Category Archives: environment

My Deck is Now a Pool

Luna is getting some serious cat business done and I’m sitting down to write this post.

It’s not exactly how I had planned to spend my day off, but all my plans for today are fuzzed due to the torrential rains outside!

Weather in Canada is always a good topic of conversation, but this is really something else! It is one day before my annual Tea/Garden party and I had hoped to hold it outside on my new deck.

Unfortunately, this is what my deck looks like right now:

The blue bin is to catch rainwater to water the plants with... later.

Yes, that IS ankle-deep water you see! My deck is actually a flat roof and not really a deck at all. But when I had it all dressed up with candles and flowers it was a pretty good entertaining space.

Right now I think it’s trying to be a kiddie pool. I went out to check on my plants and found a huge build-up of water towards the back. Looks like the drains were installed higher than the damn waterline, and nothing was draining. I spent about 20 minutes outside using a squeegee to try and push the water towards the drains at the back, and clear them of debris. I think they’re working a little now, but there is still going to be a mass of water to deal with later.

All said, I think it was kind of cool in a woman-versus-nature way to be out there bailing out my deck. Unfortunately I got absolutely soaked so I’m back inside warming up after a hot shower.

The reason this is cramping my style is because I needed to get a bunch of stuff done for the party today. I’m making a black forest cake and need a few extra items (post to follow!). While my grocery store is only around the corner, the way it’s raining now I doubt my umbrella would stand up. And I don’t have boots or a rain coat. We really just don’t get this kind of rain in Toronto!

*sigh* I have new guests arriving this weekend so this is a good excuse to vacuum/dust/etc. the whole house and get some other chores done. I did laundry last night but due to the humidity from the rain, it’s still not dry (I air dry)!

I also need to plan out how I can salvage this party tomorrow. Can’t do it outside, haven’t planned very much for it yet, not really feeling it and a bunch of my friends can’t make it. What a bummer. I wonder if someone is trying to tell me something. It’s weird, this feeling. Normally I love throwing parties but all I feel these days is fatigue. Maybe it will get better in the summer with BBQ season.

Gardening Help?

In an effort to eat a little fresher and healthier, I planted a small potted herb garden in my bathroom window.

Everything seems to be doing pretty well there, except for my basil plant. It’s either got some kind of illness or bugs, I’m not sure which.

Here are some photos of the leaves. They turn all brown and die off and I can’t figure out why! I have been using Bug-B-Gon from the garden centre to kill any bugs that might be there (I dislike using chemicals but I can’t get my basil healthy!)

Does anyone know what could be causing this, and how to fix it? I just want to eat my basil!

Product Rant of the Day: Lysol No-Touch™ Hand Soap System

I talk a lot about the products I like on this blog, but here is one that I don’t like!


LYSOL® Healthy Touch® No-Touch™ Hand Soap System

So what’s my beef with something that is supposed to help you maintain clean and healthy hands?

It’s simple: Redundancy.

You just don’t NEED this product.

The Lysol marketing pitch is that this product:

  • Automatically senses your hands
  • Dispenses the perfect amount of soap
  • Provides antibacterial protection!!!!eleventyonee111!!

So that “you and your family will never have to touch a germy soap pump again.”

Pshaw. This is ridiculous.

 

First of all, the damn system takes FOUR AA batteries. They’re hard to install (yes, I actually set this stupid thing up and used it) and the sensor is a piece of crap. It’s really not as user-friendly as they claim. Multiple times I tried to get it to work, and when it finally did, it really wasn’t as cool as I thought it would be.

Second, it dispenses WAY TOO MUCH SOAP into your hands! So much was wasted down the drain, I felt guilty for trying to be clean! We’re talking gobs here, people. And there was no way to adjust how much was dispensed. We went through the soap refill container lickety-split, when normally a container of that size would last much longer. This wastage is not only bad for your wallet, but doubly-bad for the environment. The packaging was also way more than was necessary.

Third, it’s antibacterial soap. Unless you work in a hospital or doctor’s office there is NO NEED for antibacterial products. Proper hand washing with soap and warm water completes the job just as well without the harmful effects of triclosan and other antibacterial chemicals on your body and the environment. Read about the problems with antibacterial products/additives here.

Finally, it doesn’t matter if the damn soap dispenser is dirty! You’re going to be washing your hands anyway! Holy fear-mongering, Batman!

 

Overall I am disgusted by this money-grab of a product. They’re washing it with feel-good messages about protecting your family’s health, when it is anything but.

Expensive, hard to set up, redundant, requires batteries, extra soap refills, bad for the body and environment and overly wasteful in design, function and packaging!

This is one fancy gadget we ought to avoid.

/end rant

Storm Season

Oooh, there’s an awesome storm happening outside as I type this.

This whole weekend it’s been crazy in terms of weather. My body isn’t too happy… I’m a human barometer and the weather changes and storms have been causing me serious pain. I was laid up most of yesterday and into the night with an awful body-based migraine.

The rain isn’t the only thing that is crazy this weekend. On Saturday the weather was overcast but otherwise alright. It rained a little at the Taste of the Danforth (mmm I nommed loads of delish Greek food) but nothing spectacular.

This morning I woke up to a weird storm–it went as dark as night then started in with thunder and lightning. When it was right over my house there was a huuuuge CRACK!! of thunder, and all the car alarms in the neighbourhood went off! Incroyable!

After that passed, the retarded levels of heat and humidity moved in. I offer you the following evidence:

You see that little “feels like” section? Yeah. 42. That’s in celsius, my friends (108 Fahrenheit). Vancouver, I think we’ve got you matched for heat now!

While I was away at Spirits Fest I did a ceremonial sweat lodge. While not nearly as hot as the sweat lodge, it’s pretty fucking close outside right now. Like, the humidity/heat level of the lodge when you’re just getting into it and haven’t fully heated it up yet.

I plan to take a cold shower and sleep naked tonight with 3 fans pointed in my direction. That’s the only way I can bear it in my apartment. The A/C doesn’t reach all the way into my room.

Fingers crossed the heat will break tomorrow!

The Garbage Strike Blues


For those of you that don’t know, Toronto is in the midst of a city workers union strike in which garbage pickup, city maintenance, summer camps, etc. have all been stopped by the striking union. More information.

This garbage strike is really getting me down lately. We’re into day 25 of it here with no end in sight. My neighbourhood is still relatively clean, but the area that I work in is disgusting. (The photos on BlogTO were taken in my work area. You see what I have to deal with every day!)

Everywhere I look, there are trashcans filled to overflowing. Litter lines the streets, floats in the air, is tangled in trees and gardens and otherwise makes itself a nuisance.

The smells are pretty bad, too. People are no longer sorting their organic materials out, and are just dumping it all wherever they please which makes everything doubly stinky. The streets and sidewalks are sticky, slippery and smelly and unpleasant to walk on.

People have now begun giving up on trying to find a proper trash receptacle. Now they’re just throwing things anywhere with no regard to the environment or other people. It breaks my heart to see my beloved city drowning in mounds of trash.

Granted, every city will have its various sanitation problems and Toronto is no exception. But with this city strike going on it is simply appalling.

I never really realized before this just how much trash we all produce. Sure, I see what I directly put out on the curb every 2 weeks, but to see that multiplied by 2.5 million people—astounding.

I suppose if I were to look on the bright side, I would hope that Torontonians would make the same observations that I did—quite simply, we are still producing too much trash. I have been making a conscious attempt to reduce my output, especially with this strike going on. It’s tough to do, but I’m making the effort.

I think that Toronto is slowly moving in the right direction, but we’ve got a long way to go.

I can’t wait for this strike to be over. Even with my limited trash output, I’ve run out of bins to store it all in.

The Bottled Water Debate

I wanted to share this article I read in the Star with my readers today, as I think it highlights an important issue facing all Canadians. It’s also part o my series of thoughts on the environment and going green.

The Case Against Bottled Water

The article talks about people’s perceptions of tap water versus bottled water, and how it’s strange that Canada has one of the best water supplies in the world, yet our citizens are choosing to drink foreign bottled water instead.

It also mentions the downsides to drinking bottled water, such as the toxins leached from the plastic, the amount of oil it takes to produce the plastic bottles, and the fact that bottled water is not tested for safety and potability nearly as often as municipal water is.

“…according to Health Canada, there is no evidence to support the belief that bottled water is any safer than tap water. Indeed, if anything, our tap water may well be safer and healthier than bottled varieties.
The municipal water supply is more stringently tested than bottled water supplies. In Canada, the CBC reports that local water supplies are inspected every day while bottled-water plants are inspected just once every three years. In addition, according to MSN news, water-bottling plants are required to test for coliform bacteria just once a week whereas most municipal water systems test for the bacteria several times a day.”

My personal opinion is that we are drinking too much bottled water. I have recently switched from drinking bottled water to carrying my own bottle around with me. I have a stainless steel water bottle or two now, which are not only fashionable, but they also keep my water cold and icky-taste-free all day. The environment is also important to me, so by not drinking bottled water I am reducing a heck of a lot of stress on the global environment (transport costs, bottling costs, “stealing” another area’s drinking water).


“According to the Pacific Institute, the energy required to produce plastic water bottles for the American market alone in 2006 was equivalent to more than 17 million barrels of oil and created 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide. Producing bottles consumes a huge amount of water too, with the Pacific Institute estimating it takes three litres of water to produce one litre of bottled water.”

However I still drink bottled water for the convenience factor, like when I’m out and about and there are no other options.

How do you feel about drinking bottled water? Do the risks and costs of it bother you, or do you still feel that municipal water is less clean or flavourful (-less)?

The Vespa Investigation

A while back I blogged about possibly getting myself a scooter to get around the GTA in the pleasant months. I was hoping to get one pretty soon, especially since the TTC strike put a real kink in my plans.

However, after a little investigation into costs and logistics, I’ve decided to put off my purchase until at least the end of the summer.

This weekend I encountered a few people that asked me about scooters and the cost and stuff since they were interested too. I am by no means an expert, but here’s what I found out.

The Scooter
There are lots of brands out there to choose from! Vespa is perhaps the most popular and well-known, but other brands include Honda, Yamaha, TMC, Piaggio (Vespa), Kymco and more. After doing some research online I decided that a traditional Vespa was probably what would satisfy me the most. I didn’t want to be a brand whore, but I just couldn’t say no to the Italian styling, quality assurance and familiarity the brand presents. Though I did seriously consider the Yamaha Vino, and may still revisit it.
I spoke with a dude at the Vespa store here in T.O. and we assesed my needs. I wanted something with enough “get up and go” to take me from Toronto out to some of the surrounding cities/burbs, that could carry two people, had suitable storage and a possible top case or rack for more carrying capability.
The Vespa LX 150 in Plum fit the bill.


The Cost

Ahh, now the not-so-lovely part of the Vespa buying experience. The cost. It’s a whopper.

The list price for the LX 150 isn’t too bad. A little on the high side compared to other brands, but they can command what we marketers call prestige pricing because of the name and reputation they carry.

List Price: $5,700

And we mustn’t forget the freight, PDI and documentation costs involved in a new vehicle.

Freight: $250
PDI: $100
Documents: $75
Taxes: $796.25

That brings us to a total cost of $6,921.25 for a brand new Vespa.

One thing I will point out though, is that there is room for negotiating with this price. There is no way I would pay full price right off the bat. I would probably try for at least a grand off the list price, but I have no idea what I would actually get.

I did find out from the cute counter staff that it’s much cheaper to buy at the end of the fiscal year, for obvious reasons. Either that, or at the end of the season. I found out when their fiscal ends, but I shall keep it as my little secret so all the good bikes aren’t taken before I get there!

Additional Costs

Another thing to factor in when purchasing a scooter is that you will require an M licence, insurance and plates.

I would estimate insurance to be around $500/year. I estimate the M license process would cost around $200-300 total, and that the plates cost $20, then $42/year to renew.

This is starting to get expensive! And the testing process for the M license is time consuming. First you read the little motorcycle booklet and take a written test. Then you have a 90-day permit (M1, similar to G1) to learn how to ride your scooter sans passenger, alcohol and night-time driving. Then you take your M2 road test at some obscure location and have that license for the next 22 months, or 18 months if you take a safety course.

All the while you’re paying a premuium on your insurance because you are an inexperienced rider. What a bummer. The rates should go down after you get your full M though.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot. I’d need to buy a helmet for about $150, and any accessories such as rack or top case would cost more, too.

Summary

So there is my rundown of costs and hassles involved in getting a scooter. What I have therefore decided to do, is purchase one either new or used at the end of the season/fiscal year to help save me some money. My dad will store it in the garage and I’ll go for my license, etc. next spring. I’ll then be able to ride it for the entire spring, summer and fall next year :)

If I am paying approximately $50/month in insurance and $20/month in gas, I will still be paying less than the cost of my TTC pass! And scooters are pretty good on emissions, so I don’t feel as though I am creating too much pollution. I will be able to get around when I want and go where I want and have an easy way to carry things like groceries and friends. I can also park for free in the city of Toronto. Whoopee!


So, have I convinced you to buy a scooter yet?