Power plants (Day 174)…

August 21, 2007

potted plant

Part of being green means being in touch with nature, which isn’t always easy to do in the city. Living across from a huge park helps, as does being involved with community garden projects or tree planting initiatives. But there’s also something to be said for bringing the outside world in, which is why I’m going to get some plants.

Having indoor plants should also help clean the air a bit, and supposedly they help keep things cool in the summer months. Plus, I’m hoping they’ll serve as little reminders of why I’m making all these changes.

But here’s my sitch: I have absolutely no botanical knowledge whatsoever and could do with some advice as to which sort of plants I should get (and no, a marijuana plant is not an option). Also, I can’t stand spider plants or anything that needs to be hung from the ceiling. Bamboo is pretty trendy, but it’s too House & Home for me. It has to be a type that does well with minimal sunlight, and that my cat won’t eat.

Any suggestions?

Photo courtesy of JanneM on Flickr

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

Greenhouse-sitting (Day 157)…

August 4, 2007


When I decided to take a vacation, I knew I’d need a housesitter. But I didn’t want someone coming in, cranking the air-conditioning and running the dishwasher half empty — whoever took care of my place would also have to take care of the earth.

In the end, one of my green-hearted friends came to the rescue. I let him turn on the fridge, but he kept the thermostat off, made sure my worms had something to munch on and kept my balcony herbs watered — he even wrote to tell me that one of my organic cherry tomatoes had turned red! Everything was recycled properly and he made sure to use my natural cleaning products; I couldn’t have asked for a better sitter.

Now that I’m on the second half of my vacation, I’ve got a different guy looking after things, but he’s just as willing to step into my hippie shoes and keep things eco-friendly.

It might take a bit more searching and some extra-convincing rhetoric, but from now on I’m making sure all my housesitters pass the green test.

Photo of my building courtesy of this website

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.

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!


The need to weed (Day 105)…

June 13, 2007


Although the closest thing I have to a garden is the little courtyard at the side of my apartment building, my parents have a pretty fair-sized one in their backyard. They don’t have a lawn (it’s a British thing), but there’s a stone pathway that frequently needs weeding.

My mother usually just spritzes the buggers with Roundup, but asked if I wanted to pluck them out by hand once every month as one of my green changes, so as to cut back on the pesticide.

I figure, the woman gave me life, I probably owe her a couple hours of weeding. So I went ahead (and she took this picture, into which Kitty crept — yes, that’s her name, Kitty. Highly unoriginal, but she really did defy every other name we tried to give her).

Most of the weeds were just baby sproutlings (excuse the improvised botanical terminology) and were easy to pick out. It’s really behind the sheds and the pergola where they grow super fast and get stronger, not to mention hard to reach. I tried to convince mom to start a grow-op back there, but she wouldn’t listen.