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.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Day 7 - Switch to eco-friendly laudry and dishwasher detergent

Not much to say about this one. The laundry detergent comes in powder form, is made locally, and is purported to remove strong odors from clothes. Let's see how it handles the smell of gas/wind/exhaust fumes that lingers perpetually in my jeans. The dishwasher soap is by Seventh Generation, a Burlington, VT company. I have a love/hate relationship with the state of Vermont, so we'll which side of my humours this detergent lands on.

My search and procurement for eco-friendly laundry and dishwasher soap was uneventful. It lead me to Big Carrot on the Danforth, where I dutifully purchased said products, along with some other items I probably didn't need, but couldn't resist, like this. I stared, fearfully, once again, at the Diva Cup, which I know now will enter my future sometime next month, should my body decide to work properly. What excited me most about my visit, however, was the pamphlet I picked up on my way out. Published by the Toronto Vegetarian Association, it is a listing of all vegetarian and veg-friendly restaurants in town, along with meal catering, farmer's markets and other great things. Now, I'm not vegetarian, nor do I plan on becoming one, but I have to say, I love vegetarian cuisine, and seriously, if I HAD to give up meat, I would be sad, but I certainly wouldn't starve with all this tasty tofu and lentil curry lying about. The brochure that I mention is available in .pdf format at the website linked above (which is great - save those trees).

After leaving Big Carrot, I wandered east on the Danforth to an eco-store that sold housewares and some clothing. I didn't purchase anything, but I did overhear a conversation between a lady and a sales clerk where the lady was looking to buy some worms for her compost, and this store can order worms for you. Interesting tidbit for future endeavors, I think.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Day 6 - Learn how to check the tire pressure on my Harley

This one will make my boyfriend proud. He's been after me for ages, and rightly so, that I learn some basic motorcycle maintenance and repair skills. Last week I took the bike to the local dealership, bought and replaced my own burnt out turn signal there in the parking lot with tools I had brought. And although it was not a big job by any means (unscrew 2 screws, take out old bulb, put in new, replace screws), I got the admiration of the dealership guys ("There's a girl with a Road King doing her own maintenance in our lot!) and I had a glow of pride that yes, I did that myself and didn't need any help and maybe, just maybe, some light motorcycle maintenance would be fun to learn.

I've heard that keeping your tires at the proper pressure promotes proper tire wire and lifespan, and is more fuel friendly (floppy tires take more power to move than nice, firm tires). I know how to check the tire pressure on cars, and in the two cars I've owned I've always carried a tire pressure gauge for such things. When I got my first car, my father assembled a "basics" kit of sorts and taught me how to use it to keep my car happy. I even used to do my own oil changes. I don't need to check the tire pressure on the Buick because this fancy-poo car does it for you and gives you an electronic read-out in the car as to how your tires are doing.

So why have I never tinkered with the Harley before now? A few reasons. One, if I make a false move and the bike tips over, I can't pick it back up, and I've probably damaged something expensive in the process. Two, Harleys get insanely hot while they are running. My boyfriend has scars on his hands and arms where he has been burnt by hot pipes and parts. Harleys also take a long time to cool down after they've been running, but some of the things you need to do to them, such as checking the proper oil level, needs to be done while the bike is hot. And lastly, I live with a guy who sincerely loves motorcycle maintenance and is more than happy to do it for me.

Time to be more independent and responsible. Tonight, we learn tire pressure taking.

Monday, July 20, 2009

This could be harder than I thought...

While compiling my list of changes that I plan on making over the next while, I came to the realization that I'm already sorta friendly with the planet, and have made some changes already which is great, but only means that my future changes are going to be that much more difficult.

For example:

1. I already use a biodegradable, natural, flushable cat litter called World's Best Cat Litter. Honestly, I was skeptical when I tried it, but seriously, the odor control is amazing, and while it does track onto the floor a little, it's not nearly as bad as conventional brands. Plus, being flushable means that I'm not bagging dirty litter in a plastic bag and putting down the garbage chute.

2. I produce more recycling per week than actual garbage. I produce one kitchen-sized bag of garbage every 1.5 weeks, whereas I empty my recycling bin sometimes twice a week.

3. I drink tap water, unfiltered, in a Dasani bottle that I purchased months ago and just wash out and refill. I bring my water everywhere, so I never have to buy water or another beverage. I don't drink canned or bottled beverages (unless you count wine), and I think I was 10 the last time I had a juice box.

4. When I was growing up, my parents were sticklers for turning off all lights when not in use. Now, it's just second nature, and people who don't turn off lights annoy me.

5. I use reusable tote bags, specifically the big blue bag from Ikea. Yes, it's made of plastic, but I'm going to use that thing until it gives out. Which it may never do, because let me tell you that thing is strong. I carry home loads of groceries in it, and while the strap cuts my shoulder, it shows no signs of breaking. All those plastic shopping bags got really annoying and started piling up, especially after switching to the flushable litter. Now I'll just bundle them together and recycle them. Also, I sew, meaning if I want something smaller and more stylish than the blue behemoth, I can make a bag with materials I already own, in the span of a few hours.

6. I am a huge fan of the public library system. The first thing I do upon moving to a new city is to get a library card. Sure, I buy books every now and then, but they are mostly cookbooks, which I justify as being reference materials. When I want to read an actual book, I borrow.

7. I own one aerosol can, and it's my hairspray. When it's gone, I'm replacing it with an all-natural, non-aerosol variety. If there is such a thing. If not...maybe I can live without hairspray? I already use all natural bar soap, and have given up nail polish.

8. I can't remember the last time I bought a CD. All of my music is downloaded.

9. The cats are on a prescription diet, and to vary from that diet would mean illness, expensive vet bills, possibly an operation and perhaps even death for one of the cats. Whatever it is they are eating, I'm going to stick with, because it works.

10. I've pretty well already given up my vacuum cleaner. That happened back in January when the laminate floors went down. Now I sweep daily and mop once or twice a week. I might as well give the vacuum to Freecycle. Being that I'm a neat freak, I do whatever I can to keep this place tidy.

11. All laundry is done in cold water. I've shrunk enough things to be permanently paranoid about hot water washing.

12. I buy spices in bulk, because it's cheaper, and I love Bulk Barn. I store my spices in a set of drawers purchased at Canadian Tire that are originally meant for keeping your screws, bolts, nuts, etc. organized. That way, they are stored in the dark, and each drawer is labeled. I buy whatever I can in bulk, including flour, sugar, nuts, etc. Now I just have to figure out what to do with those plastic bags that the food comes in...

13. I donate my used clothing to Goodwill, but more often than not, I tear it apart and make something new out of it.

14. I have houseplants, not only for their aesthetic appeal, but also in an effort to clean the air. It is a sad circumstance that I live with my terrace door open, and the neighbor sits on her terrace and chain smokes.

15. I groom my cats, to prevent hairballs and shedding. Not only that, I have long-haired cats. If I don't groom them, they get matted fur, which is unpleasant for both human and feline.

16. I gave up my birth control pill over a month ago, before I even knew of the trace amounts of estrogen going into the water system. I was just tired of putting a chemical into my body. Sure, the regularity and nice skin was great, but really, I'm just going to let my body do it's own thing. I've been on the pill for 10 years, and it's time to get off it.

17. I eat my ice cream in a cone, because I like portable food. Although I have to wonder what that cone is made out of...

18. I rarely, and I do mean rarely watch tv. I could get rid of cable and sell off the equipment, but I'd be killed first by my boyfriend. I have never owned a tv, and have no desire to, should I ever live alone.

19. I use only wood hangers (they are pretty), and I recycle the wire ones from the dry cleaner. I also make sure my shower curtain drys properly to prevent mold.

20. I already know not to pour grease down the drain (thanks Mom), and I share my living space with other living things.

21. I don't use the bathroom fan (much to the dismay of my boyfriend), and I keep the dryer lint trap very clean, so as to prevent fires (thanks again Mom). I don't buy magazines or newspapers, and I make my own soup stock and bread.

22. I have a GPS, which I use when driving and riding the Harley. It rarely steers me wrong, so I get to my destinations without wasting gas driving around in circles.

Wow. So there you have it. I'm already kinda green. Which is great. But that only means that I'm going to have to work that much harder to come up with challenges that actually make a difference. Delightful.

Day 5 - Give up all styrofoam and polystyrene products

Today I'm giving up all styrofoam products. Right now, this is an easy challenge, because I can literally say that there is no styrofoam in my house. Nope, not even a little. The real challenge is going to be when I order take out. The styrofoam that the restaurant industry uses has been bugging me for a while.

This past Wednesday, I went on a little jaunt to the Starbucks in Liberty Village, and beforehand stopped at a Select Sandwich. The plan was to get a sandwich, take it to Starbucks, get a coffee, and spend a few hours reading. I've never been to a Select Sandwich location before, so I was looking forward to trying something new.

The restaurant is staffed by two very cheerful and eager to please folks. Unfortunately, Englsih is not their first language, so when I asked for my sandwich to be wrapped in napkins (rather than placed in a styrofoam box), that request was lost in translation. *sigh* Out I walked, with my roast beef on rye inside a large, white, squeaking styrofoam box. After I was done eating, and to make matters worse, my box wouldn't fit into the openings of the garbage cans at Starbucks. I'm not sure what was more embarrassing - knowing that I was adding yet another piece of non-biodegradable waste to our planet, or the squeaking and crunching that ensued as I forced the container into the garbage can.

So! No more styrofoam. And actually styrofoam is a word that we ues for all foam-like products. The actual brand name Styrofoam is a trademark of Dow Chemical Co. The stuff that food containers and coffee cups are made out of is known as polystyrene, has a recycling code of 6, and can be recycled. Good news - I can put my polystyrene in my green box, and it will be recycled by the City of Toronto (that is, once the garbage strike ends). So long as it has been rinsed out, the city will accept it.

Now I have a moral dilemma. Do I continue to use polystyrene products, feeling good that I live in a place that can recycle them, or do I shun their usage altogether and opt for a different sort of container? If I take my plastic no-name food containers to a take out restaurant, will they use them and put my food inside? And how exactly to I sort this polystyrene? In my condo's recycling room, we have a large bin for paper, a large bin for plastics and glass, and smaller bins for wine bottles, batteries and light bulbs. I called the City of Toronto, and after many public service announcements, I got through to a lovely lady who informed me that yes, I can place my polystyrene in the bin used for plastic and glass recycling, but she was not at liberty to say whether it was better to recycle or avoid. Rinsing the polystyrene to make it suitable for recycling does bring up the waste water issue, but perhaps I can use that waste water to water my plants (although I'm not sure my plants would enjoy water laced with pad thai sauce).

Ok, after some thinking and research, I'm going to avoid polystyrene altogether, because it requires energy to break down the material for recycling. And really, I shouldn't be eating take out food anyway, when you think about it. Who knows what's really in that food. I can make better stuff right here at home.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

First Post and Behind Already, Days 1-4

A few days ago, I finished reading Sleeping Naked is Green by Toronto author Vanessa Farquharson. Three things struck me:

1. She is a Toronto resident, like myself.
2. She is the same age as I am.
3. In the beginning, she knew nothing of being green, tagged herself as a "eco-cynic", and after 366 days, was a veritable green expert and liked many of the changes she made for her life.

Here's how she did it. She made one green change, every day for a year, and blogged about her experience. The changes she made were well-researched, thoughtful and effective, and she received support and wisdom from the blogging community along the way.

So if she can do it, why can't I?

Why indeed. We live in the same place, have access of all the same stores and amenities, and I want to make the earth a better place as well. And hey, along Vanessa's journey to green, she saved money and became healthier, which are not bad side-effects.

My greening process is going to be challenging or course, but for different reasons than hers. For example, I don't live alone. I live with a man who gives little thought to the environment, loves his long hot showers and likes to think of himself as a meatatarian. And while Vanessa had more trouble giving up her vacuum cleaner than selling her car, I would gladly hand over my Hoover right now if it meant I could keep riding my Harley-Davidson. Don't get me wrong - at no point in this challenge will I be selling my motorcycle. I'm making green changes that make sense to me, and I'm not selling a bike that I'm still paying off. Perhaps I'm naive, but I like to think that my bike isn't that bad. It's better than the car sitting in the garage (a Buick Enclave). And I'm running stock pipes and I haven't tinkered with the exhaust system. That means my bike meets strict EPA standards for carbon emissions and noise pollution. I just might be driving the quietest, cleanest Harley on the road.

So here goes. I'm going to be making one green change per day, and writing about it. How long will I last? I don't know. Can I come up with enough changes for a year? Can I stick to this, or will it all fall apart? We'll see. I'll give it my best, and go from there.

One more note before I start. I will not be throwing out perfectly good products and replacing them with green ones. I see this as being wasteful. I will use the non-green product until it is gone, and then I will do without, or replace it with a green alternative.

When I said that I was behind already I meant that I had actually started the challenge four days ago, and just now got around to setting up the blog to chart my progress. Thursday (day one) I needed toilet paper and opted for the 100% recycled paper "green" version sold at Loblaws. I was feeling hesitant, as I normally buy the three-ply, super-quilted, softer-than-soft paper for my bottom, but some friendly lesbians buying the paper convinced me that it was just fine and they liked it. That's enough for me. I didn't tell my man that we were switching toilet paper varieties (I wonder if he's noticed) but I can say that it is thinner than I'm used to, and it doesn't have that plush softness, but you know what? It's fine. It does the job, doesn't fall apart under pressure, and it's good for the planet. Challenge One: easy.

Friday's challenge was easy as well, given the lack of a summer we're having here in Toronto. I turned off the air conditioning. For good. I live in a condo where my utilities are included in my condo fees. Frankly, I could run every appliance in the house 24/7 and I would never see the effect in my bank account. But we're not doing this to save money (ok, yes we are, but that's a secondary goal). We're doing this to be good to the planet. The AC is off and it's staying off, no matter what happens. The door to the terrace is kept wide open anyway (the cats enjoy unrestricted access and tend to let me know their displeasure in loud and sometimes messy ways if this freedom is revoked). I am nervous when I think of the possibility that we could have a summer eventually, and that I will miss the AC and not be able to sleep and night as I lay bathed in my own sweat. *sigh* Time to suck it up princess.

Saturday saw the coming of 100% recycled paper towels. Again, a little scratchy (but who cares? I'm not wiping delicate things with them), and they do their job just fine. Day three: still easy. This can't last.

Today, being day four, I endeavored to invest in an all-natural moisturizer for my face. You see, riding around in the wind in quite drying, and I have dry, sensitive skin to begin with. I had been using a moisturizer from MAC Cosmetics but could no longer justify the cost. I love the fact that MAC does not test on animals, has a large humanitarian effort in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and has a product package recycling program however. This lead to my first visit to a popular local health store called Noah's Natural Foods. Noah's not only carries natural foods, but many natural body products, including The Diva Cup, which will be part of my green plan as soon as I exhaust my supply of tampons.

Anyway, back to Noah's. This place is slightly overwhelming, especially if you have never been in such a store before. Brands I've never heard of, smells I wasn't aware of, and an amazing number of products packed into a small space on Bloor St. The helpful sales gal directed toward my new moisturizer, made by Sigrid Natural Skin Care. I purchased the Carrots & Roses Face Cream, with carrot seeds and rose hips. The product doesn't smell like much, which is fine, and has a nice consistency, for a moisturizer. The ingredient list is short - sweet almond oil, water, bees wax, shea butter, aloe vera, carrot seed oil, rose hip oil, benzoin and myrrh essential oils. It's made in a place called Wilno, ON and the label states "Handmade and Wildcrafted with Love in Canada". Awwww. Canada's first Polish settlement! So cool. And I paid less for this product than I would have had I gone to MAC.

Maybe being green won't be so hard after all!