Thursday, July 15, 2010

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.

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