Tuber or not tuber (Day 179)…

August 26, 2007


On the recent cycling trip I took through the valleys of Oregon from Portland to Eugene, we stopped along the way at various organic farms. One of the most interesting was Sunbow, owned by Harry MacCormack, located near the university town of Corvallis.

Harry, it turns out, is a bit of a celebrity in the organic farming industry. He wrote The Standards and Guidelines For Organic Agriculture, which became the basis for Tilth certification and other programs in the U.S. and abroad. Now, local farmers will often use Harry’s soil to test out different crops.

On our first night there, he spoke to us for a while about how he became involved in the organic farming business and the current trend of local, sustainable eating. Then it got a bit frightening as he moved on to discuss pesticides and DDT, the latter of which can apparently linger on in the land for decades.

After about an hour or so, Harry had me convinced that pretty much everything that isn’t certified organic will give me cancer. OK, maybe I’m exaggerating, but he definitely persuaded me never to go back to commercial dairy products. Or strawberries.

But I didn’t want to fall asleep that night feeling like I could never eat anything again without an appetizer of anxiety, so I asked him what could be done on a consumer level, and his answer was: Never, ever, EVER buy squash that isn’t organic. In fact, even if it is organic, find out which farm it’s from and whether the soil has been tested.

The reason, he says, is that if there is any DDT in the soil, squash and other members of the tuber family will suck it all up and store it in their flesh. Tomatoes and fruits may get sprayed with toxic stuff, but it seems their skins doesn’t absorb much of it, so it’s not as important health-wise to enforce the organic rule there.

Now, I’m not about to go lurking around Ontario farmland with a chemistry set taking samples of the soil or anything, but I will be making sure that all the tubers I buy from now on are organic. There’s nothing I love more in the winter than a good butternut squash soup, and I’d rather it not be garnished with carcinogens.

Photo courtesy of Mexicanwave on Flickr

My pretty plants

August 25, 2007

So I went out and bought a few plants, as per Tuesday’s official green change, and thought I’d post some pictures of them. Aren’t they cute?

succulentsferniepompom trees

From press kit to less kit (Day 178)…

August 25, 2007

As an arts reporter at the National Post, I usually review a couple films per week — now that the film festival is about to start, I’ll probably be seeing at least three every day. At most press screenings, you walk up to the media sign-in desk first, say hello to the always cheery publicist and pick up a press kit, which can be anywhere from one to 20 pages.

It outlines the synopsis of the film, usually includes a statement from the director and/or comments from the cast, lists all the credits and generally makes the journalist’s job a lot easier when the time comes to write up the review (especially if the journalist accidentally falls asleep during the movie, which of course I’ve never done … OK, just once).

Some of the studios and distributors have begun releasing their press kits in electronic format only, which I think is the way to go. And to be honest, with websites like IMDb and other online sources, there isn’t much need for any more promotional material.

So from now on, I’m going to decline the paper press kits at screenings and make do with what I can get on the Interwebs.

Stickin’ it to Ticketmaster (Day 177)…

August 24, 2007

Brown Paper Tickets

The other night, my friend Meghan and I went to an opening party for the Bicycle Film Festival at the Gladstone (which, on a side note, has stopped offering water in plastic bottles — hoorah!). We didn’t have tickets for the screenings on Friday yet, so while I frantically threw on some deodorant and eyeshadow, she went online and got that sorted out.

Well, turns out, they were being provided by this cool company called Brown Paper Tickets, the “first and only fair-trade ticketing service,” wherein you get an electronic ticket rather than a real one (which saves paper) and a portion of every purchase goes to charity (Meg said she chose the Animal Welfare Institute because she knew I liked small furry things).

They have a Ticketing Bill of Rights, too, which explains their mandate, where the money goes, and how the whole system works.

Finally, a green alternative to all those corporate ticketing agencies with their processing fees, shipping and handling crap, and glossy, laser-printed ticket stubs. From now on, I’ll be looking for options like this whenever I plan on going to an event.

Sustainable massage (Day 176)…

August 23, 2007


For some reason, every boyfriend I’ve ever had has totally sucked at giving massages. They’d either do a couple half-assed shoulder squeezes and give up, or they’d act like they knew what they were doing when they didn’t and press ridiculously hard into some random area, which would turn out to be my ribcage, which would subsequently leave me feeling worse.

The massages I get at Body Blitz are pretty amazing, but spa treatments like that can be expensive, too. Sometimes, if my muscles are really aching, I’ll head to the nearest shopping mall and use one of their coin-operated chairs.

Recently, I was thinking about splurging on one of those things you put under your neck or a battery-powered gadget like this.

But then green fate stepped in and provided a solution in the form of a new friend, who turned out to be a registered massage therapist. At first, I thought, “Yeah, whatever — who isn’t a registered massage therapist these days?” Then he put his hand on my neck and suddenly everything melted. Knots that I’d previously thought to be solidified broke down like they were made of overcooked spaghetti.

It reminded me why we have massage therapists in the first place: these people, unlike a machine, can feel exactly where they should be putting pressure, and how much of it is needed. They’re surely safer than those mall chairs with the moving lumps, and best of all, they don’t require any electricity or batteries. Maybe a Power Bar or a pint of beer or something, but I’d say that’s a pretty good deal.

So from now on, the only massages I’ll get will be real ones.

Image courtesy of Woodlands Massage

Making room for natural perfume (Day 175)…

August 22, 2007


At the beginning of this challenge, I promised my cosmopolitan self that no matter how green I became, no matter how many hippies I befriended, there were three things I’d never, ever do: 1) Let my hair clump into dreadlocks; 2) Wear Birkenstocks; and 3) Smell like patchouli. Not that there’s anything wrong with such things — in fact, Birkenstock has been coming out with some funkier styles and colours these days and if they aren’t worn with socks at least … but I digress:

My forays into perfume began sometime in high school, when I wore these sickly sweet scents from the Body Shop like Mango, Peach and Dewberry. Then I went to summer camp and got turned onto Elizabeth Arden’s Sunflowers. By the time I got to university, I was big into Diesel’s Zero Plus, but the fact that it came in a bottle shaped like a grenade made it problematic every time I tried to fly anywhere. Most recently, my perfumes of choice have been Burberry Brit and Kimono Rose.

But more and more, perfumes began making my nose itch and my sinuses ache, and I wanted something that was a little more natural and didn’t feel like it was eating away at my brain. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of options — most hippie stores just offer various essential oils, which on their own are too strong a fragrance. Thistle reader and entrepreneur Anji Murphy sent me some of the natural perfume sticks she’s been working on and they’re fab, but she has yet to officially put them on the market.

So when I stumbled upon these solid perfumes made in British Columbia by a company called Ganesha’s Garden for under $10, I quickly snapped one up. Listed in the ingredients are nothing more than coconut oil, perfume oil, beeswax, almond oil and vitamin E. They come in hand-carved soapstone boxes, which you can reuse afterwards for earrings, knick-knacks, or even your own homemade perfume.

I chose the Oasis scent, which I found out later is what they describe as “a very sweet, sexy blend of cool, juicy mango and coconut notes softened with vanilla and jasmine, all held together with deep woodsy notes. Totally tropical.” I also recommend Plumeria and White Lotus … not so much the Sandalwood, Patchouli or Green Tea. Unless you’re a capital-H hippie, of course. 🙂

Power plants (Day 174)…

August 21, 2007

potted plant

Part of being green means being in touch with nature, which isn’t always easy to do in the city. Living across from a huge park helps, as does being involved with community garden projects or tree planting initiatives. But there’s also something to be said for bringing the outside world in, which is why I’m going to get some plants.

Having indoor plants should also help clean the air a bit, and supposedly they help keep things cool in the summer months. Plus, I’m hoping they’ll serve as little reminders of why I’m making all these changes.

But here’s my sitch: I have absolutely no botanical knowledge whatsoever and could do with some advice as to which sort of plants I should get (and no, a marijuana plant is not an option). Also, I can’t stand spider plants or anything that needs to be hung from the ceiling. Bamboo is pretty trendy, but it’s too House & Home for me. It has to be a type that does well with minimal sunlight, and that my cat won’t eat.

Any suggestions?

Photo courtesy of JanneM on Flickr