Lrng shrthnd 2 b eco-frndly (Day 329)…

January 23, 2008


Today I had to cover this press conference for the Charles Taylor Prize and at the last minute realized my digital tape recorder was out of batteries, which meant I was going to have to take notes — good notes. The problem is, I don’t take good notes. I either scrawl everything so illegibly that I can’t read it afterwards, or I choose to write down the least important words, like “books good lots never make try,” which is hardly helpful.

Now while I’ve already greened my reporting in one way, namely taking smaller notes and using both sides of the page, I’m now determined to take it to the next level: I’m going to learn shorthand.

This will mean I’ll use even less paper, and I might not even need a tape recorder if I get fast enough at it, which means using fewer batteries.

I found this site, The Basics of Pitman Shorthand, which explains a lot. Pitman is basically the original shorthand, from what I can tell, and is purely geometric; but there’s also Gregg, which is American (why must Americans always have their own special versions of things?), and Teeline — these are both script-geometric. Not sure which one’s best.

I’m hoping it won’t take too long to pick up, although those diphthongs could be tricky (OK, really, I was just looking for an excuse to say diphthong…. Haha, diphthong).

An elemental change (Day 321)…

January 15, 2008

stove element

Unngggghh. Today is not a good day, fellow Thistlers. Last night, I ended up cooking a rather late dinner of quinoa and steamed collard greens (local, organic … do I even need to point this out?) with olive oil and toasted pumpkin seeds, followed by some stress for dessert, after which I promptly hit the sack. Now, because I’m susceptible to tummy cramps — specifically, tummy cramps that feel as though some demented clown has made a balloon animal out of my intestines — I thought to myself, “Hmm, I just consumed a lot of roughage, got stressed and am now in a horizontal position; perhaps this is not the wisest decision.” So before falling asleep, I took some time to massage my tum, helping things move along.

Yeah, well, come 3:30 a.m., I get woken up by excruciating pain in my mid-section. It feels like a collard green alien is going to burst out of my stomach and start attacking my face. I have no idea if the massage made it worse or just made it come on sooner, but either way, I was up for the next four hours, pacing back and forth, alternating between a hot water bottle and moans of desperation, between sips of chamomile tea and dry heaving. It was lovely, to say the least.

I’m feeling more or less all right now — the bagel with cheddar cheese I just ate is making a much better impression on my bowels than the quinoa and greens (sorry, Meg, I know how you loathe gluten and dairy, but maybe my British genes are just wired this way).

What the eff does this have to do with today’s change, you ask? Well, nothing really, but here’s a bit of a tie-in: While I was cooking dinner last night on my stove, I had to use two elements. Automatically I put the frying pan and pot on the two front burners — the right one is small, the left one is bigger — but then I realized it would save more energy to use the second small burner at the back of the stove instead. Yes, it would require a bit more reaching, but the pan would surely get just as hot as it would on the larger element, and according to Green is Sexy, this could save up to 40% of the energy required.

I’m also going to make sure I keep the surface of the stove clean (it’s glass-top), so there won’t be any crusty collard remnants getting in between the heat source and the bottom of the pan.

Photo courtesy of this guy on Flickr

Wax on, wax still on (Day 264)…

November 19, 2007


It’s common knowledge that fruits and vegetables should be washed before eaten. However, most produce is covered in pesticide strong enough withstand a few rainstorms, so running a bit of tap water over that apple probably isn’t going to make it any less toxic.

There are some natural fruit and vegetable washes out there, which do remove a lot of that stuff, but really, the whole idea of having to buy yet another product, not to mention giving every ingredient in my salad a sponge bath before eating it just seems ridiculous.

Green is Sexy wrote a post a little while ago arguing it was better to at least soak things in a bowl rather than run water over every individual apple or carrot stick. But I’m thinking even this probably won’t do much.

So instead, if something has a disturbingly waxy coating, I’m just going to rub it off a bit on my sleeve and leave it at that. If it’s actually dirty, I’ll give it a quick rinse, but anything that I’m cooking will probably be fine after reaching a certain heat. And finally, because I’m buying organic food as often as possible, there shouldn’t be too many toxins lurking on all those skins and peels to begin with. Today’s green change, then, is to forgo all that rinsing and washing, and just embrace the waxiness of my apples or the bits of soil stuck on my potatoes.

Image courtesy of this website

A flower on my gas pedal (Day 262)…

November 17, 2007

Of all the changes I’ve made so far, the one I have the least regrets about is selling my car. However, there are always occasions when four wheels are essential — like when I need to pick someone up from the airport or transport something huge and bulky back to my apartment — so in these cases, I most often rent a Zipcar.

Unfortunately, like most people, I have a few bad driving habits. I’ll try to dodge traffic by shooting up side streets and back alleys; I’ll pull out and around someone turning left instead of just waiting for them to go; I’ll fiddle with the radio and drink my coffee while consulting a map and trying to steer all at once; I’m not above giving someone the finger if they piss me off; and I almost always end up going over the speed limit.

OK, so that’s more than a few. Anyway, I’ve resolved to change my ways in the name of green whenever I rent a Zipcar because the last thing I need is to get into an accident and have them give me the boot. Also, especially when it comes to the speed, I’m going to make sure I stay light on the gas pedal and accelerate slowly, then coast towards a traffic light if I see that it’s red — this will use less fuel, which translates into cleaner air.

If you haven’t already seen this cute video, There’s a Flower in My Pedal, check it out here. It’s a very soothing stop-motion kind of work by a local filmmaker, and I think it nicely encapsulates my new approach to driving. From now on, at least metaphorically speaking, there’ll be a flower on my gas pedal, reminding me to take it easy and stop to smell the roses.

In the Navy (Day 229)…

October 15, 2007

bucket shower

OK, I promised in my monthly recap that I was going to make some bigger green changes this month, so here’s the first one: navy showers.

As the Wikipedia entry explains, navy showers involve turning on the water, getting wet, turning off the water, lathering up, turning the water back on, rinsing off, and finally turning the water back off.

It means that while you’re standing there fussing with shampoo bottles and getting all sudsy, there isn’t any excess water going down the drain. By the time you’ve finished, the H2O should’ve only been running for about two minutes.

This idea originated on naval ships, where, ironically, supplies of fresh water were often scarce — now, many modern hippies have taken it up for both environmental and economic reasons. Whereas a 10-minute shower uses as much as 230 litres of water, a properly done navy shower usually only requires just over 10 litres, which means that over the course of a year, a single person can save up to 56,000 litres of this precious resource.

Which is great and all, but come February, standing in the shower all damp and soapy, in complete darkness, with only a couple blasts of lukewarm water to keep me going will SUCK.

Photo of a crewman taking a bucket shower in 1917 courtesy of this website