My Green City Life

Local news: Curbside composting
October 30, 2007, 1:32 pm
Filed under: on the town, your outdoor space

Recycling has been in the news around here a lot lately as Montréal is planning to double its ability to process recycled materials. More interesting to me, however, is the news that by 2012 Montréal and the surrounding neighborhoods are expected to be composting 60% of its organic waste — more than five times the amount that is composted now. There is currently a small trial program for curbside compostables pick-up in the municipality of Côte St. Luc. There are also some old compost drop-off boxes around town, but most of them have been closed and/or abandoned because of lack of upkeep.

Composting is so simple that it is almost criminal that so much compostable organic waste ends up in the landfill at all. For us apartment dwellers without access to a compost pile, we have the option of vermicomposting — that is, feeding our food scraps to worms in a plastic bin. (Unfortunately, I usually end up with more organic waste than my worms can handle, so some of it still ends up in the trash.) Folks with access to a yard can make individual or community compost piles. A friend of mine with a backyard has a black plastic composter. She throws food scraps in the top and occasionally digs fresh compost out from the bottom. It really is that simple.

Does something as dead easy as composting — something you can literally do in your own backyard — need a municipal collection service? Whose responsibility is it: the individuals or the city government? As a city dweller without a backyard, I think it’s great. It would also encourage people who don’t want to bother with a compost pile or who don’t think they create enough waste to justify the purchase of a composter. But at the same time, a well maintained composter on every block would probably work just as well.

Read a local co-op’s take on the situation here.


Take it inside
October 29, 2007, 1:24 pm
Filed under: your outdoor space

Yesterday I had to break out the scarf for the first time this season. Today I had to put on my heavy coat, a hat, and gloves! I was told that last night we had our first freeze. Good thing I had already brought my tiny urban garden inside. They’re just chillin’ on the windowsill in the sun, which will be their home for the next, oh… seven months. *Sigh* I miss summer already.

Green is the new black
October 22, 2007, 8:38 pm
Filed under: your green lifestyle

I don’t like to admit this, but I watch America’s Next Top Model. And I really like it. So I was enthused when, in the first episode, they announced that this season they’ve decided to go green. The bus that carts the top model hopefuls around runs on biodiesel! Unfortunately, the environmental consciousness seems to end there. Unless you count the green decor in the huge mansion the girls live in. And the half-assed signs around the house reminding the girls to change their habits for the greener.

All the while, the girls drink from disposable bottles of water. They live in a gigantic house with who knows how many light bulbs on all the time. They are shown sitting on their balcony with very little clothes on, so I’m betting the house — the whole huge mansion — is constantly air conditioned. Not to mention the fact that this is a show about fashion, which encourages rampant consumerism and discourages reuse.

I think I was most upset when in that same first episode, the girls are told that ANTM is taking a stand against smoking and that they are not allowed to smoke while they are participating in the show. The girls are forced into a possibly physically taxing situation for the betterment of themselves and the health of young people who look up to them. Great, way to take a stand! But why couldn’t they have taken a stand for the environment to the same extent? Why not use the show as a way to demonstrate that “sacrificing” things like disposable water bottles and “living rough” by turning the air conditioner warmer are things that anyone — even these flakey girls — can handle?

Unfortunately, green is the new black. It’s cool to be environmentally conscious — just as long as you don’t have to actually change anything in a real way.

I’m makin’ a list
October 17, 2007, 5:12 pm
Filed under: the green apartment

I decided to make a Christmas list because I’m sure my mom will want to see it soon. I don’t really like gift-giving. I mean, I do. I like giving people presents that they’ll really love. I like making things for people. I just don’t like being forced into it. And I don’t like other people being forced into giving me presents. But if it’s going to happen, I might as well play along and make sure that the stuff on my list is as green as possible.

This year, a gadget made it to the list. I’m not a gadget kind of gal, but this is one thing that I think would be awesome. It’s a solar powered battery recharger. It works like this: you buy your rechargeable batteries, you use them till they go dead, you recharge them using sunlight. How rad is that? And how green! Suddenly, I don’t have to buy any more disposable batteries that have yucky chemicals in them that will just end up in the landfill. (Yes, rechargables have yucky chemicals in them, but they only have to be produced once, and they don’t end up in the landfill.)

I don’t utilize solar energy at all — no solar collectors, no solar food dehydrator, no solar water heater, no garden, etc — so solar stuff is all pretty cool to me. I’ve also been eyeing two portable solar chargers: the Freeloader and the Solio. They both collect solar energy and use it to recharge small stuff like your cell phone or your iPod. Yay, free energy!

Take Action!
October 15, 2007, 10:15 am
Filed under: your green lifestyle

Today is October 15, which means it is Blog Action Day, the day I am supposed to remind you to live green and take care of our planet as best you can. Isn’t that what I’ve been saying all along? I certainly hope that’s the message you’ve been getting.

So today, I would like to impress upon you the importance of living a truly green life. Why go green? There are so many answers to that question it’s overwhelming to know where to start. Let’s see… Because landfills are not only filling up the land but also the oceans. Because gas-guzzling vehicles — commercial and personal — are polluting the atmosphere as well as sucking down oil, a resource that many other aspects of our lives depend on, and a resource that is finite and quickly being depleted. Because there is only so much fresh water on our planet, so we need to use it wisely. Because pesticides sprayed on crops gets washed downstream, effecting wildlife and humans alike. Because the weather has been acting kind of freaky across the board in the past few years, and I’m not a fan of violent storms.

I could go on. Protecting our environment means protecting ourselves. We need to step it up and take action now. As in right now. Today. Here’s a way to start: I’ve typed up 60 ways to start making your life a green life. Pick three items off the list that aren’t currently part of your life and that actually pertain to you. Start them today. No cheating, no dilly-dallying. Push yourself, and do it!

Three small changes to your life is a good start, but it’s not going to save the world, unfortunately. However, that doesn’t make it futile. Talk to people and get them going on the green path too. Take on more green changes. Be the green example. I believe that the action of the individual does make a difference, a very tiny difference though it may be. The real change comes when that individual influences those around her, and the individual becomes part of a larger group. Please join me. Let’s be the group that affects real change.

I’m a skinny, selfish wuss
October 12, 2007, 4:39 pm
Filed under: the green apartment

One week ago today, Matt and I walked downtown and enjoyed a couple beers out on the balcony of my favorite brewery. My only complaints were that it was a little bit too warm out for the long-sleeved shirt I was wearing and that wasps kept flying too close to me. (I am afraid of [and slightly allergic to] insects that sting people.)

Today Matt and I took the metro to a thrift store and upon our return home were both cold, sniffly, and in the mood for warm drinks. What a change in weather in the past week! The cold weather is here to stay, I’m afraid, and will only be getting worse from here on out.

Happily for me, the heat in my apartment building was turned on today. I’m very pleased about this, because I was tired of wearing long johns under and blankets over my clothes to stay warm in my apartment. You must understand that I am a huge wuss when it comes to being cold. I doubt that the daytime temperature in my apartment ever dipped below 65 F (18 C), but to look at me, you would have thought there was a blizzard and the power was out.

What is good for me is probably not so good for the environment, though. My building is old with old radiators. I am guessing that the hot water running through the radiators is heated with an old gas water heater. This is unfortunate not only because it’s most likely inefficient and a natural gas hog, but also because the electricity in our city is hydro-electric. I realize that damming up rivers to create electricity also wreaks all kinds of ecologic damage, but at least hydro is renewable. Natural gas is not.

So for now, I will toss off my blanket with glee and snuggle near the radiator with a smile, all the while trying not to dwell on inefficiencies of the building’s heating system and the natural gas being burned. And when it is upwards of 75 F (24 C) in the apartment and there are inches of snow on the ground, I will curse the building managers and the fact that I have no thermostat. I will exclaim that I’d rather huddle with a blanket than burn all this fuel to keep me ridiculously warm and toasty. (But secretly I will be happy to be so warm because I’m a skinny, selfish wuss.)

How To Freeze Leafy Greens
October 9, 2007, 1:46 pm
Filed under: in the kitchen

A couple of days ago, I did a very small amount of preserving. I froze some chard, which I’ve never done before. We have been overrun with leafy greens this summer, thanks to our CSA basket, and we haven’t been able to eat it all. I got tired of eating kale and chard, and I got tired of seeing it rot in my fridge because I couldn’t bring myself to cook yet another leafy green dish. So I decided to see if I could preserve it. Sure enough, you can freeze leafy greens! Here’s how I did it.

First, I washed the greens and cut the leaves away from the tough inner rib. The ribs ended up in a compost pile.

Next, I blanched the greens for two minutes.

After two minutes, I fished the greens out of the boiling water and plunged them into ice water to keep them from cooking further.

Finally, I took them out of the ice water, shook off as much water as I could (a salad spinner would have been awesome at this point), and packed the greens into a plastic freezer bag, destined for the freezer. As you can see, the greens wilted quite a bit. Before blanching, the greens probably would have filled that bag. I view this as a good thing because I am running out of room in the freezer!

I’m not sure how I am going to use this chard. It will probably end up in a soup or stew of some sort. I have the feeling that after thawing, it will be too limp for any sort of stir-fry dish. Any ideas? Does anyone have any experience with this?