Pleather before leather (Day 156)…

August 3, 2007


Alina raised an interesting question on her blog the other day: Where is the organic leather? There’s so much talk of beef that’s organic, grass-fed and hormone-free, but where do our belts, shoes and handbags come from? I remember, not so long ago, Roots began selling these Stop Global Warming bracelets (above) that were made from leather scraps swept off their cutting room floor, and as Alina mentioned there’s this online store, too, but there really aren’t many companies out there making any sort of eco claim to their leather goods.

So because, in this challenge, I’m trying to create a demand only for ethically raised cows, I’m going to stop buying leather from now on unless I know it came from a happy animal on a good farm — and I’m guessing this will never happen. I’ll buy leather products if they’re used, however, and will continue to wear the purses and shoes I already have — mostly, in the latter case, because like my fellow closet environmentalist, my feet don’t smell so pretty after a long summer day in synthetic material.

Getting my hands dirty (Day 149)…

July 27, 2007


I can sign all the petitions in the world, write letters to China every day and cover my bicycle in activist stickers, but I can’t really call myself a tree-hugger until I’ve literally hugged a tree — or at least planted one.

So I’m going to get my hands dirty and start volunteering with an organization like Evergreen, which specializes in community gardening initiatives and urban tree-planting. I’ve fired off an email to my local representative and hopefully will be digging up holes in the Don Valley and filling them with baby seedlings as soon as possible.

There are also groups like LEAF and Plant a Row/Grow a Row — I found out about this through a woman I Freecycled with — as well as the Toronto Environmental Volunteers, which I’ve applied to join too, so we’ll see what happens. Maybe by the end of this challenge my thumbs will finally have started to turn a little green.

Green philanthropy (Day 139)…

July 17, 2007


Kowai always has great ideas for me to steal — the most recent one is to donate to cool green organizations like Kiva, which lend money to specific entrepreneurs in the developing world to help them overcome poverty and in turn contribute to the economy (the New York Times has covered this initiative, as have other media outlets, so you know they’re legit).

What I love about the website is that it lets you see photos of the entrepreneur, often at their food stand or workshop or studio, and provides detailed descriptions of who they are, where they live, why they want to start this business, how much money they need, how much they’ve raised so far, and you can even see who else has donated.

I decided to give my $25 (not much, but I’ll be doing this regularly from now on) to a man in Ecuador named Dionicio Pascual, who’s starting up a general store. His photo was adorable and he seemed to have his values in order; at the time he’d only raised 5% of his goal so I figured I’d give him a boost. Maybe now he can start buying some rice or pasta in bulk.

I also plan on donating to my favourite charity, the World Wildlife Fund, and might join the Sierra Club, too. And it pretty much goes without saying that I’ll be adopting more than a few chocolate trees. The giving will happen at least once a month, and suggestions are more than welcome.

Photo of Dionicio from

Search and make joy (Day 112)…

June 20, 2007


I must use Google at least 50 times a day, whether researching for work, looking up random trivia or just doing a vanity search (kidding — I’ve only Googled myself twice, three times tops… OK maybe seven). And in all the years that I’ve been using it, I don’t think it’s ever failed me, even with the most obscure, long-winded, over-punctuated queries.

But a little while ago, Shawn over at Kowai mentioned this thing called GoodSearch, which is powered by Yahoo! but has a philanthropic edge: it makes a donation to the charity of your choice every time you type in a phrase and hit Enter (I chose the World Wildlife Fund).

Founded in 2005 by a guy from and his friend, a former MSNBC anchor, GoodSearch donates 50% of its advertising revenue to the charities and schools selected by its users. They estimate that only about one cent from each click goes to the cause, so you really need to search for a whole lot of stuff for it to make a difference.

Still, baby steps are better than no steps, so from now on I’ll make it my primary search engine.

Quiet activism (Day 111)…

June 19, 2007

bike stickers

I’ve mentioned before that sandwich boards are an unflattering look for me and, you know, my biceps just aren’t what they were 10 years ago, so holding up big signs is not an option. Plus, I figure, if I’m going to get off my butt and start marching around, I may as well be marching towards the nearest shoe store.

Protesting, then, is pretty much out of the question. However, I’m all for quiet, small-scale activism, raising awareness about environmental causes with some humour and perspective. Stuff like the PB&J campaign, for instance, is right up my alley.

So are stickers. I love stickers. And while they are made from evil materials like plastic and vinyl, they can also get a worthwhile message across and strike up conversation. Recently, I got some These Come From Trees stickers, which I’ve been sneakily adhering to paper towel dispensers in public restrooms. And I also got a bunch for my bicycle, which pronounce hardly controversial but still pointed statements like “Treehugger”, “I [heart] my bike,” and my favourite, “Mend Your Fuelish Ways”.

A little while back, some readers suggested I make a sticker saying something like “I’ve been reused!”, so people could refill their empty brand-name shampoo bottles with natural product but let everyone else know that, actually, it’s not Pert Plus in there, thank-you very much (note to readers: I’m on it, but making stickers can be expensive).

Then, of course, there are the tote bags, the T-shirts and the wristbands, plus tons of other merchandise, most of which I think is a bit silly, but still, plenty of outlets through which to convey my point of view. And lastly, this here blog gets a message across every day to at least a thousand people — granted, a lot of it is just preaching to the choir, but there are always some newbies who stop by every now and then to pick up a few tips about where to get vegan-friendly floss or how to survive without a fridge.

Today’s change then, is simply to make sure that I step up the green publicity, raise environmental awareness whenever possible and — much like Alina did with her blog — come out of the closet as a organic-eating, handkerchief-carrying treehugger.

Lobbying, petitioning, letter-writing (Day 79)…

May 18, 2007


If you go way back to the beginning of this blog and read my second post, you’ll see that one of my friends, upon hearing about this challenge, commented, “You know how you can REALLY help the environment? Start writing letters to China.” So, Craig, that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

All right, maybe instead of China, I’ll start with Environment Minister John Baird. Or even easier: sign this online petition by the Save Our Climate blog, or this one asking Kraft to stop using genetically modified ingredients in their food, or this one to protect the Arctic Refuge.

Or I could even draft my own petition using the Auditor General’s handy guide (complete with flow charts, government jargon and, in case you’re really confused, this example of a typical petitioner: “A northerner who would like to be involved in consultations over harvesting of the forest resource north of 60°” — that is totally me).

Now I have to admit, I’m not much of an activist, at least physically speaking. The thought of draping a heavy, unflattering sandwich board over my shoulders, yelling the same sentence over and over, waving a big sign on which at least one word is spelled incorrectly and marching around Parliament Hill really doesn’t appeal to me. But then I can’t just do nothing and be cynical about it, either.

So my change today is to use the power of the pen — or more accurately keyboard — to voice my concerns. I’m going to make sure that at least once every week I write a letter to someone, sign a petition or join a campaign for a cause I believe in and make my voice heard, no matter how feeble it may be.