a peek inside the fishbowl

14 Sep, 2007


Posted by andrea tomkins in: Yaktivism

The September challenge of the BlogHersAct is about reducing packaging and the extra junk that ends up in the landfill. Yay! This is a topic that is close to my heart. 

The post has features a lot of great tips for reducing the amount of packaging in all of our lives.

We already do a lot of things to cut down on packaging materials, even the ones that can be recycled.

- we don’t plastic one-use water bottles. We use our Nalgenes, which are slowly being replaced by stainless steel containers.

- we almost always drink our coffee at home or bring it in a thermos.

- we almost always use cloth grocery bags or bins. I keep the bins in the trunk of the car, that way I’m less likely to forget them. (But it happens!)

- we pack litterless lunches. We use Tupperware-type containers for sandwiches (no zip locks) and small snacks.

- we reduce, reuse, and recycle what we can, and we compost compost compost

When we bought Sarah’s back-to-school backpack it was stuffed with a ton of balled up paper, you know, just to make it puffy for the display. I unstuffed it and left the paper there. Seriously, who needs it? I’ve done that with new shoes too. I just leave the box and stuffing behind.

There is more we could be doing. For example, I would love to increase the amount of recharagable batteries we own and use them more often.  But overall, I know we’re doing a lot of things to decrease our ecological footprint: we own one car (and it’s fuel-efficient), we like to eat organically (and locally when possible), Mark has been biking to work, we walk the kids to school, we live in a small house, we don’t use herbicides/pesticides on our property, we let the grass grow long to cut down on mowing frequency (a push mower is coming soon), we buy secondhand, we have a rainbarrel, we have cut down on the amount of cleaning chemicals we use in and around out home, and (perhaps most importantly) we have modest needs and don’t often cave in to the lure of Fancy New Product and Gadgetry.

I don’t feel hard done by. I don’t feel put out by these things. I don’t see it as a hardship or a sacrifice. I feel happy we do these things.

Sue accused us of littering, in the comments of my August  30th Message in a bottle post.

To be honest, this did occur to me as we stood there on the Island Park Bridge with our plastic bottles in our hands. And perhaps it’s the optimist in me, but as they floated away I realized I really believed someone will find them and fish them out of the water. I don’t ordinarily throw garbage into our rivers. In fact, someone once encouraged Emma and Sarah to throw two pennies into a river (a different river)… like sort of a wishing well. This didn’t sit right with me, that’s how strongly I feel about polluting our rivers.

I don’t think Sue knows us very well, otherwise she wouldn’t have made that comment.

But it got me thinking: When should childhood fun be put aside for the environment? When should it not?

When we go camping I always buy the children some glowsticks. These are one-time-use-only, and are thrown in the garbage as soon as we’re finished with them.

When we have birthday parties we blow up balloons. These are one-time-use-only, and are thrown in the garbage as soon as we’re finished with them.

When we walk home from school sometimes we take a shortcut along a path that goes downhill through some trees. This is causing erosion.

In the summertime I make (and sometimes buy) bubble juice for blowing bubbles. Is this pollution? Think of the tons of the stuff that is made and sold every year. It has to end up somewhere. Should we stop buying it, to help save the environment?

Sometimes, when we’re at a restaurant, the girls use a disposable drinking straw, yet I don’t buy cheap markers from the dollar store because I know they’re just a piece of crap that’s going to end up in the garbage.

We’re living in an interesting age. I was just talking to a neighbor, we were laughing about how silly it is, about how guilty we feel when we forget to bring our cloth grocery bags to the store and sneak home carry all those plastic bags.

Where our family has drawn the line might be different from where other people (like Sue) has drawn the line.

This particular kind of awareness is relatively new to me. I didn’t feel the same way five years ago. Environmentalism has become our new religion. Many people’s views are shifting, just like ours have, but at a different pace. I still can’t believe how many shopping carts I see, overflowing with plastic bags. “Wow, that’s bad,” I think. But then again, someone might look at my children throwing plastic bottles into the river and think that we’re bad too.

It all depends on where you are, doesn’t it?

7 Responses to "Ecoposting"

1 | Sue

September 14th, 2007 at 9:15 am


I think its important to distinguish between litter and garbage. Litter is an unsightly mess while properly disposed of garbage is something else entirely.

Its ugly to see litter and the litter around that area is unsightly but its environmental impact is fairly tame. Both tree-huggers and their counterparts would agree here I think.

As far as knowing the blogger, I don’t, but I was correct in that she knownly littered rather than a case of just a fun event gone wrong. I would not have hand slapped someone who had an accident or was ignorant to the consequences but this person should know better than to pen such.

A simple edit to the blog suggesting you clean up after the event would be prudent.

2 | DaniGirl

September 14th, 2007 at 10:56 am


Oh for goodness sake, what a ridiculous thing to be criticized for. Sue, I’d suggest before you make any more of your extensive and ill-informed comments that you check Andrea’s archives. You’d be hard pressed to find someone with a bigger heart or a truer social (and environmental) conscience.

3 | Andre

September 14th, 2007 at 10:59 am


Sue, I think you need to chill out.

4 | Wes

September 14th, 2007 at 11:03 am


In response to DaniGirl. Littering is still littering. Should a Police Officer be excused if he just “helps himself” to a pack of gum from the grocery store? I mean, after all, he serves and protects…

Environmentalist, social conscience for the masses…littering is still littering…

5 | DaniGirl

September 14th, 2007 at 11:12 am


You know, I really hate to turn Andrea’s lovely blog into an ugly debate, but I do want to address Wes’ comment. To be totally honest, I fail to see how a whimsical child’s game can be criticized on the same level as intentionally littering. But if you must, you must – although your allegory was rather hyperbolic. What I object to is the continuing harrassment through the comments. Point made and taken, move on, was what I was trying to say.

6 | Brent

September 15th, 2007 at 10:33 pm


A positive lesson that kids can learn from playing “message in a bottle” is that rivers and oceans connect us all together. If you hope that someone downstream or around the world might read your message someday, then you have grasped that water is finite. Later on, you will realize that dumped garbage and waste always ends up somewhere. Awareness is a journey.

7 | BeachMama

September 16th, 2007 at 8:13 pm


Interesting debate on the message in the bottle.

I enjoyed your list of things you do to help the environment. Ours is similar too. I did want to add a note about leaving the tissue and boxes at the store. I had thought about doing that too, but realized that if I brought them home, I would know that they made it to the recycling bin. A lot of stores still aren’t recycling so I would be worried that the stuff was ending up in the landfill.

Kudos to you for your work on the environment.

comment form:


Stay in touch

Me and my pet projects

Ottawa Bucket list

Subscribe via email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

  • Sam Mangrum: Hi Andrea, I just finished reading your article "Reno post #25: Tile city" and I wanted to say thanks. I found so much value in what you had to say
  • Nora B.: So nice to see photos of J&D's beautiful cottage. A wonderful place to get away for a little while from our crazy world!
  • Luis: Never buy a Maytag appliance I have had mine for two years now and the washer and dry suck. Washer leaves soap on clothing and dry doesn’t dry.
  • a peek inside the fishbowl » Blog Archive Wedding anniversaries and pandemics - a peek inside the fishbowl: […] This is what we did for our anniversary last year, by the […]
  • andrea tomkins: Thank you Sally! It was so peaceful... very restorative. I look forward to our camping trips every year!
  • andrea tomkins: Hmmm. Perhaps I didn't use the right term in my post? They're inflatable pool floats, but they are a mattress shape, if you know what I mean! I amende
  • Brien Marshall: This post has transported me back to camping on Lake Opinicon in the 70s. Air mattresses were the classic blue-on-one-side/red-on-the-other-side canv

The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

If you'd like to contact me, please use this form. If you're so inclined, you can read more about me here. Thank you for visiting!


Connect with me at these places too!

On the nightstand

All hail the mighty Twitter