Beach blonde, not bleached blonde (Day 110)…

June 18, 2007

naturlogoNow that I’m air-drying my hair and using natural shampoos and conditioners, I figured I’d annoy my hairdresser even more by switching from salon-brand dyes to natural alternatives, like the ones made by Naturcolor. The only problem is that by doing it at home by myself, I’m forced to do an all-over wash instead of highlights (I’ve tried to do this before; it required multiple trips to the salon for repairs).

I went for “Palest Saffron Blonde”, 10R, which you can see here, although in the store it looked a lot more like 8N in tint. For a natural dye, I have to say, it didn’t smell that natural and when I mixed the two solutions together it started getting warm. Then it turned this dark amber colour and started getting hot, which sort of freaked me out.

But I persevered, touching up my roots first, then after 20 minutes working it through the rest of my hair. Finally, I washed it out (I’d post a photo but my hair’s looking pretty gross right now). Basically, it’s very subtle, and more strawberry blonde than golden blonde. I went sailing yesterday with my dad, sister, some friends and then later saw my mom, but none of them noticed, so I’m not sure it was worth the effort.

I’ve read that the dyes used at Aveda salons are a lot less abrasive and chemical-based than others, so in the future I may just make a point of getting my highlights done at, say, Civello rather than Fiorio. I’m predicting a whole bunch of you are going to comment, “You should try using Henna!” but I’m pretty sure that’s only good if you’re going red or dark.

Take that, Magic Eraser! (Day 109)…

June 17, 2007


Sometime last year, I fell in love with the Magic Eraser. Watching as it cleaned grime from my tub in a single swipe and made the grout between my bathroom tiles as white as Ryan Seacrest‘s teeth, I’d hum the song “Do You Believe in Magic?” and silently respond, “You bet I do!”

Ah, but then the CBC came and ruined it all, pointing out that the reason it worked so well had to do with the carcinogenic tongue-twister of a chemical, formaldehyde-melamine-sodium bisulfite copolymer, which they don’t warn about on the label. Damn you, Wendy Mesley! (Although, I have to confess, I was mildly disturbed by the fact that the eraser also seemed to magically disintegrate after a few uses.)

So it was back to using a whole bucket of different cleaning products, with my primary tools being a sponge and some paper towel. I’d use the paper towels for cleaning the bathroom mirror, glass table and stove, kitchen counter, and to wipe things dry.

But then the other night, when I was at my parents’ place for dinner, my mother gave me this thing called an E-cloth, which she got from Tony at the Kitchen and Glass Place in Toronto, which is like Williams-Sonoma‘s cooler, more reasonably priced cousin. It’s made from some crazy scientific micro-fiber and promises to clean your entire house with nothing but water, so you save on paper towels and cleaning products.

Pshht, yeah right, I thought. Mom totally got suckered.

Still, I decided to try it out this weekend anyway, just so I could report back to her the extent to which she’d been suckered, and whoa — hold the phone. This thing kicks serious Sunday chores ass! I tested it out on the counter top: Good. Then I ran it over my stainless steel fridge: Excellent. Then I bolted upstairs to try it on my sink and tiles: Perfect.

I couldn’t believe it. This thing cleaned everything without leaving a single streak, and I barely had to run it over any surface twice. I didn’t use a single paper towel or any product, just water.

So my green change today is to only use cloths like these for household cleaning; no more paper towels.

Elevating my green status (Day 108)…

June 16, 2007

I’m not about to go all No Impact Man and stop using elevators, but the more I think about it, the more I realize my lifestyle is pretty low-rise, and thus conducive to taking the stairs. I work on a third floor, live on a fourth floor, go to a doctor’s office on a second floor, dentist’s office on a first floor and most of my friends live in houses or similarly low-level condos.

I usually take the elevator in my building when my arms are loaded with groceries or I’m stumbling home after a late night out, and as long as a bunch of other people are waiting for it, I don’t think I’m consuming that much more energy if I hitch a ride up (or down) with them.

But if there’s no one there and it’s just me with my purse — although, let it be known, the purse is beginning to weigh as much as a small child with all the green gear I’m carrying now — I do feel a bit of guilt. So from now on, I’m going to take the stairs…

Unless: 1) I’ve got my bike with me, in which case I may attempt it but only if I’m feeling spry; 2) I’m going up to a floor higher than 10 storeys; or 3) If I’m with a group of people going to the same floor and can’t persuade them to join me in a quad workout. Also, I’ll still take escalators and moving sidewalks because they’re in perpetual motion regardless.

A new ritual for my cat’s victuals (Day 107)…

June 15, 2007


After the Menu Foods recall and various other pet-food scares, I started to worry about what my little Sophie was eating. Her pooping schedule has also been somewhat irregular (whose isn’t these days, really?), which means more “accidents” on the bathmat, bed and living room rug… never on the hard surfaces, of course. And her dander is getting worse, too.

I tried a couple different vet-recommended brands, some with more fibre than others, then tried an organic one that she refused to touch. I kept scanning the shelves at my local pet store, reading through ingredients lists for any sketchy animal by-products. Finally, I found one, Nutra MAX Cat in roasted chicken flavour (the free-range rule doesn’t apply here, I’m afraid), which is formulated for older, indoor cats and promises to improve digestion and curb dander. The package — which was paper, not plastic — boasted of all-natural ingredients, so I went ahead and got it.

Success! She wolfed it down. But then I went to the company’s website and started panicking when I saw they’d had to recall a couple of their wet cat foods because of the Menu Foods thing. They insist none of their dry foods contain anything to worry about (like, say, melamine), but still, it bothers me that ingredients get sourced to begin with from dodgy places like the Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Co., when they could be obtained locally.

I’ll commit to feeding my kitty the most natural, safe and if possible organic food from now on, but if anyone has any suggestions for brands that don’t taste like crap — seriously, I think Sophie is part French because she’d sooner sit by her bowl and starve to death than eat an uninteresting meal — feel free to comment below. It’s hard, though. I mean, just look at all these brands the FDA lists that may be contaminated. Perhaps the only truly safe thing to do is make it myself.

No more band-aid solutions (Day 106)…

June 14, 2007


While ripping open some mail yesterday, I accidentally sliced my finger on a staple (I have no idea why anyone would staple an envelope, but there you go). Anyway, because my brain is now wired to be in constant eco-mode, I was sitting there at my desk, oozing blood, and the first thing I think is, “Ooh — I wonder if there’s some way I can green my first-aid?”

Unfortunately, band-aids come wrapped in unrecyclable wax paper, are attached to disposable peel-off stickies, and are made from mostly plastic, adhesive glue and just a tiny square of bleached cotton.

So I wandered around the maze of cubicles until I found a first-aid kit, which contained a roll of gauze. The only packaging it had was some plain paper on the outside, and while it probably wasn’t organic cotton or anything, it seemed a bit more eco-friendly than the band-aids. I snipped off a segment, twirled it around my finger and just held it there with my thumb until the bleeding stopped.

If it was a major gash, this solution may not have been applicable, but I’m convinced there are other, greener ways to deal with cuts like this — perhaps that liquid you spray on to make them clot right away? Or is that really toxic? I’d use my hankie but I’m worried it’s not sterile enough.

Either way, I’m going to try and avoid band-aids whenever possible. If it’s the only solution available I’ll have to make an exception, but in the mean time, I’m going to have a little pep talk with my platelets.

Image courtesy of these peeps

The need to weed (Day 105)…

June 13, 2007


Although the closest thing I have to a garden is the little courtyard at the side of my apartment building, my parents have a pretty fair-sized one in their backyard. They don’t have a lawn (it’s a British thing), but there’s a stone pathway that frequently needs weeding.

My mother usually just spritzes the buggers with Roundup, but asked if I wanted to pluck them out by hand once every month as one of my green changes, so as to cut back on the pesticide.

I figure, the woman gave me life, I probably owe her a couple hours of weeding. So I went ahead (and she took this picture, into which Kitty crept — yes, that’s her name, Kitty. Highly unoriginal, but she really did defy every other name we tried to give her).

Most of the weeds were just baby sproutlings (excuse the improvised botanical terminology) and were easy to pick out. It’s really behind the sheds and the pergola where they grow super fast and get stronger, not to mention hard to reach. I tried to convince mom to start a grow-op back there, but she wouldn’t listen.

Environmental spawareness (Day 104)…

June 12, 2007


Aside from my sister, who doesn’t like strangers touching her, most women adore spas. These days, no matter how much we’re rubbed (sometimes even with butter), wrapped, baked and/or steamed as though we were being prepped for dinner, we still can’t get enough.

Unfortunately, pampering can be a very wasteful process — the endless streams of water used in Vichy treatments or body scrubs, the various towels, bathrobes and slippers that all get washed after one brief use, not to mention the countless bottles of product that, when emptied, may or may not get recycled.

All this has prompted me to decide that from now on, I’ll only frequent eco-friendly spas. There’s a list here with some internationally recognized institutions, but it just takes some poking around the neighbourhood to figure out which places have put some thought into it and which haven’t.

Recently, for example, I mentioned 889 Yonge, a place in Toronto that’s gone all-out green. But I also know that Body Blitz (in the photo above) uses Giovanni products in their vanity rooms and all-natural scrubs and muds. And the cheap place I go for manis and pedis keeps a little box full of nail care equipment for each customer so they can reuse instead of dispose of all the pumice stones and filers.

I’m not going to restrict myself to vegan spas or try in vain to locate some wind-powered, organic, greywater spa. I just want a place that will maybe offer drinking water from a fountain rather than a complimentary plastic bottle, that will have signs about where to leave dirty towels as opposed to clean ones, and perhaps let me bring my own flip-flops and robe.

Photo courtesy of Toronto Street Fashion