This one’s for Beth…

April 26, 2009
Sickatating plastic crap on the beach

Sickatating plastic crap on the beach

I just had a beautiful day on Toronto Island, biking around, eating good food, flying my new rainbow kite, playing frisbee, and generally being as wholesome as it gets — but when I took a walk on the beach, there was so much plastic junk everywhere, I couldn’t help but feel a bit depressed (if only Beth at Fake Plastic Fish could see this… actually, if she did, she might have some sort of petroleum-induced seizure, so perhaps it’s better that she didn’t). Anyway, I wanted to start cleaning it up, but there was so much, it really would require an entire afternoon’s worth of labour, not to mention a few garbage bags and a pair of rubber gloves. For a second, I thought maybe I should wait for the TD Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup to roll around, so I could at least tackle the job with some other volunteers, but apparently this doesn’t start until September.

Ugh. Do any of you find your beaches horribly cluttered with garbage? Or is it just Toronto? What do you do when you see all of this junk? Start picking it up, or hope someone else does? And what do you find is most often tossed on your shores? Because while the plastic cups weren’t that surprising, I was somewhat taken aback at the giant Listerine bottle. Maybe these things were thrown in the water by careless drunken morons on their powerboats and the lake just barfed them up here.

Either way, I think I need a return visit for the sole purpose of once again fixing other people’s mistakes.

Plastic and paper cleavage

February 22, 2009


There’s an ongoing debate, it seems, about whether Tetra Paks are recyclable. Although most municipal recycling depots insist they are (personally, I’m not sure how the plastic-coated cardboard gets separated from the inner foil lining, but I’ll suspend my disbelief for the time being), what I’m wondering is: What happens to all of those Tetra Paks that come with hard plastic screw-caps on top? Most juice boxes are made from a single material, but wine cartons have what look to be #5 polypropylene caps, presumably to keep them fresher and make pouring easier.

Now, because I’m kind of a recycling nerd, I take the time to find my pair of scissors and cut these things off before rinsing the empty carton and tossing it into the blue bin. I do the same with milk cartons that have this because, again, I don’t see how a paper-based material could ever be properly recycled with plastic attached to it. I even make sure to separate my #5 yogurt containers from their #6 (I think) lids, and harass my parents on a regular basis about detaching plastic handles from paper bags and shoelace drawstring handles from plastic bags (thank-you, GAP) before putting them in their proper disposal unit.

Recently, the city of Toronto began talking about ways to discourage people’s use of disposable coffee cups; apparently, while it is possible to recycle the paper cup, this can’t be done when the plastic lid is attached — this is a big problem at the sorting plant.

So is my anxiety over decapitating every single Tetra Pak of wine, every Ceres juice box, every milk carton and yogurt container justified? Should the government be forcing manufacturers to start offering products in single-material packages? Or do most things get recycled, regardless of whether they’re clean or dirty, separate or joined together? And is there anyone besides me who can be found stabbing juice boxes with a pair of scissors every Tuesday morning before the recycling trucks come?

People in recycled glass houses, um, still shouldn’t throw stones (Day 349)…

February 12, 2008

recycled glass

Glass is an interesting thing, especially for the eco-minded — those who are health-obsessed or who avoid plastic like the plague tend to love it because it’s reusable, recyclable and doesn’t leach any toxic chemicals.

But on the other hand, manufacturing glass is hardly easy on the environment; this site provides a fairly comprehensive overview of what’s involved in each production stage — as it points out, carbon dioxide emissions related to glass manufacturing in the UK and Ireland amounted to 4.2 million tonnes in 2005 (that’s not including the 3 million tonnes of electricity required). And recycling is limited to both the quantity and quality of glass available; and correct me if I’m wrong, but coloured glass presents more of a problem than clear glass.

Some glass manufacturing companies have taken steps to incorporate certain levels of recycled material into their final product, like Consumers Glass, for example (although their website is written in Comic Sans, which is never to be trusted, if you ask me).

Either way, in the end, I think it comes back to the first and most important step in the waste hierarchy: Reduce. So from now on, I’m going to try to avoid buying any new glass, or at least glass that isn’t recycled. As well, if I’m at the liquor store and deciding between a few different bottles of Ontario vino, I’m going to opt for the one that’s in a clear bottle and make sure I rinse it well before “Bagging it Back.”


P.S. Valentine’s Day is soon approaching, and while Yours Truly will of course be spending it alone with a bottle of local plonk and a generous portion of cynicism, those looking to green their lovey dovey ways might want to read this here Washington Post story (Green as a Thistle was consulted for it, which makes it extra cool).

Image courtesy of this nifty, but kinda pricey, shopping website

Resleeved, and less peeved (Day 318)…

January 12, 2008

resleeveI’ve been burning CDs recently and thought I might try to find a way to green this process. The most obvious thing that came to mind was doing what my friend Matt does: Uploading playlists to an ftp site and letting people download the mp3 files right onto their iTunes, with no disc, packaging or shipping required.

But unfortunately I don’t really know how to do that — and sometimes, in this digital age, I like to stick to the tangible realm.

With my no plastic pledge, however, jewel cases definitely aren’t an option (plus they tend to crack and break, and are kind of ugly).

So after much searching, I finally found the Sustainable Group, where they sell 100% recycled CD cases called Resleeves (I tried to find them at local eco stores but came up empty-handed, unfortunately). They’re about 50-50 post-consumer recycled fibers and post-industrial recycled fibers, with a round die-cut hole in the middle (open, no plastic screen).

And they’re unbleached, with a big recycled logo at the bottom so everyone knows I’ve made a conscious green decision. That, my friends, is your Simple Saturday change. I’ve got nothing else up my (re)sleeve.

Image courtesy of Sustainable Group

An organic cotton nut sack (Day 316)…

January 10, 2008

produce bags

All right, now that I’ve gotten all box-related issues out of my system, it’s time to get into bags. No, not tote bags — I already wrote about those ages ago. I’m talking about these reusable organic cotton produce sacks.

In my various pledges not to use any new plastic and to buy as much in bulk as possible, I’ve run into a problem: Transporting things like nuts, seeds, dried fruit, beans and so on requires a ridiculous amount of preparation if I’m going to avoid using the disposable plastic bags. I don’t have any of my own and I hate reusing the flimsy ones from the store because they get all dusty and gross. I’ve tried bringing my own containers too, but they’re so bulky and often require weighing beforehand.

I really, really needed a better alternative. My friend Meghan told me a while ago she was going to make her own cloth produce bags, but it wasn’t easy finding material that hadn’t already been bleached up the wazoo, so I’m not sure what she’s doing now (Meg? Comment?).

Either way, when I found these cute little sacks online, I decided it was worth the splurge. And I can even write the code numbers for the produce on the bags themselves so I can avoid having to use those fussy twist-ties.

So the real question is: Who double-dog-dares me to ask the next cashier I meet if he can hold my nut sack for a second?

Image from

A pox on your boxes! (Day 315)…

January 9, 2008

boring box

So, maybe it’s just me and my ridiculous sense of humour, but for whatever reason I find this store in Toronto called The Box Spot completely hysterical. I can’t help but laugh every time I walk by it. Part of it is the name — I mean, come on, The Box Spot? — but another part of it is the fact that there is an entire store devoted to boxes (two stores, in fact!). It reminds me of that episode of The Simpsons, too, when Bart’s class goes on the painfully underwhelming field trip to a box factory.

I also wonder if the box manufacturers ship their boxes inside other boxes, and whether The Box Spot might then reuse those shipping boxes as part of its merchandise? Anyway, as some of you might recall, I wrote in December (sometime around Boxing Day) about not buying any new storage containers, including but not exclusive to boxes. However, now I’m preparing to move from my condo into a house, and I think shipping and/or moving boxes count as a whole other category.

So today’s change, then, will be to only use leftover boxes from the liquor store or from friends and family who have just moved and still have some lying around (like my super assistant Eva). I’m also not going to be using any tape during the move, nor will I be purchasing special padding or bubble wrap. All supplies will be used and reusable.

Now unless I can think of some other excuse to say the word “box” again, without referencing the infamous Saturday Night Live skit (oops, too late), I think I’ll leave it at that.

Boring photo of a boring box courtesy of this website

Dishing out the suds (Day 310)…

January 4, 2008


OK, sorry, this might just be the crappiest image I’ve ever uploaded to Green as a Thistle, but I couldn’t find this product anywhere online and my camera battery died so I couldn’t take my own picture. Just wanted to get that apology out right off the bat because I like me some good aesthetics.

So here’s the deal — some of you readers with an elephant’s memory might look at this post and say, “WTF?! A soap dish? Didn’t that cheating wannabe environmentalist already write about a soap dish?” Well, actually, it was more like a soap holder, if you must know. That was when I was travelling a lot and had to get something to hold my bar of soap, so I bought a Radius recycled plastic carrying case.

However, two things have happened since then: 1) I lost it (sorry); and 2) I still need something to put my soap in for the bathroom, and would rather not have a container that needs opening and closing each time. So instead, I’ve got myself this cute little soap dishnot holder — that’s made from reclaimed chopsticks (actually, I got two, and gave one to my friend Jacob, who is very good about washing his hands before meals).

The coolest thing is, it’s collapsible, so if you want to take it with you on vacation, it folds up nice and neat in a snap. In fact, it could even be used as a makeshift comb, or an emergency falafel holder. Endless possibilities!