June 17th, 2009
We watched a documentary over the weekend about plastic bags. For the most part, I’d like to think I’m a responsible shopper — I tote around a canvas bag wherever I go, we use those giant recycled plastic ones at the grocery store, and we attempt to recycle everything we possibly can. And yet, the facts from that one-hour doc were so upsetting that I’ve been thinking about it for days. Canadians use 6 billion plastic bags a year, and less than 1% of these are recycled or reused. The rest go into landfills. And this got me thinking about My Plastic Life, how much of the stuff I use on a daily basis and make a list to see where I can cut back and/or down:
1. Plastic bottles for shampoo, conditioner and body wash. Last year Zesty took me to Costco around this time and I bought a MASSIVE bottle of shampoo that I used for about ten straight months. Considering that’s one bottle versus many smaller bottles, maybe I’ll have to see if I can tag along again.
2. Plastic water bottle: this is already reusable, so I think I’m okay there.
3. Plastic wrap for all of the fruit & veggies from the grocery store, the farmer’s market, and from Whole Foods. Everything I pack a lunch in is plastic, but reusable, so that’s something, but still — I haven’t even gotten on my bike yet and I’ve already used plastic every step of the way.
4. Water bottles and plastic bags all strewn on the side of the road (when I started this post the garbage strike hadn’t even begun; now it’s even worse). None of these are directly my fault but I’d never really LOOKED before. Now I notice them everywhere.
5. Plastic hair clip.
6. I’m sure there’s plastic in my keyboard. What else is it made out of?
7. My phone too.
8. Plastic water glasses and container (both made in China) for drinking water at work. Again, I use these everyday and have stopped buying water bottles altogether. Do I get a pat on the back for that at least?
9. Whew. Wax paper for my bagel and a brown paper bag. Both of which can go in my green bin.
10. Plastic pens.
11. Wait. My glasses are also plastic.
12. And so on…
I’m not even at 11 AM and I’ve already used plastic in every single inch of my daily life. Where do I start? And how do I make a change? The #1 thing I’m going to do is start taking containers to the farmer’s market instead of just bringing my cloth shopping bags. But that’s such a small change — and I’m afraid it simply won’t make any difference whatsoever.
Anyone else have suggestions? How do you work on cutting excess plastic out of your life?
April 12th, 2007
Well, our experiment with Green Earth Organics was a bust. In the three weeks we used the service we ended up with tomatoes from Mexico, oranges from California and apples from British Columbia. So much for local food from local farmers. We’re just going to have to make more of an effort to use the local farmers market, unfortunately for us, it’s only open on Thursdays, and then, only until 7 PM, which is early in a day and age where I barely leave the office before 6 PM.
Anyway, while doing research for “local ontario tomato” for something I’m writing for work, I was shocked to see the Google results. And disheartened that so few people are searching for local foods that the first optimized result is an official government document of a sort decreeing that there shall be a local board to deal with how to market Ontario tomato seedlings, but nothing at all as per where you can buy them, what kind of tomatoes people are growing, or even practical information about growing tomatoes in Ontario. Maybe I did the wrong search?
April 7th, 2007
I’m not sure if this term has been coined before, but there’s an article in Slate about how the WSJ profiles a Swedish multimillionaire who has bought up 700,000 acres of Brazilian forest; his altruistic intentions have been thus criticized as ‘green colonialism’.
Really? My first thought is to sprout off all kinds of arguments against using the idea of colonialism in this way but I have to admit that it does need some more thought before I put my foot in my mouth.
April 6th, 2007
I’m just putting this out there, take it or leave it as you will, but I’ll probably stop buying Kleenex-brand products. I’ve been thinking about using hankies anyway…
March 27th, 2007
And saves a lot of trees. Er, rather, uses up a lot of trees that are easily replaced. Perhaps not quite the same thing. But still, quite awesome, regardless. But are they somehow going to go back and make up for all the non-sustainable resources used for the first six books?
March 19th, 2007
As anyone can plainly see from the myriad of book entries, I don’t really read a lot of non-fiction, and I read even fewer memoirs. Trust me, then, when I say that Barbara Kingsolver’s lovely and amazing Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life both surprised, delighted, and scared the crap out of me.
Kingsolver and her family (husband, two daughters) packed up their life in Arizona and moved east to Appalachia, where they owned a farm, used mainly for their summer vacations. The impetus for the move? A dedicated and inspirational move towards eating food that grew on their land and/or animals that were raised on their farm. In short, they gave up being dependent upon fossil-fuel run foodstuffs and decided to try their hand at being self-sufficient.
No stranger to farming, Kingsolver, her husband Steven L. Hopp, and her two daughters, Camille and Lily, commit to one full year of eating locally. Not just food grown from their gardens, but produce bought from local farms, meat raised and butchered by their neighbours, and making a priority to purchase anything else (like coffee) from fair trade organizations.
Seems idyllic, doesn’t it? Or even ambitious? The idea of local eating had already caught fire in my virtual world as I was eagerly awaiting The 100-Mile Diet, but as I left before the book was published, I was actually surprised to hear about Kingsolver’s own experiment at eating locally.
The memoir, which also contains seasonal eating advice from Kingsolver’s elder daughter Camille and relevant essays in each chapter by her husband Steven, is very much a family affair. The chapters, arranged chronologically from one March until the next, in addition to documenting their local food trials, each deal with a particular issue facing the world, farmers, environmentalists and anyone who might be concerned about what’ll happen to the next generation.
The main thrust of the book being that many, many people don’t know what out of season means. We have no idea that the poor cantaloupe has travelled upwards of 3,000 kilometers to land from its farm to our tables in or out of its own growing season. Many people buy bananas from the grocery store and pay no attention to the fossil fuel that’s been used to get them there. A girl I used to work with would say that was the joy of living in our modern society: being able to get pineapple whenever and where ever she might like. While it’s hard to disagree that’s true, what’s even harder is to imagine a world where we’ve used up all the gas to get the pineapple from one place to the next without ever thinking in terms of the costs beyond the ding-ding of the grocery clerk’s scanning machine.
It always feels a bit melodramatic to claim that a book has changed your life. But in this case, Kingsolver’s book brought a lot of things to light that I hadn’t maybe thought of before (how much are those bananas I’m addicted to hurting the earth?) and made me think that it’s not a bad idea to plant up a section of our backyard into an urban garden. I also signed us up for Green Earth Organics so that we can better support our local farmers, as neither of us has time to shop at a farmer’s market proper.
My favourite parts of the book involve Ms. Kingsolver helping her heritage turkeys to breed (as natural mating has been bred out of turkeys) and the adventures of using up pounds and pounds of zucchini. All in all, I would highly recommend this book as the natural companion to what’ll certainly become a media darling, The 100-Mile Diet.
December 12th, 2006
Winter is about to set in although you wouldn’t feel it in Toronto. With temperatures sitting at about 8 degrees, which I would call decidedly balmy, it is any wonder that this is happening?
And having watched Al Gore this week on Oprah, and still digesting Heat, although I’m only 47 pages in (it’s so scary that I can’t read it any faster), I’m all for making positive changes to save that damn ice. I bought one of our nephews a piece of the Arctic and our only niece a polar bear from WWF, and if everyone does that, buys just one socially responsible gift this holiday season, maybe we can save one small part of it.
It would be a shame for it all to disappear after so many lost their lives trying to map it, discover it and, well, explore it. But not just that, the total and complete repercussions of us melting all of the ice because we hate the bus and refuse to turn the heat down makes me think that there’s never a more appropriate time to care for the earth than the holidays when everyone’s feeling generous and imagining the best in other people.
November 7th, 2006
Do something about it. Ipsos-Reid tells us that Canadians are now more concerned about the environment than any other social issue. It tops the list, with health care (natch) and international war/conflict coming up next. Do you think Harper will listen?
Oh, and while we’re on the subject, here’s a top 10 list from George Monbiot, the author of Heat:
1. Cut your flights. Nothing else you do causes so much climate change in so short a time.
2. Think hard before you pick up your car keys. On average, 40% of the journeys made by car could be made by other means – on foot, by bicycle or on public transport.
3. Organise a “walking bus” to take the children to school.
4. Ask your boss to devise a “workplace travel plan” which rewards people for leaving their cars at home.
5. Switch over to a supplier of renewable electricity. You don’t have to erect your own wind turbine, but you can buy your power from someone who has.
6. Ask a builder to give you an estimate for bringing your home up to R2000 standards.
7. Ditch your air conditioner.
8. Turn down your thermostat: 18 degrees is as warm as your house ever needs to be. You just have to get used to it.
9. Make sure every bulb in your house is a compact fluorescent or LED.
10. Do NOT buy a plasma TV: they use 5 times as much energy as other models.
How am I faring? Not too well I’m afraid. We’re trying to keep the heat down, we’ve switched a lot of our lightbulbs, we don’t own a plasma tv, we rarely (read three times last summer) turn on the air conditioning, and we’re going to do as much environmentally friendly renovating as we can possibly afford when my RRHB starts fixing the house up full-time in January, but I’m going to Vancouver next week (flying) and drive to work most days. We’ve also been thinking about switching to Bullfrog, but it’s so expensive. I know, I shouldn’t complain.
Hence the goal to buy most of our Christmas presents in the form of hand-made gifts, donations to charities and stuff from the Red campaign.