Sunday, December 13, 2009

Been a long time

I am still here, and still alive, as I have received some comments from readers wondering where I am and how I am doing. My life is going well, and it is vastly different than it was when I left you back in September. Trust that I will update when the time is right.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I need some space

This, and other things, is what he said to me as he dumped me. This time it's for good.

I'm taking a break from writing until I feel like communicating with the world again. As Greta Garbo said "I want to be alone." I cannot focus on daily changes when I am in so much pain.

I won't forget about you all, and I will be back.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Day 67 and 68 Green Sports and Making Do

I'm fascinated with roller derby. Maybe it's the fierce beauty of these women, maybe it's the punk aesthetic, or maybe its because it is everything that I am not, but wonder if I could be. In any case, yesterday I went to my first bout. It was raucous, friendly, violent (a girl broke her jaw), and it was surprisingly green.

It was held in an old air hanger that had skylights, so aside from the electricity that was used to run the sound system, there was no power used. No overhead lighting, no electronic scoreboard (they use white boards and dry erase markers), and they skate on a flat, concrete oval that has been made on the floor using a taped down rubber hose to indicate borders. Yes, bottled water abounded, but many participants were sporting their own water bottles, and some brought their own sliced fruits and vegetables from home to snack on at intermission. The spectators sat on metal bleachers, or on personal lawn chairs, and the skaters (and some of the referees) make their own outfits, cobbled together with various articles of clothing and accessories. Fascinating!

Time will tell if I have the guts to get into this. They have a training program, aptly titled 'fresh meat' that starts in November.

One of my latest issues has been that, while I love riding my bicycle, I don't own a messenger-style bag that I can wear across my body to store things like my wallet and phone in while I ride. A shoulder purse does not work, so I end up wearing my huge backpack when really all I have to carry are a few things.

So, instead of going out, spending money and buying a bag (how I dearly love shopping when I need something), I made a bag, out of fabric and supplies that I already owned. I didn't even buy new fabric (which is SO HARD). I made do.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Day 66 Healthy Food Choices when Eating Out

Tonight I am going out to dinner at Fresh, a vegetarian/vegan restaurant with several locations here in Toronto. I've never been, but Vanessa went there often in her book, and I'm always up for a new restaurant.

It used to be that I could stick to a healthy eating plan when eating at home, and then when I went out, all of my good work would go out the window and sometimes I'd gain as much as 3lbs at one dinner (spaghetti). Not any more. From now on, my dining out choices will be healthy. Not necessarily vegetarian or vegan, but I will order the healthiest thing on the menu, and question the waiter thoroughly as to how it was prepared. Going out to eat shouldn't be a free for all, and heavens knows that in most cases, I can cook better food at home than what they are serving at the places I end up eating. Quality over quantity.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Day 65 Inspire others to Consider the Planet

A friend of mine is in a military band. Recently, this band, along with a few other military bands, (some from out of town) got together and performed a massed concert at an outdoor soccer stadium. A few days before the concert, the weather was sunny and hot, and cases of bottled water were brought in to make sure that everyone stayed hydrated.

At the end of the rehearsal one night, it was noticed that a few cases of water were missing. It was discovered that the out of town bands had taken some of the cases back to their hotel rooms, to avoid paying for bottled hotel water.

This was unacceptable, as this water was supposed to be for everyone. At a follow-up meeting, suggestions were asked for as how to avoid this issue at next year's concert. My friend spoke up and suggested that instead of bottled water, the military should use large water tanks with spouts, and encourage the musicians to bring their own thermoses to fill from the tank. This would save money, as the military already owned said tanks, and there would be no waste.

I'm SO proud!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Day 64 No more giftcards unless they are homemade

I'm the sort of person who gives a lot of thought to upcoming birthdays, anniversaries and reasons to celebrate. I never forget these events, and I always make sure to get my Hallmark greeting in the mail on time to reach the recipient before the event.

Have you LOOKED at the price of greeting cards lately? Holy crap! $6! For a piece of paper with a picture and a lame verse, sold with an over sized envelope that requires additional postage! People, and I'm not naming names here (*cough my parents cough*) haven't embraced the notion of e-greetings. They miss the tradition of receiving something in the mail that they can display on the piano. A piece of paper they have to print themselves from their email just doesn't cut it. Not to mention that my mother has saved every card she's ever received, since before she and my father got married, 36 years ago.

Well hell, from now on, I'm making my own greeting cards. I'm artistic, I'm creative and I'm poetic. On occasions, I can even be funny. Take that, Shoebox Greetings.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Day 63 Pare down what you own

Who really needs one facial cleanser for the bathroom counter, another for in the shower, a third that only takes care of eye makeup, and a fourth one for the travel bag? How did I get so wasteful?

Actually, it was easy. It's easy to lose track of all the things you buy, and even easier (for me, at least) to replace things that get used up without even considering doing without. If I'm out of cleanser for the sink, I add it to the grocery list and pick more up the next time I am in the store. Never mind that there is a perfectly good cleanser sitting 5 feet away in the shower that I can use. And one under the sink.

Nope, I don't need all these things anymore. Consolidate, recycle, and reduce.

My vegan challenge is going well. I don't even miss meat. I don't even think about it. All I'm thinking about is wow, this food is tasty, and I've never cooked this before, so let's dig in. These delicious recipes make so much food that I'm stretching my 5 days to 10, and maybe even 15, because frankly I can't stand wasting food, and I'm the only one eating this stuff. I did step on the scale this morning and had a moment of sheer horror at seeing a number I hadn't even imagined. Time to focus and get serious about this losing weight/getting in shape/police officer thing.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Day 62 Watering Plants at Night

Another easy change. Water should go to the roots, not evaporation. Hence, I may get to water less.

I have quite a few plants around my place. Two African violets, an English ivy, a couple of tropical looking things that I picked up at Ikea, a philodendron, an azalea, a majesty palm, my herb garden and giant pot of rosemary, and then there's my gardenia tree.

This tree has given me more trouble and stress than any plant I have ever owned. It is a difficult specimen, preferring acidic soil, just the right amount of water and light, and perfect temperatures. The reward for all of this? Gorgeous, utterly fragrant pure white blooms against dark green glossy foliage. I love this tree beyond reason. Which is why I am super stressed right now that the leaves are turning yellow (no, no drainage problem) and while it is covered in buds, the buds bloom slightly, turn yellow, and die.

Time for some research. I will not lose this plant.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Day 61 13.2k and 29 pounds of vegan goodness

What have I done today? Not much. It took two hours to complete the above mentioned distance by bicycle, with the trip home encumbered by the above mentioned weight on my back. I have to keep telling myself that I am proud of myself, this is a good thing, and I combined getting food with getting a workout, and I didn't hurt the planet in the process. I also need to remind myself of the beauty of slowing down. All of this sounds great, until I look at my to-do list and feel my blood pressure spike again.

Tomorrow begins the 5 Day Vegan Challenge, followed up with a Green Smoothie cleanse. Oh crap, I need to get a blender.

I'd also like to state that no, I am not hauling a bike up 14 flights of stairs. When I am going out or coming home with my bike, I take the elevator. That's my reward for getting off my butt.

I think today's important change is to remember to breathe, take time to enjoy the process and changes that I am going through, and while I can't see the results yet, I know they are there because I can take pride in the aching muscles and the kitchen covered in vegetables. I know that I am doing good things for my body, and I am a lot happier when I've had a workout than when I've sat at my desk all day.

Less is more.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Day 60 "There's a cauliflower on your back"

First, I must state that today's green change is to switch to biodegradable garbage bags. These bags are made by Munger Nature company, based in Quebec (yay for made in Canada products!). They will biodegrade in about 12 months, based on exposure conditions. Good stuff, and an easy change.

Now, for the hard stuff.

You know that pretty new bicycle I got a few days ago? Today's bright idea was to ride it to the grocery store, to purchase food for Meghan's 5 Day Vegan Challenge, which starts on Tuesday. Getting to the store was a piece of cake. I live about 1 kilometer away from Loblaws, I live on the same street, and the street is relatively flat. I brought my backpack, as the wire baskets I have ordered to mount on my bike's back rack haven't arrived yet. I also brought the cloth drawstring bags that I use when buying produce and bulk items, so that no more plastic bags come into my house. I knew I wouldn't be able to buy all the food needed for 5 days of vegan goodness, but I figured I could at least buy the foods necessary for the first day, along with the muffin tin I'd need to make the apple cinnamon muffins. Easy, right?


Getting everything I needed wasn't hard. If Loblaws sells sorghum and guar gum, I couldn't find it, and neither could anyone I asked for help. The hard part came when I tried to fit all of my purchases into my backpack after paying for them. And it didn't happen.

You know, if I had my Harley, instead of my bike, this would have been no problem. But I have to say, owning a motorcycle and taking long trips on it has not only taught me how to pack light and pack well, but how to tie things down in a pinch.

I give you exhibit A. This is how I got my apples, walnuts and kale home. Those drawstrings really came in handy. PS - I installed that back rack yesterday all my myself, and I am mighty proud of that.

Here is my backpack. Yes, that is a cauliflower. A fellow biker passed me on my way home and told me I had a cauliflower on my back. As if I didn't know. Stuffed to the gills and exceedingly hard on the body, this bag weighs in at 34 lbs.

Here is a side view of the backpack. It stuck out exceedingly far from my back, but I had to keep it up and not let it rest, lest I squish the apples and kale. Yup, that's a jar of apple sauce on the side.

I'm home now (obviously) and ready for a cool shower. I can't wait until my wire baskets come. I'm going to use a non-vinyl material (think Ikea shower curtain) to make drawstring liners for the wire baskets. That way, I can put my purchases in the liners and pull them closed to protect them from the weather. And oh, they will look super cute and match the bike, because I'm a dork like that.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Day 59 Spend time each day learning about environmental options

This one is pretty self explanatory. I went to the Toronto Environmental Day and dutifully recycled my shiz-nit, and along the way learned a lot. Such as halogen light bulbs qualify has hazardous.

I know this is a lame post. I'm feeling pretty lame today.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Day 57 and 58 Human power and traveling with purpose

Yesterday, I bit the bullet and bought a bicycle. Yes, this is the one. It's a Trek hybrid, and I bought it because it is comfortable and pretty. Not only does it match the Harley, but it matches the living room, which is where it currently sits. I know nothing about bicycles, but people tell me I got a good one. Yippee. I feel as though I have adopted an expensive pet and have no idea how to care for it. It's so pretty and clean...I'm terrified of it getting banged up or stolen (yes, I bought a lock). It really was an impulsive purchase. I went to the store, planning only to look, and then fell in love with this one, which happened to be the only one left, in a very small frame, and it was on sale. *sigh* Forgive me Crunchy, for I have spent.

I haven't ridden the bike yet, because I've forced myself to clean the house and do other productive and necessary tasks (such as job hunting) before tooling around on the new toy. Yes, job hunting. I'm currently looking for work in the security field, as that would look good on my resume when/if it comes time for the police to look at it.

Patricia is ecstatic that I own a bike. An avid biker, she easily bikes 30k a day and thinks nothing of it. Now she says I can eat whatever I like, because peddling around will burn it off. Yeah.

Now that I am traveling about under my own power, there will be no more joy-riding - car, motorcycle, or otherwise. I cannot justify a motorized vehicle if have a bicycle, and since I have to get my heart rate up it is. Although, if laziness takes over, this is a way to become a shut-in.

I gotta say, some of these green changes are really hard to remember. Like using goodsearch. Typing is almost instinctive. And goodsearch is slow and lacking in the thoroughness we have come to expect from the mighty google.

And these stairs! They are killing me! Crap, I made it half way and then it was a stagger the rest of the way. I know, journey of a thousand miles and all that stuff, but this penguin lacks patience.

I'm going to have to carefully analyze how much paper I produce, and how much paper is coming into the house, because with my use every inch of paper rule, I have a pile of scrap paper. Huge, I tell you. And curse you, LL Bean, for making it worse with your thick catalog.

I am pleased to report, however, that tomorrow is Toronto's first environmental day of the fall, and I will be attending and recycling my scant amount of polystyrene, my wine corks and one halogen light bulb.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

6 Changes in One Post!

Brace yourself, this is going to be a long one.

Let me start by saying that no, I have not died, nor have I given up. What with not posting in 6 days, I bet that's what some of you were thinking. Nope. I'm still here. But these past 6 days have been rough, I have not been keeping up with the changes I've made, nor have I been making new ones. Shame on me! I've just...I don't know. You know? Sometimes I just don't know anymore.

Before I get on to the changes that I'm making, let me tell you about some of the revelations I've had as of late. This weekend was a big one in Toronto. End of summer, last weekend of the Canadian National Exhibition, concerts, air show, etc. People, noise and trash everywhere. Good thing the garbage strike ended a while ago. First, the concert. Patricia and I went to see Kid Rock Friday night. No, I am not a fan. I went because I'm a good friend. It was a typical rock concert, with both assigned seating and lawn seating. We were on the lawn. I won't go into too many details, but safe to say, while other people were rocking out and splashing their beer on me (drunk people are so messy!) I was pondering the carbon footprint left by Mr. Kid Rock and his entourage. Imagine all the fossil fuels used to get him, his people and all their gear to town. Imagine thousands of plastic cups left all over the venue from people littering. These sorts of events don't let you bring your own bottle in (and I can see why), but then if you are thirsty, you are expected to pay $4 for bottled water, and $9 for a cup of beer. And all that creates more trash. I don't even want to think about the noise pollution and the effect on local wildlife. And don't get me started on the number of cigarette butts strewn literally everywhere. I came home sober, wet, stinking and thinking of the planet.

Saturday night, I went to see the new Cirque du Soleil show that arrived in town this past week. Very good show. Really. But hundreds of cars idling, waiting enter or leave the parking lot? More fossil fuels burned getting all the performers, props, staging equipment and the huge tent to town in trailers? I'm torn on this. I'm a huge fan of the arts, and I think arts education is crucial for people of all ages. Experiencing the arts live is a wonderful and sometimes life changing experience. But at such a huge cost to the planet? Is sitting at home seeing the arts on TV as good as seeing it live? Is a photo of the Mona Lisa as good as or better than flying to Paris to see the real deal?

On Thursday of last week, the sky above Toronto was thunderous with the roar of fighter jets practicing for the three day air show this past weekend. I live right across the street from the Toronto City Centre Airport, so you can bet it was super noisy. Supersonic jets literally right outside my window, so close the glass was rattling. For three days, hundreds of planes soared overhead in a 4 hour long show. Vehicle traffic to and from this event made leaving home (unless you were on foot) impossible. Maybe I'm a kill-joy, but I just don't see the thrill. Let's pollute just for fun! Let's burn tremendous amounts of jet fuel and create so much noise that the local birds fly in confused circles! How can we justify things like this??

Monday was the kicker though. Patricia and I went to the CNE and visited the animal building. Here, city kids, who might never see live farm animals, can see the real things up close and personal. But these animals were not happy. A baby Holstein separated from it's mother, licking at the bars of its enclosure with anxiety. An ostrich pacing back and forth. A sow, who had given birth at the CNE only a week before, forced to stand with no room to move or turn, lest she accidentally crush her new piglets. All under a sign promoting "Farm to Fork - Canadian Pork" These animals were sweet, gentle, utterly cute and all of them were on their way to the slaughterhouse, conveniently located nearby. No one seemed bothered by these things, save for me. Am I sick in the head? God, I might cry just re-reading what I just wrote.

My solution, at least in the short term - I'm going vegan. I've signed up for Meghan Telpner's 5 Day Vegan Challenge (and the Green Smoothie Cleanse). I need to feel good about what I am putting in my body, and Lord knows I need to lose weight. I'm not nervous - vegan food is delicious. I don't even think I'll miss the meat (I don't eat much meat now as it is). I'm just looking for a healthy, balanced food plan that will help me lose weight (or at least kick-start the process). The less there is of me to haul around, the easier my next challenge is going to be.

And what is that you might ask? I mentioned last week that I had something big in the works, and oh boy, this is a doozie. If I can pull this off (and from what I have learned, it's going to be a big IF), this will be the hardest thing I have ever done. Mastering the 800lb Harley will be no sweat compared to this.

I've decided to become a police officer.

This process, which could take years if ever, will get me in shape, trim me down, and really show me what I am made of. What I'm looking for though is a career where I can make a difference in the lives of others. Not just a job, prone to layoffs and seasonality, but a career. Even if I do pass the physical fitness test, I have to pass a host of written tests, assessments, and go through a very thorough application and interview process. And then there's the schooling.

My biggest issue is this: When I was growing up, my parents taught me that the police are your friends, and they are there to keep you safe and as long as you follow the laws, you have no reason to fear them. And this is what I still believe today. But I think I'm the only one. No one is happy when the police show up. Firemen - great! EMTs - Fabulous! But the police? Oh, no one likes them. And they do good work. Hard work. I can bet that not one of them likes spending New Years Eve directing traffic in the rain so that people can get home safely and in good time. And do people ever say "thank you"? I doubt it. No wonder I rarely see cops smiling.

So there you have it.

On to the changes I'm making. And keep in mind that these changes are not only good for the planet, but also good for my body. In no particular order here they are:

Use Cloths for Household Cleaning
No More Elevators
No More Delivery Food
Natural Cleaning Products
Question Environmental Practices
Use Every Inch of Paper Before Recycling

The Paper - I've already started this one, and goodness me, I have an awful lot of scrap paper to use up before it can hit the bin.

Question Enviro - I've already done this twice - Once at Jack Astor's, where I am dismayed to learn that the brown paper table covering that is "part of their culture" is not recyclable due to crayon wax (they allow for diner doodling) and that Starbucks cannot recycle their yogurt containers or their paper bags used for cookies. What the hell.

Natural Cleansers - Got me some white vinegar and a box of baking soda. Going to have at it probably tomorrow.

Food Delivery - This stopped when I banned polystyrene, but I kept ordering pizza because the cardboard is recyclable. But seriously, now that I'm going vegan, training for a big scary fitness test and eating healthy, food delivery is just not going to happen regardless of what it is. I will be cooking or going out to acceptable restaurants.

Cloths for Cleaning - Easy. Already started. Loving the results.

Elevators - Oh Lord, please give strength to my fat little penguin legs. Even thinking about this makes me want to cry. But hey, a few rounds of this and I'll be fitting into my motorcycle chaps again in no time.

In other news, I may be buying a bicycle soon. Haven't ridden one of those since I was like 10. Found one yesterday that matched my Harley. Too bad it had no gears and no brakes. Um, no way. The search continues.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Day 50 Getting the Heart Rate Up

My good friend Patricia, who is amazingly fit, argues that a body should get their heart rate up at least once a day. *groan*

To that end, I am going dog-walking with her today. I won't tell you who's dogs we are walking, but I will say that the owners are wealthy, famous, controversial, and one of them is enjoying a rather restricted lifestyle at the moment.

I've never been athletic. I took swimming lessons as a child because I was made to, and hey, swimming is fun. I was never great at it though. I took gymnastic lessons for perhaps a year or two when I was in lower elementary school, but I suspect that it was because my cousins were doing it, and they loved it, so certainly i would love it as well. Um, no. I played soccer for 4 or 5 summers on a town league in grade school, but again, I suspect that it was because the girl I played piano duets with was also on the team.

I begged my parents for ballet lessons. They told me I was too fat, and that piano was a more practical way of entertaining people.

I don't like to sweat. I don't like how my face becomes red and stays that way for long periods of time. And frankly, I am not coordinated. I don't dance well, and mastering something as complex as the motorcycle took me ages and was not without it's bruises and crashes.

But dogs, well, I like dogs. And walking isn't so bad, is it? I'm thinking of volunteering to be a dog walker for the humane society. Although, it will be a struggle not to bring home my furry charges. I have such a weakness for dogs and cats.

So here we go. Dog walking with Patricia today, something else tomorrow, and if all else fails, I'll start taking the stairs in my condo. 14 flights. Oh Lord.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Day 49 Dental Hygiene

Don't let the title of this post gross you out. I actually have good dental hygiene - I never miss my 6 month check up, and I have no cavities. None. I had one when I was 6, but that baby tooth is long gone. My dentists have speculated that there is something special in my body chemistry or in the ph of my saliva that keeps things from growing in my mouth.

But yes, I could brush before bed. I always brush in the morning, but really, I could be doing better about brushing before bed. And I'll have to do it for my own health and well-being, seeing how I no longer share a bed with someone who would appreciate a minty fresh good night kiss.

Flossing. I don't know about y'all, but my parents never taught me how to floss. My dentist did. And along with the new toothbrush at every visit, I would also receive a little container of dental floss. Which would get placed in the basket under the sink as soon as I got home. Every time I cleaned the bathroom, I'd say, "Geez, I sure do have a lot of dental floss. I really should use that stuff up." So now I am. Yes, it's tedious and sometimes my gums bleed, but I do think I'm getting better at it as time goes on. We'll see if my dentist notices a difference when I go in for my next cleaning.

In other news, I have given up on Dr. Mist and Tom. Today, I'm using baking soda on ye olde pits and we'll see how that goes.

I must get some hankies made. All this crying has done a number on the toilet paper supply.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Day 48 Healthy Eating

This one is going to be a tough one to keep going, but as long as I plan ahead what I am going to eat, only eat when I am hungry, and remember that, like anything, one day at a time is the way to go.

It's good that I'm starting this on the first day of the month. In Meghan's book, she talks about how her life seems to flow in 12 week cycles. 12 weeks from today is November 24. During this time period, I'm not even going to get on the scale. I'm just going to go by what my clothes feel like. My first goal is to fit back into my motorcycle chaps. I'll need the added warmth once the cold weather really hits Toronto, and cleaning the dead bugs off my jeans has been annoying.

I'm not going to go into any detail about what I am doing, but know that I am staying hydrated, taking a multi vitamin and getting plenty of rest.

I also have another life change on the go, which may or may not happen. It's pretty huge, so I'm not going to say anything until I'm sure it's a go. But let's just say that losing weight and getting in shape will help make this goal easier to achieve.

Sorry for being so cryptic, dear readers, but the events of the past couple of days have made me more inward dwelling and protective of my dreams. The good news is that I am still living with my ex (but for how much longer I do not know), we seem to have an amicable relationship, and he is starting this healthy eating plan with me. I will offer him all the love and support I can with this, and perhaps this challenge, along with the other life changes I have in the works, will bring us closer and help me to become a better partner for him.

As a result of traumatic issues, I must confess some green slip-ups. I did forget to bring my own produce bags to the grocery store this past Sunday. As I haven't gotten around to making handkerchiefs yet (I swear I'll do it today) I've been using toilet paper. I've been using google instead of goodsearch, because frankly, google is faster. I should be more patient. I've been lax about consistently shutting down my computer at night. My ex bought a can of aerosol insect killer on Sunday to deal with our fruit fly infestation. I should refrain from drinking coffee if I don't have my thermos on me. Last night, I had take out in polystyrene containers (which I have cleaned, saved and will recycle). And lastly, the AC has been turning on and off over the past two weeks, but I think it might be off for good (since fall seems to have arrived here in Toronto).

Ok, this was a whole lotta green slip-ups. More than I thought. Shit.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Day 47 Adopting the 5 Minute Shower and other revelations

Truthfully, I'll have to start timing my shower tomorrow, as I just thought of this change, and have already had my shower for the day. Does it help that I don't shower every day? According to, a typical shower takes as much as 230 L (60 US gallons) of water. Ok, so if I shower every other day for a year, and take a typical shower, that's 41,860 L a year just for showering! The 5 minute shower is in. Taken in darkness, of course.

And now for the other revelations. When I lived in Ottawa, I was struggling to stick to a very restrictive diet. I asked my meditation coach how to go about sticking with it, when it seemed the challenge was so big and long. She suggested that I adopt the mentality of 'just for today'. So, instead of thinking of "I've got to stick with this thing until I reach my goal", how about "Just for today, I'm going to eat this way. And tomorrow I might do something different, but for today, this is it."

When I started this green challenge, I didn't set any limits. No year, or two years. No I-want-to-make-no-impact. I'm just going on this journey for as long as I can, and seeing where it takes me. Is there an end? Maybe. Where is it? I don't know. But I do know this: the actions I am currently taking are making a difference, and because I'm doing one thing every day, this challenge has been easy to stick with. Which leads me to believe that if I can incorporate other healthy changes into this one-a-day plan, I can stick with them as well.

From now on, this blog is no longer just about "going green". It's about eating better, getting active, and generally living better, all while paying heed to the planet.

I just finished reading Meghan Telpner's book The Healthy Cookie: Unbaked and I am feeling totally inspired. Here is yet another girl my age who, instead of curling up in a ball and crying, took charge of her medical condition, changed her life, and spread sunshine and rainbows to everyone along her journey. It made me realize that I can get myself out of the rut I'm in and start doing something with my life, my talents and my gifts.

Another inspirational person who has recently come into my on-line life is Ashley. Her blog, Dancing Through Life, is the story of how she got off her now-smaller butt and found health through smart eating and a passion for staying active.

So I ask ya. If they can do it, why can't I? Why can't I follow my bliss, do what I love, perhaps go back to school and take charge of the life I've been given?

I'm scared. Scared of failing, scared of wasting even more of my life than I already have, scared of not being able to support myself (I can't right now). My boyfriend and I broke up last night. Right now, I am lost in a sea of depression and confusion, with so much running through my head I don't know what to do first. But instead of listing all the reasons why I can't follow my dreams (which would be really easy to do at a time like this), I'm going to keep looking for work, thinking about school, and scouting for a new place to call home. And tomorrow, I'm starting a slim-down plan, because seriously, the state of my body brings me down, and with everything else I have going on, that's one thing I can start working on right away.

Sure, this wasn't the quippy little post I usually put out there, but I needed to get these things off my chest. I need to validate in writing that I am worthy of love, capable of greatness and that I can keep moving forward.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Day 44. 45, and 46 - Showering in the dark, using up every last bit of a product, and natural toilet cleaning

So I got back from my little jaunt on Thursday afternoon, and have ever since been catching up on all the things that I didn't do while I was away. I was continuing to make green changes, but sitting down and actually writing about them just didn't happen.

Showering in the dark is a piece of cake. I'm a person who, I think, would do quite well as a blind person. As long as no one touches my stuff, I am THAT organized that I can find things with my eyes closed, or in total darkness. I'm also good at identifying objects using my other senses. Which is why showering in the dark is easy. All of my shower products feel and smell different, and keeping the lights off allows me to ignore my less than perfect body that much more. And truth be told, if I keep the bathroom doors open, enough light comes in from the rest of the condo that I can still see a little.

I love new things. New bars of soap, new lipstick, new perfume. Which is why this little challenge is hard for me. For about a week now, I've been fighting the temptation to toss out the remaining bits of the aforementioned products so that I could dig into some new stuff. Not that I was going out and buying this new stuff, you see. I tend to collect things like soap, perfumes and make-up. I have made a commitment to use up all of my existing supplies before purchasing more, but now that I'm in the throes of working through the stash, I have come to realize just how much stuff I have, and just how long it takes to use something up, even if you are using it every day. After each squirt of perfume, I'd look anxiously at the bottle to see how much it had decreased. Washing my hands is a compulsive joy - each time I wonder if this is the time that the soap will no longer be large enough for a human to use and I'll get to unwrap a fresh bar. So far, nope.

And the make-up! I've been trying to use up this one colour of lip gloss for over a month now, using it every day, sometimes re-applying as the day goes on. I don't think I'll ever complain about the cost of make-up anymore, because if you really use a product until it is GONE gone, that's a long time! I've certainly gotten my money's worth out of that lip gloss. But not quite. Have you noticed how some product packages are designed so that you just CAN'T get all of the product out, thus resulting in waste?

My lip gloss looked like this. Now I ask ya, how the heck are you supposed to get all of the gloss out of the tube with that little wand? The tube doesn't open in any way, and there is a narrowing in the mouth to prevent too much product being dispensed onto the wand. I seriously did the best I can, applying far more gloss than is tasteful, just because I was so perturbed.

How many other times have you had to throw out a product and buy more, simply because the product packaging prevented you from accessing all of the product? The French's mustard bottle is a classic example of iconic, but poor, packaging design.

Moving on to toilet cleaning, I was now out of conventional toilet cleaner, and opted to go for the baking soda and vinegar method. I suppose this would have worked well had I not a) used so much baking soda and vinegar, and b) used apple cider vinegar, due to my lack of white vinegar. Happily, the cider-scented mini-volcano went unnoticed by my boyfriend. I'll have to think more about this toilet cleaning before I attempt it again next week.

In other news, I'm switching back and forth between Dr. Mist and Tom's of Maine deodorant, because my body seems to like playing games. I refuse, refuse, refuse to throw out these products before they are gone, even if it means applying several times a day just to keep my stench in check. I gotta tell ya, I'm not a stinky person. I don't exercise, and there are many days when I don't even break a sweat (all bad, I know). But c'mon - ever since switching deodorants, I'm stinky and moist all the time. Lucky for me, autumn seems to have arrived in Toronto.

Also, the micro-fibre rags I re-commissioned into Swiffer pads seem to be doing a MUCH better job than the actual Swiffer pads ever did. Hallelujah.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Day 41, 42 and 43 Natural Toothpaste, Recycling Corks, and Eco-Friendly Drycleaning

I'm going away tomorrow, and won't be posting again until Friday, so I've racked up the changes ahead of time so that I am not behind later.

Sometime over the next few days, I'll begin using eco-friendly toothpaste. Not only that, but my new toothpaste is made in Ontario! Green Beaver Company is located in Hawkesbury, ON, which is a small town on the border of Ontario and Quebec. I know this, because I've been there. They have a Harley-Davidson dealership that I have visited, and I was almost hit by a train in that town (in the process of getting to the dealership). I bought the Frosty Mint flavoured paste, and I'm quite excited to be supporting a Canadian company while keeping my teeth clean.

In hygiene related news, Tom's of Maine deodorant is not cutting it, and I'm not impressed. Am I really so foul that none of these natural products will cut it? A few more days of stinking, and I'll give the baking soda idea a try. Actually, it's not even so much the smell that's getting to me - it's the wetness. And now that you know far too much about my pits, I'll move on.

I love wine. I love drinking it, studying it, tasting it and buying it. My wine rack holds 28 bottles, and it is full. I restock it every month. Sadly, unless I have a party, I just don't consume that much wine. An average bottle holds four glasses. I get tipsy on one glass. My boyfriend doesn't drink, and I don't drink every day. Maybe twice a week at best. Still though, I'm going to start recycling my corks, rather than tossing them. This was the program I was going to use to recycle my corks. Cripe. Ok, I'm going to call the City of Toronto tomorrow to see what can be done about my corks, both natural and synthetic. I will not make a cork wreath.

Last week, after my cat committed yet another unspeakable act, I found myself in need of drycleaning services. Imagine my delight that the drycleaner, which is within walking distance of my condo, is an eco-friendly facility and uses solvents that are good for the planet. Yay! My boyfriend was nervous, as this is the same drycleaner that once shrank his tuxedo pants (and he didn't discover it until dressing for formal night on the cruise ship in Alaska). But everybody makes mistakes, right? It has been a week, however, and I am curious as to the state of my items.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Day 39 and 40 - My own containers to the bulk store, and natural dish soap

I'm posting this one in advance of Sunday and Monday, and then tomorrow, I'll post changes that will take effect on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, as I'll be traveling a bit this week.

Yesterday, I took one of my homemade drawstring bags to Bulk Barn for some black beans. I was a little nervous as to how the staff of Bulk Barn would react to someone using their own containers instead of the provided thin plastic bags, because in the years I've been shopping there, I've never seen anyone do what I was about to do. I shop Bulk Barn whenever I can, and it's a great way to save money on things like flour and nuts. Yesterday, I needed beans for the soup that is currently simmering on the stove. So I filled my little sack and approached the cash. The cashier looked in my bag to see what I wished to purchase, and then happily rang me in. She even liked my bag. And that was that. No drama or trauma. Just me and my beans and no plastic bag. Thrilling! Ok, so maybe I paid a smidgen more than I would have, due to fabric weighing more than plastic, but oh well. Normally I only buy dry goods at Bulk Barn, where my little sacks work great. If I ever buy something like peanut butter, I'll just have to remember to bring my own containers from home.

I switched to eco-friendly dishwasher detergent a while ago, and I'm very happy with the results it is giving me. Now I need eco-friendly dish soap that I can use when I hand wash dishes, which, frankly, almost never happens. I don't buy things that can't go in the dishwasher. But my stock pot just won't fit. So this is the one thing I must wash by hand. And yesterday I used up the last little bit of apple-scented, micro-bubble cleanser green goo that took me over a year to go through, and now I'm heading out to find some soap that better for the planet.

Day 37 and 38 - Switching to Natural Face Cleanser and No More Swiffer Products

I apologize for not posting yesterday. I was feeling overwhelmed by life, and I suffer from depression. Writing my blog was just one more thing that, by not doing, made me feel bad.

Switching to natural face cleaner was really no biggie. I was out of my usual stuff, and I replaced it with something natural. And this stuff is nice - smooth, gentle, and has a faint smell to it that reminds me of the stuff they use on my face at the salon when I have a facial. Speaking of that facial, I had it on Tuesday, and I was due. I have one every 12 weeks, so 4 times a year. I think the salon would like to see me more often, but frankly, I can't afford the cost or the time. Every time I have one, I am told that my pores are clogged and my skin is dry and if I would just start using their overpriced salon products, my skin would be so much happier. But this time, when I told them that I was only interested in natural products for my skin, they had nothing to sell me. Refreshing, and disturbing.

I care about my skin, really I do. I'm a redhead, so I stay out of the sun, use sunblock often and I try to muster the motivation to moisturize. But I ride a motorcycle, out in the wind. I fret over freckles. I drink copious amounts of water. Skin cancer runs in my family. It seems like taking care of my skin/hair body, is a full time job. Why is it that to do anything well, it is like a full time job? Does anyone else ever feel as overwhelmed as I do? Why is good enough never good enough?

Enough with the rant. Today, no more Swiffer products. It doesn't take any kind of smarts to see that all these disposable (not recyclable) cleaning pads and dusters are not eco-friendly. And really, you mop with that pad, wiping the dirt all over your floor, and your floor isn't much cleaner at the end. Dusting isn't a problem. I'll just use some cloths. My mother uses soft cotton cloths that were once burp cloths for babies. But mopping the floor is going to be a challenge. I have a combination of ceramic tile, marble tile and laminate flooring. I also have three cats and a boyfriend. And I'm a neat freak.

So, I'm in need of some how to clean my floors suggestions. And just as soon as I get done with this very last Swiffer pad, I'm putting the mop and the remaining cleaning solution up on Freecycle.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Day 36 Canning and Preserving

For the past week or so, I've been eating vegetables that were grown locally, and using those vegetables to make soup, which I am canning/jarring for winter. All of this stems from my good friends Ellen and Justin, who took up the 100 mile diet challenge roughly a month ago. You should know that Ellen is the best friend of my boyfriend, so this poor man has no end of eco-chatter and healthy cooking going on around him. He takes it in stride, and who knows? It might inspire him to eat healthier.

But I digress. Canning and preserving is SO EASY! Seriously, I went to Canadian Tire, bought my jars and labels, got out my canning books, and got to work. I now have over 5 litres of soup, 1 litre of raspberry jam and an equal amount of marinara sauce, and it's TASTY! I'm going to be eating so well this winter. What is better on a snowy night than some homemade soup, made with fresh, locally grown vegetables?

I'm psyched. But now comes the problem of where to put all these jars. You should know that I live in a 650 sq ft condo, 12 stories up, on the shore of Lake Ontario. I have no basement, no root cellar, limited space and a boyfriend with more patience than most men. Ellen got me thinking about how I could utilize the smidgen of extra space in the tiny laundry room to fit in a small freezer chest surrounded by shelves for my canned goods. Cripe. I love this condo, but it's TINY.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Day 35 Switch to electronic billing

This one makes perfect sense to me. Less paper, overall mail weighs less thus using less gas to transport, and it's one less thing that I have to file. Now, I only get two bills in the mail. One is my credit card bill, and the other is a paper statement of my motorcycle payment, which gets paid directly from my checking account. I really don't need either of these things in my life, and electronic statements would be just fine.

Not going to happen. My bank (CIBC) and Harley-Davidson Financial Services do not have paperless options. I called. I cajoled. I explained that they would save money (companies love saving money, right?) and to no avail.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Day 33 and 34 Composting and taking public transit when practical

Ah compost. My family members with yards and gardens have been doing it for years, spreading the lovely earth they make on their land to enrich and fertilize the soil. As my parents did not garden, and as I have spent the past 10 years living in dorms or apartment/condo style living, I never thought I would have the opportunity to do this oh-so-basic form of recycling. But no! It has been proven that those of us living in boxes in the sky can indeed break down our organic waste into something useful.

To be fair, this composting couldn't come at a better time. And to be honest, before now, I never produced much organic waste in the form of vegetable and fruit trimmings. But since adopting canning and preserving as a hobby/way of life last week, I've been producing an awful lot of vegetable and fruit bits. So much so, the bowl on my counter where I toss such things as I cook was overflowing.

"Tomorrow, we compost." I said to my boyfriend.
"Ok" he said, knowing that this wouldn't involve or effect him and his life could continue as it does.

Unlike Vanessa, I did not research compost bins beforehand. I just showed up at Home Depot at 8am yesterday morning and expected that all my wishes would be met by the cheerful folks in orange aprons. Turns out, Home Depot no longer sells composting units (back when Vanessa wrote her entry on composting, they did). My helpful, chatty and flirty sales guy had no idea why, since he believed that composting was a good idea. (I liked this guy right off the bat - he had a penguin embroidered on the pocket of his polo shit - score! When I mentioned it to him, he confessed to not liking penguins, for a variety of silly reasons - boo.)

I then suggested that he sell me the materials to build my own. Being that it was early in the morning and he wasn't busy, we sauntered over to the computer station and started googling compost bins. We hit upon this website right away, and things looked promising. After some deliberation and friendly banter, it was decided that I would make this model, and the supplies were cheap and easily attainable.

We had a lovely stroll to the paint department to obtain the buckets and lids, and he even escorted me to the self-checkout. I made the fatal mistake of asking how old he was.

"21, and how old are you?"

"Oh damn," he said, "That invalidates you."
"What!" I exclaimed, "Invalidates me for what?"
"I can't date you" he said. "You're too old."

This is the first time I've ever heard that one, and I can say it was none too pleasant. It still stings, when I think about it. *sigh*

Back home with my buckets, the website suggests you use a screwdriver and hammer to punch holes in the bucket. This was ok for the top and bottom, but when it came to the slippery curved sides, this method just wasn't cuting it.

"Why am I struggling here?" I said out loud. "I have a drill!"

The power drill made short work of that bucket, and in no time I was filling it with some soggy paper, my kitchen scraps, and some soil for good measure. I figure I'll turn it once a week, and really, I can't wait for some great compost. Now I just have to figure out what I am going to do with it.

I can also see that I am going to outgrow this bucket fairly quickly, so I'll have to get another one to handle the overflow. I'm not going to do the vericulture thing, as it creeps my boyfriend out. I'm learning to be green and compromising.

Before we leave the subject of composting, the website has a great table of things that are compostable. This will really help.

Today, I'm going for a haircut. I only get one once ever 3 months, as I WILL realize my dream of having long hair someday. My salon is in this trendy part of town known as Yorkville, where the parking is expensive. I could take the car and pay $18 to park it, I could take the motorcycle and pay $18 and wreck my hair with a helmet, or I could pay $5.50 to get there and back by transit. Saving money and the environment, one day at a time.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Day 31 and 32 - Planting an herb garden and adopting the Diva Cup

One was certainly easier than the other, both were incredibly messy, both will save me money, but only one produces tasty results.

The herb garden has been something I've dreamed of for years, and it is only this year that I have really had the time to tend a garden of any sort. Problem was, it is mid-August and no garden centres are stocking herb plants, or even seeds. I didn't know what to do, until I casually mentioned my dilemma to a kindly old lady over flats of organic raspberries (4 half pints for $5!) and she mentioned a garden centre that would be sure to have some plants, as well as seeds, and it was nearby to boot. Score!

Sure enough, I was soon the proud owner of a large window box, a heavy (and wet) sack of beautiful black soil, and 8 kind of herbs - peppermint, lavender, oregano, chives, basil, parsley, mint and rosemary, which came in it's own pot and looks like quite the hearty shrub. Digging in the dirt gives me such pleasure, and I am happy when I'm surrounded by green and growing things. This herb garden makes me smile every time I look at it.

My beef with buying grocery store herbs is that they are too expensive, and I often end up throwing most of them out, after using what my recipe called for. Sure, $2 for a giant bunch of cilantro is a good deal, but what am I going to do with it all? This way, I can just trot on over to my window box and snip what I need. Brilliant, I tell you.

The Diva Cup. *Sigh* I knew this day was coming. I was hoping for my usual early warning system of cramps to let me know when I should be making this purchase. Not so. Ever since I got off the pill in June, my body has had a mind of it's own (not to mention the less than flattering skin quality that I'm now living with). Last night, my monthly gift showed up with no warning and at full force. Lovely. I had one tampon left, and that was supposed to tide me until I could make it to the store. Nope. It was in quiet desperation I snatched the device from the check-out belt, even before my boyfriend had paid for it, and made a bee-line for the grocery store bathroom. Once inside, I hurriedly read the instructions once more (I was quite familiar already, having studied and agonized over this product online) and went to make the first attempt. Suddenly, a little boy knocked on the bathroom door and and "hello?" I froze and said nothing. The I hear "Mom, the bathroom door is locked and I really gotta go!" Oh shit. Meanwhile, this cup is NOT going in. I cram myself full of toilet paper, wash up and rush out of the bathroom, apologizing to the little boy and his mother and hoping he makes it in time.

Crisis averted, we went to visit my friend, who works as a dog trainer at a local pet store. She was in the middle of a puppy class, so we strolled the store, cooed over the kittens, and finally got a chance to talk to her.

"I bought the Diva Cup today," I said.
"And how do you feel about that?" This is her favorite question in the world. I hear it at least once a day when I'm with her. She should have been a shrink.
"Well, I didn't get it in on the first try, but I'm going to try again when I get home." I said.
"I hope it works better for you than that natural deodorant you've been using."


Once home, the struggle continued. You'd think I was trying to kill something in the bathroom, for the mess it made, but I have to say, I was victorious, and aside from feeling slightly bloated, I'm ok. We'll see what happpens tonight when it comes time to take it out.

Mother Earth, I love you. Oh yes, I do.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Day 30 - Switching to Handkerchiefs

It's been one hell of a day, bookended by tears, and I've gone through A LOT of kleenex. I awoke to my cat committing an unspeakably horrific act from which I may be scarred for life, and just now got home from one of those chick-flick movies I swear never to watch because I cry at the slightest hint of storyline tragedy.

Only trouble is, I don't own any handkerchiefs. Oh sure, I have plenty of fabric, and I'm not at all opposed to making my own, but the thing is, I haven't made them yet.

One more thing on the ever-lovin' to do list. I just hope to keep the waterworks at bay until I get a few done. Hmm...I could make some with a nice rolled hem, or perhaps with lace....

In other news, two reliable sources have reported that my Dr. Mist natural deodorant is, indeed, failing me. I started using it on Wednesday, which, coincidentally, was the first real day of summer here in Toronto. I even shaved my armpits to give the proverbial new kid a sporting chance. I don't think Dr. Mist is pulling is roll-on weight, and worse, I may have a slight rash. Today, I am deodorant free, in attempt to heal my skin. Lucky for my fellow humans I have a good supply of perfume, but nothing beats that sticky, somewhat foul feeling emanating from my pits. I'll see what the pits look like tomorrow. I want to give Dr. Mist a generous opportunity before I have to start scouting for a replacement. I hate throwing out a product before it is gone, but I have doubts that the Freecycle folks will want something that's been rolling around in my armpits.

To wrap it up - I made it through a month! Wow!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Day 29 - No more plastic wrap

That's right - when the current roll is gone, bye bye to the plastic wrap. But then I get to thinking...what am I going to cover my food with when I microwave?

I've been using recycled aluminum foil now for a few weeks, and yes, it is thinner than the regular stuff. I recycle it after I am done with it, and I do try to wash it and reuse it, but, being thinner, it often doesn't hold up. It fails pretty badly when you unwrap something (like a loaf of bread), and then re-wrap it. Once or twice of this and the foil is tearing and soon you have mouldy bread.

I made some sturdy drawstring bags last night to take to the bulk food store, and to use as produce bags (as opposed to those thin plastic bags often provided in the produce section.) When I get my bulk items home, I can put them into plastic containers (which I already own), and wash/reuse the bags.

But seriously, the foil isn't what I'm used to, and what am I going to use in the microwave? Honestly, the microwave is the only place I use plastic wrap. One website suggests wax paper. Ok. That could work. I suppose parchment paper would also work.

Man, I'm doing a lot of whining today. Here is an excellent article regarding alternatives to conventional food wraps. It appears that cellophane is the only smart alternative.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Day 27 and 28 - No more pedicures and reprimand smokers who litter butts/ashes

Yesterday was going well. Quiet, sunny, sort of warmish. I woke up, promptly put on my glasses, grabbed the book on my nightstand and started to read. I lay in bed until approximately 12:30, until I had finished the book. What, you ask? The 100 Mile Diet, by Vancouver authors Alisa Smith and J. B. MacKinnon. Yes, it was that riveting, and it convinced me even further that eating locally, supporting your local farmers and relishing in the bounty of each season is truly the way to go. Plans are underway for me to start the diet in the coming weeks.

After I finished reading, I showered, did my hair and makeup, and then my best friend called. It was her birthday (I knew that) and did I want to meet her just up the street for a pedicure? Sure, why not. I put on a white eyelet sundress, my flip flops and headed out. As soon as I got outside the sky opened. By the time I got to the salon, I wasn't more wet than if I had just taken a shower fully clothed. My dress was plastered to my legs, my hair was plastered and dripping, and the poor Vietnamese salon workers did not know what to do with me.

The pedicure was nice - I had never had a pedicure with a girlfriend before, and I have to say it was a lot of fun. But as I sat there, I realized not only how bad this, and most all salon services, are for the environment. I didn't need a pedicure - my feet are in great shape and I had just cut my toenails last week. I have to admit that feet in general are not attractive, but they are much improved with nail polish. But couldn't I do that at home? Without all the scented soaking, the hot towel massage and the gritty goo? (In case you can't tell, I'm not a girly-girl, and I get nervous when fussed over.) And couldn't I find a natural nail polish and polish remover? A quick scan on revealed that yes, these products do exist, and are available online and in some local natural stores.

So if the beautification of my toenails becomes a priority, I can do it without hurting the planet. But really, until then, I can live without pedicures. Because I have more important things to do like griping at smokers who litter.

This is a huge peeve of mine, and honestly, it never bothered me until I started riding a motorcycle. It irks me to no end when I pull up next to a car and the driver oh-so casually drops their still smoldering butt out the car window, inches from where I am, with no consideration for me or the planet. Thus, I am declaring war on smokers who litter.

I have never smoked, never tried, and have no desire to. I have no idea what it is like to have a chemical dependence on a substance, but I do know that dependence or no, that doesn't mean you have to litter your ashes and butts. People standing outside of buildings are one thing - most buildings provide some sort of receptacle, and people generally use it for their butts. But cars are built with ash trays! Use them! Littering your ashes and butts tells me that not only do you not care about the planet, but you are too damn lazy to use/empty your own ashtray and you expect others to clean up after you. Or maybe you aren't even thinking about all that stuff, because you are too concerned with looking cool, talking on the phone, eating or any number of other things.

Some appalling data on cigarette litter. Yes, this website is old, but you get the idea.

So. The next time I see someone littering a cigarette product of any kind, they will know the gentle chiding cum vengeful wrath of penguin.

I really hope I don't get beat up.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Day 26 - recycle dead batteries

Last week, I was stranded at a Starbucks for 5 hours because the battery in my Harley decided that would be a good time to die. Couple with that a few days before, the battery in the key fob that activates the security system also dies. Suddenly, an 800 lb machine becomes a hunk of immovable metal.

A few days, and a couple hundred dollars later, Suenos (that's the bike's name) is back on the road, but now I'm left with a dead 12v battery and a dead button battery. I smell the opportunity for a green change! The button battery will be saved until one of Toronto's environment days (the next one is September 12), where I can take it and give it to folks who know what to do with it. The dead 12v went back to the Harley dealership (which is where I also recycle my used oil) for them to recycle. Easy! I tried to find out exactly how batteries get recycled, but haven't come up with any info yet (I find processes like that to be fascinating.)

In my inbox today, I received a message from Douglas Farquhar who is in charge of business development for a e-company called out of Irvine, CA. Their site offers green products for personal and commercial use, as well as offering green tips and links. Do any of you have any experience with this company?

While brushing my teeth this morning, I noticed that eco-friendly toothpaste will be making it's way into my life soon, and I'd appreciate any suggestions as to what you folks are using. This little penguin needs all the help she can get.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Day 25 - No more margerine

There are so many reasons not to eat margarine. Sure, it's soft and tastes "buttery", and it's cheaper than butter, but c'mon folks, it's nothing but chemicals. I'm starting to employ the logic that if I don't know what the ingredients are, then I shouldn't eat it. Here is the wikipedia article on margerine, which is very factual, based on the food research that I've been conducting the past few years.

Not only is my challenge an effort to go green, but also one to eat healthier, more in line with what is good for the planet is good for the body.

Growing up, my mother only bought margerine. It came in a tub, which we used on our toast, and in stick form, which she would use for baking. Only when company came for holidays would she buy a stick of butter to place in the butter dish on the table, to be used on the mashed potates and rolls. I remember eating this butter and feeling that it was a very special thing, as it was only served at holidays, much like the good china was used at these meals.

5 years ago when I started cooking for others and really getting into the art and science of food, I became a purist, and while I would still have margerine in the house for bread, butter was the only acceptable thing for cooking and baking. Now, I'm giving up margerine altogether. I just purchased a butter bell on ebay (until then my butter is sitting on a plate on the kitchen counter), and I'm quite pleased to have eliminted another source of chemicals from my life.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Day 24 Pick up any and all litter I come across

This challenge is deceptive. You think that picking up litter and disposing of it properly would be a piece of cake. Not so. Some garbage really shouldn't be handled with bare hands, sometimes the garbage you find is far, far away from a proper waste receptacle and so you end up carrying it around, and people tend to look at you funny. Like "what kind of hippy do-gooder are you?" and "maybe this chick has mental problems". This attitude is particularly prevalent in areas of affluence (Bay and King - the Toronto financial district) and areas of rash consumerism (malls).

You know that look of disdain that skinny 15 year old girls can pull off? The "ewww, that is so gross, I'm going to text my friends right away and tell them about this creepy lady picking up mall garbage." Well even though I am twice their age, that look still gets me. Perhaps because I've never been popular and suffer from low self esteem.

I can't believe I've been at this challenge for 24 days already. This might just be the longest I've ever stuck with anything. I'm better at being green than sticking to a diet. Humph.

In other exciting news, my condo has started a blocking of junk mail program. Now I have a pick paper taped to the inside of my mailbox, telling Canada Post that this box wants no more junk mail. Hopefully the junk mail I would receive is going back to the sorting plant to be recycled.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Day 22 and 23 - It's all about the hair

Ever since I got back from vacation late Tuesday night, I've been crazy busy, and while I haven't kept up on the blogging, I have kept up with making a new change every day. So here is my update.

Yesterday I switched to organic shampoo and conditioner, and today I'm switching to natural deodorant. Using a new product usually gets me excited - perhaps there is something better out there that I have yet to discover, and perhaps this product will change my life in some way. These past two changes, however, were approached with trepidation. Allow me to explain.

I have had a long and troubled history with the hair on my head. My hair, presently, is roughly longer than my shoulders, a fairly bright red, and naturally curly and prone to frizz and odd kinks. I have never dyed my hair, or permed it. Over the course of my life, it has gone through some awful hairstyles, has fallen out twice due to extreme dieting, and while it and my scalp are very healthy, I have bad hair days more often than not. Couple all of this with the fact that I wear a motorcycle helmet, sometimes for long hours, and if not secured properly, my hair flaps in the wind and gets mighty tangled. All I've ever wanted from my hair was to be somewhat curly, not frizzy and about mid-back in length. So I approached this change with mixed feelings - would I miss my old products (Infusium 23)? Would these new products be better for my hair as well as the environment?

The gal at Big Carrot assured me that these new hair cleansers were good for the environment (I bought the apricot scented products from the JASON line), but they were also good "transition" products. Transition? As in, I need to adjust? Like learning to live with bad hair all the time type of adjustment? I'll let you know how these new products work out. They do smell nice... The girl also mentioned that some people have luck with their hair growing faster if they ingest liquid silica, which they also sell. "Silica? As in the granular stuff they put in your new shoes?" She didn't know. I know that I tried to use those granules to dry flowers in the microwave and it didnt' work out. But I digress.

While I was there, I also picked up some natural deoderant, which the helpful girl led me too, saying that it was a best seller and everyone at the store used it. Dr. Mist, of the roll-on variety, in case you are wondering. The girl looked at me pointedly and asked if I had ever used natural deoderant before. "Um, no." I said. What was different? She then went on the explain that conventional deoderants clog your pores, which keep sweat from coming out. Apparently, natural deoderants work with my body chemistry to prevent odor, and that there would be a transition (there's that word again) period until my body got used to having open pores, and that I might find that my natural "smell" changes over the course of usage, so much so that conventional deoderants will no longer work, should I go back.

Smelly hippy land, here I come. You'll know me by my aroma, the bad hair and lack of nail polish. Mother Earth, I hope you like this.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Day 21 - I'm back, and I'm squeaking this one in

With only 24 minutes left in what has been a crazy day, I'm sneaking in this eco-change. I'll admit, it's an easy one, but after the day I've had, I need a break. From now on, I'm using GoodSearch as opposed to Google, and donating the proceeds to the World Wildlife Fund. GoodSearch donates to charitable causes when you use their search engine. I love animals, and I couldn't find any charities that deal with penguins specifically, so WWF was a good choice.

Speaking of animals, I had a few encounters with animals this past weekend on my travels. Most of them were pleasant (watching a family of wild turkeys cross the road in the Allegheny forest in western PA, visiting the Pittsburgh zoo and going gaga over the adorable penguins) and one of them was not so pleasant (getting stung in the boob by a hornet as I rode my motorcycle - the air draft over my windshield blew the hornet right down my shirt where the poor startled beastie stung me). I'm fine - no lasting damage.

I'm actually pretty proud of myself - looking over my list of changes, I was able to stay true to all of them while on the road. Before I pat myself on the back too much, the only one on the list that actually applied was the no using of hand dryers or paper towels to dry my hands in public bathrooms.

So here we are, 21 days into the challenge and doing well. I'm seeing some natural deoderant in my future, as well as the dreaded Diva cup. Stay tuned for what new adventures those will bring. :-)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

One more thing

Yesterday I bought a new kitchen scale. Many of the bread recipes I've been making call for ingredients measured by weight, rather than volume, so a working kitchen scale in a necessity. Upon opening the box, I was confronted with Styrofoam. Drat. I banned that stuff from my life last week.

Ok so here's the thing: two weeks ago, I bought a pizza stone for my oven. I made a point of opening it in the store, after I'd purchased it, and giving the packaging (which included Styrofoam) to the clerk to recycle. Now here I am with this little bit of Styrofoam, which I am going to make a point to recycle at one of Toronto's special enviro-days. But what if the sales clerk didn't actually recycle my packaging and just threw it out? What if me taking it home to recycle myself would have been the better option? That way I know for sure it is getting to the recycling people. Should I trust people when they say they will recycle it for me? What if this minimum-wage earning person doesn't care about the environment and just wants to get this crazy lady out of her store?

Day 18, 19 and 20 - last post before I take off for a week

I can honestly say that I will miss writing these daily posts. Blogging is something that has given a sense of order to my normally all-over-the-place life, and really making one green change per day and then writing about it not only makes the process gradual, but cements the change in my head to make it for permanent.

Although, today, I had a slip up. I was at Starbucks getting coffee for my girlfriend, and, though I don't normally order one for myself, I had a "what the hell" moment and ordered one. It wasn't until the barista handed me the drink that I had the uh oh moment of realizing that I forgot my thermos and has just broken one of my green rules. Damn. And I had been doing so well.

What do you do when you mess up? Just get back on the horse, so to speak? Renew your pledge to do better in the future? Mentally berate yourself for being thoughtless? I feel pretty guilty.

I can't believe I'm 20 days (so to speak) into this challenge. It hasn't been hard, and I've enjoyed exploring the new stores and products that are becoming part of my life. Looking at the list I've written, though, I can see that there are tough times ahead. And Vanessa is right - keeping track of all of these green changes is stressful! I'm tempted to print off my list and keep it with me to reference throughout the day.

So! As I am leaving town today, an appropriate change is to pack light. Lighter than I usually do when traveling my motorcycle even. My parents can attest, and the men in my life as well, that when I pack, I tend to bring everything but the kitchen sink. Not clothes or toiletries, mind you, but books and things to do. Almost two years ago, my boyfriend and I went on a 24 day cruise. I packed so much STUFF for that trip that not only did I not get to do everything I'd planned, but we paid oodles of money there and back for my overweight luggage.

I guess I've always had this fear of boredom. Throughout my life, I've always been a very busy person, what with school, activities, crafts, projects, etc, that I've never actually been bored, and yet I have this irrational fear of it. So I over pack.

When I bought my motorcycle, I had to start paring down, because quite literally, there was no room to take everything that I usually would take on a trip. In case you are wondering, I ride a Road King Classic. You can see from the photo that the bike comes with two saddle bags. To that, I've added a trunk and a pillion bag (which I leave empty, so that I have room to go shopping on my trips). Even still, that doesn't leave much room for stuff, and I have, on one occasion, had to cart my stuff to the post office and ship it home because I'd exceeded the capacity of my bike.

But I digress. This trip, we are packing uber light. I'm removing all unnecessary packaging from toiletries, packing minimal clothing, and I'm aiming to fit all my stuff in one small duffel bag. Here goes nothing. :-)

Another change I'm making is no longer using paper towels or hand dryers in public restrooms. Chances are, I'll be hitting up a few of those in the coming days, and really, how bad are damp hands? They dry soon enough.

And before I hit the road tonight, I'll be shutting down my computer. After I return, I'll be shutting down my computer every night before I go to bed. Even though my computer is quiet, when it is off, the silence is truly remarkable. I like silence.

So here I go! Off to the Niagara region for some wine appreciation, and then down to the lovely state of PA to get some fabric and meet some penguins. Yay for penguins!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Day 15, 16, and 17, and a nifty link

While reading the online news yesterday, my boyfriend came across WWOOF the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms website. For the price of a small registration fee, and the cost of your travel, you can work on an organic farm anywhere in the world, for as long or as short as you wish. What a neat vacation idea! I often wished, growing up, that I lived on a farm, after having such fun each year visiting my aunt and uncle's small farm in the Catskill mountains of New York state. I used to harass my father and say "Dad, why couldn't you have been a farmer? Why did you have to be an engineer?" And then he's ask me if I liked my private school and piano lessons and tell me that if we were farmers we probably wouldn't be able to afford such things. More's the pity, I think. Farmers feed us all, and should be better supported than they are.

Enough with my rant. I'm forging ahead and banking more challenges so that I can have a vacation over the next few days. Tomorrow I'll be posting three changes I've made, and then, gentle readers, you won't hear from me again until August 5.

Today's changes were relatively easy. I bought some new dishtowels, made from bamboo, at Canadian Tire. I skipped right over the Debbie Travis brand, made in China, and went straight to the bamboo towels. I've been needing more towels anyway, since I use them to cover my bread as it rises.

I've stopped using paper gift wrap, and started making my own gift wrapping. Hey, I'm a creative sort. This was no stretch for me. Larely I've been giving away a lot of homemade bread, and it just seems nicer to give it in a reusable cotton drawstring bag that I made myself while the bread was baking. Sometimes I get the bag back, and sometimes not. I like to think that the people I'm giving the bread to are continuing to use the bag for other things.

Since my kitties are already pretty green, I took them one step further by purchasing organic, preservative free cat treats, and organic catnip. Needless to say, they embraced this change fully and with much purring.

Lastly, I wanted to sign up with Green Dimes to reduce the amount of junk paper mail that comes to the condo. Since the publication of Vanessa's book, the company has changed names to Tonic MailStopper and no longer has services for Canadians. If I am wrong, somebody please tell me, beacuse I'd love to cut down on my junk mail.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Day 12, 13, and 14 - Three for the price of one!

As I am going away for roughly a week and will not have Internet access to update my blog, I'm tripling up on green changes so I can bank some for when I am on the road. In case you are curious, I'm going to the Niagara region with my girlfriend to tour some wineries, buy some wine and generally have a good time. After that, my boyfriend and I are riding the Harleys (yes, he has one too) to Harrisburg and Pittsburgh PA to visit Hancock Fabrics, and the penguins at the Pittsburgh zoo. So tomorrow I'll do three more changes, and Wednesday another three, so that when I get back Tuesday night I'm not behind.

Something you must understand about me is that I bake and cook. A lot. Not only is it a way to feed myself, but I genuinely love being creative in the kitchen and feeding others. Lately I've been on a bread making kick, making sometimes 4 loaves and day, giving some away and freezing the rest. Now, when I give bread away, I give it away in a cotton drawstring bag which I make. When I freeze it, however, it gets wrapped in foil. Last night, I ran out of foil. So I thought to myself "Am I going to give up foil for my green challenge? How will I freeze my bread? Oh no!". Fortunately, after trolling some other eco blogs, I found Green Luvin's post on recycled aluminum foil.

Here is what she says, "I discovered that aluminum, unlike plastics, can be recycled over and over again without loosing quality. In addition, mining bauxite, the basic building block of aluminum, is very taxing on the environment. Additionally, producing new aluminum consumes a lot of energy per pound. Recycled aluminum uses 95% less energy to produce.

According to the EPA, there is 3.3 million tons of aluminum in the municipal waste stream, a.k.a. the landfill. That is equal to almost 100 million soda cans or 20 million rolls of recycled aluminum foil.* That is a lot of BBQing."

Saved! I'll recycle my foil from now on, and buy this stuff (which I might add, I bought at Whole Foods for 7.99. That's a lot of money for foil, when the generic brand was on the shelf next to it for 2.29). I'll just be frugal with my foil.

A few days ago, my dad (who is not an environmentalist, but does like to forward whatever email he finds interesting, regardless of topic) sent me a PowerPoint presentation on the harms of bottled water and the plastic bottles they come in. The data was accurate and timely, and it said all the same things I've been hearing from you guys in your comments. So I did it - I gave up my Dasani bottle, which I've been refilling with tap water for months, and sprung for a fancy-poo aluminum water bottle made by Sigg. It's fuchsia, holds a litre of water, and features an Indian-inspired design. Perfect. $28 at Big Carrot.

With all the cooking and baking I've been doing, I've been using the dishwasher a lot, and I have to say I'm quite pleased with the Seventh Generation liquid dish soap. Score one for Vermont. But you can just imagine all the energy that a dishwasher uses. I can see the day when I will give it up entirely, perhaps when this bottle of detergent runs out, but for now, I'm switching to the air dry function as opposed to the heated dry function. That will help.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The AC

I'll be minding my own business, and out of the blue, my boyfriend will say "do you feel hot?" This is his way of saying "I feel hot, and I'm turning on the AC", and on it goes. Blasting cold, but it makes him happy. It only stays on long enough for him to feel better (usually 20 minutes) and then I discretely turn it off again. He says that I can be a sweaty hippie as much as I want, but that doesn't mean that he has to. *sigh* He did eat at Le Commensal with me today, and even managed to choke down an organic ginger ale. I'm proud of him. He's even switched from chips and dip to my homemade bread and hummus.

Mind you, when I made my pledge to turn off the AC, I turned it off in the house AND the car, so whenever I'm driving around, I've got the windows rolled down. Driving just feels more visceral that way.

Day 11 - Use a thermos when buying coffee, instead of a paper cup

Before I begin today's post, I'd just like to say a few words of happiness. First of all, my new laundry detergent, manufactured by The Soap Works right here in Toronto is the BEST detergent I have ever used. Produced locally, it takes 1/4 c of detergent to wash a large load of laundry, it is good for the environment, and there is no need for fabric softeners or dryer sheets, which means that when my box of Downy sheets are gone, they are gone! The best part of all: this detergent gets the smell of gas/exhaust/wind out of my jeans, which is extraordinary. Normally, my jeans smell like motorcycle year round, because nothing takes out that smell. But this soap does! I'm THRILLED. Just because I ride a bike doesn't mean I want to smell like one.

Secondly, I LOVE Freecycle. I've gotten rid of my vacuum cleaner and my paper planner with all it's trappings, and met some lovely friendly people in the process. I feel SO good, making others happy and giving away things that I don't need to others who really do. Seriously, this is what it is all about folks - giving away your things, helping out your neighbours, expecting nothing in return and being filled with this sense of community and goodwill. If we all just take care of each other a little better, think of the love we can inject into the world.

So today's change is to bring my thermos every time I go to Starbucks instead of taking a paper cup. I bought a great Starbucks stainless steel thermos last fall that can stand up to being stuffed in a motorcycle side bag and not leak. Sure, it was roughly $30, but it's great. Not only does the planet benefit from this action, but Starbucks takes ten cents off your drink price if you bring your own mug or thermos. I mentioned how great this was to them, and they told me that a while back, they had a promo day where, if you brought your own mug or thermos, your drink was free, and ever since that day, more people had been bringing their own mug or thermos out of habit. The barista said the city of Toronto was trying to implement a policy at all coffee places where your drink would be 10 cents less if you provide your own drinking vessel. Awesome!

This greening process is helping my wallet as well. Vanessa mentioned her book that her bank account was loving her green year, and not only because she was no longer paying for a car and all the things that go along with car ownership. I may start calculating the difference that my green choices are making in my budget and taking the difference and setting it aside for a vacation or some other venture. Today I saved 10 cents by bring a thermos, and every time I bring a thermos, that's another 10 cents. I saved roughly 15 dollars by purchasing an earth friendly moisturizer. I saved a few dollars by going with an eco laundry detergent, and I'll be saving a few more dollars now that I no longer have to purchase dryer sheets. The trick is to actually take that cash and set it aside and not spend it on something else (like oh so yummy local cheese that I really don't need, but it's soooo good. :-)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Day 10 - Give up my paper planner

When I was a child, one event I looked forward to every year was school supply shopping. There was nothing like trolling the aisles of Staples in that blessed air-conditioning (my house growing up was not air conditioned) with my mother and brothers and the large shopping cart, while my mother pondered over the detailed list provided by the school as to what we would need to start the new year.

To this day, office supplies make me happy. The smell of a new box of crayons, the fresh crisp pages of new notebooks and the sharp corners of folders that had yet to see the inside of a backpack. The most important purchase however, was the planner. This little book was to be my home base, my compass for the next year. It had to be big, but not too big, have enough space to write assignments, and a calendar to keep track of upcoming events. Bonus points if I could customize or decorate the cover. This was a decision not to be taken lightly, and I would spend a long time considering the pros and cons of each design offered.

When I was in university, I spent the summer living with my boyfriend, whose mother was a CPA. One day, a Franklin Covey magazine came in their mail. One look and I was hooked. HERE was the Cadillac of planners. Everything I could ever need, neatly and stylishly contained in a leather binder, and each year I could order pretty new pages to replace those of the year before. Those pages could have pictures of flowers, or inspirational quotes or even comic strips! These planners and their pages were not cheap, but by God, they were gorgeous.

I've been a devout Franklin Covey user for roughly 9 years now, but lately, my stylish planner has been replaced by a friend I didn't have to pay anything for: the Google calendar. Not only does Google not take up any of my desk space, it is available online, I can access it from anywhere in the world and I don't have to lug it around. And it's green! No paper being used, no leather being stitched into pretty binders and no ink on pages. Brilliant! Freecycle, here comes my Franklin Covey.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Day 8 and 9 combined - Join Freecycle and no more disposible cutlery

Joining Freecycle was no biggie, although I am resisting the urge to look at what people are trying get rid of, because my goal is to get rid of stuff, not accumulate more stuff. I'll be posting my vacuum cleaner on the site as soon as I get done with this post. As soon as the vacuum cleaner is spoken for, I'm sure the novel aspect of this site will kick in and I'll start scouring my house for other things that can be given away.

This past year I was part of the social committee for the condo that I live in. Each year, the committee plans one or two summer picnics, which take place on the roof of the building, where we have a BBQ and some picnic tables. Fun for all, but not for the environment. Just imagine how much waste is generated at a picnic where 100 or so people are eating on polystyrene plates and using plastic cutlery. Horrifying. As we got ready to plan the second BBQ of the summer, I suggested to the committee that we ask people to bring there own dishes and cutlery. Not only would it save us money by not having to purchase said items, but it would be good for the planet as well. And really, how much of a stretch could it be - these people all live in the building. Would it kill them to bring there own dishes and silverware up to the roof for some free food? Apparently, yes. While most of the committee members thought it was a great idea, they agreed that people would feel put out if we didn't provide, and those people who forgot to bring their supplies up with them would be peeved at having to go back to their units for them, when they saw that we were not providing plates and utensils, and that overall, it would dampen the spirit of community that we were hoping to provide.

What a load of bull crap.

I'm not on the social committee anymore, for that and other reasons. Carrying my own fork, spoon and knife is not that big of a deal. I'm rarely in situations where I'm eating from plastic cutlery anyway, so this challenge shouldn't be that hard. Having to carry my own eating utensils reminds me of when I was in the SCA. I would often go to events and feasts where no such utensils were provided, and you were expected to bring your own (if you wanted to break from the character you were inhabiting) or be ok with eating with your hands, which is more authentic, given that you are playing the part of a pre-17th century person most likely from a European land. I was quite the fancy-poo character and carried my ornate silverware wrapped in a fine napkin, which I stored in a pouch strapped to my waist over my garb. Yes, those were interesting times.