Today, between 7:30 and 8:30 p.m., people and businesses across Sydney, Australia are turning off all their lights and unplugging all their electronics to show they’re serious about climate change. It’s called Earth Hour, and it’s something the whole world should be doing — I’m going to, albeit on EST (and yes, even my beloved computer will be forced to hold its breath for a bit). Wanna join me?
But it’s time. I’m unplugging my humidifier and putting it away until Day 366 — thus saving electricity and water (granted, not a lot of either, but it’s something). Yet again, it’s a move that will be easy enough now but surely kill me come January ’08 when Canadian Winter descends once more. Maybe global warming will make it a mild one, at least … my bone-dry fingers are crossed!
A lot of the green changes I make as part of Green as a Thistle are written about the day I make them, which means I have yet to accurately conclude how practical they really are. So at the end of every month, I’ll post a little summary of how my life has changed — either for better or worse, for easy or downright impossible — in case any faithful readers are wondering how that eco-toothpaste was working out, whether I’m struggling with the no-styrofoam thing, etc.
So, March: This was my first month, and what better time to start cleaning up my act than Spring? I’m feeling pretty good right now, but there’s a lot of anxiety building about whether these changes are going to come back to haunt me next Winter, like running outside only, keeping my thermostat down and just eating food within Canada and the U.S. (even now I still can’t get lemons).
Product switches have all been easy-peasy. Even the Seventh Generation dishwashing powder that I complained about seems to be working better, as long as I pour a little extra in. I’ve only screwed up once so far, when I bought berries that I thought were from California but it turned out they were from Chile. I almost caved when offered a styrofoam cup of hot green tea on a rainy day, but resisted and felt better afterwards when I got home and made one myself.
As of yet, I don’t look or feel like a full-fledged eco-warrier (except for maybe when I pull out my collapsible tote bag at check-out counters and ask them to hold the receipt). Since being profiled on TreeHugger, I now get a steady readership of about 500 people a day, which I’m hoping will only go up. So with that, onwards and greenwards into April!
Well, at least I am — or riding my bike, or taking public transit — because from now on I’m leaving my car parked in the garage on weekends, from when I wake up on Saturday until I go to sleep on Sunday (so if I happen to sleep-drive at 4 a.m. Monday morning, that is totally acceptable!).
Here’s the part where everyone leaves comments like, “You know what you should really do? GET RID OF THE DAMN CAR!”). I’ve considered this, and it might be a possibility in the future, but because it takes me an hour and a half to take transit to work (streetcar, then train, then bus, then walking — it’s not my fault, it’s the office that’s in the boonies) and it takes me almost two hours to bike (I tried last summer and had to shower three times that day), yet just 20 minutes to drive, I need the car for work.
On the weekend, however, especially now that it’s Spring, leaving the car behind shouldn’t be that big of an issue. Even if I’m getting groceries over at the St. Lawrence Market or going out for a drink at night up in the Annex, I think I can manage with two feet and two wheels. Of course, like many of my green changes, I’m sure that come February of next year I’ll be crying into my homemade compost bin about it.
Since I’ve already abolished styrofoam here on Planet Thistle, I might as well get rid of its evil twin — plastic cutlery — while I’m at it. The more I pay attention to the litter along the side of the road, the more I notice that there’s almost always plastic forks, knives, spoons and plates amongst it.
Unfortunately, while there are multiple alternatives to styrofoam, such as biodegradable corn-based containers like the NaturoPack, there haven’t been many innovations on the disposable cutlery front (except maybe this one from Hong Kong or this weird orange-peel-and-carbon-dioxide one).
Personally, I don’t get take-out that often. But I understand that most people want their regular Friday night pizza-and-a-movie, or in the case of my parents for the past 10 years, Saturday night Thai food. And then there are those days when you’re sick and all you want is a hot miso soup from the sushi place next-door and you sure as heck aren’t going to make it yourself or sit in the restaurant sipping it alone.
So here’s my solution: Carry chopsticks at all times. Yes, it sounds silly, but they don’t take up much room in a purse (or murse), they’re not as sharp as a knife and fork, and when it comes to the spoon — well, pretty much anything you can ladle with a spoon you can sip directly from the bowl. In fact, you can even get little portable chopsticks like these, so if you’re out at some posh soirée and all you’re carrying is a dainty sequined clutch, you could still cram ‘em in there for when you stop by Harvey’s at 3 a.m. with Bellini breath and a mad poutine craving. You know you will.
Sure, greasy fries slathered in gravy and cheese curds may not be the easiest food to consume with chopsticks, but with practice it’s totally doable. And I figure, if I’m really struggling, I’ll just use my hands — besides, what else are opposable thumbs good for?
If you only have one roof, do you go for the green one, the rainwater harvesting one or the solar panelled one? An eco-savvy friend of mine insisted you could do all three at once — you can work it so that the green roof also channels rainwater down into a reserve, and solar panels can go along the sides, or they don’t even have to be on the roof to begin with. Perhaps you could even throw up some wind turbines while you’re at it. But maybe it comes down to cost, or practicality, or maybe a peaked roof is more conducive to certain options than a flat one, and vice versa. Anyone got an opinion on which roof wins the green prize?
Until now, I’ve been amongst the anxiously prepared (or pathetically lazy, depending on interpretation) who like to keep the computer on sleep mode, the cell phone charger lodged in the wall socket and the hair-straightening iron left on standby — because as every girl knows, you never know when a hair emergency will strike. Seriously, my stylist actually has a separate phone number for such occasions … but that’s another story.
However this changes as of today when I not only turn off, but unplug whatever’s not in use — the only exception will be my computer, which I’m convinced dies a little every time it’s unplugged, and my VCR, because it’s near impossible to reach the socket without hauling three bookshelves out of the way, and I use it frequently to watch screeners for work.
Everything else, though — my phone and battery charger, stereo and speakers, modem, humidifier, hair dryer and straightening iron, bedside and desk lamps, kettle, electric grill and toaster — is all getting unplugged, until I need to use them.
So far the acoustic lifestyle is working out just fine, although it’s only been a day, and I have yet to encounter a sudden need for flat hair, toast and loud music all at once.
Image stolen recklessly from the CPSC