Thursday, 17 May 2007

Greener Living

It's been an interesting few weeks ... here are some highlights:

A few weekends ago, I was attending a Yoga Conference in downtown Toronto. The 'westernisation' and proliferance of yoga here in Canada is both pretty scary and impressive at the same time. What was quite interesting was the number of 'green' and 'organic' vendors at the exhibitor section ... 'eco-friendly', 'organic' and 'yoga' go hand-in-hand here. The ironic part was that the 'Green Living Show' was on at the same time, but having booked and paid for yoga workshops the entire weekend, I was not able to attend.

On a side note, I was in a workshop on Kids Yoga, and recognised a South African accent amongst the yoga teacher participants. Small world. Turns out she's from Joburg, has been in North America for 17 years, and Toronto for 15 - and still has her distinctive SA accent. In fact, everywhere we go, we do pick up an SA accent here and there in the crowd :) I guess we will be hanging on to that accent after all.

As always, not much to report on the news front - Canada's biggest news stories are generally something relating to the weather... However, there's been a recent uproar over ... plastic bags, another area where SA seems to be 'ahead' of Canada.

The Ontario provincial government has recently proposed measures to cut back the use of plastic bags - from an outright ban, to compostable bags, to levies for bags. The Toronto Star had an article debating whether or not banning plastic bags makes a difference - South Africa had the (dubious) distinction of being mentioned as one of the countries with a ban already in place. The stats are scary... "Ontario's 12.6 million residents use about seven million plastic bags a day."

I find it very annoying that cashiers at the grocery stores here double-bag almost everything, and put only two or three items per bag. In the first week of moving in to our apartment, we had literally a mountain of plastic bags. The only redeeming thing is that some of the grocery stores have recycling bins where you can return (any store's) plastic bags. It was quite funny the first time - we took our bag of bags and it completely filled the bin! The sad thing is, it seems no one else uses this service much. I guess it's because (unlike plastic and paper recycling) you have to make the effort of dropping them off yourself.

Perhaps a better solution is to offer *discounts* for not using plastic bags, rather than charging extra for them. An example of this is lululemon who give customers an 'environmental discount' of 50c on purchases (okay, it's not much, but it's something) when you either don't take a plastic bag, or re-use a bag. They will even give you a lululemon-branded re-useable bag with the company's manifesto all over it. For inspiring reading, check out the manifesto at

The No Bottled Water campaign is another one highlighting the wasteful nature of consumers:
"Think of the tonnes of waste, not from only the plastic bottles going to landfills, but from the carbon expended to get that water to your table. Think of the fact that Toronto tap water is tested thousands of times a year for purity. Think of the 1.1 billion people that have no clean drinking water of any kind."

So, Torontonians are just the same as Joburg residents - drinking less tap water, complaining about the quality of the tap water, etc.

What this highlights for me is... some things are the same wherever you go :)

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