A card for the yard (Day 162)…

August 9, 2007

seed card

I was going to make today’s post about e-cards and how they’re a more environmentally sound alternative to regular greeting cards because no paper is involved. But to be honest, I just can’t do it. I can’t give someone a birthday or Christmas present without a card physically attached.

So instead, I’m just going to make them myself from scrap paper around the house or get one of these nifty cards that have wildflower seeds embedded into them, which you can plant in the garden. Although the one in the photo comes in a plastic sleeve, I’ve seen others that come without any packaging, and I think it’s a nice alternative — instead of sending the message that you’re too lazy and cheap to get a real card, it says that you put some extra thought into it and decided to do something that would give back to the earth rather than take from it.

The only downside to this is that most of these eco-cards don’t come with funny messages written on them, which means I’ll have to give my sense of humour a little pep talk. I think I might have to just steal some lines from the Selfish Kitty guys (my favourite is the “Bool Banch” one).

Photo of a plantable greeting card from this site

Revoking the smoking (Day 152)…

July 30, 2007

lucky strikes

Before you freak out, let me just clarify this: I’m not a smoker. I haven’t made over 150 environmentally friendly changes to my lifestyle while sucking back dozens of cancer sticks every day. There used to be an emergency pack in my freezer, but even that became unnecessary (and besides, I don’t even have a freezer now).

However, on occasion — and by that I mean a drunken, late-night, hedonistic, I-wish-I-was-Audrey-Hepburn sort of occasion — if someone offered me a smoke, I’d take it. Call it an oral fixation, a succumbing to peer pressure or what have you (personally, I think it just satisfies my need to fidget, with the bonus of a head rush); either way, it’s a nasty habit that doesn’t just pollute my lungs but pollutes the air, not to mention all the non-biodegradable butts that more often end up on the streets than in the garbage.

So as of today, no more smoking. This includes all forms of tobacco and, er, other substances too. And while I could get into recycled rolling papers and filter-less options, perhaps even look into carbon-offsetting it, I think it’s best to just swear off smoking anything for the next little while.

Photo inhaled from Shannon C. on Flickr

The pick of the litter liners (Day 150)…

July 28, 2007

I spent forever trying to find eco-friendly cat litter tray liners, perhaps ones made from corn that would eventually break down in my new compost bin (seeing as I’m already using a corn-based product in there), and came up totally empty-handed.

But because I’m desperate, I’m still going to lay claim to at least choosing what I think is the greenest option when it comes to this product.

Of all the brands on the shelf, I looked at the packaging involved, the quantity of liners per box and where they were manufactured, and eventually decided on Van Ness (OK, I may have also chosen it based on the similarity to my name).

They are made of plastic, but they’re simple (I didn’t choose the draw-string one) and come in a recyclable cardboard box, and that’s good enough for now. Next time, however, I may just choose to go without a liner altogether, because I truly don’t think anything could possibly be a bigger waste of time than shopping for cat litter tray liners.

BioBag, you’re it (Day 148)…

July 26, 2007


Ever since I got that little nylon tote bag that fits in my purse, I haven’t needed a single plastic bag. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t using them — I had a bunch stored up from previous shopping trips, which I was keeping under my sink and gradually using up for various things, such as a liner for my bathroom garbage bin.

Well, I finally ran out of them (which goes to show how many I’d amassed). I wanted to get some sort of small waste bag of a similar size that wasn’t made from plastic, so I went for the BioBags. Made mostly out of corn starch, it can be recycled but also biodegrades in 10 to 45 days.

Hopefully, this will be the official end of any and all plastic bags in my life.

My pen! My biodegradable pen! (Day 130)…

July 8, 2007


Pens are a bit like umbrellas — people always lose a few here, find a few there, drop one and pick up another, so there’s a constant flow of stationary from office supply closets and pencil cases to pockets and purses, taxis and cash registers. It’s too bad the vast majority of us don’t bother to invest in those fancy pens with refillable cartridges (I don’t, because I know I’ll lose it in the bowels of my bottomless purse).

But I am going to start using biodegradable pens from now on. I got some of these, made from Mater-Bi, a material derived from corn starch that disintegrates in 12 months whether in a compost heap or a landfill. They were on the shelf at Grassroots, one of my favourite eco-stores.

Although I realize, thanks to Michael Pollan and the first chapter of his book The Omnivore’s Dilemma (not to mention that documentary I’m always talking about, King Corn), that there are numerous problems with Zea Mays and we can’t just bank on this plant and its many derivatives to solve all our problems, I still think it’s better than using a disposable plastic one — plus, they’re refillable, for all those who, unlike me, have figured out how to not lose dozens of pens every day.

Oh, and that headline is a nod to the greatest Canadian TV series of all time, Kids in the Hall. Any Bruce McCulloch fans out there?

So clean you could eat off it — and not have to call poison control! (Day 129)…

July 7, 2007


I’m loving my E-cloths, but there’s something to be said for not only having a clean kitchen and bathroom but a clean-smelling kitchen and bathroom, and unfortunately the scent of water is a bit, well, lacking. So I went out to invest in a super-mild, all-natural spray cleaner that would give everything that little twinkle you see in all the commercials and leave a fresh smell.

The one I went for is from a company called EcoMist (read more about them here … or don’t, because the video on their homepage is like cinematic ipecac), which says its product line is entirely plant-based and “utilizes the science of nano-colloidal technology” (whatever the heck that is), and is recognized by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency as food-surface safe.

Indeed, the ingredients consist of nothing more than corn, coconut extract, sugarcane, tree extracts and de-ionized water. Almost sounds like you could squirt it over a mesclun salad for a zingy dressing. And to top it all off, it’s also a local product, made in Woodbridge, ON — just outside Toronto.

It’s not exactly strong stuff: You can’t spray it on a glob of toothpaste and watch as it eviscerates it into liquid, and it feels less like you’re killing bacteria than just wiping it away. But there’s plenty of evidence on the company’s website that proves it’s just as powerful an antibacterial agent as the toxic brand name cleaners, and most importantly, it smells much nicer too.

I don’t know that I’m quite secure enough to eat an entire stir-fry off my bathroom floor, but if I did, at least it would probably have a nice coconut aftertaste. Oh, and I will of course reuse the bottle when it’s finished rather than buy a new one.

A toast to compost (Day 124)…

July 2, 2007

Here in the 416, people who live in houses get green bins. It’s a great program — you put all your food waste, paper towels and other biodegradable stuff into a small container in your kitchen; then when it gets full, you empty that out into the bigger, stinkier green bin outside; then the city picks it up each week and takes it to a composting facility.

Hoorah! Except for one problem: if you live in an apartment, you don’t get a green bin, because city councilors haven’t quite figured out what to do with an entire Trump tower‘s worth of rotting bananas.

Yet. Apparently, they’re on it, and according to my inside source a plan has been drafted along with a pilot project. But even still, the green bins won’t be rolled out to apartments for at least another year. So in the mean time, I thought I’d just go ahead and build my own.

Originally, I was just going to buy a standard composting unit, but after scouring the entire city and finding only industrial-sized plastic monstrosities, usually costing around $100, I accepted the fact that I’d have to do it myself. However, as endless hours of television have taught me, while I may be able to do it, Home Depot sure can help.

And so it was that I found myself dazed and confused, wandering the aisles of the lumber department in a skirt and kitten heels until I was finally approached by a man in an orange apron. His name was Bruce. I explained what I was looking for — and indeed, felt right out of the ads with my hand gestures and a wonky drawing of a box-like shape on my hand — until he squinted, twisted his mouth a bit and suggested I come back at a less busy time so he could really help me.

I did, and eventually he cut all the plywood (from scraps so I wasn’t chopping down more trees) and put everything I needed in a cart. The bin would have to fit on my balcony, and while I knew nothing about composting, I was pretty sure there needed to be ventilation. So we designed a structure with a mesh chicken-wire basket on the inside and a pull-out drawer on the bottom (I know, fancy stuff, eh?). He threw in some hinges and handles, some wheels to roll it outside, and I crammed it all into the trunk of my Zipcar before driving back home.

Staring at the pile of wood, varnish, tools and mesh splayed out across my living room floor made me think one thing, and one thing only:

“What have I done?”

I immediately made myself a room-temperature gin and tonic, called a friend who called himself a closet handyman, and begged him to come over. We had nothing to go from other than Bruce’s little sketch on the back of an order form and liquid confidence, but somehow, with the Do-It-Yourself gods looking down on us, we assembled what at first looked like a box, then like a more functional sort of box, and eventually like a box that might just be used for composting (see the photo montage below).

I’d saved some food waste and newspaper scrap from the past couple days, so I poured it in along with some special compost soil. Now I just have to get some worms and see what happens!