Green Recap: September

September 30, 2007

organic lettuce

September has been a pretty lazy month for me, at least in terms of this challenge. I blame lots of things: the Toronto film festival, a trip to the Banff Centre and, I’ll admit, an onset of the green blues. I’m not going to complain because there are far worse things in life than trying to be environmentally conscious. That said, trying to remember over 200 different ways of being environmentally conscious isn’t always so much fun. It doesn’t help, either, that every media outlet is still obsessing over all things green, from the threat of global warming to the trend of “eco-chic” tote bags, not to mention the onslaught of green products, green services, green businesses and all-round greenwashing. Honestly, I’m starting to get a little sick of the whole thing. Sometimes, I just want to wake up and go about my day and not have to worry about whether or not I’ve poured too much water into the kettle for my morning coffee.

Nonetheless, I’ve persevered, and while there have been plenty of silly little changes this month — like altering the margins on my Word documents, eating ice cream in a cone rather than a cup and shaving in the sink — there have also been a couple more substantial ones. I signed up for a regular CSA delivery and am loving the challenge of eating seasonally (I even managed to make a great soup using two types of squash, without using my oven). I’ve been making sure to only eat fish if it’s ethically raised and caught, and I’m no longer using toilet paper for #1 (thanks to my trusty water bottle, this is going just fine, though I’m not sure I’ll be able to give it up for #2 anytime soon).

I got a little sidetracked when the Gyllenhaalics came knocking, but it was fun to have some new visitors and learn that the Brokeback Mountain star is not a fan of cilantro. And all you wonderful, quirky readers proved to me once again that it’s impossible to predict which posts will generate the most debate — who knew, for instance, the subject of reusing towels would provoke 23 comments?

Anyway, enough laziness, enough complaining, I’m going into October with the promise of a few more substantial changes and a lot more enthusiasm — I hope you’ll come with me!

Comic from Toothpaste for Dinner


Staying on track (Day 214)…

September 30, 2007


Who doesn’t like a good shortcut? I mean, really, why bother taking the hour-long scenic route to the ice cream parlor when you can just make a quick left, hop over the median, crash through some bushes, pull a quick U-turn and be there in five minutes?

Well, actually, it seems Mother Nature isn’t so fond of shortcuts.

Obviously, careening an SUV through someone’s rose garden isn’t very green, but neither is straying from a designated path while hiking up a mountain or walking in the woods — you might be trampling a microscopic ecosystem, killing off essential organisms or contributing to soil erosion.

So despite my impatience and punctuality issues, I’m going to make sure that from now on, I stick to the path whenever I’m walking through Trinity Bellwoods, going for a run in High Park or hiking around Algonquin (which I’ll be doing next weekend). Maybe I’ll even stop to smell a few roses… as long as my allergies aren’t getting to me.

Photo courtesy of me, taken while on a hike up Tunnel Mountain in Banff

Cones not cups (Day 213)…

September 29, 2007

ice cream

Thanks to Laura W for her suggestion yesterday, which was pretty much the cutest idea for a green change ever: Eating ice cream in a cone rather than a disposable cup. Granted, I’ve already pledged not to order any takeout food unless it meets all my local/organic criteria and I bring my own containers, but this was just such an original, simple thing to do, I figured I’d write about it anyway.

Of course, if you’re eating ice cream at home, you can just use a regular bowl or try baking some homemade waffle cones. But if you’re walking around on a hot, sunny day and hear the familiar Siren’s call of that little white truck, best to get it in a receptacle you can eat rather than one you throw away (and ask them to skip the paper napkin, too).

Singing to a different Lunapad (Day 212)…

September 28, 2007


OK, so…


Hey. Yeah.

[Looking around]

What’s up?


[Awkward pause]

Well, hopefully that got rid of at least half of the Thistle readership today, which is fine by me as Change #212 involves something I don’t really want to go into detail about. Somewhat like Change #188, I’m tempted to just say this instead of this. But then again, if Crunchy can discuss the issue of eco-friendly feminine products with words like “mama pads” and “intense suction”, then who am I to chicken out?

(Visions of father, boss, writing mentor, chummy male acquaintances and potential boyfriends reading this)

OK, I’m chickening out. Basically, it’s much better for the environment to invest in reusable pantyliners like Lunapads at that special time of the month instead of the disposable plastic variety, so that’s what I’ll be doing.

Also, while I was away recently, the fine folks at Lunapads sent a package of complimentary pantyliners and a pair of organic cotton underwear to my office (on a side note, my editor, assuming it was the standard media swag, took it off my desk and gave it to another guy as a last-minute birthday present — didn’t go over so well). So, in the name of journalistic integrity, I’m going to give away this deluxe menstruation package to the first person who can give me an original idea for another green change. And don’t be afraid to think outside the box! (Did your mind just go to a dirty place there? Because mine totally didn’t)

Visine, but green (Day 211)…

September 27, 2007


It was a sight for sore eyes, literally — a friend of mine, who’s visiting Toronto and staying at my place, is allergic to cats and his eyes have been itching like crazy; then there’s me, who despite having done a round of Pollinex shots back in May have succumbed yet again to ragweed season. The two of us have been wandering around the apartment in a blur, rubbing our eyes out constantly, so this morning I went rummaging around under my sink for some retinal relief.

I found a bottle of Visine from last summer, which I’d stopped using because it always made my eyes burn, but I thought maybe my friend might get better results.

Nope — it stung like crazy for him too, and he had to rinse his eyes out afterwards with water.

I’ve been tempted to get some of those fake tears, which are closer to a gentle saline solution, but that just means more plastic and packaging (not to mention they can cost up to $15, and to be honest I’d rather slap myself across the face to get real tears for free).

So my change today is to abandon synthetic eye drops in favour of a natural solution — I’m just not quite sure what that solution is yet, other than opening my eyes in a bowlful of water. I was thinking about emptying the Visine bottle and putting some water in it with a pinch of salt, but I’m not sure if a pinch is perhaps too much… or too little. Any ideas?

Slice, dice and make nice (Day 210)…

September 26, 2007

cutting board

Now that I’m making an effort to eat only local, organic produce, I figured I should start treating my fruit and veg with more respect — so I’ve been washing everything carefully and bringing out my fancy chef’s knife to make sure it all gets sliced and diced with expert precision. Unfortunately, expert precision isn’t so easy when you’re working on a wobbly, splintered, dried-out, five-year-old cutting board from Ikea.

I decided to get a new one, but wanted to make sure I made a good, green choice. Plastic ones meant no trees would be chopped down, but then plastic isn’t exactly an eco-friendly material. I’d read a lot about bamboo cutting boards, but they can be expensive, plus I couldn’t find any near me and didn’t want to order something online to be delivered by truck.

Then, my culinary guardian angel — Tony Vrbanatz of the Kitchen and Glass Place — came to the rescue.

He recommended the Epicurean Natural Richlite cutting board (above), which has been popular in restaurants for over 30 years and is made from an environmentally friendly wood fiber laminate.

It’s lightweight, dishwasher safe (not that this matters to me, at least until March), won’t dull knives, is temperature resistant to 350 degrees, nonporous and prohibits bacteria, odors and staining (although I have yet to administer the final test: beets).

Most importantly, it seems as though it’ll be incredibly durable, which means it won’t need replacing for years and years to come. Of course, there are plenty of other options out there, and if you’re lucky enough to have a granite countertop, you don’t even need a chopping board. Still, I’m enjoying my new cutting surface, and I think my carrots are, too.

Double, double, boil and trouble (Day 209)…

September 25, 2007

I once went to a dinner party hosted by a 20-year-old who had no idea how to cook. When he tried to make spaghetti, he put the pasta in boiling water, then for whatever reason decided to switch the burner off and let it sit there for 20 minutes.

At first, I thought it would turn out underdone because it wasn’t cooking at a rolling boil, then thought maybe it would be overdone because it had been sitting there for more than double the amount of time suggested.

But somehow, it turned out perfectly.

I came to realize that, in almost all cases, a gentle boil is enough to get the job done. Barely anything really needs to be cooked at a full-throttle, spluttering-splashing boil despite what the recipe’s directions may say.

So my change today will be to heat up my soup, cook my pasta and steam my vegetables at as low a temperature as possible, trying not to go beyond the halfway point on my stove dials. This will not only save electricity, it also means reducing the amount of water required in the first place as less of it will be evaporating.