The Final Post

February 29, 2008

me in the fridge

No schmaltz. I promise. Here we go:

As you faithful readers know, I’m a very cynical person. I don’t take many things seriously and I have little to no tolerance for earnest do-gooders. That said, I started this blog out of genuine concern — about the future of this planet, about our consumer mentality, about drowning freakin’ polar bears and, well, about our growing inability to appreciate simple things in life, like T-shirts and central heating and tomatoes growing on a balcony.

I didn’t start this to become famous or get a book deal (um, more on that later) or to be the next Al Gore. From the beginning, I’ve been an average girl stumbling through the myriad complexities of the green movement, and while I still don’t know what the difference is between a #2 and a #4 plastic, I do know that we should be recycling both.

It was important for me, going through this challenge, to keep my sense of humour in tact. Many of my prejudices about hippies dissolved over the course of the year — for instance, I now realize that not everyone who loves the earth has dreadlocks and wears ugly shoes — but unfortunately one stereotype was confirmed: A lot of greenies take themselves way too seriously. There is so much doomsday talk out there, so much arguing about whose fault global warming is, and so much repressed hostility between tree-huggers and car-drivers, it’s ridiculous. The tagline on this site has always been that I’m making a green change every day without being smug about it, and I stand by that claim — let’s take the planet seriously while keeping some perspective and laughing at ourselves. For heaven’s sake, there is something inherently funny about standing in the shower, spraying vinegar on your hair (P.S. That doesn’t work).

OK, I hate long posts and I’m already on six different tangents here, so I’m going to collect myself for a second and condense the most important lessons I’ve learned at Green as a Thistle into three succinct points:

1) In order to be truly green, we need to maintain a constant awareness of everything we do, use, eat and throw away, everywhere we go and how we get there, what we buy, why we buy it and what happens when we don’t need it anymore. As many environmentalists have said, waste is man-made, and I’ve learned that it is actually possible to live without plastic, a car or even a fridge, and still be quite happy (correction: happier). So be aware, people — constantly aware — of all your decisions.

2) Ironically, the greenest way to live is in the gray area. We can’t possibly take this movement to the next level when we’re still bickering about whether so-and-so is an environmentalist or not. Who cares? It doesn’t matter whether you’re a card-carrying hippie or a part-time vegetarian or an employee at a right-wing, global-warming-denying newspaper — choose your green vices and your green virtues. Maybe you can’t stand wasting water: So, install aerating faucets everywhere, take Navy Showers and get a rain barrel; but don’t beat yourself up over that Starbucks latte or a few sweaters you got on sale at H&M. There’s no point in trying to be so absolute about whether or not you’re officially green; just determine your own value system, try to make your choices accordingly and allow yourself occasional slip-ups because, well, pobody’s nerfect.

3) Lastly, and again, this really is nothing new, but seriously people: Stop buying crap. You don’t need it. In fact, you don’t even want it — you think you do, you want to be like that pretty girl in the commercial who has it, but it’s crap, it’s all crap, and you’re better off without it. I’m not a Luddite, I’m not an anarchist and I don’t support Buy Nothing Day because I’m all for creating a steady, strong economy, but if we don’t start turning the consumerism down a notch we are majorly screwed. There is absolutely no reason why anyone would ever need disposable Tupperware, a Swiffer anything, Glade PlugIns or yogurt in individually packaged tubes.

A lot of people ask me which changes I’m going to keep up and which ones I’ll leave behind. There isn’t an easy answer to this because I think some bad habits will return gradually while a few green habits will stick around longer than I thought. Some things I know for sure, though:

I will continue to use natural beauty and personal hygiene products as well as non-toxic cleaning products. I’ll keep eating organic, sustainable food and ride my bike instead of driving a car. I’ll take my shoes off at the door and maintain a strict no-plastic-bag policy. I’ll use a thermos for coffee and a Sigg bottle for water, I’ll keep smiling at strangers and living as simply as possible. Heck, I might not even plug my fridge back in.

I am not, on the other hand, taking lukewarm showers or letting it mellow, picking up litter in the midst of a shopping excursion, drinking wine straight from the bottle or subsisting on a diet of beets and cabbage (the local thing is fine for the most part but I’m planning on scarfing a lot of guacamole and bananas in the days to come). I’ll be using soap on my dirty dishes and baking cookies in my oven, and, most controversially (environmentalists, close your eyes): I’m unscrewing the CFLs in my bedroom. I’m sorry, I’ll stick them everywhere else, but not even the softest-glowing one is any match for my warm, flattering incandescents.

Anyway, enough. I could ramble on for hours about how giving up my car was easier than giving up Kleenex, how it’s better to be hypocritical than apathetic when it comes to the environment, how crazy and wonderful the green blogosphere is with its Greenpas and Crunchy Chickens, and all my faithful readers — blah, Hellcat13, just ducky, Rhett, Matt S., LG Adam, Healthy Cookie, Chile, arduous, limesarah, Esme and more.

But it’s time to hit the “Publish” button, shut down my computer and get the heck outside. For those of you wondering what will happen to Green as a Thistle, stay tuned. I’m not leaving the blog behind entirely, but will most likely write a few posts every now and then about which changes I’m keeping up and which ones I’m scrapping. Finally, finally, finally, a big thanks to my mom, dad and sister, my friends, friends-turned-publicists (the Telpners), publicists-turned-friends (Sarah K), my editors Ben and Maryam, colleagues, and a best friend who became an even better friend — you’ve all been overwhelmingly supportive throughout this journey (oh no, I’m using words like journey… OK, seriously time to wrap it up). I could never have done this without you there by my side — physically, virtually and … don’t say spiritually, don’t say spiritually … emotionally!

Phew. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to take a bath, shave my legs, order some Swiss Chalet and go for a ride on my sister’s motorcycle.

That’s it, kids. Yours greenly,


Photo by the amazing Catherine Farquharson (no relation, although come to think of it, we sort of look alike)


My computer goes to sleep, and so do I (Day 366)…

February 29, 2008

I love when readers give me ideas — not only does it mean less work for Yours Truly, it shows that others care just as much about as I do about finding new ways to be green. In this case, it was a comment on my haiku post left by Molly, who forwarded this link to a story in the Guardian about how sleeping is good for the environment. Sounded right up my alley.

It assumes a lot, is highly conceptual and more than a bit tongue-in-cheek, but it still makes some valid points and I thought it would be appropriate to use for my last green change. I considered going out with a bang — maybe spending 24 hours not showering, eating, drinking, using anything, doing anything, buying anything and maybe even breathing slower — but then I reconsidered. This whole project began with a small step, and so I think it’s fitting to end with a small step, too.

Goodnight, everyone!

Image from this website

Fixing other people’s green mistakes (Day 365)…

February 28, 2008


Ugh. Day 365. Today was the day I’d been looking forward to for so long. It was the day when this challenge was to finally be complete, when I could officially say “I did it” and reflect upon a full year of green changes.

Then, someone decided to make it a leap year.

Damn you, Gregorian calendar!!

But that’s fine, tomorrow isn’t so far away, and at least it gives me a bit of extra time to spend with you, my faithful readers.

Anyway, as I was walking home one evening this week, which happened to be the night before collection day for garbage and recycling, I noticed one household had left out a Blue Bin with Styrofoam in it. Not cool! This could very well mean that instead of getting sorted out at the depot, the whole lot just gets tossed out — same goes for pizza boxes, bottle caps and light bulbs. As Alina has mentioned before, there are rules that come with recycling, and if you screw them up it could mean a chain reaction that ends up with everything going straight to the dump.

So I stopped, plucked out the Styrofoam container — which had some gross red substance oozing out of it — and put it in the garbage, where it belonged. While it’s frustrating that, after decades of organized recycling, people still can’t sort things out properly, I can sympathize with the fact that there are so many different materials, and often the City will update their operations to include an item that previously couldn’t be processed.

Therefore, instead of taking the misanthropic route of cursing people’s ignorance and walking by, I’m going to make sure I stop and take the time to right the recycling wrongs in this world.

Image of a car bumper placed most erroneously in a recycling bin courtesy of Mr. T in DC on Flickr

Vanilla nice, nice, baby (Day 364)…

February 27, 2008

fair-trade vanilla

Everyone always talks about fair-trade chocolate, but why not vanilla? It’s just as important. In fact, as an ingredient, it’s probably used in more products than chocolate — nearly every pastry, baked good, dessert item, jam and so on includes either vanilla beans or vanilla extract.

Ben & Jerry’s launched their fair-trade vanilla ice cream in 2006, complete with online photo albums of their growing operations in India, Paraguay and Ecuador (on a side note, B&J are also working on a prototype for thermoacoustic fridges powered by sound waves, their employees offset all air travel, their climate “hoofprint” is climate neutral, they use free-range eggs, their brownies come from a kitchen that teaches cooking to the homeless and they’re currently looking at converting their ice cream waste into energy with a bio-gas digester … could Vermont get any crunchier?).

Anyway, I got the Frontier brand vanilla flavour but there are other varieties out there, and you can read a bit more about all the fair-trade certification requirements here. Either way, I’ll be making sure all my vanilla from now on is from as ethical a source as possible.

Of course, some forms of vanilla are just never ethical.

Image licked from this website

Should Gmail be hailed, or does it fail? (Day 363)…

February 26, 2008

I love Google, I really do. Along with Wikipedia, CuteOverload, Go Fug Yourself and The Website That Shall Not Be Named, I probably type its URL into my browser at least 50 times a day (bear in mind I’m also journalist, so it’s usually either a vanity Google or for research… and yes, sadly, journalistic research these days often consists of nothing more than a two-second online search). I also love Google Earth and Google Maps.

But I don’t get Gmail. Everyone loooooves Gmail and I truly can’t figure out why. I have three email accounts — one is my work mail, which is Outlook-based, another is my personal email with Yahoo!, and then there’s my blog email, which is at a Gmail address — and while I do like me a little G-chat every now and then, I don’t find the whole thing very user-friendly. The “compose” button is in a weird place, the options are difficult to find and organize, and a crapload of Spam always gets through.

Although I keep my other two accounts nice and organized, deleting things regularly, I’ve let my Gmail account go out of frustration and lack of patience. However, when my lovely assistant Eva pointed me in the direction of this Treehugger story on the energy that’s apparently required to save all these useless emails, I started to feel guilty.

The evidence for exactly how much energy is still a bit soft, but I figure it’s always greener to be minimalistic, so I’m going to spend part of today clearing out my Gmail inbox. So nobody email me in the next two hours!

Recycling just for kicks (Day 362)…

February 25, 2008

recycled sheos

For whatever reason, I’ve always thought Nike was evil (Ed note: that reason is most likely this woman), and have lumped it in with all the other big retail corporations like Gap, Coke, Nestlé and so on, avoiding the swoosh at all costs if I had to buy athletic wear. But when I was looking into how I might get rid of some old running shoes, I remembered hearing about this thing called Nike Grind, a material used on basketball courts and race tracks made entirely from recycled kicks.

The more I researched, the more it seemed Nike wasn’t so bad after all. They have a goal to be carbon-neutral by 2011 and have eliminated fluorinated gases from their products, they’ve got the Nike Foundation and campaigns like Let Me Play, are incorporating organic cotton into more lines, giving $315 million in grants and donations to those in need and seem pretty open about all their manufacturing standards and wages.

While they do have a strong Canadian presence — in 2006, Nike opened a new sports training facility in Scarborough with a Grind track, made in this case from some 50,000 shoes donated from participants of the previous summer’s Nike RunTO — they unfortunately do not seem to have a drop-off location for the Reuse-A-Shoe program anywhere north of the 49th parallel. I can apparently mail my sneaks to one of their recycling depots in Wilsonville, OR, but that seems like quite a steep carbon cost.

Another option, if I want to keep things more local, is this organization in Ottawa called Sole Responsibility, which sends new and gently uses kicks over to Africa (which, fine, isn’t very local at all and would involve even more of a carbon cost, but I figure it’s justified).

Anyone want to cast a vote on which route I should go?

Image from Nike Grind

A greener form of poetry (Day 361)…

February 24, 2008

OK, this is where I’m at, folks. I’m grasping at straws, here. It’s Day 361 and desperate times call for desperate measures. Actually, to be honest, I’ve been pretty desperate for a while now — nearly every aspect of my life is being lived in the greenest way possible and it’s at the point where, if I break my leg, I don’t think “Oh my god, I broke my leg!”, I think, “Hmm, how I can green the breaking of my leg… an eco-friendly splint perhaps?”

It’s totally ridiculous, but when every product in my house, every activity, every purchase, everything I eat and drink, every move I make has been greened, well, thinking outside the box is the only option.

Which brings me to today’s post (which, yes, comes at 11:59 p.m.).

I have an English Lit degree but have never been a huge fan of poetry. I don’t mind some of the classics and if it’s not too pretentious or schmaltzy I’ll give it a whirl, but I’d never buy a whole book of the stuff. I’m horrible at writing verse; the last time I wrote anything in iambic pentameter was probably in my Writer’s Craft class in high school and I’m pretty sure I’ve burned it by now. However, there is one form of poetry that I am genuinely enjoying more and more these days: Haiku.

It forces the poet to speak his or her mind in 17 syllables — no more, no less — which is just enough space to say something, but too little space to drone on about a broken heart or a rose of dampened fire or whatever.

It’s also the most environmentally friendly form of poetry because it’s so short, thus conserving paper and ink.

Yeah yeah, I know, it’s a stretch. But come on, a little clever perhaps?

Anyway, from today on, whenever I’m crushing on a boy, I’m going to restrict myself to haikus instead of meandering, effusive verse.

Here, I’ll even write one for you readers now:


Being Green
By Vanessa Farquharson

My year is ending
but there’s so much more to come;
stay tuned, dear readers