Lobbying, petitioning, letter-writing (Day 79)…

May 18, 2007


If you go way back to the beginning of this blog and read my second post, you’ll see that one of my friends, upon hearing about this challenge, commented, “You know how you can REALLY help the environment? Start writing letters to China.” So, Craig, that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

All right, maybe instead of China, I’ll start with Environment Minister John Baird. Or even easier: sign this online petition by the Save Our Climate blog, or this one asking Kraft to stop using genetically modified ingredients in their food, or this one to protect the Arctic Refuge.

Or I could even draft my own petition using the Auditor General’s handy guide (complete with flow charts, government jargon and, in case you’re really confused, this example of a typical petitioner: “A northerner who would like to be involved in consultations over harvesting of the forest resource north of 60°” — that is totally me).

Now I have to admit, I’m not much of an activist, at least physically speaking. The thought of draping a heavy, unflattering sandwich board over my shoulders, yelling the same sentence over and over, waving a big sign on which at least one word is spelled incorrectly and marching around Parliament Hill really doesn’t appeal to me. But then I can’t just do nothing and be cynical about it, either.

So my change today is to use the power of the pen — or more accurately keyboard — to voice my concerns. I’m going to make sure that at least once every week I write a letter to someone, sign a petition or join a campaign for a cause I believe in and make my voice heard, no matter how feeble it may be.

Hopelessly fridgeless (Day 78)…

May 17, 2007


OK, listen up Little Blog in the Big Woods: I did it. I unplugged my fridge. Not just the freezer, the entire fridge. NO FRIDGE. Do I get green-freak status yet or what? (No offense, I mean, living off-the-grid is cool and all, but when you’re in the city, the grid is like a wealthy, temperamental uncle you somewhat resent yet hopelessly depend on for cold beer)

As you faithful readers know, this blog is all about baby steps. But the thing is, when I turned off my freezer, my fridge started getting warmer too, despite the fact that there are two separate dials. GreenYogini warned of this in her comment, but by then it was too late. I tried to figure out a system of occasionally switching the whole unit on for an hour, then leaving it off for the rest of the day, but it was getting far too complicated. In the end, I knew the only true green choice was to follow Greenpa and No Impact Man, and just unplug the whole darn thing.

I made sure to finish all my vegetables and dairy products first, then gradually started moving stuff to the pantry. Finally, I switched it off for good, leaving nothing other than my stale box of baking soda in there. On the one hand, it’s been interesting learning about all the things that didn’t really need to be refrigerated — at least for very long — in the first place (margarine, jams, potatoes, ketchup, mustard and most other condiments, apples, almond butter, blueberries, etc). But on the other hand, it’s been sad opening my cupboards to find yellow, wilted kale that was only a day old or some carrots that had gone bendy after less than 12 hours.

It also means no yogurt or soy milk, unless I consume it all within a day or keep it on my balcony while the weather is still relatively cool. As well, I now have to drink my water and beer at room temperature — to be honest, this hasn’t really bothered me yet, however I’m definitely not investing in any white wine or bubbly unless I buy it from the LCBO‘s refrigerated section and drink the entire bottle right away (which could very well happen).

This is hardly a change I expect others to make, however if you’re like me — that is, if you live in a city, have some time to spare each day for a walk to the corner store, have only yourself (and your kitty) to feed, and are almost a little too concerned about the environment but still more or less in control of your mental faculties — it’s worth trying the no-fridge lifestyle.

Who knows, maybe it’ll become yet another movement. I might have to start labelling myself a flexitarian, locavorian, organic-only, fair-trade, fridgeless slow-foodie. Are there any restaurants catering to this?

The .001 Mile Diet (Day 77)…

May 16, 2007

herb garden

It doesn’t get more local than my balcony, which I’ve just adorned with a cute little herb box full of mint (as I’m not chewing gum anymore), lemon balm (because I miss not having lemons), basil (risky, I know), swiss chard (even riskier) and an organic cherry tomato plant (totally not going to happen, I don’t know why I even bought it).

I got the wooden box and brackets from Home Depot and some soil from the corner store (I meant to get some Woop! but forgot), then planted away. Unfortunately, I have no idea what I’m doing; my thumbs are the opposite of green — so, basically, red. I have red thumbs. By the time I finally crammed all five plants in, there was dirt all over my arms, pants, my two chairs, the floor and surely on the balcony below me. Even my cat looked unimpressed (then again, cats always look unimpressed).

Anyway, feel free to comment below about how my herbs will never survive. I can handle it. In the mean time, however, when it comes to flavouring my home cooking, I’m officially restricting myself to using only these balcony bits and whatever other spices I still have in my pantry (let me check: dried oregano, cinnamon, celery seed, garam masala, fenugreek, turmeric, cayenne pepper and ground coriander … I like curry, OK?). The logic is that if I can grow it on my balcony, I don’t need to buy entire bushels of it from the grocery store, which have surely been driven there by truck.

But if any of them die, you’re going to have to cut me some slack and let me try again, maybe with something like parsley instead of a friggin’ tomato plant. And I’ll gladly take any suggestions for which herbs and vegetables thrive the best in confined, smoggy and mostly shady places.

Jet-setting off-setter (Day 76)…

May 15, 2007


I just planned a whirlwind summer vacation (in airport code: YYZLHRTLVMADPDXYYZ), which unfortunately means a series of flights that add up to 17,270 miles, 349 gallons of fuel and 6,828 pounds of carbon dioxide. So to balance out my three tonnes of guilt, I registered at TerraPass and offset all my air travel. Surprisingly, it only cost $36.95, and they even gave me a nerdy eco-traveller luggage tag to boot.

Now, offsets are a little controversial: Critics liken them to the medieval church selling indulgences to absolve sinners; but in the end, most environmentalists agree that they’re worth investing in after you’ve made every other effort to reduce your air and car travel, as well as energy consumption at home, in your dorm room or at your wedding(s).

While it’s true that I could have chosen to stay at home this summer, the reality is that it’s just not the same trying to celebrate your aunt’s 50th birthday party over the phone, hug one of your dearest friends by email, or go on a permaculture cycling trip down the coast of … Lake Ontario.

My green change as of today, then, is to only fly when necessary, to plan all my flights strategically, to spread the word with my nerdy luggage tag and, of course, to offset all my air travel.

Graphics nicked from TerraPass

A good match (Day 75)…

May 14, 2007


I could be wrong on this one, but my instincts are telling me it’s more environmentally sound to use matches instead of lighters. On the one hand, to make a match, you need to chop down trees for both the stick and the packaging, and there’s the phosphorus on the tip; but then to make a lighter, you need the plastic and/or metal holding case as well as lighter fluid. Although you can refill most lighters, you still have to buy another canister of butane; at least with matches, you can recycle the box, and there’s no toxic waste.

Now, I’m no phillumenist — I love a good barbecue lighter for reaching the wicks on candles that have melted to the bottom of the glass, and it’s not exactly cool to be at a concert waving a series of lit matches back and forth during some power ballad — but there’s something about that smell you get with real wooden matches, especially my favourite brand, Redbird, that brings along memories of camping and bonfires and s’mores (gotta love the Wikipedia entry here with a photo of “a common s’more” — why not show a picture of an extraordinary s’more?).

So the next step in leaving a lighter footprint: no more lighters.

Photo courtesy of photoplasia at Flickr

If it’s yellow, let it mellow (Day 74)…

May 13, 2007

I’m not even going to finish the rest of this saying because I know you know what it means, and let me just say right off the bat that if it’s really yellow — as in, I’ve eaten a lot of asparagus or something — or if any guests are over, it’s getting flushed down too.

Whenever people ask me what changes I’m putting off until the end of this challenge, I always say anything to do with the bathroom: low-flow shower heads, dual-flush toilets, or natural tile and toilet bowl cleaners, because I can’t stand a filthy bathroom — I need it to be bleachy clean. So the “If it’s yellow, let it mellow” change is a big step for me (and I hope you’ll understand why there’s no picture for this one).

Who’d a thunk it?

May 12, 2007

thinkGreentime just tagged me with a Thinking Blogger Award (thanks guys!). The idea is that if you get
this, you should in turn write a post naming five other blogs that make you think, think, think.

But there are so many! Just look at my Blogroll — where do I begin?

*Sigh* Well, here goes nothing:

  1. EnviroWoman, the west coast to my east coast, my fellow Canadian girl, who’s spending one year living plastic-free. She’s totally hardcore, and yet knows the value of a great lipstick. I not only plan on stealing ideas from her, but getting inspiration whenever I stop and question what the heck I’m doing.
  2. Crunchy Chicken, who I’m tagging mostly because she has the coolest name for a blog ever, but also because she’s got everything from fun polls about toilet paper and Diva Cup challenges to a more serious-minded Omnivore’s Dilemma book club and other thought-provoking posts.
  3. The Healthy Cookie, because she’s been one of my bestest friends for 15 years and reminds me to be good to my body as well as the earth, and because she is relentlessly positive in this increasingly negative world.
  4. Confessions of a Closet Environmentalist must get a nod, as Alina is a bit of a kindred spirit. I was actually going to call my blog the Closet Environmentalist, because I’m all about the baby steps, and she backs me up in showing that not all tree-huggers are raging, dreadlocked eco-warriors.
  5. No Impact Man, despite being all famous and one-upping me in just about every way, is a constant source of motivation and encouragement, and proves that there really is no excuse for ignoring our ecological footprint. If he can turn off all his electricity, wash his hair with baking soda and vinegar, do his laundry in the bathtub, compost his own poop and not lose any friends in the process, the rest of us can at least try to switch to recycled paper towels or something.

But I also love all the others out there like Do You Realize? and Visualize Whirled Peas and Small Failures and Ideal Bite and, and, and… ARGH!