My friend Meghan, a fashionista-turned-nutritionista, has been posting lots of How-To videos on her blog, Making Love in the Kitchen. Most of them I just like to watch, rather than actually attempt myself (I’m thinking specifically of the sauerkraut demo that requires 10 minutes of massaging cabbage and the chicken soup that involves raw bones and scum). But her most recent video, called Sprout, Sprout, Let It All Out, is very cool. You can watch it here:
There are three things about this video that I love:
The costume changes. On most cooking shows, if the host makes something that requires a few hours to sit or cool or whatever, she will have conveniently made a previous batch ahead of time to pull out of the fridge (and will usually say something like, “… I have one ready, here,” and suddenly presto! It’s done and there’s no actual waiting required. But Meghan has clearly produced this sprouting demo over the span of three or four days, and we get lots of variation in her wardrobe and hairstyles to prove it. Actually, I think there’s a direct correlation between the growth of her sprouts and the curliness of her hair.
The I’ve Been Re-Used sticker on her kitchen soap dispenser (which I designed, and which you can order online over here. Stick them on anything you refill at the bulk store and let the world know you’re not consuming more plastic).
The Sprouting! It actually does seem very easy and it’s probably the most nutritious, eco-friendly thing a Canadian girl can make in the comfort of her own home during this heinous winter.
Do you guys make your own sprouts, too? Any favourite beans or seeds?
OK, confession time: You see that little tagline up there, underneath the Green as a Thistle banner? That bit where it says I’m gonna try to be green without being smug about it?
Well, I have to say, the past few days I’ve been sitting here listening to the sound of car tires spinning (I’m back in the city, by the way, after some technical difficulties); and while a more earnest environmentalist might hear such a noise and think, “Oh no! All that pollution going up in the air for nothing! I better run out and give that poor driver a push!” (Earnest people speak with a lot of exclamation points, by the way), I’ve been quite content to sit inside, minding my own car-free business, shaking my head back and forth and tsktsktsk-ing that if only people would stop driving cars, we wouldn’t have this problem.
But this isn’t right. I’ve been stuck in that situation and I know how frustrating it is — not to mention the embarrassment that’s suffered as everyone walks by on the sidewalk, staring pitifully as you attempt to gas, brake, gas, brake, gas, brake, rocking back and forth to no avail as the exhaust pipe spews toxic fumes all around. It sucks. Period.
So now, instead of judging, I’m going to put my coat on, go out there and help push these poor folks out. If it’s a Hummer, I’m not gonna lie — there may be some purposeful hestitation. But most people on my street drive Volvos and Volkswagens, so it should be just fine.
For some reason, the City of Toronto decided to not plow residential streets this winter until it got ridiculous, which is driving a lot of homeowners crazy. I mean, it’s one thing having to be responsible for your own patch of sidewalk, but the road itself? Come, now.
Of course, add to this the fact that we’ve had more snow this year than in the past two years combined, with another huge dump expected tomorrow, and, well, you’ve got one messy city. All it takes is a walk to the end of the street and you’re covered up to the knees — maybe even your tushie if you fall as often as I do — in slush, salt and dirt.
Which is why, for my Simple Saturday change, I’m making sure no matter what pants I’m wearing, no matter how dorky it looks, that I tuck the bottoms into my boots. This also applies for when I’m riding my bike — pants, or at least my right pant leg, will get wedged into a sock or held together with a reflective band so the chain grease doesn’t get all over it.
This means I’ll have to wash my pantaloons less often, and will thus be conserving water and detergent.
OK folks, next up in the “You’ve Gotta Be Kidding Me” series is local eating. And I mean really local — not just restricted to North America, as I’ve previously pledged, and not just from within Canada; all my meals will be limited to what’s being grown in Ontario.
What does this mean? I’ll tell you what it means: Apples, rhubarb, onions, leeks, cabbage, carrots, cucumber, mushrooms, potatoes, sprouts, butternut squash and beets (apparently “without tops”, though I’m not quite sure what that means). Oh, and seeing as I’m a total mycophobe, there won’t actually be any mushrooms on my plate.
This is what Foodland Ontario says is in season during the month of February, so that’s pretty much what I’ll be buying (exceptions will have to be made for protein, as well as tea and coffee — sorry, but if I don’t have caffeine, I get destructively cranky). The online guide is actually pretty handy, and if you click on the menu items to the left of the screen, you can learn more about all the seasonal produce — there’s even a colouring book section, featuring what appears to be the Foodland Ontario mascot, named Aggie (short for… agriculture, maybe?).
Anyway, I’m going to do my best with this one, but I’m also pretty naive and forgetful when it comes to food, so if I end up eating someone’s homemade bread but it actually had some baking soda from… well, wherever baking soda is from… then I’m not going to lose sleep over it.
Still, I think I’ll have to find some innovative ways to prepare cabbage, and if anyone has any breakfast recipes for beets, feel free to pass those on!
Despite the fact that it’s winter in Canada, that on most days the weather falls below freezing and I get cold just walking the five steps from my apartment to the streetcar stop, I’m still trying to ride Deni as often as possible (my rule is that if the roads are dry and the wind isn’t howling, I’ll do it). This means, however, that extra care must go into ensuring my tires are inflated, my brakes are functioning and my chain is greased.
Back in the fall, I ran out of my wet and dry lube but hesitated buying more because it felt like such a direct supporting-the-oil-industry purchase.
But then my lovely assistant Eva came to the rescue, pointing me in the direction of this Treehugger post that talks about ChainJ, a biodegradable alternative made from 100% renewable resources, ie. rapeseed (canola) oil. Yes, it’s technically a monocrop, but it’s not soy or corn so I don’t feel that bad about it.
P.S. Happy New Year, greenies! May 2008 bring you lots of solar power, compost mulch and energy savings!
I have very fond childhood memories of my father waking me up on cold winter mornings, helping me into my snowpants and puffy jacket and driving me up to Mount St. Louis/Moonstone, two ski hills (and by “hills” I mean bumps, really) an hour and a half’s drive north of Toronto, in Barrie.
I remember that cold, damp rental area where we’d get fitted for boots, skis and poles, the collection of lift tickets I’d amass on my zipper and wear like a badge of honour to school, and the Snickers bar my dad would buy for me (he always got a Mars bar) for the drive back home.
But I also remember those days when we’d have to check to see if there was actual snow on the hills or man-made snow, those days when the traffic on the highway was unbearable, those days when there’d be endless lines to get on the chairlift.
These aspects of skiing are less than green, of course — making snow requires tons of energy, as does running a lift or even those dreaded T-bars, and the drive there and back emits even more carbon dioxide.
So from now on, I’ll be cross-country skiing and show-shoeing only, preferably as close to home as possible.
Photo of a desolate chairlift courtesy of dooda on Flickr
As beneficial as it may be health-wise to get outside, breathe some fresh air and appreciate the beauty of nature, sometimes it’s nice just spending the entire day indoors — you can stay in pajamas (or in my case, nothing), not bother showering or putting on makeup, eat whatever’s in the pantry, read whatever’s on the shelf and catch up on emails or phone calls.
My blogging pal Shawn, of the late Kowai (R.I.P.), told me some months ago that he makes a regular point of doing just this. He refers to it as a mental health day because it’s dedicated time for him to be still, relax and collect his thoughts before rushing into another week of stressful running around. And, of course, it’s green, in that less resources are used, there’s no transit involved and nothing new is purchased or consumed.
While I definitely think it’s important to keep up social obligations during the winter and not just sit around at home on the couch all day, I also believe it’s worthwhile having time to oneself, being sort of mentally minimalistic (please, let’s not refer to this as “me time”). So from now on, I’m going to make sure that every couple weeks, I have an inside day.
Photo above is of me, hiding out in a tent during an especially frigid camping trip in Algonquin Park.
Welcome to Green as a Thistle. My name is Vanessa, I'm a journalist at the National Post, based in Toronto.
When I saw the documentary An Inconven— no, just kidding. Now that organic is the new bl— OK, no, seriously now. In short, this blog began somewhere between guilt and earnestness, between dissing Stéphane Dion's dog (named Kyoto) and finding myself amongst a group of eco-hipsters drinking hemp beer at an anti-styrofoam party.
I decided to take on a bit of a challenge: Spend each day, for an entire calendar year, doing one thing that betters the environment. The idea was that everything I did, I kept doing (so if I switched brands, it was a permanent switch; if I turned down my thermostat, I kept it down), so that by day 365, I'd be living as green a lifestyle as it gets.
It was a gruelling year, but in the end, it proved that being an environmentalist doesn't necessarily mean being a smug hippie, nor does it have to mean compromising aesthetic values or good wine. You can read more about what I learned in my book, Sleeping Naked is Green, or just keep reading this here blog. Now, I'm mostly writing about whatever the heck pops into my head (isn't that a novel concept for a blog?).
Happy holidays, ye fellow bloggers and readers! I don’t even really know what “ye” means, but nevermind. I just wanted to pop up into your RSS feed/inbox/Google search/etc. for two reasons, which are completely unrelated other than a tenuous connection to Christmas. One is this: I decided to make some from-scratch holiday gifts this year, […]
Yep. Me again. Creeping into the blogosphere like I tend to do these days — about once every few months, with a totally random subject of conversation, which every blogger will tell you does NOT lead to a very consistent readership. Oh well. But I thought y’all might like to know that Miss Thistle is […]
Sometimes, this city drives me crazy — there aren’t enough bike lanes, the public transit system is a mess and we’ve even banned kite-flying in one of our parks! And yet, every now and then, Toronto gets it right. The most recent example is here below, for your viewing pleasure: