Leslie Garrett is the mother of three, an award winning journalist and acclaimed author of The Virtuous Consumer: Your Essential Shopping Guide for a Better, Kinder, Healthier World.
I was introduced to the "Queen of Green" at a publishing event, found myself inspired to attend her talk "Green Your Holidays: Enjoy Peace of Mind and Peace on Earth", and wanted to share a few of her insights.
Q & A with Leslie Garrett
1. For those of use interested in preparing a greener holiday where would you suggest we start? Support local?
I think the holidays can simply bring into clearer focus things that we can do on a daily basis. Supporting local businesses is a great way to shop year-round. By buying local, 73¢ of every dollar stays in your community, in the form of payroll, taxes, marketing... By buying your food locally, you also eliminate the roughly 1,500 miles most of our food travels to our plates, which of course eliminates the greenhouse gases from such a long trip. It also contributes to diversity in products and services -- by filling the pond with lots of little fish, rather than a few big ones (to mix my metaphors).
2. What is your take on the Christmas tree debate?
It's on of those "shades of green" debates that seem so common in the eco-living sphere. On the one hand, a fake tree is reusable...over and over and over, which is a good thing. On the other, it's frequently made of vinyl, the most toxic of plastics, and shipped from China, so that's a bad thing. I generally offer up the advice that if you've already got a fake tree, go ahead and keep using it until it looks like something out of Charlie Brown's Christmas. If not, stick to real trees -- ideally from an organic, local grower. To those who argue that we shouldn't cut down trees, my response is that Christmas tree farms PLANT trees to be cut down. And while they're growing, they're doing the great thing that trees do, which is absorb our carbon dioxide. But if people weren't buying them for Christmas trees, they wouldn't be planted in the first place.
3. Do you have any advice on how to save money and avoid waste on all the holiday trappings like wrapping paper and boxed items?
I often remind people that the 3 R's -- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle -- is really all any of us need. It really is that simple. Reduce your consumption. Don't go for quantity, go for quality. Scale back on the gift-giving and perhaps give services or "help" instead of things. For example, offer to shovel someone's driveway, or teach them to sew, or give them a certificate for a weekly supply of tomatoes when your garden is planted. Reuse -- save wrapping paper and gift bags and bows. Reuse boxes. And Recycle -- well, we all love THAT one because it's generally the easiest. But if we pay more attention to the first two, there won't be much left to recycle. And that's a good thing.
4. How can we stick to a planet friendly plan using the 3 R's when there's so much gift-giving pressure and consumerism?
Accept that it won't be easy. Any time you "change the rules", you're going to get some backlash. I got it from my family -- both sides implying I was being a Scrooge. I stuck to my guns (for example, I kept suggesting we buy only for the kids, rather than buy for an increasingly large family) and, it took a year or two, but everyone came around. Gifts have become less extravagant, too, which puts the focus back on being together and enjoying a great meal rather than the "stuff" under the tree. We're all happier because of it...not to mention less stressed financially and emotionally.
5. Nobody wants to come off as a Grinch when trying to scale down the holidays. How can we bring family and friends on board without being called a Scrooge behind our back?
I think the key is not being dictatorial or acting like a martyr. No-one wants to be made to feel guilty. The key is to suggest changes that will make everyone feel better...such as me suggesting we no longer buy gifts for all the adults. I also offered up earth-friendly suggestions when asked what my kids wanted: I would mention LEGO, which is PVC-free, meaning it's a "safe" plastic. Or I'd suggest they donate to a favorite charity. Rather than insist on change, I suggested it...strongly, perhaps, but still a suggestion. And I made it clear with my own choices: I offered up gifts that I felt good about giving. Food that I felt good about bringing...
6. What opinion do you hold about on-line shopping?
I think it's great to support our local retailers, but from an environmental perspective, ordering online is generally better for the planet in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, than each of us getting into our cars and driving to our big-box mall. For every delivery vehicle you see on the road, it generally means there are nine less individual vehicles on the road. So click away!
7. We like our holiday edibles to be sweet and savoury but how can we make them more environmentally savvy? I'm thinking homemade treats, free-range turkey, and real cranberries instead of canned.
It's always wise to buy organic when you can find it..and when you can afford it. The environmental toll of pesticides and chemical fertilizers is huge so any time we can reduce that in our own bodies and our own communities, we should. What's more, the more of us who buy organic, the louder the message we send to farmers and food companies - that we want food that's not contaminated. And yes, homemade is generally better for us (ever read the ingredients in most packaged products? What is most of that stuff?).
8. What can you suggest as alternatives to purchased gift items?
Gifts of experience or talent are wonderful. One thing ALL of us agree we need is more time. By offering to help someone, you're giving them that gift - either taking a chore off their list...or giving them the gift of your time. Charities need our help more than ever...the financial crisis has elevated need and decreased donations. So that's another great option. I gave my children's teachers the gift of a charitable donation in their name to provide educational supplies to children in need. I don't know of many teachers who really want more bath supplies or "#1 Teacher" mugs
9. Toy safety is a major concern. What do you look for when buying toys for your children? Can you recommend sites to check for recalls?
The past few years has seen more toy recalls than ever before. The good news is that it prompted US legislation to eliminate the most common offenders. The bad news is that new offenders simply pop up to take the place of cheap materials deemed unsafe. I've written about it here, including where you can find up-to-date info: http://www.virtuousconsumer.com/meet-the-new-toxin-in-toyland/
10. After the holiday hullabaloo subsides, how can we adopt a greener lifestyle and make more earth friendly choices as consumers in the new year?
It can seem overwhelming to try and do it all. It's like trying to run a marathon by going out and tackling 26 miles. Instead, take it a mile at a time. You might start by finding a local farmer to source your family's produce and meat. Get used to that -- when the food will arrive, what you'll have to do (for example, peel and store carrots rather than buying them already peeled and bagged) and enjoy how GOOD it tastes. Once that's routine, start switching out your cleaning supplies-- either by buying safer ones, or making your own (it's surprisingly easy. And cheap!). Next on your list, might be to start driving less -- perhaps you make it a goal to walk or bike for any trip less than 4 kilometres. Perhaps you decide to stop driving your kids to school (which, incidentally, is a GREAT thing to do. Studies show that kids who walk to school score higher on tests, not to mention they're generally healthier and more fit.). You might consider what I think is the easiest, most impactful change of all -- switching to a "green" energy provider (in Ontario, and other parts of Canada, that's Bullfrog Power). It's more expensive...but how you heat and cool your home has a HUGE impact on your carbon footprint. And it's as simple as a phone call.
After awhile, you'll notice that all these "green" changes become just the way you do things. For example, I no longer think about line-drying my clothes, it's just what I do when the weather turns warmer. I love the smell of line-dried clothes, my clothes last longer, look better... I compost without thinking. Cook from scratch without thinking. The thinking part for me comes when I have to replace something, such as a water heater, which we just did. We went with a tankless water heater because it's far more energy efficient. But I had to think about the options... the rest of the stuff has just become part of my routine. As a result, I save money, get exercise from walking/biking, and feel better about my impact on the planet and the message I'm giving my kids.
The Virtuous Consumer is available to purchase from Chapters Indigo, Amazon.ca, Amazon.com. Visit Leslie Garrett's website www.virtuousconsumer.com for more information and follow her on Twitter: @VirtuousConsumR.
BOOKALICIOUS BOOK GRAB GIVEAWAY
I have a signed copy of Leslie Garrett's "The Virtuous Consumer" to give to a lucky Bookalicious reader who answers one of the questions, "How did you use the 3 R's in your holiday celebrations?" or "How do you plan to reduce, reuse and recycle in new year?"
Yummy Rules and Regulations
You must be a Yummy Mummy Club member to win. Click to sign up! It's free and filled with perks. One comment per member. Entries accepted until Friday, December 31st, 2010. Contest open to Canadian residents only. Winners will be picked using www.random.org.
Wanda Lynne Young
I had the pleasure of meeting a Canadian author while attending MeFest in Waterloo, Ontario. Didi LeMay is the delightful author of children's books, one of which is A Winter Solstice Celebration. I found myself intrigued about this cautionary fairy tale. The animal characters in the story warn the children to take care of their environment or the earth will suffer dire consequences. This book would be a great read for children and parents who wish to be more environmentally conscience. Teachers might also recognize that this book would make an excellent part of their curriculum. Below is a Q & A with Didi LeMay.
1. The title of your book is “A Winter Solstice Celebration”. What does the title mean?
The activities and actions of the animals–their stand takes place in the forest and also takes place in and around the Solstice festival. I wanted to include all people of the world and also feel a connection with the earth, as the solstice is a celebration as old as time and connects us all–humans and animals–with the earth.
2. I see you have a new book that will be published soon. Tell us about it.
The next book to be published is called: “Freddy’s French Fries Fiasco”.The book is about a young sparrow, Freddy. He has been introduced to French Fries and enjoys eating a lot of them. He gets too chubby, and because of this he cannot fly anymore. He is very sad and his three friends, Alfie, Jeanie, and Robby, are very helpful. They help Freddy build an exercise track to lose his chubby belly. During this time, they have lots of adventures. With this story, I want to emphasize the importance of good health and also the importance of good friends and strong friendships.
3. At what age did you discover writing, and when were you first published? Tell us your
As far back as I can remember, writing and reading were my passion. In grade 4 we had a competition for how many books we had read. In June of that year we were to present our list. I presented 23 books. The teacher told me that I had misunderstood her and that my list represented the ones I wanted to read, not the ones I had read. When I told her I had read them, she did not believe me. It took a visit from my father to the teacher, to set her straight. In the same grade, we started to learn to write stories. One time, I wrote a story about a girl who woke up in the middle of the night because she heard a noise. I wrote that the curtains were left open and the light of the streetlamp fell onto the alarm clock and she could see the time. When I got the story back from the teacher, she failed me because I could not possibly have been the writer of this, because of the details of that section. Of course I was not angry. As a matter of fact, I was thrilled. That is when I knew I was meant to be a writer. I had it in my blood!
Grade 7, the teacher would punish us by having us write short stories. One day I had to write a story and I wrote about how the teacher was soooo mad, that I could see the smoke coming out of his ears. He was not impressed with my description of him.
I first published a book of a collection of short stories when I was in grade 7. It was my first attempt at self-publishing. I typed it out, and when someone wanted my book, I would go to the typewriter and re-type it for them from the master.
4. Tell us about “A Winter Solstice Celebration”.
A Winter Solstice Celebration is an excellent book for adults who want to teach their childrenthe importance of caring for animals and the environment they live in. Her book makes great Christmas Reading.
A Winter Solstice Celebration is available on my own web-site: www.didilemay.com and a variety of on-line bookstores such as:
The book is also featured on a Polish on-line book store as well as on Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, Japanese and German on-line book stores.
5. How do you pick the characters’ names?
When I develop a story, I percolate a while. I let the story develop on its own and let it speak to me. This character needed a name, so I talked to her and asked her, “What is your name?” One day, I was playing on the Internet and saw the Japanese name Miya– meaning temple. “I knew,” she told me, “when I saw the name it belonged to my character.” The fact that it means temple in Japanese is interesting, as it follows the theme of earthiness.
6. I hear that “A Winter Solstice Celebration” addresses concerns about the
environment. Tell me more about this.
Years before I wrote this story, while in school, I had to pass over a bridge with a small river flowing under it. That river was always filthy with chemical runoff from a factory near by. It bothered me and I started to learn about the environment and what we could do to keep it all clean. One day, I thought about the animals and I wondered about what they would say, if they could talk. I put myself in their shoes.
7. Describe your writing in three words.
Descriptive, animated, attention-grabbing.
8. Why did you write this book?
Once I put myself in the shoes of the animals I felt I needed to tell their story. I also wanted to communicate that we can co-exist together and that we should be a bit more conscious of what we, as humans, do to our environment.
9. Who is your intended audience?\
The story is for everyone who wants to read it. I feel it has a universal appeal, as it tells a story that is interesting to all of us, young and old.
10. How does this book benefit the reader?
I feel that once the reader has read the book “A Winter Solstice Celebration”, they would be more aware of the environment. I feel it could benefit all of us, as the story told is one that, hopefully, gets people thinking more of the footprint they set upon our earth.
Didi LeMay lives in Toronto with her husband and cat Harley and dog Rosie. Didi teaches English as a Second Language. For more information on Didi LeMay and her books check out her website, an excerpt in her blog and listen to her on Blog Talk Radio. You can Like A Winter's Solstice on Facebook and follow Didi on Twitter: @Nozum If you visit Didi LeMay's website, you can enter a contest to win an iPod Shuffle. Entries will be accepted until December 19th, 2010.
BOOKALICIOUS BOOK GRAB GIVEAWAY
I have a signed copy of Didi LeMay's book "A Winter Solstice Celebration" to give to a lucky Bookalicious reader who answers the question, "How do you and your children help save the planet?"
Yummy Rules and Regulations
You must be a Yummy Mummy Club member to win. Click to sign up! It's free and filled with perks. One comment per member. Entries accepted until Sunday December 19th, 2010. Contest open to Canadian residents only. Winners will be picked using www.random.org.
Wanda Lynne Young
I’m like most busy parents out there trying to save time and money preparing for the holiday season. I don't want to be stressed about funds and pressed for time searching for the perfect gifts to give my loved ones. I have my handy dandy gift list (thanks to YMC Jen) but I need to stick to a budget and I would like to get it done all in one place.
This is where Walmart plays a huge role for me and my family. Let me just put this out there, I do not like grocery shopping. This chore will get done, begrudgingly however, but the part of the store where I have my fun is the book aisle! I can find the season’s must-read books, pick up the milk and bread, and save myself time and money.
Walmart has a great selection of new releases and their everyday 30-40% discount off the book cover price makes it easy on the wallet. On any given Saturday night I can be found salivating over all the great reads and super savings which really helps me cross the gifts off my list of readers in my life. Recently I picked up Ripley's Believe It or Not!: Enter If You Dare and Guinness Book of World Records 2011 for my inquisitive oldest son.
And I noticed my husband checking out TSN 25 The Sports Network by Jim Hynes and Rob Lutes so I snuck it into the cart when he wasn’t looking!
My youngest son is a teenager and an avid reader. He checked out the books on the Walmart.ca website and said he would like to read Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. It’s part three of the Hunger Games mythology trilogy.
Here are some hot reads you can pick out for the people in your life.
For middle school readers, I suggest the ever popular Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney. Book 3 is The Last Straw where Greg Heffley is forced to change his wimpy ways. His father wants him to toughen up with organized sports or it's off to military school. Greg must shape up or get shipped out! Trust me on this one, when it comes to 7-12 year old boys this book is a can't miss.
For the avid reader who loves to bury themselves in an epic novel, Ken Follett’s World Without End was a bestseller around the world and his novel Pillars of the Earth spawned into a television mini-series. The first book in this author’s new Century Trilogy is Fall of Giants and believe me when I say this book would make a great gift for any Follett fan. (Hint: this one is on my wish list!).
For sisters and gal pals The Island by Elin Hindlebrand, Half-Broke Horses by Jeanette Walls and Nora Roberts', Happily Ever After are perfect picks. (Don't tell my sister about this, ok?)
Set in the summer sun, The Island is a story about mothers, daughters and sisters surviving a secluded summer full of secrets, surprises and suspense.
The Glass Castle was a bestseller for Jeanette Walls and now her new book Half-Broke Horses carries on with her family tradition, telling tales from her grandmother's storied life.
Nora Roberts' new novel Happy Ever After is the much anticipated book four of her Bride Quartet series. In Happily Ever After, a successful wedding planner finds herself looking for love but will she have her own fairy tale ending?
The new release The Distant Hours by Kate Morton is a good pick for fans of history mixed with mystery. In this new release, a book editor learns that a castle holds the secrets to her mother's past.
The Yummy Mummy Club virtual Twitter book club read Jodi Picoult's House Rules and it was a hit. This intriguing book is the story of a young man with Asperger's Syndrome. Jacob is a fanatic about forensics and has a habit of showing up at crime scenes to assist the police. When someone Jacob knows is murdered he ends up charged with the crime. House Rules is a tale that will leave you speechless at the end!
And last but certainly not least is The Tenth Gift by Jane Johnson the current Walmart December Read of the Month. The Tenth Gift is a captivating tale about two heroines from different eras. They share a gift for crafting exquisite embroidery and endulging in passionate love affairs. This book is definitely the gift for a reader who loves intrigue and romance.
Note to book club fans: You and your club members should follow the must-have books in the Walmart Book of the Month Program!
So dear reader if you want to get them all the books they would want to read at unbeatable prices just remember Walmart is gift headquarters! Let me know the book titles you pick up at Walmart in the comments below or tweet your suggestions using the hashtag #giftHQ.
Good luck crossing the gifts off your list!
Wanda Lynne Young
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