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!

If the eco-friendly shoe fits (Day 167)…

August 14, 2007


As the shoe company Simple puts it, “Just because a shoe is planet-friendly, doesn’t mean it has to look like a hippie clod-hopper.” They’ve got that right. Just look at these organic, vegan-approved, hemp-whatever fashion tragedies — the “sport style” looks like something you’d need to show proof of senior citizen status to wear (no offense to senior citizens, I know you need plenty of arch support).

Now, I know Birkenstocks made a big comeback and all when they started getting into silver and gold colour schemes and different patterns. And they do have this little press release about their environmental efforts and all, but they’re still kinda ugly, and besides, I’m committed as of last week to not buying anymore leather.

So when it comes to a new set of kicks, I’ll be looking to brands like Simple to help me out. As they say on their website, their new EcoSneaks line is manufactured using sustainable materials like recycled car tires, used plastic bottled, bamboo, jute and organic cotton. As well, they’ve cut down on the packaging, so you can feel less guilty about ordering online and having them shipped.

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 Eco-Artware.com — 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.

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

Deo for the B.O. (Day 63)…

May 2, 2007


I don’t know where in the hippy rule book it says “no deodorant allowed” but it must be printed in there somewhere because so many of these well-meaning, tempeh-loving pacifists really stink. I’m all for being natural, but in my books, nature includes things that smell pretty — like lemon, lavender and peppermint. And if you’re going to skip a shower because you’re really busy hugging trees or whatever, I don’t see why it would be such a problem to indulge in just a couple swipes of some natural deo.

Admittedly, though, it’s hard finding the safest one. I personally haven’t used antiperspirant for years because it never seemed like sound logic to clog up my sweat pores with aluminum (the FDA even considers antiperspirants a drug because they “affect the function of the body”), and most brand-name deodorants have just as many chemicals and preservatives.

But just when I thought I was safe with my Tom’s of Maine, I read in Adria Vasil’s book, Ecoholic, that over half of the so-called natural deodorants contain propylene glycol, which in 100% concentrations is known as antifreeze. They also often contain parabens, potentially carcinogenic preservatives with “estrogenic properties.”

Vasil recommends the Avalon Organics line of deodorants, which don’t have any of these suspect ingredients, or those funny crystal rocks. So when I ran out of my Tom’s, I bought their lemon-scented roll-on. It goes on a little wet but dries quick, and so far I haven’t noticed anyone keeping their distance, twitching their noses or peripherally glaring at my armpits.

Up like the sun, down like the rain (Day 39)…

April 8, 2007


… back and forth like a choo-choo train. Did your dentist ever teach you that rhyme to make sure you brushed properly? Mine did, and I think I might need to do this extra carefully now that I’m abandoning fluoride and switching over to an all-natural toothpaste. I wrote a post a while ago asking readers what they thought about fluoride — whether it’s really as evil as the hippies tell me it is — and received mixed responses. So I decided I’d just try some without it, and see if my teeth turn black and/or fall out, in which case I’ll have my answer!

When it comes to toothpaste, Tom’s of Maine has a solid reputation and I was keen to try their cinnamon flavoured one. But then I noticed the Green Beaver brand, and figured I should support my fellow Canadians.

As they explain on their website, Green Beaver toothpaste has grapefruit seed extract and tea tree oil, which help kill bacteria, baking soda to remove stains and calcium ascorbate. It does not contain artificial flavours, colours, fluoride, preservatives, sweeteners or sulfate-based foaming agents. Furthermore, all of the packaging is recyclable and they don’t test on animals.

But this is the best part: “Our toothpastes are safe to swallow. Mild foaming and gentle abrasive action makes it ideal for kids.” I don’t know about you, but I’m all for gentle abrasive action when it comes to kids.

I gave it a test run this morning. At first, I was disappointed by the lack of foam; it felt kind of watery in my mouth, like it wasn’t really going to do a good job. But hours later, my teeth feel surprisingly clean. And it was actually refreshing not having that lingering residue on my tongue. I might give a few other brands a whirl when I’m done this tube, but I’m definitely hopping on the natural-toothpaste bandwagon for good.

I miss my toxic pouches (Day 14)…

March 14, 2007

Dishwasher Detergent

When it comes to eco-brand hierarchies, Seventh Generation is up there. It’s a bit like the financially-secure-but-Guatemalan-pants-wearing cousin of Proctor&Gamble — it may be based in perpetually inoffensive, NPR-loving Vermont, but it can also be found dominating the competition in the cleaning supplies aisle at every hippy store in North America.

If it weren’t such a wholesome company, it would probably be caught wearing an ironic T-shirt like this — in fact, it doesn’t wanna brag or anything, but one of its tissue boxes even scored a cameo in the upcoming Molly Shannon film Year of the Dog (IMDb forgot to list it in the credits, but that was probably just a technical glitch or something).

But while you can take Seventh Generation out of Vermont, it seems you can’t take the Vermont out of Seventh Generation. The company, which got its name from an Iroquois law, has a website that puts corporate press releases next to pictures of mothers holding babies, children holding puppies and seniors holding watering cans; you can either follow the link to supporting scientific data, or the link to a blog called The Inspired Protagonist, about “cutting the ties of negativity that bind us.”

But to the point: I needed some more dishwasher detergent, and figured I’d give this brand a try. Until now, I’ve been using these wicked gelatin pouches filled with neon goo and multi-coloured powder that really do the trick — they even come with extra bleach … and a “Fresh Rapids” scent! Still, I had high hopes for SG, because so far my green product switches have all been a success.

The final verdict — meh. It cleaned at least 90 to 95% of the dishes, but the almond butter residue on a few knives remained firmly in tact. Also, instead of that bleachy-clean smell that wafts up when you open the dishwasher door, there was more of a neutral-to-somewhat-stale-cheese odour. Maybe I just need to use more of it, but right now, I’m in phosphate withdrawal.