Sweet Potato Chips

Yam cookies and chips are the end result of our friend and listener Stephanie McCoy’s mission to make something delicious with yams. Stephanie’s husband is on a somewhat restricted diet right now, and it is not easy to find food that is filling and also tastes good. Yams/Sweet potatoes are on the A-okay list and her husband was so happy to find chips made from sweet potatoes at the store. Continue reading

Marianne has been raising chickens for a few years now and has picked up quite a few great tips for reducing chicken feed costs.  She shares them in Episode 42 of the podcast.  But for brevity and accessibility, here is her list:

  • Mix your own grains for feed.
  • Tips for Reducing Chicken Feed Costs

    Rocky and some of her freshly hatched chicks

    Order from a co-op like Azure Standard.

  • Take advantage of grain sales.
  • Soak feed grain to improve digestibility and nutrition.
  • Plant things in the chicken run with cages over them – let them eat what they can get through the cage and/or take the cages off when plants get big.
  • Include a compost pile in your chicken run (Be careful not to include anything toxic to chickens such as avocado.)
  • Deep mulch the coop and the run.
  • Add manure to the compost area.
  • Water the compost and the deep mulch in the run to attract insects.
  • Plant things just outside of the run so that when plant branches grow through the fence, chickens can eat it but the plant can still recover.
  • Collect food waste from grocery stores, restaurants and more to supplement your chicken feed.









We at the Sustainable Living Podcast are thrilled to welcome Darcy Matheson, author of Greening Your Pet Care, as a guest blogger. Please listen to our interview/podcast by clicking here.

Easy ways to create a greener life for your pet

 by Darcy Matheson, author of Greening Your Pet Care

Darcy and her 2 dogs Murphy and Seymour

No matter what type of pet you choose to share your life with, all companion animals have one thing in common: they have a carbon footprint. They pollute.

For dogs, that impact is easier to quantify, because of their large bags of meaty kibble and the tonnes of poop they leave behind. For other popular pets, like reptiles and fish, that environmental damage isn’t quite as obvious. But make no mistake, it’s there. The process of replicating an ideal living habitat for a tropical fish or desert-dwelling lizard requires intensive lighting and heating setups, that in turn consume a lot of electricity.

Whether you share your life with a dog, cat, rat, horse or mini pig, we can all lower our pet’s carbon emissions. The process of becoming a more eco-friendly pet owner is, in a lot of ways, very similar to the steps we take to minimize our own impact on the environment.

While my new book, Greening Your Pet Care, elaborates much more on these topics, use these guidelines when thinking about your own pet. You’ll find there are very easy everyday ways to reduce “pet pollution” that benefit the health of our companions — and the planet.

Reduce consumption

In 2015, pet owners spent almost $60-billion on pet products. And while a percentage of these expenditures are necessary items like food and enclosures, we know that billions of dollars are spent on toys and — largely unnecessary — enrichment items.  Think about what your pet actually needs to make it happy.  Does your dog really need a seventh stuffed animal?  Probably not.  Would it love to take a hike on the weekend to your favourite river?  Absolutely.  Think about ways that you can enrich your pet’s life without purchasing a product.  Ninety-nine-per-cent of the time it comes down to spending more quality time with them, which most owners would agree is a contributing factor in why they wanted a pet in the first place.

Do no harm

Call them free-range killers. A study by Nature Communications in 2013 found that domestic cats were responsible for the death of up to four-billion birds in the United States each year. That’s a staggering number, and one that can directly attributed to cats being allowed outside to roam and hunt.  As a cat owner, you can reduce their environmental damage by taking the simple step of keeping them inside. If you insist on letting them be outside, bring them in during the prime hunting times: Dusk and dawn. Indoor cats also live much longer because they’re not subject to becoming prey themselves to larger predators, or getting into fights with other felines.  

The most obvious pollution for dogs is their poop. Literally tonnes and tonnes of it. In my hometown of Vancouver, Canada, more than 97,000 tonnes of dog feces is left annually in local parks. And that’s just what actually ends up in the trash bins. Much more inevitably ends up left on the ground, which can leach into groundwater and pollute drinking water sources, local waterways and harm the wildlife that use it. It’s a very serious issue: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classifies dog waste in the same pollution category as faulty septic systems, chemical spills and oil.

The solution is easy: scoop that poop!  And while you’re at it, use a compostable or biodegradable bag — that will break down exponentially faster in a landfill than a traditional plastic grocery store bag. These are available at most pet and big box stores, and Amazon.

Search for sustainable

Ever seen a dog rip apart a plastic toy or stuffed animal?  It can happen quickly, and the items usually suffer the same fate: being chucked in the garbage.  My challenge to pet owners is to put their animal on a “plastic diet”: See how many plastic items you can get rid of in your pet’s life, and replace them with durable and sustainable alternatives. The beauty of our democratic consumerism is that there are plenty of great eco-friendly options that are built to last, made from natural materials that aren’t produced using herbicides and pesticides.

An easy place to start is your dog’s chew toys. Instead of plastic, try a Kong toy, which is made from natural rubber and can be stuffed with their favourite treats, or peanut butter.  For birds, look for enrichment items made from wicker that can actually be collected along with your yard trimmings. Feeding bowls for cats made from bamboo resin are dishwasher-safe, but also 100-per-cent biodegradable and don’t emit toxic fumes as they break down.

Reduce reliance on factory farms

Producing animal protein for pet food is a hugely polluting venture, consuming vast amounts of land, water and other resources. And of all proteins, livestock is the worst offender, belching huge amounts of harmful methane gas.  To lower your pet’s eco-footprint, try to source pet foods made from proteins with a lower carbon footprint, such as chicken, turkey — even sustainably-harvested or wild fish.  

When it comes to treats, try avoiding meat-based treats altogether. For dogs and cats, look for wheat, fruit and veggie-based treats. Dehydrated sweet potato makes an excellent treat for larger dogs.

Buy local

Buying local

Shopping locally doesn’t have to just mean food, toys or other enrichment items — it can actually mean where you buy the pet itself.  Instead of getting a fish, reptile, bird, puppy, kitten or turtle from a big box pet store, seek out local breeders, hobbyist clubs and shelters.  Pets that end up for sale in pet stores often originate at large-scale pet mills, which have horrible environmental practices, not to mention downright disgusting disregard for animal welfare. For dogs, cats, rodents, reptiles and birds, speak to your local SPCA or Humane Society or breed-specific rescue group. The U.S. Humane Society estimates that a full 25 per cent of pets in shelter are purebred pets that end up there by no fault of their own.

In terms of diet, it’s easy to shop local for all types of pet foods. Rabbits are a great example of this. These herbivores thrive on produce, and farmer’s markets are a fantastic way to source healthy and fresh veggies for your bunny. Vendors often chop off and throw away carrot tops and beet greens — both great sources of vitamins for your animal — so it’s worth making friends with sellers to see if you can get these items. Bonus: Because they’re not normally sold to consumers, you’ll likely get them at a heavy discount and, if you’re lucky, maybe even for free.

Be an advocate for change

Maybe your favourite pet or big box store doesn’t carry products made from local companies, food harvested locally, or organic/non-toxic items. That doesn’t mean it has to stay that way.  In today’s consumer marketplace we vote with our dollar. If we choose not to buy cheap plastic goods from China, in time there will be less of them produced and put into the store.  And by telling management that you’d like to see more sustainable items in the store, you may just see them there next time you’re shopping for pet items.

If you’re interested in learning how you can lower your pet’s carbon “paw print,” be sure to check out my new book. It’s available at major book and pet stores, an Amazon. You can even download a copy for your Kindle, and save the paper.

This is Marianne. If you buy from Amazon, we would love for you to use our link . A small amount of your purchase would benefit us and help to finance the blog and podcast. Thank you if you choose to go that route.

To buy from the publisher, please use the link below. Always best to purchase that way. More of the purchase price will go to the author and publisher.


Free Permaculture Course – The First Post

Earlier, we published an interview with Andrew Millison, the creator of the Free Permaculture Course offered by Oregon State University. You can listen here.

We are very happy that so many of you already listened to the podcast and that after less then a week of the beginning of registration, 5200 students had already signed up.

Continue reading

Envisioning Zero Waste

What would life be like if we created no trash?

No packages to throw away, everything that can be recycled is.  What would the grocery store look like?  How about fast food restaurants?

How would the prevalence of a zero-waste lifestyle affect Mother Earth?

Join Jenise Fryatt, Marianne West and Brad Rowland for a Blab discussion February 12 at 9 am on Envisioning Zero Waste.  Lurk, or join in by text or video.  We want to get your comments and questions about this important topic.



7 steps to simple livingDuring my chat with Joel Zaslofsky, we identified practices that helped us both on the journey to simple living.

Though the path to a simpler and happier life isn’t the same for everyone, lots of folks find that getting clear about a few things really helps.  In that vein, here are seven actions that certainly had (and continue to have) powerful effects on our lives.

Continue reading

The Inception of a New Tradition

Imagine a house full of kids, laughing and playing and having a good time. But the house doesn’t look like a big family lives here. The children are familiar with each other, yet they are not quite like brothers and sisters. Then it becomes clear. They are cousins. And they are at grandma’s and grandpa’s house – free of their parents tyrannical rules and regulations. Free to be. That is the vision which gave birth to the new tradition of Cousins day in our family. On Christmas day, each of my children got an envelope with the following invitation.

The cousins at Oma's (grandma's) house playing



You are cordially invited to participate in the new tradition of

Cousins Day

Cousins Day will be happening once a month, on the third Sunday, at Oma Marianne and Opa Mike’s house. All cousins are invited to come and play and do all kinds of fun things. Cousins Day will start Sunday morning, but if and when any of the cousins feel ready to spend the night, they are welcome to arrive on Saturday.

Uncles are welcome to attend all day or however much time they wish.

Parents are welcome to drop their children off, and are asked to leave as soon as possible after that. However, they are invited to return in the late afternoon to hang out and enjoy a meal prepared by the cousins with some help of the Omas and Opas.

Uncles are hopefully showing up latest in the late afternoon to eat and all that.

Participation is of course voluntary, but highly recommended.

Cousins having fun together experiencing the new tradition of cousin's day

Oma is German for Grandma, Opa for Grandpa and in our family, there is only an uncle without children of his own.

Thoughts on Gift Giving

Actually, a bit more thought went into the creation of this new tradition. In previous podcasts, we talked a lot about reducing our environmental foot print and the perils of overconsumption. During the holiday season, even the most conscious person is in peril of indulging or rather overindulging just a bit in buying more than is needed – especially if kids are involved.

On the whole, you may call me the Scrooge of toy buying. I think that kids have way too many toys and way, way too many of which require batteries and have just one function. A ball, a stick and a hoop is all what is really needed. Add unlimited access to nature, lots of art supplies, permission and encouragement to participate in daily activities like cooking, cleaning and gardening, and those toys just sit on a shelf collecting dust.


Young boy playing happily without toys with a shovel on a mulch pile

Parents usually do buy these toys to try to create some space for themselves. Keep the kids busy with something. Again, my opinion, I think that parents have a huge task to fulfill raising kids in the now typical family setting: parents, children. Thats it. No live-in grandpa and grandma, no aunts, uncles, cousins or other relatives living in the same house or at least close by. Many of us don’t even know our neighbors, let alone trust them for any amount of time with our kids.

For me, that was certainly true while my children were little. My family lived on a different continent and my husband’s not only a few hours away, but his parents were both employed and wanted and needed to spend their weekends taking care of themselves. That left me virtually alone with three small children to take care of. Of course, I made friends and got involved in groups centering mostly around child related activities. Some of those friends and I exchanged babysitting. But those precious hours of freedom came with the price of caring for 7 or 8 children when it was the friend’s turn to get some alone time.

Remembering how much I was craving to have a bit of alone time, how much I was wishing that my nice neighbors would offer once in a while to take the kids, even just for half an hour, helped the inception of this new tradition. Also reflecting on the many times that little bit of space would have helped me to be a much more patient mother formulated the plan. Finally, there are times I wonder if my ex-husband, the father of my kids, and I would have had some stress free time together, if we could have worked it out – or at least had a better time together while the marriage lasted.

All of that happened a long time ago, and all the guessing in the world of what could have been is pointless – I am at peace with the past. But my children are young parents right now. Young parents juggling to make ends meet in one of the most expensive cities to live in in the US, to be good parents to their children, to be part of a couple and to still keep hold of being an individual. Not an easy task and many young families are sharing in this experience.

Choosing the Gift of Cousins Day

grandson having fun and getting very dirty eating something yummy

While I was contemplating what gift to give to my children which is not a burden on the environment, is within my means, and makes a positive impact on their lives, the tradition of Cousins Day was born. Once a month, they now can count on at least one whole day to do what they wish and as the little ones get older, this might turn into a weekend. Good for them! I, on the other hand, get to hang out with my grandchildren on a regular basis. We get to play and have fun and treat this day as a vacation for all. The best part is a dinner with everybody to close the day/weekend. Family connection by design and on the schedule – a must in our busy times.

Part of me would love to do the same for every young couple or single mom out there to make life a bit easier, but maybe this article will inspire some of you Grandparents to start a tradition like this of your own. Actually, you don’t even have to be a grandparent, or have children. “Families” are what we create. Maybe we take Italy’s example where young families started to adopt a grandparent in lieu of having one of their own.

“You bring the Green Bean Casserole,” your mother tells you in a voice, a bit stressed, a bit annoyed sounding which is not unusual during the Holiday season.

“Why?” You say. Just as you did last year, and the year before, and the year before that. “Hardly any ever gets eaten and I throw most of it away.”

“It’s a tradition!” Your mother voice now is full of annoyance. Her tone is very clear. How can a child she raised to be so dense. It’s a tradition! We always did it that way.  And by golly, we always will. “It’s a tradition” says it all. End of discussion!

Does this scenario sound familiar to you? Food on the table nobody really likes; gifts which have to be purchased, wrapped and given to people one hardly knows or cares about; families gather even though many a stomach ties into knots just thinking about the hours spent together – and the list goes on.

Right now, we are close to Christmas, which has become an event lasting several weeks inundated with all kinds of rites and traditions. We are decorating our houses inside and out; write endless cards to people on “the list”; buy lots of gifts, often more than we can afford. We attend and give parties featuring food that is delicious, but also full of fat and sugar, making it almost impossible to keep our waistlines where they are supposed to be. Oh well, that in itself is the cause for another great tradition: Joining a Gym at the beginning of the New Year and setting all kinds of good intentions – weight loss being one of the all time favorites.

Christmas and all that comes with it seems to have been adopted by people of many religions as a secular holiday – maybe to fit in, maybe because it is so much fun. But it is by no means the only holiday which can create stress to those participating, please insert whichever applies to your situation: Hanukah, Eid, Kwanzaa, Thanksgiving, various New Years, Birthdays and more.

Maybe you are one of the lucky ones who just loves everything associated with holidays and celebrations. If you are, good for you! But read on, maybe you’ll find something you might like to add as part of your festivities.

Every culture, every nation and almost every family has traditions which sometimes define them and often create a sense of belonging, identity and continuity. Some of those are practiced with great purpose and intentions, others are just adhered to without much awareness of their existence and their purpose. “It’s how it is done,” or “we always did it this way,” would be  possible answers to the question of “why?”

Traditions can be a wonderful thing, but, as the short story “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson illustrates so eloquently, they can also have a negative impact or simply make no sense. If you fall into the camp of experiencing more stress than enjoyment, more “shoulds” and “musts” than “wants” while preparing and participating in a holiday, it is high time to reassess which of your family customs are in urgent need to be replaced.

In a recent Blab Conversation/podcast, we addressed the topic of creating a stress free holiday in some detail. One very good point Brad Rowland shared is to make sure to discuss a change of tradition with the rest of the stakeholders – be they family, friends, co-workers or members of your communities. Apparently, making unilateral changes does not go over very well.

As with any change, the first step is to find out the what and why. Now is a good time to become really aware of all the ways which are part of your celebrations. That could be certain foods; gathering in a particular place with a particular group of people; gift exchanges; watching a show together; having the yearly political debate – you get the picture.  Write them down.

Next, pay attention to how you feel. Are you excited and can hardly wait for (fill in the action) to happen, or, are you deep down wishing for any excuse to get out of it? Of course, there is anything from indifferent, to slightly annoyed, to finding it pleasant. Make yourself a scale. For example, 10 stands for super excited, 5 for neutral and 0 for absolutely hate it – the other numbers for your personal shades of feelings.

Assign a numbers to each and every one of the traditions you recognized as being part of you. Also write down the ones you are not practicing, but you think you should. Sometimes they are the ones causing the most stress.

Obviously, all the tens are keepers. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy. The zeros on the other hand are calling for some serious attention. If there are several, it might be a good idea to choose only one to start with. The first question to ask oneself is why? Why is this particular rite stressing me out?

This could be simple: The whole family, all 30 of them, are gathering at my house every holiday and it is stressing me out because I have a lot of meal preparation, cleanup and no space to find solitude and quiet during that whole time.

The next question is a why – again. Why are we doing it this way?

Again, there could be a simple answer: We had/have the only house big enough for the whole family to fit. Or, our house is centrally located and the most convenient to get to.

Now, ask yourself: Does it have to be the way we always did it? Are there other options?

Most likely, there are an array of options to change any tradition which earned a rating below five or six. In this example, several options come to mind.

  • Some other family member might now have a big house as well and can be the host.
  • The family takes a cruise together.
  • The family goes camping together.
  • The gathering takes place at a vacation area – instead of a destination wedding, a destination christmas or other holiday.
  • Everybody comes to my town, but doesn’t stay at my house. Another house can be rented or several rooms and meals are eaten at a restaurant.
  • Meals are catered and a person responsible for clean up is hired.
  • The host rents him/herself a room to have a retreat area from the crowd.
  • Every family member takes a turn hosting the gathering and they arrange it according to their choice.

This is an excellent example of the importance of involving everybody concerned in making the change, from brainstorming to the implementation of the new ritual. Many minds will come up with brilliant ideas and even the nay-sayers have an easier time adjusting to a change if they had a chance to participate in the decision making.

However, change does not always have to be the result of soul-searching, discussions and coming up with solutions. Sometimes, magic just happens when people gather in joy.  A new tradition is born because it was so much fun the first time it came about! This happened for Brad Rowland. Here are the ingredients: A guitar and a player, several singers and a camera. Please enjoy Brad and his nieces performing Be Thou My Vision, a poem first recorded in “Old Irish Celtic” in the 6th century.

Check back soon for this year’s performance and video.