I hop off the train in Ottawa to find a perfect day. The sun is shining, the sky cloudless - and there’s water dripping down my leg. What the? My evidently poorly sealed water canister has completely emptied itself in my bag, all over my marked up copy of Ecoholic, not to mention a week’s worth of business cards and eco flyers from the road. Nothing a good air drying and a margarita can’t fix.
I toss my bag at the hotel, wrap the book in a towel then head out to eclectic Byward market to cozy up to Ottawa’s good vibes. This is after all the city that’s determined to walk its streets and skate to work even when bitter winds could form icicles on your nostrils.
Ottawa types tend to pride themselves on being politically conscious, environmentally aware and particularly outdoorsy, so I’m surprised to come across some pamphlets that say our nation’s capital is only diverting 33 per cent of its waste – a full seven points behind Toronto and 37 points behind, of all places, Markham. But Toronto can’t be too glib, the only reason we’re marginally ahead is because of our green bin, which Ottawa’s council is humming and hah-ing over in its pilot stage.
Still, shouldn’t this town be leading by example?
Of course, I must be honest, they’re kicking Montreal’s ass in this game. Montreal only diverts a sad 20 per cent of its trash (the down side of Montreal’s zest for life is a laissez faire attitude towards its trash, noted my cousin). And how can I coldly scold a city that lets me sleep in all morning and get to my first interview for noon? Now this is a book tour.
My first interview’s with a lively TV host who’s surprisingly with it. “You must hate those nasty cleaners they use in the hallway here. I know I do.” In the next breath, she dives into the scoop on where to shop for eco clothes (Karmawear) and the dirt on Ottawa’s lack of a pesticide ban on lawns, all in the brief minutes before we go live. Wham, bam, thank you ma’am, in no time we’ve gone on and off the air and I’m being asked to come back. I’m always stunned at how quickly TV moves, especially as a plodding weekly reporter.
Off to Rogers to do six segments for a new show called Capital Green. We shoot on this glorious though windswept stretch of nature with the canal winding behind us and all is well as the sun keeps beaming. It’s when I cozy into the warm embrace of a chair at University of Ottawa's ‘Cabbages and Kings’ radio show that I have to resist the urge to lie back and start talking about the time my dog got hit by a car when I was seven or how much I miss those Jello pudding pops we used to get back in the day. (You know, the kind Bill Cosby used to do ads for? Damn those were good.) This is “Dr. Bob’s” chair after all.
We enter into a thoughtful conversation on the state of green consciousness, where it’s been all these years and how the vibe is different this time around. Bob’s got the brilliant idea that products should come with a toxicity label, ranking just how bad the chemicals are inside it. I tell him I’m ready to vote the idea in and he tells me he’s going to make Ecoholic the first of his “active” book club subjects. The kind of book club where you’re encouraged to take action and better your life. I hate to leave this den of good ideas and well wishes but the session’s up and it’s time to leave Dr. Bob’s chair.
I have to say, Ottawa’s chock full of positivity and brilliant ideas. The next interviewer even suggests an Ecoholic stamp of approval on greenwash-free products that are legitimately good for the planet. I pause to imagine the sheer work involved in the concept. Hmm, maybe we can source that project out.
The day is only topped by an evening at the Arbour Environmental Shoppe - the only green general store in Ottawa that weathered the eco dryspell of the 90s. I’m here to give a talk and sign a few books but before I can even get nervous, a welcoming bunch of friendly faces starts trickling in the door. I leave my waterlogged notes on the desk, stand without any crutch to speak of and start yakking about all that has been and could be greener. Alright, nothing quite so preachy and expansive but I’m just proud that I get through without feeling nauseous or lost for words. In fact I think I even enjoyed it. Egad, Watson, my old fear of public speaking may have vanished!
Well, let’s not get carried away. But what I can say for sure is that there’s something electric about speaking with people that are primed to take action, motivated to change their lives and hungry to be Ecoholics. No matter how exhausted I am going in, I leave energized, incredibly hopeful and excited about the green army that’s building across the country.