A green Halloween, part two (Day 245)…

October 31, 2007


As promised, today is part two of my mission to green Halloween (which is today, for those of you who don’t live in North America, where we like to dress up). Previously, I wrote about consuming every last bit of the pumpkin I carved up at a friend’s house. Now, I feel the need to address the costumes and the candy — and don’t worry, I promise not to be too much of a kill-joy, because there’s really nothing I love more than kids wearing pirate outfits and going mental for mini Snickers bars.

Anyway, my dear Treehugging friend Lloyd Alter was on the local news recently talking about this holiday and made a bunch of useful suggestions: giving out organic lollipops and fair-trade chocolate (homemade treats are still a little taboo, it seems), using pillow cases instead of plastic bags, and decorating with old milk jugs and tin cans.

Costume-wise, I was inclined to go as David Suzuki and download this creepy mask of him, but unfortunately that would involve using paper and printing ink. Then I thought maybe it would be best to go all Adam Sandler and be something like About to Sneeze Man — easy, quick, no carbon impact, and I’d get to yell, “Look at me, with my face all squished up like I’m about to sneeze! Before I do, you better gimme some candy!”

But then the five-year-olds probably wouldn’t get it, and their parents would think I’m just copping out. So, I don’t know. I haven’t quite figured what I’ll be wearing tonight, but it’ll definitely be something assembled from the clothes and props I already have.

Also, I never really get many kids coming to my door because I live in a condo. But if they do, then I can offer them a half-eaten bar of fair-trade chocolate or some cabbage from my CSA delivery last Friday!

And decoration-wise, I have a few ghost-shaped candle holders sitting in the back of a kitchen drawer somewhere, so I’ll probably just reuse those and stick some beeswax tea lights in them.

I guess it’s easy for me to green my Halloween because I don’t have any kids, nor a helpless puppy like this one, I don’t really like wearing masks, capes and/or wigs, and don’t have much of a sweet tooth. But if you guys have any of your own suggestions, feel free to share!


Green Recap: October

October 31, 2007

Man oh man, this month just zoomed right on by! I seem to remember in my last recap promising to make bigger changes, and now I’m suddenly realizing that perhaps I’ve inadvertently ducked out of that. However, I did start restricting my dryer use in a big way and am now taking Navy Showers, so those have surely gotta count for something (and in case you were wondering, the morning shower routine officially sucks now).

Another big switch was using the Diva Cup, a post that garnered almost 60 comments from women — OK Greenpa, and men — everywhere, who weighed in with their invaluable advice, feedback and questions, which I’ll be asking the Diva girls tomorrow.

But I think my favourite change this month has been smiling at someone different every day. As a person who’s naturally pretty shy, I’m not too comfortable initiating contact with random folks on the street, but there’s no better feeling than having a total stranger smile right back at me, and feeling like I made a difference in his or her otherwise average day.

Also, there was the decision to turn down the temperature on my water heater, which caused a bit of debate as to whether or not this would lead to bacteria breeding and Legionnaires’ Disease. At the time, I’d lowered it to 110 degrees, but upon further research (albeit with not so consistent results), I’ve now turned it slightly back up to 120 degrees, which seems to be the most common recommendation from the green-minded folk about what’s eco-friendly yet safe.

On a more personal note, I’m officially two-thirds of the way through my challenge and feel for the first time that I might actually, truly be able to do this. (Cue swelling orchestral music) There was always some doubt lingering in my mind; from the very beginning, a part of me thought I’d have to give up, and pull the plug on the whole thing when it got too difficult. But now, I really think I could finish it, and finish strong.

Admittedly, I’m starting to get pretty sick of all the green talk, and I’m most definitely sick of letting it mellow, signing various online petitions and air-drying my socks (yes, it’s only been two weeks, and your point is?). But at the same time, I know that I’ve got enough support and enough inner momentum to keep going.

The other day, I was having a conversation with a friend about which changes I think I’ll keep doing after this challenge is done and which ones I’ll scrap. It’s a question I often get and usually my response is that I’ll keep up at least half the changes and gradually let go of the others. Then, out of nowhere, I heard myself saying that I probably won’t plug my fridge back in. I couldn’t believe my own ears — nor my mouth — but upon further reflection I realized that living without a fridge has become completely doable. In fact, if I turned it back on, I’m not even sure I’d know what to put in it besides champagne (and yes, I’m totally going back on the local-alcohol-only rule).

I can’t say anything for sure, but the fact that I’d even consider not plugging my fridge back in surely counts for a lot. In the mean time, happy Halloween! Stop reading this silly blog already and go trick-or-treating.

Talk to the hand, sanitizer (Day 244)…

October 30, 2007


There’s a lot of debate about whether hand sanitizers are as effective as soap and water, and if they are, whether or not they kill off too much friendly bacteria so we’re left with cruddy immune systems. Some say we should do away with them altogether, others say it depends on the brand and how much alcohol is used, and of course the folks that make it can tell you 99 reasons why it’s absolutely necessary.

Personally, I think hand sanitizers have their place in certain situations: In hospitals, or other areas where people are especially prone to catching a disease; when travelling in less-than-spic-n-span environments; or when soap and/or water aren’t available.

However, in my current state of affairs — healthy, living in a first-world country with ready access to soap and water — I really don’t need hand sanitizer. Yes, there are some natural brands like CleanWell or EO, but it’s better to go without any of that packaging.

So as of today, I’m going to have a germ party on my hands and everyone’s invited! (And, um, Dr. Bronner gets VIP access.)

Image courtesy of this website

Coping with green guilt

October 30, 2007

One of my most faithful readers, who I know only as Hellcat (I always picture some sort of crazed feline demon when I see that screen name, but then her comments are always so sweet and funny!), wrote me the other day with this interesting question:

“Have you ever had to cheat on your changes? Or, perhaps a better phrasing would be, do you find yourself having to make any concessions for different situations?”

She then mentioned that when she had a cold recently, she went through a pile of disposable tissues with blatant disregard for the trees that may have been cut down to make them because, frankly, she felt like crapola.

So to answer the question, yes, I’ve had to cheat — but it’s very seldom. As I think I mentioned before, I broke my no-bottled-water pledge while travelling because the water in my Sigg bottle would often run out, or I’d forget it at the hotel one day and be stranded for the entire afternoon and evening with no other option for staying hydrated.

Also, if I have a cold and I’m going to be using a piece of recycled toilet paper or recycled paper towel for some reason anyway, I’ll occasionally blow my nose in it first.

But the other weekend, I had my first entire DAY of green sinning. It came out of nowhere: I was at the opposite end of the city (far, far away from my apartment), and my friend and I decided to have some lunch by Riverdale Farm, a cute little bit of the pastoral within an otherwise urban landscape. But we hadn’t planned a picnic or anything, so I was without my water bottle and didn’t have any Tupperware containers for takeout. My friend was bent on getting Thai food, so we went to this restaurant and ordered some vegetarian fare, then sat down and waited.

Well, it of course came packaged in way more styrofoam than necessary (it was like one gigantic container per spring roll), plastic knives and forks, plastic bag, etc. I tried to give some of it back, but it wasn’t even worth it. I just sighed, bought a stupid bottle of corporate spring water and accepted that I’d broken my green streak. Later, when we went up the CN Tower, we had a snack at the café and I ordered a butter tart à la mode, forgetting that the ice cream wouldn’t be organic. And later that night, I went and checked my email and Facebook account, totally neglecting my resolution to stop messing about on the computer after dinner.

So to answer your question, Hellcat: Hell yes, I totally slip up every now and then. But for the most part, I’ve been pretty good. And often, I’ll try to find a way to atone, like by keeping the lights off in the bathroom when I brush my teeth and wash my face at night.

Chopping broccoli, before processing it (Day 243)…

October 29, 2007


Remember that old Saturday Night Live sketch where Dana Carvey belted out a power ballad about chopping broccoli?

Well, if not, watch it here. If so, you’ve already picked up on the subject line of this post and I can go on to explain:

Because Ontario veggies in the fall mostly consist of potatoes, onions, leeks, carrots, cabbages and squash, and I’m not able to cook any of this in my oven, I’ve been making a lot of soups lately. As well, my visitor — who’s gone back to Portland, now — has turned me on to smoothies in the morning. Both of these require a food processor (well, not all soups, but most definitely all smoothies), and I happen to have a small, wand-shaped one that’s pretty eco-friendly in that it can be set on low speeds and afterwards there’s very little cleaning involved.

But the less that gets chopped up in advance, the more blending that’s required after. So from now on, I’ll be slicing and dicing my ingredients as thoroughly as possible before calling upon electricity to finish the job off.

Photo courtesy of CoolThinker on Flickr

Green games (Day 242)…

October 28, 2007

free riceFellow green blogerette Marcie Kahler-Davis sent me an email today pointing me in the direction of this nifty site called Free Rice. For vocab nerds like me, it’s TOTALLY addictive — with every word definition you get right, 10 grains of rice are donated through the UN to help conquer world hunger (I got to a top score of 40, and gave over 1,000 grains of rice… if it weren’t for stupid “manse” I probably could’ve gotten 41).

It’s just one of the many games out there that serve a purpose beyond entertainment. But even if all you’re looking for is some distraction on a Sunday afternoon, the most eco-friendly way to go is a board game with minimal packaging (I love Scrabble, natch) and preferably no batteries required, rather than some high-tech, multi-component, energy-sucking thing like, say, Scene It.

So from now on, whenever I play a game, it’s gotta be green-friendly — or else I won’t be game at all.

Down to the core (Day 241)…

October 27, 2007

apple core

This one goes out to Patsy Telpner, who remembered my new Simple Saturday feature and thought up a great idea for it: Whenever you eat an apple, eat the core too (just not the seeds, what with the cyanide in them and all). This is a rule that I’ll also be applying to pears, and as many fruits and veggies as possible — I’m going to eat the stems of my broccoli and asparagus (my sister and I actually like to trade stems-for-tops with these ones), as well as the skins of my potatoes, the stringy bits of celery, the innards of cucumbers and zucchinis and the seeds in my squash.

Of course, I might have to leave some food scraps for my worms — what else are they for, anyway?

Image courtesy of this website