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Wire, Wheels and Canvas

This story came from a friend in Prince Edward Island Canada via a writer’s list serve that we belong to. The story illustrates how one person can practice sustainability by doing simple things that if we all did, would help to greatly mitigate the effects of climate change.




Wire, Wheels and Canvas


I use public transit to get around in my city. I also bicycle and walk and sometimes I carpool with those who have a car. Sometimes, Christine, Loretta and I will do our grocery-shopping together on the same day. These are two ladies whom I work with. Christine has a compact car with a roomy trunk. We have a system where Christine takes green canvas bags, Loretta takes black canvas bags and I take unbleached natural-colored canvas bags. This way, when our groceries go into the trunk, we can tell our groceries apart. Loretta and I offer Christine $2.00 each towards her gas. It costs Christine $40.00 to fill up her gas tank. She comes out ahead every grocery trip because she consumes less than $4.00 worth of gas for the three of us to go to the upermarkets and return. We all live within a few blocks
of each other.
We use reusable canvas grocery bags instead of plastic grocery bags. Each canvas bag costs 49 cents. They are washable and made of 100% cotton.Unlike plastic grocery bags, they have long handles which fit like a shoulder bag. When they are worn out, we toss them into the black waste bin and all waste is sorted in my province. Some of it goes to a landfill and some of it goes to the local Energy From Waste Plant where it is incinerated and the energy produced heats our largest provincial hospital. All cellulose material, like cotton, goes to the Energy From Waste Plant. 

There are three supermarkets within a short distance of one another; Superstore, Co-op Basics and Sobey’s. We shop all three and we each take a shopping list. Co-op Basics and Sobey’s buy locally-grown produce. Buying locally-grown produce is important to the environment because the produce is only transported a very short distance. If I were to buy produce from central Canada, West-coast Canada or the USA, they would have to be trucked long distances and require a lot more gas or diesel fuel to be consumed to transport them to my province. Local people are hired to wash, sort, grade and bag locally-grown produce. Local farmers grow the produce and supporting them by buying their goods helps them remain in production on their farms. A local trucking company is hired to bring the produce to markets. Local workers are hired to build wooden pallets to load the produce onto the trucks. A local packaging company manufactures the burlap and heavy paper sacks that much produce is packed in. These jobs and the income they generate help to keep the local economy stable and strong.  Any produce that is over-sized, irregular-shaped or slightly bruised is donated by local farmers to soup kitchens and food banks for the poor. Everyone benefits plus I am reducing my carbon footprint on the planet.

It is less costly to buy in volume. For example, most varieties of potatoes grown locally, are sold by the pound individually at 99 cents per pound, that’s roughly four medium-sized potatoes. A five-pound bag of potatoes costs $1.97. A ten-pound bag of potatoes costs $3.59 but a twenty-pound bag of potatoes costs $4.29.We buy the twenty-pound bag and divide it among the three of us. Thus we get almost seven pounds of potatoes each for $1.43. Why buy one pound of potatoes for 99 cents when I can buy almost seven pounds for 44 cents more? That’s enough potatoes to do me one month or more. We do the same with carrots, onions, tomato baskets, and other produce. These potatoes were grown less than 60 miles away. I am helping to sustain my local farming community, supporting local jobs, reducing my food bill,  and saving energy. I will use these potatoes in soups, stews, casseroles, and other one-cooking pot or dish multi-vegetable meals. I will make a six-to-eight serving meal, divide it into six-to-eight one-serving containers and freeze them for lunches for work or when I come home from work too tired to cook a meal. I’ll pop the meal in my microwave oven, defrost, and heat it up.
When Christine is not available to carpool, I will take a collapsible wire basket on wheels to the same three supermarkets solo and on foot and just get a smaller bag or basket of local produce. After I shop, I wheel my six canvas grocery bags home. I save taxi and bus fare and have accomplished all the same things. Plus, walking is an excellent form of aerobic exercise. Reuse, recycle, reduce, buy locally-produced fresh foods. Good health. Healthy economy. Sustainability.
We writers who do these kinds of things could write a book of the things we do to help build a strong and sustainable local economy, generate less waste and save on energy.
Cheryl Cudmore
Prince Edward Island,



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