Category Archives: General

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

Montreal takes stand against climate change with the launch of BIXI

Whoever thought green initiatives wouldn’t be cool for urbanites never met BIXI!

BIXI with Montreal skyline

BIXI with Montreal skyline

Just over a month ago, the City of Montreal launched BIXI, North America’s first public bike system. It was part of the city’s overall object to improve public transport and reduce the amount of vehicles on the road. Continue reading

New York, Washington DC & Phoenix, still no public recycling!

As I’ve written before, recycling is not the answer; rather, the focus should be on reducing waste in the first place. However, in certain circumstances, like when you’re travelling in urban centres, it’d be nice to be able to recycle your water bottle rather than throw it out. I recently made a few trips south of the border to New York, Washington DC and Phoenix and was greatly disappointed by the lack of recycling bins in the downtown areas for glass and plastic bottles.

Daily Manhattan garbage

Absolutely unacceptable - Manhattan garbage

Let’s start off with New York City, an avant-garde city that starts positive trends. Yet, I was horrified by the amount of waste that was thrown out each night in front of boutiques and restaurants, not to mention, the lack of recycling bins throughout Manhattan. I remember asking an employee at Burger King (yes, I ate there but I had the veggie burger) where I could recycle my water bottle and the girl looked at me like I was crazy! I stayed at an awesome boutique hotel called the Room Mate Grace right in the Continue reading

Montrealers; don't miss the 5th annual Sustainable Business Conference at Concordia University

Me, Dov Charney, Chantal and Anouk

Me, Dov Charney (American Apparel), Chantal and Anouk

During my last year in university, I met a group of business students who like me, were looking for another business model that incorporated sustainability, social ethics and most importantly, environmental well-being.  With them, I helped organize the first ever Sustainable Business Conference at the John Molson School of Business at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada.

The first year discussed and debated if going “green” could help the bottom line and private versus public responsibility in achieving sustainable businesses and societies. The event was such a success that it inspired a course on sustainability in the  business faculty. A huge accomplishment in itself!

In its first year, we were able to get many CEO’s and business executives from organizations ranging from Hydro Quebec, Soyummi and Nature’s Path foods to our favourite, the scandalous Dov Charney from American Apparel, known for its non sweat-shop t-shirts.  That in itself was a major crowd drawer.

2005 SBC attendees

2005 SBC attendees

Five years later, the SBC in stronger than ever and its 5th annual Sustainable Business Conference, “Building our Future” will take place on Friday, February 13th. The event will allow attendees to learn about environmentally conscious architecture, construction, and design. If you are considering becoming a consultant in green buildings, sustainable business or curious about the green buildings of the future, this conference is for you.

Tickets are $10 and include a wine and cheese cocktail afterwards. You can purchase them online at jsg-jmsb.ca or at the tables in the lobbies/mezzanines of the GM and Hall buildings of Concordia University, 1455 de Maisonneuve West.

I myself will be attending the wine and cheese afterwards and look forward to passionate discussion on green living and sustainable business with other like minded people. Hope to see you there!

Green must-see; the Story of Stuff, now en français & 10 other languages

The Story of Stuff - Extraction

The Story of Stuff - Extraction

There are (2) two things that have greatly impacted my life; reading Diet for a New America and watching The Story of Stuff.  It was one of the principle reasons I decided to start Urban Green Girl.

The Story of Stuff was one of the most viewed, viral videos of 2007 with over 4 million pages views.  Because of the immense international attention it received, they decided to launch an international version of its coveted online video. Now it contains sub-titles for (10) ten languages including French, Spanish, Hebrew, German, Arabic and Mandarin.

I am so excited as I can finally share this video with my francophone and other international friends for whom it’s been so difficult to explain green living!

So what is this video about you ask? The Story of Stuff:

From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. It’ll teach you something, it’ll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever.

Don’t be left out in the cold!

Inform yourself today and learn about the impact you have on the world by watching the Story of Stuff. Watching this video is STEP #1 in starting your green life.

Consumerism - Planned obsolesence

The Toyota Prius proves not so fuel efficient afterall

Toyota Hybrid vs BMW 520d A test conducted by The Sunday Times in England proved that a BMW 520d diesel is more fuel efficient than the Toyota Prius hybrid, on a race from London to Geneva, 560miles.  They covered about 200 miles of highways, 200 miles of B roads (windy, mountainous conditions) and 100 miles of urban settings. In fact, the drive is only 460 miles to Geneva, but they drove an extra 100 miles to give the Toyota Prius some advantage in urban settings. The results were surprising! The BMW 520d had done the entire trip on 49 litres and averaged more than 50 mpg whereas the Toyota Prius Hybrid averaged only 48.1 mpg.  I should note that Toyota claims that the official fuel consumption for the Prius is 65.7 mpg. You would think with all the hoopla surrounding the benefits of the Toyota Prius that it would still manage to be more fuel efficient in highway driving than a midsize car. However, to the Toyota Prius’s defense, it’s main purpose is for city driving where fuel consumption is at it’s highest. Not to mention, this is the type of condition that most of us drive in on a regular basis. We all know that you get more mpg in highway driving as you’re not stopping and going every 5 minutes, so frankly, for the Toyota Prius to have been beaten by less than 2 mpg, it’s really not, in my opinion, that big of a deal.

35 ways urban people can reduce their waste

30 easy ways urbanites can reduce waste

35 easy ways urban people can reduce waste

There’s no doubt that it’s impossible in urban society to accumulate zero waste. This is not, however, to say that we shouldn’t strive to reduce our waste, as urban society tends to be very waste oriented as so much revolves around convenience. In my opinion, there are two types of waste that we encounter in our daily lives; Waste from packaging and waste from final consumer goods that we decide we no longer want.

Did you know that 6 months after purchase, 99% of these goods have been disposed of? What does this say about us? Part of the reason we here in North America can get away with such lax environmental laws is that we are a huge continent. We are not worried about running out of space for landfills, cutting down all the trees or polluting all the water.

However, there is no doubt that if we continue producing and disposing at the current rate, we will encounter these problems. Let me rephrase that…Our “children” and “grandchildren” will encounter these problems because of “our” actions. Is this what we want our generation to be remembered by? Thus, here are some easy ways that we can reduce the waste we encounter in our daily lives. I am personally striving to do all.

  1. Buy dry food in bulk: Bring reusable containers for your grains, beans and lentils instead of buying them individually in cans.
  2. Wash your floors with a reusable fabric mop instead of a disposable sponge mop.
  3. Compost food leftovers: If you recycle, 75% of what you probably throw away is food leftovers. Did you know that 25% of greenhouse gas emissions come from the methane gas produced from decaying food in landfills?
  4. Use a reusable grocery bag: Tip: Always keep 2 in your car for surprise visits and keep a small plastic bag folded in your bag or purse for those impulse trips to the grocery store after work.
  5. Use a reusable coffee mug at work: The average person throws away 500 disposable coffee cups in a year. Leave a reusable coffee mug at work. Cafés nowadays welcome reusable cups and even give discounts. Not only are you saving a cup every time, you’re also promoting this idea to people around you who could potentially do the same.
  6. Use Tupperware for your lunch at the food court: There’s nothing wrong with your panini and salad, but putting it in a Styrofoam container everyday equals a lot of non-biodegradable waste. (I’m personally working on this, as well as bringing more lunches from home in Tupperware).
  7. Use wax instead of disposable razors: Your skin will thank you. For men, at least use rechargeable razors as opposed to disposable.  A lot of the waste comes from the packaging, which is also a problem as it’s not recyclable.
  8. Use bar soap instead of liquid soap and shower gel: No packaging is better than recycling a plastic container or, worse, throwing it out. Many cities, like Calgary, don’t even recycle plastic yet.
  9. Use vinegar and baking soda to clean your house: These powerful ingredients will clean, disinfect and de-grease your entire house. Moreover, it’s better than buying 10-20 bottles of other toxic cleaners.
  10. Adopt a pet: Instead of creating the demand for a new pet, adopt one that already exists! (Of course I don’t consider pets waste, but thousands are euthanised everyday because of overpopulation problems).
  11. Women: Use a diva menstrual cup: Billions of pads and tampons are disposed of each year. We can’t all afford a hybrid or solar panels but we can reduce our environmental impact by using this great product. I will write a funny article about this and my experience with it soon!
  12. Use cloth diapers: Disposable diapers make up the third largest source of solid waste in landfills. Cloth diaper services are one of the fastest growing home businesses, so a quick Google search is sure to turn up a company in your area, like Baby on the way in Canada or Cloth diaper sites in the US.
  13. Use Tupperware for food storage instead of saran wrap and Ziploc bags.
  14. Use a water filter instead of water bottles. It’s estimated that 8 our of 10 water bottles are thrown out, totaling 60 million bottles disposed of every year in the States. Get a water filter at home and if you’re still scared of drinking tap water, then we ought to be raising hell at a municipal level as Dr. David Suzuki says!
  15. Give away unwanted furniture and appliances on online classifieds: Rather than throwing it out on garbage day, post a free ad and invite someone to come pick it up chez vous!
  16. Use olive oil bar soap instead of shaving cream: Both sexes are equally guilty (men probably a bit more) when it comes to shaving cream cans that cannot be recycled. Olive oil soap is the perfect solution as its oily texture makes the perfect lathering agent for the closest shave ever!
  17. Purchase higher quality products that will last longer: If you can’t afford the more expensive alternative, see if you can get it secondhand online. You’ll end up saving $$ and keeping it longer.
  18. Bring leftovers for lunch in Tupperware instead of microwaveable meals. I am very guilty here as I’m lazy and tend not to prepare lunches in advance, but I am making a conscious effort to change.
  19. Recycle your old computer and electronics: I won’t lie, you might have to do a bit of research in  your area, but facilities do exist. E-waste is extremely hazardous and vast amounts get shipped off to developing nations, where it is not dealt with in a environmentally nor human friendly manner.
  20. Don’t buy disposable products! OK, I won’t argue about band-aids but you get the point!
  21. Buy your fruits and vegetables from a market: This will cut down on foods that are packaged in Styrofoam and Saran wrap. I bring reused plastic bags for herbs and place all vegetables together in my reusable grocery bags so i generate NO waste.
  22. Avoid free, crappy presents from events: You know those key-chains, calculators, pins, bags etc. that you get from trade shows and conferences that you just end up throwing out? Don’t take them! This will help decrease the demand for them in the first place.
  23. Cook more food at home (from scratch): So much of our landfills are filled with waste attributed to food packaging because we don’t value taking the time to cook. If there’s one thing I learned from the French, it’s to take pleasure in cooking your own food. Not only is it healthier, you might actually lose weight too because home cooked food doesn’t contain unnatural ingredients that could have long-term health effects. For those who don’t know how to cook (like me), start with one recipe a week and work your way up. (Or get a French boyfriend like I did!! lol)
  24. Bake your own desserts. Don’t buy the frozen kind in plastic wrap; buy the necessary tools and start experimenting. There’s something honourable about our grandparents’ generation, where everything was home cooked with pride and store-bought was looked down upon. Our grandparents were frugal and produced little waste, unlike us. We don’t need to be Martha Stewart but we could be more green by bringing back the valuable skill of cooking and baking!
  25. Buy your music online in electronic format: It might be a small gesture but CD cases are still waste and the plastic in them keeps us dependent on oil.
  26. Use an aromatherapy oil diffuser instead of an air freshener: Aerosol cans are pure waste as they cannot be recycled and one bottle of oil will easily outlast 10 aerosol cans.
  27. Use a deodorant crystal: Deodorant crystals work just as well as regular deodorants, do not contain aluminum (a suspected carcinogen), last up to one year and their packaging is recyclable. One deodorant crystal will reduce the need for 12 non-recyclable deodorant products. You can buy them in health food stores.
  28. Buy sugar in bulk, not in individual packets: Note for offices, if bulk is not possible, try sugar cubes.
  29. Use spaghetti sticks to stir your coffee: They work just as well as plastic stir sticks and it’s even the latest fashion in trendy cafés.
  30. Buy loose leaf tea instead of individual tea sachets: Spice it up by getting a funky tea strainer.
  31. Brew your coffee in a french press (Bodum) or espresso machine (non capsule kind): Eliminate the need for coffee filters. The coffee will taste better too. If you already have a coffee machine, buy a reusable gold plated filter.
  32. Sign up for electronic banking: Receive all your banking statements and other bills online, eliminating the need for paper waste.
  33. Buy only electronic devices with rechargeable batteries: Say goodbye to disposable batteries.
  34. Repair your clothes and shoes: Do as the Europeans do and repair holes in jackets and fix the heels of your shoes. And when you really don’t want them anymore, at least give them to charity.
  35. Lastly, don’t get too caught up in consumerism: Always having to buy the latest and greatest new product because of planned obsolescence leaves us perpetually disposing of perfectly good products for the sole reason of them not being “cool” anymore. Are we that superficial?

Remember, part of the reason we dispose so much is because we can. If we had to throw out our garbage in our own backyard, trust me, we’d all get very creative about what we buy.  So let’s use this as a personal motivator and reduce.

Urban Green Girl featured on the CBC's The News at Six

CBC interview Nov 28 2008

CBC interview Nov 28 2008

Wow dreams do come true! Tonight Urban Green Girl was featured on the Be Green segment of The News at Six on CBC hosted by Geeta Nadkarni. Geeta is another amazing individual trying to make our world a better place and helps out in animal issues too. It was a great pleasure being interviewed by her. The actual interview took 2hrs and I was very nervous, stumbling on my words (you would be too if you had a camera in your face) but overall, I think it turned out great!  Watch my interview with Geeta and read what she wrote about me on her Be Green blog. Having the Be Green segment on the Montreal edition of the CBC is proof that green issues are no longer a marginal issue with more and more discussion in mainstream media. Society is now learning that they have to shape up and start considering their actions on the planet.

Welcome CBC viewers

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for viewing my blog. Due to this segment airing earlier than expected, I haven’t had a chance to put together an article on eco-friendly ways to clean the entire house yet but please check back within the week. Meanwhile, please feel free to look around and enjoy what already exists from getting rid of fruit flies, to how to choose a healthy pet food, and how to avoid the top contaminated fruits and vegetables in Canada. If you have any questions or would like to suggest a topic, send me a message. Thanks for visiting, Urban Green Girl

Vancouver elects new "green" mayor Gregor Robertson

Gregor Robertson elected Mayor of Vancouver

Gregor Robertson elected Mayor of Vancouver

Good news in my birthtown of Vancouver, Canada, an environmentally and socially conscious mayor was just elected in last weeks civic election.  Gregor Robertson, the co-founder of Happy Planet organic juices and soups will lead Vancouver into the 2010 olympics.  Robertson promises to end homeless and rebrand Vancouver as the greenest city in the world. Robertson believes the future must be a planet-friendly one, and that new business ventures must be ecologically sustainable.

What is even more intriguing is that he has been making waves south of the border too. Many high-profiled movers and shakers have been donating to his Vision party such as Oprah’s go-to guy on health issues Dr. Andrew Weil, founder of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona and Gary Hirshberg, founder of the multi-million-dollar U.S. organic yogurt company Stonyfield Farms (who by the way is also friends with Obama).

According to Hirshberg, friends for 15 years;

“Conservation efforts are not just green crunchy things to do, they’re a foundation for sound 21st-century economic policy,” said Hirshberg, author of the book Stirring It Up: How to Make Money and Save the World.  Robertson is the first non-American politician he has supported, maintains Vancouver is the perfect incubator to pursue these concepts, and could influence change in other Canadian cities — especially with a platform to speak to the world during the 2010 Olympics.

All I can say is well-done Vancouver, you have made me proud and given me hope that sustainability and stewardship will one day become the norm.

Vancouver, Canada

Vancouver, Canada