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

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.

So clean you could eat off it — and not have to call poison control! (Day 129)…

July 7, 2007


I’m loving my E-cloths, but there’s something to be said for not only having a clean kitchen and bathroom but a clean-smelling kitchen and bathroom, and unfortunately the scent of water is a bit, well, lacking. So I went out to invest in a super-mild, all-natural spray cleaner that would give everything that little twinkle you see in all the commercials and leave a fresh smell.

The one I went for is from a company called EcoMist (read more about them here … or don’t, because the video on their homepage is like cinematic ipecac), which says its product line is entirely plant-based and “utilizes the science of nano-colloidal technology” (whatever the heck that is), and is recognized by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency as food-surface safe.

Indeed, the ingredients consist of nothing more than corn, coconut extract, sugarcane, tree extracts and de-ionized water. Almost sounds like you could squirt it over a mesclun salad for a zingy dressing. And to top it all off, it’s also a local product, made in Woodbridge, ON — just outside Toronto.

It’s not exactly strong stuff: You can’t spray it on a glob of toothpaste and watch as it eviscerates it into liquid, and it feels less like you’re killing bacteria than just wiping it away. But there’s plenty of evidence on the company’s website that proves it’s just as powerful an antibacterial agent as the toxic brand name cleaners, and most importantly, it smells much nicer too.

I don’t know that I’m quite secure enough to eat an entire stir-fry off my bathroom floor, but if I did, at least it would probably have a nice coconut aftertaste. Oh, and I will of course reuse the bottle when it’s finished rather than buy a new one.

Francey pants sun protection (Day 97)…

June 5, 2007


Despite what the T-shirt says, pale is not the new tan. But I’m pretty sure, last time I checked, skin cancer wasn’t the new tan, either. The compromise, then, for a freckle-susceptible white girl like me is to get my sun in small doses and wear an SPF-15 lotion, maybe a little eco-bronzer for good measure.

I’ve been hearing some bad things in the organic grapevine about suntan lotion — like how synthetic UV filters don’t properly absorb the rays, not to mention all the lovely parabens that usually appear in the ingredients list — which sucks, because I get totally high on the smell of Hawaiian Tropic.

But I can’t just not wear any protection and lurk in the shadows all day. So I went poking around. And where better to poke, really, than Paris? I know, it’s not exactly local, but this Mary Cohr Pur Environnement brand sounds so great, and not just because the label is written en français (but I won’t lie, terms like bronzage lissant make me feel pretty special).

All their products are GMO-free, derived only from renewable plant species and of course not tested on animals, and the suntan lotions are entirely mineral-based, naturally protecting against the full UVA/UVB spectrum.

I got mine at this holistic spa/yoga studio/naturopath clinic/eco-boutique in Toronto, 889 Yonge, while under the influence of an Ayurvedic head massage. It wasn’t cheap, but I’ll mostly be using it on my face and décolletage, if you will. I might, however, invest in another cheaper natural brand like Lavera for when my pale ass is in the Middle East in the middle of July and I’m reapplying every seven minutes.

A needle in a hayfever stack (Day 83)…

May 22, 2007


Ironically, despite my newfound love for green, I also happen to be allergic to most of it: slightly to grass, pollen and a few trees, but especially to the plant seen above, the one with the ugliest name, ragweed.

Those who have allergies will be familiar with that pin prick test doctors do on your arm to determine sensitivities to everything from foods like soy and eggs to environmental things like mould and dust, and even animals like cats and dogs (they’ve somehow bottled cat and dog in liquid form and use an eyedropper to dispense them, which never ceases to creep me out).

The idea is that if more than a few millimetres of redness appears around where they prick your skin, you’re allergic to that substance.

Well, when they tested me for ragweed, my entire arm turned into one big, swollen rash. This means, not surprisingly, that come mid-August I either need to take five over-the-counter anti-histamines, like Reactine or Claritin, each day; or two to three prescription-strength pills; or … drumroll, please … Pollinex shots.

I think the most environmentally friendly option is the latter, as it creates the least amount of packaging and waste. It also is said to be the most effective, which means I shouldn’t need to buy any extra Visine or nasal sprays, and it leaves me all the more time to romp around the great outdoors and hug trees.

The .001 Mile Diet (Day 77)…

May 16, 2007

herb garden

It doesn’t get more local than my balcony, which I’ve just adorned with a cute little herb box full of mint (as I’m not chewing gum anymore), lemon balm (because I miss not having lemons), basil (risky, I know), swiss chard (even riskier) and an organic cherry tomato plant (totally not going to happen, I don’t know why I even bought it).

I got the wooden box and brackets from Home Depot and some soil from the corner store (I meant to get some Woop! but forgot), then planted away. Unfortunately, I have no idea what I’m doing; my thumbs are the opposite of green — so, basically, red. I have red thumbs. By the time I finally crammed all five plants in, there was dirt all over my arms, pants, my two chairs, the floor and surely on the balcony below me. Even my cat looked unimpressed (then again, cats always look unimpressed).

Anyway, feel free to comment below about how my herbs will never survive. I can handle it. In the mean time, however, when it comes to flavouring my home cooking, I’m officially restricting myself to using only these balcony bits and whatever other spices I still have in my pantry (let me check: dried oregano, cinnamon, celery seed, garam masala, fenugreek, turmeric, cayenne pepper and ground coriander … I like curry, OK?). The logic is that if I can grow it on my balcony, I don’t need to buy entire bushels of it from the grocery store, which have surely been driven there by truck.

But if any of them die, you’re going to have to cut me some slack and let me try again, maybe with something like parsley instead of a friggin’ tomato plant. And I’ll gladly take any suggestions for which herbs and vegetables thrive the best in confined, smoggy and mostly shady places.