Six hundred and eleven

I have a confession to make…

(Note: this is not my photo. I borrowed it off Flickr because I lent my camera out)

I sew my socks when they get holes in them.  I know it’s crazy, but I do.  I made the mistake of mentioning this at work the other day and got teased for it.  It takes less time and less money to sew up a little hole, than it does to go to the store to buy a new pair.  Obviously when the holes get too big, I give up sewing them.  But then I use them for dusting or cleaning rags.

I don’t really know where I picked up this habit.  Maybe from my grandmother or my mother?  Or else I’m too thrifty to not use everything I buy to the fullest.  I use every last drop in any creams and soaps before I throw the bottle out, or reuse the bottle for something else.  I swish water around to pick up any last shampoo suds.  I have been known to cut open tubes of face creams to scrape out every last bit of it left inside.  There were times in my life when I didn’t have very much money and those few extra days of soap suds made a difference on my budget.

Then there is the environmental factor.  We already consume too much as a society.  Our waste is atrocious.  If I can stretch out the lifespan of a pair of socks by a few months by taking two minutes to sew up a little hole, I am going to.  Less waste is always better.

Just after my co-workers made fun of my sock-sewing habit, I read one of those “forward-on/feel-good/chain letter” stories on Facebook. It’s about an older lady who talks about how the world has changed so much and that although there was no such thing as “green” in her day, she had much less waste than our generation does.  (I generally hate chain letters, but I’ve added it below if you want to read it.) It really made me think of how much we do waste now, what silly things many of us spend our money on, and how proud I am that I sew my socks.  When I finally buy a new pair of socks, I really understand the value of them.  Hello, my name is Lindsay, and I am a sock-sewer.

Being Green
(I’m not sure who to credit this to, so if you know, let me know and I’ll add the author in)

Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the older woman, that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment.

The woman apologized and explained, “We didn’t have this green thing back in my earlier days.”
The young clerk responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment f or future generations.”

She was right — our generation didn’t have the green thing in its day.
Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were truely recycled.

But we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.
Grocery stores bagged our groceries in brown paper bags, that we reused for numerous things, most memorable besides household garbage bags, was the use of brown paper bags as book covers for our schoolbooks. This was to ensure that public property, (the books provided for our use by the school) was not defaced by our scribblings. Then we were able to personalize our books on the brown paper bags.

But too bad we didn’t do the green thing back then.
We walked up stairs, because we didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks.

But she was right. We didn’t have the green thing in our day.
Back then, we washed the baby’s diapers because we didn’t have the throwaway kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 220 volts — wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.

But that young lady is right; we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.
Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house — not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana. In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.

But she’s right; we didn’t have the green thing back then.
We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.

But we didn’t have the green thing back then.
Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 23,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest burger joint.

But isn’t it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn’t have the green thing back then?

Five hundred and twenty

A month in a car

Having spent a year doing monthly experiments, I am hyper-aware of other people’s thirty day challenges.  Isn’t the saying that it takes 30 days to break or form a habit?  There are plenty of exercise, smoking, eating a certain way, reading, etc. challenges out there.   Trying to do something for a month is a manageable goal that is easier than committing to a change “forever”.  By the time you get to the end, you are in a different routine and the new change is normal.  I experienced that during my year.  There’s always an arc: the beginning is exciting and a little apprehensive; the middle is the hump you have to get over to continue; and the end is where you reap the benefits.

Although these personal tests are important, what really fascinates me right now is people who are doing extreme trials to raise awareness for a particular cause.  I was skimming through the Metro free newspaper the other day while on the bus to Montreal to see my boyfriend (he’s still working there), and I came across an article about a 6 foot 3 inch, 240 pound, 22 year-old man who lived in a mid-sized hybrid car for a month.  Tanner Zurkoski slept, ate, practiced “car yoga”, called into restaurants and asked them to serve him outside, raced bicycles, and tried to live his life all out of his car.  He could only leave the car to shower, change and use the washroom.  His goal was to highlight the length of time people in the Greater Toronto Area spend in their cars commuting.  “The average Torontonian spends 80 minutes a day commuting in their car.  That adds up to about a month every year,” according to MetroNews.ca.  The stunt was sponsored by Evergreen for their MOVE Transportation Exhibit.

Tanner Zurkoski stands next to the car he called “home” for the past month with his new set of wheels—a bike courtesy of Curbside Cycle in Toronto, ON (Photo: Evergreen)

The interesting thing with this experiment, though, is that the result for Zurkoski was not good.  He gained weight, it was long and hot, his relationship with his girlfriend ended, his social life deteriorated, he had to see a clinical psychologist for road rage, and he had a hard time sleeping.  It’s a little like that documentary Super Size Me, where Morgan Spurlock ate McDonald’s food three times per day for thirty days and showed the detrimental effects to his physical and psychological health.  Both are good causes to raise awareness for.  As I’ve talked about many times before, there are so many better (healthier, better for the environment) alternatives to fast food and car commuting.

I found the whole experiment interesting, although it sounded more like Zurkoski was depressed about the experience than gained anything from it.  I guess that was the point – that being a month in your car a year can cause serious problems in your life and that something must be done about the traffic in the GTA.

I personally prefer to do experiments I can learn from and will help me develop skills that I can continue to use.  But maybe I’m being selfish?  I guess my year was more about changing me than changing the world.  Now that I’ve worked on me, maybe it’s time I do a stunt to raise awareness for something else?

After I read the article, I did some research and found more on Tanner Zurkoski’s progress on MetroNews.ca here:
The Beginning – ready for the challenge
Day 11 – feeling good, enjoying himself, getting into a routine
Two Weeks – struggling with road rage
Three Weeks – wants to be out of the car
The End – happy to be out of the car

And click here for a video from the CBC.

Two hundred and twenty-six

Yesterday I stopped at Hero Burger to have a veggie burger on my way to work.  It’s funny how most “vegan” burgers tend to be served on egg buns.  They’re not really vegan, then are they… In any case, I had a big discussion with the guy at the counter (yep, I’ve now become that person who asks a billion questions before ordering) and we figured I could have their whole wheat flatbread instead.  When I got my burger, it was on the egg bun, so I had to go back up to the front and ask if I could have it on the whole wheat version instead like we talked about.  It was sort of embarrassing and annoying.  I hate being ‘that person’, but I guess if we all asked a lot of questions about what we are consuming, we’d be healthier and more knowledgeable about the substances (chemicals, animal by-products) we put in our body and where they came from.  On that note, these are the reasons why people choose veganism:

The reasons to become vegan

There are three reasons why people generally become vegan: their health, the environment and to prevent animal cruelty.  Some people do it for one of the reasons, some for all.  Today I’m going to touch on these three topics and give a brief outline of what is the information behind them, then later in the month go into more detail.

Health

Consuming animal products – proteins and fats in particular – are linked to many diseases and health problems in humans: heart disease, diabetes, colon and lung cancer, osteoporosis, obesity, kidney disease, and hypertension, to name a few.  Eggs are high in cholesterol, being a factor in cardiovascular disease.

You can get all you need of protein, calcium, fiber, and nutrients from plant-based sources.  They are also low in fat, with no cholesterol.

Environment

Animal agriculture has taken a toll on the planet.  The need for higher yield crops to feed the animals has led to topsoil erosion and less productive crops.  Animal waste from factory farms is the top cause of pollution in our groundwater and rivers.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has linked animal agriculture to a number of other environmental problems, including: contamination of aquatic ecosystems, soil, and drinking water by manure, pesticides, and fertilizers; acid rain from ammonia emissions; greenhouse gas production; and depletion of aquifers for irrigation. (vegan.org)

The United Nations also reported that a vegan diet can feed more people than a animal-based diet, helping with our world’s increasing population and poverty.

Animals

This is probably the number one reason people become vegan.  It’s a huge topic that I will touch on briefly now, but go into more details later in the month.  I plan on watching all those animal cruelty videos and sharing what I learn.  (Aren’t you excited?)

Commercially-raised animals live their short lives in small cages, drugged, and mutilated.  Even chickens who produce “free range” eggs or cows who produce milk are slaughtered when their production of eggs or milk declines, cutting short their life (a chicken is usually killed after two years, despite being able to live up to 15 years and dairy cows are killed after five years, despite a lifespan of 25).  Males chicks are killed because hatcheries have no use for them and male cows are sent to veal farms to be deprived of food and exercise and killed young.

There are so many horror stories about what happens to these animals and even if you say you don’t care about the animals, just think about the sick, drugged meat you are putting in your body.  Gross.

Information from:

Vegan Action – vegan.org. (see the different sections of the website for their sources – studies, reports, etc)

Two hundred and twenty-two

After yoga (my brother is now calling me “the health nut”) and a warm salad of veggie dogs sliced and sauteed with garlic, mushrooms and tomato on top of mixed greens (actually really tasty), I’ve spent the day looking for recipes of vegan things I can bring for me to eat at my family’s Thanksgiving dinner.  Every year we all try to get together and have a big Thanksgiving feast with my mom’s side of the family – turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes full of butter and milk, vegetables covered in butter and sometimes bacon, pumpkin pie, ice cream and cake… basically everything I can’t eat. It’s going to be hard to smell to turkey cooking in the oven, watch my cousins, aunts and uncles pour gravy on their mash, have my grandmother upset because I won’t eat her pumpkin pie.  But I am feeling healthier now that the detox is over and I’m not really craving meat (although I could use a little of that pie…)

In fact, yesterday I ate about ten sweet potato fries at work (vegan, although fried in the same oil as chicken, so not sure the rule on that) and I felt like a chunk of lead was sitting in my stomach.  Most of the things I eat now are healthy, not fried, fresh ingredients, so my system did not like those fries!  I know that if I were to gorge on the turkey and gravy or the ice cream, I would feel pretty sick.

A lot of people have asked me to post recipes when I find some good ones.  There are a few websites that I haven’t tried so far, but they look amazing.  Oh She Glows (a popular vegan blog by Angela Liddon) has some last minute vegan Thanksgiving ideas posted that look delicious.  I think I’m going to try the Pumpkin Gingerbread with Spiced Buttercream.  A friend sent me over to The Tofu Princess which has a recipe for a Coconut-Apple Crisp that looks divine.  This Super Moist Pumpkin Bread also looks great on Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Life.

I know, I’m only naming desserts!  I guess my sweet tooth is really showing here.  My mom is making the mashed potatoes and promised to make a small batch for me without butter and milk, so I’ll have that to eat.  And I’m hoping the veg this year won’t have butter already on it.  This recipe for Quinoa and Sweet Potato Salad from PETA.org looks easy to make and transport and good for me to bring that is seasonal and has protein.

Veg.ca, Toronto’s Vegetarian Association, also has tons of links to websites for recipes and places in Toronto you can eat your Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant or buy pre-made vegan Thanksgiving food, if I wanted to do it that way.  I think I should try the cooking thing, though.  We shall see how it goes…