21 ways to beat the winter blahs
You’re knee deep in January and up to your eyeballs in the blahs. On top of your vitamin D deficiency, you feel guilty about all the heat your pad is wasting and the trips to the hill your car is taking. Or maybe you’re just bummed about the fate of snow come global warming. Whatever ails you, it’s time to treat the blues with a dose of green and put a little globe-saving purpose back in your step.
When the weather outside is frightful, one primordial way to warm your toes involves a roaring fire. Too bad burning wood is so damn bad for air quality – responsible for 10 per cent of Canada’s carbon monoxide emissions and 25 per cent of the sooty particulate matter. San Fran has actually banned home fires on smog days. If you do decide to spark one up, make sure to use ecologically favourable logs (like Java-Log or EcoLog). Fire junkies should make the switch to a high-efficiency CSA-certified wood stove or home-heating pellet stove.
No one’s more nervous about global warming than the winter sport set (well, at least the ones not driving Hummers to the hill). Tips for greening your fave cold-weather activity? Don’t toboggan if you can see dirt (hello, erosion). Jump the Greyhound to ski country (FYI, Blue Mountain is still the only Ontario hill to sign onto industry’s Sustainable Slopes charter). Skip the carcinogenic chems and get Ethica Enviro-Wax instead (www.rei.com). Buy your gear second-hand. And lastly, pressure your hill/arena/ rink to start or keep greening its ways.
Is your idea of weathering winter bigger on couch surfing than snowboarding? Maximize your hermitting talents by laying out a bunch of cushions, cracking open some local booze and calling your buds over for a night of conversation-piquing films – you know, Who Killed the Electric Car?, An Inconvenient Truth… hell, even The Day After Tomorrow.
This one’s real simple: say no to all those plastic pints of imported berries and a big warm yes to squash, beets, parsnips and other local delights. No doubt diving head first into the 100-mile-diet is next to impossible come January, but you can still look for local labels whenever you can and warm your belly (and your conscience) with a big ol’ organic root roast (I like mine with a whack of rosemary).
How are you supposed to enjoy winter with drafts blowing down your neck and hydro bills rackin’ up? No time’s better than now to chop your greenhouse gas emissions. Get out the caulking gun (loaded with a very low-VOC caulk by AFM Safecoat) and start filling those cracks. Weatherstripping is great for stopping gusts in their tracks around windows and doors. Change your furnace filter. Lower the temp on your water heater. And while we’re talking water, share your showers, too.
Icicles might look lovely on branches, but you nearly broke your neck last time you tried to walk out your front door. Putting straight salt down ain’t the answer, since it damages walkways, paws, gardens and any waterway it trickles into. And sand breaks down into asthma-irritating dust. Get the job done with greener EcoTraction (Home Depot), booze-based Magic Salt (Canadian Tire) or calcium magnesium acetate (Grassroots).
Admittedly, five nights at a garish all-inclusive resort in Cancun, complete with wet T-shirt contest, may be cheaper than an inn-hopping weekend in Niagara on the Lake, but let’s not forget how gorgeous the province can be when it’s blanketed in the white stuff. Some ways to meditate on its beauty involve cash and maybe wheels (like, say, a northern yoga retreat or a wilderness tracking course in Algonquin), but others are totally free and ultra local. Talk a hike in High Park, do some owl-watching on the Leslie Spit, and make a snow angel next time there’s a good blizzard. Just make sure to wear the good long johns.