Monday, January 31, 2011

Delurking Day

Apparently this past January 14th was Delurking Day, and although I'm only getting around to it now (at least it's still January), I'd still like to openly invite my readers to say hi or leave a comment below. As a recovering blog lurker myself, I now see the value in coming out of the virtual woodwork and tipping my metaphorical hat to the great blog writers out there... you know, with words, rather than silently in my head! As a result, I've become much more active in regularly commenting on other sites. If you have a blog of your own, leaving a comment is a great way to bring in more traffic. On the flip side, it's also really helpful for blog writers to find out who their audience is, and I think I speak for most of us when I say we really appreciate our readers and would love a chance to say thank you!

Don't be shy, and please don't let a lack of something witty to remark on prevent you from leaving a comment! I get excited every time I get one, and I appreciate the extra time you take to write a few words after reading what I have to say. After all, a good discussion is one of the best ways to share ideas!

Thanks to The Mindful Merchant for encouraging me to try this out (and for letting me copy over the badge). It should go without saying... check out her blog!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Foodie Politics

It's late, so I'll be really quick about this: tonight I was one of about 50 people to attend The Local Politics of Food panel discussion, and the energy in the room was palpable. Among many other interesting points, Avia Eek stressed the importance of asking political candidates to be clear about their platforms as they relate to the food system; Joe Mihevc urged us to reconsider the dichotomy between viewing urban centres only as places for business, commerce, education, and finance, and rural areas as space used exclusively for farming; and Faisal Moola supported treating farms as ecosystems because they provide an incredible number of ecological benefits that we take for granted. Moderator Sarah Thomson asked how we can take action, and the responses varied from starting community gardens to supporting the establishment of foodbelts (agricultural greenbelts) to changing people's mindsets about the aesthetics of produce so that no food is wasted simply because it isn't perfectly unblemished on supermarket shelves. Finally, I really liked how Jacob Kearey Moreland  closed the discussion by highlighting that what sustains us are the connections we have with each other and the planet. Now that more people are realizing this, things are beginning to change.

A big thank you to Darcy at Food Forward and Jacob with Dig In! Campus Agriculture for organizing this event.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

GMOs: Now In Chicken and Banana Flavours!

We can add genetically modified chickens and bananas to the growing list of franken-foods in the news recently. (I've previously commented on GM pigs, salmon, and apples.)

Scientists in the UK have engineered the world's first GM chickens that do not spread the avian flu, proving once again that simple problems can be fixed with extremely complex, costly, synthetic solutions. As we all know, avian flu is very easily spread in factory farm conditions where the animals live in such close quarters that the transmission of diseases is essentially inevitable. By the way, this is why 1 in 4 North American chickens carries salmonella. Obviously, instead of adopting more sustainable farming practices, industrial chicken factories (they're not farms) prefer to churn out as many chickens in as little time with as small of a budget on as small of a piece of land as possible. Enter the GM variety that is born immune to the avian flu, and watch as the profits rise.

But wait, it gets better: bananas are the next food to be targeted because the one and only variety exported to Canada, the US, and Europe (the Cavendish, which happens to be sterile) is currently being threatened by a fungus. To avoid losing the entire crop, it has been suggested that we genetically modify the Cavendish banana to be resistant to this fungus. Apparently the people who live in the areas where banana trees are a native plant (hot climates in Asia, Africa, and Latin America) grow a mix of about 1000 varieties in their own backyards, since diversity prevents a single disease from wiping out every last tree. But the people behind the industrial banana farming giants that export the fruit to the countries you and I live in (Dole, Chiquita, and Del Monte own 85% of the US market) want nothing to do with those varieties. They claim that those other bananas won't look so good after long-distance travel. I suspect the real reason they won't switch is that no other variety produces a giant yield like the Cavendish does. And let's face it - growing a monoculture of anything is just asking for trouble. All it takes is one pest to come along and destroy the entire crop. In other words, making one type of banana resistant to one fungus hides the symptom of a bigger problem: industrial agriculture is unsustainable.

These two stories offer more proof that genetic modification has nothing to do with feeding the hungry and everything to do with increasing the profit margin of big agribusiness while simultaneously allowing them to maintain farming practices that are detrimental to livestock, workers, the environment, and our health. But I don't want to end this post on such a pessimistic note. We need to remember that the public is growing increasingly aware of and concerned about genetic modification, that information about this topic is becoming more widely available, and that it is becoming easier to source organically grown food that is GMO-free!

How do you feel about genetic modification?

Photo credits: chickens; bananas.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Happiness Is...

... stepping into the William Doo Auditorium and seeing people already sitting on the stage floor and in the aisles because there are absolutely no seats left for the screening of The Economics of Happiness.

I'm no good at reviewing films, so I'll just say this: despite experiencing a fair amount of pain from having to sit on the hard steps of the auditorium without a chance to stretch my legs for close to two hours, I felt hopeful and inspired after watching Helena Norberg-Hodge's work, and that's good enough for me. The message was clear and powerful: globalization erodes happiness, creates insecurities to fuel consumerism, ravages natural resources with no regard for future generations, speeds up global climate change, ruins livelihoods, breeds conflict where there was none before, requires government subsidies to big business that the public pays for, and is based on an index of economic growth that doesn't take into account the actual well-being and life satisfaction of people like you and me.

fltr: Helena, Joshna, Eric, and Wayne

The panel discussion was equally enlightening, with producer Helena Norberg-Hodge stating that the first step to making change should be built around education (information is powerful), urban farmer Eric Rosenkrantz suggesting we place demand ahead of supply (as with community shared agriculture) to avoid creating debt, and activist chef Joshna Maharaj highlighting how community food kitchens not only increase access to healthy food, but also reduce social isolation.

If you're interested in seeing the film, there are a variety of launch events happening around the world until the end of February, plus other screenings in Canada and the US. The film's website also provides instructions on how to organize a screening in your own community.

Also, if you couldn't attend the screening last night at the University of Toronto and are curious about the Sheridan College students' very well done infographics and short videos that explore the current food crisis, check out Sustain Ontario's Good Food Ideas for Kids website.

[My apologies for the poor resolution in the images above.]

Friday, January 21, 2011

Organic Tobacco... What Will They Think Of Next?

Tonight I'm expecting three dinner guests, so I'm going to take a really quick break from cleaning and cooking to get something off my mind: organic tobacco doesn't make sense.

Apparently a growing (ha! pun!) number of American farmers are beginning to cultivate organic tobacco, since the increased costs and slightly lower yield are offset by a much higher selling price once harvest time comes around. The cigarettes made out of this tobacco are then marketed as being "natural" due to their lighter environmental footprint as compared to the conventional ones.

But... who buys these? There are people who worry about environmental degradation, and they might approve of the fact that no synthetic fertilizers or pesticides were used, protecting the soil and nearby streams, but what about the amount of waste generated by the production, consumption, and disposal of the cigarettes in question? Then there are people who worry about their health, and they may take comfort in the fact that they aren't being exposed to residual toxins from the nasty chemicals used to grow tobacco using conventional methods, but what does that matter if they're still inhaling tar, nicotine, carbon monoxide, benzene, formaldehyde, and hydrogen cyanide?

Folks, I'm stumped. Is this just another example of "make it, and they will buy it"? Do any of you smoke, and if so, would you pay more to buy "natural" cigarettes?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Talking About Food... and Eating It, Too!

I used to think January was a dead month: many people take a few weeks to recover from the holidays (excessive eating and exposure to family members will do that), and for those of us living in more wintry climates, any interest in going outside is easily replaced by the desire to keep warm under a blanket with a mug of hot chocolate.

Then I met Food Forward, and my naive worldview went out the window... and immediately froze in mid-air and shattered on contact with the sidewalk. Later someone slipped on it and fell. You get the idea. If you only attend two events this month (okay three, because you should also come to the free screening of The Economics of Happiness), these are the ones for you:

The Local Politics of Food

This panel discussion will feature three exciting speakers: Toronto City Councillor and urban agriculture advocate Joe Mihevc, King Township Councillor and farmer Avia Eek, and David Suzuki Foundation Science Director and conservation expert Faisal Moola. If you attend, you will be in good company indeed! The discussion, moderated by Women's Post publisher and former mayoral candidate Sarah Thomson, will cover some of the issues and solutions that municipalities are working on in relation to the food system and how residents can take action and bring about community change.

Come out and ask these experts your burning food system questions on Wednesday, January 26th, between 7:00 and 8:30 pm in the South Dining Room at Hart House (7 Hart House Circle, University of Toronto). You can RSVP here.

Foodie Drinks

What happens when you invite a bunch of politically-minded foodies to a hip bar, introduce them to groups doing good work to support the good food movement, offer them Local Food Plus certified food, then let them mingle, socialize, and network? You get Foodie Drinks, where those who care about expanding access to healthy food and supporting farmers and animal welfare come together to make positive change in the community. This month's event will feature Arlene Hazzan Green and Marc Green, founders of The Backyard Urban Farm Company, and Laura Reinsborough, founder of Not Far From The Tree, who will speak about the good work they are doing to support the local food system.

Don't be shy, come out and make new friends who share your foodie values on Monday, January 31st, between 7:00 and 10:00 pm in the Melody Bar at the Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen St W). You can RSVP here.

Both The Local Politics of Food and Foodie Drinks are open to everyone and free to attend, however a $10 donation is encouraged to cover the costs of organizing event like these and pushing good food policy forward at City Hall.

Photo credit.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Levi's New Jeans Line Misses the Point

Apparently Levi's has developed a new line of jeans that uses 28% less water during its manufacturing. Specifically, the amount of washing needed to soften the denim has been reduced, and while I'm happy that 16 million litres of water will be saved, I'm left wondering just how much we should be congratulating the company.

I know, I know, I'm an idealist, and it gets in the way of my optimism such that every step in the right direction only serves to highlight everything else that isn't being done. It's hard for me to sit idly by while the general public applauds small efforts like this but remains ignorant of other issues that remain unaddressed. What can I say, calling this new line of jeans Water<Less reminds me of greenwashing. Growing cotton, producing denim, and manufacturing jeans is hugely water-intensive even if you don't bother to stone-wash the pants! Hiding this fact by tricking consumers into believing the jeans were made using waterless manufacturing techniques is... well, I guess it's the norm these days.

So what's all the fuss about?

  • Growing cotton involves a great deal of water, fertilizer, and pesticides:  just ask the people living around the Aral Sea how the cotton industry, using unsustainable agricultural practices, has caused an environmental, economic, and human health disaster that is not going away any time soon.
  • Processing cotton to make denim requires more water, but also paraffin and synthetic indigo, which present a double whammy of environmental degradation because (1) they are petroleum products and (2) they're probably dumped directly into surface water adjacent to the plant.
  • Weathering the denim to give it that worn look (I've never understood this), while often still called stone-washing, is more likely to make use of water and toxic chemicals than good, old-fashioned rocks. It's funny how the energy that goes into stone-washing, fabric softening, and sandblasting the jeans actually serves to shorten their lifespan and increase consumer demand. No, wait... that's not funny.

See what I mean, about how slightly reducing the amount of water used to soften the jeans is only great if you remain ignorant of the rest of the steps involved from field to closet? Well, I'm still trying to be a more optimistic person, so I'll work on feeling grateful that Levi's has taken a step in the right direction. Meanwhile, I'll buy my next pair in a thrift shop, donate them or find an alternate use for them once I'm done with them, and keep you apprised of any other environmentally friendly solutions that Levi's and their competitors come up with!

How about you? What's your closet filled with? Have you discovered brands or local artisans that are trying to do good by the environment when they make clothing?

Photo credits: close-up of jeans; cotton field.

TTC Public Meetings

The Toronto Transit Commission has been talking about making changes to some of its bus routes - the ones that don't carry a lot of people and therefore don't bring in a lot of revenue but are nonetheless vital for those who rely on them to get, well, anywhere! The flip side is that service would be increased on heavily used routes.

Before the final decision is made, the TTC is inviting its users to attend four public meetings to learn more about the route changes and have an opportunity to provide feedback:
  • Monday, January 24th, 7:00 - 9:00 pm: Metro Hall room 308/309 (55 John St - St Andrew Station)
  • Tuesday, January 25th, 7:00 - 9:00 pm: North York Central Library, Memorial Hall (5120 Yonge St - North York Centre Station)
  • Wednesday, January 26th, 7:00 - 9:00 pm: Scarborough Civic Centre, Rotunda (150 Borough Dr - Scarborough Centre Station)
  • Thursday, January 27th, 7:00 - 9:00 pm: Elmbank Community Centre, lower level (10 Rampart Rd - Finch & Martin Grove)
Customers can also contribute their comments through the TTC Service Complaint / Suggestion Form.

Click here for details on the proposed route changes.

Photo credit.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

In the News Today

I'm in a foodie mood today, so I've collected some news articles about tuna, tea, and bumblebees - they pollinate tomatoes, dontcha know!

The BP oil spill continues to wreak havoc on the environment, this time as a result of the cleanup efforts: aquatic toxicologists are worried that the dispersants used to break up the oil actually increase the chances that sea life will interact with oil because the droplets are now dispersed over a much larger area than the spill originally affected. This spells trouble for the bluefin tuna that spawn in the Gulf of Mexico: "petroleum contamination could cause embryos to develop deformities, which can make it impossible for the young fish to grow old enough to reproduce". Read the full article here.

Unfortunately, bluefin tuna have other things to worry about: the growing popularity of this fish around the world (but mostly in Japan) is rapidly making it an endangered species. How do sushi-lovers respond to this crisis? By demanding more. In early January, a giant bluefin tuna sold at a record-breaking price at Tsukiji market in Tokyo (see here for details), which I imagine only serves to encourage the fishing industry to continue depleting the stocks. I wonder if fishers have any transferable skills for the inevitable career transition that awaits them when the seas are emptied of life?

Weaker flavour and reduced yields of tea in the Assam tea growing region of India provide an interesting example of the fallout that rising temperatures due to global climate change can have on agriculture. Damp conditions resulting from warmer weather have lowered production levels, bolstered the populations of insects that damage the tea bush, and apparently even diluted the usually strong and distinct flavour of Assam tea. While I anticipated that climate change would mess up agriculture (when you change the growing conditions, you change the yield), I'm surprised that the flavour of the tea has changed. If you read similar reports by green tea growers in East Asia, please let me know! Tea is my go-to hot beverage, and green tea is my favourite type.

As if the disappearance of honeybees wasn't enough, according to a recent study, four species of bumblebees in the US that are vital for the pollination of native plants (and tomatoes!) have declined by 96% due to pathogens and habitat loss. I'll just give you a minute to let that figure sink in. 96%! If these bees disappear, then the species of plants they are perfectly designed to pollinate will die out with them. But the chain of events doesn't stop there: what happens to the animals whose diet consists of these plants? What happens to the nutrient and water cycles when species A, B, and C are replaced by species X, Y, Z that behave totally differently from what our local ecosystems are used to? In nature, you can't just change one thing at a time, and even small problems can have far-reaching consequences. Read the full article here.

If you have any other news related to the impact our degraded environment has had on food and beverages, please share it in the comments section below!

Photo of tuna market used under Creative Commons from whatsound (flickr)
Photo of tea plantation used under Creative Commons from Loke Seng Hon (Wikimedia Commons).
Photo of bumblebee used under Creative Commons from José M. Rus (flickr).

Monday, January 17, 2011

Green Toronto Awards and Live Green Toronto Grants

No matter how cold it gets, winter is not a time for hibernation when there are so many exciting things going on. The City of Toronto is now accepting applications for two of its important environmental programs: the Green Toronto Awards and the Live Green Toronto Grants.

Green Toronto Awards

Nominations are now being accepted for the Green Toronto Awards, the City of Toronto's environmental awards of excellence celebrating the individuals, organizations, and companies leading the way to a cleaner, greener Toronto.

Winners will be recognized at a special awards ceremony this spring (April 15th on the main stage at the Green Living Show) and will receive $5,000 to further their work on the environment or donate to an environmental charity of their choice. What a great prize!

There are ten categories in total:
  • Green Business - new!
  • Green Home - new!
  • Community Projects
  • Youth Leadership
  • Energy Conservation
  • Environmental Awareness
  • Green Design
  • Leadership
  • Local Food
  • Water Efficiency

Nominations close February 7th at midnight. To apply and learn more, visit the Green Toronto Awards website.

Live Green Toronto Grants

Resident and community groups and charitable and not-for-profit organizations are invited to apply for funds to take on projects that green our neighbourhoods, reduce emissions, clean our air, and help us adapt to climate change. Please note that for-profit businesses and individuals are not eligible to apply.

Community Investment Program: grants of up to $25,000 are available for community-led projects that address environmental priorities such as local food, sustainable transportation, and renewable energy.

Capital Projects Fund: grants of up to $250,000 are available for capital projects such as building retrofits and green infrastructure.

Letters of interest are due January 31st. The City is hosting two information sessions this week at North York and Etobicoke Civic Centres. More information and the online application form can be found on the Live Green Toronto website.

Good luck to all candidates/applicants!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Economics of Happiness

Do you think Monday nights are boring? Think again! Come out to a screening of The Economics of Happiness:

From the synopsis posted on the film's website: "The Economics of Happiness describes a world moving simultaneously in two opposing directions. On the one hand, government and big business continue to promote globalization and the consolidation of corporate power. At the same time, all around the world people are resisting those policies, demanding a re-regulation of trade and finance - and, far from the old institutions of power, they're starting to forge a very different future. Communities are coming together to re-build more human scale, ecological economies based on a new paradigm - an economics of localization."

Event details:

What: reception and exhibit of artwork by Sheridan College students entitled "Animating Good Food Ideas", screening of The Economics of Happiness, and panel discussion featuring producer Helena Norberg-Hodge, activist chef Joshna Maharaj, and urban farmer Eric Rosenkrantz, moderated by author Wayne Roberts.

When: Monday, January 24th, 2011, 5: 30 - 9:30 pm (art exhibit 5:30 - 7:00 pm; screening and panel Q&A 7:00 - 9:30 pm)

Where: William Doo Auditorium (basement of New College Residence), U of T's St. George campus, 45 Willcocks St

W... how much: nothing!

Click here to view the trailer.

PS: Stay tuned for another exciting Monday night event announcement soon!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Trash-Talking... in a Good Way

It's always bothered me that we don't take waste generation seriously - after all, it's not often we think about what happens to trash once we put it out on the curb. Out of sight, out of mind, anyone? When you read the word "landfill", you probably conjure a mental image of a mound of dirty, smelly stuff, but do you ever think about where it is? Do you know where the landfills are located in your area?

Living in Toronto, that has been an easy question to answer: Michigan! But not anymore. As of two weeks ago, our garbage is staying in-province! The best part: it's called Green Lane, which makes me think of ponies on a meadow, with flowers and butterflies. Wee! Interestingly, this landfill is equipped with a methane gas collection and flaring system. I'm not sure how this is possible without housing the trash indoors, but I'm happy to hear that the emissions will be used to generate electricity. While this is not exactly what I had in mind when I heard Ontario will be phasing out its coal-fired power plants and relying more on alternative sources of electricity, it's better than letting the landfill fumes directly contribute to global warming (methane is much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide). Just don't use this as an excuse to avoid practising waste diversion!

In other trashy (but good) news, Vermont has become the 27th US state to ban electronic waste from its landfills. It's always a good idea to keep lead, mercury, and cadmium away from, well, every living thing! Toxic chemicals like these can mix in with that nasty sludge created by mountains of garbage, and this concoction seeps into the ground, then leaches into groundwater. To make an electronic waste landfill ban effective, proper disposal of the toxic products must be cost-effective and convenient. Vermont has opted for a free recycling program paid for by manufacturers, discouraging the public from illegal dumping and providing an incentive for electronics companies to reduce the amount of hazardous materials in their devices in the long run. What's next? Ensuring the e-waste is disposed of properly and on domestic soil, not shipped overseas to be taken apart in ways that hurt workers and the environment.

While Ontario has not put an electronic waste ban in place, the City of Toronto encourages its safe recycling and provides free curbside pickup of unwanted devices. Check out the spoof video ad:

For more details, read the City of Toronto media release about the Green Lane Landfill and the Associated Press article about the electronic waste landfill ban.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Light Rail Transit Supporters Community Meeting

This evening, Toronto City Councillor Joe Mihevc will be hosting a community meeting with the Toronto Environmental Alliance in support of Light Rail Transit across the city, especially the Eglinton LRT project. If you live in Toronto and want to see the four priority projects of the Transit City plan completed, please come!

The community meeting will be held in Barn #2 at Wychwood Barns (601 Christie St just south of St Clair Ave W) between 7 pm and 9 pm tonight.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Speaking of the Flu...

After being bedridden with the flu over the weekend and taking it easy for an additional day (I engage in the practice of not rushing back to the daily grind prematurely because that tends to encourage a follow-up cold/flu), I am now feeling like my physical self has recovered most of its strength. My mental abilities, though, seem to be readjusting more slowly, hesitant to go back into productive mode.

That being said, I should be able to write a quick post about swine flu. Not H1N1, necessarily; I'm referring to the flu viruses that originate in pigs. It seems an author at Scientific American is worried that there isn't enough monitoring of pig health on American farms, mainly because the pork industry isn't interested in playing show-and-tell with its data. I don't know about you, but I only remember hiding things as a child when I was worried about getting in trouble. Suspicious, anyone?

It turns out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are informed when a human catches the flu off a pig but can't always investigate because the contagious animal is often... already taken care of by the time officials arrive on site. And although the US Department of Agriculture has come up with a fancy surveillance system, it hasn't been set up because the pork industry, surprise surprise, isn't excited about the government meddling in its affairs. I can just hear them now, "this is a free country; all we're asking for the is the right to treat these intelligent animals really poorly, sell their meat for the greatest profit possible, and unleash the next great flu pandemic on the world, without Uncle Sam looking over our shoulders".

Let's be clear: it's unlikely that pigs living on farms using friendly (read: sustainable and ethical) livestock management strategies are the ones getting sick all the time. Imagine instead the overcrowded pens in a factory farm environment where pigs are given a daily regimen of antibiotics to mitigate the spread of disease - except antibiotics don't prevent or cure the flu! Just as you and I are exposed to cold and flu viruses when working in a busy office, taking the subway during rush hour, or visiting an Apple store, and just as that exposure leads to illness when we are under stress, the pigs living in factory farms are pretty much destined to pass around viral diseases during the time they are housed there. Then it's just a matter of time before the workers who come into contact with the animals pick up the flu from them, provided the virus has mutated into a form that can affect humans. A bleak future, indeed.

So what do we do? 1. Vote with our dollars and boycott meat from factory farms, choosing animals products from sustainable farms instead. 2. Lobby our elected officials to introduce stricter regulations on these industries. 3. Support local farmers so that less meat is imported from foreign countries where the oversight is even poorer.

If you'd like to read the blog post that clued me in on this issue, click here.

Photo credits: H1N1 virus; pig pens.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Days 7 and 8 - Giving Back and Eco-Sabbath

Last week I experimented with No Impact Week, exploring some of my past successes at decreasing my carbon footprint and generating even better ideas for the future. My goal is to challenge myself to redo the week later this year when it will have the greatest impact on my day-to-day life. Click here for a review of Day 1 - Consumption, Day 2 - Trash, Day 3 - Transportation, Day 4 - Food, Day 5 - Energy, and Day 6 - Water.


Days 7 and 8 - Giving Back and Eco-Sabbath

If you believe that getting sick with the flu, while unpleasant, is an opportunity for body and mind to rest, heal, and recuperate, then I guess you could say I spent the last two days celebrating the Eco-Sabbath - taking time back for myself. The only plug-in device I used was the kettle, to brew cup after cup of tea. When not sleeping or coughing up a lung, I was reading and working on logic puzzles in my sun-filled bedroom. I even had some time to just sit around contemplating how the No Impact Week challenge has changed me, even though I was participating more in spirit than in practice. I would say my commitment has gone up a level or two: commitment to consume less, produce less waste, eat more locally and seasonally while avoiding more meat, and conserve more energy and water. I've always known how; now I'm ready to actually do it.

As for Giving Back Day, instead of stepping up and doing more, I've actually had to practice reigning myself in because there are more ways to get involved than I have the time or energy for! I have found that once you begin to volunteer, the people you meet, connections you make, and community you tap into provide even more opportunities to give, help, build, and support. All that is required is flipping that switch in your head. Instead of listing barriers to participating and then stopping there, why not discover ways to overcome these obstacles? If you are legitimately too busy with activities to have a four-hour block of time to volunteer, why not make donations to a cause you support? Or if you have some time, but it's randomly dispersed throughout the week such that you can't commit to volunteering at your favourite organization's head office, ask if they have tasks you can complete at home and work around your schedule. There are solutions if you look hard enough.

To start you off, check out Volunteer Canada for resources and links to regional volunteer centres and their current listings. If you have lots of initiative and feel passionate about a specific cause but can't find any related opportunities listed, research an organization you'd like to support and tell them how you can help. I'm sure you will find a welcoming community.

Thanks for sharing this week with me!

Photo credit.

Friday, January 7, 2011

No Impact Week: Day 6 - Water

This week I'm experimenting with No Impact Week, exploring some of my past successes at decreasing my carbon footprint and generating even better ideas for the future. My goal is to challenge myself to redo the week later this year when it will have the greatest impact on my day-to-day life. Click here for a review of Day 1 - Consumption, Day 2 - Trash, Day 3 - Transportation, Day 4 - Food, and Day 5 - Energy.


Day 6 - Water

We're six days into No Impact Week, and you're probably expecting this post to be filled with tips about soaking dishes in the sink, taking shorter showers, and turning off the tap while brushing your teeth. Wrong!

On second thought, maybe it's best if I start by pointing out some of the things I'm doing that help conserve water:
  •  Forget, for the time being, the landlord-bashing I was doing in yesterday's post about energy, because he partially redeemed himself by installing a low-flow toilet. Goodbye, 13-litre flushes! Ready to get one for your home? If you live in Toronto, the City will give you money for chucking out... I mean properly disposing of... your water-guzzling model for an efficient one.
  • My landlord's second good deed was to install a high-efficiency shower head, which is actually a double whammy of savings in water and energy. The City sells indoor water efficiency retrofit kits for $10 that include a high-efficiency shower head, a kitchen tap aerator, two bathroom sink aerators, a package of leak detection tablets, teflon tape (to wrap around the shower arm to prevent leaks), and, of course, a set of instructions. A great deal!
  • As I mentioned yesterday, I'm only running the dishwasher and clothes washer when they are full, and I reuse the same glass for water and mug for tea all day. At the kitchen sink, I don't wait for the water to become hot to wash my hands or non-dishwasher safe items. Soap and detergent cut grease all on their own; high water temperature only serves to remove stuck-on food - a problem I don't have because I leave dishes to soak before I wash them!

I could go on and mention that I never go to a car wash, have no lawn to water, swore off bottled water years ago, and try to remember to turn the shower off while I'm soaping up and massaging shampoo into my hair. But that would be placing too much focus on household water use, which only accounts for 11% of Canada's overall consumption of H20 (why is there no subscript button in Blogger, and what's the HTML code for it?). That's right, people like you and me aren't the bad guys - at least not directly. Water intensive industries such as agriculture, nuclear and coal fired power plants, and manufacturing cooling systems are the big problem.

But don't use that as an excuse - if you'll pardon the pun - to wash your hands of this issue! While you may not be the type to devote a lot of time and energy to lobbying politicians to introduce stricter (or any) regulations on industry, there are still a lot of options available to you:
  • Local Food Plus (LFP), an organization I've told you about before, works to certify farmers and producers who use sustainable methods (including water efficient ones) so that we, the public, can make informed decisions at the grocery store. LFP has been running a really successful Buy to Vote campaign that I encourage you to support.

  • Avoid factory farms, because generally more industrialized = more wasteful, and big business tends to care about profit margins at the expense of the environment. Do I really need to cite examples? I didn't think so. Don't forget that the use of pesticides and fertilizers goes hand in hand with water consumption, even if you're only looking at the chemical plants that manufacture the toxins!
  • There are a lot of numbers out there about the resource intensity of livestock operations, but the stat I love to pass on is that producing 8 ounces of beef can require up to 25,000 litres of water (I had to memorize that for an exam in December). Keep in mind that cows no longer graze in pastures, instead we feed them soy grown in heavily irrigated fields. To make a difference, simply cut down on your meat consumption or find a butcher who sells products from sustainably-raised animals.
  • Support the development of clean and renewable power generation. This can include becoming a Bullfrog Power member to have electricity from wind and hydro facilities injected into the local grid, matched to the amount of power your home uses.
  • Buy less stuff. Refuse, reduce, reuse, and recycle. The fewer products you consume, the less water is wasted.
But in the meantime, definitely install a low-flow toilet and high-efficiency shower head! I'll try to get an indoor water efficiency retrofit kit by the time I try No Impact Week again later this year. This weekend covers the Giving Back Day as well as the Eco-Sabbath, which I will review next week.

Photo credits: water droplet; sprinkler.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

No Impact Week: Day 5 - Energy

This week I'm experimenting with No Impact Week, exploring some of my past successes at decreasing my carbon footprint and generating even better ideas for the future. My goal is to challenge myself to redo the week later this year when it will have the greatest impact on my day-to-day life. Click here for a review of Day 1 - Consumption, Day 2 - Trash, Day 3 - Transportation, and Day 4 - Food.


Day 5 - Energy

It's cold and snowy outside, the perfect context in which to discuss energy use for those of us who live in climates with chilly winters.

Five years ago, I was sharing a basement apartment with a friend in a two-storey house. Our landlord indicated that we were in control of the heat for the whole house and should make attempts at keeping the six students above us relatively comfortable. This was no small feat, as the same amount of heat was being pumped into all three floors. While the main floor tenants were happy with this arrangement, the top floor tenants' bedrooms had walls exposed to the windy outdoors, and subsequently the kids always complained of the cold. As a result, my friend and I walked around barefoot and in shorts all winter long, having turned the heat up to keep our neighbours quiet.

Three years ago I no longer had any control over the temperature in my apartment, having moved into a 20-storey, 500-unit high rise with furnaces that ran full-blast for the duration of the colder months. My windows remained open to prevent me from baking to death. Along with the excessively hot air, my cold tolerance also disappeared, and worst of all, my mother's house didn't seem so cozy anymore. Fast forward to the present day in a new place, where an extra sweater is all I need to get by in 18C, and other people's homes are uncomfortably warm. And to think, I used to worry about how I would make do with the thermostat turned down! Thankfully, my mother's house has once again become a cozy place to be.

Let's talk about appliances. My new home came well-equipped with a stacked washer/dryer set, the standard fridge and electric stove duo, as well as a dishwasher. They're all relatively new, which is great, but possibly also the most energy inefficient machines on the market today, which is not so great - I believe my landlord was trying to save as much money as possible, and I can't blame him... but I will! Being way more cash-strapped than he is, I can't afford to replace these appliances with my own high-efficiency ones, and I'm stuck with a nasty electricity bill at the end of the month. So here's what I do:
  • Loads of laundry are washed in cold water, and only when I can fill the machine to capacity.
  • The drier is used half as often, and preferably only for items I don't have enough space to hang up, such as bed linens. This is where a clothesline in a basement would come in handy!
  • The fridge is tricky to deal with. I don't keep it stuffed full or place excessively hot items into it, and I never just stand there staring into it with the door open, daydreaming. What else can I do?
  • I try to cook things in sequence, where possible, using the same stove top element twice in a row rather than two simultaneously, and the oven stays off when I can easily use the toaster oven instead.
  • The dishwasher is not my friend (please refer to three. previous. posts.). I only run it when it's completely full, I keep using the same drinking glass for water and mug for tea all day long, and leave the buttons that boost the temperature, extend the wash cycle, and heat the air during the drying cycle firmly in the off position.
The only energy used here is for lighting.

Let's not forget the devices we use more for entertainment than chores! Having declined to subscribe to a cable package in my new home, the TV tends to stay off most of the time. It's used for video gaming and the viewing of DVDs, activities which have declined in popularity now that I've freed myself from my idiot box addiction (quit one, quit them all?). Best of all, I plug the tangled mess of home theatre system cables into a power bar that I shut down when not needed, avoiding the dreaded phantom power affliction, which can account for 10% of household electricity consumption. Unfortunately, my web use has gone up, and I try to compensate by going cold turkey on weekends and keeping myself entertained outdoors, with friends, or with a good book... under the glow of my CFL bulbs, of course, which replaced every last incandescent light I could find about a week after I moved in!

When I challenge myself to participate in No Impact Week again later this year, it may be summertime, in which case I will try to go A/C free, avoid the drier completely, and spend time outside every evening to avoid the lure of my computer!

Stay tuned tomorrow for my thoughts on Day 6 - Water.

Photo credits: snowy landscape; tropical beach; 1940s living room.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Day 4 - Food

This week I'm experimenting with No Impact Week, exploring some of my past successes at decreasing my carbon footprint and generating even better ideas for the future. My goal is to challenge myself to redo the week later this year when it will have the greatest impact on my day-to-day life. Click here for a review of Day 1 - Consumption, Day 2 - Trash, and Day 3 - Transportation.


Day 4 - Food

This could be a very long post. When it comes to environmental issues, problems with the way we grow, process, market, consume, and waste food pretty much top the list for me. So instead of writing until 2012, I'll keep things brief by giving you a bullet-point list of the things I do to lower my food-related carbon footprint. Get comfy, this will still be long.

A selection of produce from my CSA share, late July 2010.

  • I'm a big fan of eating locally and seasonally, and I held true to my values over the summer by participating in Young Urban Farmers CSA. In the fall, I went to my local farmers' market as often as I could, but since it's open on Saturdays and the past two fell on holidays... let's say my fridge doesn't have a lot of Ontario-grown produce in it right now.
  • I'm happy to state that I've made big strides in the direction of vegetarianism! My general rules are to avoid meat altogether when I'm dining out, unless the restaurant uses a local, hormone- and antibiotic-free, non-factory farm source for their meat. I try to keep to the same criteria when I find myself in front of a butcher counter, and when I can afford it, I cross town to visit butchers who sell organic meat from farmers they actually know. Raising cows is one of the most resource-intensive and polluting agricultural activities, so I have almost completely cut beef out of my diet - and between you and me (and the entire internet, haha) I find Betsy kinda boring, with the exception of using slices of flank steak for a stir-fry. Will I eventually become a vegetarian? It's quite likely.
  • I carry a pocket guide that indicates which fish have been caught/raised in environmentally sustainable ways and have a low mercury content (three cheers for Toronto Public Health) to make smart decisions. Goodbye salmon, shrimp, red snapper, and tuna. Those are the losses I feel most acutely. Sea urchin, on the other hand - my brother can attest to this - I am not sad to see in the "bad choice" column.
  • The bad news? Off the top of my head, these are some of the foods from outside of Ontario that I currently can't bring myself to give up: avocados, bananas, citrus (lemons, oranges, and clementines), mangoes, olives and olive oil, pineapples, rice, salt, and wheat (bread). The good news? I don't have to feel too guilty about my consumption of chocolate if I switch from a fancy Swiss brand to Chocosol, purveyors of artisanal chocolate made from cacao beans that have been fairly traded for in a socially just way, plus other ingredients that are grown locally. And the real kicker is that the final product is delivered to your door by bike! Be still my beating heart...
  • The big dilemma: what to do about coffee and tea. I mostly quit coffee in 2006 for health reasons (consuming either too much or too little caffeine in coffee format was causing migraines as a withdrawal/overdose symptom) and I continue to avoid it most days of the week - not an easy feat considering I'm tempted every day, living in a neighbourhood with some of the best espresso outside of Italy. But what about tea, that warming, soothing, nourishing beverage that I can't go without for more than a few hours at a time? Does it help that half of what I own is organic? Does it matter that I sometimes drink a tisane made entirely from Ontario-grown herbs (thank you for cluing me in on this blend, Karen at Stratford Tea Leaves)? Am I making a noticeable difference by drinking loose leaf teas rather than using tea bags, which require extra resources and much more processing? What about the fact that unlike coffee, I don't add any milk or sugar to tea? Or, consider this: isn't tea responsible for lower transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions than coffee (on a cup for cup basis, due to how much less tea you need, and how much less it weighs than coffee)? I'll need some time to better research this topic!
  • Let's not forget alcoholic beverages. I buy local wines from Niagara and über-local beer from downtown (Steam Whistle, Mill St., and Amsterdam). Enough said.
  • For the most part, I don't buy a lot of processed foods; I ate my last McMeal over ten years ago and will never go back; I cook at home rather than order in; I brown-bag my lunch instead of heading to the food court; I occasionally bake my own bread and pizza dough (like today!); and when I dine out, I prefer restaurants that respect the slow food approach and I'm always on lookout for restaurants that serve Local Food Plus certified food.

I couldn't write this post without talking about the importance of developing local food systems. In fact, besides trying to cut out more meat, dairy, and non-local, unseasonal produce from my diet, working to change our food system can have a big impact on my carbon footprint, and yours, too. To that effect, check out these eleven great ideas for contributing to the good food movement, brought to you by Food Forward. You don't have to make eleven changes; just choose the ones that are practical and achievable for you, and pass on the list to your family, friends, and colleagues. We're all in this together.


When it comes to our impact on the planet, despite the bad news and warnings that we've passed the point where we can fix this mess we're in, I remain inspired, heartened, motivated, grateful for, and deeply happy that we live in an age where it is possible to make the kinds of choices I've been talking about all week. Thank you, humanity.

Photo credits: Tsukiji tuna market; coffee/tea/sugar containers.

Subway vs. LRT: the saga continues...

In keeping with today's theme, here's a report by the Pembina Institute that examines the pros and cons of going ahead with the subway plan that Mayor Ford is so fond of, as compared with the Transit City light rail system.

Spoiler alert! "The subway extension would provide less service per dollar invested than the existing light rail rapid transit plan for Toronto, and wouldn't deliver transit service to the communities that need it most." Armed with Pembina's thorough research and solid statistical analyses, I will continue to campaign against replacing the LRT with subway extensions.

A light rail train in Portland. Their rapid transit system really impressed me when I visited last year.

No Impact Week: Day 3 - Transportation

This week I'm experimenting with No Impact Week, exploring some of my past successes at decreasing my carbon footprint and generating even better ideas for the future. My goal is to challenge myself to redo the week later this year when it will have the greatest impact on my day-to-day life. Click here for a review of Day 1 - Consumption and Day 2 - Trash.


Day 3 - Transportation

If ever I need a reminder of how different my day-to-day life is compared to the average North American, I need look no further than my transportation habits. What for many is the toughest part of the No Impact Week challenge is for me possibly the easiest. My home is situated in a very "livable" neighbourhood: I'm steps away from the streetcar (in a designated right-of-way lane, separate from vehicle traffic) and two buses that deliver me to the subway in less than ten minutes. Around the corner is a bakery and two mom-and-pop grocery stores. On Monday I walked to the library, yesterday I walked to the post office. There are plenty of restaurants and cafés, a small hardware store, a printing/photocopy shop, banks, a community centre (including an outdoor pool and two ice rinks), a big park, and lots of office and storefront space for rent, should I decide to start my own business. For everything else, there's a large commercial area and mall about 15 minutes away by bus. I don't really have any excuses for driving my car anywhere within city limits.

The sticking point for me are trips just beyond city limits. Take Monday evenings, for example, when I spend an hour and a half venting a week's worth of stress on a traditional Japanese drum during my taiko class. The studio is located 23 km from my home in Markham, one of Toronto's suburbs. I just checked the TTC's trip planner, and the three suggested routes range between 75 and 90 minutes in duration. In other words, getting there and back takes double the amount of time I spend drumming! So I drive. As for occasional trips that take me even farther, like a housewarming party in Burlington, a family dinner in Richmond Hill, or a summer BBQ in Brampton, again I drive, ideally carpooling with others, and take consolation in the fact that my car is fuel efficient, that I keep it tuned up, and that I don't drive aggressively. I'm also thankful for the tire pressure gauge my brother gifted me a few years ago - it helps me save even more gas because it reminds me to keep my tires at their optimal pressure.

Considering my day-to-day commuting needs don't involve my car, I can live with the fact that I drive occasionally, especially because I almost never drive alone or for only one purpose, and frequently give people rides, either to their home if it's on the way, or to a public transit stop. For the foreseeable future, I won't be selling my car and resorting to a car sharing program for these occasional trips - though this is my goal for the long term! The question remains: how can I reduce my carbon footprint when it comes to transportation if I keep the car, even though I use it infrequently? The answer: commit to biking instead of taking transit. Even hybrid buses pollute, and the electricity used to power streetcars is still partially derived from coal plants (until the end of 2014, when coal-fired power generation will be completely eliminated in Ontario). I already own a bike and just need to outfit it with a pannier or two to carry groceries. Will this be the year I become a "left-wing pinko that rides a bike"?


Take Action

Right after the section on transportation in No Impact Week's How-To Guide comes a page about participating in national (American) campaigns in support of safe food, clean water, and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. I'm proud to be very involved in creating a healthy community through volunteer work with Live Green Toronto, Food Forward, Young Urban Farmers CSA, Evergreen, The Sierra Club, and Planet in Focus, among others. You don't have to look hard to find a way to contribute!

Photo credits: no parking; bike lane.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Oh Tannenbaum, Oh Tannenbaum...

Walking home from my trip to the post office today I noticed a number of my neighbours have dragged their Christmas trees to the curb, in time for tomorrow morning's garbage pick-up... and the first of two Christmas tree collection days in January!

Don't mock me, I'm allowed to be excited about this. You see, according to the City of Toronto's Waste Wizard, Christmas trees must be removed of all decorations and placed on the curb as is (i.e., not in a bag), as the trees will be shredded and turned into compost. What a good deal!

Please check your collection calendar to find out the dates for your neighbourhood, and if you live elsewhere, I strongly urge you to do the requisite research for your area! Don't just dump your tree with the rest of your trash. It will only end up on a landfill, and that will make me sad.

Photo credit.

No Impact Week: Day 2 - Trash

This week I'm experimenting with No Impact Week, exploring some of my past successes at decreasing my carbon footprint and generating even better ideas for the future. My goal is to challenge myself to redo the week later this year when it will have the greatest impact on my day-to-day life. Click here for a review of Day 1 - Consumption.


Day 2 - Trash

It's funny how I unconsciously renamed the second day of this experiment; I called it "Waste" instead of "Trash" at the end of yesterday's post and almost did the same again today. While it's true that throwing so much stuff in the garbage is a big problem that we're ignoring (when was the last time you visited a landfill?), it's important to scrutinize what goes in your blue and green bins, too. Of course any waste diversion is better than none, but minimizing our overall waste generation, whether blue, green, or black, is better. In other words, it's time for a waste audit!

Day 2 of No Impact Week called for examining the contents of a bag that I was supposed to fill with my "trash" from Day 1. Once again I should remind you that I'm not really participating this week, as it's too abnormal compared to my usual routine. Case in point: I stayed home on Day 1. Not bringing anything new to my place meant not opening any packages, not using any bags, and not accumulating receipts. My breakfast was toast, cut from a loaf of bread purchased on December 31st and brought home in a reusable shopping bag, and spread with peanuts-only peanut butter from a glass jar. Since I don't cut away the crust (who does that?!) and ate both slices of toast completely, no waste was generated. Lunch and dinner were leftovers from lots of big meals over the holidays, resulting in dishes and utensils that needed to be washed, but not much else. Between the meals? I read books, watched DVDs I had previously borrowed from a friend, had conversations on the phone and in person, and played games. Keep in mind that Day 1 of No Impact Week fell on January 2nd, a Sunday firmly wedged between two vacation days. Definitely not a normal waste generating day for me.

If I had to highlight areas I can - and will - improve on, then these are my top 5:
  • Start carrying a reusable food container and utensils with me wherever I go, to complement my water bottle and insulated thermos. If I can't finish my meal at a restaurant, I won't need a styrofoam clamshell. If I can't avoid a quick lunch at a food court, I will at least be able to decline taking a plastic fork, knife, and/or spoon. I can even cut up an old shirt into many pieces and always carry one with me to use as a napkin, then wash them all at the end of the week.
  • Invest in organic cotton produce bags for grocery trips. Often, I'll place certain fruits and veggies directly into my reusable shopping bag, then once at home, I'll reuse old plastic produce bags to store these items in the fridge. But purchasing a dozen apples at a time doesn't lend itself well to this procedure. So, instead of loading them into new plastic produce bags, I will start bringing my own to the store!
  • Reduce the number of garbage bins in my home to two: one in the kitchen, and one in the bathroom. Then, increase the number of bins for compostable facial tissues such that there is one in each room! Most non-reusable, non-recyclable, non-compostable items are found in the kitchen and bathroom (if any of you come up with a reuse for floss, I'm all ears), while every other room generates virtually only facial tissue trash - which is green bin friendly where I live. By keeping these two streams as separate as possible, I can maximize my landfill diversion.

  • Plan meals around what's in the fridge to avoid having to compost food that has gone bad. I'm actually really ashamed that this happens. Sometimes I cook a big meal too soon before leaving town for the weekend, and it's inedible when I get home. Other times I excitedly pick up some interesting groceries, then forget them at the back of the fridge until I notice them again for "that smell". I'd like to design some sort of a spreadsheet (laminated, to be used with dry-erase markers) that keeps track of the inventory of the fridge, including the dates on which certain items were purchased and cooked. That would make it a lot easier to use up food before it goes to waste.
  • Buy groceries at my local farmers' market more often to avoid excessive packaging. This goes hand in hand with my second point about reusable produce bags! There are some veggies that automatically come with packaging in some stores. For instance, my local grocer carries imported spinach that has been pre-washed in a facility that subsequently places the greens in clear plastic containers. Why not instead purchase locally-grown spinach from a nearby farm with my shiny new cotton produce bags?
I'm glad to have discovered a few more simple actions, which, taken together, can noticeably lower my carbon footprint. Although it's comforting to know that I can recycle and compost most of the things I throw out, the best strategy of all is not to bring so much stuff home to begin with!

Stay tuned tomorrow for my thoughts on Day 3 - Transportation.

Photo credits: landfill compactor and cat with tissues.

Monday, January 3, 2011

No Impact Week: Day 1 - Consumption

It's only the third day of the year, and No Impact Week is already in full swing. You remember this experiment, right? I wrote about it about a month ago, encouraging you to experiment with a greener lifestyle to kick off 2011. Even if this is the first you've heard of the project, it's never too late to make small changes to your day-to-day routine that can lower your carbon footprint.

Before we go on, I have to be honest with you: I'm breaking the rules. No Impact Week started yesterday, but I didn't step outside for so much as a brisk walk around the block. Then today I dropped off some books at the library and came right back home afterwards (round trip on foot: ten minutes). As for the forecast for the remaining five days of the experiment? It's not looking so good. You see, I'm worried that I don't fit the target audience, since I'm not commuting to work everyday and therefore automatically avoiding things like shopping, cafeteria food, paper coffee cups, overheated office buildings, and public toilets that use 13 litres per flush. Not to brag, but I live a pretty eco-friendly life already, and many of the tips in the official No Impact Week How-To Guide were checked off my to-do list years ago.

So here's what I propose: I'll challenge myself twice! Once, this week, more in spirit than in practice. I'll highlight some of the ways I am already reducing my footprint and discover new strategies for waste reduction, pollution prevention, and water and energy conservation. Then, later this year a second time, I'll try the project again at a time when I feel it will really hit home. Perhaps I'll choose a week when I am commuting to work every day, engaged in social activities on multiple evenings, and out running errands and hosting dinner parties on the weekend. Then I can really put my new footprint-reducing strategies to the test!


Day 1: Consumption

How can we do more with less? Do we really need all this stuff? What happens to the connections we have with each other when we spend so much time shopping?

The main step outlined by the How-To Guide involves choosing not to buy anything you can live without for the week and finding alternatives for all the other stuff. This is particularly relevant around the holidays! This year I received some great gifts that fit this category well, including second-hand books and home-baked cookies. I, too, was able to avoid the mall and hand-make some gifts instead of buying them. For some of my friends, the gift exchange was replaced by a celebratory dinner - a much more memorable experience than unwrapping a present. In favour of reusable gift bags I save up, no single-use wrapping paper was bought, and I was happy to ignore all of the ads promoting whichever colours were "in" for decorating new year's celebrations. I even squeezed in a trip downtown to drop off a stack of used paper so that a non-profit organization I support could avoid buying new printer paper!

What did I do with the time and money I saved by avoiding unnecessary purchases? Besides savouring many cups of tea while reading books, I spent a lot of time with loved ones! Not having to make long trips to the mall freed up my schedule to an incredible degree. My online calendar shows four relaxing tea dates with friends, an interview for a great volunteer position with YUF CSA (which I got), one housewarming party, and five meals (one breakfast, one lunch, and three dinners) in addition to the ones with family... all within a span of two weeks! Incredible!

Before this post gets too long, I'd like to come up with a few strategies to keep this un-consumptive lifestyle going in the new year:
  • clothing - I can really get by with less if I pay more attention to what I buy, and it can all be second-hand if I look hard enough! Maybe I'll try organizing a clothing swap with my friends.
  • household items - I have no difficulty buying used furniture but need to put more effort into sourcing smaller goods from better places, like the dust pan and bread basket I've been wanting for months!
  • personal care products - I've made some headway in terms of avoiding nasty chemicals in my soap, toothpaste, shampoo, and moisturizer, but haven't found a way around buying new containers over and over; will this be the year I start making my own products?
Stay tuned tomorrow for my thoughts on Day 2 - Waste.

Photo credits: store lineup and book with tea.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy New Year!

Howdy strangers, and happy 2011 to you! Also, retroactively, happy Festivus. Having been away from this blog for two weeks has left my writing skills a bit rusty, so please forgive me for starting off the new year with a short intro to someone else's work rather than my own.

Darryl Cunningham is a cartoonist based out of the UK who seems to really enjoy debunking popular misconceptions and beliefs. He even published a graphic novel about mental illness, based on his experiences working on an acute psychiatric ward and suffering from mental illness himself. But what I'd really like you to take a look at is his recent cartoon strip about climate change science and politics, which I highly recommend you take the time to read. What a great way to start off the new year! Check out the cartoon here.

Photo credit.