3 Eco-Friendly Product Choices

Make informed choices to minimize your environmental impact

Want to help the environment? Too busy to dedicate volunteer time to the cause? Well there is an easy way for you to support environmental sustainability…by buying things!

These 3 eco-friendly product choices are some alternatives to everyday products that you might be already using. We only have one Earth, so let’s take care of it.

(We are not sponsored by any of the following products)

1. Cleaning Products

There are many different types and brands of cleaning products out there. Most of them have chemicals and toxins that aren’t good for the environment and are not sustainable.

Things to look out for:

Non-biodegradable: They can pollute streams and rivers

GMOs: Genetically modified organism, made in a lab (not found naturally in the environment)

Tested on Animals: Can hurt animals and is not sustainable

Toxic: Bad for human or animal health  

Nellies All Natural

80dishtin_front_turn-web

The first company is Nellies All Natural. Their products are biodegradable, non-toxic, GMO free, chlorine free, not tested on animals, and more.

Let’s break some of these features down.

Biodegradable: Once you wash and rinse your clothes or dishes with this soap,  it won’t be washed away and pollute the ocean. It will decompose away.

No GMOs: Nothing here  was genetically modified in a lab.

No Animal Testing:. Keep the animals out in the wilderness to be a part of their natural life cycle.

If Nellies All Natural isn’t for you then don’t worry, I’ve got a few more cleaning products to tell you about.

Mrs. Meyers

radish-multi-surface-everyday-cleaner

Mrs. Meyers products’ are free of chlorine, bleach, ammonia, petroleum distillates, and more.. They use a biodegradable formula and 25% post-consumer plastic for their packaging. Some of their products also use renewable plant resources to add extra cleaning power.

ECOS

honeydewThe last cleaning product brand that I will talk about is made by ECOS. Their safer choice products use safer chemical ingredients, are EPA certified (Environmental Protection Agency), and are more environmental friendly than typical cleaning products.

 

 

 

 

 

2. Reusable Bags

Plastics shopping bags don’t break down/ decompose, they last 20-1,000 years. Nothing that we use should take that long to decompose. This includes plastic grocery shopping bags and plastic Ziploc bags. You can also wash and reuse your Ziploc bags that you already have too!

One of the easiest things you can do when you go shopping is bring your own bags to carry your groceries, clothes or whatever else back home. Buy a tote bag or any non-plastic bag and simply re-use it. By simply using a reusable bag you help reduce the use of thousands of plastic bags.

Blue Avocado

blueavocadoOne company that provides eco-friendly alternatives to both shopping bags and Ziploc bags is Blue Avocado. They have reusable tote bags and reusable food storage bags (Ziploc alternative). The reusable food storage bags are more durable than Ziploc bags and you can reuse them and have a better reseal. You might be able to find these bags at some of their listed retailers: Staples, Bed Bath & Beyond, Whole Foods, and online at Amazon.

 

3. Shoes

Most people in the world wear shoes. There are more than 20 billion pairs of shoes manufactured each year. We don’t have 20 billion people to wear all those shoes. The manufacturing stage has a large impact on the environment, through the use of large amounts of water and energy. Shoes also have many toxins, chemicals, and fossil fuels are produced and leaked into the environment in a shoes life cycle.

Sole Rebels

runaround-freedom-2_yellow_2Sole Rebels are handcrafted shoes made in Ethiopia. Some of their shoes have insoles made from recycled car tires, laces made from recycled truck inner tubes, and are vegan. As the only WFTO Fair Trade certified shoe company in the world, they’re not just good for the planet, but also people! 

Neuauashores

aliya_in_black_pu_2__36991-1448048446Neuaurashores is eco-conscious and animal-product free. Animals have a large impact on the environment when us humans get involved. Neuaurashoes only has women’s shoes but they are all animal free vegan shoes. They are also partnered with a factory in Brazil that decided to take responsibility of solid waste of the entire production, aiming to make it less harmful to the environment. The factory reuses 68% of their monthly 250-ton waste, the rest is taken to a Hazardous Industrial Waste Landfill, it’s not just being dumped into a lake or river.

 

 

 

I hope you learned something from this post and will apply it to your everyday life. Even just spreading information about environmental sustainability can help. We here at NVOSAS care about the environment, sustainability, and educating others. Let’s work together to protect the environment. Little changes can go a long way.

-Cam “Scruffy” Cottrell

4 Weird & Wonderful Fall Fungi in North Vancouver

For some, the Fall season marks the tragic decline of Summer: the temperature drops, leaves fall, and the rains torrent down in full force. But for those in the know, Fall is a wonderland filled with colour and life. Why? Fungi!

Scientists estimate there are over 10,000 species of fungi living in the Pacific Northwest (Northern California to Alaska) and up to 1.5 million species worldwide. Since we don’t have time to cover all 10,000, here are 4 relatively common (and super weird looking) fungi we found right here on Vancouver’s North Shore. We found these mostly in Capilano Canyon and on the Kennedy Falls hiking trail, but many of these can be found on lawns and in gardens even in the city! Let’s dive in with a Super-Mario looking mushroom, the Fly Amanita.

1. Fly Amanita

The Fly Amanita is a cheerful looking fellow, with bright red cap dotted with many white warts on it. The cap can either by round like this one, or convex like a bowl. You can find it pretty much everywhere there are pine, spruce, fir, birch, or aspen trees around between June and November. Danger: this mushroom is dangerous to eat or even touch without gloves so be careful.

fall-fungi-fly-amanita

Why fly in the name? Traditionally, this mushroom has been used in homemade fly traps. People would crumble small pieces of the cap into a bowl of milk – the flies are attracted to a chemical in the mushroom, then are poisoned by it and drown in the milk.

fall-fungi-fly-amanita-man

Fun Fly Amanita Fact: This mushroom was said to be a favourite of the ancient Romans to poison their enemies.

2. Angel Wings

Moving from devilish to delicate, the Angel Wings fungus is easy to spot growing on coniferous nurse logs throughout the forest from September to October. It has a thin, wavy top, usually no stem to speak of, and thin dense gills underneath.

fall-fungi-angel-wings

Be careful when petting the dense gills underneath, as this fungi is fragile.

3. Orange Jelly

Many fungi like the Fly Amanita and Angel Wings have a defined structure to them. Others are alien blobs of goo. That’s the category Orange Jelly fungus falls into…

Orange-Jelly-Fungus

This is definitely the weirdest looking fungus we found in the forest this season, and you can probably go find it as well. It grows from coniferous wood (see our rundown of common BC trees here) from May to November. Moist mountain valleys like Lynn Canyon and Capilano Canyon in North Vancouver, or Paradise Valley (Cheakamus Centre) in Squamish are the best places to look for these.

Fun Jelly Fungus Fact: Jelly Fungus is easiest to spot when the weather has been super rainy – it soaks the moisture up and swells to the size you see in the picture above. When moisture levels drop, the fungus dries up to lay in wait for the next big rainfall.

4. Crested Coral Fungus

While the coral reef isn’t doing too well in the ocean, coral fungi – named for their resemblance of oceangoing coral – are abundant on the forest floor. We think this here is Crested Coral Fungus, but it’s tough to tell between that and Pink Coral Mushroom which happens to be super poisonous.

Regardless, both kinds can be found on the ground underneath coniferous trees like Western Hemlock and Douglas Fir. It isn’t a good idea to eat any kind of Coral Fungus, but they sure are neat to look at and feel with their interesting structure.

Fall Fungus For Everyone

That’s all folks! If you have any weird or wacky fungus you’ve spotted this season, send us a picture at nvosas@gmail.com and we’ll post it for everyone to see. Otherwise, happy fungus hunting friends.

-Mark

 

Photos and Words by:

Mark Tallman

President, NVOSAS

Mark-Tallman-NVOSAS

 

A Wintery Wander

I spent this past Sunday in the best way I know possible: hopping in a car with good friends and seeing what we could find along the sea to sky highway. Our mission: to find a rare element called “snow”. We had grown weary of the grey skies in North Vancouver, and were looking towards whiter pastures. Friends, let me tell you, the Sea to Sky did not disappoint.

Sea-to-Sky

We had intended to go on a nice walk to Brandywine falls with our dog, but were met by a closed gate and snowed in parking lot. So on we went until we could find a parks path that had available parking. It’s important to point out here that as soon as our plans changed we sent a quick text to someone back home.

Always make sure someone knows where you are going when you’re headed into the woods, it doesn’t matter how old you are.

We ended up turning down towards the Athlete’s Village in Whistler by the Cheakamus Lake Service road. Where we ended up didn’t really matter in the end, but it’s how we spent it.

Before we could romp around in the snow we grabbed our warm gear (dog included) and packs full of snacks and water. It’s a good idea to carry a small first aid kit and emergency supplies.

Essential Emergency Gear

Here’s what I take with me when I go adventuring:

Inside this little bag I have:

  1.       Some basic first aid supplies in case of injuries.
  2.       Matches and a lighter.
  3.       Pocket mirror (for signalling and also potential fire starter).
  4.       Bandana, for wearing or for first aid, a versatile tool!
  5.       Whistle to call for help
  6.       Headlamp (with spare batteries)
  7.       A Sharpie with duct tape wrapped around it, because you can always find a good use for duct tape.
  8.       Pocket Knife
  9.       Garbage bag; good as an extra layer if you are lost, best if you can find a bright coloured one so you can easily be seen. You can also fashion it into a shelter if you have to!
  10. A bear bell.

It’s also important to pack lots of snacks, water and extra layers. Remember: it’s better to be over prepared, than under prepared!

NVOSAS_Blog_WinterWander_LongTrail

 

Once we were all suited up we headed out into that wonderful marshmallow world. Now I won’t tell you where we walked because that is not important, (sometimes it’s more about the journey, friends). I will tell you what we did; we had fun. I think when it snows a lot of the older folk tend to worry too much about how it will get in our way, and I was happy to take this chance to see the fun side of snow. So whether you’re young or old, grab someone you enjoy spending time with and go play outside. If you have time to get somewhere the snow is, do it. I promise you won’t regret it, and in case you are at a loss for fun filled ideas, I got you covered:

  1.       Slide down hills on your bottom (snow pants recommended).
  2.       Have a good old fashioned snowball fight.
  3.       Try to learn something from it.
  4.       Build a snowman (or snowdog).
  5.       Just take a minute to wonder at it all.

Dog-Snowman-sculpture

 

So that’s it, that is my wintery wonderland adventure. And here’s my last piece of advice; whether or not there’s snow, just go. Get outside, and take some good friends with you. It’s truly the best medicine out there, friends.

 

snow-sign

Happy Trails,

Genevieve “Jinx” Bailey

Genny

 

BC Spiders – Friend, Foe, or Average Arachno?

Fear of spiders is common. Arachnophobia – a very intense fear of spiders – is less common, but still prevalent.

But is it justified?

It’s difficult to pinpoint why people fear spiders, but the best theory has to do with ancestral memory (a fancy way of saying ‘instinct’).  Spiders were probably far more dangerous to our ancestors long long ago, without modern medicine .  This theory hinges on a psychology term called preparedness, which describes our evolutionary predisposition (again, ‘instinct’) to fear things dangerous to us.  It explains many commonplace phobias, including those of snakes, heights, the dark, deep water, etc.

All  those things pose a threat to us, or at least posed a threat to our early human ancestors when we developed the instinct to fear them.

So yes, fear of spiders is definitely justified.

However it’s becoming less and less necessary: modern medicine’s advent has rendered most spider bites a nuisance at best to us.  And yet our instinct to fear spiders, although diminished, has continued to ride our genes down the ancestral highway.

So although it was justifiably developed, our fear of spiders is no longer relevant – at least in BC.  However, if you live in Australia or South America or Africa, maybe keep that fear of spiders closer to your heart.
There are three main spiders commonly feared by residents of BC, and I’m going to tell you the important basics about each of them.  Spoiler Alert: they’re not as bad as they seem.

Wolf Spiders

Have you ever been sitting on your couch, watching TV, reading a book, or just relaxing, when suddenly a large brown blur scurries across the floor and disappears from sight underneath the couch?  You probably just saw a Wolf Spider.  These hairy brown beasts are known for their speed and their unique hunting style among other spiders.  Rather than building a web and waiting for their naïve, juicy prey to come to them, the Wolf Spiders hunts their food and chases them down.  Thanks to their size, they’re able to take on a large menu of other insects to eat, from ants to crickets to other fairly sizeable spiders.  Thankfully, humans are NOT on that list.Wolf_Spider_White_Background

Bites from Wolf Spiders are rare, as they will only do it if backed into a corner and provoked.  That plus there aren’t many situations they come into contact with humans; Wolf Spiders spend most their time in dark, underneath-things places, and are nocturnal so they prowl the open hallways when you’re safely tucked in bed.  But even if they do happen to bite, their venom is not lethal.  It causes swelling, itchiness, and irritation.  However, you should still see a doctor if you’re bitten by one, because research is inconclusive on the extent of the effects of Wolf Spider venom.  While some people have attributed some deaths to Wolf Spider venom, other research has shown otherwise.

But Wolf Spiders are more friend than foe because they play a very important role – they eat the pests and the not-so-nice insects.  They even keep Hobo Spiders away.

It’s best to leave Wolf Spiders to their work because they will do a lot of pest control, however if having one in the house makes you uncomfortable, the best thing to do is put it outside – just don’t kill it.  If you see a Wolfie, just grab a glass and a piece of paper, trap it in the glass and the floor, and slide the paper under.  Pick up the glass, keeping the paper firmly against the opening to keep it trapped, take it outside, and let it go.  Wolf spiders like the warmth of our houses, however, so don’t be surprised if it sneaks back in every now and again.

Hobo Spider

Ah, the Hobo Spider.  Notorious for being an introduced species1, having deathly venom, and having a kinda funny name.  Also generally thought of as aggressive spiders (often called an ‘aggressive house spider’), partly thanks to a misinterpretation of a part of their Latin name, agrestis, which was misinterpreted as aggressive, but really translates to ‘field.’  These spiders come from Europe, where they’re considered non-aggressive spiders, and, you guessed it, live in fields!  They tend to pop up in human habitats, but not as much as you might think.BC_spider_hand

Now everything above is true except for them having deathly venom: that is a misconception.  Many cases of spider bites that have been considered medically important have been attributed to Hobo Spiders, but without sufficient evidence to back it up (the sample spider that did the deed was not found or provided).  There are no verified cases of Hobo Spider envenomations in people.  The jury is still out on the extent of damage a Hobo Spider bite can cause someone, and that’s mainly due to the extremely low occurrence of bites in the first place.

Hobo Spiders spend most of their life on a web close to the ground, out of sight.  They don’t do much except wait around for bugs to land in their web, and they definitely do not seek out human flesh.  It is only in the fall – when the male Hobo Spiders leave their web to search out a female to mate with – that it might be more common to see one scurrying across the floor, or – better yet – trapped in a sink or bathtub and unable to climb out.

These arachnids are no reason to cause alarm, however if you think you may have been bitten by one, it’s best to keep an eye on the bite and see a doctor.

If you’re wondering about “introduced species,” that’s just a term given to any species that originates in one area and then spreads to a new habitat it previously didn’t inhabit – usually through human involvement. too!  The Hobo Spider managed to cross the ocean by riding barges transporting crops.

Black Widow

The Black Widow is probably the most dangerous spider in North America, having venom potent enough to kill the young and elderly; however, only a very nominal percentage of reported bites have been proven to be fatal.  Young children less than 40 lbs and elderly with immune disorders are most susceptible to the venom.  In adults, however, the venom is far less than fatal.

spider_finger_venom

Black widows are, so far, the only spider of concern on this list, and although they may not be fatal to adults, their bites can cause a lot of pain.  If you suspect a bite from a Black Widow, immediately seek treatment from a doctor.

Following the trend of the spiders so far, Black Widow bites are far less common than most people think.  They aren’t aggressive; they will only bite in self defense when backed into a corner, provoked, or squished.

Black Widows stick to dark places, wooded areas, small crevices, etc, and many bites are purported to occur from people grabbing wood from a woodpile without proper preparation.  Wearing gloves usually eliminates that risk.

Honourable Mention:

Brown Recluse Spider

This guy’s name is often spoken with a hint of fear and awe at the power of his venom.  Well, surprisingly, just like with most spiders, there are actually a lot of misconceptions around him.  These non-aggressive spiders are less venomous than the Black Widow spider, yet probably feared more.  News and media often perpetuate false myths about these guys by showing swollen, blackened hands, or something similar to that, and attributing it to the Brown Recluse Spider.  As such, there is so much more danger associated with them than they deserve.

As with all the spiders so far, they are timid and actively avoid contact with humans, unless pinned down in which case they can bite.

But none of that matters.  The absolute kicker about these spiders is: they don’t actually live in Canada at all.  They’re entirely restricted to the southern US.  People all over Canada claim to have been bitten by them, and yet there have been no verified, proven identifications of the spider north of the American border.

So if you live in British Columbia and still think spiders are fearsome creatures, well, hopefully some of these facts can put your mind at ease.  Their main source of food is the bugs that actually bother us.  They have proven themselves to be far more helpful than detrimental to us, and cause no need for concern.

Final Fun Facts:

   Medically significant events are caused by dogs at more than 60 times the amount of medically significant events caused by spiders

   There’s an urban myth that’s something like “people swallow seven spiders a year in their sleep,” and that is entirely bogus

   Spiders are everywhere.  There’s some truth to the adage that you’re never more than 3 feet away from a spider at any given time.  While not entirely true, it captures the idea that spiders are far more abundant than you think!

 

 

Solid Sources for your Continued Education:

http://ibis.geog.ubc.ca/biodiversity/efauna/spiders.html

http://www.royalalbertamuseum.ca/research/lifeSciences/invertebrateZoology/dangerousSpiders.cfm

Sources of Photos:

Wolf: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Patrick_Edwin_Moran

Hobo: http://biodiversitybc.blogspot.ca/2013/03/ask-expert-brown-recluse-spiders-in-bc.html

Black Widow: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/thunder-bay/family-finds-black-widow-spider-in-bag-of-grapes-1.991572