Thursday, January 13, 2022

Learning to Live With(out) Plastic - 51°05' 03" N 115° 22' 07" W

After seeing the amount of plastic floating the seas during our sailing adventures through Asia, we made a conscious effort to reduce the amount of plastic in our day-to-day lives.  Moving into our new home in Canmore in June 2018 was when we started to get serious.  We endeavour to make purchases based on packaging: avoid clam shells for produce and bakery items, when we can; eat English cucumbers that are not plastic wrapped like their European cousins and search out different products to replace single-use plastic. 

So how are we doing?  Rather well in some areas and very poorly in others.  

These are some of the things we do:

  • Reusable grocery bags - very normalised to take your own bag these days but sadly, not everyone does. 
  • Taking our produce loose or in reusable bags.  
  • Using a travel mug - if we have one then we can reward ourselves with a coffee/hot chocolate.  If we don't, then it is just bad planning and we have to forgo that caffeine hit.
  • Wax wraps, snack bags and Tupperware containers for our lunches at the ski hill or on the trails.  We do not create any garbage - just a couple of things that need washing.
  • Soap - just a cake of soap purchased without packaging rather than fancy soap options in their plastic pump packs.
  • Shampoo Bar - we are experimenting with a shampoo bar in lieu of liquid shampoo.  Yet to find a conditioner that works but the search continues.
  • Reusable silicon bags rather than ziplocks - we have tried the plastic reusable bags but they do not last like the silicon ones do - and they are still plastic!
  • We don't use Glad Wrap/Saran Wrap - except to wrap fondant when decorating a cake. If we thought harder, we could find an alternative for doing this. And the wrap we use is plant-based. We put things in containers.  Recently, we bought some silicon covers that we are still getting used to - but not loving. We will likely just stick with putting things in containers!
  • Garbage bags - we use the local paper to line our compost bucket.  We are trialling compostable bin liners for the garbage bin.  So far, so good... And just a note that in Canmore, we don't have wheelie bins due to bears.  Our garbage goes into a community bin therefore the compostable bags are not sitting filled with garbage in a wheelie bin for a week. 

We try to minimize the number of containers of cleaning products by reducing the number of different cleaners.  We make some of our own, buy powders in cardboard boxes when possible and reuse spray bottles.

We are fortunate to have butchers at our supermarkets so we can buy meat and have it wrapped in paper rather than the polystyrene trays.  

And what could we do better? Groan. The list is long. From buying all our dry goods in bulk and our own containers to forgoing Tim Tams because they are packaged in plastic.  We have a long way to go but even the small contribution we are currently making is reducing the amount of single-use plastic in our garbage bin.  And it is becoming very normal - which has to be a win!

Our favourite products:

Who Gives a Crap Toilet Paper - a great Aussie brand.  We do get our TP delivered but it comes completely plastic-free and the shipping is carbon-neutral.  

Tru Earth Washing detergent and cleaner - a great Canadian brand! 32 washes come in a A5 sized cardboard envelope.  We prefer fragrance-free.  Our clothes are clean and we don't have the sticky mess of spilt laundry detergent. We don't use a fabric softener nor drier sheets so the cardboard envelope is the only rubbish!

Stasha bags - love these bags.  We mostly use them to store things in the fridge and freezer.  We have tried different brands but these are the favourites.

Rocky Mountain Soap - we buy unpackaged cakes of soap from this fabulous local business. Their soap is made 5km from our house, it is toxin-free and no packaging. It nails every eco button!

Frank Green reusable cups - Thanks to Hilary and Nadia for gifting us these fabulous take-away mugs.  They fully seal so can be thrown into your bag full without disaster and they help keep your coffee/tea warm. 

Great Wrap - we discovered this on our trip to Australia last year - reusing potato waste from the production of french fries - right on the Mornington Peninsula!!  A great alternative to Glad Wrap...

Our mission to reduce plastic waste will expand to waste of all kinds once we move aboard our boat.  

Monday, January 10, 2022

Canmore in Omicron Lockdown - 51° 05' 03" N 115° 22' 07" W

Are you a bit surprised that you haven't read about us out adventuring for the past few months?

Life, for us, isn’t always climbing mountains, repelling down vertical cliffs or watching 3 metre waves break over the bow of a sailboat. Sometimes we are doing our best to avoid catching/transmitting COVID or experiencing the little pleasures of our gilded cage in Canmore. As ordinary as it might seem to us, I thought I’d share (and thus, make a record) of what we are doing these days.

Kayaking on the Bow River – Friends of ours in town had bought kayaks and had yet to use them. At the start of the summer, they had offered the kayaks to us to use whenever we wanted. So, when we asked Gord and Jenny to take us on an easy, flat paddle, a stretch of the Bow River just south and east of Calgary was suggested on a late day in September.

The day started cloudy, but brightened up as morning meandered down the river into afternoon. Floating with the current is the best way to go … well worth ferrying a start and finish vehicle!

Letting Gord lead the way is best - we are new at this.

Beautiful vistas and calm water - perfect!

In the afternoon, the sun came out.  What a lovely day!

Warm, mostly dry and jazzed to try this again.  Thanks Gord and Jenny!

Community Cruisers – Kate’s volunteering spirit has landed her a role as volunteer coordinator for Community Cruisers, a Bow Valley non-profit organization that promotes travel by bike in, around and between towns. One of the more popular promotions is a free bicycle parking-and-minding service at the weekly Canmore Farmer’s Market. Many of our friends helped out with this Thursday commitment.  Bike parking got us out every Thursday until September 30th.

Megan and Ali help staff the bike parking booth

Visiting Diane – Sean’s old friend, Gord, was heading for Vancouver Island and wanted to share the driving on the twelve-hour, one day run from the prairies. Sean put up his hand as that meant he could visit his Mom. Once Sean and Gord made it off the ferry at Naniamo they parted ways and Sean spent four days visiting his mom, Aunt Jan and Uncle Mark. By good coincidence, Eyvan had just finished at a successful protest at Fairy Creek and called to see if they could drop in at Parksville. It was a happy mini-reunion as a thin slice of the family (but three generations deep) was able to gather at Jan and Mark’s place. We had a great visit, complete with card and scrabble games, a great dinner (thanks Mark!) and lots of family love.

Eyvan, Diane and my slippers at Jan and Mark's place

Eyvan and their continent explorer

Trail Running – Kate and Sean have fallen in love with striding along winding, pine-needle-covered pathways during their time in this little town. A bit of grumbling is heard when running buddies invite us out to run and there is pavement underfoot.

Canmore has so many lovely, tree-lined trails that lead up and down the sides of Mt. Rundle and Grassi Peak.

At a trail run event offered by Tsuu T'ina runners on the beautiful reserve they caretake  

Out on the trails by the Bow River with Andy and Grace

Enjoying a Warm Autumn – The end of September usually is the finish of hiking season. This year, the warmth of summer stretched almost to the last days of October. We didn’t let the beautiful chance pass by and hit the trails whenever we could. Here’s some of the evidence.

Morning hikes are often worth it.  Sunrise.

Kate, on our way up Little Arethusa

Carrot Creek Pond - a locals-only skating pond

The far end of Johnston Lake with Cascade Mountain in the background

A blurry picture (due to a zoom lens to ensure a safe distance)
of a momma and three -of-year grizzly cubs

When it was cold or overcast, we didn’t let that stop us.
Jura Creek is a great local hike you can do
when it is overcast or even a bit rainy.

Turning Canmore into Jackson Hole – The main street of Canmore was turned into a movie set for almost the whole month of October as an HBO special called The Last of Us was filmed here. We had fun wandering the main street between filming days and watching the assembly and disassembly of the facades. They even built a twenty-foot-tall, log fort gate at one end of Main Street. Impressive.

Facades being created

Log fort gate at the end of main street

Our local shops disguised as post-apocalyptic Jackson Hole

A better look at the gate they made - real logs!

Setting up for filming

Actors on the set

Christmas Tree Harvesting – For the second year, we have gone to a forestry area where it is allowed to pick and cut down a Christmas tree. For the second year, we have invited Sean’s niece and her family, along with our friends, the Pettigrews, and turned the outing into an event. We meet at the determined place, hike in a firepit, chairs and a fold-up picnic table, have fire-roasted treats and hot chocolate and have a good visit. Getting the tree happens but it certainly isn’t the main event of the day.

Looking for a good tree

Pre-harvesting festivities - roasted dogs and faux-dogs ... and s'mores!

Alison, Julia, Kate and Megan

Now, to find the perfect tree ...

The Pettigrews have chosen their victim.

Pip taught us a new way to roast - Spider Dogs!
(Fergus is hoping for a handout)

Pip, Sean and Kristin (warming her feet)

We couldn't have picked anything bigger.

Baking – gifts for our friends and family this year was something that everyone appreciates. Baking! Dozens and dozens and DOZENS of different kinds of cookies were produced, along with more than a few loaves of Sean’s sourdough bread.

First batch looks like the picture.  I must be doing this right.

Snow Hosting – We have started our second year of working as Snowhosts at Sunshine Village. The one-day-a-week commitment happens in a COVID-safe environment (outdoors) and yields a new group of friends; access to all kinds of old-timer knowledge of the ski hill (many of the other snowhosts have been skiing at Sunshine for over twenty years); a volunteers’ locker room at the gondola base for us to store our gear (skis, boots, poles, etc.); snazzy blue Smurf suits and a season’s pass so we can ski on the nice powder days when we aren’t volunteering there. 

The Snowhosts are an army of question-answerers, direction-pointers, appropriate-run-recommenders and chipper cheerleaders for our amazing ski resort.  We spend the first few hours at the parking lot/lower base of the gondola as people leave their cars and get organized to to go up to the slopes.  After that, we hop on the gondola and spread out on the hill, skiing and being the friendly face of Sunshine Village.  We let people know about a free half-day tour that they can join (led by a pair of Snowhosts - there is usually six or eight of us on the hill each day).

It is a sweet gig.

... neither rain nor snow nor frost on our toques
shall keep us from our appointed duties.

Talk about beautiful working conditions!

The Snowhosts Locker Room

There's our locker!

This is where you'll find us at the top of the gondola

Our Wednesday co-workers