Back-to-school may be a stressful time, but with my eldest daughter entering Kindergarten - I'm actually pretty excited. I know she's going to love it what with all the learning and the crafting and the playing. And - although having her away from home for two (sometimes three!) full days a week will be hard - I think it will be good for us as a family. Plus, sending her to school means I get to shop for school supplies - something I've always had a bit of a fascination with.

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3 Easy Steps to a Clean and Healthy Home

Whether you want to protect your family from chemicals or to do your part greening our planet - these are both great reasons to create a healthy home!If you're like me, your home is your sanctuary. And depending on what mood I'm in or the amount of chaos going on in my life, I can be a bit of a hermit. Which is why having a clean and healthy home is one of my top priorities in life. (It has nothing to do with my control freak tendencies. Nope. Not at all.)

Whether you want your home to be a happy haven from the outside world, you want to protect your family from harmful chemicals and materials, or you want to do your part greening our planet - these are all great reasons to follow the below three healthy home tips!

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Eco-Friendly Dance Supplies

Want to be a green dancer? Consider investing in eco-friendly dance supplies such as vegan dance shoes, organic dancewear and secondhand costumes.

I consider myself a pretty passionate person. And if you’ve been reading Of Houses and Trees for any length of time, you’d probably agree that when it comes to sustainability and preserving our beautiful planet – I’m all in.

But I’m passionate about more than making the world a greener place. Literature and the art of writing. Listening to and composing music. Creating interior spaces that tell a story. And – for as long as I can remember – dance.

I consider myself very fortunate to be able to work not only as a freelance writer, but also as a dance teacher, and that in the past (and hopefully again in the near future) I've had the opportunity to perform as a professional dance artist.

As you can imagine, I get pretty damn excited when I get to combine the things I’m passionate about - such as writing, dancing AND sustainability. It creates a lovechild of sorts. This blog post is one such lovechild.

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5 Simple and Unusual Uses for Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil essential oil has long been used to treat acne, cure infections and soothe bug bites. But did you know it can also be used to clean glasses?If you aren't already into essential oils, then I highly recommend giving them a try. Essential oils are all natural and thus so much more earth (and health!) friendly than other scented products. They can replace air deodorizers, cleaning supplies, medicinal supplies and more.

I think everyone who uses essential oils has a favourite - and mine is tea tree oil (melaleuca alternifolia). Tea tree oil essential oil has such a clean, fresh smell reminiscent of tree bark and dirt and rain. Maybe others would describe it differently, but it smells like nature to me. And when I wash my face with my tea tree oil soap and breathe in the scent of the earthy suds... oh man. Heaven. In my nostrils.

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Eco-Friendly Craft Supplies for Kids

Craft supplies for kids are usually non-toxic, but that doesn't mean they're earth-friendly. Here are few non-toxic AND eco-friendly craft supplies.Ever since my eldest daughter could hold a crayon (without eating it), she's been a crafter. Colouring, stickering, cutting, glueing - she does it all and loves it all. So, of course I'm always on the hunt for the most eco-friendly craft supplies I can find. You'd think it would be easy - after all, most kid's craft supplies are non-toxic. But just because something is non-toxic to humans doesn't mean it's environmentally friendly. I've rounded up a few of the greenest craft supplies I could find. All of these products are made from natural materials or recycled content or both!

Let the crafting begin!

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5 Harmful Products to Stop Buying Right Now

Unsustainable Products by Of Houses and Trees | These five unsustainable products are harmful to both humans and the environment and aren't even necessary when there are so many awesome alternatives.We can all do with a little less stuff, am I right? So, this year, one of my resolutions is to stop buying unsustainable products. These five common items are harmful to both humans and the environment and aren't even necessary when awesome alternatives are readily available. These days, there are so many environmentally sustainable products and methods out there, ranging from those used by our grandparents (cleaning with vinegar!) to those we can thank new advancements in technology for (period panties... for real!).

Here are five harmful, unsustainable products I'm not going to buy this year. Join me in the boycott!

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Top 5 Of Houses and Trees Posts of 2017

Sustainability Blog by Of Houses and Trees | From eco-friendly products and building materials, to healthy vegan eats - 2017 was a green year indeed for sustainability blog Of Houses and Trees!Ah, yearend. A time to stop and reflect on the past 12 months... and reread (or read for the first time) the five most viewed Of Houses and Trees posts of 2017! The last year has been the biggest yet for growing this sustainability blog and I have so very many ideas for 2018... and beyond! I just want to say how much I appreciate every single view, comment, share and subscribe I receive. Truly.

From eco-friendly products and building materials, to healthy vegan eats - 2017 was a green year indeed!

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5 Ways to Green the Holidays Without Being a Grinch

Green Christmas by Of Houses and Trees | Make this year a green Christmas by reusing, recycling and, most importantly, reducing. Here are five ways to do just that!I hate throwing things away. Many times I've caught myself hovering an item over the trash. An item most wouldn't hesitate to call "garbage," but that I can't seem to let go. "Can it be reused? Recycled? Made into a hat?" (I'm convinced that all garbage can somehow be made into a hat.) I've been known to rant for tens of minutes about what is and isn't allowed in our blue bag. "What do you mean you can't recycle pickle jars? What - I'm just supposed to throw them out?"

For me, no time of the year is this more painful than at Christmas. The wrapping paper, bows, ribbons, the live Christmas trees, the tinsel, the plastic and cardboard packaging on gifts, the leftovers we meant to eat, but then we just couldn't stomach mashed potatoes for another day. (Okay, maybe I'm reaching here because, really, who throws out mashed potatoes?) Of course, these things come from a well-meaning place - and only grinches bemoan presents, decorations and feasts, right?

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Eco-Friendly Holiday Gifts

Eco-Friendly Christmas Gifts by Of Houses and Trees | Green the holidays this year with these eco-friendly Christmas gifts - made by awesome, earth-conscious artisans from around the world.What? You're accusing me of creating a holiday gift guide filled with eco-friendly swag I want for myself?! Why I never... Okay. You got me. But just because I'd be super happy to find any of these eco-friendly Christmas gifts under the tree doesn't mean someone on your list won't want them too. (And maybe buy a little something for yourself while you're at it?) The best thing about this gift guide is everything on it is eco-friendly, i.e.: organic, handmade, reusable and so on and so forth!

The second best thing is that I found all of these items on Etsy, meaning made and sold by awesome artisans around the world. Buying from Etsy is the next best thing to buying local, but it also allows for the ease and comfort (and fun!) of shopping from your own home. Plus, some of the below items are even one of a kind. Just like your special friends and family members are.

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Green Your Home AND Save Money

Green Your Home by Of Houses and Trees | Here are five ways you can green your home and save a few dollars all at the same time, including shopping secondhand, cleaning with vinegar and... sharing!Probably the number one obstacle stopping us earthlings from embracing a more sustainable lifestyle is the belief it will cost more. Because sometimes it really does cost more. Organic food is usually more expensive. Locally made clothing is usually more expensive. Handmade home decor is usually more expensive. One can make the argument that the benefits of such items make the extra cost worth it, but even a tree-hugger like me knows that's not always a realistic response.

But do you know what is realistic? The fact that you can green your home AND save money. I mean, what's not to love? Here are five ways you can up the eco-friendliness of your home and save a few dollars - all at the same time.

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5 Amazing Facts About Trees

Amazing Facts About Trees by Of Houses and Trees | Five amazing facts about trees! Did you know a tree can be used as a compass, fight crime and increase bird biodiversity from zero to 80 species?

Happy National Tree Day! Did you know that was even a thing? Since 2011, Canada has celebrated National Tree Day on the Wednesday of National Forest Week every September. Since Of Houses and Trees would be nothing without trees (or just "Of Houses" - how boring) I wanted to celebrate the occasion with five amazing facts about trees. So here they are!

A tree can be used as a compass. If you're ever lost in the woods, look to the trees. In northern temperate climates, moss grows on the north side of a tree where it's shadier. Or, if you come across a tree stump, look at the rings to find your way. In the north they'll be thicker on the southern side of the tree because that side receives more sunlight. In the southern hemisphere the opposite is true - the rings will be thicker on the side facing north.

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5 Quotes About Sustainability

Sustainability Quotes by Of Houses and Trees | Five sustainability quotes superimposed over images of mountains, forests and a child hugging a very large tree. Cheesy? Perhaps. True? Hell yes.

I don't know about you, but sometimes I find those inspirational quotes strategically placed over a picture of a mountain or forest pretty damn cheesy. Am I a cynic? Why yes. Yes I am. But you know what else I am? I'm a dreamer and an optimist. Especially when it comes to saving our planet. Which is why I wanted to share five sustainability quotes superimposed over images of mountains, forests and a child hugging a very large tree. Cheesy? Perhaps. True? Hell yes.

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Land Tour 2017

Land Tour by Of Houses and Trees | Welcome to my land tour! We're building a house here, but for now it's just 40 acres of rolling hills, trees and undergrowth in central Alberta, Canada.

I’ve been wanting to take you all on a tour of our land for quite awhile now. You can read all about how it came to be ours in my post The Story of Our Land. I think the pictures in that post give a good idea of what the land is all about. And I hope my writing paints a vivid word picture. I do tend to get kind of poetic when waxing on things I’m passionate about.

But if a picture is worth a thousand words (and as a writer, I’m not sure I always buy that line), then how many pictures is a video worth? I suppose it depends on the content and the quality of the video, but I think this one captures the true – and largely untamed – beauty of our land.

I hope you enjoy watching my land tour video as much as I enjoyed making it!

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How to Plant a Tree Sapling

Planting a Sapling by Of Houses and Trees | There's nothing like planting a sapling. They're so tiny, it's almost unimaginable one day they'll be towering trees. But with proper care - they will!

There's nothing like planting a sapling. They're so tiny, it's almost unimaginable one day they'll be towering trees. Trees with the ability to provide shade, a home to insects and animals and in some cases fruit to eat. From something so small to an integral part of our ecosystem, communicating with its kin through underground networks and providing oxygen for us to breath. Which, you know, is kind of important.

Devin and I try to plant a few trees every year out on the land. It's our way of saying thank you to a place that gives us so much joy and doing our part in the battle against deforestation and other unsustainable practices. So, if you've never planted a tree - you really should!

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Eco-Friendly Gardening Items

Eco-Friendly Garden by Of Houses and Trees | 'Tis the season! For gardening that is. Here are nine eco-friendly garden items - from seeds to shears - that every green thumb needs.

'Tis the season! For gardening that is. There aren't many things in this world better than sticking your hands in freshly turned garden soil. (Except eating it when pregnant - which I did. Don't judge.) Last spring, I wrote a post featuring a Homemade Garden Fertilizer recipe, but I only tried it out once due to the fact that I had a newborn and a two year old at the time.

Now that my kids are one and three I obviously have so much more time on my hands so I'll be dousing my abundant vegetable garden in homemade fertilizer on a weekly basis. Except I don't have a vegetable garden this year because I was being facetious about all the time on my hands. Hello. My kids are one and three! I couldn't even plant runner beans because my eldest kept spilling the seeds between the deck boards while my baby climbed fully-clothed into the kiddie pool.

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Subscribe to My Blog and I'll Plant a Tree!

Plant a Tree by Of Houses and Trees | Subscribe to my blog and I'll plant a tree! Because as the proverb goes: "The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now."

"The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now."

This Chinese proverb is one of my favourite quotes of all time as it reminds me that it's never too late to do good. There's something so simple and pure about the act of planting a tree, caring for it and watching it grow. Of course, not everyone has the time, funds or space for a sapling that will one day become a towering version of its former self. To be honest, I don't have a lot of time or funds myself. But something I do have - courtesy of the land - is space.

So here's how it works... For each one of you that subscribes to my blog during the month of June (2017), I will plant a tree out on our land in your honour. I will then name it after you and sing ceremonial songs to encourage its growth. Or at the very least I'll water it.

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Planting a Forest: The Remarkable True Story of Forest Man


Planting a Forest | Jadav Payeng has been single-handedly planting a forest for over three decades, proving it takes just one person to do something remarkable.

Today I wanted to write a post about a very remarkable person. The other night I stumbled upon a 2013 short documentary on YouTube called Forest Man, directed by William Douglas McMaster. It briefly details a story that spans more than three decades. A story about a man single-handedly planting a forest.

In 1979, then 16 year old Jadav Molai Payeng was hired as a labourer for a tree plantation project initiated by the social forestry division of the Golaghat district in the state of Assam, India. When the five year project ended, Payeng began his own planting project on a barren sandbar next to his home island Majuli.

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5 Facts About Earth Day

5 Facts About Earth Day | Here are five facts about Earth Day accompanied by five simple ways to integrate the philosophies of this one day into your daily life.Happy Earth Day friends! If it feels like we just celebrated Earth Hour it's because... we did. But really - is one hour plus one day enough time to fully acknowledge this planet that gives us so much? I think you know my answer to that question. Which is why I've created an enjoyable - yet informative - post featuring five facts about Earth Day. Just for you!

But first, let me boldly suggest we celebrate Earth Day 365 days a year. If this sounds like a daunting task - relax - it isn't! It really is about the little things we do every day. The things that become so ingrained in our routine they no longer are tasks to put effort into. They're just life. This Earth Day, let's vow to make caring for our planet something we just do. Every day.

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5 Earth Hour Activities

Earth Hour is only 60 minutes, yet it's the small actions that make a greener world. Here are five Earth Hour activities to do when the lights go out.Happy Earth Hour! Are you going to turn off your lights and electrical devices between 8:30pm and 9:30pm for Earth Hour? Devin and I are, which means our daughters will be participating in the event as well except they'll be doing so in their sleep. Well... maybe we'll cheat a little and keep their nightlights and fans on because if we don't they'll wake up and then no Earth Hour activities for us adults. (Keep reading for a few things we - and others - like to do during Earth Hour!)

Earth Hour may be only a 60 minute event, but it's purpose is to prove that even the smallest actions contribute to a more environmentally conscious and sustainable way of living. The idea that each one of us can make a difference with small, every day actions is exactly what Of Houses and Trees stands for and lines up with how I try to live my life. As the Earth Hour website says, "No one causes climate change in isolation and no one can tackle it alone. Changing climate change requires innovation in ambition, vision and collaboration and it starts with each of us."

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How Trees Talk to Each Other


How Trees Talk To Each Other by Of Houses and Trees | We all know trees are living organisms, but did you know they can talk? Learn how trees talk to each other and how you can help them continue to do so.We all know trees are living organisms, but did you know they can talk? I read Jane Goodall's Seeds of Hope last year and was absolutely entranced with the chapter on trees (surprise, surprise, given the name of this blog). In my favourite section she talked about the ability trees have to communicate through their underground network of roots. Then, only a few months later, I was YouTubing it up one night and came across a TEDTalks by Suzanne Simard about - you guessed it - the communicative abilities of trees. THEN, a few months after that, I was at the bookstore and the woman in front of me at the cash register was buying a copy of a book called The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben. Clearly someone was trying to tell me something. Perhaps it was the trees.

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Homemade Garden Fertilizer

Garden Fertilizer by Of Houses and Trees | Banana peels, black tea, molasses and eggshell make up a super easy organic home garden fertilizer. Just add to an empty jug, mix with rainwater and go!

I've been trying to learn the ropes of vegetable gardening for about three years now. Before that I was more of a "plant a perennial that my mom gave me and then forget about it" kind of gal. Back then I used Miracle Grow, but when I decided to start growing my own food I got all crunchy and stopped using any commercially made fertilizers or pesticides.

I've dabbled in the realm of homemade bug deterrents. (I'm all for letting bugs be bugs, but when they start decimating my runner beans, well – they gotsta go.) However, I've yet to attempt making my own fertilizer. I know some people just say "dig a hole and throw some vegetable scraps in it," but that just seems... too easy? For some reason, I've always been that person who likes doing things the hard way. Then I see homemade garden fertilizer recipes that call for fish heads and I'm like yeah... no...

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Freewriting... About Trees


Freewriting... About Trees

So I just wrapped up rehearsing and performing in a dance piece called DIG by Edmonton-based choreographer Kathy Ochoa in which we explored automatic writing/automatic talking. If you're unfamiliar with the practice, the non-vocal version is usually called freewriting (something I was often required to do when I was working on my degree) and consists of a person writing for a set period of time without stopping to consider what should come next or edit what came before.

It was after the fact that I learned the term automatic writing actually describes messages that pass through a person's hand, but do not necessarily come from the mind of said person.

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3 Surprisingly Simple Ways to Save the Planet

Ways to Help the Environment by Of Houses and Trees | Looking for simple ways to help the environment on a day to day basis? Think before you buy, clean with care and eat less meat. That's it!Much like I was inspired by a few home blogs I follow to do an online Holiday Home Tour, I was almost inspired to do a "Design Resolutions" post. But, you know what? You'll read about my upcoming design ideas and projects if/when I get around to them. For now, let's talk about something a little bit bigger. Something we all should be trying to do – every day – and not just as a New Year's resolution that invariably will fall to the wayside come February. What I'm talking about, my dear friends, is saving the planet.

Can it be done? Some say no. Some say we're in too deep. We've gone too far. To this I say pish posh. Of course, I just so happen to be one of those super annoying idealists who thinks that every little change we make counts and that starting small is the best way to integrate a leaner, meaner and greener way of life into your new year.

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Mugo Pine (Pinus Mugo)


Mugo Pine Facts | Ah, majestic Pinus mugo! Also known as mountain pine, dwarf mountain pine, scrub mountain pine, Swiss mountain pine, creeping pine and mugo pine.

It's been a long time since I've done a "Tree of the Day" post (the last one was way back in my pre-motherhood days of January 2013), but I've decided to dust this series off because my Google calendar keeps reminding me I have a blog post "due" (because I'm the kind of person who enters every one of their to-dos into an online calendar and then procrastinates on actually doing them).

Ah, majestic Pinus mugo! Also known as mountain pine, dwarf mountain pine, scrub mountain pine, Swiss mountain pine, creeping pine and – the name by which I know it – mugo pine. And, if that isn't enough names for you, it sometimes is referred to as Pinus montana and sometimes spelled "mugho pine," due to a typo in an 18th century encyclopedia.

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Mr Sun, Sun, Mr Golden Sun


Mr Sun, Sun, Mr Golden Sun

I don't remember when I got hooked on being green. I mean, I've always adored nature. Trees. Lakes. Dirt. My family's annual (and sometimes bi or tri-annual) camping trips (usually to the majestic Rockies) led to a love of the great outdoors and all that it represents being wound into the very fabric of my being. But did I always recycle? No. Was I always that person – you know, the one who dies a little inside when someone at a birthday party throws away a paper plate, or licks clean plastic cutlery and puts it in their purse so it can later be reused? No. No, I wasn't.

I'm a firm believer in the fact that green living is about integrating eco-friendly choices into reality. I clearly recall that I didn't start blue-bagging until I lived in my first apartment, which had recycling bins in the parking lot.

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Mahalo Back Girl

Maui Family Vacation by Of Houses and Trees | Pictures of my recent Maui family vacation! These have nothing to do with houses or trees, but nobody will care because Hawaii is so effin beautiful.

An epic failure has occurred over here at Of Houses and Trees, folks, and my heart is a-broken. I probably put a good two to three hours into a post about my favourite locally-owned Stony Plain home decor stores and – right as it was ready to be posted – Safari crashed and only a fraction of the entry saved.

The ironic part (using ironic in the Alanis Morrisette way and not in the I have an English degree and thus know better way) is that Safari crashed because I was trying to watch episodes of my new obsession, Tiny House Nation, online for free. Oh, how I love that show, but the loss of my post is a heavy price to pay. And honestly, I'm too depressed about the whole thing to rewrite it at the moment. Maybe another day

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Of House and Trees Blogger Archive

Featured Image (bloggerarchive-Wikimedia-freetoUSM)If you're looking for my older posts (or just trying to navigate away from this site and over to Pinterest... you know, where the real magic happens) they are currently still hanging out on my old Blogger site. After much trial and error, it turns out the best way to import my previous posts to my new site is to do so manually. As in reconstructing them one at a time. Good thing I wasn't a very prolific poster in those days as it is time consuming work! So the old posts will be gradually moseying their way over to their new home on the new and improved Of Houses and Trees site, but in the meantime try and drop by to say hello – even blog posts get lonely in their old age.

And while you're there don't forget to comment as your lovely and thoughtful words will be imported with each post...

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