Sunday, February 11, 2007

Eat Beans, Not Beings.

Up until very recently I didn’t think that eating meat on a regular basis was such a bad thing. I always thought meat was something I needed in my diet in order to be healthy and energized. However as I strive to lead a simpler life, one with a smaller impact on the environment, I have made the change to actively reduce my meat consumption.

There are many reasons why people decided to remove meat from completely their diet and become a vegetarian or a vegan. For some it can be for religious or health purposes. I know people that just don’t like the taste of meat. For others, it’s the fact that animals are factory raised in inhumane conditions so farmers can meet the needs of our hungry meat eating appetites. I can personally vouch for the amazingly high level of disregard we have for animals under these conditions. I spent one summer working for Canada’s largest hatchery in New Hamburg, Ontario. In one week the hatchery would pump out one million steroid filled chicks, most of them only living for three or four weeks before they were slaughtered for your yummy enjoyment at KFC or Swiss Chalet. I did a quick Google search and found a video produced by Peta called Meet Your Meat. In the video they show chickens that are unable to stand as they grow four times faster than Mother Nature intended and their little legs can’t keep up with the rest of their monster bodies. I got about half way through before I decided not to vomit and shut it off due to the graphic nature of the cruel images on the film. I couldn’t stop picturing my dog Lilo in the place of all those pigs dangling from their hind legs with their throats sliced open. If you have the tummy strength and want to see it for yourself, head on over to

But for me, I decided to cut down on eating meat for the environmental reasons. Before I get into those, I would like to explain why I am not labelling myself as a vegetarian. After 22 years of eating meat, I am simply having a hard time not eating it. So, I am going with the dietary title of being a “passive meat eater”. I don’t know if it’s an official term, but to me it means I will eat meat that is given/fed to me. Or meat that would otherwise be thrown out, I consider that to be bad karma. I will also eat organic or free range meat, but not very often at all. But overall I strive to eat lower on the food chain and the majority of my meals throughout the week are indeed vegetarian.

So, why did I choose to become a passive meat eater? Firstly, after researching ways to reduce my water consumption, I realised that the most effective way is to stop eating meat. According to the folks at, “a totally vegetarian diet requires 300 gallons of water per day, while a meat-eating diet requires more than 4,000 gallons of water per day.” Secondly, the amount of pollution created from factory farming makes me just as angry as seeing Hummers in Waterloo. If you think one cow’s fart stinks, imagine how bad a whole industrial sized barn must smell. Besides the terrible odour, the methane released is a major contributing factor of global warming. The US Environmental Protection Agency states that animal agriculture is the single largest cause of methane emissions in the U.S. and that methane is more than 20 times as effective as carbon dioxide is at trapping heat in the atmosphere. While we’re on this shitty subject, the Natural Resource Defence Council put out a report in 2001 stating that the heavy metals added to animal feed leaches from manure lagoons and runs off the fields and contaminates the soil with arsenic, copper and zinc (just to name a few). This causes major damage to surrounding groundwater, lakes and rivers and poisons wildlife. Thirdly, according to SIWI, the Stockholm International Water Institute, there are about 840 million people in the world who are underfed. If it takes 16 pounds of grain to produce just one pound of beef, doesn’t it seem like we can reduce this massive global starvation problem if we stop eating meat? The answer is yes.

There is so much information on the internet relating meat consumption to global hunger, pollution, and wasted resources. If this short little article didn’t convince you to cut down or stop eating meat, I encourage you to do some research yourself. And just a final quick rant about the men who think they have to eat meat in order to be macho. Believe me, by going vegetarian you won’t get vaginitis and turn into one giant pussy. Instead, you will be taking one of the biggest steps possible towards reducing your personal contribution to global warming.

Monday, January 08, 2007

2007 New Year’s Resolutions Everyone Will Benefit From

The World Meteorological Organization announced initial assessments indicate 2006 was the sixth warmest year on record since the American Civil War. 2005 was the warmest. With no snow and spring-like temperatures this “winter”, there’s not much to stop 2007 from reigning warmest year ever. In fact, a couple of weeks ago scientists discovered that the Ayles Ice Shelf — 66 square kilometers of it — broke clear 16 months ago from the coast of Ellesmere Island in the Canadian Arctic. A chunk of the Canadian landscape comparable to the size of Switzerland literally broke off and is now a floating mass of melting ice. The remaining ice shelves in Canada’s Arctic are 90 percent smaller than they were in 1906. There’s no more debate, human activities, activities supported and carried out by you and I are causing climate change.

Is it possible for 2007 to be any different? Of course it would be wonderful if big business and big government decided to actually tackle climate change. And it would be simply splendid if all the money and effort currently being pumped into the War on Terror were redirected into creating sustainability for generations to come. Unfortunately we cannot wait for the big boys to begin to change. To see a change we the people will have to first create a change within our communities and ourselves. I propose everyone adopt the following new year’s resolutions.

Reduce consumption. The US Department of Energy's Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center reports that on average a Canadian citizen produces 17.8 tons of carbon dioxide per year, whereas a person born in India produces around 0.3 tons per year. To reduce consumption and achieve ecological sustainability, we must achieve dematerialization and substitution. By dematerializing we reduce material flows. You can do this by purchasing less products that end up being thrown away - products such as petroleum based trinkets made in China. Substitution means changing the types of energy and resources used by society, such as replacing coal with wind energy. You can support substitution by switching to green energy providers such as Bull Frog Power.

Become a vegetarian. Meat eating is something none of us can afford. According to the Montreal based non-profit organization, the Global Action Network, livestock production requires up to a 1000 times more land, energy, and water than is necessary to produce an equivalent amount of plant food. Furthermore, fish harvesting causes about as much environmental havoc on the CO2 pollution scale as meat production. To understand this relationship, a vegetarian has the impact of driving a hybrid car for a year, while a meat eater is comparable to an oversized SUV.

Stop Flying and travel smaller distances sustainably. Getting on an airplane each year to travel south for the winter should be left to the birds. Flying is a crime against nature. Try the energy calculator at On one return flight from Toronto to Orlando you individually dump 1.094 tons of CO2 into the air. If you must travel take a train, better yet ride a bicycle. According to Environment Canada transportation accounts for 25 percent of Greenhouse gas emissions in Canada, followed by fossil fuel production and distribution.

Be part of the change. Talk some sense into your friends, neighbours and family members and political representatives. You wouldn’t keep you mouth shut if your friend was smoking and blowing all of the smoke right in your face, so don’t keep your mouth shut when your friend buys products are a result of fossil fuel production. You may find it easier to talk to your political representatives – write letters, stop in for visits, march in the streets and most importantly hold them accountable by voting for someone else – perhaps yourself - if and when they don’t listen to you.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Watch "An Inconvenient Truth" online tonight!

Hey, I found a site that is currently hosting the movie An Inconvienent Truth. If you haven't seen it yet, now's your chance.

Also, sorry about not being able to blog as much as I would have liked to over the holidays. It was a very busy time for me. Working to save money for travelling while going to school is tough. But I promise there is more posts coming very soon!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

A Mall-Free Directory for Green Gifts

I'm staying out of the malls this season for three reasons:

1) They are busy, hot and people sometimes get a little pushy under those conditions. And I especially don't enjoy seeing the rows and rows of a full parking lot surrounding every entrance.

2) Malls are designed to encourage spending. The amount of crap that is purchased to celebrate this time of year is unneeded and excessive. The money that is spent on the excess could be diverted to areas that really need the money.

3) I like to support local businesses (AKA the little guy), and/or spend my hard-earned cash on people and things that will truly benefit from my dollar. Making ethical purchases will bring joy to you, the person receiving the gift and others affected by your donation or business.

So here is a quick list of sites that you can check out to make your gift giving this year a little bit easier, and shows that you care. You can always do some research for specific organisation supporting the type of things you think they would like. Or, look up in the phone book or ask around where's a good place to buy sustainable gifts in your town.

Green Gift Lists:
Planet Friendly: This site talks more than just gifts, they also disuses ways to celebrate with sustainability in mind as well.

A Tyee Ethical Gift Guide: This paper puts always out really good articles. You should check this site out for a list of sites, there are also some good links in the comments so be sure to look over those.

MCC: Mennonite Central Committee - Anyone who knows me, knows that the MCC Thrift Shop is like a second home for me. I think that this is one of my most cherish charitable organizations. Send a child in need a school kit or they also have some really good books to purchase off this site as well.

WWF Products:
Support WWF by purchasing your holiday gift cards from them, or they even have yoga pants or baseball caps.

WorldVision: Instead of buying stuff for people who have a lot of stuff, send some stuff to a family who really needs stuff. For example, you can give a family in Africa two bunnies, from which 20 bunnies will come within a year! Or, for $32 you can give someone a insecticide mosquito net.

Environmental Gifts:

Reusable Bags: buy someone special on your list a heavy duty shopping bag that can easily be folded to fit in a purse or even a pocket. They also have reusable bottles and lunch bags. I think this site is reasonable, affordable and reliable.

You can order stuff from this site for your loved ones or just for people you have to give to. I think this site has a lot of interesting stuff which I have never seen before. Check this out for that unique person you're looking to buy for.

TreeHugger Book list

Sunday, December 03, 2006

This Holiday Season, Show that You Care, Without the Flare

I know this goes without saying, but alas the holiday season is back again.

There are decorations everywhere to remind us of this. They’re the first sign that this time of spending is here. I actually witnessed Christmas decorations being put up in a Zeller’s on the night of Halloween. Next comes the bi-weekly heavy pile of flyers in your mail box showing all the sales and opportunities for you to spend and buy. The TV commercials and radio ads play upon our joyful spirits, all the while enticing our consumerist appetite. More of pretty much everything happens over the next few weeks compared to the rest of the year. More money is spent, more automobile trips are made and more garbage is created.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love this time of year. But what I remember about the holidays are never the presents or decorations, I remember the good times spent with family and friends. The opportunity for merriment is very enjoyable. And believe it or not, this can all be just as wonderful for yourself, humanity and the environment without all the flare and excess.

When it comes to buying presents here are a few tips to help you show that you care. Avoid making purchases on “holiday junk” or items that will likely end up in the dump within a couple of years only to sit much longer than you’ll live. A prime example is all those dancing Santas that require four DD batteries. In fact, keep away from battery operated toys and gadgets wherever possible. Instead keep your eye open for ethical gifts, such as fair trade items or clothing made from sustainable clothing in socially just conditions. And don’t be self-conscious about getting someone a gift from a thrift or antique shop. Just because it’s used doesn’t mean it’s a bad gift. Reusing has been a fundamental aspect of the three R’s of environmentalism for as long as I can remember. Finally when you go shopping, don’t forget to bring your own bag, even for purchases other than groceries.

Or if you want to stay away from the craziness that is a shopping mall and save money, make the gifts yourself. It will show the person that you care. Last year I made sugar cookies and I decorated them with a stick drawing of the person I gave each cookie to. I have never been so surprised how a simple cookie can cause so many smiles.

Another idea for a good gift is to opt for service or material goods. Movie passes, theatre tickets, gift certificates for back massages, you get the idea. Services likely impact the earth much less than material goods and support the local economy. Or, consider donating money in someone’s name to a charity they would likely support. The great thing about this type of gift is that it can likely be taken care of via the internet; therefore no gas is wasted driving around.

So when it comes to unwrapping gifts, please make sure you divert all the excess paper from the landfill by recycling it. Or alternatively, don’t use any at all. Reuse those brightly coloured flyers, LCBO paper bags or old calendar pages. Or giving the wrapping a utilitarian purpose, such as a cloth lunch bag, pillow case, or picture box, is good too.

Paper can also be saved if you decide to send out e-cards instead of greeting cards. If you have to send some out, since grandma doesn’t know how to work a computer, buy cards made out of recycled paper or cards supporting various charity organisations. And when it comes to all the parties, go for cloths napkins, dish towels and china dishes instead of paper products. It will make for a way classier shindig anyway.

So this holiday season, maintain your sustainable lifestyle and strive to incorporate those values into your plans and purchases. This includes everything from decorating your potted tree that can be later planted outside, to your festive feast featuring local seasonal foods.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Manufactured Landscapes

I went to see this documentary at Princess Cinema here in Waterloo. In my movie review this movie gets a 9/10 (very high in my books). It was more than I expected to see. To be honest, there aren't many films which I can sit through, especially when in the theatre, but throughout this film I couldn't even blink.The impact humans have on this earth is immense. At some of the scenes I was close to vomiting... crying... and in most I was in complete awe at the force and ability we have to alter our surroundings and landscapes. As Jesse noted, even though the pictures were of such horrible things, the way in which Edward Burtynski shot them made them see so beautiful.

I was most excited about the Three Gorges Dam images. I learned about it in a geography course a couple years ago, but seeing pictures that displayed its true size was powerful. And of course all the labour that is going into building it. The amount of people who have been displaced due to the construction of the dam is six cities worth.

Edward Burtynski just presents the pictures of the impact the industrialisation has on China. Even though they he doesn't make any political statement or addresses our social conscience, the pictures do that themselves.

Manufactured Landscapes

Friday, November 24, 2006

Dont Feed Corporate Greed, Find Alternatives When you Bleed


I think it is fair to say that in this culture it is taboo to discuss a women’s monthly menstruation openly. After all, it’s sad but true but it would be inappropriate for me to write this article without providing a disclaimer to ward off squeamish males. But why does it have to be this way?

I blame the makers of maxi pads and tampons and their clever marketing ploys which began in the late 1940’s after the tampon was invented in 1936 ( They pushed the notion that a women’s period was meant to be kept as a secret and that the worst thing that she could ever face was a leak. Today, this is still the primary idea behind most Always or Tampax advertisements. Commercials show how girls can conceal their compact tampons as sugar packets so their guy friends will be none the wiser that it’s that time of the month. These ads and products also tell us that menstrual blood is something that is dirty and that we should never have to touch it or let anyone else smell it. Scented maxi pads are designed to leave us fresh and daisy smelling. These products are designed to leave us believing that white = sanitary, and that there isn’t any other clean option for us, when truly, it is often the alternative solutions which are healthier for our bodies and the environment.

In regards to our health, the way in which maxi pads and tampons are made is potentially very harmful to our bodies. According to a top selling natural personal care products company,, the plastic undercoating of pads, and the chlorine and bleach used to whiten the cotton are full of toxins. Using pads every month exposes women to low levels of dioxins, a carcinogen found in most plastics and paper pulp products. These dioxins build up in our bodies and leave us at an increased risk of cancer. Also, a previously mentioned, the fragrance used to mask the socially unacceptable odour our blood, leads to rashes and infections in some sensitive women, I know this from personal experience. Tampons are perhaps the deadliest way to deal with menstrual blood. Cotton and artificial fibres such as rayon are used to make them. Even the FDA writes about how these abrasive fibres cause tiny cuts/ulcerations in this vaginal wall and this has been traced at the likely cause of TTS (Toxic Shock Syndrome), which can be lethal if not properly dealt with immediately.

In regards to the environment, pads and tampons are absolutely terrible. Firstly, cotton, a very heavy pesticide and insecticide crop, is used to make these products. A US wide student driven campaign to raise awareness of menstrual sustainability,, claims that 25% of all insecticides in the US are used on cotton.

Secondly, the use of these paper products (cardboard applicator, tampon box etc.) place further stress on our endangered forests, wildlife habitats and leads to erosion of our landscapes. Also, the quantity of waste created by one woman alone is enough, but times that by all her family, and friends, and their family and friends and you have an incredible amount sanitary waste contaminating our waters. The National Women’s Health Network states every year over 12 billion, 7 million tampons are used once and disposed of to wait around for hundreds of years before biodegrading.

When I decided to take on a sustainable lifestyle, tampons were one of the first things to change. I researched alternatives and found that the menstrual cup (AKA Diva Cup or The Keeper) was what I needed. This isn’t a new invention; in fact these have been around since at least the 1930s in North America ( It’s a little cup made of surgical silicone which fits right inside me like a tampon does only I can use it for up to ten years. The cup collects the blood that you dump into the toilet and then clean it. It can be sterilized at the beginning and end of your cycle by boiling it. You can wear the cup for up to 12 hours, which means going an entire day without worrying about your period issues. There are tonnes of advantages. It’s economical - it has the one time cost of $40, but when you add up the price of disposables month after month it way cheaper to buy a cup. It’s environmental - by using this instead of pads you are reducing your contribution to landfills. It’s hygienic – the cup is made of smooth silicon, there is less opportunity for bacteria to grow on it, which means significantly less risk of TTS ( It’s convenient – no more running to the store in the middle of the night for more pads. And when travelling it so nice to always have the cup with you. Don’t be afraid of touching your own blood, or let societal taboos inhibit you from trying out the cup.

For more information about the cup, click here

When I don’t feel like using the Diva Cup, I rely on reusable organic cotton pads. I know what you’re thinking - “Ewww, that’s gross, and must be so unsanitary!” Well, wait for one minute, think about your underwear and tell me how that so much different? Its not, so relax and open your mind. Women used cloth rags for centuries before the “wonderful” invention of the convenient tampon came about. Being the blonde that I am, it wasn’t until recently that I finally made the connection of the term “being on the rag” and women actually using rags during menstruation. But then again, I was never exposed to any other options.

Click here for list of why cotton pads are ok!

When it comes to cleaning my cotton pads, I find it easiest to keep a small bowl under my bathroom sink to soak the used pads in cold water to help get the blood stains out. Thanks to a tip from a lovely Filipino family doctor, I now sometimes use that blood soaked water to water my plants. Again, the power of women! I am telling you! We have it in us to give nutrients which benefit a beautiful, air purifying house plant. It makes sense though. You can pay for high priced blood meal fertilizer in the garden centres, or use what nature provides us with every month.

There is also another alternative which uses a sea sponge in a similar manner to a tampon to catch the flow of blood. Although I have heard of sea sponges before, I didn’t really research them until I decided to write this column. I check out the Sea Pearls Company. There is concern that they are harvested from an already fragile ocean ecology, and since they are technically a animal by-product, they may not be suitable for vegans. But in many other ways, sea sponges are great. They are an affordable natural solution which comes form the earth and because of this they are much gentler to the vagina than bleached cotton tampons. They can be trimmed to fit your needs, and can last up to four months. After that the sponge can be composted. Isn’t that wonderful? What humanity needs nature answers with whispers. We have the solutions without the need for excess pollution and chemicals. But sadly it is our cultural barriers that are inhibiting us from using anything than products which reinforce our reliance on consumerism.

In the end if you’re still not comfortable with using anything else but tampons or pads, for yourself and Mother Earth, choose organic, chlorine free, unbleached products available in health food stores.