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Food and drink: An EPIC way to go

Sustainable living expo keeps good ideas alive

Picture it. You're standing at your green (as in, a sustainable shade of green) kitchen counter, in your green shoes and funky green slip-dress with the skeleton down the front or, if you're a guy, your green shirt reclaimed from a waste bin and transformed into a work of art thanks to a rusty gate and a giant fish on one arm.

You're about to whip up a bowl of green mushroom soup, maybe with some green chips on the side, then you'll pull a green espresso for yourself, or brew up a cup of green yerba maté tea, topped off with one of Melanie's divine butter tarts or three (from the Tinseltown mall).

After you've stuffed yourself, you'll snooze on your green sofa, custom-made by Van Gogh Designs (see Mountain Decorating Centre or Patina Home Interiors at Whistler). Or on your cool green memory foam bed from Essentia (no toxic chemicals gassing off here).

All of it's produced in Canada, some of it right here on the wet coast - well, except for the maté and the coffee beans.

Okay, so my little scenario is a construction but, still, it's a dream that could happen, I thought to myself as I drove home from the EPIC show in Vancouver last weekend - something that could unfold over and over in homes from here to Tofino or Likely and back again.

Despite my interest in such ideas, I've previously passed on this self-described sustainable living expo (EPIC stands for Ethical Progressive Intelligent Consumer) because I resent having to pay at the door for consumer shows. You want me there to buy? You'd better make it painless.

But this year I relented. Maybe it was the boredom of endless rain and grey horizons, maybe it was a hunch. But I broke down and paid my miserable ten bucks for a ticket on-line and was I glad I did. The free snacks alone were worth the admission, with samples flowing like the drains from the green roof of Vancouver's new convention centre.

Organic fair trade chocolate, some of it laced with cardamom and chilis or quinoa, were piled in heaps (use the tongs, please). Terry Bremner was on hand from his blueberry farm in Delta pouring little glasses of their spectacularly pure Bremner juices, more nectar than juice.

Another Delta-based business, Raincoast Trading, was also passing out generous samples, big bites of their wild skinless, boneless pink salmon - a slice of heaven that will make you rethink canned salmon.

I love the folks at Raincoast Trading, namely Mike Wick and his family, for the good things they do. All of their seafood products are Ocean Wise certified sustainable. You'll find them in beautifully labeled tins in the canned tuna/salmon section of all kinds of stores. Even Superstore has them, but look out - they've been discovered by big media like Canadian Living , so the rush is on.

The people from Hardbite Potato Chips were unbelievably generous, piling up mounds of their finest - Creamy Coconut & Curry Oriental, yum (is that a hint of kefir lime?); Cheddar & Onion, with blue cheese yet; and their crazy Honey Dijon.

I remember seeing these guys on Dragons' Den and thinking, boy, there's a winner, and they are. Be warned - these chips are addicting. Get started at Nesters, IGA Marketplace, Choices, London Drugs and more.

Thick, crunchy, flavourful, plus they come from right down the road in Maple Ridge, from potatoes grown in Ladner, from seed potatoes from Pemberton. And you thought it was hard to buy local?

Another great product - one not so local but so sustainable I have to point it out - came right at the right time, when my legs were sagging and my energy flagging. Guayakí yerba maté teas come ready-to-drink in bottles or in loose leaf form. (See Moguls, Nesters, IGA, Choices, Urban Fare, Solstice Organics in Pemberton, or

If you need a lift, maté is POWerful. Plus Guayakí takes certified organic and Fair Trade one step beyond to market driven restoration, building viable communities and restoring hardwood rainforests in Argentina, Paraguay and southern Brazil. Buying one pound of loose Guayakí yerba maté actually reduces atmospheric CO2 by 573 grams.

As for that cool "green" slip dress or shirt, it's by former actress-turned-designer Wendy Van Riesen, who takes what would be cast-offs headed for the landfill and uses all kinds of berry stains and natural processes - like burying that shirt with a rusty gate - to imprint her designs. (See Starfire Studio in Horseshoe Bay, Vancouver Art Gallery Gift Shop and Tutta Mia in Vancouver, or

And those green shoes? They're by El Naturalista, hand-made - really, even the delicately stitched designs - with soles from latex that hasn't had the crap chemically processed out of it, and leather that's been treated with tree bark or maybe sunflower oil. (See Zig Zag Boutique in North Van; A Step Ahead in Park Royal; and Twigg & Hottie on Main and Spank Shoes in Vancouver).

And when it comes to that beautiful green kitchen counter, here's where I get really excited. It's an ECO counter from Cosentino.

If you don't know the Cosentino name, let me tell you, they do everything right: durability, practicality, looks, the whole nine yards. Plus this stuff is LEEDS certified. Architects love Cosentino.

You thought you wanted a granite kitchen counter? Only about 30 percent of the granite that's mined gets used due to cracks and breakage. Whole mountains are leveled to make little kitchen counters!

ECO, on the other hand, is 75 per cent post-consumer waste that's reached the end of its life - mirrors, porcelain, tiles, sinks and industrial carbon in the form of crystallized ashes - all mixed in a corn-based resin.

Before you pooh-pooh it, check out a sample ( or Valley Countertops Industries, 1-800-506-9997). It makes granite look like the passé stuff it is and gives you one more epic move you can make to keep a whole lot of good things alive.


Glenda Bartosh is an award-winning freelance writer who thinks there's nothing worse than skimpy tasting samples you can barely find in the bottom of the little paper cup.