Photo: I'm one person. Look what I can do!

"We have sacrificed nothing and gained so much" Melanie Smith on going green! (Credit: Paula Colvin)

It's Earth week and five months since I "greened" The Smiths. This Alberta family of six knew there was more they could do for the planet but didn't know where to start.

They weren't certain what to expect when they found out that they'd "won" me. (Even the reporters who visited their home were expecting shiny new solar panels and a Prius in the garage.) Melanie hoped it would involve more than "chasing my family around turning off lights and faucets and taking my own bags to the store."

Melanie went from "I'm just one person, what can I do?" to "I'm one person, look what I CAN do!"

Here's how you can motivate someone else or get started yourself:

Step 1: What are you already doing?

Start from a happy place. The Smith's garage had a row of overflowing blue recycling bins. I challenged them to recycle less. Sounds absurd? Heaping piles of recycling isn't the way to a smaller footprint. We dove into those bins to see what could be reused. Melanie now covets glass jars (like me)!

Step 2: Where's your biggest impact?

Melanie spends a lot of time doing laundry. She washes clothes in cold water with her energy efficient washing machine. But there is no such thing as an energy efficient dryer. We reinstated her forgotten drying rack, now at home (for the winter) in their dining room.

Step 3: Small steps matter

Melanie said "I don't have time to change out of my pyjamas to drive my kids to school! How can I find the time to save the planet?"

With my help and their determination, the Smiths now:
• Make their own green cleaners (like liquid laundry soap)
• Make triclosan-free liquid hand soap
• Purchase personal care products free of the Dirty Dozen
Compost (use their garburator less)
Eat more vegetarian meals
Buy organic produce and meats
• Choose groceries with certified eco-labels
• Pack truly litter-less lunches for the kids (plastic-free)
• Plugged electronics into power bars (and powered them off when not in use)
Unplug vampire electronics

Melanie wrote "Little things DO matter. They've changed the way we will live, for the better."

Step 4: Looking at the world through green-colored glasses

Melanie pledged "By teaching my kids the importance of environmental responsibility by the everyday things that I do, they will grow into environmentally conscious adults." And she's right.

When I visited her last week, Melanie said they're buying carbon offsets for their summer vacation flights — something that would have never crossed her mind before.

Step 5: Pay it forward

I coached Melanie about green cleaning ingredients. She found washing soda and liquid castile soap at a local health food store, and then shared my recipes with the cashier. And it didn't stop there. Melanie found "A lot of people are VERY interested in our story — people just like us, who want to do better and just aren't sure how. It's not just our family that's been shown the light, but our extended families, friends, neighbours, my children's teachers, the community in which we live and the list goes on."

Chances are you've already made changes to better the planet. But I bet you know somebody — a relative, someone from your carpool, a neighbour — that could use a little help.

This Earth Week, why not pay it forward?

Lindsay Coulter, Queen of Green

April 18, 2011

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Apr 18, 2013
1:42 PM

Hello to all the like-minded green folks :) Here is a poem I wrote in honour of Earth Day (Monday April 22, 2013)


With all of the elements for life to survive Without you we wouldn’t be alive

Your colour so inviting with blues and greens We must keep you this way by all means

Refreshing, cascading glacier streams Our dependence on water is quite extreme

Lush green rain forests to freshen our air Be here without oxygen, we wouldn’t dare

Our sun isn’t too far, or too close it’s just right This powerful hot star is a great source of light

All of life’s species call you home There really isn’t another place to roam

We need to be conscious of the choices we make There are repercussions so we can’t take a break

It’s time to recycle and take a stand Let’s take care of our great homeland

All choices matter and no steps are too small The Earth is important, we can’t drop the ball

The present is the time to work on this place If not for yourself, for the whole human race

Plant a tree, pick up litter, or hang clothes to dry Be conscientious to conserve our water supply

Be romantic and have a candle light dinner This can be done even if we’re beginners

Humans are creatures of habit, and can be stuck in their ways Climate change and global warming are not just a phase

The Earth is too important nothing else replaces So please be aware of the challenges our planet faces

Thanks, Stephanie Jennings

Jun 04, 2011
3:38 PM

It’s amazing the positive impact that making a few simple changes can have, and of course the effect is multiplied if you set a good example which others follow. Thanks, Queen of Green!

May 05, 2011
6:27 AM


I’ve been adding kitchen scraps (mostly veg/fruit peelings, eggshells & tea leaves) directly into my garden soil, starting around March/April. I only dig holes about 6” deep, fill with kitchen scraps and cover. By 3rd week of May, I transplant my seedlings in the composting soil. I’ve been doing this for about 3 years and it seems to work.

My questions are: Why do we need to use composting bins? Can we not compost directly on site? Are there any issues I should be concerned with for composting this way?


May 02, 2011
10:44 AM

My family lives and breaths with environmental awareness. This Science Centre I donated to my children’s school was dedicated to Dr. David Suzuki for his 75th Birthday. I hope it inspires the children as David inspired me. Growing up green is an important philosophy and a really fun adventure.

Apr 22, 2011
8:20 AM

Great article! Thanks.

Apr 22, 2011
7:59 AM

I am a 49 year old grandmother, I am a hairdresser who has invented an green choice.

BIOWRAP is an biodegradable plastic that is food and soil safe it breaks done to dust and can be recycled as well. This is a small step, an average hairdresser uses 1/2 a football field of tinfoil in one year. How many hairdresser do you know?

Apr 20, 2011
9:07 AM

Great question Tony. I’ve now added a link. “Vampire” or “phantom” electronics are those things plugged into the wall that continually draw power, even when on stand by. It could be your computer, cell phone charger, or DVD player. Even when they are OFF, they still draw electricity. that’s why you want to use power bars, so you only have to flick a single switch!

Lindsay Coulter, Queen of Green

Apr 19, 2011
5:05 PM

Vampire Electronics, are those that while “Off” are still drawing power because they are in stand by mode

Apr 19, 2011
3:30 PM

What do you mean by “vampire electronics?”

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