Towelling off (Day 201)…

September 17, 2007


So I’m currently in Banff (don’t worry, the flight has been offset at TerraPass), spending a week learning how to write short stories. As per my rule about only staying at green-minded hotels, the Banff Centre holds up well enough. My desk lamp has a compact fluorescent light bulb, the packaging for the toiletries is recyclable, they’re in the process of seeking LEED certification and they ask that you reuse the towels, leaving the ones you want changed in the tub and the others on the rack.

But reusing a towel twice before changing it doesn’t seem over-the-top environmentally friendly (and here at Thistle headquarters, we’re all about being over-the-top). So from now on, whether it’s at home or at a hotel, I’m going to commit to using my towels a minimum of five times before putting them in the laundry. This may sound a bit gross, but I’ll be towelling off when I’m at my cleanest, and as long as I don’t leave them sitting in a wet bunch on the floor — like a certain little sister I know — they should keep fairly fresh.

Photo courtesy of Deborah Harroun on Flickr

Enveloping the green (Day 200)…

September 16, 2007

First, I just need to get a little “Woohoo!” out because it feels great to type the digits 2-0-0 in that subject line. To be honest, I’ve been hitting a bit of a wall these days with the green thing — sick of talking about it, sick of thinking about it, sick of doing it (but, of course, never sick of writing about it!). Anyway, no one likes a complainer, so on with the show:

On this lazy Sunday — not to mention I’m sitting at a Tim Horton’s in the Calgary airport and have been up since 4 a.m. — I’m going to steal a move from Green is Sexy, and I don’t feel so bad about it especially because they technically stole it from some guy named Eric Miller.

What I’ll be doing from now on, then, is saving all the reply envelopes I get in the mail from credit card companies or other junk distributors who’ve somehow managed to sneak by the Green Dimes system I have in place, and reusing them. I’ll just need to scratch out the address they’ve printed and rewrite my own, then off it goes!

Be nice and green, wear it twice if clean (Day 189)…

September 5, 2007


At first, one might think wearing the same thing twice before washing it is gross. But consider this: I got the idea from Green is Sexy, a blog created by three stylish young women, one of whom is Toronto actress Rachel McAdams (we actually share the same video store) — and if you think she’s gross, there’s something majorly wrong with your neurons.

Besides, I’m not talking about going for a run in a T-shirt on a sweltering hot summer day without deodorant, cooking pots full of onion-garlic curry, smoking three cigars, then putting it on again the next morning. I’m talking about the sweaters you wear in winter over two other layers of clothing, or the jeans you change into to go out for dinner and take off again a few hours later. Basically, it requires a judgment call — take a look at it, take a whiff of it, and make a decision.

Usually, I opt for the when-in-doubt-throw-it-out (in the laundry pile) rule, but from now on I’m going to put some more thought into everything that goes into the washing machine. If it doesn’t stink, it’s good for another day’s wear, or at the very least something to slouch around the house in on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Image courtesy of these dudes.

I want to ride my (used) bicycle (Day 183)…

August 30, 2007


After selling my car and going on this cycling trip, I’ve officially rekindled my love of bikes and decided it was time to get a second one. Quentin is great for running errands around the city, especially now that he’s got a basket, and his mosaic of stickers help spread the green love. But I wanted a proper road bike for when I go on longer trips.

Over the weekend, I happened to be at a bike store in Toronto called Sweet Pete’s — the owner, Pete, did the Friends for Life Bike Rally (Toronto to Montreal) with Meghan and me a few years ago. He wasn’t there, but this other guy was, so I asked if he could suggest any places in the city where I might find a decent used bike — better to take the eco-friendly route and buy used sports equipment rather than brand new stuff, I figured.

“Well, actually,” he said, “I’d highly recommend NOT getting a used bike.” He then began to list off various reasons why this was a bad idea, from financial issues to potential safety problems, and added that there were plenty of new bikes for around $800 that would be way better.

“Uh huh,” I replied patiently. “OK … Mm hmm, I see what you’re saying. Right, I definitely won’t get a used bike.” So I paid for my patch kit and spare tubes and rode back home, whereupon I immediately logged onto Craigslist, found a listing for a vintage yellow Peugeot and arranged to meet Alex at the top of a parking garage in Kensington Market.

Well, Alex turned out to be a girl — albeit a girl with a mustache, greasy bike hands and a rose tattoo on her left earlobe (so, basically, she rocked). She pointed out the bike’s strengths (new tires, tubes, great frame, good seat and handlebars) as well as its weaknesses (a bashed-up derailer, sticky back brake, some rust spots), and then offered it to me for $80.


Because it’s French, and I’m Canadian, I decided a French-Canadian name was only appropriate and so christened it Deni (that’s pronounced de-NEE for all you Americans), introduced it to Quentin and brought it home. And now Pete, who’s back from Denmark, has agreed to take a look and see what he fix. So with that, as of today, I’ll only be buying used sports equipment.

Spicing it up, in bulk (Day 165)…

August 12, 2007


There’s nothing that quite warms the soul like a kick-ass organic paneer kofta or a free-range chicken tikka masala. But as anyone who’s ever attempted to cook homemade Indian food knows, there are usually at least 15 different spices in the ingredients list, and once you start running out of all the garam masala and dried fenugreek, it can mean a lot more plastic every time something’s replenished.

But as Carrie so brilliantly pointed out last month, a good eco-friendly option is to head to a marketplace or bazaar where they sell spices in bulk (luckily for me, Toronto has a Little India). Not only will these probably be of higher quality but it also means you can bring your own container to refill, and you’ll definitely get more for your money.

So as of today, I’m walking right past the spice aisle in the grocery store and taking my own containers to the House of Spices just up the street.

Photo of spices in a Chamonix marketplace by Gavin Bell at Flickr

Double-sided or nothing (Day 163)…

August 10, 2007

print job

I don’t have a printer. Whenever I order or book anything online, there’s always that email telling me to print the page for my records. Well, I don’t really have records, either, and I’m not about to waste paper on back-up copies of receipts.

But there is the occasional document I need to have in tangible form — like my flight information or boarding pass, for example — and so in this case I’ll use the printer at my parents’ house or at the office. So often, though, when you print something out, there are a couple pages at the end with nothing on them other than the URL of a webpage or a paragraph of legal disclaimers in fine print, and it’s silly to toss these out, even if they are destined to be recycled.

So from now on, whenever I’m printing anything — unless maybe if it’s my résumé — I’m going to check first to see if there’s any scrap paper I can use in place of a new sheet. And if it’s a bigger job, I’ll make sure to change the settings on my computer so that it knows to print double-sided.

Now if only those HP printer cartridges came with soy-based ink…

Between the sheets (Day 153)…

July 31, 2007


While changing my bed linens the other day, I noticed that parts of the fitted sheet looked ever so slightly less white than other parts. I wasn’t sure if it was an actual stain or just the glare from my ugly compact fluorescent light bulbs, but then I remembered that these were sheets given to me by my parents a few years ago when I moved into my apartment, and they weren’t exactly new at the time.

Upon closer inspection, I noticed the elastic had stretched out and the stitching was getting loose. I concluded it was time to cut it up into hankies and get a new one.

Normally, I get excited at the prospect of shopping. But to be honest, I can’t think of anything I’d rather not have to buy than sheets. Well, maybe socks. And also watch batteries … man, that was so boring.

Anyway, I knew I wanted a good quality as well as eco-friendly brand. Treehugger had written about the benefits of bamboo sheets, but they’re not easy to find and can get expensive. Eventually, back at Grassroots, I found some unbleached organic cotton sheets for $60, made by a company called Coyuchi (the best is their tagline: “a natural opulence” — see, high thread-count snobbery is totally bio!).

On their site, they explain how the cotton seeds they use must be non-genetically engineered and that the plants must not be exposed to pesticides. Furthermore, the cotton is grown at family-run farm cooperatives, where workers are paid higher than average wages.

The only downside to this product was that it came wrapped in plastic. But I’m not sure it’s even possible to get sheets that don’t come packaged like this — there must be some sort of hygiene law that prevents it. Kind of like those mattress tags that threaten jail time for anyone who removes them.

Photo by Mr Luke Harby at Flickr