Earlier this month, I went back to my home town of Edmonton, Alberta to "green" the Smiths. (That required flying. And yes, the David Suzuki Foundation calculates travel emissions and purchases only the highest quality carbon offsets.)
Who are the Smiths?
In October's Canadian Living magazine, readers made their pitches to win a lifestyle makeover by David Suzuki's Queen of Green (i.e. me). The selected entry was from Melanie Smith, a wife and mother of four kids under the age of seven. Her plea went something like this: "Since we're a big family, we live large: big house, big vehicles, big trips to the grocery store. We generally just use a lot of stuff. Our footprint is huge, and we need to change it."
Melanie said she was caught off guard when her five-year-old daughter, Lauren, saw a huge, billowing industrial smokestack and said "Mommy, is that a cloud machine?"
"I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that I had to explain that this was not a cloud machine, but tons of I didn't know what...chemicals, toxins, something more sinister?" said Melanie. "How do you explain that to a five-year-old?"
They had me at "cloud machine".
The Smiths live in St. Albert, a bedroom community of Edmonton. Day One of the eco makeover and I was on a mission: on a hunt for liquid castile soap.
I wanted to start the Smiths off with something simple — an easy, affordable and effective all-purpose cleaner they could make themselves (check out my favorite green cleaning recipes). Before I snooped through their home, I wanted to show up on their doorstep with all the supplies they'd need to start off on the right foot.
It's been over five years since I lived in the Edmonton area. Back then I had no clue about liquid castile soap. Today I can't imagine living without it. No time to look up the local health food store, I hit Save on Foods. I ran down the laundry aisle and grabbed a box of borax, but no liquid castile soap in sight. How was I going to make going green look easy if I couldn't even find this all-important ingredient?
I did what anyone passionate about green living would do. I gave Melanie my own, half-empty bottle of Dr. Bronner's orange liquid castile soap that I'd brought for the trip.
But before I left the store, I went straight to customer service where they gave me the 1-800 number to call to make product requests.
The Smiths are lovely. And they're already doing so much — like washing about 15 loads of laundry a week in cold water and choosing a home in a walkable neighbourhood.
Stay tuned to find out more about how the "greening" of the Smiths unfolds.
If you could give one piece of advice to the Smiths, what would it be?
Lindsay Coulter, Queen of Green