Green Recap: August

August 31, 2007

I can’t believe I finally get to say these six beautiful words: I’m halfway through my green challenge.

At this point, part of me is thrilled about counting down to when I’ll be able to take a ride on my sister’s motorcycle, drink a cold beer, get a hot shower and blow-dry my hair. But another part of me knows that, in fact, this is a lifelong challenge. Most of the changes I’ve made so far are ones I plan on keeping up, even if they do require some effort.

I won’t be buying a car anytime soon, for example, nor will I be switching back to chemical-based cleaners or beauty products, and there isn’t any reason to fish the water bottle out from my toilet tank. I hope to continue eating organic dairy, free-range eggs and as vegetarian a diet as possible — although I may turn my oven back on to bake a few sustainable pies.

In terms of what August has meant to me, I’d have to say it’s been all about learning. The cycling trip I took through the valleys of Oregon taught me volumes about permaculture, off-the-grid living and the indisputable importance of eating local and organic food — I even managed to get over my aversion to vegans and their weird victual obsessions like quinoa and nutritional yeast.

I also learned, when I was trying to break a $20 bill for some change the other day, that there is nothing, absolutely NOTHING, at the 7-11 that I can eat, use or consume in any way. I felt like I was drowning in a sea of flashy brand names that, in exchange for my hard-earned money, offered only MSG wrapped in styrofoam.

I learned that eggs can last unrefrigerated for up to three weeks, that there’s an organic ice cream store around the corner from me, that dryer lint can go in the compost bin, that Pedestrian Sundays in Kensington Market continue into the fall, and that you can do pretty much anything with some vinegar, baking soda and a jar of coconut oil.

So with that, let’s green on! I hope you all stick around and remind me that this isn’t just about an individual journey, it’s a collective effort — and it’s getting stronger every day.


A nod to Nàdarra (Day 184)…

August 31, 2007

nadarraIf there is any product I have a complete and total I-would-KILL-Mother-Nature-for-this dependence on, it’s face cream. Wrinkle cream, firming cream, freckle-fading cream, bronzing cream — anything that promises to magically transform my visage into something resembling a slightly paler, more Canadian-looking J.Lo always makes its way into my shopping basket.

I’ve been pretty good recently about not buying any face cream, and it’s been fine because it’s summer and my skin doesn’t get as dry. But fall is just around the corner and my current miracle cream of choice, Boots No. 7 Protect & Perfect, is running out. So when my friend Jacob told me he ran into this girl Julia, who we both went to high school with, and who was now making her own line of natural skincare products here in Toronto, I knew I had to track her down.

Turns out it’s called Nàdarra, the Gaelic word for natural, and is available both online as well as within biking distance of my apartment. I searched through my drawers to see if I had any reusable containers first, because if there was some way to refill a jar rather than use a new one, I’d obviously do that — but I really couldn’t find anything.

So I dropped the $30 on a fresh new bottle, then dropped Julia an email asking if there would be any way I could refill that one when I run out — and yes, I’ll definitely try to keep using this product because it feels great on my skin and gives me even greater peace of mind knowing there aren’t any synthetic chemicals in it.

Thus, from this day on, only 100% natural face cream.

I want to ride my (used) bicycle (Day 183)…

August 30, 2007


After selling my car and going on this cycling trip, I’ve officially rekindled my love of bikes and decided it was time to get a second one. Quentin is great for running errands around the city, especially now that he’s got a basket, and his mosaic of stickers help spread the green love. But I wanted a proper road bike for when I go on longer trips.

Over the weekend, I happened to be at a bike store in Toronto called Sweet Pete’s — the owner, Pete, did the Friends for Life Bike Rally (Toronto to Montreal) with Meghan and me a few years ago. He wasn’t there, but this other guy was, so I asked if he could suggest any places in the city where I might find a decent used bike — better to take the eco-friendly route and buy used sports equipment rather than brand new stuff, I figured.

“Well, actually,” he said, “I’d highly recommend NOT getting a used bike.” He then began to list off various reasons why this was a bad idea, from financial issues to potential safety problems, and added that there were plenty of new bikes for around $800 that would be way better.

“Uh huh,” I replied patiently. “OK … Mm hmm, I see what you’re saying. Right, I definitely won’t get a used bike.” So I paid for my patch kit and spare tubes and rode back home, whereupon I immediately logged onto Craigslist, found a listing for a vintage yellow Peugeot and arranged to meet Alex at the top of a parking garage in Kensington Market.

Well, Alex turned out to be a girl — albeit a girl with a mustache, greasy bike hands and a rose tattoo on her left earlobe (so, basically, she rocked). She pointed out the bike’s strengths (new tires, tubes, great frame, good seat and handlebars) as well as its weaknesses (a bashed-up derailer, sticky back brake, some rust spots), and then offered it to me for $80.


Because it’s French, and I’m Canadian, I decided a French-Canadian name was only appropriate and so christened it Deni (that’s pronounced de-NEE for all you Americans), introduced it to Quentin and brought it home. And now Pete, who’s back from Denmark, has agreed to take a look and see what he fix. So with that, as of today, I’ll only be buying used sports equipment.

Preserving my local diet (Day 182)…

August 29, 2007


It’s easy sticking to a local diet now that it’s summer and farmers markets are in full swing, but I know that all these juicy peaches, plums and berries won’t be around come January — they’ll be around in South America, yes, but because I’m restricted to Canada and the U.S. in everything I eat, I thought I’d take a couple hours to make some preserves.

Despite my penchant for all foods Indian, I’m not a big chutney fan, nor do I like the taste of pickled anything, so I’m limiting myself to jams. But wow — and please, excuse the lack of humility here — it just so happens, my jams rock! Of course I can’t take full credit: Miss Crunchy gave me the inspiration with her recipe for Cognac Vanilla Peach Jam, which is basically what I made, just without the booze (I couldn’t find organic cognac and wasn’t sure how my few teetotalling friends would feel about it).

Now, I must admit, I prematurely scrunched my face in panic upon reading through Crunchy’s ingredients list, especially when I came across the word pectin. Pectin? What the heck was that? Sure didn’t sound very natural or green to me … but actually, it is. So once I got over that mental hurdle, I picked up all the other necessities and went about blanching (another term that freaked the bejeebus out of me) my fruit. About halfway through the recipe, I basically started guessing everything, boiling and stirring the globby mixture until it looked like it wouldn’t kill me or make me barf if I ate some of it with a piece of toast.

As I poured it into the sterilized jars (again, my sterilization technique would surely flunk me right out of any medical school), I thought, “All right, it’s OK, it’ll taste like crap, but that’s fine, that’s what experimental cooking is all about.” But then I let it set overnight and tried a tentative spoonful of it the next morning on a rice cake with some almond butter and it actually tasted great! The vanilla beans made a huge difference and the tartness really came through, unlike so many of the over-sweetened commercial brands on the market.

In the end, my Peach, Yellow Plum and Vanilla Bean jam was almost entirely organic, local and stored in reusable mason jars. So as of today, I’ll be preserving whatever I can if it means less time in an 18-wheeler to get here come winter.

My lap wins with napkins (Day 181)…

August 28, 2007


… Cloth napkins, that is, because as of today I won’t be using anymore disposable paper napkins whether at home or at a restaurant. I’ve got my own organic cotton one that I’ll be keeping in my purse at all times, ready to catch errant sandwich crumbs during lunch, wipe my bicycle seat dry if it’s been raining or wave goodbye to my true love on a train platform as he presses his hand against the window. Or something like that.

Photo courtesy of Wade From Oklahoma on Flickr

Crap, crap and more crap

August 27, 2007

Just thought I’d pass on a link to this story in the San Francisco Chronicle about the new Neosporin travel tote — another one of these horrid gimmicks marketers insist on creating for absolutely no reason. It’s as though they’re sitting there thinking, “Hmm… how can we possibly waste more plastic? I know! We’ll tell consumers they need a miniature plastic pouch in which to carry their petroleum-based ointments!”

Anyway, the author, Chris Colin, passed it on to me, thinking my readers might get a kick out of it. And because I can’t resist anyone with a first name for a last name, I decided to post it.

I think the worst part is that most doctors have actually stopped recommending stuff like Polysporin or Neosporin because these products have been shown to either do nothing or, worse yet, actually interfere with the body’s natural healing mechanisms.

SWF seeks hippie with full set of teeth (Day 180)…

August 27, 2007

green singles

In case you haven’t noticed from the numerous posts revolving around my cat, my parents and sometimes my friend Meghan — I’m single. It’s OK, I’m totally cool with it. I’m usually a serial monogamist, and often don’t abandon any relationship until I’ve got someone else waiting in the wings, but this time I just did it and truly enjoyed having my own space, playing my own music and eating my own food on my own schedule.

But it’s been almost a year now, so I’ve decided to get back into the dating scene. Part of this challenge, though, is finding others who are attractive and care about the environment, who understand my aversion to plastic and my need for organic tubers but won’t ream me out every time I need to rent a Zip car for groceries. During the course of this bike trip, I managed to get over my aversion to vegans, but I still don’t want to go out with anyone who thinks wine and Advil are the devil’s work, anyone who wears Guatemalan pants, or anyone named Serenity.

So I decided to green my dating slowly and carefully, beginning with, which says it’s for the “environmental, vegetarian and animal rights community.” I created a profile, which you can probably find with some digging, and which is probably the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever done in my life. Then I started looking around at all the men on it and saw that in all of Toronto there were about 12, and maybe two of them were near my age. Even when I expanded my search to all of Ontario, it still kept offering me nothing but Owen Wilson lookalikes who declared their religion as “On a spiritual journey.”

I’ve also been trying to attend more green-themed events, such as an anti-styrofoam party a while back at the Gladstone Hotel or the more recent Bicycle Film Festival. As well, I’m hoping to meet some cool people through the Toronto Environmental Volunteers group and various other community gatherings from farmers markets to vegetarian food fairs.

We’ll see how it goes. Mostly, I’m just hoping whoever I end up with can not only pronounce “vermicomposting” but has heard of modern inventions like deodorant and floss.