Earth Hour, the environment, and the food you eat

I have to confess that Earth Hour this year was just as disappointing as last year, despite all the media attention. We went for dinner at a friend’s place and at 8:30 when we turned off our lights, it seemed like we were the only ones around doing so. But there are better things you can do with your time that will have a far greater effect on the environment as well as the quality of your life than eating by candlelight. Far more important is what you choose to eat. In a recent article on the NYT, Mark Bittman summarized well this position:

To eat well, says Michael Pollan, the author of “In Defense of Food,” means avoiding “edible food-like substances” and sticking to real ingredients, increasingly from the plant kingdom. (Americans each consume an average of nearly two pounds a day of animal products.) There’s plenty of evidence that both a person’s health — as well as the environment’s — will improve with a simple shift in eating habits away from animal products and highly processed foods to plant products and what might be called “real food.” (With all due respect to people in the “food movement,” the food need not be “slow,” either.)

From these changes, Americans would reduce the amount of land, water and chemicals used to produce the food we eat, as well as the incidence of lifestyle diseases linked to unhealthy diets, and greenhouse gases from industrial meat production. All without legislation.

And the food would not necessarily have to be organic, which, under the United States Department of Agriculture’s definition, means it is generally free of synthetic substances; contains no antibiotics and hormones; has not been irradiated or fertilized with sewage sludge; was raised without the use of most conventional pesticides; and contains no genetically modified ingredients.

Simply put – eat more plants and less animal products and artificial food (“food-like substances” are all those products that a person living 50 years ago wouldn’t recognize as food). When we talk about the need of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the first thing we all think of is the pollution generated by cars and airplanes. But a recent study has shown that producing 1 kg of beef releases the same amount of CO2 than driving for 3 hours or leaving the lights on for twenty days. And that’s without including emissions of farm equipment or transporting the cattle and meat.

I personally believe that there is no need for everybody to become vegetarian and abdicate from meat and animal products altogether. All we need to do is restore meat to its proper place on our diet – that of the special treat, the garnish, rather than the centre-piece of every. single. meal.  By eating meat less often, you’ll also be able to afford better meat, the meat that is grass-fed, raised humanely, and not pumped with hormones. That way you’d help both the environment and your own health in the process.

Reducing your consumption of meat by at least half will make a much stronger statement than turning off the lights for an hour.


Life can be simple…

Why wait for a special occasion to have a special meal? Why make a big fuss when you do want to have a nice meal by spending all day in the kitchen? After a nice day cycling and meeting friends, I didn’t feel like cooking something big for dinner. So I came across this winter caprese salad, which seemed simple enough and was even better with a bit of balsamic, which was followed by some bread, decadent St Andre cheese, and whatever I had in the fridge (jams, olive tapenade, marinated eggplant) and wine. And for dessert? Some fresh strawberries, organic kefir from Pinehedge Farms, and a bit of maple syrup. Every bite and every taste was a little piece of heaven. Life is good…

Things I don’t need to do before I die

I saw this at my friend Denise’s blog, which she got from the Feministe blog. The idea is to make a list of things you feel no need of doing before you die. So here are some of mine:

  • Climb Everest
  • Stop learning, whether it be a new language or a new craft
  • Eat tongue (or brains for that matter)
  • Eat at McDonald’s again
  • Skip meals at a regular basis
  • Wear high heels to work
  • Have a regular 9-5, two-weeks-vacation-a-year, kind of job
  • Dye my hair
  • Go to a tanning salon
  • Have plastic surgery
  • Stop taking time to smell the flowers
  • Go ice climbing
  • Down-hill skiing
  • Buy a house in the suburbs
  • Actually, I don’t need to buy property. Period.
  • Get a driver’s license (this may change, of course)
  • Move back to Brazil
  • Do an Iron Man Triathlon (although a regular triathlon would be fun)
  • Stop dreaming
  • Wear UGG boots or Crocs
  • Worry about what other people think about me
  • Try to be the same as everybody else
  • Support Harper and the Conservative Party
  • Identify with conservative ideals
  • Be condescending
  • Visit Euro Disney
  • Smoke a cigarette or miss the days when smoking was allowed in bars
  • Shop at Wal-mart

Those are some of the first things that came to mind… what about you?

New bike


I first saw it last weekend at our favourite bike shop. I had been searching for a good hybrid bike for riding around town since my mountain bike is incredibly heavy and not very comfortable. I put up with it but now that the gears are starting to show their age, Alan insisted I find a new bike. I wasn’t sure what kind of bike I wanted but knew I would know when I saw it. And that’s what happened. The Opus is light, has some unique design elements, and despite the retro look, it’s still very modern. I was a little unsure at first since I had never heard of Opus so when I got home from the bike store last weekend, I asked the oracle. Turns out that the company is from Montreal and this particular bike was designed by a local artist! It looks like a really interesting company too; they even have a blog dedicated to the artistic expression of urban life, cycling, and culture. I fell in love with the bike and the whole concept behind it even more and this morning we finally went to the shop to buy it. Can’t wait to pick it up next Tuesday!

International Women’s Day

iwd_5International Women’s Day was created in 1910 at the Second International Conference of Working Women, held in Copenhagen. It was designed not as a day for men to give flowers to their wives/girlfriends but rather as a day in which women (and men) all over the world should press for women’s rights. I have head some question why celebrate a Women’s Day if women have already reached equality. The answer is simple – even in countries where women have been recognized as equal under the law, there is still much for which to fight. When I was in Spain, I wrote about issues affecting women there. Here in Canada, women are reeling from the recent decision by the conservative government to remove the right of public sector workers to file complaints for pay equity with the Canadian Human Rigths Commission and to prevent unions from representing women on pay equity complaints, basically leaving women to fight for their rights individually. I’m still a bit shocked by these new developments, which Harper managed to pass through Parliament by making it part of the budget and thus preventing the other parties from shooting it down since no one wants another election now and if the budget didn’t pass, the government would fall.

Watch a video and read more information about International Women’s Day in the event’s official website.

In 2007 I dedicated a post to my grandmother, a quite remarkable woman. I saw her for the last time on my birthday, May 31st 2007. I left Brazil the next day and she passed away in December of that year. I still miss her.

If you read Portuguese, take a look at this post. It’s one of the best I’ve read about International Women’s Day.

Happy Birthday Toronto!


The city of Toronto is celebrating its 175th birthday today. Despite what our friends in Montreal might think, Toronto is a great city.

Check this great article on the city’s past anniversaries for some great pictures and a bit of history. Wondering what Toronto is like? Watch Torontonians of all walks of life describe their city in 6 words. For a schedule of all the events marking this date, check the City of Toronto website.