Preserving my local diet (Day 182)…

August 29, 2007


It’s easy sticking to a local diet now that it’s summer and farmers markets are in full swing, but I know that all these juicy peaches, plums and berries won’t be around come January — they’ll be around in South America, yes, but because I’m restricted to Canada and the U.S. in everything I eat, I thought I’d take a couple hours to make some preserves.

Despite my penchant for all foods Indian, I’m not a big chutney fan, nor do I like the taste of pickled anything, so I’m limiting myself to jams. But wow — and please, excuse the lack of humility here — it just so happens, my jams rock! Of course I can’t take full credit: Miss Crunchy gave me the inspiration with her recipe for Cognac Vanilla Peach Jam, which is basically what I made, just without the booze (I couldn’t find organic cognac and wasn’t sure how my few teetotalling friends would feel about it).

Now, I must admit, I prematurely scrunched my face in panic upon reading through Crunchy’s ingredients list, especially when I came across the word pectin. Pectin? What the heck was that? Sure didn’t sound very natural or green to me … but actually, it is. So once I got over that mental hurdle, I picked up all the other necessities and went about blanching (another term that freaked the bejeebus out of me) my fruit. About halfway through the recipe, I basically started guessing everything, boiling and stirring the globby mixture until it looked like it wouldn’t kill me or make me barf if I ate some of it with a piece of toast.

As I poured it into the sterilized jars (again, my sterilization technique would surely flunk me right out of any medical school), I thought, “All right, it’s OK, it’ll taste like crap, but that’s fine, that’s what experimental cooking is all about.” But then I let it set overnight and tried a tentative spoonful of it the next morning on a rice cake with some almond butter and it actually tasted great! The vanilla beans made a huge difference and the tartness really came through, unlike so many of the over-sweetened commercial brands on the market.

In the end, my Peach, Yellow Plum and Vanilla Bean jam was almost entirely organic, local and stored in reusable mason jars. So as of today, I’ll be preserving whatever I can if it means less time in an 18-wheeler to get here come winter.

Making room for natural perfume (Day 175)…

August 22, 2007


At the beginning of this challenge, I promised my cosmopolitan self that no matter how green I became, no matter how many hippies I befriended, there were three things I’d never, ever do: 1) Let my hair clump into dreadlocks; 2) Wear Birkenstocks; and 3) Smell like patchouli. Not that there’s anything wrong with such things — in fact, Birkenstock has been coming out with some funkier styles and colours these days and if they aren’t worn with socks at least … but I digress:

My forays into perfume began sometime in high school, when I wore these sickly sweet scents from the Body Shop like Mango, Peach and Dewberry. Then I went to summer camp and got turned onto Elizabeth Arden’s Sunflowers. By the time I got to university, I was big into Diesel’s Zero Plus, but the fact that it came in a bottle shaped like a grenade made it problematic every time I tried to fly anywhere. Most recently, my perfumes of choice have been Burberry Brit and Kimono Rose.

But more and more, perfumes began making my nose itch and my sinuses ache, and I wanted something that was a little more natural and didn’t feel like it was eating away at my brain. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of options — most hippie stores just offer various essential oils, which on their own are too strong a fragrance. Thistle reader and entrepreneur Anji Murphy sent me some of the natural perfume sticks she’s been working on and they’re fab, but she has yet to officially put them on the market.

So when I stumbled upon these solid perfumes made in British Columbia by a company called Ganesha’s Garden for under $10, I quickly snapped one up. Listed in the ingredients are nothing more than coconut oil, perfume oil, beeswax, almond oil and vitamin E. They come in hand-carved soapstone boxes, which you can reuse afterwards for earrings, knick-knacks, or even your own homemade perfume.

I chose the Oasis scent, which I found out later is what they describe as “a very sweet, sexy blend of cool, juicy mango and coconut notes softened with vanilla and jasmine, all held together with deep woodsy notes. Totally tropical.” I also recommend Plumeria and White Lotus … not so much the Sandalwood, Patchouli or Green Tea. Unless you’re a capital-H hippie, of course. 🙂

Straws totally suck (Day 127)…

July 5, 2007


This one comes from Lori V., over at Do You Realize?, who suggested the other day to stop using straws as one of my green changes — indeed, they pretty much suck. Yes, that is their purpose, but a simple tilt of the glass will get most liquid into one’s mouth, providing you’re not on the moon, of course. And even if the liquid is virtually a solid, like for example a Wendy’s frosty, you can always use a spoon.

I suppose the one time you’d really need a straw is if you’re sick or you’ve just had your teeth pulled, and you’re on a diet of smoothies and can’t really move your mouth properly — even then, however, a solid reusable straw would probably be not only a greener but more pleasant-feeling alternative, rather than the disposable ones (especially the ones that come in individual packages, wrapped in paper or more plastic).

Because I don’t drink much pop, I’m sure this move won’t be too difficult. However, if I find myself on a beach with a piña colada, it really won’t be the same slurping it out in big gulps (I know, life’s hard).

Photo courtesy of Bitzi on Flickr

Don’t let me eat take-out (Day 87)…

May 26, 2007

That was supposed to be a Marie Antoinette pun. Well, not a pun, exactly, but you know, “Let them eat cake” — oh, forget it, I can never come up with decent headlines. Anyway, moving on: I thought I’d continue with yesterday’s fast-food theme.

After eliminating all delivered food from my menu — in some part because of the packaging in which it always arrives but mostly because of the fuel involved in getting it to my front door — I’ve decided to go the extra step and ban take-out food altogether, unless I’m able to bring my own reusable containers or wrapping to store it.

So, basically, the only way I can now eat fast food is if it’s vegetarian, if I walk or bicycle to get it, and if I plan ahead and bring all my own plates and cutlery. The one other exception will be if I’m out all day unexpectedly for work and haven’t been able to make my own lunch, in which case I’ll try to find something I can eat in-hand — and if it’s something messy like a falafel, I might need to allow myself a single piece of wax paper (I shouldn’t need to use any napkins, though, because I’ll have my hankie — which I’ll only use if it’s relatively clean, of course).

Phew! I think it’ll be easier to just make my own damn pizza. Oh wait, I can’t use my oven. Crap.

Green giving (Day 84)…

May 23, 2007

There’s nothing more heart-warming than a truly thoughtful gift, whether you’re giving or receiving it. My friend Meghan is good at this: for my birthday, she gave me something that not only reflected what’s important to me but what’s important to her, too: a stylish tote bag full of homemade, nutritious goodies, all stored in reusable mason jars, wrapped in some funky crinoline she found in her apartment, leftover from a bridesmaid’s dress. It satisfied both the eco-nerd in me and the health-geek in her, all while being stylish (Meg does have a degree, and a gold medal, in fashion after all, but that’s a whole other story).

So my next challenge is to make sure I always incorporate some “green” element into my gift-giving, whether it’s a tote bag, some cake from a local farmers market or contributing to a good cause on their behalf. When I first started this blog, one Thistle reader (was it you, Shawn? I can’t remember!) said he always hands out CFL light bulbs in place of loot bags at parties, which is another great idea.

But the key is to make sure that the gift is still something my friend or family member wants, as opposed to something I feel they should want. Because while I, personally, would love to get a solar-powered battery charger or the latest in composting technology, not everyone is so into that. My first green gift was to my mum recently: I copied Meghan and went for the tote bag, but got one with a nice artsy photo of my sister and me screened onto it rather than one with a slogan like “I’m not a plastic bag” on it, because that’s just not her, as well as some body wash.

Anyone got any other green gift ideas? Remember that I’m not using my oven or fridge anymore, though, so homemade cookies are unfortunately not an option.

Coffee: 11 cents cheaper. Saving the environment: Priceless (Day 32)…

April 1, 2007

You knew this post was coming. Well, here it is: I’m over disposable coffee cups like a cheating ex-boyfriend from the ’90s who litters and wears white after Labour Day. Phew, what a diss!

Seriously though, I just got this adorable neon-green “Bow Corridor” Bilt thermos from MEC (like the ones in the photo here but a much cuter colour, and for only $10!).

So I’m ready to not just create less waste, but keep my coffee warmer for longer and get that 11¢ off my tall bold at Starbucks. And Bilt, which happens to be the largest paper company in India, appears to have a green side. As much as I loathe people who casually throw around the word synergy (unless they’re referencing Jem and/or the Misfits), I do like the sound of Bilt’s eco-policy and community development projects, as well as their partnerships with a slew of NGOs. Their website explains it all here.

Because the thermos is too bulky to carry around in my purse, it means I can’t make any spontaneous coffee purchases. But I can always keep it in my car along with my spare tote bags, or I can kick it old school and actually take the time to sit down, in a café, to drink my coffee. I know, it’s a frightening concept — it might even require these scary things called mugs. But I’ll try to be brave.

Photo courtesy of MEC

Un nouvel ami pour ma sécheuse (Day 27)…

March 27, 2007

fabric softener

I just realized I photographed the ‘Quebec’ side of this box by accident, but hey, you don’t have to be Frenchie McFrencherson to know what words like statique, réutilisables and hypoallergénique mean. These right here are reusable static sheets for the dryer.

Not only does this mean less packaging and waste, it also means less of the chemicals found in most disposable ones. Here, you might be saying, “It’s only Day 27, stop being such a paranoid eco-freak already!” To which I say, point taken. You may also say of those Bounce, Snuggle or Downy sheets, “Come on, how could a household brand with such a cute name and flowery perfume be so toxic?”

Well, for one, look at Britney Spears. And for two, consider this website (warning: highly disturbing music accompanies it) that lists various alternative uses for Bounce sheets, including warding off mice, bees, ants and mosquitos — frankly, if the bugs aren’t buying it, neither am I.

Having given these reusable cloth sheets a couple test runs in my latest load of laundry, I can officially say that they do indeed keep my socks out of my pants and my towels out of my pillow cases. And because I simply leave them in there for the next run, it even saves me a trip to the garbage can (the Lazy Environmentalist‘s ears should be burning right about … now).