Testing my kettle’s mettle (Day 71)…

May 10, 2007


You know that flaky white stuff that sometimes collects at the bottom of the kettle (I think the technical term is limescale)? Well, I’ve always boiled way more water than I actually need because the thought of dandruff floating around in my tea isn’t particularly enticing.

But then I realized that keeping it full of water wasn’t helping the problem; nor was it helping my electricity bills, seeing as twice the amount of energy is required to boil a whole kettle of water as opposed to just a cup’s worth. So I decided to keep it empty, and from now on will only boil the exact amount of water I plan on drinking.

When it came to cleaning out the bottom, I knew if I asked all of you dear readers for suggestions, you’d say what you say every time: Baking soda and vinegar, for crying out loud! (Insert face slap and/or vigorous shaking.) The thing is, I’ve kept both of these natural cleaning products at the very back of my cupboard until now because I feared that once I started using them for household chores, I would have officially crossed the line and become a card-carrying hippie.

Well, I guess I should start parting my hair in the middle and wearing Birkenstocks because just a splash of vinegar did the trick and I was so amazed, my eyes immediately began darting around the kitchen trying to find something else I could clean (I held back, though, lest I show up to work and my cubicle neighbours ask if I’ve been loitering around a chip truck all morning).

This change should be pretty easy. It’ll require a couple more seconds in my coffee and tea preparation each day and I doubt I’ll notice a huge drop in my electricity bills, but it’s another small step toward heightening my green awareness.

Loose-leaf tea leaves more leaves on trees (Day 69)…

May 8, 2007


Whenever I’m hungover — which is totally rare; the last time was probably yesterday a couple years ago — the only substance my stomach will accept is tea. Everyone has a different hangover routine, whether it’s a greasy breakfast, hair of the dog or just plenty of water. But the absolute only thing I can keep down is tea. It’s my ultimate, all-purpose elixir.

So when I realized that I might be hitting the bars this weekend but had finished all my boxes of Sleepytime, green pomegranate and good old-fashioned English Breakfast tea, I thought the most eco-friendly thing to do would be to abandon the plastic and paper packaging of the regular brands and invest in refillable packs of the loose-leaf variety, as well as buy a stainless steel infuser so I wouldn’t require disposable tea bags.

I also supported a new local business just around the corner from my building. Tealish, owned by a charming young couple with very white teeth who loved that I brought my own tote bag, has over 130 different types of premium and fair-trade loose-leaf, including green, black, white, Oolong, herbal and Rooibos, as well as shelves of gorgeous merch (it took all my frugal will power not to buy an $85 pot-and-cups set) and a menu offering iced tea, tea smoothies and Matcha tea lattes.

Of course, if I happen to be out at a café, I’m not going to demand that the wait staff serve me loose-leaf tea (although I will demand they serve it to me in a mug or thermos instead of a paper cup), but from now on, all the tea I brew at home will be unrefined, unconfined and ultimately give me peace of mind.

Not sticking with non-stick (Day 61)…

April 30, 2007

frying panAlmost everyone I know uses a non-stick frying pan in the kitchen. When it comes to stuff like omelettes and stir-fries, they seem to make the most sense. But they also make for an unintentional amuse-bouche of Teflon, which isn’t so yummy, unless you’ve cultivated a taste for carcinogens — and you know if pet budgies are dying from the perfluorinated fumes, it can’t be good.

What does this have to do with the environment and making green changes, you ask? Nothing much. I just take a sick pleasure in ruining people’s frittatas.

Kidding, of course. I’ve actually decided to put away my Teflon frying pan for good not because of how toxic it may be but because I’ve noticed it takes at least twice as long to heat up as my stainless steel one does. And, the more I’ve been using the latter, the more I’ve realized that it really doesn’t require more elbow grease to clean — occasionally a long soak is needed if I’ve burnt something (which, OK, is more than occasionally), but nothing gets stuck on forever. Plus it’s lighter and easier to handle than the non-stick pan, which I often need both hands to lift (and I work out!).

I think this change will be pretty easy to make, although I might want to look into poaching my eggs.

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

A Nalgenius solution (Day 6)…

March 6, 2007


Now, I know there’s been all this talk about certain polycarbonate plastic water bottles leaking estrogen-esque hormones and serving as breeding grounds for nasty bacteria, and yes, stainless steel and glass containers are probably better, but for whatever reason, I’ve always had a soft spot for Nalgene.

Maybe it’s because I fancy myself an outdoorsy type at heart, and have fond summer memories of whipping my hair into perfectly symmetrical braids, paddling a dilapidated canoe out on Big Hawk Lake and working on my Teva tan as I sipped from a classic 16 oz Loop Top. Or maybe it’s because when I was a lifeguard, my co-worker — who I had a bit of a girl-crush on — insisted that Nalgene was the be all and end all of water bottles (whatever that means).

Either way, in terms of being eco-friendly, it’s better to tote around one of these all day instead of buying those flimsy wee bottles of spring water at the local convenience store and then tossing them out. Not only does it save waste, it also lowers the demand for water that’s shipped via polluting air and truck all the way to Canada from the Alps.

Taste-wise, Toronto’s finest isn’t always so palatable, but I find that a Brita filter, or even just a stint in the refrigerator, does the trick. So from now on, I’m not buying any bottled water — I’m bottling my own. At restaurants, I’m asking for tap. And for those who want to follow suit but are already having nightmares about whacked-out hormonal rages and polycarbonate babies, try Nalgene’s HDPE bottle (or any stainless steel thermos).