House Hunting is No “Small” Feat

For the past several weeks I’ve been occupied with finding a new place to stay; my lease is up and it’s time to move to the city – exciting, I know.  My roommates and I aren’t looking for anything too fancy, although it’s got to be near a subway station, it needs to be clean, and on-site laundry is a must.  So far, the hunt for housing has been promising, but recently I stumbled across the perfect home: the M-CH.

The M-CH stands for Micro Compact Home – it is an ergonomically designed, 2.2 tonne, solar paneled cube.  It measures 2.6m x 2.6m x 2.6m, and comes with everything I need – shower, toilet, microwave, fridge, stove top, sink, and bed.  With space set aside for a flatscreen TV, and a slide-out table, the M-CH is the perfect bachelor pad.  Check it out for yourself at microcompacthome.com!

In all seriousness, I won’t be moving into a micro compact home anytime soon, although I won’t rule it out for the future – it would especially make a great lakeside pad for summer weekends.  However, I don’t just think the M-CH is cool because of the novelty of the idea, but for several other reasons as well.  I really dig the idea of efficiency, and the compact home is definitely that.  Its solar panels are especially handy in that regard, but imagine how little heating or air conditioning it would require for a space so small? Not very much, as you can imagine.  There are even models of the home that are made to have even lower carbon emissions than the current model.

The environmental friendliness factors aside, the M-CH also forces the inhabitant to do something that is becoming less and less common – take a hike, literally. In a decent sized apartment, condo, or house, it’s harder to feel cramped up – especially with our iPads, laptops, and video games easily at hand.  With such a small space, however, we’re forced to consider: Hmmm, I could probably go for some fresh air right now…   I don’t know about you, but anything that forces me to get some fresh air can not be a bad thing.

So the apartment hunting continues for now, and I cross my fingers I’ll come across a place I even get half as excited for as the micro compact home. Come to think of it though, I’m sure my roommates will be happy about the extra space a normal apartment provides.

-Phil

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Drowning in a Sea… of Litter?


*Picture Credit: GlennPeb

Walking down a sidewalk, you’ll lose count of the pieces of garbage you’ll see strewn about. If there happens to be a ditch lining the sidewalk, well, let’s just say I hope you don’t fall in – you’d drown in a swamp of soft drink cups, grocery bags, cigarette butts and lighters, chocolate bar wrappers, and plastic bottles.

Although littering is incredibly common, seeing someone actually do it right in front of me is painful to watch. Just the other day I was waiting for the bus with an acquaintance who was sipping from a soft drink cup. As the bus pulled up, he set his half finished cup on the sidewalk and hopped on. Speechless, I stared at the cup until I realized I had to get on the bus before the doors shut. I just couldn’t believe that even sensible, intelligent people would litter. I thought about it, and I’ve concluded it’s not because they want to litter, it’s because it just doesn’t cross their mind that they are, to say it politely, “pooping” in their own bed.

Not only does litter look plain old disgusting, it can be dangerous to people, animals, and nature as well. Respect and pride for the city one lives in – as well as for nature and the environment – is a factor in littering as well, but that’s a whole other blog post.

Oftentimes I’ve been a pack mule of sorts for friends, lugging around their garbage or recyclables until I find a proper bin; it would otherwise just end up on the ground. According to curelitter.ca, most litter occurs within 5m of a waste receptacle – apparently ten steps or so is just too far for most people to carry that cigarette butt or foam cup. I think it’s up to the people who take notice (and offense), then, to speak up and let people know what’s what.

I hear the weather’s looking good this weekend; care to join me for a warm spring stroll? I’ll bring the bags and litter grabbers.

-Phil

Making the Playoffs Green


Photo Credit: Aklepsteen

The NHL Playoffs are finally here and I couldn’t be more excited! I’m prepared for two months of eyeing TV schedules, forcing myself to stay up late, cursing my bandwidth when attempting to stream games, and moaning over the lack of success of my hockey pool.

As wild as all that sounds, I know that I’ve got a responsibility to celebrate the most joyous time of the year in a safe and healthy way.

First of all, if I’m going to be drinking refreshments and eating snacks with most of the games I watch, I better make sure what I’m putting into my body is as harmless as a Toronto Maple Leafs powerplay (I say that with endearing bitterness of fan, of course). Popcorn can be a very healthy snack – if I lay off the salt and butter, of course – and so can carrot and celery sticks. I’m not going to name any names, but there are a few goaltenders who could probably benefit from eating carrots this off-season, if you know what I mean.

As for my beer consumption – I think that with every new playoff round, I’ll introduce myself to a new local beer; heck, for the Stanley Cup Finals I’ll try two. So for those bars showing hockey and carrying a variety of local beer… You shall have my patronage!

When it comes to travling to these jam-packed-with-fans bars, I’ll be forgoing the car ride and taking good ol’ public transportation. Not only is this reducing my own carbon emissions, this way I don’t have to worry about finding and paying for parking. And, if my team manages to win a game in overtime, say, I can safely indulge in that celebratory extra beer.

All in all, I have a feeling these playoffs are going to be a good time – health-, environmental-, and hockey-wise. If everyone does their part, maybe we can even manage to cancel out the riots from last year. In any case… Go Leafs go!

-Phil

Lights Off for Earth Hour (Let the Party Begin!)

Image: nuchylee / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’m running out of time! This year it’s my turn to host an Earth Hour party and I just can’t find anything to wear that really says “I turn the lights off and hang out in the dark all the time.” On a positive note, though, I do have a list of awesome activities that myself and my partygoers can do while the lights are off:

Guitar Circle: People love people who play guitars. Personally, I only know “Wonderwall”, but it’s such a great song I’m positive people won’t mind if the night’s soundtrack is stuck on repeat. It’s that good.

Weenie Roast: Who doesn’t love roasting weenies over a nice, warm, er… candle? It’s a party favourite sure to bring back memories from everyone’s childhood, and as long as no one roasts someone else’s weenie like last year it’ll be a hit.

Ouija Board Séance: People love this – though I’m the first to admit that Ouija boards are a little, well… scary. It seems there’s always a spirit nearby who’s got a grudge against me, as the board always seems to spell out mean – and often untrue! – things about me. It seems that the only person who ever gets in contact with those nastier ghosts is my friend Mikey, though. Hmm…

Hide-and-Seek: A game that becomes ten times better with the lights off! I don’t mean to brag, but I’m actually the reigning hide and seek champion from last year’s festivities when I managed to stay hidden in a large freezer for 4 hours, 22 minutes, and 16 seconds. It may have been longer, but that’s the time at which my watch stopped working.

So there you have it, the itinerary for Phil’s 2012 Earth Hour Extravaganza. I’m planning to be spontaneous though, so look out for a surprise game of Twister or my own creation called “What’s that Taste?” All I’m saying is don’t be surprised if next year you see me hosting the party again.

Oh, gosh darn it, I’m at the end of this blog and I still haven’t found anything to wear to this party. On second thought, though, if all the lights will be off… Maybe I’ll just wear nothing at all.

-Phil

The Lorax

Image: aopsan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What’s nicer than a night out at the movies?  It was just me and the guys, out enjoying the good ol’ cinéma…  And, well, while it’s probable that we were the only people in the theatre over the age of 20 not accompanying their young child, it was a free movie coupon well spent.

What movie could attract audiences of such diverse demographics, you say? The answer to that question is The Lorax.  If you’re asking, “what’s a Lorax?” then you probably have never read the book – the Dr. Seuss book – as a child, but that’s okay.

The Lorax, published in 1971, was a tale about capitalism, consumerism, and environmentalism, all wrapped up in a children’s story. In a futuristic town where nature no longer exists, we follow a young boy who encounters a mysterious figure named the “Once-ler” in his quest to find a tree.  The Once-ler recounts his story: as an eager young man he sought to create a product that everyone would want, and in turn began to cut down trees to gather resources. Despite the warning from the Lorax – the creature who speaks for the trees –  the Once-ler continued his work until not a single tree remained in the entire land. All the animals were forced to leave, his factory was shut down, and the Lorax had disappeared. Back in the present, the Once-ler expresses his regret, but offers a glimmer of hope – he gives a single seed to the boy to plant.

While the movie expands upon this simple story, I felt it did a decent job of delivering the message Dr. Seuss intended: that we all live in balance with nature, and that greed can be a dangerous thing.  It’s possible the flashiness of Hollywood storytelling (the numerous songs or chase scenes, for example) may have distracted youngsters a bit from that message, but in any case, it is really nice to see movies out there that are entertaining as well as thought-provoking – for any age.

I think it says a lot for a kids movie when a grown male can leave the theatre thinking critically about what he just saw. One line that really stuck with me, and spoken in good old Seussical style, is: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.

How true that line rings — especially in rhyme.

-Phil

Spring Cleaning

Image: John Kasawa / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Ah, finally…the long, cold grip of winter has loosened on Ontario (or at least Toronto, anyway) and spring is here! Birds chirp outside my window, the sun doesn’t disappear before supper time, and I can go outside without having to be all bundled up.With spring time comes a few traditions: March break, preparation for the NHL playoffs (unfortunately it seems the one Leaf that doesn’t appear in the spring is of the Toronto variety…), and, of course, spring cleaning.  This is a wonderful opportunity to declutter, organize, sweep – whatever needs to get done – but there’s a few things this season I won’t be doing.If I’m looking to freshen things up a bit inside, I don’t have to look far. This time of year is literally a built-in air freshener – there’s no need for any kinds of sprays or air “deodorants” when I can just throw open the window. There’s nothing quite like getting a light spring breeze through the house (or apartment, in my case), and if I’m looking for freshness, I’ve found it.Most air “fresheners” that come in a can are really only masking the smells in your room, covering them up with something that is manufactured to smell pleasant.  In reality, many of these products can contain chemicals that can cause illness in the long-term, and in the short term can easily cause irritation and allergic reactions.

Many air fresheners contain pthalates, chemicals that help to disperse the fragrance and make it last longer.  The only problem is that pthalates also have been linked to hormone disruption and altered reproductive development, and are easily inhaled and absorbed through the skin.  Not only are these products strong enough to have an effect on an adult human, how do they affect cats, dogs, and children?

I’ve got a little pet rat myself, actually, who goes by the name of Moxie (he’s quite the environmental expert, wouldn’t you know). When the room starts to smell bad, I don’t spray half a can of chemicals: I open the window and promptly change the little fella’s bedding.  I got to say, he packs a pungent punch for one so small!

In all seriousness, I’m sure glad the nice weather is here, giving me the chance to freshen up the all-natural way.  “Spring” and “fresh” are two words that really do belong together, just… not on an aerosol can.

-Phil

Captain Planet

Photo Credit: Digital Art

When I was a kid growing up, I was lucky enough to get Cartoon Network on TV.  One show I remember particularly enjoying at the time was Captain Planet. For those of you that are unfamiliar with the name, it was a cartoon featuring a super hero bearing the title of the show, who led an ethnically diverse group of teenagers – the “Planeteers” – in the fight against environmental destruction. It was one of the few cartoons that, for a kid of 5 years old, was more than just flashing colours and loud sounds.

What I really took away from the show was the message. Captain Planet’s villains were literally pollution and environmental damage personified, such as Dr. Blight, Captain Pollution, and Sly Sludge.  Along with the Planeteers, who used their own unique powers of the elements to fight, the Captain was able to overcome his enemies with the use of teamwork, common sense, and heart.

While the concept of the show may seem preachy to an adult, as a kid it was my first exposure to the importance and urgency of saving our planet. A lot of wasteful behaviour stems from old habits people have learned and are having trouble unlearning.  It’s pretty easy to see, then, why it’s so crucial to teach people at an early age the importance of being environmentally conscious and the habits that go along with that.

Today, a group called the “Planeteer Movement” exists, taking advantage of the many eco-literate viewers Captain Planet created in the 1990’s and uniting them. The group is an online community working towards a sustainable future – check them out at http://captainplanet.me/about .

It’s great to see that a children’s cartoon – over a decade ago – was able to inspire and educate so many children of the time, who are now grown up and putting what they learned to use.  Here’s to the hope that more programming, with similar intents as Captain Planet, can soon reach the eyes and ears of today’s cartoon-watching kids!

-Phil