A greener form of poetry (Day 361)…

February 24, 2008

OK, this is where I’m at, folks. I’m grasping at straws, here. It’s Day 361 and desperate times call for desperate measures. Actually, to be honest, I’ve been pretty desperate for a while now — nearly every aspect of my life is being lived in the greenest way possible and it’s at the point where, if I break my leg, I don’t think “Oh my god, I broke my leg!”, I think, “Hmm, how I can green the breaking of my leg… an eco-friendly splint perhaps?”

It’s totally ridiculous, but when every product in my house, every activity, every purchase, everything I eat and drink, every move I make has been greened, well, thinking outside the box is the only option.

Which brings me to today’s post (which, yes, comes at 11:59 p.m.).

I have an English Lit degree but have never been a huge fan of poetry. I don’t mind some of the classics and if it’s not too pretentious or schmaltzy I’ll give it a whirl, but I’d never buy a whole book of the stuff. I’m horrible at writing verse; the last time I wrote anything in iambic pentameter was probably in my Writer’s Craft class in high school and I’m pretty sure I’ve burned it by now. However, there is one form of poetry that I am genuinely enjoying more and more these days: Haiku.

It forces the poet to speak his or her mind in 17 syllables — no more, no less — which is just enough space to say something, but too little space to drone on about a broken heart or a rose of dampened fire or whatever.

It’s also the most environmentally friendly form of poetry because it’s so short, thus conserving paper and ink.

Yeah yeah, I know, it’s a stretch. But come on, a little clever perhaps?

Anyway, from today on, whenever I’m crushing on a boy, I’m going to restrict myself to haikus instead of meandering, effusive verse.

Here, I’ll even write one for you readers now:


Being Green
By Vanessa Farquharson

My year is ending
but there’s so much more to come;
stay tuned, dear readers


Can I offset getting lost? (Day 337)…

January 31, 2008

road signs

Today, I move. It’s happening right now, folks, as you read. I’ve got a man who recycles bikes, a writer from Treehugger.com, a random greenie, my Dad and a few other people helping me out — should be interesting. But in just a couple days, I’m leaving my pretty house in the hands of my friend and sister, and heading up to a cottage for about a month to write a book.

The owners have given me directions, which is nice of them, but when directions are more than three sentences long, I’m already lost. If the piece of paper says, “Turn right after the lights,” I’ll think of a million different ways to interpret that: Does that mean right after? Like that little alleyway right after the intersection? Or turn right, comma, after the lights? Or maybe the lights refer to the lights of this crosswalk here, not the traffic lights way up ahead? Or…” well, you get what I mean.

Often, I’ll try to be good and look up the route on MapQuest or Google Maps in advance, but because I don’t have a printer, I end up sketching it on a piece of scrap paper. Then usually I look at it later and see I’ve just drawn the railroad tracks and a parkette instead of the north and south highways — or even just North and South.

Point being: I get lost. But getting lost not only sucks for me (or the poor soul in the passenger seat), but for the environment.

All that driving around in circles means a lot of carbon being emitted, and for no reason. So to make sure I keep my polluting ways to a minimum for this trip, I’m going to make sure I have a good map in front of me and extra-super-detailed directions (and no, I’m not going to buy a new map — I’ll just steal one from my parents).

Photo courtesy of Johnny Blood on Flickr

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).

E-vite? I like! Well, no I don’t, but it’ll do (Day 322)…

January 16, 2008

Stupid CFL

All right, confession time: As much as I [heart] being an earth-worshipping hippie, I can’t wait for March 1st. There are many, many things I’m going to keep up after completing this challenge, but for the first 24 hours after it’s finished, I’m planning on indulging in as many sins as possible: Public transit? Puh-lease — I’m renting a Hummer, driving to the corner store and back at least eight times, and refusing to carpool. Cook my own food? As if! It’s called delivery — and I want each and every one of my ethically corrupt California rolls to be individually packaged in Styrofoam.

OK, so that’s exaggerating somewhat. But I am hosting a big un-greening party (it’s doubling as a housewarming party), and that means sending out invitations. The irony, of course, is that I have to send these out while I’m still being green, which brings us to today’s post.

Now, back on Day 162, I promised to buy eco-friendly greeting cards, like the ones made from recycled paper with wildflower seeds embedded into them. That’s cute and all, but they are also expensive, and this is an UN-greening party, so it’s kind of inappropriate. In the end, I decided an electronic invite was the best way to go.

So recently, I created an event on good ol’ effbook, uploaded the above photo of me giving the finger to my stupid CFL bulbs (I freakin’ hate those things — and don’t even try to tell me about the kinds you can get with “soft” lighting because you clearly don’t know from lighting; fluorescent anything is inherently evil), entered in all the vitals and sent it off. Next up will be a straightforward e-vite for all the people who aren’t on my friend list, like my Mom (love ya, Mom, but you’re not allowed to read my wall).

In this day and age, everyone has an email address, or at the very least access to the Internet, so there’s no one I’ll be leaving out. And while I do think there’s something old-school and romantic about real, tangible invites to things, it’s not like this is my wedding day or anything — it’s just a house party (and although I can’t invite all you amazing readers, believe me, you’ll be there in spirit, reaming me out for the countless glasses of Veuve I’ll be downing).

The real estate of the union (Day 312)…

January 6, 2008

When it comes to choosing a real estate agent, a lot of factors must be considered: Do they understand what you’re looking for? Do you have chemistry? How long have they been in the business? But there’s another question that should be coming into play more these days: Do they work for an agency with a green initiative?

The real estate biz can definitely create a lot of waste: All that faxing, driving around the city, leaving the lights on for showings, the mountains of business cards that get left on the hall table, etc.

But in Toronto, one company has taken the lead when it comes to the environmental side of selling houses.

Bosley — which I just so happened to use when selling my condo and buying my house — has made a point of restructuring themselves in numerous ways. When my agent, Lisa, sent me an electronic greeting card this holiday season (so as not to waste paper), I noticed a little green logo at the bottom and asked her about it. Here’s what she said:

Bosley has formed a ‘green task force.’ The purpose of this is to recommend ways that we can be more environmentally responsible without costing the company more money, and to suggest ways that we can guide our clients to be environmentally responsible as well.

So far, there has been one meeting and it was very productive and yielded a number of good suggestions:

  • We will be conduct an environmental audit on all three of our buildings and enlarge and promote our recycling program
  • We will develop a checklist for green living to educate and encourage our clients and develop green gift baskets
  • We will price partial or even total use of recycled paper
  • We will encourage everyone to use the new green logo on everything they do — including their websites

I have always sent out as much electronically as possible — newsletters, just listed, open house invitations, etc. I only do actual mail-outs when advertising a listing where I need to target a specific geographical area. I’m also thinking of getting a Toyota Prius in the spring when the lease on my Honda is up.

Isn’t my agent great?

See, people always think of ways to green their homes, but what about their home-buying and selling? I’m glad I made the right choice, and from now on I’ll be sticking with Lisa and Bosley.

Transferring the blame (Day 309)…

January 3, 2008


All right, after the no plastic change, I figure it’s time to turn it down a notch and do something simple. Unfortunately, this one may strictly apply to someone living in Toronto, but hey, I can’t always be universal.

Here’s the sitch: Some years ago, the TTC decided to replace all the transfer machines in their subway stations — the new machines not only look fancier, they also produce fancier transfers that are printed on glossy coloured paper (see above, right) as opposed to plain old recycled paper (above, left). On the plus side, they only print out a transfer when you press the button — unlike the old ones, which are produced in bulk quantities — but they still seem to use more energy.

Either way, the TTC only implemented this in the train stations, not on buses and streetcars, so when I go to work (my route is streetcar-train-bus to get there, then bus-train-streetcar to get back), I get the old-school transfer in the morning, and on the return journey can choose to either get the old version on the bus or the slick new version at the York Mills subway stop (either will work when I board the Queen streetcar).

Often, I get the new transfer at the station simply because I forget to pick an old one up from the bus driver. However, as of today, I’m going to make sure I use the old transfers whenever possible.

I know, not much, but it’s 5:30 p.m. and I’m running low here. Also, if anyone thinks I’m wrong here and that the transfer-on-demand system outweighs the environmental cost of using recycled paper but printing in bulk, feel free to call me on it and I’ll do the reverse.

Bookmark this post (Day 296)…

December 21, 2007


I’m sorry, that photo is way too profane, especially during this season of love, tenderness and all that is G-rated. But man, did it ever make me chuckle. And it’s relevant, see, because today’s post is about bookmarks.

I’m currently halfway through The Know-It-All, one of the most hysterical and educational books I’ve ever read (yes, those two adjectives can sometimes appear together in the same sentence). It’s got so many fun facts I want to remember (like for example, did you know René Descartes had a fetish for women with crossed eyes?), so I’ve been folding down the corners of pages I intend to go back to once I’m finished.

The only problem is, it gets confusing when I’m also folding down the page I’m currently on, which may — or may not — have something in it that I want to remember later.

OK, admittedly, I just made it sound way more confusing than it actually is, but I do prefer having a real bookmark. There are so many nice varieties out there, too: demure paperclip-style ones, old-school leather ones, dorky Garfield ones and, my personal favourite, these knitted strawberry ones!

But in my quest to stop buying so much crap, I’m going to only use found bookmarks from now on, that is, pieces of scrap paper like subway transfers, concert ticket stubs and postcards. Still, I’d like to get as creative as possible, so if anyone has any crazy origami patterns they want to pass on or some ideas for crocheting leftover scarf yarn, please do share below!

Photo courtesy of two rabbits on Flickr