Stickin’ it to Ticketmaster (Day 177)…

August 24, 2007

Brown Paper Tickets

The other night, my friend Meghan and I went to an opening party for the Bicycle Film Festival at the Gladstone (which, on a side note, has stopped offering water in plastic bottles — hoorah!). We didn’t have tickets for the screenings on Friday yet, so while I frantically threw on some deodorant and eyeshadow, she went online and got that sorted out.

Well, turns out, they were being provided by this cool company called Brown Paper Tickets, the “first and only fair-trade ticketing service,” wherein you get an electronic ticket rather than a real one (which saves paper) and a portion of every purchase goes to charity (Meg said she chose the Animal Welfare Institute because she knew I liked small furry things).

They have a Ticketing Bill of Rights, too, which explains their mandate, where the money goes, and how the whole system works.

Finally, a green alternative to all those corporate ticketing agencies with their processing fees, shipping and handling crap, and glossy, laser-printed ticket stubs. From now on, I’ll be looking for options like this whenever I plan on going to an event.

Jewellery with a conscience (Day 158)…

August 5, 2007

pennib earrings

Waaaay back in March, I wrote a short little post about some eco-friendy jewellery I found that — gasp! — was actually stylish and — double gasp! — not made with recycled hemp (apologies to all the hardcore hippies out there but I just flat-out refuse to wear one of these).

It’s made by a woman named Reena Kazmann who sells her designs at — personally, I love the typewriter key earrings, pen nib and transit token cufflinks and circuit board luggage tags.

There are other companies out there, like Moonrise or Swift, who offer similarly green options when it comes to jewellery, and here in Toronto I can usually find some good stuff at the One of a Kind Show.

But it’s not always easy, and I’ve always had a weakness for those $5 necklaces at H&M and fake gold hoop earrings at Le Château. Plus, every time I walk into Banana Republic, it’s guaranteed that there will be at least five things I desperately want in the display case.

Alas, the next time I want to accessorize a new outfit, it’ll have to be done with rings, bracelets, necklaces and earrings from an eco-friendly, fair-trade and preferably local designer.

Between the sheets (Day 153)…

July 31, 2007


While changing my bed linens the other day, I noticed that parts of the fitted sheet looked ever so slightly less white than other parts. I wasn’t sure if it was an actual stain or just the glare from my ugly compact fluorescent light bulbs, but then I remembered that these were sheets given to me by my parents a few years ago when I moved into my apartment, and they weren’t exactly new at the time.

Upon closer inspection, I noticed the elastic had stretched out and the stitching was getting loose. I concluded it was time to cut it up into hankies and get a new one.

Normally, I get excited at the prospect of shopping. But to be honest, I can’t think of anything I’d rather not have to buy than sheets. Well, maybe socks. And also watch batteries … man, that was so boring.

Anyway, I knew I wanted a good quality as well as eco-friendly brand. Treehugger had written about the benefits of bamboo sheets, but they’re not easy to find and can get expensive. Eventually, back at Grassroots, I found some unbleached organic cotton sheets for $60, made by a company called Coyuchi (the best is their tagline: “a natural opulence” — see, high thread-count snobbery is totally bio!).

On their site, they explain how the cotton seeds they use must be non-genetically engineered and that the plants must not be exposed to pesticides. Furthermore, the cotton is grown at family-run farm cooperatives, where workers are paid higher than average wages.

The only downside to this product was that it came wrapped in plastic. But I’m not sure it’s even possible to get sheets that don’t come packaged like this — there must be some sort of hygiene law that prevents it. Kind of like those mattress tags that threaten jail time for anyone who removes them.

Photo by Mr Luke Harby at Flickr

Flower power (Day 138)…

July 16, 2007

flower power

The other day, I saw a sign advertising fair-trade roses at my local florist, Burst — I suppressed my allergies for a moment while I got all excited; but unfortunately, I soon found out they come all the way from Ecuador. A better option, as I later discovered, is online-based EcoFlora, an organic and socially responsible Toronto florist. As founder Scott Graham says, he created the company as an alternative to the mainstream florists who get most of their stock from Colombia and Ecuador.

“What’s on all those gorgeous flowers to keep them fresh?” he asks on his site. “How are the flower farm workers treated? From the flower farm to arrival at your home there are many chemical treatments that go on the flowers and into the water they drink. Working conditions for the flower farm workers in these countries are dangerous, unhealthy and exploitive.

“[There are] pesticides, herbicides and fungicides that are banned in Canada, and there can be 10 to 100 times the pesticide residues on cut flowers than on the food that is imported from these same countries because of the fact that flowers are not eaten. Some of the chemicals used include methyl bromide to ensure no there are no insects on the flowers when they reach North America.”


But not only does EcoFlora offer safe, guilt-free flowers, they also arrange and ship them in eco-friendly packaging, whether it’s biodegradable cellophane or a ceramic vase made by a local potter, and none of their materials comes from China.

So from now on, if anyone I know is sick, depressed or getting married (or, for that matter, all of the above), they’re getting flowers from EcoFlora.

Photo courtesy of this guy on Flickr

Cut from the sustainable cloth (Day 135)…

July 13, 2007


Supporting locals designers is something I always like to talk about but rarely do. It’s usually because the clothes are too expensive, too hard to find, or most often, because all I need is a plain white T-shirt and the Gap sells those for about $20.

But I actually used to work at the Gap, and man was that ever horrible. I won’t get into all the details here because I can’t afford to be sued, but at one point I remember having to work during a “flow” shift, which is either from 5 a.m. until the store opens, or from closing time until 2 a.m. This is when employees change over all the merchandise and display cases, and it happens every couple weeks.

That night I was working, it was about 1:30 a.m. and we were running late. I was sitting on the floor surrounded by piles of Baby Gap apparel as a 16-year-old girl stood next to me, throwing more and more shirts at my head as she asked over and over again, “Can you, like, fold faster or something?”

Totally ridiculous. I’m not going to whine about the crappy minimum wage and the even crappier hours, but the sheer quantity of clothing that comes in and out of that store is mind-boggling and, really, pretty depressing. The fact that we’d get an employee discount off an item that was already 50% off and the company would still be profiting just goes to show how cheap the manufacturing process is. I’m sure that when No Logo came out and students began protesting, Gap made some changes here and there, but even if they don’t get their clothes from sweat shops anymore, there’s no way that stuff is being churned out by fairly paid workers.

So I’ve decided that, no matter how desperately I want a plain T-shirt or cheap pair of jeans, I will not shop at the Gap, nor at any other chain for that matter, until my challenge is over. From now on, I’m only buying clothes from local designers like Passenger Pigeon (whose wrap dress is above), lilikoi (I got this dress from them recently) and preloved. I’ll also allow myself to buy from companies outside of Canada if their merchandise is made from sustainable, sweatshop-free materials (like American Apparel, except not American Apparel, because their advertising revolts me).

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.

No steaks on a plane (Day 80)…

May 19, 2007

Recently, I confessed to booking a somewhat elaborate summer vacation that requires a fair amount of air travel (which I’ve at least offset with TerraPass). On the plus side, I made sure to take one big chunk of time off work, so for the most part the flights will be short-haul; on the down side, due to scheduling conflicts, it also means taking a lot of connecting flights (and by “a lot” I mean … um… *cough* nine).

As I’ve already committed to eating meat sparingly — and, when I do, it has to be free-range, organic and/or grass-fed — this means I’d have to pick apart all my in-flight meals, being careful not to get genetically modified pork residue on the peas.

But the reality is, whether or not I eat the meat on my plate (or rather plastic tray), it doesn’t make a difference by that point; the demand for it is created as soon as I book my ticket.

Fortunately, this greenie plans ahead. I requested that all my in-flight meals be vegetarian or nothing at all. Most airlines these days are very accommodating — besides having veg options, they usually offer kosher, low-cholesterol, gluten-free and even bland/ulcer meals.

Unfortunately, I can’t request that they leave out the plastic cutlery set or make sure that both the coffee and any chocolate in the dessert is fair-trade. But if the cutlery comes separately, I’ll pass it back (then again, if I can’t get my portable chopsticks past security, this could be a problem).