Category Archives: Environment

Top 10 must see documentaries about food, animals and the environment!

  1. Food Inc.How industrial farming is making us sicker, fatter and poorer – and what you can do about it

If you eat food, you need to watch this film. This is a fantastic film about food issues with something in it for everyone.  It covers the drastic changes in the food industry since modern industrial farming began and how it affects our health and the environment but finishes with a positive look on companies doing things right. It will suck you in, shock you, disgust you, anger you, but most importantly, it will make you a better-informed consumer and allow you to have more control over what you put into your body. I can’t stress how important it is for people to watch this film.

Take-away: You can reduce 80% of e-coli in cows by switching their diet from corn to grass

Where to find: In videostores, on Netflix in the US or purchase it on Amazon.ca

 

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Celebrate Earth Day 2011 by hosting “Picnic for the Planet” in your city

The Nature Conservancy

Celebrate Earth Day 2011 by hosting a public picnic in your city

Earth hour, Earth day, Earth week if you’re confused on what they are and what you’re supposed to do, don’t worry, you’re not alone.

This Friday, April 22nd (aka Good Friday), is Earth Day which according to wikipedia, was started by Gaylord Nelson, a US senator  in 1970 to inspire awareness and appreciation for the earth’s natural environment. It is now celebrated throughout the world thanks to Earth Day Network and many worldwide organizations like The Nature Conservancy who organize annual events.

This year, The Nature Conservancy has organized Picnic for the Planet 2011 as a way for people to celebrate the planet by hosting a public picnic in their city. Over 445 picnics have been registered so far worldwide thanks to the meetup site. You too can join one of the already registered picnics or create your own for April 22nd by signing up on on Picnic for the Planet – Meetup.

The Nature Conservancy would like to remind you that there are 5 easy things you can do to help the planet: Continue reading

Why I chose to be vegetarian – An intimate look at my life

Lisa_pondering_vegetarianism

After a 52 comment debate on Facebook, I decided it was time to write about my favourite topic; vegetarianism.

Twelve years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting someone during a break in Spanish class that would come to have the most influence on my life ever, yet he will never know it. I wish I could remember more of what happened or who he was.

He mentioned he was vegetarian and me not understanding why anyone would be that, I asked why. He told me about A Diet for a New America and how this book changed his life. Curious, I asked my parents to get me it for Christmas.  My dad having owned several health food stores in Vancouver and knowing about it, concurred that it was indeed a must-read.

It was written by John Robbins, the son of one of the part-owners of the Baskin Robbins ice cream chain. It was the first book in the ’80’s I believe to expose factory farming to the public and the demise of the family farm.

Diet For A New America

Diet For A New America

I read it in between calls while working in a call centre and during nights after school. I wasn’t even half way through before I quit eating meat. I literally quit cold turkey; pun intended!

The book opened my eyes incredibly. I couldn’t believe the things they did to animals which were considered standard practice, like castrating piglets with scissors and docking their tails without any anesthesia. We wouldn’t dare do such things to dogs, so why is it ok for pigs? In the new age of farming, or rather factory farming, animals are nothing more than dollars signs, and treated like discarded broccoli.

It was the perfect book to read while going through business school. It taught me about how businesses try to keep sensitive information (like this) behind closed doors so the public never questions it.

When I started being a vegetarian, it was for animal rights reasons. I didn’t know there were health or environmental benefits at the time.

As a kid, I had always been curious about where our meat came from. My mom always reassured me that food animals were humanely killed and never suffered.  I never really bought that that though.  I mean, we are talking about killing here, how could that happen so peacefully in a dirty slaughterhouse? It’s not like the pigs and cows are jumping for joy on their way to be stabbed at the slaughterhouse.

I grew up with pets. They know damn well when something frightening is coming, like pulling the vacuum out of the closet or taking them to the vet. They react, whether by putting their tails between their legs or running away and hiding. Chickens, pigs and cows are no different. They are living beings after all.

Piglet tail docking without pain killers

Piglet tail docking without pain killers

About a year or two later, I had the pleasure of meeting Ingrid Newkirk, the founder of PETA who spoke at Concordia University in Montreal.

I remember walking into the theatre, passing some tables with vegan literature on them and saying to myself, “Pfff I’ll never become a vegan“. On my way out, I remember saying “F* now I have to be a vegan”.

Mother cow seperated from calf

I had never realized the link between milk and veal. Of course, it all makes sense now. The only reason cows produce milk is because they’re impregnated. How do you keep a cow lactating? Well, she has to give birth of course, and thus, the veal industry was created.

I’m proud to say I’ve never eaten veal in my life. My mom forbid it in our house saying that is where she drew the line at animal cruelty. Baby calves stolen away from their moms minutes after birth, chained to live in darkness and fed a diet to purposely make them anemic so their flesh would be tender. Ugh, the thought just disgusts me. Maybe it’s because I’m female and one day, I’ll have children, but I can’t imagine the pain and suffering the female cow goes through, losing her baby after she gives birth. So technically, if I continued to drink milk, I was being a hypocrite as that is what keeps the veal industry in business.

Welcome organic soy, rice and almond milk. And in case you thought dairy was necessary for calcium intake, dairy actually has little to no benefit preventing osteoporosis yet comes with a wealth of potential health concerns.

Several years later, I learned about the health and environmental benefits of a vegetarian diet. I also noticed the sharp increase in my immune system and the decrease in the number of colds I got.  To be honest, even if vegetarianism was harmful for the environment, I’d still do it for the animal factor, but the fact that it’s not only better for my health but also for the environment, just reinforces that I’m making the right decision.

Keleigh and I reunited in Phoenix both as vegetarians

Keleigh and I reunited in Phoenix both as vegetarians 10 years later

What’s funny is that most of my closest friends in life, when I met them 10 years later at my high school reunion in Vancouver or my college reunion in Phoenix, had also turned vegetarian, not to mention my sisters’ friends and my mom’s best friend. It seems so common to be vegetarian these days. I know so many and they’re normal people who wear make-up, party and work hard. The days of  vegetarianism being for the unshaven hippies are long gone.

Have I gone through awkward social moments? Absolutely! I’ve spent a lot of time in France and at fancy business dinners where you get the proverbial eyes being rolled at you or the ignorant questions like “But how do you get your protein” or what I like to call the caveman debate to which I like to reply, “Ever heard of evolution?“.

But these days, no matter what circle I’m in, I’m rarely the only vegetarian and most people are fairly educated on the topic, quick to ask questions like “Are you lacto-ovo?“, or  “Can you eat eggs?“. Now I get comments like “Ok, cool, have you tried “X” vegetarian restaurant” or “We love seitan” or “We really don’t eat that much meat!

Vegetarian food; just feels so right, so good for you, pure happiness

Vegetarian food; just feels so right, so good for you, pure happiness

To me it’s simple, if you don’t need meat to survive, can spare animal suffering and leave less of an ecological footprint on the planet, then why the hell wouldn’t you be vegetarian? Not to mention, you are so much healthier, sparing yourself from heart disease, high-cholesterol, certain cancers, (most notably colon and breast), high-blood pressure, kidney problems, antibiotics from dairy (makes you antibiotic resistant), growth hormones from meat (loads of side effects here like children going into puberty at 5), and pesticide residues (which lodge in your fat cells).

Then there are what I like to call the sexy side-effects. Since you no longer have meat rotting in you, you smell better and well, taste better!

For more info on vegetarianism, including recipes, visit goveg.org, watch The New York Times best-selling author Kelly Freston discuss vegan health benefits on Oprah or for a fun read by two ex-models, read The New York Times Best-seller Skinny Bitch.

How to reduce your eco-footprint, air pollution and waste by composting

Urban Green Girl with her compost bin

Me with my compost bin after the first week of composting

Happiness has arrived, I can finally compost at home. Since I started blogging back in 2008, I have wanted to start composting but since I didn’t have access to a garden, my options were limited.

I later discovered the Nature Mill indoor composter which composts the material automatically without having to stir it. But, I was still left not knowing what to do with it once it turned into actual compost, ready for the outdoors.

A few areas in my neighbourhood were able to participate in a test project, run in partnership with the city, but I lived two streets out of the test area.

Well, to my surprise, I found out that there is actually a local, private company called Compost Montreal (the first of it’s kind in North America) that actually picks up compost from residences and businesses in Montreal for $5 a week (cost for residences). Continue reading

10 reasons why you’re not green!

Recycling is not the answer

Recycling doesn't mean you're green

First, there were the hotels with their “Please reuse your towels so we can save water” cards. They were one of the first industries to get on board with greenwashing about a decade ago. I admit, at first, I was happy to see this, and reused my towels. Yet, it was really just a ploy to save money for if they really cared about the environment, they would have also had recycling boxes in every room and offered non-disposable plates and cutlery in the restaurants.

I’m starting to see this same kind of green superficiality making its way into our society. With its guise of being positive (and I’m not saying it’s 100% not) it’s not challenging us to question our daily habits and make changes that will really make a difference. I constantly hear  “Oh I’m green because I recycle” or “I’m green because I buy energy-efficient lightbulbs” and “Oh cool, my X brand coffee cup is compostable”. As if it took just a purchase to be green.

You are not green simply because: Continue reading

Make Forests Count in Copenhagen through couch activism

A low-fat diet where potato chips don’t count is about as absurd as world leaders talking about climate change but not addressing deforestation. Yet, that’s exactly what happened at the last summit on climate change.

Did you know that 20% of all CO2 released into the air “from humans” comes from the clearing of forests? That’s right, cutting them down results in more carbon being released into the air then cars, trucks, trains and planes combined. That’s huge!

This December, global leaders, including Obama, will be meeting in Copenhagen to discuss climate change. They must address deforestation if they want to make a difference. In order to make this happen, CPAWS (Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society) just launched a great campaign called MakeForestsCount which includes a petition to Canada and United States asking them to:

  • Protect intact forests and wetlands;
  • Account fully for the carbon lost by cutting forests and destroying wetlands — accounting must be based on actual changes in emissions from the past.
  • Help developing countries to reduce deforestation and forest degradation while protecting Indigenous Peoples’ rights.

So if YOU want to make a difference against climate change, go to MakeForestsCount.org and sign the petition today!

Watch the video:

How to get the benefits of a car while staying eco

Benefits of car in an eco fashion

Car sharing gives you the benefits of a car in an eco-friendly fashion

Lets face it, in an urban world, there are just some times where we need to have a car. From  picking up friends or family at the airport and transporting furniture or big purchases to simply wanting to get out of town for the week-end, the use of a car is imminent.

In my day to day life, I fortunately do not need a car.  I use the metro (subway) to get to work and can walk to all necessary stores and services. This is one of the reasons I believe living in a urban centre is actually quite eco. However, there are times where I legitimately need a car. So here’s what I did, I became one of 20,000 Canadians that signed up for car-sharing. I did it with Communauto.

About car sharing:

Car sharing is one of the coolest trends in the “eco” movement and is practiced around the world, especially in Europe. It started in Switzerland in 1987 and made its way to North America via Quebec in 1993. It entails sharing a car with others through an organisation, only when you need it. It is the perfect compliment to someone like me who uses public transport but needs a car from time to time. It has apparently become so popular in the urban eco movement that new condo developments are being built with parking spaces available for cars from car-sharing companies only.

My experience with car sharing: Continue reading

Cat owners rejoice – how to reuse pet food bags to reduce litter waste

How to reduce litter waste with cat food bags

Reduce plastic bag and litter waste by reusing resealable pet food bags

If you’re like me, you hate cleaning the cat’s litter box. On top of that, you probably use your grocery store bags, but now that you’re using reusable grocery store bags, you have fewer of these left and they’re reserved mainly for your garbage can. Am I right?

Here’s a tip i discovered. Nowadays, a lot of dry pet food comes in these resealable zip lock type bags. So, rather than throwing them out, I reuse them for litter waste.  One 9lb bag reduces the need for 10 grocery store bags.  This bag will last 1-2 weeks and I can clean out the litter box more frequently. This makes my cats happier too.

Smart? I think so. Just another way of implementing the 4 R’s of waste management.

Rethink -> Reduce -> Reuse -> Recycle

Putting the litter in the resealable cat food bag

Putting the litter in the resealable cat food bag

Not only can you clean the litter out more frequently by using this same bag, there’s also less odor since i can easily store this bag on my balcony.

Clean litter box

Clean litter box thanks to reused pet food bag

BIXI: not all it's cracked up to be

Urban Green Girl on BIXI

Urban Green Girl on BIXI

So much for being excited by something you end up being screwed by. $67 dollars later, I realise BIXI wasn’t exactly what I thought it was. Not ideal for tourists. Not ideal for ad-hoc bike rides. Is good for bike taxi needs. I guess this would have been clear had I read their press releases but silly me, excited by their presence everywhere, I wanted to ride one impatiently. I misread their confusing rental fee stickers on the machine, despite the fact I read them in detail. Continue reading

Obama admits a diet lesser in meat would reduce greenhouse gases

Obama_new_dietIt’s very rare that you’ll find a political leader, from any party, that will actually, publicly announce, that a main source of greenhouse gas comes from farm animals raised for meat.

Well not only did Obama admit this and that meat is  a very inefficient source of protein (referring to the amount of water and grain to get 1lb of meat protein compared to 1lb of plant protein), he also went on to admitting that Americans could benefit from a change in diet.

In his speech, he then went on to talk about how developing nations now eating a more western, “meat based” diet is wreaking havoc on already scare resources (grains, water, farm land).

Finally, a leader that puts two and two together and comments on how medicare costs and illnesses like heart disease and diabetes could be dramatically reduced with a diet lesser in meat, not to mention, reduce environmental pollution.

But if  the environmental or animal ethics side of a vegan diet doesn’t concern you, what about the world’s poor? You see, to truly understand what is at stake in world food production, we’re at the point where we will have to make a choice between feeding the world’s livestock or world’s people,  we won’t be able to feed both. Even if the entire world switched to a vegan diet, we would still run out of food, but at least it would sustain us longer.