What occurred to me today…

do we shop on impulse due to being time-poor and being bombarded by marketing messages or because we feel it is a quick fix to make us feel better, more relaxed, happy, fill a need?

This thought really dawned upon me when about to enter a mega store in Vancouver. Back home, I have never been the model “mass grocery” supermarket shopper. My preference is Local. I prefer to step in and out of small food stores; my favourite bakery, my nearby friendly fresh produce grocer, my community focused independent supermarket back home. There are really only two main mass grocery stores who are head to head competitive with each other; Woolworths and Coles. There is one other which is increasing in it’s numbers; IGA (Independent Grocery Association), and that’s about it.

For me shopping local, meant convenience, easy access to all the items I needed when I didn’t have the time to plan properly; I always took a little time to explore what looks good each day and buy only what I need for various meals I was going to prepare for the present moment. It also made me feel like a member of the community; buying local fruits and vegetables for example from our friendly grocer Galuzzo’s in Glebe (Est. 1934) was giving a bit back and was a satisfying experience. If you’d like to read up on the history of Glebe see, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glebe,_New_South_Wales

Was this an efficient use of time? I guess there are two ways of looking at it…on one hand, I was making several trips to stores instead of just one or two in a week. I had variety and was conscious of what products I was buying and focused on the ingredients that are behind each one and where they are sourced. It was personal. On the other, one trip to a large supermarket with the hustle and bustle in a week would save time for me to do other things but, would it enable me to make all the informed choices I was making previously on my smaller quicker trips? It was impersonal.

I thought I would put a new shopping experience to the test in my new neighbourhood. I am now surrounded by numerous supermarkets which are part of chains, some that are local wholly owned stores, some that are providing many organic, sustainable and ethical options and some that provide a combination of both. I am going to weigh up my experience with that of buying from smaller community stores against variety, healthy organic choices available and price. There appears to be a dozen or so large grocery stores or more in Metro Vancouver and I have barely scraped the surface. I have popped my head into Choices; which is the most local conveniently placed store to me and although very expensive, it provides a large selection of organic/natural foods, fair trade coffee and small deli for packaged items like salmon, meat etc.

Whole Foods Market, also known to locals as ‘Whole pay cheque’ has only a few locations across the city…one happens to be close to me in Cambie Street and it is heaven…if only to browse or buy the occasional gourmet treats! To be quite honest I probably have been in there one too many times already, it is a one stop shop to the highest quality, least processed foods, a large selection of organic local produce as well as a range of bakery, whole body care, household, baby and kid’s products and more. It is an established US company and one of their values is supporting sustainable agriculture and organic farming.

Another large one I am exploring for the first time is Save On Foods which I come to find out is a Western Canadian company who are proud to be the number 1 supporter of local suppliers, producers and growers in BC communities. I have also since found out they are focused on being a leading eco-friendly company. They offer sustainable choices and are one of the first retailers in North America to actively commit to a sustainable seafood approach for example they are the first to sell sustainable Coho salmon.

So how much time did I spend researching the foods I consumed? I looked up their online weekly specials and then walked up there to begin my shop.

It is surprising that a store so large will still satisfy my goals of shopping for local produce and other organic products at a reasonable price. You can become a member and therefore receive special offers and further savings too. After an hour, I was at the register with a smiling face letting me know I had saved $35! What I have also found is that competition from so many supermarkets has driven up customer service levels, so my experience felt a little bit personal.

I realise, that if I spend a bit of time looking at the weekly specials at the range of supermarkets in my area, I have loads of variety and can choose products I want to buy at the best price.

I guess my conclusion is that I still go out to do almost daily shops…but I enjoy it. The only difference is, now I am more conscious of the products I want to buy prior to stepping out of my door and the bonus is getting them for a much better price. I have spent marginally more time than the usual back home and my shop this week has saved me more than $110. It’s a market driven by a lot more competition which suits me entirely down to a “T” right now.

Destination: Harrision Hot Springs, BC

The perfect end to our Easter weekend was to take a day tour out of the city to the village of Harrison Hot Springs. It is located in the beautiful Fraser Valley (120km/75mi east) which was almost spot on 90 minutes drive from Vancouver. On arrival we faced a magnificent glacier fed lake, surrounded by mountains and you could almost taste the crisp clean air.

Although this day was planned with activities for our toddler in mind, there are a few attractions that will entice me to return back soon.

There were many foodie farms to visit we saw along the way; artisan cheese-makers, organic coffee roasting sheds, nut producers, herb and edible flower nurseries, and loads more including kitchens that sell home-made fudge, jams and salsas.

One of the main attractions are the springs which we chose to visit at the local pool located at 101 Hotsprings Road. It faces Harrision Lake, so for the cost of $9 per adult (kid’s under  four years are free) you have views while you sit in the healing mineral waters which are world famous. The temperature was approximately 38 degrees C which made for a very relaxing start to the day.

Our next destination was onto Kilby Historic Site which is situated in a small community called Harrision Mills located near the junction of the Harrison and Fraser rivers. They were putting on an Easter egg hunt on their farm which was a perfect setting for all the children to be running around hunting whilst surrounded by bunny rabbits, sheep, goats, chickens, ducks, turkeys and a pony or two! It was like stepping back in time to the early 1900’s as originally the Kilby family started a Jersey dairy farm back in 1912. They do have a “quaint 1920s style” restaurant as they call it there which served a traditional Easter ham lunch, followed by a very good rhubarb and apple pie that was just like ‘granny’s home cooked food’. The place is a BC heritage site on five acres.

Mission accomplished; our two year old tear about was worn out and ready to have a well deserved nap, so on our way we headed back home.

eggscersizing off my easter eggs

This Easter was the first active one I’ve had in many years, so I have had a guilt free (well 90% guilt-free) holiday which all began on Good Friday with a hike around Lynn Canyon Park, http://www.lynncanyon.ca.

It is has a suspension bridge which is 50 metres above the canyon and the power behind the waterfall is immense. Although it was a leisurely hike, it was part of the Baden Powell Trail, which is one of the most well known trails in North Vancouver. We made it to the 30 foot pool which was stunningly beautiful surrounds and the water was a translucent emerald colour and I was tempted to have a swim although the temperature was about 8 degrees!

It’s worth going for a few hours with young children or for the really adventurous a whole day would be worth it to bring a picnic and walk all along the trail. First chocolate easter bunny polished off on trail.

On Saturday, riding around Stanley Park is a must do with or without children in Vancouver anytime…however you will be told by Vancouverites as long as its not in the middle of Summer! The traffic of bikes, rollerblades, skateboards, anything with wheels really builds towards the warmer months, so you need to be prepared to slow down or dismount occasionally, however the scenery around the park and harbour including beaches is guaranteed to get you back on your wheels for more. If this is a little too touristy for some, then some of Vancouver’s greenways might be the way to go. Greenways in Vancouver are linear public corridors for pedestrians and cyclists that connect parks, nature reserves, cultural features, historic sites, neighbourhoods and retail centres. Another easter egg polished off on bike ride.

Vancouver wants to be the greenest city in 2020 and therefore has many goals to achieve which you can read more on the talkgreenvancouver.ca.

One of them is to make cycling, walking and transit around the city more desirable and convenient, and given my experience here is not depending on a motor vehicle the City of Vancouver are so far making it really easy for me. They have taken it really seriously that their first target in 2020 is to have over 50% of trips take place by walking, cycling and public transit. Their second is to reduce motor vehicle kilometres traveled per resident by 20% from 2007 levels.

We have joined metro Vancouver’s only car sharing co-op; modo. It’s a no brainer really; lower cost for the times when we really need a car, and lower cars on the road equals lower greenhouse gas emissions and less traffic in the city! They are well maintained cars and you have a wide selection to choose from, depending on where you want to pick one up from across the city’s modo network. We picked up a red mini recently to zip around the beaches in Kitsilano, west side.


Next stop for Easter weekend is a day trip out to Harrison Hot Springs in a modo!

A clear mind, healthy body

It’s almost a week after shopping for lots of organic micro-greens, berries and other items from the ‘dirty dozen’ list. I must say, I feel better somehow; perhaps more awake and a little more energetic. The fruit and vegetables definitely have more flavour and in some cases more colour. Last night I had a dinner which is enjoyed by the whole family and always makes me feel good. I am going to share the recipe with you as it’s an easy, quick, mid-week favourite. The main ingredient is salmon and fortunately for me, abundant in both Canada and Australia. I used the sockeye salmon which is the beautiful red salmon.

You can't get much greener than this!

Teriyaki salmon with greens

Ingredients (serves 4)

4 boned salmon fillets

1.5 cups of brown rice

1 cup of Teriyaki sauce

3 cups of water

3 teaspoons of vegetable oil

3 sticks of celery

1 broccoli head and stalk

1 cup of micro-greens (any combination like rocket/arugula, cress)


1. Rinse salmon fillets and place into a large glass bowl. Add the teriyaki sauce to the salmon, be generous and add more if you like ensuring the fillets have been splashed and covered with the sauce. Cover with cling wrap and place in the fridge.

2. Rinse brown rice through and place into a medium-large saucepan. Add water and oil. Turn heat to high, and when it is boiling turn down to a simmer and place lid on top. Leave for approximately 15-20 minutes.

3. Wash greens; broccoli, celery and micro-green leafs. Chop celery finely and set aside. Chop broccoli into medium size florets (a few smaller for kids), and inside of stalk too removing the outside part.

4. Bring a small-medium saucepan of water to the boil ready for the broccoli to go in. Alternatively you can microwave for a few minutes with a small amount of water in dish.

5. Meanwhile, place teriyaki fillets and sauce into a non-stick frying pan on their skin side down. Turn heat to medium-high until you see the colour of the salmon changing and the sauce bubbling. Add the finely chopped celery half way through so they soften a little. You can use a lid for the pan to prevent splashing and poach salmon. If you see the sauce start evaporating, you can top up pan with some water from the broccoli.

6. Remove broccoli while firm (just soft enough to hold it’s shape) and drain.

7. Check rice and give it one stir only. When cooking rice using the absorption method you need to check that it is not sitting in any water (while simmering away) and that it cooks through without sticking to base of pot. Taste to get a feel and remove and fluff with fork after five minutes.

8. Remove salmon and celery (and any remaining sauce if you prefer) once just cooked through and place on a bed of brown rice with broccoli florets, and garnish with micro-greens.

Please note: For kid’s flaking the salmon through the brown rice, soft celery and smaller broccoli florets is more palatable.

Complement with an organic wine if you like and enjoy!

Exploring Main Street, Vancouver

On April 1, I visited Main street which is a major north-south thoroughfare bisecting Vancouver. I chose to explore the area between avenues; 14th to 22nd. This is close to the area where we live in what’s known as the ‘Cambie corridor’.

It’s an up and coming edgy area, with many vintage clothing, recycled wares and gift stores. It also happened to be host that morning to the Spring Living Fair which celebrates Ethical Living. It was held at the Heritage Hall which is a landmark building at the corner of 15th and Main.

What a co-incidence that I run into this after I have just pledged to live more green?     There were many local exhibitors with sustainable, carbon neutral, eco-friendly, green, fair trade and organic choices.

I enjoyed some delicious organic samples while learning about minimising waste. There are still 5 billion plastic bags being used in Canada per year. There is also a lot of waste thrown out still that could be recycled, however Metro Vancouver have taken great strides to reducing this. There was a smart stand promoting their Zerowaste Products which sell a variety of shopping and waste units which will enable residents to reduce the amount of plastic bags they use and separate waste in their homes. Products such as these are there to make us re-think what is recyclable and what can avoid making it to our landfill sites.

I have also learnt that since we moved in we are part of what is called a ‘Blue Box’ recycling program. It involves different coloured bags and a blue box for sorting their rubbish. This involves pulling apart everything you want to throw out into separate compartments including composting waste. It has been an enlightening step for our household to adopt this approach as it is self-serving exercise and we are becoming more committed and are more meticulous with recycling as each week goes by! One of our observations is the percentage of household waste which is compost is approximately 40% of our total waste. This is why sustainability should be visceral. This will not only reduce pollution, but will save energy and resources. It’s too easy!

It has started to make a real difference in our household. We are trying to buy only what we need and buy products with little or no packaging. We are also trying to buy products that we can re-use or buying items that can be re-filled.

A stop for some fair-trade coffee at a beautiful french bakery called ‘Coco Et Olive’ at 3707 Main Street was a peaceful place to digest all of this information. They serve large hot cups of cafe latte and it was complemented by one of their homemade vegetable muffins.

2. Second green action – CLEAR ALL PLASTIC WATER BOTTLES IN HOUSEHOLD and buy eco-friendly re-fillable ones.

Luckily there was a great store up the road on Main, between 21st and 22nd Ave called Front & Company, where I could shop my heart out with some gorgeous homewares including the eco-friendly bottles.

The adventure begins…

31 March, 2012

Tonight is Earth Hour, and I missed it…I will come back to this.

However tonight of all nights I have decided to start a blog. My blog is named ‘greenskis’ for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, my surname is Zielinski, which means ‘green’ in polish. The ‘ski’ part that is in my name though will also represent what I will call or term “green sky thinking’; inspired thoughts about attracting more green and positivity into my life.

Furthermore, I have just moved to Vancouver, Canada with my family; husband and 2 year old (from Sydney, Australia) and I am feeling really inspired and excited. From this day on, I have decided to document my experiences in a new city/country and to be more proactive about living more, ‘Green’. I will focus on some small steps I take each week to bring more green into my life.

So what does living green mean to me? Right now, my definition is minimizing:-

the amount of wastage I use that is harming our environment,

the amount of pesticides and other contaminants found in goods that me and my family consume

the amount of mass produced products and buying from smaller suppliers

the amount of energy I am using in the household as well emissions I let off into the atmosphere outside the house (not personal emissions…)

I am sure this will evolve for me as I go through this journey, but right now I think I have my hands full.

So Earth Hour was an initiative that Australia my home country began in 2007. It started with Sydney siders which is where I grew up.  In 2008 the plan was to take Earth Hour to the rest of Australia, but then the City of Toronto, Canada signed up, and it wasn’t long before 35 countries and almost 400 cities and towns were part of the event.  It said something so compelling to the world: that climate changes facing our planet are so significant that change needs to be global. Now hundreds of millions of people, businesses and governments unite to support the largest environmental event in history – Earth Hour.  If you want to read more on this event, please see http://www.earthhour.org.

I am a little upset I forgot it this year so I am going to make it up now by typing in the dark and then switching off everything very soon for the night. I need to spend a little time on my thoughts because I am in the moment and don’t want to lose this inspiration.

There is a beauty in Vancouver that I am becoming in awe of, the snow-capped mountains everywhere I turn is almost mesmerizing that I am walking and watching without really thinking about where I am heading. The city also has a harbour like Sydney, so there is an essence of home about the place.

People here are really friendly, in a courteous and gentle way. There is as one local I have met recently through friends who is a born and bred Vancouverite and as she puts it “There is a lacksadaisical sense” about the place…a laid back style that puts you at ease immediately.

Perhaps this is why Vancouver has been voted best city in the world to live in for many years now, I have yet to learn much more.

For now, I really feel as if the magnificent mountains ahead of me and the cold crisp air I breathe has energized me somewhat, reinvigorated my thought processes about how we as a society live today with our current environment.

I really want the way we live to have a profound impact on the planet for the better, sustainability is a hot topic and we need to promote sustainable living and development in our society. I a hungry to learn more. Although I am naive with little in-depth knowledge about what we need to actively do to make big change, I know it has to start with me first, and the young generations of today who want the future for their children to be clean and bright as it can be.

One of my passions is food, so the obvious place to start is at a level of comfort with the knowledge I possess about buying foods that are grown or produced in a way that is not harmful to the environment and importantly not harmful to our bodies.

I have just come across a website called ‘The Daily Green’ and I discovered it after searching on Google for the ‘Dirty Dozen’. I must add you need to include ‘Foods’ to this search otherwise the result is well errrh, entirely different say no more! I was visiting one of my local fresh produce markets in Vancouver and a stall of micro-greens caught my eye. There was a plentiful amount of kale, and rocket/arugula and I mentioned I try where possible to purchase organic produce; especially the leafy greens that are heavily sprayed, but little did I know there were other vegetables that I had never considered to be high on pesticides like for example, celery which this team mentioned is high on the ‘dirty dozen’ list. My curiosity lead me to read up on this list when I returned home immediately to see what else was on the essential what to buy organic where budget allows list.

So here it is:-

  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Strawberries
  4. Peaches
  5. Spinach
  6. Nectarines
  7. Grapes and raisins
  8. Capsicums
  9. Potatoes
  10. Blueberries
  11. Lettuce
  12. Kale
  13. and special one to note:- Milk
  1. First Green action – BUY MORE ORGANIC GREENS and other foods from local farmers.

I have written my new shopping list out for the week and will be heading to hunt out these goodies for me and my family tomorrow.

For now, that’s enough for me to sleep on. Good night.