Elevating my green status (Day 108)…

June 16, 2007

I’m not about to go all No Impact Man and stop using elevators, but the more I think about it, the more I realize my lifestyle is pretty low-rise, and thus conducive to taking the stairs. I work on a third floor, live on a fourth floor, go to a doctor’s office on a second floor, dentist’s office on a first floor and most of my friends live in houses or similarly low-level condos.

I usually take the elevator in my building when my arms are loaded with groceries or I’m stumbling home after a late night out, and as long as a bunch of other people are waiting for it, I don’t think I’m consuming that much more energy if I hitch a ride up (or down) with them.

But if there’s no one there and it’s just me with my purse — although, let it be known, the purse is beginning to weigh as much as a small child with all the green gear I’m carrying now — I do feel a bit of guilt. So from now on, I’m going to take the stairs…

Unless: 1) I’ve got my bike with me, in which case I may attempt it but only if I’m feeling spry; 2) I’m going up to a floor higher than 10 storeys; or 3) If I’m with a group of people going to the same floor and can’t persuade them to join me in a quad workout. Also, I’ll still take escalators and moving sidewalks because they’re in perpetual motion regardless.

I promise, mom: no dreadlocks (Day 99)…

June 7, 2007

hairAfter subjecting my tresses to every natural shampoo on the shelf, plus a funky-smelling baking soda and vinegar concoction, and one soap that was so detrimental I wouldn’t even use it on my floors, I finally found some salvation in Giovanni‘s 50/50 balanced shampoo, which can be refilled from bulk containers at the local health store.

Now that’s sorted, I figure I can start messing around with my hair again (that’s a picture of it on the right, so you can see what I’m dealing with here — normal thickness, straight-ish, and blonde or brown depending on the light, but please don’t call it ‘dirty blonde’). What kind of mess? Well, I’m not going to stop washing it altogether, but I’ve decided to let it air-dry from now on.

Mostly. I can’t promise complete abstinence from my beloved hair dryer, so instead, I’m going to dramatically reduce the amount of time I use it to five minutes per week, with a full blow-dry permitted only on special occasions (which should occur no more than once every couple months — I’m talking, like, get-a-new-dress special occasions). This means that, if I’m having a particularly bad hair day, I can use up all five minutes and suck it up the rest of the week; or, I can just take about a minute each time I wash my hair to make sure the front pieces don’t get all wonky (and trust me, they wonk it up real bad sometimes).

I’m thinking that, come winter, to prevent hair icicles — haircicles, if you will — from forming, I’ll try to shower more in the evenings so it can dry overnight. Otherwise, I think it’ll be pretty easy. But do any of you ladies have tips for air-drying? Should I twist it in a bun and try to make it all wavy, or will that just keep it damp? Do you do that finger-tousling thing to give it more body, or will that turn it into a big knot? Maybe I should just chop it all off…

Hopelessly fridgeless (Day 78)…

May 17, 2007


OK, listen up Little Blog in the Big Woods: I did it. I unplugged my fridge. Not just the freezer, the entire fridge. NO FRIDGE. Do I get green-freak status yet or what? (No offense, I mean, living off-the-grid is cool and all, but when you’re in the city, the grid is like a wealthy, temperamental uncle you somewhat resent yet hopelessly depend on for cold beer)

As you faithful readers know, this blog is all about baby steps. But the thing is, when I turned off my freezer, my fridge started getting warmer too, despite the fact that there are two separate dials. GreenYogini warned of this in her comment, but by then it was too late. I tried to figure out a system of occasionally switching the whole unit on for an hour, then leaving it off for the rest of the day, but it was getting far too complicated. In the end, I knew the only true green choice was to follow Greenpa and No Impact Man, and just unplug the whole darn thing.

I made sure to finish all my vegetables and dairy products first, then gradually started moving stuff to the pantry. Finally, I switched it off for good, leaving nothing other than my stale box of baking soda in there. On the one hand, it’s been interesting learning about all the things that didn’t really need to be refrigerated — at least for very long — in the first place (margarine, jams, potatoes, ketchup, mustard and most other condiments, apples, almond butter, blueberries, etc). But on the other hand, it’s been sad opening my cupboards to find yellow, wilted kale that was only a day old or some carrots that had gone bendy after less than 12 hours.

It also means no yogurt or soy milk, unless I consume it all within a day or keep it on my balcony while the weather is still relatively cool. As well, I now have to drink my water and beer at room temperature — to be honest, this hasn’t really bothered me yet, however I’m definitely not investing in any white wine or bubbly unless I buy it from the LCBO‘s refrigerated section and drink the entire bottle right away (which could very well happen).

This is hardly a change I expect others to make, however if you’re like me — that is, if you live in a city, have some time to spare each day for a walk to the corner store, have only yourself (and your kitty) to feed, and are almost a little too concerned about the environment but still more or less in control of your mental faculties — it’s worth trying the no-fridge lifestyle.

Who knows, maybe it’ll become yet another movement. I might have to start labelling myself a flexitarian, locavorian, organic-only, fair-trade, fridgeless slow-foodie. Are there any restaurants catering to this?

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?).

Greening up by shutting down (Day 72)…

May 11, 2007

Greening the office is easier said than done. For example, my colleague and I have been trying to get the air conditioning switched off, or at least turned down, every single summer to no avail. The maintenance guys say that if they turn it down, everyone else will complain that it’s too hot; it’s been the same temperature for years, there’s no reason to change it, blahdy blah blah.

Meanwhile, we end up wearing thick wool socks, sweaters, and on some days even gloves at our desks because we’re so freezing even though it’s 30 degrees outside. It’s not all their fault — if we had windows that actually opened, it would probably be easier to regulate the temperature.

But my theory is that the real reason the air-conditioning will never, ever get switched off here is because the thermostat is controlled by men, who I’m convinced have higher body temperatures than women and sweat more (and in the case of my office these are mostly men who, ironically, are still in denial about global warming).

If I can’t win the war of the thermostat, however, I’m going to try and win smaller battles, beginning with my computer. We’re told to log off — but not shut down — our computers every night before heading home, in case I.T. needs to update our software or install some new program. I guess this might be important for editors and higher-ups but, being a lowly writer, all I need is email, the Internet and something to write on.

The cost of not being updated on something just seems far less significant than the cost of the energy required to power my otherwise untouched computer all night.

I’ve decided, then, to shut down my computer at the end of each day. Hopefully I’ve blabbered on long enough that the tech guys at work have stopped reading by now and won’t notice.

Testing my kettle’s mettle (Day 71)…

May 10, 2007


You know that flaky white stuff that sometimes collects at the bottom of the kettle (I think the technical term is limescale)? Well, I’ve always boiled way more water than I actually need because the thought of dandruff floating around in my tea isn’t particularly enticing.

But then I realized that keeping it full of water wasn’t helping the problem; nor was it helping my electricity bills, seeing as twice the amount of energy is required to boil a whole kettle of water as opposed to just a cup’s worth. So I decided to keep it empty, and from now on will only boil the exact amount of water I plan on drinking.

When it came to cleaning out the bottom, I knew if I asked all of you dear readers for suggestions, you’d say what you say every time: Baking soda and vinegar, for crying out loud! (Insert face slap and/or vigorous shaking.) The thing is, I’ve kept both of these natural cleaning products at the very back of my cupboard until now because I feared that once I started using them for household chores, I would have officially crossed the line and become a card-carrying hippie.

Well, I guess I should start parting my hair in the middle and wearing Birkenstocks because just a splash of vinegar did the trick and I was so amazed, my eyes immediately began darting around the kitchen trying to find something else I could clean (I held back, though, lest I show up to work and my cubicle neighbours ask if I’ve been loitering around a chip truck all morning).

This change should be pretty easy. It’ll require a couple more seconds in my coffee and tea preparation each day and I doubt I’ll notice a huge drop in my electricity bills, but it’s another small step toward heightening my green awareness.

No more lovin’ for my oven (Day 67)…

May 6, 2007


Food portions tend to be small at my place, as there’s only one mouth to feed. And because I don’t own a microwave, it means I have to use a gigantic oven, which is fairly wasteful unless I’m baking three weeks’ worth of casserole and sponge cake.

Therefore, I’m switching it off for good until this challenge is over. I’ll still use my stove, of course, but from now on there’ll be no homemade pies, cookies, lasagna, no baked halibut or tilapia — not even a single bun in the oven (sorry mum).

Though it sounds drastic, I don’t think this will end up being a huge sacrifice after all. My only question is: Does anyone know how to make cookies on the stove?