Finally, a Comprehensive Green Shopping Guide — for Canadians

Earth Speaks
Adria Vasil’s terribly-named book (and Now Magazine column) Ecoholic, is one of the most important reference books to appear on the newsstands in this decade. It’s subtitle describes it better: Your guide to the most environmentally friendly information, products and services in Canada.

The book exhaustively reviews just about anything you can imagine buying, explains (patiently, in lay terms but naming the bad chemicals) the environmental considerations (cradle to grave, from the way it’s produced to how it’s disposed of) of that type of product, warns you of what not to buy, and why not (including a lot of greenwashed products), and then tells you what you might want to buy, in moderation, if you really need it. It’s refreshingly blunt and opinionated, but well researched, and it balances the pros and cons carefully (e.g. local vs. organic foods). And it’s printed on 100% recycled, ancient forest-friendly paper.

The book is written for Canadians, but the buying considerations are global, as are many of the products criticized and endorsed. Refreshingly, no section of the book says all your alternatives are equally bad, though in some cases it’s a matter of choosing the best of a bad lot. In some cases make-your-own recipes are included.

Topics covered:

  • Personal care products and services: shampoo, soaps, bath products, hair dye, hair removal, deodorants, tooth, makeup and nail care
  • Apparel: clothing, shoes, jewellery
  • Health care products and services: pharmaceuticals, natural health remedies, bug repellents, menstrual and sex products
  • Foods (with an excellent intro on industrial agriculture, food processing and labeling): meats, vegetarian, seafood, dairy, sugar, chocolate, coffee and tea, water, alcohol
  • Baby products, toys, school stuff, and pet supplies
  • Home products: kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, furniture, electronics, cameras, cellphones, lighting, cleaning, laundry, air purifiers and pest control
  • Home improvement: renovations, flooring, cabinets, counters, carpets, paint, wallpaper, heating, cooling, insulation and green energy
  • Lawn, garden and patio products (including water saving)
  • Transportation: cars, alternative fuels, motorcycles, bicycles, flying, tourism
  • Recreation: sports, camping, holiday celebrations, flowers
  • Financial: ethical investing, green jobs, greening your office

Read this book and you’ll think twice about eating soy, buying from some of the most famous ‘green’ product lines, and wearing Gore-Tex. Every page is packed with useful, sometimes astonishing information. Buying green is hard work, not as simple as reading the claims on the label, and this book arms you to the teeth with what you need to be a responsible shopper. Word of warning, though: The best choices may take some searching to find, and you won’t find many of them in the big box stores or supermarkets. So plan ahead and don’t make a separate trip to get everything you need, or you’ll consume in gasoline what you save in product waste and toxins.

The book concludes with a discussion of the big environmental issues: climate change, endangered species, the end of oil and water and forests (including a well-deserved swipe at the Alberta tar sands, Canada’s ecological holocaust), the dangers of chemicals and the disastrous food production industry.

This was clearly a labour of love, going far beyond the material in Adria’s weekly columns. I plan to carry it with me everywhere I shop (along with my Boycott List), and use it as an essential research tool. It is, alas, not (yet) available online in a searchable database format. I’d pay for it if it was, and was kept up to date.

In short, it’s indispensable. I just stumbled on it in the bookstore (not well publicized), and I’vebought five copies for others already. Even if you’re not Canadian, buy a copy, and use it. Brava, Adria!

Category: What You Can Do
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One Response to Finally, a Comprehensive Green Shopping Guide — for Canadians

  1. While I don’t deny that some things are more responsibly produced, you can not really be a responsible consumer. When you consume you spend resources, which you as a rule don’t need. If you really want to make a difference you should consume less or perhaps make most things yourself.

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