Friday, April 26, 2013

The Complexities of Meningitis and Vaccinations

When my half sister was around 8 she got meningitis. She lived on the West Coast and I was in my first year of high school in Ontario. It is safe to say I really didn't have direct connection with her illness. But she spent the next two years of her life in and out of BC Children's Hospital, with her longest stretch being around 3 months. As the years past, when the subject would come up, people would ask me if she had had viral or bacterial meningitis. I said I don't know -"...but it was the really dangerous kind". I knew she had come close to death a few times, so I thought it was a reasonable assumption. Frankly I had no idea how complex meningitis can be.

Just after I was invited to attend a round table for World Meningitis Day, and how the use of vaccines can help protect our kids, I happen to be visiting my family. So I asked what kind of meningitis my sister had had. And my overly simplistic view of meningitis completely changed. My sister had viral meningitis. Which of course cannot be prevented with a vaccine. But the fast moving, invasive bacterial meningitis can be prevented with a vaccine.  

Great don't kids get those vaccines?!  Again it isn't that simple.

First what is Meningitis? It is a potentially deadly inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, which can be caused by a virus, bacteria or fungi. Bacterial meningitis is the most severe type. It can strike quickly, be difficult to diagnose (its symptoms are similar to the flu) and can lead to death in a matter of hours. 

How is it Spread? It is spread in a similar way to a cold or the flu, by close contact, ie: sneezing, coughing, sharing water bottles, kissing or other close physical contact. Many people can unknowingly carry the disease and easily pass on the disease to un-immunized people. Since it is very difficult to stop the spread of germs, especially with kids and young people, prevention becomes an important consideration. M

But my 5 year old son has had several Meningitis C Conjugate vaccinations. He should be covered then? Yes...but no.
The disease can be divided into groups, A, B, C, Y and W135. Four of these strains have a vaccine that can prevent the disease - A, C, Y and W135. The meningitis vaccination provided by the Province of BC to our kids prevents against Type C. There is a combined A-C-Y-W135 conjugate vaccine available. But if you want it you will have to pay for it. 

Brodie Campbell

Many of us believe since we get that Meningitis C Conjugate vaccine that we are covered. Colin Campbell and Judith Osbourne believed that. But they lost their healthy and vibrant 15 year old son Brodie within 48 hours to this invasive devastating illness. Brody had been vacinated with the C Conjugate vaccine. But he had the Y-strain. Which could have been prevented with the combined A-C-Y-W135 conjugate vaccine.

My point...

As a mother who just went through the vaccinations for my 5 year old son, including the addition of a newly added Chicken Pox booster (which meant a traumatic and acoustic breaking 2nd shot). I have to wonder why the Province of British Columbia can't see its way to provide more complete protection against a deadly invasive disease such as meningitis. I am not debating that Chicken Pox prevention is important. But why do I have to pay to get complete protection against a disease that is easily spread and that can KILL within hours? And at least 4 other provinces in Canada provide the shot.

Note that none of these vaccines would have helped my sister, as she had an equally complex Viral Meningitis, which is separate from the above mentioned groups. I can't even start to explain the different viruses that can cause the viral form of the disease. More info can be found here. And it cannot be prevented with any vaccine or treated with antibiotics. My sister lives with the effects of her extended illness to this day.

Disclosure: I was invited, but unable to attend a roundtable on World Meningitis Day with Colin Campbell and Dr. Gio Miletto. I was not compensated for this post in any way.


For those looking for more information on Meningitis check Note that this disease can affect people of all ages, and that symptoms are different in adults and children.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Organic Delivery - Part 2

A while after I started ordering from Spud they saw this post.  The result of our conversation is a great contest (and review) over on Fashion Forward 40.   Check it out and be sure to enter for a chance to win $100 in Spud groceries before 9pm Pacific on Tuesday October 30th. Contest

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Organic Delivery

I recently worked with at a cancer fundraiser that I organized.  They were really fantastic to work with and their produce fresh and yummy.    I had been thinking about using this type of service for some time.  This summer has been particularly busy and we have found it hard to regularly attend the local farmers' markets.  We have a few choice veggies from own garden, but were missing the variety from the market.  So a regular delivery of something like Spud's Fresh Harvest Box would be very helpful. 

I have used an online grocery service in the past. In the 90s there was a service and I used them for larger items, as I lived in a 3 story walk-up.  But this would be my first experience with a sustainable grocery delivery service.

So I am looking for advice.  Has anyone ordered from  Should I start with the Fresh Harvest Box?  Or is it better to start with smaller a la carte orders?  I am particularly intrigued by their "my list" feature, which will allow me to create shopping lists from previously ordered items. 

Any advice appreciated!

Monday, May 21, 2012

The future of cars - Updated

Interesting couple of updates to this post from 2 years ago.  My husband now has a contract out in Surrey, so he has to drive everyday.   This means that often he and I both need a car.  So it would seem that going down to one car is even less feasible than before.   But it also coincides with my son moving into a booster seat and getting ready to start school in September.  His new school is conveniently 2 blocks from a Modo Car Co-op car (Co-operative Auto Network rebranded this since original post).  His new school is about a 20 minute walk for us. So it has become more feasible for me to walk/bus my son to school, then grab a co-op car if I need to do any running around that day.  If I continue to work as a consultant, and not needing a vehicle everyday, I could see this being a very real option for us to get rid of my car.
Original post from April 2010...

We had friends over last weekend and I was surprised when they said they had driven to our house. This young urban couple with no kids are avid transit and environmental supporters and have no car.  So I was surprised to hear they had driven.  But they had had some special errands to run that day and needed a car.  They are members of the Co-operative Auto Network.  So they had a snazzy red hybrid for the afternoon and evening. 

I thought great on them.  I know when I first started my career in TO I went without a car for years.  It was especially funny as I worked on the Saturn, Saab, Isuzu advertising account.  But I was a junior and couldn't afford to have a car.   So the guys could laugh all they wanted. If they weren't going to pay for me to have a car, I wasn't going to pay for one myself.   If I had to drive out to GM in Oshawa, I rented a car and expensed it.  It was cheaper than taking a taxi.    But today it would have been much smarter for my company to have been part of the co-op.   I also would have LOVED a car co-op for those big grocery shopping, errand running days. 

With a young toddler and both my husband and myself currently self employed (and always on the run to one side of town to the next) a car co-op at first seems unrealistic for us.  I initially have visions of me on the bus, with a toddler and a car seat, making my way over to the co-op location about 12 blocks from our house. 

Most of the time we have 2 cars.  One of which is very busy running one of us across town for work or errands. The other is used a lot less.  In the summer we have 3 cars, as my husband has a vintage 1975 MG convertible.  In those months our "2nd" car is very much under-utilized.  Unfortunately the MG can't be used when running a toddler around.  So thus we have kept our second car.  We have considered selling it, but weren't sure how we'd coordinate on those days when we need 2 cars. 

I'm beginning to wonder if a car co-op might be a better 2nd car option for us.   It might require a bit of coordination.  And perhaps one of us driving the other over to the co-op location.  But it could be a viable way for us to reduce our car load, be more environmental and reduce our budget.

What about you? Could being a member in a car co-op allow you to get one (or more) of your cars off the road?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Eco-Friendly Traverse Trip - The garbage

Following up on my last post on how eco-friendly a road trip can be vs flying, today I want to talk garbage.  I know not a sexy topic, but we keep adding to our landfills and a lot of it is unnecessary. 

What makes garbage on road trips?
  • food (and particularly fast food) containers
  • pop cans, water bottles, coffee cups, juice boxes (of which there will be NONE on our trip
  • paper goods like - kleenex, wet-wipes, napkins and paper towels
  • paper and plastic bags
Food - Now I'm travelling with a couple of Food Revolution folks, so we won't be eating much fast food. We'll be buying food in grocery stores (we have all the Trader Joe's on our route mapped out), and doing a bit of quick mixing in our hotel rooms at night.  We will have a plug-in cooler to keep things cold.  Karen is all over it.  She will be using re-usable containers and plates/cutlery that she has in a picnic kit.   I've been looking at some options that would reduce our use of plastic, like metal containers, but in the end it might be better to use something we already have vs buying new of any type.  We will be avoiding plastic wrap, foil and plastic bags. 

For other snacks we are trying to buy some of the things we like to snack on in bulk.  So yes, there will be Hawkins Cheezie garbage, but at least it will be one big bag and not a bunch of small ones.  And I'll be bringing some Hippie Chips along too.  We might even put some of these snacks into re-usable containers to make them easier to pack.  Or that might be just a bit too much like my mother-in-law.

Drink Containers - This is likely the easiest option as our Traverse has LOTS of cup holders, so we can each bring a re-usable water container and coffee mug.  I'm going to fill our 10L camping water container and bring it along for the back of the vehicle, so we can refill our bottles and keep them in cooler if we like our water cold.  The only thing left is pop-cans. I think there is only only person who drinks pop in our car and she recently gave up her Coke Zero habit - glad she did that well in advance of the trip or it could have gotten ugly. :)

Front seat cup holders

Door cup holders

Back seat cup holders

Paper goods - This one is probably the hardest.  I can't imagine going on a road trip without wet wipes.  But Nicole and I are both former cloth diaper parents and she suggested we use a cloth wipe trick. I have a large pile of small face clothes, and Nicole has some other cloth wipes.  We'll bring them along with a little spray bottle of water, and a wet bag to store the dirty ones.  Then when the inevitable Hawkins Cheezies accident happens we are prepared.  I'm also going to bring some cloth napkins. We can rinse everything out in the hotel at night (I'll bring my portable laundry line too).  For the car I have a great organizer that hangs on the back of the seats, which includes a cup holder to hold our spray bottle.

I have never been able to bring myself to use a hanky, and allergies are bad this year, so I think some kleenex will be inevitable.  I'll try to keep them in a wet bag that can be deposited into a compost bin, if we find any along the road (like at Trader Joe's).

Bags - I'll bring along several cloth shopping bags. And I just picked up a great new collapsible box from Safeway.   I actually picked up two - one is square and perfect for stashing all my car computer stuff nice and neat in one place.  And the other is a rectangle and will be great for car snacks.  They both have a stiff bottom and sides so they won't fall over and get sloppy in the car. When empty, we fold them down and stash under a seat.
Garbage vs Recycling - I have a couple of small flexible recycling type bags, which can be used for garbage and recycling (and to keep our Traverse nice and tidy).  We'll keep the recyclable food packaging and any paper items. We should be able to find a place to put it - likely in our hotel blue bin.  But I don't think anyone wants to keep food scraps in the car for composting.  I expect we will be able to compost at Trader Joe's when we stop. Otherwise we'll be depositing those in the garbage bins when we stop, along with any other garbage that happens to make it into our car.
Isn't everyone excited to see my photos along the trip of how much garbage we have or have not collected. I know I am. 

Anyone have any other eco-friendly road trip tips?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Eco-Friendly Traverse Trip

I love summer road trips. And now that we have actually had a few days of summer weather it feels like we should be heading on our summer trips.  I'll be heading on my big road #TraverseTrip to San Diego in just two weeks. It will be a great road trip with 3 blogging girlfriends Karen, Nicole and Alexis to Blogher '11 - no juice boxes allowed.   We've had a few interesting reactions to our road trip... mostly words I can't repeat here about how long a drive it will be. 

Yes, it will be a long drive! But there are some real environmental benefits to driving - besides being a great road trip adventure with my girlfriends.  So besides discussing fashion and shopping along the road on Fashion Forward 40, I'm also going to see how we keep our road trip as environmentally friendly as possible.

Lets start with the biggie.  Driving compared to flying.  For those that don't love numbers I do apologize as the next part gets a bit like Grade 5 math. 

A few facts/assumptions:
  • Number of travellers - 4
  • Vehicle - Chevrolet Traverse which gets a fantastic 8.4 L/100 km highway fuel consumption rating.  For the sake of simplicity we used the highway rating for our calculations, but we know our actual consumption will vary, especially when we consider LA traffic.  I'll track fuel consumption and do a final assessment at the end of our trip.
  • Driving Distance - Assumed direct drive from downtown Vancouver to downtown San Diego.  I'll track our mileage and give a final assessment at the end of our trip.
  • Flight - Assumed direct flights from YVR to SAN.

A direct flight from Vancouver YVR to San Diego SAN return is 3,792 km (you can search distance between airports here  Thanks to my friends at Climate Smart, who helped me with the math, I know that a return flight equates to 1.13 tonnes CO2 equivalent.   When flying each passenger is assessed a portion of the total carbon for the flight, so we must multiply that number by the 4 passengers  Total 4.52  tonnes CO2 equivalent.


Driving from downtown Vancouver to downtown San Diego and back again is 4,494 km.   With our Traverse highway fuel consumption, we should use 377.5 litres of gas which equals 1.0 tonnes CO2 equivalent.  Since that is the total vehicle calculation, I don't need to multiple by the number of occupants. Total 1.0 tonnes CO2 equivalent.

That means we save 3.52 tonnes CO2 equivalent driving vs flying.  Which means driving is 22% of what flying would be.  Or in real terms that means:

CO2 emissions from 133 propane cylinders used for home barbeques
Photo credit - Tomswift46 via Flickr Creative Commons


Greenhouse gas emissions avoided by recycling 1.1 tons of waste instead of sending it to the landfill
Photo credit -  D'Arcy Norman via Flickr Creative Commons

Annual greenhouse gas emissions from .626 passenger vehicles - which would be like only driving your car 4.5 months of the year.

Other Considerations

So if we are taking an eco-road trip what else do we need to consider?   Well garbage is a big one. And use of disposable products is another.  I'll have more on our plans to reduce our garbage next week.

Would you consider driving instead of flying for a vacation to help reduce your carbon footprint?

Resources...  and

Disclosure: GM is providing us with a loaner Chevrolet Traverse and paying for our hotels and gas to travel to San Diego and back.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Back Alleys and Sunshine

In the grey Vancouver winter my neighbourhood is quiet. We stay inside.  We use our backyards to access our vehicles in the garages that line the back alley.  We sneak out back to take out/bring  in the garbage.  We think of the back alley spaces as a means to an end.  Then the rain stops and the sun starts to shine. And the beauty of our neighbourhood and our back alleys becomes clear.  

I love the...
  • laughter of kids playing street hockey and the calling of "cars" in multiple languages
  • back yards of the Vancouver Specials, which are really just drive ways, lined on either side with thin patches of gardens planted full of tomatoes, peas and carrots
  • conversations with neighbours over the back fence
  • sound of multiple lawn mowers almost creating a symphony together
  • way kids don't see race, culture or religion, but instead see a friend to ride bikes with, even if they can't pronounce each other's names
  • water washing down the alley from cars being washed
  • laundry that appears almost by magic on the line the instant the sun peaks out for an hour
  • smiles and hellos as you walk along the alley
  • kids knocking on the gate asking if my son wants to play
  • sound of children yelling, screaming, crying and laughing
  • that the sense of neighbourhood and community is not lost
I love the back alleys of South East Vancouver.