A Toronto Transformation

Activism

8 Ways to Make Your Bathroom Eco-Friendly

8 Ways to make your bathroom eco-friendly

Lately I’ve been on a mission to become a more environmentally responsible citizen. I really feel that humans’ impact on the planet is one of (if not the most) important issues of our time. For those of us who don’t yet feel drastically inconvenienced (or horribly threatened) by the effects of climate change, it is all too easy to push some frightening realities about what will happen if we don’t change our collective behaviour to the back of our minds.

Everyone has seen photos of polar bears stranded by melting ice, but they’re far from the only immediately at-risk species.

Baby puffins are starving to death because they can’t swallow the butterfish their parents bring them now that their usual diet of smaller herring and hake have disappeared from their habitat as the water warms up.

Bees are disappearing because of pesticides and climate change. And guess what? Without them we won’t just lose honey, we’ll lose huge swaths of our global food supplies.

The WWF also lists sea turtles, whales, pandas, orangutans (fuzzy little red-haired orangutans, guys!), elephants, frogs, and tigers as just a few of the candidates for extinction if people don’t act quickly to slow climate change.

Now, obviously cutting down on the amount of garbage I purchase for my bathroom isn’t going to magically reverse climate change. There is much more that I can do, starting with supporting political leaders who aren’t so seduced by capitalism and motivated by greed that they can’t see (or muzzle scientists and willfully ignore ) the bigger picture. I know I need to lend my voice and support to organizations and movements that are working hard to lead us away from environmental catastrophe.

Still, there’s no reason I can’t also do my part to cut down on the amount of junk I send to the landfill (or the giant patch of garbage in the ocean). So here are a few small changes I’ve come up with to make your bathroom eco-friendly:

How to Make Your Bathroom More Eco-Friendly

1. Replace body wash and liquid handsoap with solid soaps to cut down on plastic. One of my best pals actually made some beautiful lavender soap, so I’ve been lucky enough to have that on hand for a while. I also really like Kiss My Face olive and chamomile (paraben-free! Not animal tested!) soap for shaving.

2. Buy eco-friendly dental floss. This one has been a challenge, as even floss made from more environmentally-friendly ingredients tends to be packaged in hard plastic. Add to that the fact that my teeth are super tight, and it’s almost impossible to find something that will work.

I actually went so far as to email Oral B and express my concern about the environmental impact of so many of their dental floss dispensers winding up in the trash. They sent me back what I would describe as a polite kiss-off claiming that they are very concerned about the environment without going so far as to say they will actually do anything about the issue at hand. I suggested one immediate improvement would be to sell the reusable dispensers and 200m spools of floss they sell to dentists to the general public. Shockingly, they haven’t replied.

So far, the best I’ve come up with is Ecodent gentle floss. It comes in a cardboard dispenser, so at least it won’t float around in the ocean for eternity once I’m done with it. I only wish it was a little flatter for my poor crowded teeth.

3. Use solid shampoo. I’ve mentioned Lush solid shampoos here before, and I am still dedicated to them. Godiva, Seanik and Karma Komba are my favourites.

4. Buy Large. If you can’t find a replacement for a bottled product, buy a giant bottle of it. I have yet to find a solid conditioner that I like, so while the search continues I figured the least I could do was buy giant salon-sized bottles of the stuff to cut down on plastic at least a little.

5. Trade in your plastic toothbrush for bamboo. Think about all the toothbrushes you’ve used in your life so far. They all still exist in a landfill somewhere, and as far as we know, they will never stop existing. Bamboo toothbrushes on the other hand, will biodegrade, and bamboo is one of the most sustainable materials on the planet. Easy math! The one pictured above is from WooBamboo.

6. Use solid toothpaste. Good news! Crest recently removed plastic micro beads from their toothpaste after folks realized that…what was it again? Oh yes, they realized that it was INSANE to put tiny pieces of plastic in toothpaste (which is also packaged in plastic) and made some noise about it. Nice work, noisemakers! Meanwhile Lush toothy tabs do not contain plastic AND are not packaged in it. These little sweet tart-looking tabs foam up something fierce, but they do leave my mouth awfully clean. And with no creepy plastic micro-bead residue!

7. Try a menstrual cup or reusable pads. Approximately 20 billion tampons, applicators and disposable pads wind up in North American landfills every year. And none of them are mine! Again, there was a learning curve with this little gem of a product, but after my initial hilarious/terrifying adventure, I’ve never looked back! This one’s not only an earth-saver but a money-saver too!

8. Don’t shave your legs! Or, if like me, you aren’t quite at that point (at least not year-round), ditch the disposables or products like Gillette’s insanely over-packaged refills and try a Preserve reusable razor. They’re made from recycled yogurt cups and their refills aren’t infuriatingly individually sealed in hard plastic.

So there you have it, a few ways to green up your bathroom! And don’t forget, if you think a company’s packaging or product is environmentally irresponsible, you might want to consider letting them know exactly why you won’t be using it anymore. If they hear from enough of us who will take our money elsewhere, they’ll have no choice but to make a change.

Does anyone have a solid conditioner recommendation or any other ways to make your bathroom eco-friendly? I’d love to read them in the comments!

Inspiring Women: Grace Lee Boggs & Naomi Klein

Well happy new year, pals! I hope you all had wonderful holidays with plenty of R&R. As you may recall, it always takes me a few days of getting a feel for the new year to decide what my new year’s resolutions will be, and 2015 has been no different.

Last year’s resolution to not become betrothed was such a smashing success that this year, I thought I’d try my hand at being resolute again!

As I’ve said before, I think it’s so important for people to be engaged in what’s going on in the world outside our own front doors, and if I want to be able to discuss current events and important issues, I should do a little civic homework beyond skimming the paper or tuning in to the CBC over breakfast.

To that end, I’m diving into Naomi Klein’s latest book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate. I’ve just read the first few pages, and I can tell already that this book is going to scare me, and maybe break my heart a little, but as far as I’m concerned, more of us should be frightened and heartbroken over the state of the planet and how little we’re willing to give up to save it and ourselves. But I’m hoping I’ll also find some inspiration for potential solutions. All is not lost, but we can’t be voices for change if our heads are buried in the (tar)sand(s).

Sand is very muffling.

And speaking of voices for change, last week the Moth podcast introduced me to the incredible Grace Lee Boggs. I dare you to listen to this hilarious, sharp 97-year-old (at the time of the recording) talk about her life as an unstoppable activist and her relationship with her “physically and politically attractive” husband without falling totally in love with her.  She talks about him being a “solutionary,” a visionary organizer who “proposed things people didn’t know they could do until someone told them they could do it” and about how that’s the sort of thing we need in the world today.

Immediately after l finished listening to it, I went online to order a copy of American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs, because I just had to know more about this fantastic philosopher and her contributions to every major social movement in the United States for the past 70 years, and in my Googling, I was sad to learn that the 99-year-old has been in hospice since September. There is a campaign to support her in her final transition as she lives out her last days. If you have a couple extra bucks to throw her way, funds are being collected here. And, if you’re in Toronto and would be interested in watching the documentary about her, let me know as I’m toying with the idea of setting up a screening of it and sending the funds her way if there’s some interest!

So I guess that’s my real New Year’s resolution: to be more like Naomi Klein and Grace Lee Boggs, to do my homework and be more of a “solutionary.”

(Also to go to bed earlier, bulk up my savings and keep my apartment tidier, you know, if there’s time)

What are your resolutions for 2015?

The Art of Talking Politics

The Art of Politics - Art Gallery of Ontario

Last weekend my mom and I popped by the AGO to check out the (awesome) Alex Colville exhibit. While we were there, we wandered into the art and politics wing of the gallery, a place where my mom could pretty much be an installation, as it was the intersection of two of her greatest passions.

We came across this quote about democracy in the write-up next to one of the paintings, and both really loved it: “”For all its faults, democratic politics is the brave, hugely important attempt of people who don’t know each other well to try to live in peace together.”

Hugely important indeed.

A lot of people, especially young whippersnappers, can’t seem to see the connections between themselves and politics, which, to me, is really bizarre. Politics is the way we determine the rules we all have to abide by and the values we want to be held sacred in our communities. Do we care about how (and how much) our families pay for healthcare? Do we care about access to education? Do we care about basic human rights? Then we have to care about the systems that govern them. Ta-daa! Connected.

Yes, in this country politics can come with a heaping side of old, caucasian gentlemen posturing or sometimes just spouting absolute unrelated nonsense in response to direct questions. But that’s no excuse to ignore the actions going on behind those (admittedly sometimes baffling) words. It can be easy to become disillusioned, but it’s what we do with that disillusionment that matters, and disengaging entirely is not the answer.

If the system is broken, talk about it, brainstorm ways to make it better and work together to make some noise until it’s fixed.

Of course, we can’t work together for change if we don’t actually talk about it.

A lot of people I know are of the mind that it’s somehow impolite to discuss political issues anywhere outside of Parliament Hill, yet have no problem discussing, say, Kim Kardashian’s various body parts. I don’t get it. It seems like some holdover from an etiquette guide that should have been thrown out somewhere around the time women in North America won the right to vote.

Is the fear that they might be exposed to a different viewpoint than their own? That some sort of friendly (gasp!) debate might take place and cause them to re-examine what they previously believed and broaden their own views? That they might start to understand the person they’re talking with better?

I suspect a lot of people are afraid of offending, or being offended on a personal level, and I will admit, discussing political issues is a good time to be extra-sensitive to the feelings of those around you and keep your sense of humour and your ability to recognize when it’s time to say “I can see where you’re coming from, but I just don’t think we’re going to agree on this” and move on, close at hand.

Perhaps people who refuse to take part in any political discourse, even among friends, simply have not made that aforementioned connection, and realized the importance of politics, of discussion and healthy debate, of engagement among citizens in creating a better world for all of us?

I don’t know.

But I do know that ignorance never bred progress. Evolution doesn’t happen when we keep our heads in the sand.

What do you guys think? Do you follow politics? Are political issues taboo in your circles?

A Night to be Proud of

I love this photo despite the blur. We can never sit still for long. Too much to talk about and  laugh at!

I love this photo despite the blur. We can never sit still for long. Too much to talk about and laugh at!

When we were in high school, my best friends and I were in a group called The Interact Club. It was a student partnership with the local Rotary club, where they would help sponsor some of our activities and we would lend a hand when they needed volunteers at their events.

In this club, we got involved in community service projects, we wrote letters to governments, we hosted a Not So Scroogey Christmas party for local underprivileged kids and we organized fundraisers. Lots of fundraisers.

I loved working on these fundraisers so much. I loved figuring out creative, fun ways to persuade people to care about an issue, how to educate them without alienating them, and just how to put on a damn good show.

I loved it so much, I’d occasionally skip class to do it.

It probably wasn’t exactly what the school had in mind, but who could concentrate on hypotenuses (hypotenusi? Must have missed that class) when there was domestic violence to stop, political prisoners to free, food drives to organize, memorial gardens to dig and a whole damned world to save?

Also I just really hated math.

Then high school ended and our lives got busy, we moved out of our parents’ houses, all floating around to different cities, provinces and countries for nearly a decade before finally all landing here in Toronto.

I suppose it was only a matter of time before we were back at it, setting up a launch party/fundraiser for Irene’s amazing brainchild, Mother Nature Partnership, this week.

It was a rousing success, and it felt so fantastic to look around and think, “This is a really cool event. This is an event I would actually be thrilled to turn up at. There is nothing half-assed or embarrassing about this. I’m really proud of this.”

And I kept thinking, for the millionth time about how lucky I am to have found so many beautiful kindred spirits and about what an effective team we make.

Moments before the doors opened, Red, who took the lead on the event, and with it, a lot of the stress, looked at me with panic in her eyes and told me she really, really needed her blazer pocket stitching cut so she could get her hand in it. Someone who didn’t know her well might have brushed off the request, given the timing, but I knew better. She really needed that pocket, and then she’d be fine. So I dropped what I was doing, found some scissors, freed up a pocket, et voila: a happy, charming event organizer was ready to take on the night.

It was a little surreal to look around at the room full of people clearly having a fantastic time, and to watch our little cash box fill up with money to make the work we’re doing with MNP to improve the lives of women and their communities half a world away possible, and to realize that there were no supervisors, no teacher-advisors or Rotary Club members guiding us along, ready to swoop in and save the day if things went awry.

No one else made this happen. It was just us from start to finish. Me and my best friends (and the amazingly supportive new pals we recruited to help), doing what it felt like we’d always done.

We (ahem, I) may have lost our unstoppable metabolisms and we (again, just me) may have a steadily growing collection of grey hairs, and we may not have the unlimited stores of energy we had at 16, but the drive, the determination and each other?

You know, the important stuff?

We’ve still got it.

A heartfelt thanks to all of the wonderful, generous folks who helped out or just showed up to our launch party trivia night, Question Period, at the Drake Hotel this week! It was definitely one for the books!

The Big Picture

I do believe I can effect change. And so, I will.

All of the people I admire most are big picture people.

You know the ones. They’re the ones who are never caught up in petty drama for long. They’ve got bigger fish to fry.

They have great perspective and give great advice

Their lives are not small or claustrophobic.

They are never bored and definitely never boring.

They have purpose and determination

They are never apathetic about the seemingly distant plight of others because they can see that we are all connected.

They are curious and take time to educate themselves about the world around them.

They ask questions.

They have opinions and they are not afraid or dismissive of politics, understanding that “politics” is the name we give to the processes by which we shape the world we all live in.

They do not fear respectful discussion or debate.

They are not complacent.

They have no reverence for the status quo.

They believe they can effect change in the world, and so they do.

It’s not an easy thing to be. It can be overwhelming to try to look at the big picture, and devastatingly disappointing and disheartening to look around you and see that you are surrounded by people trapped in a narrow focus with no inclination to stretch and grow outside of their immediate surroundings, their immediate wants and needs.

And it’s an easy trap to fall into.

I lot, probably even most, of my precious time (outside of work) on this earth is spent on self-indulgent frivolity, and while there’s certainly room for that in every life, and without a good, regular dose of that we’d all be quite miserable, there’s definitely more I could be doing to make the bigger picture a little brighter.

I could definitely spend more time looking at, learning about and being mindful of the bigger picture in my day to day life.

Because while I’m not always a big picture person to the degree I’d like to be, I do believe I can effect change.

And so, I will.

So that is my New Year’s Resolution: to take time to look at the bigger picture and to actively work to change the things I don’t love about it, and to protect the ones I do.

And hey, last year’s resolution to not get engaged was a rousing success.

So I’m optimistic.

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5-9: From Corporate Strategy to Empowering Homeless Youth

Start calling yourself the thing you are in your heart, the thing your mind bends towards when you dream, the thing your fingers itch to do.

Start describing yourself in terms of the things you do from 5-9. Because we’re not defined by our 9-5s.

Scott jumps in Iceland

I met Scott a couple of years ago and instantly identified him as a kindred spirit. We quickly became close, I think because of our shared fascination with human behaviour, compatible senses of humour and the fact that we’re both extremely cool people who appreciate a nice gin and tonic.

Or maybe it was just because we lived really close to each other. Who can say?

Either way, what I’ve learned about Scott since I’ve known him is that he is a dedicated and hard worker, both in his 9-5 and outside of it, and is phenomenal at putting words into action in a way that I think a lot of people struggle with.

He is thoughtful and questioning, funny and weird and empathetic.  I admire him very much.

As well as being a dear friend, he is also someone who is lucky enough to really enjoy his day job, but it’s certainly not all he has going on and he has found an interesting balance between his work in a corporate business environment and his passion for social change: A perfect candidate to kick off the 5-9 series if ever I met one!

Apparently he was one step ahead of Emma and I in figuring out the importance of telling people about the things that inspire him rather than just relying on the old standby of his 9-5 as a tidy response. When asked the question, “What do you do?” he answers, “In my day job I work in Corporate Strategy for Rogers…but in my night job I volunteer for homeless youth shelter in Toronto.  I work a lot on a fundraising event I have started with my friends.”

The event in question is Tokens for Change, an innovative arts-based fundraiser benefitting homeless youth in Toronto, which Scott co-founded with a friend in 2011. Their organization works with Youth Without Shelter to collect ttc tokens and funds to help homeless youth living in shelters get to and from school and work.

The idea quickly took off thanks to Scott and his friends’ persistence. So much so that he says one of their biggest challenges has actually been the success of the initial project. “We have grown…from 200 to 400 volunteers.This required that we build an organization and have a lot of strong players on the team.  Finding other dedicated people has been a real challenge,” he says.

Fortunately, the rewards have been worth the work it takes to keep the organization running smoothly.

“The magic of this program is all the things we can’t measure,” Scott says. “The thousands of small moments of generosity and empathy that happened across the city; the bravery of a former resident of Youth Without Shelter who stood up to tell his story at our central rally; the hundreds of volunteers who gave their hearts and time to show they care; and the resilient youth at the shelter who count on this to make a change in their lives.”

With all of the things he pursues outside of his 9-5, Scott’s feelings about being asked the question, “what do you do?” are mixed.

“It is a polite conversational lob ball to get someone talking about something they know.  We have all rehearsed this one right?  But really it’s a bit of a cop out.  Is there nothing else you really want to know?” he explains.

“More often than not its used to delimitate you with stereotypes.  The best indicator of this is when there is no evidence of genuine curiosity to follow.  Asking what firm or branch does not count.”

Forced to choose between being remembered for his work with Tokens 4 Change and his other pursuits outside of his 9-5, Scott says he’d definitely choose T4C, though he is quick to add that his 9-5 has been instrumental in affording him many of the skills and contacts he has used to get his passion off the ground and make it a success.

“I think most people are pretty diverse and you can select information to make them almost anything. I am a pierced, tattooed, motorcycle rider who has a history of scrapping. I am a Co-founder of a charity and community mediator.  I am an MBA with a passion for profit, expensive suits and gin.  I guess the people who really know me care enough to hold a tension between these and lots of other contradictory facts,” he muses.

“If I had to pick, I would want people to form an opinion based on my openness.  I will share myself and I won’t judge you.  That’s a great foundation for a friendship, so I wish people knew that’s how I was thinking.”

This post is part of Metamorphocity’s 5-9 series featuring interviews with and work of people who pursue their passions outside of their 9-5 and who find creative ways to answer the question “What do you do?” is an effort to remind myself and any of you who need it, that we’re not defined by our 9-5s. Read about the inspiration for the series here

If you or someone you know is a great example of this, shoot me a message at metamorphocity@gmail.com. I’d love to hear about what you do in your 5-9!

That Time I was Green Lantern in the Pride Parade

Girl Green Lantern and Batman

My friend Zoe spotted Red and I and snapped this bad boy. We look just so bonkers, but it makes me laugh every time I see it.

As well as being the Canada Day long weekend, two weekends ago was also the end of Pride week in Toronto, which culminated with the annual Gay Pride Parade.

A week before the parade, Red informed me that a friend of her uncles’ had asked if she wanted to be on his float in the parade. As i usually do when she asks me if I want to do something that sounds potentially insane with her, I said, “Yeah, ok,” before thinking it through or asking for too many details.

So it was only after I’d agreed that I found out we’d be on the Anglican float. This gave me pause.  “Hold on,” I said. “Is it going to be a problem that we’re not Anglican…or gay for that matter?”

She assured me it would be fine, and that the man who’d invited us was already hard at work on our costumes, so there was no backing out now. We’d be a couple of straight heathens on the Anglican gay pride float.

And so it was, that ten years after same-sex marriage was legalized in Canada and a couple of days after DOMA was ruled unconstitutional in the States, I donned some very tight, very green superhero tights and more feathers than an ostrich and joined in the celebration.

I’ve attended the parade before, and while it’s always a great time, with good vibes and lots of laughs, the thing I remember most was how moved I was seeing the group of families of gay people march by, parading their unconditional love and support for their children/sisters/brothers etc. The friend I was with and I just turned to each other with tears in our eyes and I know we were both thinking that this is exactly the kind of love and support we all deserve.

It was so much fun to see the parade from the other side. It means so much to so many people, and as mentioned, is just such a hilarious good time with so much positive energy and humour floating around. I have never felt more like a celebrity in all my life. Countless people stopped us to ask if they could take our photos as we pranced through the city. I have never hugged, shook hands with, or high-fived so many hundreds of strangers (including this super cool little dude, whose dad mentioned us in is Huffington Post piece on the parade). It was absolutely surreal.

I had a riot running along the barricades, shouting Happy Pride! to the crowd, who would scream as though I was the actual Green Lantern, or maybe just Ryan Reynolds.

We were sweaty and exhausted by the end of the parade and I was pretty sure my hat had given me a neck injury, but I wouldn’t have traded that crazy day of celebration of love and tolerance for anything.

Preparing for Pride Toronto 2013

Our friends stopped on the way to the staging area to give a hot puppy some shade and water, just like real superheroes, no?

Superheroes dancing after the pride parade

And we danced. Also like superheroes.

 

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