A green revolution (Day 185)…

September 1, 2007

revolving door

… And by revolution, I mean exactly that — revolving, as in revolving doors, as in I’ll be using them more often.

Major thanks go out once again to Shawn over at Kowai, who pointed out that revolving doors have a purpose beyond hijinx: Apparently, according to the smartypants at MIT, classic swing doors exchange roughly eight times as much air than their revolving counterparts, which are far superior in the energy saving department.

Speaking about their university in particular, the study’s authors say, “Our estimates show that if everyone used the revolving doors at E25 alone, MIT would save almost $7500 in natural gas amounting to nearly 15 tons of CO2 And that’s just from two of the 29 revolving doors on campus!”

So while I’m not about to install a revolving door to my apartment any time soon, from now on, if I’m entering a building that has both a standard door and a revolving one, I’ll be using the latter.

Image courtesy of Thomas Hawk on Flickr

Getting cranky (Day 173)…

August 20, 2007

head lamp

While on this cycling trip a couple weeks ago, I quickly realized how ridiculously unprepared I was for the weather. Despite the gear list advising us to bring warm sleeping bags and heavy fleece jackets, I just flat-out refused to believe Oregon could possibly get that cold in August, and so instead packed this Equatorial +15ºC sleeping bag, which was so thin I actually wore it as a scarf most nights and slept in layers of other people’s sweaters.

I also brought a couple long-sleeved T-shirts I figured would only be needed if it rained or something, and didn’t bother with any hat or warm socks.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Needless to say, I was freezing almost every night. And then, to make matters worse, my flashlight died. It was some cheap thing that didn’t have replaceable batteries, but because it was pretty crappy to begin with, I decided it was time to get a real flashlight. I wanted one of those geeky headlamp ones, too, because it would allow me to do important stuff like s’more assembly and lip gloss reapplication with both hands.

When I went to Grassroots today, I found exactly what I was looking for: the “Dynamo-powered” (ie. crank-up) LED headlamp from Novelty Imports. It said it would never need batteries or bulbs, and could even charge cell phones with the right adapter.

I suppose I could have gone the solar-panelled route, too, but then there’s something a bit more satisfying in producing light with my own energy.

A lukewarm start to the day (Day 161)…

August 8, 2007

cold shower

So I figure, if my underwear is going to put up with cold water, so should I, and it all starts with my shower. All right, truth be told, I’m not about to crank the nozzle all the way to freezing cold just yet — but I have decided to turn the temperature down to a more lukewarm level.

This is a big deal.

You see, I’ve always loved scalding hot showers. On Treehugger‘s list of How to Green Your Sex Life, they suggest showering together, but that’s really never been an option for me because chances are the other person will consider my optimal shower temperature somewhere between boiling and Oh-dear-lord-I’m-getting-second-degree-burns.

Even in the summer, I may start off with a cooler temperature, but after a few minutes I want to feel that almost painful heat on my head. It’s a little weird, I know, which is why I’ve decided to try and adjust to a more practical and ethically responsible shower temperature. I don’t have an actual thermometer or anything, but I’m going to keep the dial in the middle of the hot-to-cold spectrum, which is at least … well … an inch cooler than normal.

Photo of an icy shower in Stanley Park courtesy of Mark Goodwin on Flickr

I’m a fan of fans (Day 155)…

August 2, 2007


Today, in Toronto, it was 38 degrees, one of those days when it feels like you’re working up a sweat just by breathing. Without air-conditioning, it was pretty stifling in my apartment, and Sophie was none too pleased either — this was demonstrated by her shedding everywhere, then eating the clumps of fur later as though they’d turned into food, which meant she’d be coughing up hairballs everywhere. Then she decided to pee on the living room rug, poop on the bed and save a little extra where that came from for the doormat. Ah, the companionship of pets.

The thing is, Canadians are very reluctant to complain about hot weather because we spend so much of the year whining about the cold and snow. Indeed, if it were sunny and hot like this all year round, I really wouldn’t kick up much of a fuss. In the mean time, however, I need to find a way to beat the heat, and when I was in Madrid, I noticed most women carried around these beautiful paper fans. You could buy them on practically every street corner for just €2 (is that a Euro sign? Did I press the right key?), so I got one and brought it back home with me.

Now, I know it’s not made from recycled paper and it may or may not come from China, but there weren’t really many other options other than making my own, and I’m just not that crafty.

And while using a hand-held fan in itself isn’t much of a green change, the fact that I’m no longer going to use my electric fan is.

Photo courtesy of this artsy fartsy site

That mint on my pillow had better be fair-trade certified! (Day 134)…

July 12, 2007

alt hotel

There’s a bit of Eloise in me — I love hotels. Well, actually, I love really swanky hotels. At the risk of sounding like the most over-privileged snob this side of Paris Hilton (OK, too late), the truth is that when I’m stuck in a drab, cookie-cutter hotel room with fluorescent lights, a colour scheme involving a lot of muted coral and puce and a token piece of crappy art on the otherwise sparse walls, I start to panic. In fact, I’d rather be in a grungy one-star hostel on the wrong side of the tracks because then at least it’s not trying to be anything but a grungy one-star hostel on the wrong side of the tracks. There’s something about the middle-of-the-road aesthetic that just freaks me out.

On the other hand, I’d be more than ready to spend the rest of my days at a boutique hotel like Le Germain or, better yet, any of the Aman resorts.

But not all the posh digs are so green. A lot of them change towels and bedsheets daily whether or not you’re the only one staying in the room, they keep lights on everywhere at all hours, and, well, you just have to read about Lori’s hellish experience to know what I’m talking about.

So from now on, I’m going to make sure that I only stay at eco-friendly hotels. One in Montreal that I’m super-excited about is ALT, which is currently undergoing the final stages of construction. It’s owned by the wonderful people behind the Germain name and was written about on TreeHugger here.

I spoke to one of the owners a little while ago for a potential story, and he explained that it was less about capitalizing on the green trend than it was about good business sense — in the end, by cutting back on water and energy bills, using sustainable, long-lasting materials and maintaining a no-frills attitude, they can not only save money themselves but keep the room rates low, too.

And if any of you Thistle readers come visit me in Toronto, I highly recommend the Fairmont Royal York, a posh hotel that’s been green since the ’80s. A few months ago, I went to a wine-tasting at their restaurant, and the publicist offered to take me into the kitchen so I could see the slop bucket “in action” — basically, all the food waste gets tossed onto this conveyor belt and winds up in a huge pail, which then goes to Turtle Island Recycling. They also have a green roof with an herb garden (you can get a complimentary tour), offer their employees subsidized transit passes and have just installed a new and improved bike rack for guests.

Showering in the dark (Day 125)…

July 3, 2007

The light in my bathroom went out this morning — it’s one of the few halogens that I unfortunately can’t switch to a CFL — and I didn’t have time to get a new bulb. So instead, I just brushed my teeth and took a shower with it off. I felt a bit silly at first, but because the sun had already come up, I could see well enough to get all my ablutions done without a problem. Then I thought, “Why not do this for the rest of the year?”

I’m not going to put my makeup on without some decent lighting so I’ll switch it on for that, and when the days get shorter in the Winter I might need to turn it on at some point so I don’t start washing my face with conditioner and brushing my teeth with moisturizer. But for now, I’ll be using a little less power for my shower.

My dishes get a helping hand (Day 118)…

June 26, 2007


Another appliance bites the dust today, as I unplug — at least figuratively speaking, I’m not sure I can actually reach the socket — my dishwasher.

Now, I know there’s a lot of debate in the green blogosphere about whether dishwashers use more water than handwashing or less, but it sort of depends on the unit itself, how modern and efficient it is, whether or not you’re using the appropriate cycle and/or the air-dry function, the quantity of dishes getting cleaned, etc.

All I know is that my dishwasher sucked to begin with, and after I switched to Seventh Gen detergent, things got worse; I kept having to rinse everything beforehand, then soak the spoons afterwards to get all the persistent oatmeal residue off. On top of this, because I have so much stuff that needs to be cleaned by hand anyway, like my French press and champagne flutes, it would end up that there’d be a massive pile of dishes in the sink every night and only a couple stinky bowls in the dishwasher.

So I figure as long as I’m careful about how much water I use, keep it cold or lukewarm rather than hot, and rinse sparingly, it’ll be best to do my dishes with old-fashioned elbow grease.

Photo courtesy of Wenspics at Flickr