The Perogy Party

This is one of my first posts from TreeHugger, originally published as Buy Nothing Day Doesn’t Mean Living Less.

Nor_yellowBuy Nothing Day is a holiday dear to my heart. Proud as I am to be associated with TreeHugger, I know that ecological products can only do so much. If we really want to change the world, we need to find a truly different way of living.

We must consume much, much less.

So what is my plan to reduce consumption? It’s simple, have more perogie parties. I went to my first perogie party three years ago, and I can’t stop talking about it.

We started with about a dozen people, none of them particularly close friends, at least not at first. The host was Norman Nawrocki (photo from his website), former Perogie King of Montreal. I don’t know if Perogie King of Montreal is as glorious a title as, say, Perogie King of Winnipeg, but I was impressed. The instructions were easy, bring one perogie ingredient and one bottle of vodka for every two people. I scoffed at the amount of alcohol, thinking it would be impossible to drink that much.The first thing the Perogie King taught us was a little Polish song. We sang the song whenever we achieved anything of even the tiniest significance. We scrubbed the potatoes, sang the song and did a shot of vodka (a small shot, admittedly). We chopped the potatoes, sang the song and did a shot of vodka. We cooked the potatoes, sang the song and did a shot of vodka. We mashed the potatoes, sang the song and did a shot of vodka. By 8:45 we were running out to catch the liquor store before it closed. We repeated this pattern for everything, grating cheese, mixing dough, rolling dough, cutting it into circles. This story ends in a bleary haze, eating one the most delicious meals I have ever had. Subsequent experience shows that the party is just as fun without the vodka.

Life can have its boring moments, long days and hard work, which, as common wisdom goes, we ease by buying gadgets we hope will make it easier. I, and many others, have found another way. Cooking, weeding, strawberry picking, and all the other chores that I hated when I was a teenager, are a lot more fun when you do it with your friends. I have never bought anything, never seen a movie, never driven anywhere that gave me as much pleasure as that perogie party.

Start with perogies and don’t stop. Move closer to your friends so you don’t have to drive to visit them. Cook together, work together and, best of all, don’t consume together. (Yes, eating is a form of consumption, but you know what I mean.)

So, here is the perogie recipe. Supply your own friends and beverages.


3 cups flour1 tsp. salt1 cup milk1 egg


Use anything your little heart desires. Mashed potato and cheese is always good. Also potato and broccoli. My next one is going to be mashed potato with caramelized onion and blue cheese. I also like to add some fresh-ground pepper to the dough.

Mix flour and salt. Combine egg and milk. Stir into flour mixture. Knead 2-3 minutes on lightly floured counter, until dough feels elastic. Cut dough into six balls. Roll each ball out thin. Use in a plastic perogie maker (I got mine in a thrift shop for 99 cents) or cut out circles with an empty can. Put a tablespoon of filling in center of each circle, fold and seal (it may help to wet the edges slightly). Boil the perogies until they float, then fry with onions and veggie dog slices (or bacon).


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Your new car makes me Green with Envy.

This was one of my first posts on See the original article here.

A new kind of greenspace rolled out for this year’s International Car-Free day in Vancouver, BC – a Car Park. The Vancouver Design Nerds, a fluid group of designers, architects, artists and videographers, rescued a 1973 Pontiac LeMans from a local scrap yard and transformed it into a rolling vegetable garden. (Full Disclosure: I am a founding Design Nerd.

Coinciding with the City of Vancouver’s launch of the One Day campaign to reduce greenhouse gases, the Car Park was a massive hit on Car Free Day. It caused double-takes all day long and became the backdrop to endless happy tourist photos. (Other cities take note, the One Day campaign, like the Car Park, is Open Source. Make it yours.)

The Car Park is also a winner of the Vancouver City Planning Commission’s 21 Places competition, which solicited entries to enhance underutilized urban spaces.

The best thing about the Car Park is that you can have one too. Here’s how we did it.

First we gutted the car of all of its foams and liners, pulled out the engine and transmission, and removed the glass (to be remanufactured into a lamp). The roof became the engine compartment’s lining, the trunk lid turned upside down to elevate the bottom of the trunk compartment, and the hood raised the bed of the passenger compartment. Next, we lined it all with chicken wire and landscape cloth and filled the whole thing with soil. A Master Gardener planted the car with kale, chard, a blueberry bush, strawberries, and an array other ornamentals and edibles.

We spread the labour out over three weekends, but a dedicated group of five or six could easily make a Car Park in a weekend.

After the adventures of Car Free Day, we towed the Car Park to a friend’s driveway where it continues to attract attention from neighbours and news media. Its permanent home is a Community Garden at the corner of Clark and Broadway, inVancouver, BC.

If you’d like to see us in action, Adam Thomas (member of the Narcoleptic Videographers) taped the whole process and produced a ten-minute video called, How to Build a Car Park.



This is one of my first posts, from TreeHugger. The original post can be seen here.

copierKudos to Canon and HP. A recent post highlighted the product stewardship programs that the two companies have launched for consumer products and printer cartridges, respectively. Fuji Xerox also deserves accolades for developing a product stewardship system. Ten years ago.

In fact, Fuji Xerox has the most TreeHugger program I have ever heard of. It begins, if you can imagine, with design…Using ‘inverse manufacturing’, designers engineer components to maximize their potential. Then factories can dismantle old machines and, rather than melting them down to make new parts, just reassemble them in new machines.

Here’s how it works. If you have a little lever that is only used in one model of copy machine, it can be designed for a short life, made of cheap plastic, and recycled. But if you have a gear that is used in a copier, two different printers and a fax machine, then you design the part to not wear out, to have a long life. The principle is simple. Spend the big bucks, build it to last, and re-use it several times.

If Canon and HP want to get serious about reducing waste, they should take a look at Fuji Xerox’s inverse manufacturing system.

I first heard about it in a forwarded email from Britain’s Resource Recovery Forum. Highlights from a more recent article on are:

-More than just toner cartridges, Fuji Xerox is making entire machines with 70% reused parts. This eliminates 75% of the CO2 emissions associated with manufacturing.

-Parts are designed to last for multiple generations and be usable in other models, not just the model they were built for. In 2003, 60% of reused parts were being put into their third generation of use.

-In 2003, Fuji Xerox had a surplus of US$570 000, which means “the income from reusing components exceeds expenditures for the purpose of product recycling.” This makes very clear that a national parts reclamation and re-use system can be profitable.

-To complement the lower-impact copy systems, Fuji Xerox has started producing paper, using newspaper pulp and FSC certified wood from the companies’ own plantations.

-After Japan, the company built a collection and recycling plant in Thailand, and has plans for China. Let’s hope they bring inverse manufacturing West.