On Kiva, birthday loans, and mixed feelings

Happy Birthday, Love.

Happy Birthday, Love.

Today is (my beau) Andrew’s birthday so, among other things, I have made a zero-interest microloan to an entrepreneur in Ukraine, his country of origin. I did this through Kiva–the first person-to-person micro-lending website–a secure forum that makes it possible for ordinary people, like me, to lend as little as $25 to other ordinary people in around the world. (I’ve blogged about it before if you’d like to take a gander.)

Andrew’s birthday loan will assist a female entrepreneur named Varvara Leonova–a clothing vendor in Zaporozhye– in purchasing some new seasonal wear for her small business.

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Confessions of a Water Glutton

Priviledged enough to take water for granted?

Priviledged enough to take water for granted?

I’m being painfully literal when I say that I just had a watershed moment. Despite the fact that I take short showers, brush my teeth with the tap off and keep my laundry-doing to a minimum, I am still a water glutton. We all are.

Think of everything those molecules have to go through to become harmless. We are part of an elite few that can access this clean, processed water and take it thoroughly for granted. We stand under a shower head and soak ourselves in better water than most people drink. We turn a knob and let this precious resource free-flow while the less fortunate walk back and forth from contaminated rivers lugging buckets of liquid that would nauseate us. We think: “How is it wasting water if it just goes back into the lake anyway?” not thinking twice about the complex procedure (i.e. time, money, energy, natural resources) involved in making it safe.

Wasting water is a culturally acceptable form of voracity, one that is a little more complicated than it seems. For instance, personal day-to-day usage only accounts for about 3% of our “water footprint”. No, that wasn’t a typo, only %3. The vast majority of the water we suck up is inexorably tied to the choices we are making as consumers.

Some of the homework I’ve done on the topic has produced some counter-intuitive factoids—for instance, the average dishwasher uses less water than doing that same amount by hand. It’s generally more efficient to go to a car wash than to hose ‘er down in your driveway. The making of beer wastes less water than the making of coffee. The topic is pretty damn intriguing, to be frank.

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Chill, Toronto.

Two weeks before I move to Vancouver, I hear about this saucy ad:


Photo credit: The Toronto Star

Personally, I had a good chuckle. To be honest, I kind of enjoy Toronto’s “ice cold” reputation; it gives us a sort of devil-may-care mystique. Plus… it’s kind of true. After living in small towns and visiting other Canadian cities (like crazy-friendly Saskatoon) I can tell that Torontonians do have their guards up a bit more than we’d like to admit.

As fun as it is to poke fun at Hogtown, I think most other Canadians know that on the individual level we ain’t so bad. I’m as excited as a piglet at a picnic for my upcoming move to Vancouver, but I also love it here in the T-dot.

Whatever though, it’s an ad. Some people are getting wa-hay too worked up about it. At time of writing, there are almost 400 comments on the Toronto Star’s story about this billboard–which, we should note, is really just an attention-grabbing tid-bit and not actual news. Still, some of those comments are pretty hilarious. One group poured Coors beer out in the garden during a BBQ (poor flowers!), vowed never to drink the brand again and then celebrated with Heineken. This comment got 14 thumbs up. Oh yeah, awesome. Why not just stick out our tongues and say “nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah“?

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“The Story of Stuff”–let’s have a conversation.

Only when the last tree has died
and the last river has been poisoned
and the last fish has been caught
will we realize
we cannot eat money.
~Cree proverb

It’s funny how the littlest incidents can give you hope in the face of overwhelming worries.

This morning I listened to “The Last Call” on CBC Radio one, a special program hosted by renowned environmentalist David Suzuki. One of the people he interviewed was Annie Leonard, the woman featured in the short video above. I was struck by how concise yet articulate she was.

When the radio show ended, I decided to google Leonard’s short movie. About 7 minutes in,  my 13-year-old sister, Bebe, entered the room and peered over my shoulder. To my surprise, she asked me to start the movie again from the beginning. From the corner of my eye I noticed the look of concern on her face. For a girl who loves to shop, she laughed quite heartily at skinny heel vs. fat heel segment of the video. It seemed she took a moment to question her own love of malls and sparkly new things. When it was over, Bebe said that the video–which is being used in classrooms across the United States–should also be shown here in Canada.

You know, her warm reception of the short film gave me hope. In the past, I thought I was boring Bebe with all my talk of environmental activism. At the age of 23, I thought I may already be sounding like a lecturing grown-up to her. When I reminded her of simple things, like taking shorter showers or turning off her lights, she would occasionally grumble or make a long face. Now that I think about it, though, this may be because little sisters don’t always like being nagged by big sisters in general. The message of responsible citizenry, however, may actually be getting through to her.

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