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


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.

Jet-skis and joy rides (Day 143)…

July 21, 2007

emma bike

When I was in university, I seldom had access to a car. So one day, when my boyfriend at the time had rented one and still had another few hours to return it, we decided to make like the ’50s and go for a drive.

It wasn’t long, however, before we realized that unless the purpose is to go from Point A to Point B, just driving kind of sucks. After five minutes, the guilt over how much we were polluting the air just to look out the window at some trees and houses whizzing by took over and we turned back.

And rightly so. The whole idea of engaging in a recreational activity that causes damage to the earth is just ridiculous. My dad, who sails, has always loathed jet-skis and motor boats — while he mostly can’t stand the noise they make, I think the carbon cost is just as infuriating.

So from now on, the only time I’ll use a vehicle — plane, train, automobile or watercraft — is for the strict purpose of transportation. Even if my sister Emma, who just got a new BMW motorbike (that’s her above), tries to tempt me with a cruise around Rosedale, I’m going to have to decline. Until Day 366.

No more car! No more car! No more car! (Day 117)…

June 25, 2007


I did it. I sold the car.

It wasn’t an easy decision: A whole lot has happened in the seven years I’ve had my Bugaboo, and saying goodbye made me pretty misty-eyed. But it went to a good home — a nice girl from just outside the city, who found my listing on Facebook‘s marketplace.

We settled on a fair price, shook hands, and as she drove off (not quite into the sunset, but almost), I felt a weight lift off my shoulders. I’ve pumped up the tires on my bike, and I’m officially ready to move on to a more debt-free, carbon-free lifestyle.

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.

Jet-setting off-setter (Day 76)…

May 15, 2007


I just planned a whirlwind summer vacation (in airport code: YYZLHRTLVMADPDXYYZ), which unfortunately means a series of flights that add up to 17,270 miles, 349 gallons of fuel and 6,828 pounds of carbon dioxide. So to balance out my three tonnes of guilt, I registered at TerraPass and offset all my air travel. Surprisingly, it only cost $36.95, and they even gave me a nerdy eco-traveller luggage tag to boot.

Now, offsets are a little controversial: Critics liken them to the medieval church selling indulgences to absolve sinners; but in the end, most environmentalists agree that they’re worth investing in after you’ve made every other effort to reduce your air and car travel, as well as energy consumption at home, in your dorm room or at your wedding(s).

While it’s true that I could have chosen to stay at home this summer, the reality is that it’s just not the same trying to celebrate your aunt’s 50th birthday party over the phone, hug one of your dearest friends by email, or go on a permaculture cycling trip down the coast of … Lake Ontario.

My green change as of today, then, is to only fly when necessary, to plan all my flights strategically, to spread the word with my nerdy luggage tag and, of course, to offset all my air travel.

Graphics nicked from TerraPass

Rolling down the windows (Day 73)…

May 12, 2007

There’s nothing worse than sitting in a hot, stuffy car in the middle of summer. Actually, on second thought, there are plenty of things worse than that — but something about the smell of heated upholstery makes me feel sick. It also makes me want to reach for the air-conditioning switch rather than simply roll down the windows.

Of course, this only ends up using more gas, in turn creating more smog, which in turn depletes the ozone layer and makes the planet even hotter — in fact, in my city, we’ve already had our first smog and UV warnings and it’s not yet June.

Now, as this story points out, while using air conditioning can drag down a car’s fuel economy by 10 to 20%, driving with your windows down at 45 mph or faster creates wind drag, which also decreases fuel economy.

So my plan is to not use the a/c in the car if I’m tooting around the city, but to also make sure my windows are up if I’m on the highway (in which case I might turn the air-conditioning on, but keep it at the lowest setting). If it gets unbearably hot, I’m thinking maybe I should invest in one of those hand-held paper fans, or just up my ice cap intake to five per day (there’s only, what, 11 grams of fat in a small one, right?).