Thursday, March 29, 2007

Consuming with more awareness

Okay I know I just recently put up a post about consuming less and now I'm about to write about what I consumed recently. You can read what you want into that and surf elsewhere or you can just read on.

I've been a label reader ever since I became vegetarian at the rebellious age of 15. So I've always been interested in what ingredients are what and this evolved to household cleaners, and my shampoos and make up. It seems so second nature to me to pick up a product and look at the back label to find out what is in it. After talking to people at work I realized that many people don't read labels and have very little information on what's in their food and some don't want to know. They buy the same products they've always bought, standing behind a brand without really knowing why. I suspect advertising has much to do with this. I've always thought that if it's being advertised on t.v. then I most likely shouldn't buy it.

So if I've been trying to keep up to date on what's in my food and household products including how it is produced then shouldn't I be doing the same for my clothing? I slowly went through the elimination process of removing animal products from my apparel with wool being the last thing to go a couple of years ago. This has been liberating and in the process I have discovered all the wonderful and creative products out there that are cruelty free and/or made sustainably and/or of recycled materials. It has also led me to try and shop from smaller businesses thus avoiding the chains and big box stores. However, my home economics and being a product of a consumer culture has led me to those stores that in my gut I know I shouldn't be supporting with my hard earned cash.

I've been an avid second hand clothing shopper as long as I can remember, but I've been ignoring my guilty conscience whenever I've walked into a Gap, Smart Set or Wal-Mart. My relationship with Wal-Mart has definitely been over for some time now because I simply couldn't ignore their destructive business practices that is unfair to its employees. I can't ignore Wal-Marts union busting tactics, its environtmentally destructive practices and the fact that it's chock full of products that originate from some of the worst factory sweatshops in China. Reading Wal*Mart: the Bully of Bentonville has certainly solidified my distrust of this company. So why should I trust anyone else? The bottom line is that I no longer do. And I've made a decision to consume with more awareness of where the product is made and of what materials it is made of.

In a recent trip into Van city I met up with red jane and we walked and walked on a beautiful sunny day. We walked to MEC since I was in need of some new running supplies. I walked out of there with everything made in Canada. I've promised myself that I'm never buying Adidas, Nike or any of those big sportswear companies that make everything overseas and have all been questioned about their relationships with sweatshops. With D. buying my running shoes on ebay they're almost second hand, but I'll need to reconcile this with myself before I think about getting more. People often refer me to New Balance because they're supposed to be better, but research has proven that this is not so. At least for apparel MEC seems to be making a strong effort to work with factories to improve the conditions for workers.

Ultimately, this may make me consume less since I can't walk into any store and buy whatever. I have to really think about what I need (as opposed to shopping on impulse) and if it is produced in a manner that I can feel okay with.

Sitting in my office I look around and see all the stuff that I have accumulated without thought to where it came from. I don't even think of D. and I as people who have a lot, but nonetheless all the little stuff adds up. Taking another look I'm also glad to see a lot of found items and handmade things and this is just in my office. For example, D. made my desk, the dresser I keep linen in we found on the street, the bookcase belonged to my sister, P. and my mum gave me the guitar that was made in Quebec, my sewing machine was also a street find, the rocking chair we found in the alley behind our house, the pottery and paper sculptures are handmade by P.
So it's not all bad. Is it?

I guess I'm pledging in this post to do better and to be more kind to not only animals but to humans and the planet as well. It feels like a small step in a bigger process for me.

If you're interested Co-op America is a good site for info on North American companies. I've included them as a link in my compassion side bar.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Vegan Montreal Bagels

Mmm Sunday morning began with vegan Montreal style bagels and coffee. It's the best Sunday in a while. When I came home from work yesterday D was in the middle of making bagels. A couple of weeks ago when my mum was here we went to visit P. who had made vegan Montreal style bagels and they were so good D. was inspired. When he went to make his weekly sourdough bread, he divided the sourdough starter and used some to make the bagels. I guess that means they're vegan Montreal style sourdough bagels. They are just like the St. Viateur bagels to give you an idea of flavour and texture just in case you've ever had the pleasure of biting into one of those. D. has made vegan bagels in the past but I think these are better than before.

As for the rest of the day...I'm going to rest one more day before trying to run so it'll just be some biking to get the errands done. Pretty exciting life isn't it?

Friday, March 23, 2007


Yes, it's injury time. I'm laying low and resting, icing, compressing and elevating my left foot trying to ride out this injury.

I'm very frustrated and am having trouble keeping positive about my running goals I've set for the year. So I may have to adjust and set some new goals. I'll give it another week before I do that though.

On a positive note, D. brought home another pair of Gel Kayanos! He surprised me with yet another ebay win. Two pairs of my shoe and he still hasn't spent what it would cost me to buy one pair in the stores.

That's my coach and partner. Swoon.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Spring break. Running break.

Injured again, I've been sidelined from running. It's not serious or very painful, just a minor sensitive spot related to my Achilles. I recognize this pain because if some of you may remember I had this last year around the same time (I think), just before the Mississauga Marathon (which by the way I want to remind everyone what a great run that really is. More people should be aware of it. It's a gentle route and quite beautiful in parts as it meanders through heavily treed areas and ends up along the waterfront).

Last week I struggled with myself over whether to stop running or not since I wasn't feeling pain during a run until I started to get beyond 5 k. In other words, once I started to hit my training kilometers after my warm up I was starting to feel some pain. Being on my feet all day at work, rushing around a warehouse doesn't really help either. At the end of a work day my heel has been aching. Okay that's enough of the poor-me stories. After missing my long slow run (LSD) on Sunday I reassessed on Monday with my coach (D.) and I thought it was best to rest. I sat on the bike at the gym Monday and did some strength work, and felt okay after that. I've been icing and then doing the heat and ice alternating and that seems to be working.

My new shoes arrived last week and I tried a new one on versus and old one and wow what a difference. I could really feel it in the heel of the shoe which is probably how I ended up injuring my Achilles since my heel hasn't had the support its needed. So, D. keep scouting ebay for more shoes. I'm going to start breaking in my new ones once I feel okay to run again.

Today I went back to the gym at the aquatic centre and sat on the bike again doing a hill program and did some more strength work. The good news is I feel fine. I'm keeping off my feet as much as possible on my day off and wearing a heel lift in my shoe.

The aquatic centre was insanely busy since it is spring break and all the little kiddies were lined up at the counter to get in. Fortunately I wasn't using the pool and the tiny gym area is pretty much a kid-free zone. There's a few teen boys lifting weights that are way too heavy for them so it's rather entertaining to see them trying to act all macho with such slight frames, pushing themselves way harder than necessary.

Anywho...after my workout I headed to the showers and changing area that was teaming with children and moms. There was one mom with her young kids, a daughter and son who couldn't have been much more than a year apart in age probably 4 and 5, who kept talking and talking and talking to them. Or was it more for herself. The mom kept referring to herself as "mommy" as in "mommy just has to get dressed" and "mommy will get you a bag of chips when mommy takes you home." This dialogue with herself kept going. Maybe the moms out there can respond to my question, at what point do you become mommy and lose your sense of self? Or is it just some moms that do this. I don't remember my mum doing that when I was a kid.

Anywho...I headed to the showers and had to wait for a shower which was no big deal. But then when I went back to my locker this mommy and her kids seemed no further ahead. Not only that, but she had sprawled all of their belongings across the one bench and the floor around us. "Where's your blue sock? Mommy can't find your sock. Mommy has to look for your sock." My sense of the scene was what's wrong with this picture? I wasn't sure if I should feel sorry for this woman who seemed so scattered she still couldn't dress herself or if I should be frustrated by her need to impose on everyone else with all her crap spread out everywhere. Couldn't she at least enlist one of the kids to help her look for the lost sock? Hasn't she taught them how to dry themselves with a towel yet? I remember being quite self sufficient at a pretty early age. I can't imagine my mum ever having acted like that. Maybe it's because I don't have kids and maybe it was all the chaos going on around us anyway that made me want to get out of there as quickly as possible. I grabbed my bag and stuffed everything, wet and dry, into it and scooted away, searching for a space to change. All the benches were full of mommies and kids and more kids and more mommies. I saw one of the changing cubicles were free and I dashed for it. It was a a bit of refuge from the craziness outside. I purposefully took my time changing because I didn't want to feel hurried like all the moms and kids in there who raced around dressing themselves and drying their hair, dropping socks and searching for lost towels and little shoes. I felt really out of place and knew I didn't belong.

It was a great relief to be leaving the aquatic centre and be in the solitude outside. I guess I wasn't cut out for that life of searching for socks and drying off kids after a swim or giving up all of myself and put all my energy into that little person. Some people call this choice selfish. Maybe it is. I guess I'm set in my life the way it is and am quite happy living as we do. Now if I can just magically heal my Achilles and get running again I'll be really happy.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Just a thought

What if we consume less? What if we shop less because we realize we need less? What if we bought locally because we were thinking of our impact globally?

Everyone seems to be talking about topics I’m interested in, and I hear words such as, windpower, organics, sustainability, greenhouse gasses and global warming as part of our everyday lexicon now. I must admit that initially when the media, federal, provincial and municipal governments all started talking about “going green” it made me a little queasy. I was feeling a little green so-to-speak. It seemed like there was nothing else going on in the world and the environment was the latest disaster. My fear was that this too was a wave of discussion and eventually it would become a memory for next years news broadcast that would begin “Remember when everyone was talking about going green?” Actually the recent swell of environmental interest made me angry because I felt like everyone was finally paying attention to what environmentalists have been talking about for years and it was “too little too late.” However, I am an optimist and I believe in the potential of humanity to create and act in a positive way in order to change.

While I don’t think that “green” is the optimal term to use, I am using it because it does suggest an outcome or environmental benefit that we can all relate to at the moment. Past experience has taught me that the over-use of a term can lead to it losing all meaning. Hopefully the prevalent use of this word won’t lead to it being co-opted by large companies where the term becomes watered down so that the company can twist the word to suggest that their mass production and rapid consumption is good for everybody.

I don’t expect a global greening all at once. Change takes time and effort. My own greening began with my grandmother taking her own shopping bags when plastic grocery bags took over from paper. At first I was just an embarrassed kid because she was doing what others weren’t and I didn’t want to stand out as unusual. Of course that changed quickly when I became vegetarian in high school and chose to stand out in carnivore culture. As far as I know I was the only veg in my school of about 1500. I’m supposing this because I know veggies have a way of finding each other. In university I became friends with an environmental studies student and I learned much from her. I read the Safe Shoppers Bible and moved away from grocery store cleaners, drugstore make-up and shampoos. Yes, this cost me more and I have always paid more for my food and household products, but I’ve always told myself that I have to pay to make my impact on the environment less. Seems odd I suppose.

I’m not very “green” in many ways, but I always strive to be. To a certain extent my income has dictated how I live. I’ve never owned a car because I can’t afford it. If I could afford it would I own one? I don’t think so because I’ve seen people in my income bracket scrimp and save and go into debt so they could get a car. That drive has never been in me. I’ve always biked as a means of transportation or, in bad weather, taken public transit. When I need to I rent a vehicle and I must say I loathe having the responsibility of it.

Backing up a bit, what does this green talk achieve? Everyone talks about what they can do to make their impact less damaging. I am glad to hear people just talking about such issues since dialogue brings awareness and can generate ideas for (hopefully) an improvement in how we live with the planet. We are inextricably linked to the planet. Our survival depends on the planet’s survival. Talk is wonderful, but I’m hoping to see some more concrete action. We need to act now.

We are a consumption culture and we can live with so very little. I believe that part of trying to be greener and live with a less damaging impact to the environment goes beyond buying the right light bulb or a fuel efficient car, I’d like to see more radical thinking like buying less in general. If people made a conscious effort to buy less wouldn’t the benefits to the earth be significant? Do we really need so much? I’d like to see everybody really be aware when they shop. Ask yourself do I really need this? Part of the reason we are in the mess we are in is because we want everything at our fingertips and we want it now. We’ve become obsessed with material wealth and when that goes out of style we get something else, something newer.

I know that practicality is an issue and we don’t all have the choice to shop around for organics or green products, but maybe it’s just a matter of buying locally. Here at home we’ve been long time shoppers of organic produce delivery service and our new service indicates what items are local. Each time we get a delivery we get the amount of kilometers our food traveled to reach us. Part of what I’ve learned is that perhaps we can eat more locally grown foods and thus more seasonally. Do I need oranges in January? No. Apples are abundant here locally so I’ve chosen to eat more apples. It’s never been at the top of my list as far as fruit goes, but now that I’ve been eating them more I’ve discovered many varieties and the subtleties of their flavours and textures. Root vegetables through the winter are also abundant and it causes me to learn new ways to cook with them. Soups and stews are great with root veggies and are the perfect food in the winter. Maybe there’s a farmers market near where you live that you could check out.

Perhaps I’m a little all over the place here, but these things have been on my mind for so long and rather than yammering on to D. about all of this yet again, I thought I should put it out there to those that read the blog. I hope it inspires and hopefully you can give me suggestions. For example, while my food may not have traveled so far, what about my clothes? Recently, I went to Winners to try and find some pants for work and my intention was to not buy anything made in China. It didn’t take me long to get out of there because everything was made in China, Bangladesh, Taiwan or Mexico. Hmm. I did find a pair of pants on sale at MEC that were made in the USA and now I wish I had gotten two pairs because they’re great and they’re organic cotton. They’ll just have to last a little longer. I’ll save money in the end I suppose.

I started out by talking about consuming less and ended up talking about what I consume. Yes, we need to consume to live our lives as we do, but I guess it’s about being an aware consumer and not just buying because it’s in the bin for 2.99 or maybe we just need to simply make the choice to not walk into Wal-Mart, but rather going to a smaller local shop.

I guess it’s not really radical thinking in the end, but rather just being aware of our quality of life for us and for every living creature in the world. What we choose affects everyone else does it not?

Remember in Whoville how all the Whos didn’t care that all their belongings were gone when Christmas arrived? Their gifts and roast beasts had been stolen and not one Who cried “boo-hoo-hoo.” This puzzled the Grinch, but like the Grinch I think we need to be more like the Whos down in Whoville (except for the eating roast beast of course) and remember that each day is about something much more. It’s how we live our lives and the quality of that life that matters. As a result won’t we be greener?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Mom's visit

Back at the coffee shop. I suppose this will go on for several more days or weeks until D and I sort out how we're going to live in the internet world.

Today is glorious and sunny. Did we ever need it after all the torrential rain and flooding etc etc. Okay we weren't flooded, but others were and it's just another mess after a series of messes that the weather has created this past winter. Today gives me hope and it is an indication of what is to come with the summer. It's very uplifting.

So my mom was here for a week. We had a great time. He flight was delayed because of the bad weather "back east" (everyone refers to central Canada and east of as "back east" and I can't help but find it funny. It's as funny as those in the east calling our location "out west" -- I'm sure I've mentioned this before so I'll move on). Anywho...she made it and we had a good week. We went to Nanaimo to see P. and even though I was fighting the flu I had a good time. We mostly ate food with P. He's such an awesome cook. He made vegan BAGELS! Yes, vegan bagels and they were Montreal style bagels with sesame seed and they were chewy and delicious. I took my Tofutti cream cheese and I was in heaven. He gave us some to take home as well. I still have one left that I put in the freezer because I'm waiting for that perfect Sunday when I have lots of time and can sit and enjoy every bite with my morning coffee.

We went to see the "From Totems to Turquoise" exhibit at the Vancouver Museum. It was an incredible exhibit of past and contemporary jewelry from the Southwest First Nations and the Northwest First Nations artists. It was engaging and very educational. The jewelry was stunning and inspiring. I'm glad I went. I can't wait to get to the Museum of Anthropology. Everyone speaks so highly of it.

The week flew by and despite the rainy weather we went for walks and enjoyed ourselves. Mom didn't seem to mind the rain at all. We had a great walk along the inlet. It was beautiful.

And on that note. I'm going to get out in that sunshine before it's gone.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Just hi

So much to write and so little time. I just stopped into that dreaded coffee shop for a tea and some free internet. I should make the trip to the Cornerstone, but hey this is just down the hill.

I just stopped in to say hi and let you know that I haven't disappeared nor did I go to fluville, but I'll return tomorrow with something more interesting.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Safe Arrival

No, not the shoes. I didn't get them that quickly. My mom is visiting and she arrived after a bit of journey from Mtl via Toronto through some nasty weather, but she's here and already sound asleep.

We're going to visit P. tomorrow and take some garden seeds and spend the day with him.

I'll have to post a picture of the picture he and his daughter B. gave us for a housewarming gift. She's a very talented photographer and I loved her work the minute I saw it. She's a bit of a natural.

more later...

Friday, March 02, 2007

They're on their way!

The shoes are in the mail! D. has been watching ebay for my running shoe. He missed out on a couple because the bids were getting beyond pricey, but then...last night he went to the cornerstone cafe while I was at work and bid on a pair of shoes and won. So we're getting them for less than half price (D. said he has to count the price of the soy latte he ordered so that makes it exactly half price). They're coming from another province so we won't have to pay duty on them either. They're also the colour of my Kayanos that I wore for my first half marathon so it's fitting that I should have them for my first marathon.
Can't wait to start breaking them in.