Things are getting fishy (Day 202)…

September 18, 2007

I’ve managed so far to restrict my diet in many, many, many — like, there are only two restaurants in Toronto now that will serve me — many ways. But all this time, I’ve allowed myself to eat fish. One of my favourite meals is seared tuna rubbed with sea salt, peppercorn and sesame seeds, served with a side of steamed spinach or green beans, and I think I knew in the back of my mind that if I tackled (pardon the pun) the whole fish thing, I’d have to sacrifice my love for this, not to mention halibut, tilapia, salmon, scallops and — well, pretty much the entire ocean.

However, as it turns out, I may not have to let go of all my fishy friends just yet. While many of them are farmed in very unethical ways, there are options when it comes to sustainable pescatarian diets. SeaChoice has three charts on its site that divide everything into good, iffy and morally repugnant — the only problem is keeping track of everything.

For instance, Canadian haddock is fine but American isn’t (way to fish, yanks! Sorry, just kidding … we’re still border buddies, right?); tuna is fine if it’s internationally caught Yellowfin but not American Yellowfin, and Albacore from the Pacific is OK, but not if it’s from Hawaii; wild Alaskan salmon is good to go, but any kind of farmed salmon is definitely not and even some wild Canadian salmon is risky. It goes on and on and can be ridiculously confusing, but if you print out the guide and take it with you to restaurants and the grocery store, it’s easier to make the right decisions.

If I’m really stuck with something, I’ll just go without and eat a proper veggie meal. Fortunately, a lot of things are easy enough to remember, like staying clear of Chilean Sea Bass and avoiding bottom-feeding crustaceans like shrimp. Plus, I’m allergic to oysters, although why anybody would voluntarily swallow something that looks, feels and tastes like cold phlegm, then dies as it’s sliding down your throat, is beyond me.

Towelling off (Day 201)…

September 17, 2007


So I’m currently in Banff (don’t worry, the flight has been offset at TerraPass), spending a week learning how to write short stories. As per my rule about only staying at green-minded hotels, the Banff Centre holds up well enough. My desk lamp has a compact fluorescent light bulb, the packaging for the toiletries is recyclable, they’re in the process of seeking LEED certification and they ask that you reuse the towels, leaving the ones you want changed in the tub and the others on the rack.

But reusing a towel twice before changing it doesn’t seem over-the-top environmentally friendly (and here at Thistle headquarters, we’re all about being over-the-top). So from now on, whether it’s at home or at a hotel, I’m going to commit to using my towels a minimum of five times before putting them in the laundry. This may sound a bit gross, but I’ll be towelling off when I’m at my cleanest, and as long as I don’t leave them sitting in a wet bunch on the floor — like a certain little sister I know — they should keep fairly fresh.

Photo courtesy of Deborah Harroun on Flickr

Enveloping the green (Day 200)…

September 16, 2007

First, I just need to get a little “Woohoo!” out because it feels great to type the digits 2-0-0 in that subject line. To be honest, I’ve been hitting a bit of a wall these days with the green thing — sick of talking about it, sick of thinking about it, sick of doing it (but, of course, never sick of writing about it!). Anyway, no one likes a complainer, so on with the show:

On this lazy Sunday — not to mention I’m sitting at a Tim Horton’s in the Calgary airport and have been up since 4 a.m. — I’m going to steal a move from Green is Sexy, and I don’t feel so bad about it especially because they technically stole it from some guy named Eric Miller.

What I’ll be doing from now on, then, is saving all the reply envelopes I get in the mail from credit card companies or other junk distributors who’ve somehow managed to sneak by the Green Dimes system I have in place, and reusing them. I’ll just need to scratch out the address they’ve printed and rewrite my own, then off it goes!

Sustainable ceramics (Day 199)…

September 15, 2007


Aside from my mom and my friend Sarah K., there probably isn’t a more devoted Thistle readership than that of the Telpner family — Meghan, Ron and Patsy (there’s also her brother Michael, but he likes to suggest that we combat global warming by cranking our air conditioners and opening the windows). As a case in point, I was at their house recently for a Rosh Hashanah dinner and they were not only thoughtful enough to provide a healthy organic meal but also made sure that my place card — which said “Thistle” with a cute little drawing — was on recycled paper.

Over dessert, Patsy was telling me about the various aspects of ceramics and how most potters just throw out their excess clay. She, however, always recycles it, despite the fact that this can be a bit of a hassle. It occurred to me that this could make for a perfect green change: from now on, I’ll only buy ceramics if they’re made by as conscientious and eco-friendly (not to mention talented) an artist as Patsy. I already have one of her cups, a bowl and a platter — they’re beautiful, timeless and work perfectly with any décor, so check out her work!

Photo courtesy of Patsy Telpner

Hooray for CSA! (Day 198)…

September 14, 2007

bean rows

When I paid a visit to Sunbow Farm last month in Oregon, I learned the real importance of maintaining an organic diet — especially when it comes to squash! (That’s our group in the photo above, by the way, after weeding two rows of Harry’s organic beans)

But when it comes to lessening one’s ecological footprint, it’s usually more important to eat locally than organically. So while I’ve been careful to ensure that all my meat, dairy, eggs and tubers are 100% certified, I’m a little more slack with the rest of my food, so long as it comes from within Canada or the U.S.

(On a related note: I had a dream last night in which I was shopping and found a banana from Florida! I was so excited to put it on my cereal in the morning … then I woke up. No banana.)

I’ll usually head to a farmer’s market on the weekend, and if I’m at a bigger grocery store, I’ll always check the “product of” labels to make sure I’m not eating anything that’s been flown in from Chile or New Zealand.

Now, as I’ve been told by my American readers, there’s a solid trend in the States of community supported agriculture, otherwise known as a CSA. If you belong to one of these groups, you can get locally grown food delivered to your door each week, straight from the farm. I’d been looking for a while for something like this in Toronto to no avail, until I finally lucked out, finding not one, but two of them!

The first was the adorable sounding Chick-a-Biddy Acres. The second was Green Earth Organics. I was originally going to sign up with Chick-a-Biddy because the website was just so darn cute and it was a more official CSA. But then I couldn’t quite figure out when their deliveries would start and exactly how much I’d get. The site for Green Earth was a bit of a navigation nightmare, but in a way that was sort of endearing — I mean, real hippies shouldn’t even know what HTML is, right? (Kidding)

Either way, they sold me on the fact that their food baskets were both organic and local (I checked up on just how local, and it seems at least 80% comes from Ontario, the rest usually from B.C.), and on top of that, 10% of their profits go to various charities around the city.

So I’ve signed up, and am expecting my first delivery this afternoon. If it’s too much food, I can always scale back the number of deliveries, or just share it with friends. And I’ll of course make sure to post a photo of my vegetable cornucopia when it arrives!

The Marvelon is gone (Day 197)…

September 13, 2007

birth control

Ten years is a long time to spend messing with your hormones, but if it means a decade without fear of getting knocked up — not to mention less acne, bigger boobs, a more regular cycle and fewer cramps — most women will gladly overlook the potential side effects and start popping the birth control pill as soon as they even think about becoming sexually active.

I first went on it when I was about 16 or 17. My brand loyalties jumped around from Tri-Cyclen to Alesse and finally Marvelon, but I was fairly satisfied with all of them — they did what they promised to do, and as a result I’m most happily not pregnant (sorry, Mum).

But because I’m not in a relationship now, I figured maybe it was time to go off the pill, at least until I find myself with a boyfriend again. In the green scheme of things, this also means reducing all the packaging that inevitably comes with each prescription, not to mention the excess estrogen that ends up going down the toilet and into lakes and streams, where it turns poor little frogs into hermaphrodites.

Of course, swearing off the pill for the rest of the year won’t be very green if it eventually leads to my accidentally increasing the population by one, but there are alternative means of contraception — I think I’ll save that, however, for another post.

Image courtesy of Anqa on Flickr

A marginal change (Day 196)…

September 12, 2007


Thanks yet again to Kowai (seriously Shawn, I need to send you a complimentary tote bag or something for all the green ideas you’ve given me — oh, and P.S., love the new site design! Um, yeah, on with the sentence), who recently mentioned a site called Change the Margins.

It’s run by this woman who’s trying to convince people to decrease the margins on whatever they’re printing, in order to cram more words on each line and thus save paper. Obviously, the most important folks to convince are those who head up multinational corporations, especially ones with no recycling system in place, let alone a paperless policy.

But there’s no reason why we can’t all do this in our day-to-day printing jobs. And while I don’t exactly have control over the margins of my stories in the National Post, I can certainly fiddle with them when it comes to all the other stuff I write on my computer at home.