I’m Adria (uh-DREE-uh) Vasil. Despite what you might assume about a girl that’s written four books and a decade-long column called Ecoholic, I didn’t really grow up in an Ecoholic household. My Greek Canadian dad and French Canadian mom actually moved us from Montreal, where I was born, to the aluminium-smelting town of Shawinigan to open up not a health store but a, er, um, McDonald’s. I won’t lie, all those chocolate sundaes and chicken nuggets were pretty awesome to a five year old, though this was a fact I would later hide from my environmental friends. Thankfully for all of our health, my family moved back to Montreal by the time I was 10 and we kissed McFries and McDLTs goodbye. It was the 80s. A lot of bad sh*t was happening to the planet and I started watching the nightly news with my dad (he was a news junky). The Exxon Valdez oil spill, the hole in the ozone layer, acid rain. It was intense viewing for a tween and it changed me. I started worrying. About everything. Within a few years, I was getting actively involved in pretty much every issue I could from women’s rights to human rights to the crap that was in my shampoo and bathroom cleaners. Was it tested on animals? Screwing up the planet? Made in a sweatshop? I guess you could say I’ve been obsessed with the hidden impacts of our everyday choices ever since. Though I think I maintain my sanity and optimism much better these days. Dancing in the kitchen helps. So does meditation, which I started doing after my big brother passed away while I was writing Ecoholic Body (he himself was a big meditator and it’s been my way of connecting to him). Plus I was raised in a family that cracks jokes through all of life’s highs and lows, so that helps, too.
How did I start doing what I’m doing? After I got my degree in political science from the University of Toronto in the late 90s, I was volunteering then working in the non-profit world researching corporate abuses in developing countries (you see what I mean about “obsession with hidden impacts”). I was in a planning meeting jamming about how the hell we were going to get the media to write about one of our campaigns when a light bulb went on over my head. At that precise moment I decided to go back to school to became a journalist so I could draw attention to the issues that mattered to me that I felt were underreported. And that’s what I’ve been doing since.
My biggest influence? Definitely my brother Nick, who passed away in 2010. He was my family’s original environmentalist and alternative health guru. I remember when I was a young teen, he started working for Greenpeace Montreal and began bringing home all sorts of flyers and stickers on saving the world, which I promptly plastered everywhere. Nick later developed pretty heavy duty health problems, including a lot of environmental sensitivities. I guess you could say he was a canary in the coal mine, picking up on all sorts of pollutants that most of us couldn’t detect. Nick lived a very unplugged life, studying herbalism, holistic nutrition and permaculture. Really, in everything he did he showed all of us how to live more consciously, more mindfully, more simply. I’m still learning from him, even though he’s not physically around anymore. But I know he’s definitely here in spirit, probably laughing at the sad state of my garden at the moment.
Wise words from my mom: When I was a frustrated young activist unsure of whether I could make a difference, my mom told me the world is like a domino board. “You know, Adria, you can change the world just by working on your little corner of it.” She explained that if we all keep working on changing our corners, we create a ripple effect that can transform the world. She’s a wise woman, so listen so my mom! I try to.
My pet peeves? Antibacterial soap and idling.