Green on the inside

June 4, 2009


I often talk about the myriad ways we can green our lifestyles — drinking tap water from a reusable stainless steel bottle (although, I actually just switched from my aluminum Sigg to a Kleen Kanteen after learning that the company still won’t reveal what they line their bottles with, but that’s a whole other story), changing lightbulbs to CFLs (well, technically we should be moving towards LEDs because there have been some sketchy reports about the mercury and whatnot in CFLs and personally I hate the glare that fluorescent bulbs give off, so the only CFLs in my house are either outside or in a closet), or … wait… I forget what I was trying to say.

Oh yeah! My point is: It’s all very well to make these external changes, but it’s just as important to be green on the inside. We should be thinking about our actions, of course, but we also need to think about what we put into our bodies. If you want to follow this green-on-the-inside advice in the literal sense, I highly recommend Meghan’s green smoothie cleanse, which starts this weekend. This is NOT one of those sketchy juice fasts or lemonade-and-cayenne-pepper detoxes, and it doesn’t involve endless weeks upon endless weeks of cabbage soup. It’s actually pretty simple: You just make a series of smoothies for a few days that are loaded with healthy vegetables — no protein powders. You can download an incredibly thorough tutorial about why these smoothies are so beneficial to your skin, heart, immune system, etc., and Meghan will even be Twittering (or tweeting… whatever) support for everyone along the way.

But what I think is extra great about this particular cleanse — and this comes from someone who is pretty much anti-cleansing; in fact, anti-anything that screws with my routine or prevents me from drinking red wine — is that it’s garbage-free, which makes it green on entirely different level. All of the ingredients are whole foods like kale, spinach and parsley, which can be purchased in the produce aisle of your nearest grocery store or farmer’s market with no packaging whatsoever; and if you want to take the smoothie out with you to work or to a picnic, you can pour it into a reusable cup or bottle. Everything you don’t throw into the blender can go into the compost bin.

Even if you don’t sign up for this, it’s kind of fun to take at least one day a week and try to create no garbage whatsoever, especially when it comes to food. Some items are always difficult to purchase without reams of plastic attached (I’m thinking of berries, in particular, which come in those unrecyclable cases), but this is actually the perfect excuse to go out and get a blueberry bush for the garden. My boy and I got one a few days ago and named it Boris. I’ll keep you updated on its vital stats.

Speaking of packaging, I will say this: Sometimes it’s unavoidable, so don’t beat yourself up over the occasional indulgence — after all, even Meg and I will succumb to certain food or enviro vices at times. For instance, at a friend’s wedding recently, we both got a little peckish before dinner, and in unison reached into our purses and pulled out two food bars. Here’s the photographic documentation:


Admittedly, they were both raw, unprocessed, preservative-free, [insert a few other hippie-and-nutritionist-friendly terms here] food bars, so it wasn’t as though we were secretly noshing on Cheetos. But still, my aim is to be at least 90% on-target with all my green goals and values, so although I allow the occasional pre-packaged nonsense, I always try to make up for it with something like a garbage-free weekend.

With that, happy cleansing! Or just happy green-eating and garbage-minimizing in general! There’s no such thing as too much loose, organic kale, people… no such thing…

Barring the bars (Day 284)…

December 9, 2007

lara bar

I’ve never been a big fan of PowerBars, or really any food that comes in bar form. Clif bars are OK for long bike trips, as are certain flavours of Lära bars (banana cookie and cinnamon roll in particular), and for breakfast on the go, the Nature Valley granola bars are pretty decent.

But that’s just it — these bars encourage eating on the go, which isn’t good for anyone’s digestive system. Plus it means shoving something in your mouth while doing something else, and that’s no way to appreciate a meal. On top of this, there are all the preservatives required to keep these things on the shelf for months or even years at a time, as well as the unrecyclable foil packaging they come wrapped in (and the cardboard box that contains the whole bunch).

It’s not just the bars that are a problem, either — there are individually wrapped cookies, individually wrapped crackers, individually wrapped brownies, cake wedges, sandwiches, veggies and dip, patties and more, all of which can easily be made at home and transported, if necessary, in reusable containers. So from now on, I’m not going to buy anything that’s sold in a single-serving portion, unless it comes without packaging.

Image courtesy of this site

Thou broth protest too much (Day 275)…

November 30, 2007


Now that the days of summer — and its accompanying menu of grapefruit salads and light seafood for dinner — are a distant memory, I’m eating a lot more comfort food, usually in the form of mashed potatoes or soup, which feels especially cozy after riding my bike home from work at night.

Most often, when making something like, say, apple and butternut squash soup, I buy an organic vegetable broth to give it some extra flavour. But after suffering some Tetra Pak guilt, then reading the ingredients list, I began to wonder why I need this extra product.

Really, soup is pretty hard to screw up, unless of course you use rutabaga (a winter root vegetable that came in my CSA delivery recently and messed up an otherwise perfectly tasty meal).

Anyway, the first ingredient in this broth is water. I can get that from my tap for free. The second is carrots, which are usually already in the pot. The third ingredient is celery, but that’s also just water with a bit of roughage and sodium. And the rest of the list is garlic, onions, salt, and spices, all of which I have on-hand and can easily add myself.

So, from now on, I’m not buying flavoured water for soup. That will mean less packaging, less shipping, less to recycle, less weight to carry home and more locally grown food in my soup. So Meghan, are you up for another soup party, sans premade broth?

A green wish list (Day 272)…

November 27, 2007


I’ve already pledged to make at least one component of every gift I give eco-friendly in some way, but now I’m reversing things a bit and asking that others do the same for me. This is something that I would hope my close friends and family already do — I mean, if you haven’t figured out by now that I’d rather not get a plastic tub of Vaseline or a new microwave for Christmas, you clearly don’t know anything about me, which is fine, but then why are you giving me a present? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love presents — who doesn’t? — but come on…

OK, sorry, I’m losing track of things here. The point is: If anyone asks me what I’d like for Christmas, or my birthday, or Valentine’s Day (yeah right), my response will either be, “Nothing, thanks” (again: yeah right) or “Something green, please.” That something can be a donation to a favourite charity, a solar-powered gadget, some natural cosmetics with minimal packaging, a homemade batch of cookies — anything that says, “I thought of you… and Mother Nature.”

P.S. I’ve gotta thank my new assistant Eva for this idea — she’ll be sticking around until I’ve finished this challenge, helping keep me organized so I can respond to all the emails I get and start updating the other pages on this site, as well as post my interview with the Diva Cup ladies.

Image courtesy of these folks

The chopstick bun (Day 266)…

November 21, 2007

chopstick hair

My hair isn’t quite long enough to do this anymore, but I used to be able to: as the girl in the above photo demonstrates with a Hello Kitty chopstick, you basically twist the hair up into a regular bun and hold in place with any stick-like object — a chopstick, a pen, a straw or a twig.

Providing you use a found object instead of buying something new, it’s a very eco-friendly way of keeping stray hair out of the way. It means no butterfly or alligator clips, barrettes, elastic bands, bobby pins, headbands, snap clips, or god forbid, the dreaded scrunchy (which almost made a comeback a couple years ago — scary!).

All these things are made of plastic or metal and come packaged in even more plastic, paper, glue and so on. So as of today, I’m not buying any more hair-related doodads, and if I’m in desperate need of an elastic, I’ll just use the rubber band that comes on my newspaper every morning.

Photo courtesy of Kristen Rudd on Flickr

Green games (Day 242)…

October 28, 2007

free riceFellow green blogerette Marcie Kahler-Davis sent me an email today pointing me in the direction of this nifty site called Free Rice. For vocab nerds like me, it’s TOTALLY addictive — with every word definition you get right, 10 grains of rice are donated through the UN to help conquer world hunger (I got to a top score of 40, and gave over 1,000 grains of rice… if it weren’t for stupid “manse” I probably could’ve gotten 41).

It’s just one of the many games out there that serve a purpose beyond entertainment. But even if all you’re looking for is some distraction on a Sunday afternoon, the most eco-friendly way to go is a board game with minimal packaging (I love Scrabble, natch) and preferably no batteries required, rather than some high-tech, multi-component, energy-sucking thing like, say, Scene It.

So from now on, whenever I play a game, it’s gotta be green-friendly — or else I won’t be game at all.

Not clinging on to cling wrap (Day 218)…

October 4, 2007

cling wrap

Today’s change — to abandon cling wrap in favour of parchment paper, cheesecloth or other more natural materials — was suggested to me last night by my mother, which is ironic, because throughout my childhood she would always use cling wrap when packing my lunch for school.

At the time, I couldn’t care less about the environmental impact of this but would instead complain that she’d wrapped my sandwiches too tightly. And it was true — whatever foodstuffs were between the two slices of bread would inevitably have an aftertaste of plastic. On top of this, it was often the case that a juice box or yogurt container would smoosh up against the defenseless sandwich, so by the time I got around to peeling off the Saran wrap the substance underneath would be more like a peanut butter, banana and petroleum flavoured slurry.

Of course, I can’t complain, because if it were left up to me I’d probably have eaten Nutella and Wonderbread every day and subsequently be all twitchy and malnourished (so thanks, Mom — you’re the best!).

But getting back to the subject: To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure how much more eco-friendly parchment paper is compared to cling wrap, but I’m pretty sure it’s better by the fact that it’s paper-based rather than plastic, and surely it has to be better than aluminum foil, too. I’ve also got some unbleached, organic cotton cheesecloth, which should work just as well with some twine or an elastic band to keep it in place.

Photo of sandwich from a natural foods store, wrapped in unnatural packaging, courtesy of dvs on Flickr