This Earth Day, Here Are 7 Simple Ways to Reduce Your Environmental Impact on Earth

On April 22nd, 1970, after witnessing the devastating effects of a massive oil spill in California, U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson successfully inspired 20 million Americans to march and demonstrate until environmental protection became a part of their country’s political agenda. Since then, April 22nd has been celebrated as Earth Day every single year. Today, it is a global event aimed at educating people from all walks of life about how we can help create a healthy and sustainable environment. (First and foremost is to reduce, reuse, and recycle.)

Whether we know it or not, each of us has contributed in some way to climate change, air and ocean pollution, and environmental degradation. According to wired.com, “In 2014, plastic grocery bags were the seventh most common item collected during the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup, behind smaller debris such as cigarette butts, plastic straws, and bottle caps.” Those are likely some of the items each of us throws away on a weekly basis, and that’s something we need to change. The following is a list of ways to reduce your environmental impact on our planet!

1. Use travel mugs and reusable water bottles instead of Styrofoam, plastic, and paper. 

This is one of the simplest tips on this list to adhere to. You can find affordable travel mugs and BPA-free water bottles at Walmart, Costco, or your local grocery store. Globally, we create so much pointless plastic and paper waste that ends up decomposing in landfills and oceans. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans throw away an estimated 25 billion Styrofoam cups per year (around 82 cups per person). That means there are literally millions of pounds of Styrofoam and plastic debris floating around in our oceans, which pose a very real risk to the health of marine life. Bonus: many coffee houses, such as Starbucks, will reward you with a $0.10 or $0.20 discount on drinks when you bring your own mug or tumbler. Starbucks even sells an environmentally-friendly, reusable cup for $2 that is an exact replica of the brand’s traditional paper ones. 

2. Carpool, walk, bike, and use public transportation whenever possible. 

This isn’t an option for everyone, but it’s worth making the effort if you do have access to a bike, shared car, and/or public transportation. You’ll cut down on the amount of pollution you produce and may even get to your destination more quickly. If Canadian and Americans (roughly 372 million of us) carpooled, biked, or took the bus every other day, we’d make a noticeable difference in the amount of emissions our countries would produce. 

3. Switch your plastic grocery bags for reusable ones. 

You can find these bags everywhere (try Walmart or your local grocery store). Whether they’re made of cotton, straw, or recycled materials, you’ll be reducing the number of plastic bags you throw away each year that end up negatively impacting marine life or taking decades to decompose in landfills. 

4. Lower your water and energy usages. 

You might be surprised at how much of a financial and environmental impact your household’s energy consumption and water usage have. These are a few ways to reduce your water and energy bills: only run the laundry and dishwasher at full capacity and during off-peak hours, don’t leave the water running while you brush your teeth, take faster showers, fix leaky faucets to save wasted water, turn off the lights when you leave a room, only turn on the heat and air conditioning when necessary, buy energy-efficient light bulbs, and unplug electronics from the wall when they’re not in use.

5. Pack waste-free meals, picnics, and snacks.

As noted in tip #1, it is incredibly important for each of us to reduce our amount of Styrofoam, plastic, and paper waste! Rather than packing breakfast or lunch for yourself or others using Cling Wrap/plastic wrap, paper napkins, and plastic utensils, use Tupperware, real cutlery from home, and basic cloth napkins that can be tossed in the laundry when they get dirty. Reusable food containers (such as Tupperware) can be used in any situation, from bringing home food after a family get-together to packing away leftovers at a restaurant to storing your entire take-out meal. (The last two sound a little extreme, but a quick Google search proved that they’re good ideas that help cut down on waste.) 

6. Upgrade to energy-efficient home appliances.

Look for home appliances such as dishwashers, air humidifiers, and refrigerators that are emblazoned with the ENERGY STAR logo – this means they were built to reduce energy consumption and money spent on said energy. (Products become ENERGY STAR-certified when they reach high levels of energy efficiency.)

7. Eat local, or go vegetarian if you’re really committed. 

The idea of eating locally is that food that is grown, produced, and manufactured locally (usually within 100 miles) doesn’t have to travel very far to end up on your plate, thus reducing the amount of emissions produced in preparing your meal. Restaurants have caught on to this trend and often have tasty “farm-to-table” or “sustainable” menu options. You can take further action by becoming a vegetarian, which is not a new lifestyle choice but has garnered tons of support in recent years as research shows that it results in fewer emissions produced per person. Find out more about eating locally here and more about becoming a vegetarian here

Why Do So Many of Us Take Family For Granted?

Admit it: more than once, you’ve been forced to plaster on a smile when a family member announced they’d be dropping by. You had planned catch up on work or relax with a new book, and you just know your sibling/uncle/parent will inevitably get on your last nerve. Or perhaps you’re groaning at the thought of attending yet another family get-together with extended relatives from out of town. It’s okay – we’ve all been there.

But wait a minute. Is it okay? Whether immediate or extended, your family is just that – your family. They share your blood, they have the same parents or grandparents or cousins as you, and they likely grew up with you or raised you. They’re the ones who will be there for you no matter what. So why do we ignore them and treat them like second-class citizens?

I think one reason is that, unfortunately, we see that behaviour around us all the time. Think about it – how many movies have you seen where the main character humorously complains about their family? How many times have you heard the expression, “Too bad you can’t choose your family, but thank God you can choose your friends?” I’ll tell you: too many times. (Even hearing it once is one too many times. It’s a cruel expression.) We hear our friends and family criticizing relatives and think it’s normal for us to do the same. Perhaps it is normal in our society, but that doesn’t make it right.

Another reason is that we know they’ll always forgive us. My grandmother, for example, is a sweet little lady who my family and I often describe as “overly helpful.” The problem is that we focus on “overly” instead of “helpful.” When she voices her opinions on our personal choices or insists that her recipe is better than ours, she’s not trying to control us; she’s trying to help us. Even though we sometimes forget this and don’t give her as much attention or respect as she deserves, she doesn’t hold that against us. She knows we understand that she wants the best for us, and therefore she remains supportive, loving, and mild-mannered. She’s also the only grandparent I’ve ever known, and if you’re in a similar situation (i.e. if you have only one cousin or sibling or aunt), you may understand the need to treat that person with extra love and care because they’re extra special to you. It’s something I try to remind myself of each time I talk with her.

Many of us assume that we have decades of exasperatedly sitting through family get-togethers ahead of us. Sadly, life is often cut short and people are subsequently left with regret. So, if you ever catch yourself thinking about a relative in a negative way, do yourself a favour and reevaluate your reasons for having those thoughts. Are you frustrated about something else and taking it out on that person? Are you secretly jealous of them for being further along than you in life or work? Do you have unresolved feelings towards them for something that happened in the past? Maybe you’re subconsciously looking past their great qualities and only seeing the not-so-great ones. Whatever the case, you’ll feel so much better if you change your negative attitude towards them. Chances are, so will they!

Holiday Gift Guide For Everyone on Your List

We’ve all been there: it’s less than a week until Christmas Day and you haven’t even started to buy gifts for your friends, family and/or colleagues. You want to find presents specific to their hobbies and needs that are also within your budget, but you don’t have any idea where to start. Well, today’s your lucky day! Below is a list of affordable items that will make everyone on your list happy, whether they’re a techie, a beauty junkie or a foodie. Happy shopping!

Gift Cards

Restaurants, coffee shops, bookstores, clothing stores, electronics stores, drugstores and more will have gift cards for purchase, which is why they make a great gift for people who frequent those places. Alternatively, a prepaid Visa card or amazon.ca gift card will give the recipient the freedom to purchase whatever they like.

Beauty/Skincare Sets

You can find awesome $12 stocking stuffers (for both girls and guys) or $25 makeup kits at Sephora. If there isn’t one located near you, local drugstores or beauty supply stores will also have value sets for face, skin, nails, and body care.

Small Tech Accessories

This portable phone charger would make a very useful gift, as would these stylish earbuds, this iPhone charging dock and this portable Bluetooth speaker. Continue reading

Cluny Bistro (Distillery District)

After dining for the third time at Cluny Bistro today, I can confidently say that I’ll be going back again soon!

Located in the heart of Toronto’s historic Distillery District, Cluny serves “modern French cuisine in a casual bistro setting.” There seems to be some confusion as to whether it’s a casual bistro or an upscale restaurant and boulangerie (bakery), but I digress. The service is always great (though wait times during busy hours are very long when waiting for your meal) and the cuisine and meal presentations always surpass my expectations! The decor is exquisite, with patterned floors, ceilings and plates that almost have a Mediterranean or Middle Eastern feel to them:  Continue reading

Remembrance Day 2016: In Flanders Fields

Each year, Remembrance Day (Nov. 11th) honours the sacrifice brave men and women have made in order to secure peace and freedom in Canada. 

“Flanders Poppy on the First World War battlefields.” Source: greatwar.co.uk

“In Flanders Fields” is undoubtedly our most popular war poem. Penned on the World War I battlefield (in 1915) by Canadian Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, it has become the unofficial “anthem” of Remembrance Day. The somewhat official symbol of commemorating our veterans is the poppy, which millions of Canadians wear on the left side of our coats in the days leading up to Remembrance Day. 

I’m no poetry expert, but I think these words are as powerful as any picture: 
“In Flanders Fields the poppies blow 

Between the crosses, row on row

That mark our place; and in the sky 

The larks, still bravely singing, fly 

Scarce heard amid the guns below. 

We are the dead: Short days ago,

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow

Loved and were loved, and now we lie 

In Flanders fields!

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you, from failing hands, we throw 

The torch; be yours to hold it high. 

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.” 

Thank you to all our veterans and current members of the armed forces. 🇨🇦

Via Cibo (North York) 

I’m writing tonight’s post with a full (and very happy) belly; my parents and I just got back from celebrating my dad’s birthday at Via Cibo in North York, Toronto.

We’ve passed by this casual Italian restaurant many times. We live less than five minutes away, and for some reason we decided tonight was the night to try it. Clearly, we made the right decision! Although the service wasn’t quite up to par (it almost felt like we were in a cafeteria – more on that later), the food was excellent and the location can’t be beat for those of us in North York.

Google informed us that Via Cibo serves Italian street food, so their menu was much fancier than we expected. Ossobuco ragu, gnocchi, stracciatella soup, rosé pasta, Tuscan kale salad, pollo parmigiana…the list goes on! (By the way, if you don’t recognize any of the items on that list, don’t worry. I don’t, either. 🙂 ) Continue reading

An Autumn Hike in Northumberland Forest & Scenic Drive Through Cobourg, Ontario

Last Sunday, my parents and I went on a pre-Thanksgiving hike to get some exercise and enjoy the beautiful colours of autumn here in Ontario. We decided to check out Northumberland County Forest, situated near the town of Cobourg, which is about an hour’s drive from Toronto. Northumberland Forest offers over 45km of hiking trails as well as routes for snowshoeing, horseback riding, hunting and ATVing. Having never been there before, we weren’t sure where to find the hiking trails; vague road signs led us to Morris Trailhead, a series of trails located in Northumberland County (which is about 15km north of Cobourg). The first thing we saw was a massive warning sign for black bear sightings in the area! This freaked me out more than I’d like to admit, though you can’t really blame me given this terrifying Leonardo DiCaprio VS Bear fight scene from The Revenant that was recently burned into my brain.

Surprisingly, we hiked about two hours (7km) without running into a single creature, bear or otherwise. Two ATVs whizzed passed us and we heard the occasional hunting rifle go off, but apart from that we saw no one else on the trail. I strongly believe in safety in numbers, so little wonder I was so jumpy with the three of us walking through a secluded forest in the middle of nowhere! My heart skipped a beat every time a twig snapped, but eventually I realized that the recurring sounds of dirt bikes and hunting rifles would likely keep bears away from the trail during the day.

I really enjoyed the relative quietness of that trail. We’ve hiked many a time up north in Algonquin Park, and although the scenery and colours were always unreal, the trails could get a little crowded. There was something special about the feeling of being removed from the hustle and bustle of Toronto while we walked through Northumberland Forest. The colours weren’t too shabby, either:

Continue reading