How You Can Eat Seafood More Ethically and Sustainably

Our dinner options often have a greater impact than we think. This is certainly true when it comes to seafood – we are depleting many of the ocean’s species so quickly that they do not have time to naturally replenish their populations.

A great way to make more sustainable seafood choices is by using a sustainable seafood guide. But honestly, I find them a bit challenging to use. You need to know a lot of information in order to make an accurate decision – information that you often don’t have access to. For example, where the seafood was caught and by what fishing technique.

From my experience with my husband asking for this information at restaurants, they just have no idea how to answer these questions. Hopefully, the more people that ask, the more restaurants there will be that will look into it. It’s also difficult to find this information on seafood packages in the grocery store. I find the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) logo is an easier way to find sustainable options than using the guide:

MSC logo

The best way to eat seafood sustainably is by eating lower on the food chain (for example shrimp instead of swordfish), and by eating much less of it (or none at all!).

Here is a great TED Talk by a chef discussing some ways to eat seafood more sustainably:


The Top 4 Ways to Make Your Cup of Coffee More Sustainable

There are so many different coffee brands out there now that it can be overwhelming to try and figure out which one to choose. Here are some things that you can look for to narrow down your choices to the ones that are the most eco-friendly and best for the farmers who are growing the beans.

  1. Certified Organic  Organic
    Grown without synthetic pesticides, fungicides, fertilizers, and herbicides, organic coffee preserves the health of the soil and water on and near the coffee farm, and it promotes biological diversity since every plant and insect in the area isn’t killed off. Organic farms do not use genetically-modified seeds and do not leave toxic residue on the beans, which makes it healthier for you.
  2. Certified Fair Trade  Fair Trade
    The fair trade certification ensures that everyone involved in the process of creating your cup of coffee is paid a fair wage for the work that they have done and has experienced ethical working conditions. It encourages producers to protect water and soil from contaminants to keep ecosystems healthy, and conserve water and energy wherever possible. It also ensures that genetically modified seeds are not used.
  3. Certified Bird Friendly
    Ensures that coffee is shade-grown and organic. Since coffee is grown in tropical regions, this certification ensures that rainforests are not cut down to clear space to grow coffee. The coffee plants are grown in the understory of the forest (“shade-grown”), preserving the integrity of the ecosystem for migratory birds, and all species that live there.
  4. Put it in a Reusable Mug
    Bring your reusable mug and conserve the vast amount of energy and resources used to produce a paper cup.
Amazing organic, shade-grown, fair trade coffee plantation in Nicaragua

Amazing organic, shade-grown, fair trade coffee plantation in Nicaragua

Looking for these logos on the coffee package or asking for options at your local coffee shop that are certified organic, fair trade and bird friendly is a really easy way to have a positive impact.


Selling the Veggie “Misfits” for a Discounted Price

We, as consumers, care so much about what our fruits and veggies look like that it leads to perfectly good and healthy food being thrown away.

French supermarket, Intermarche, had the best idea ever – to sell the “less attractive” produce at a discounted price. It was wildly successful. I hope that this catches on in more places!

Note: the original video below is in French. Click here for an English version shown through Facebook (you need to be logged-in to Facebook to view this version).

You can often find produce at farmer’s markets that doesn’t look “perfect”, and I highly encourage you to buy it. It tastes the same and is packed full of the same nutrients, but is less likely to be purchased by someone else so may end up in the trash otherwise.

It’s True – I Sew the Holes in the Toes of My Socks

Most people think I’m crazy, but I sew the holes in the toes of my socks.

I have a hard time throwing them out if they’re perfectly good and just have a hole in the toe. Perhaps socks are a bit extreme, but I think that sewing holes in your clothes can have a big impact. The clothing manufacturing process uses a crazy amount of resources and creates massive amounts of pollution. Sewing up that easily reparable hole prevents the garment from being thrown out and ending up in the landfill.

Taking 10 minutes to sew that hole in your shirt:

  • Saves the resources that would go into producing a new shirt to replace it in your wardrobe;
  • Saves the pollution that’s created during the manufacturing of your new shirt;
  • Saves the fuel that would be used to ship the shirt to your local store;
  • Saves the original shirt from ending up in a landfill;
  • And lets you wear an item you love a little longer!

Check out the video below by Cash Strapped in the City on how to use the machine stitch to repair holes in your clothing by hand – no fancy sewing machine needed.  You can find a great step-by-step description of how to do this stitch here.

Your Reusable Grocery Bag Just Saved a Sea Turtle’s Life

Consider what happens to a plastic bag or water bottle when you throw it away. Where do you think it ends up? A landfill? Perhaps. Or it might catch the wind and get blown into a waterway, eventually being washed into the ocean. Plastic doesn’t biodegrade, it just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces until it is so small that it resembles plankton and looks like an appetizing meal to fish. Plastic bags, when floating in the ocean, look shockingly similar to jellyfish – a favourite meal for some sea turtle species.

Check out this awesome video series by Vice, which takes you on a journey to see just where that plastic bag your roommate put her apples in five years ago may have ended up. (Just a warning that they drop quite a few f-bombs.) Rest assured, carting your reusable bags to the grocery store really is making a difference!

Used Books: Helping the Environment and Your Wallet

I have a bit of a weird obsession with collecting books, which probably has something to do with this grand, yet unrealistic vision I have of my future-self reading in front of the fireplace in my massive home library. There’s something about reading paper books that I absolutely love, and for some reason, I just don’t find e-books nearly as satisfying to read. And if I read e-books, what am I going fill the bookshelves in my library with?!

That being said, I feel guilty about my book obsession, because book production is pretty damaging to the environment. The energy used to harvest the trees and to transport the raw materials from the forest; the water pollution created by the chemicals used in the manufacturing process and the inks used in printing; and the transportation of the book to your local book store, make the industry in its current state one that I don’t feel very good about supporting.

If you read a lot, e-books are a great alternative to paper books and I highly recommend them. But, due to my love affair with paper books, I have come up with another alternative that I feel pretty good about: buying used books. It’s kind of like my post on buying vintage and used clothing – you can find great items that are “new” to you, but you’re not actually consuming a new product. A new book doesn’t need to be created for you.

You can also find some pretty awesome books in a used book store that you wouldn’t normally happen upon when browsing a conventional book store. My favourite used book store find is my 1944 copy of Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography. Used books are also way cheaper that new ones – you’ll pay a fraction of the price at the used book store compared to buying it new. Win-win in my book (pun intended)!

Used books

Some of my (many) used book store finds

For all the Torontonians out there – my favourite used book store (that I have found so far), is Eliot’s on Yonge Street near Wellesley. And check out BlogTO’s great used book store top 10 list (Eliot’s is #2 on the list!).

What’s your favourite used book store find?

Community Shared Agriculture: A One-Stop Shop for Ethical Food

It’s fair-trade and organic. It supports local farmers and prevents vast amounts of fuel from being consumed by transporting food products from the other side of the world. And it’s delicious.

As members of a community shared agriculture (CSA) program, my husband and I get fresh, local food delivered to our neighbourhood bi-weekly (you can also choose a weekly pick-up). It’s kind of like a farmer’s market, but you get a portioned box created just for you containing a wide variety of local, seasonal foods.

The two CSA programs that I have been a part of grow all of the food organically, without synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and fertilizers, which is healthier for me and the environment (and the farmer who doesn’t have to work with all of those chemicals). We also get our eggs through our CSA so we know they are produced locally and that the hens actually get the opportunity to spend time outdoors and do what hens like to do. The last program we were part of also offered humanely produced meat products, which my husband loved!

The contents of last week’s CSA box

The food you get through a CSA or at a farmer’s market costs more than in the grocery store, but you are ensuring that the farmers are paid fairly for the work they do; you’re paying for the food to be grown organically; and you’re paying what the food actually costs to produce. Since we continue to pave over and build on top of prime farmland, I am eager to support local farmers to help ensure that they make a decent living and are not tempted to sell their land. Otherwise, who will feed our cities? In return for paying fair prices, you end up with more nutrient-rich food that isn’t covered in chemicals and that has more flavour because it’s been allowed to ripen before bring picked, rather than ripening on a truck or on your counter. It’s well worth it.

The variety of foods we can grow here in Ontario is amazing. Here are some of the items I have gotten in my CSA boxes:

  • Cantaloupe
  • Garlic
  • Asparagus
  • Strawberries
  • Cucumbers
  • Zucchini
  • Tomatoes
  • Radishes
  • Kale
  • Peppers
  • Mushrooms
  • Spinach
  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • Lettuces (wide variety)
  • Potatoes
  • Squash (acorn, butternut, pumpkin, etc.)
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Onions
  • Leeks
  • Carrots
  • Watermelon
  • Corn
  • Apples
  • Grapes
  • Thyme, sage, parsley, cilantro, oregano, dill, basil
  • Arugula
  • Swiss chard
  • Garlic scapes
  • Green onions
  • Cherries
  • Green beans

Overall, I’d say that CSAs and farmer’s markets are a really powerful way to make a positive impact through your consumer choices!

An amazing farmer's market in Nicaragua

An amazing farmer’s market in Nicaragua