I’m Adria Vasil. (If you’re wondering, it’s pronounced uh-DREE-ah, like Maria and Vasil, like the popular petroleum salve, Vaseline, but Greeker). I’m an environmental journalist, columnist and the author of the best-selling Ecoholic book series. People tend to make a lot of assumptions about a girl that’s written four books and a decade-long column called Ecoholic. That I always remember my reusable mug, that I survive on little more than baking soda and apple cider vinegar and that I must have been raised on some sort of organic goat farm. The real story is that my Greek Canadian dad and French Canadian mom actually moved us from Montreal, where I was born, to the aluminum-smelting town of Shawinigan to open up not a health store but a, er, um, McDonald’s. Naturally, my heavy McNugget consumption was a fact that I would later hide from my activist friends. Thankfully, my family moved back to Montreal by the time I was 10 and we kissed all the Big Macs 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 news junkie dad. 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’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 watched way too many slapstick movies and cracks jokes through all of life’s highs and lows (my dad, who died of cancer in 2016, would no doubt have been pretty disappointed if no one made a quippy remark at his funeral). 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 (file under “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 anti-sweatshop campaigns when a lightbulb went off in my head. I was going to go back school to became a journalist to write about the issues that mattered to me. I got a post-graduate degree in journalism from Ryerson, so I could draw attention to the issues that I felt were being underreported. A year after I graduated, I started the Ecoholic column.
My biggest influence: Definitely my brother Nick.
He was my family’s original environmentalist and alternative health guru. 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. It became clear that he was a canary in the coal mine, picking up on all sorts of pollutants that most of us couldn’t detect. Nick lived an 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. I know he’s here in spirit, probably laughing at the sad state of my garden at the moment.
Words of wisdom 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 essentially a giant 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 work on changing our little corners – influencing our friends, our families, our communities – we create a ripple effect that fans out across the country. That if we keep working on our little corners we’ll eventually have a better world to call home. She was right. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. So keep working on your corners!
Pet peeves: Antibacterial soap and idling. I mean, really, there is no need.