Hooray for CSA! (Day 198)…

September 14, 2007

bean rows

When I paid a visit to Sunbow Farm last month in Oregon, I learned the real importance of maintaining an organic diet — especially when it comes to squash! (That’s our group in the photo above, by the way, after weeding two rows of Harry’s organic beans)

But when it comes to lessening one’s ecological footprint, it’s usually more important to eat locally than organically. So while I’ve been careful to ensure that all my meat, dairy, eggs and tubers are 100% certified, I’m a little more slack with the rest of my food, so long as it comes from within Canada or the U.S.

(On a related note: I had a dream last night in which I was shopping and found a banana from Florida! I was so excited to put it on my cereal in the morning … then I woke up. No banana.)

I’ll usually head to a farmer’s market on the weekend, and if I’m at a bigger grocery store, I’ll always check the “product of” labels to make sure I’m not eating anything that’s been flown in from Chile or New Zealand.

Now, as I’ve been told by my American readers, there’s a solid trend in the States of community supported agriculture, otherwise known as a CSA. If you belong to one of these groups, you can get locally grown food delivered to your door each week, straight from the farm. I’d been looking for a while for something like this in Toronto to no avail, until I finally lucked out, finding not one, but two of them!

The first was the adorable sounding Chick-a-Biddy Acres. The second was Green Earth Organics. I was originally going to sign up with Chick-a-Biddy because the website was just so darn cute and it was a more official CSA. But then I couldn’t quite figure out when their deliveries would start and exactly how much I’d get. The site for Green Earth was a bit of a navigation nightmare, but in a way that was sort of endearing — I mean, real hippies shouldn’t even know what HTML is, right? (Kidding)

Either way, they sold me on the fact that their food baskets were both organic and local (I checked up on just how local, and it seems at least 80% comes from Ontario, the rest usually from B.C.), and on top of that, 10% of their profits go to various charities around the city.

So I’ve signed up, and am expecting my first delivery this afternoon. If it’s too much food, I can always scale back the number of deliveries, or just share it with friends. And I’ll of course make sure to post a photo of my vegetable cornucopia when it arrives!

Green treats mean clean teeth (Day 160)…

August 7, 2007


My cat is excrutiatingly particular about her treats, but after the recent pet food scares I’ve been even more particular about which brands I’ll let her have. She’s always liked her Temptations, preferring the crunchy outside and chewy inside to the more uniform consistency of Pounce treats, and one of her all-time favourites was Pup-Peroni, which is meant for dogs but she goes bonkers for anything bacon-flavoured.

But Soph is getting older now — she’s about middle age in cat years — and I wanted to start giving her something healthier.

I stumbled upon these treats called Feline Greenies, and thought their Nantucket Bay Scallop flavour sounded especially posh — not to mention the fact that the ingredients are all natural and they keep teeth nice and clean — so I grabbed the packet and brought it back for her.

At first, she wasn’t so sure what to make of them. Everyone says cats are colour blind but I swear she could tell they were green, which led to a lot more sniffing and head bobbing then usual. Finally, though, she took the plunge and ate one.

Success! She’s officially hooked, and I can breathe a sigh of relief that she won’t end up keeled over at the vets with traces of rat poison in her intestinal tract anytime soon.

There is one problem with this product, however: the packaging. If anyone knows of any stores that sell cat treats in bulk, or at least ones that come in recyclable material, please point me in the right direction!
Image 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.

Getting my fix (Day 146)…

July 24, 2007

mr. fixit

I was playing with Sophie the other day when suddenly her toy broke — my first instinct was to throw it out, but then I realized all I’d really have to do is tie a couple pieces of string back together and it would work just fine. Not quite as good as new, but 99% of the way there.

As some readers have already suggested, fixing things — rather than tossing them out and buying new stuff — is most eco-friendly. While I’m far from being a Ms. Fixit, I’m surrounded by others who can change a faulty zipper (the dry cleaners), sew on a button (mom), attach a new lock to my bike (dad) and so on.

Today’s green move, then, is to try and fix whatever’s broken before throwing it away.

Hard liquor, easy on the earth (Day 140)…

July 18, 2007

I already have enough post-martini guilt as it is, why create more? Instead, the next time I’m downing a Cosmo or a Manhattan, I’m going to reassure myself that while my liver and kidneys may be getting somewhat saturated with toxins, it could be worse: they could be getting saturated with genetically modified toxins!

So when it comes to vodka, I’m thinking I’ll go with either Reyka vodka, from Iceland (not too far from Canada) — it’s distilled using geothermal steam, which saves on electricity — or Square One, which is made from organic rye and comes in bottles with labels made from bamboo and other recyclable material.


There’s also Papagayo organic spiced rum (perfect for a dark ‘n’ stormy), Juniper Green gin and, well, I’m not a big scotch drinker so that about covers it.

Whether I’m at home or at the bar, from now on, I’m only drinking greentinis.

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.

Swiffer miss (Day 132)…

July 10, 2007


I remember when the original Swiffer dusters first came out. I saw the commercial on TV and thought, “That’s the dumbest thing ever — who the hell would waste their hard-earned money on such crap?” Of course, that’s what everyone said about bottled water, and now look where we are. It’s the sad truth: we can be convinced by marketers to buy just about everything, from cheese in string form to yogurt in plastic tubes (as an aside, is the term “Go-Gurt” not the most unappetizing thing you’ve ever heard of?) and, yes, overpriced pieces of cloth that do pretty much the same thing as any other piece of cloth, except with words like “electromagnetic,” which make them sound fancier.

I’m as much to blame as the next person — I was lured by the whole concept of capturing dust rather than just dispersing it about the room with a bunch of feathers on a stick. I’ve been using Swiffers for years now, like they were as essential as a sponge or a broom.

But no more: I tried out the E-cloth on all my dusty surfaces and it works just as well. Another point for the green team, another product that — ironically — bites the dust.

Photo swiffed from the company website