Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Hip + Urban Girl of the Week: Adria Vasil

I have been reading Adria Vasil's column, Ecoholic in Now Magazine for a long time now and I am always fascinated by her knowledge of the environment and the topics that she touches upon. Like are certified flowers legit? How much sushi is safe to eat? Well Adria has compiled all this wise info into a series of books to help you live greener. Her latest, Ecoholic Body is 'An Earth-Friendly Guide To Living Healthy & Looking Good'. We sat down with Adria to learn about how she got her start! Meet our latest hip + urban girl of the week....

How did you become so passionate about the environment?

I grew up in the 80s, when everyone was last freaking out about how we were trashing the planet and searing holes in the ozone layer. My parents were pretty much the furthest things from environmentalists you could get (for a while they owned a fast food joint in a small industrial town in Quebec!).

I remember sitting down to watch the news with my dad at maybe 12, 13 and learning about acid rain and the Exxon Valdez oil spill and it scared the shit out of me. I started drawing pictures of the earth coated with trash and sifting through my family's garbage, frustrated that my parents weren't recycling properly. Then my big brother Nick started working for Greenpeace and bringing home all kinds of flyers and pamphlets on how we were destroying the planet and I just soaked it all in.

What was the career path that you took that made you into the ecoholic expert that you are today?

I was involved in the not-for-profit/NGO world researching corporate practices, labour rights abuses in Latin American sweatshops, that kind of thing when I decided that I wanted to go back to school to become a journalist so I could write about the issues that mattered to me that weren't getting enough attention in the press.

I started working as a general news reporter for NOW magazine a decade ago writing about all kinds of issues, but focused a lot on the stories behind products, whether it was Roots moving its operations to China or pseudo organic products in health stores, a lot of environmental stories in the mix. By the time we started the Ecoholic advice column spring 2004, I had a lot of experience writing about the hidden stories and impacts of 'things' but we wanted to offer up a more practical perspective with user-friendly tips. Hence Ecoholic was born!

What did you study in College/University? Is there anything you would do differently?

I had considered taking environmental studies at York and was even offered a scholarship at York but ended up studying political science and anthropology at University of Toronto. It was the 90s and I was really into development politics and thought I'd end up working in Latin America as sort of an international social worker.

In the end, my work as a researcher investigating corporate irresponsibility paved the way for me to go back to school for a post-grad degree in journalism as well as all the Ecoholic research I do today so I wouldn't change a thing. No regrets. I've always followed my heart and my gut and always encourage everyone else to do the same.

What is your typical day like?

It all depends on whether I'm on book deadline or not. I've written four research-intense books (including my US edition) in five years so I've been on a bit of a book marathon, which means a lot of long days and nights behind a laptop!

When I'm not on deadline for one of a dozen drafts for each book or the weekly column, my days loosen up a lot. Either way, I'm the polar opposite of an early riser so I'm pretty thankful to work from home!

I wake up, have some fruit out in my back garden, read the daily papers and catch up on my eco news. If I've got time, I try to meditate or do a little yoga or Qi Gong (kind of like Tai Chi) before I open a newspaper and turn on my laptop but sometimes the laptop sucks me in first. After a day of researching, phone calls, writing, maybe product research in stores, I try to cook up a locavore dinner with my partner (and often friends) with whatever we picked up from the market or our neighbourhood shops, like The Big Carrot and Hooked.

Tell us about some of the cool opportunities that you have been a part of as a result of your job!

Wow, well, I'd have to say the biggest opportunity I got from being a writer for Now Magazine happened when I got an email from an editor, Kendall Anderson at Randomhouse/Vintage Press, telling me she was a big fan of my Ecoholic column and thought it should be turned into a book. I almost erased her email thinking it was spam!

Once Ecoholic was in book form I started getting a lot of calls to go on all sorts of TV and radio shows and speaking engagements all across Canada. None of this ever would have happened without my little Ecoholic column so I'm pretty grateful.

Which eco-friendly beauty products do you like and recommend for those of us trying to change our routine?

I'm always trying new body care products so I can put them to the test but fundamentals  that I go back to again and again include Jason's Powersmile toothpaste, haircare by John Masters or Patrick Currelle (love Curelle's conditioner, found it after I was done writing Ecoholic Body) and sunscreen by Devita.

There are so many great Canadian skincare brands that I use in my bathroom like Consonant, Authenta, Skin Essence, Sea Flora, Awaken My Senses. If you're looking for a good natural deodorant, try Dr Mist (although applying straight baking soda to freshly washed underarms works surprisingly well, try it!). I like straight coconut oil as a body moisturizer, olive oil as a hot oil treatment.

What are three easy things anyone can do to be more eco-friendly?

Don't buy what you don't really need (it'll save you money and reduce the amount of chemicals that go down the drain, products that go to landfill), buy second hand as much as possible (clothing is a big part of Ecoholic Body too), and make it yourself when you can (by reaching for a bottle of straight, say, grapeseed oil as a moisturizer/shaving oil/hair treatment you're cutting out the chemical middle man altogether!).

Who inspires you?

My brother Nick. He passed away during the writing of this book. He had always been a massive influence on me and was definitely the family's original environmental activist and writer. He was the pioneer that truly blazed the way forward for me.

Where are your favourite places to hang out in Toronto?

I'm an east-ender and I love it out here. Besides biking to The Big Carrot a couple times a week for groceries or natural body care (I'm always chatting up their body care employees!), my girlfriends and I always go for Ethiopian at Rendez-Vous on Danforth (wicked vegetarian food). If I want to see friendly faces I pop into Lolita's for a nightcap or Goods and Provision in Leslieville. Love the food at Table 17, the eggplant parm at 7 Numbers and the sizzling veggie platter at Lahore Tikka House in Little India. So good!

What would you tell your 20 year-old self?

Relax and enjoy the journey.

What life advice do you have for hip + urban girls out there trying to figure out what they want to do?

Get out there and try out as many pathways and possibilities as you can. There were so many times when I just couldn't figure out what I should do with my life, so I just dabbled. At the same time I started volunteering again and tried my hand at my own little clothing company, took night classes on all kinds of topics and sold goods from my travels in a little makeshift stand on Queen Street. I just played with all the options I could think of and it helped me cross things off my list so I could say, 'tried that, it wasn't for me.'

Eventually, my volunteering led to my NGO work which led to my decision to go back to school for journalism, which lead me to intern at NOW, which lead me to where I am today. You just never know until you give it a go.

To find out more about Adria, visit:

Website - www.ecoholic.ca
Twitter - @ecoholicnation
Facebook - www.facebook.com/ecoholicnation

What do you have coming up?

I'll be doing a little cocktail soiree at Consonant Body at 2479 Yonge Street TONIGHT (July 24th), hanging out, giving a short talk on natural skincare and signing some copies of Ecoholic Body!

 Loved This? Meet more of our Hip + Urban Girls of the Week!

No comments:

Post a Comment