Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Walker’s Paradise surrounds My Sister's Closet

Photo: My well-used runners. Much cheaper than a car, and fat-burning! Hit the tarmac today!

When I was writing the previous section on recommended vintage & consignment clothing stores, I spent a few irritating hours trying to recall the name and/or location of a charity store I had previously visited that supported women’s shelters for domestic abuse victims. I did some creative Google searching but came up empty handed. I figured that this shop, on the periphery of Yaletown, had disappeared and become some sad, snooty little boutique with high ambitions but little substance (admittedly, there’re not a lot of Yaletown shops that I go ga-ga over).
One thing Yaletown does have going for it other than the new and shiny CanadaLine station is it’s WalkScore. What is a WalkScore, you ask? It’s a rating generated by to compare the ease by which a pedestrian can access parks, public infrastructure (libraries, recreation centres, schools), retail businesses, services, public transportation and ‘community centres’ – areas or main arteries for public gatherings, outdoor markets, etc. The website ranks the most ‘walkable’ cities in America (and not for Canada, of course) hoping to influence where you should relocate. Vancouver has the same average walk-score as Seattle if you are wondering (72% - 6th place in the most walkable cities in the USA). The website even boasts the astonishing fact that people who live in ‘walkable’ neighbourhoods (note the correct spelling of ‘neighbourhood’, thank you very much) weigh 7 lbs less than those in sprawling neighbourhoods (suburbia)!
If you weighed 3.17 kg less, wouldn’t you feel like showing off those new curves in trendy yet affordable clothing? My Sister’s Closet is quoted by the BWSS (Battered Women’s Support Services) as being “a thrift store [that] sells sample and second-hand clothing”. The Yaletown location also accepts donations of designer clothing from local Yaletown boutiques, and has at least five ‘resident artisans and designers’ who sell their wares here as well. The store not only benefits the BWSS financially, it also serves as a place for women who have left abusive relationships to learn job skills through volunteering at this retail location. I didn’t know that the salespeople were volunteers or were starting on new, happier lives – they are always friendly, warm and polite, and offer a nice balance between the typical completely hands-off thrift store employees and the totally engaged sales assistants that you’d expect from a Yaletown boutique. I bought a lovely, flouncy skirt there ($12 – H&M), and I noticed that they even have a menswear section, which I believe is a recent addition. The prices are slightly higher than your typical Salvation Army or ValueVillage, but the atmosphere is infinitely better. If you like the idea of vintage but can’t handle the abysmal or non-existent displays and the crowded rows of squeaking hangers with an endless assortment of musty, size XXXXL padded-shoulder blouses, then My Sister’s Closet is a welcome alternative. The store is tastefully arranged and decorated, and there’s a limited selection of choice vintage and new articles. They even have a dedicated section for the well-endowed and robust woman, and at a glance I’m happy to report that there were no nasty padded-shoulder printed blouses in sight.
My Sister’s Closet is located at Seymour and Helmcken, and has a WalkScore of 97% - "A Walker's Paradise" (Yaletown). That’s only 1% less than my workplace downtown (98%), and it’s even better than my Kits digs (91%) which is 2 blocks from the heart of 4th avenue. As you can see, it’s easy to start getting competitive about your WalkScore, especially when the website points out that “6% of WalkScore users have a better score than you”. But I’d like to encourage you to think positively – if you are stuck living in the ‘burbs and have to walk 4km to the IGA, but you choose to walk instead of drive, you won’t be that person who weighs 7 lbs more. In fact, you’ll be in better shape than the Yaletowners who simply have to slip on the Christian Louboutins or Pradas and press “M” in the elevator to hit up Urban Fare. And you’re probably less likely to tread in Chihuahua turds, too.
My Sister’s Closet: 
(2 locations – Yaletown and Commercial Drive)
and or on Facebook

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Waste Not – Local Church Group turns fruit and veggie leftovers into food for the World’s poor

Here’s a happy success story that includes green practices, charitable giving, and financially sound concepts. It’s also a wonderful volunteer opportunity – how about going gleaning for the day?

If you have never read the bible, you may have never heard the term “gleaning” before. Gleaning is the process of manually collecting the leftovers from a harvested field. In biblical times, wheat and grapes at the periphery of farmer’s plots were left aside by the farmer for the poor to collect (you can look up the passage online – search for Deuteronomy 24:19).

Today in Canada, we have a surplus of many crops as buyers for the grocery store chains demand consistency. If a head of cabbage is too small or too large, or if a red pepper is both red and green, or if an apple has a cosmetic brown spot that otherwise doesn’t affect the nutritional content, then the produce is not marketable. Often, these vegetables are simply turned back into the soil. What a waste of a growing season, fertilizer and water resources! Not so green!

The Fraser Valley Gleaners (Abbotsford, BC) is a group of volunteers for a non-profit, non-denominational Christian organization that accepts donations of food and resources from farmers and other donors, and creates nutritious dried soup mixes and dried apple snacks for export to the needy worldwide. Reflect for a moment on the bounty that we as Canadians (especially as Vancouverites) enjoy – you can spend only a couple of dollars for a bagful (reusable bag, right?!) of perfect, nutritious, fresh, ripe and varied produce from around the world, not to mention our own local producers.

Sometimes as much as half of a Canadian farmer’s harvest is considered ‘unmarketable’ – what better place to donate food that cannot be sold? Volunteers wash, prepare and dry the vegetables, which are then mixed and packaged together. On their website you can see some of the recipients of their Fraser Valley Soup Mix – it’s humbling, isn’t it? I suddenly became all too aware of my pickiness when I’m going through the leeks or cilantro bunches at Kin`s. Talk about feeling ungrateful.

Does The Fraser Valley Gleaners Society sound like something you’d like to support? Financial donations are accepted, but so are donations of time – book a ‘gleaning event’ with some friends or members of your office and help slice and dice the produce used to make nutritious meals for the poorest of the poor. A very green and very ethical venture to be sure!

For more information, please visit the Fraser Valley Gleaners website:

Other gleaning societies in Canada:
The Okanagan Gleaners (BC) -
The Ontario Christian Gleaners -

Being Green in the City

Photo - Buying bulk tip (see text below)

Here’s the guidelines to being green in our city, according to me:

BUY LESS – The one thing you’ll be unable to escape in Kitsilano and other parts of Vancouver is the reckless shopping & rampant consumerism. I’m sure it’s not a quality unique to our city – our capitalistic society is built on retail after all. It’s not always easy to buy less, but I have a good strategy for avoiding unnecessary purchases; I tell myself I’ll come back tomorrow or later in the week to buy it. If I forget about it, chances are I never needed it! It’s amazing how well this works. Another good way to buy less is to borrow more – as your friend to borrow their camping gear for the weekend, or rent from MEC. Did you know you could rent a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad and backpack from Mountain Equipment Co-Op? You can! And there’s a lot of other things you can rent – bike trailers, kayaks, skis, snowshoes, ice picks….! Or you can swap your existing gear online at

BUY USED – Used need not be an ugly word. Today alone I bought a belt, vintage milkglass ramekins, copper jelly molds (I’m decorating my kitchen – stay tuned for the finished result), a table runner, and a hideous Hawaiian shirt for an upcoming party. Not only was it extremely economical, it’s VERY good for the environment; you’re saving manufacturing, packaging and shipping this way, and you’re also reusing (remember the three R’s: Reduce-Reuse-Recycle!). It’s also a lot of fun scrounging around – there are some really hideous things out there! On the other hand, good quality items are made to last and if you’re lucky you’ll find something worthwhile. Good ideas include steel crochet hooks, picture frames (if you’re willing to give them a fresh coat of paint), vintage fabrics, leather goods (save a cow!), silverware (you’d be amazed what some polishing will do), and lamp bases provided the electrics are in good order (avoid those fibre-wrapped cords). Tip: visit your local Thrift store often – you’re more likely to find something worthwhile if you go more than once. Stop by for a quick browse on your walk home or to the grocery store, and keep in mind Hallowe’en costumes – you could make life very easy for yourself come October!

Consignment clothing in Kitsilano (Hayley Recommends):
Happy3 (4th at Alma), The Blue Room (4th at Dunbar), Turnabout (Broadway at Balaclava): , Shine (Broadway at Bayswater):
(Not in Kits, but highly recommended – The Pink Elephant on Commercial Drive at East 2nd Ave. They even give a portion of their profits from each sale to charity, and you get to pick from the list! Super cool store, just opened. Bought a great BCBG dress from here last week)

Thrift Stores in Kits (Hayley Recommends):
The Salvation Army – 4th at Cypress & Broadway at Stephens
‘My Favourite Thrift Store’ – 4th at MacDonald (note: getting more expensive – new management? More estates, etc. Great furniture but getting up there in price)
The SPCA Thrift Store – Broadway at Dunbar (note: this is the dingiest of them all, not for the faint of heart)
Cheapskates – 16th at Alma (note: there used to be Cheapskates Too and 3 but they’ve recently closed)

– Yes, you CAN have a handmade Christmas! Stay tuned for a rather large article on great gifts you can make yourself, positively none of which are made of popsicle sticks and pipe cleaners, I promise. Handmade gifts are the best gifts. If you really don’t think you have what it takes (reserve judgment on that front ‘til you’ve read my handmade gift entry!), consider buying a handmade gift made by someone in your neighbourhood. Alternatively, give a gift of knowledge or a skill (i.e. labour on building your new deck, handyman services, guitar lessons, teach someone to knit or juggle or play tennis, etc.). Can’t teach? Buy lessons from someone else. It’ll be memorable and have minimal environmental consequences, if any. Lessons aren’t your thing? Stay tuned for my ethical gift post – Gifts of Magic, OxFam Unwrapped, World Wildlife Fund and World Vision Gifts.

BUY HANDMADE AND LOCAL – If you haven’t been to the Farmer’s Market yet, go! – prepare to meet your maker! Obviously buying produce from local farmers is an environmentally savvy move, but consider buying handcrafted jewellery and pottery here as well. They even have clothing at some markets – get a one-of-a-kind gift with a very minor carbon footprint. is another fabulous resource, especially when you use their shop local finder. Another tip is to search with the keyword “teamecoetsy” and see which vendors have banded together to be as eco-conscious as humanly possible. Still loving those Kootsacs (made in the Kootenays!).

BUY BULK – See my earlier post on Kitsilano Natural Foods (aka the former Dan-D Market) at Broadway and Stephens for some of the better bulk food selection in Kits (Capers has bulk food too, but you’ll notice that the word “broke” is in the title of my blog….). Buying bulk saves packaging and shipping costs, and it’s often cheaper. You can buy whatever quantity you need (no waste!). Tip: reuse those plastic bulk food bags - measure out a cup, two cups, four cups of something that won’t leave a residue (i.e. popcorn kernels) and mark increments with a Sharpie. It will make buying the right quantity easier!

PARK THE CAR – And take off the daily commuter insurance. With the new CanadaLine SkyTrain and with several express routes in and out of Kits every day, I can almost guarantee you’ll get to where you’re going cheaper and hassle-free. No 2-hour parking spots, no outrageous meter fees or monthly parking passes. Tip: if you’re taking Translink (bus, seabus, SkyTrain), buy a pack of Faresaver tickets from your local 7-11 or Mac’s. I did the math once, and unless you take transit 6 to 7 days of the week (that’s including weekends) every week, the monthly passes are not the best deal. A booklet of one-zone (i.e. travel within Vancouver) Faresaver tickets costs $21, which saves you $4 over ten trips. They also don’t expire, but be sure to check that the fare is accurate. We just had a fare hike, so they will be good for awhile. But the best transit deal of all is the U-Pass available to university and college students – make use of this great deal! For the fearless, you can bike to work (use the Burrard Bridge bike lanes – I hear they’re great!), and for the fearful (like me – no way I’m commuting by bike in this city!) lace up those cross-trainers and hit the tarmac. There’s nothing quite like walking off a long day of work.

RAGS AND ELBOW GREASE – Refuse to buy toxic, expensive cleaning products and make your own (post to follow). White vinegar costs very little and can do so much, and rags will take more of a scrubbing than paper towels any day.

TURN OFF THE LIGHTS - Not sleeping well? Did you know your circadian rhythms (daily biological cycles in your body) are queued largely by light? Receptors in your eyes tell your brain when to get sleepy, and the bright electric light in your home in the evening might be confusing your rhythms. Cut back on energy consumption every way you can, and turning off the lights when you leave the room is one of the easiest. Another easy one? Unplug the TV and DVD player, and keep your computer on a power bar that you can turn off. Monitors and TV screens suck a lot of power, even when they’re off! Screw in some compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs), save yourself a few bucks a month on your electricity bill and put it towards something fun instead.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Buying in bulk: The Old Dan-D Market (now Kitsilano Natural Foods)

Do you cook? I mean really cook, not just whip up a batch of Annie’s Mac and Cheese (not that there’s anything wrong with that)? If you own a Moosewood Collective cookbook, or my highly recommended local choice “ReBar Modern Food”, or you’re out there slinging things together on the fly a la Jamie Oliver, you need to know about the Dan-D Market at Broadway and Stephens. I can’t whine enough about Safeway’s selection – if it isn’t “white person food”, they don’t have it. I couldn’t find any ketjap manis, lemongrass, nutritional yeast, proper polenta-quality cornmeal, palm sugar, tamarind, saffron or sambal oelek, and that’s only what I can remember off the top of my head. What’s especially irritating is that I’m as Caucasian as you can get, and I can barely find anything appetizing at Safeway. Oh, alright, Tribe Zesty Lemon Hummus and Stacy’s Simply Naked pita chips. I forgot to mention Renee’s Gourmet Pear and Guava Vinaigrette (awesome!). But I digress. The New Apple Farm Market across the street from my nearest Safeway (4th and Vine) has a much better selection of spices, seasonings and nuts, but to get the good stuff in bulk, I have to make the trek to the Dan-D Market.
In the narrow aisles of the market formerly known as Dan-D, are many wonderful treasures. There is every type of starch, flour and ground meal you could possibly require, a vast selection of good-for-you-and-the-planet cereals (Nature’s Path, EnviroKidz, Optimum, Bob’s Red Mill), frozen potstickers, Thai and Indian seasoning mixes, just about every dried fruit under the sun (no pun intended), and best of all, the bulk section! Bernard Callebaut chocolate chunks, 5 different granolas, brown rice pasta, whole wheat pasta, organic pasta in crazy colours, baking powder without the aluminum, nuts and trail mixes, rice crackers in a variety of flavours, wasabi-covered peas, soup mixes and bases, chana (chickpea/gram) flour, and sugars and salts of all kinds. Today I bought self-raising flour (the one ingredient I never have on hand!), popcorn kernels, natural sliced almonds, some crazy twisty organic pasta, dried porcini mushroom-filled tortellini, bird seed, and a sample-sized honey nut granola. I also bought generic corn nuts, but they won’t make the picture ‘cause they didn’t make it home. :)
The only real draw-back to the store is the small produce section (typically outside the store and at the back with the bulk), but I find the quality of the fruits and veggies to be quite high. If you plan a little, you could drop by on a Sunday after getting your locally grown veggies and fruits at the Eat Local Farmer’s market at Kits High (12th and Larch – two blocks away). If you’re really skilled at time-management, you can even hit up Ken Shigematsu’s sermon at 10th Avenue Church, the Kitsilano edition (10:30am - and then pick up lunch at the Farmer’s Market or grab one of the fresh Vietnamese-style shrimp salad wraps at Kitsilano Natural Foods before they’re all gone (hint: they’re by the yogurt)!
Now to buy those Kootsacs lovely nylon or 100% silk sacks (made in BC!) so I don’t have to accumulate and reuse any more of those nasty clear plastic bags. If you liked this article, please say thank you with a Kootsac set:! I’m mostly kidding… mostly. They’d fit great in my stocking this Christmas, too…..! :)

Associated links:

Dan-D-Pak foods: (note that Kitsilano Natural Foods store is not listed on the website, which is kind of weird because it’s chock full of Dan-D Pak brand products!)

Annie’s Homegrown (veggie comfort food – love the white cheddar mac & cheese shells):

The ReBar cookbook & restaurant in Victoria, BC:

The Moosewood Collective (Ithaca, NY, USA) – recommend “New Classics” and “Low Fat”:

Vancouver Farmer’s Markets (there’s one near you!):

Buying locally: Dreamy Detergents from Mission, BC

The VIP soap company (Mission, BC) produces biodegradable and naturally-sourced dish soaps, laundry detergents, fruit & veggie spray wash, household cleaners and personal care products in BC’s Fraser Valley. Not only is it local (it’s only about a 2 hour drive from Kits), but also environmentally conscious. I love their best-selling tangerine scented dish soap ("Tangerine Dream"); it smells great, it works, it’s gentle on the waterways and it’s cheap – I bought a bottle from Safeway (couldn’t find it in the small shops) for $2.75. That was about $2 cheaper than Method dish soap. VIP soap (established 1951) also encompasses Granny’s Products (laundry and dish soap of the old fashioned variety) and their new label EchoClean, an eco- and all-natural line of detergents and even shampoos and conditioners. I can't wait to try out the Peach Shampoo and Conditioner.
Supporting local businesses is always so much easier when the price is right and the environmental standards are up to snuff! Check out VIP and EchoClean products by using their store locator to find your closest retailer (Safeway, IGA, Choices, etc.), or stock up and have them ship directly to you.

Day 1 - Hayley's Verbal Diarrhoea

Welcome to Hayley's Blog on being Green, Broke and Living in Kits!
I'm a graduate student living on next to nothing in Kitsilano (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada). Life isn't always easy, but what's the saying - "Necessity is the mother of invention". I've managed to come up with a few good ideas on how to live well and environmentally responsibly on a shoestring budget (where does that saying come from?!), and have stumbled across other ideas and resources that I'd like to publicize further. It's amazing what you can discover from 'word of mouth'. I wonder if 'word of blog' is as helpful. I guess we'll find out!
Thank you for visiting my blog, and I hope that if you find something useful here, you'll share it with your friends.