March 6, 2011
Staying fit is a healthy choice – but the way we do it may not be very healthy for the planet. Consider the modern fitness center and its electric lights, electric fitness machines, electric air conditioning, electric televisions and electric sound systems. Plus heating; plus laundry; plus showers; plus bottled water; plus the emissions of clients getting to and from the gym. It all adds up to a significant strain on the planet’s health, just to maintain ours.
Perhaps there’s a better way. In some places, pioneering efforts are underway to reverse that equation by generating power from fitness machines – check out this link. But since that’s not mainstream yet, for now, maybe it’s worth bypassing the treadmill and… just going for a walk or run outside.
September 23, 2009
The paper napkin is part of just about every restaurant meal. At fast food restaurants, we can even help ourselves – and it’s easy to grab a handful without thinking, most of which end up in the trash unused or barely used. Our napkin habit consumes millions of trees a year. Millions.
But here are five simple ways you can save a tree:
At home, try to get away without using napkins in the first place
At restaurants, use just one napkin
Give extra napkins and napkins that have been lightly used a second life: use them as tissues (they’re usually a lot stronger than regular tissues), or tuck them into your car’s glovebox for a myriad of end uses.
When buying, choose napkins with a high percentage of post-consumer recycled content
Compost used napkins when possible, so that they can become ingredients for the next generation of trees
Save a napkin, save a tree: it’s nature’s air filter.
In the News
US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao yesterday urged world leaders to tackle climate change on a global scale. http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-obama-climate23-2009sep23,0,6860735.story
Could this face in the ice be Mother Nature sending us a message? http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1210706/Caught-camera-Mother-Nature-cries-river-tears-global-warming-threatens-planet.html
Hazy Opera House: a dust storm hits parched Sydney http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/09/23/world/AP-AS-Australia-Dust-Storm.html
Terry Fox Run
I’m delighted to share that I have raised over $26,500 in pledges. Thanks to everyone who contributed! (It’s still not too late: http://www.terryfox.org/cgi/page.cgi/Run/participants.html/USH8SW)
April 29, 2009
Are you an “Ecotarian”? (You don’t have to change your citizenship to be one…)
An Ecotarian is someone who considers the environmental implications of their food choices, and selects a diet that has a minimal impact on the planet. Since our food makes up big part of our personal carbon footprint, selecting wisely can make a huge difference. High on the ecotarian menu: local food (especially from your own garden); minimally processed food; food with little packaging; organic food; food high in veggies and low in meat. At the bottom of the ecotarian menu: food, especially produce, from faraway places; meat; highly processed and/or frozen food; food with heavy packaging; food originating from endangered or threatened species.
Be an Ecotarian: you’ll do the Earth a big favour by making wise choices at home and wherever else you eat.
After Earth Day
April 22 marked the only holiday that is recognized around the world: fittingly, a day to think about our world. And many people did: the news was full of stories about special green activities. But the planet needs just as much attention today as it did yesterday – and it will need it tomorrow too. So please spread the word: we can fix our environmental problems – but it starts by making every day Earth Day.
In the news
New York’s famed Empire State Building is undergoing a major retrofit – with energy efficiency as a top priority! http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/07/science/earth/07empire.html?_r=2
Know anyone who still doubts the reality of climate change? Here are five points EVERYONE can agree on. http://miramichileader.canadaeast.com/rss/article/642788
January 16, 2009
According to the American Greeting Card Association, 7 billion cards are purchased in the US annually. That’s a lot of paper and a lot of trees!
But there’s an environmentally friendly alternative: One Tree Per Card’s attractive cards with striking natural scenes that are completely carbon neutral – or even ‘carbon positive’, producing a net environmental benefit.
How is this possible? Simple – photographer/designer Phil Riebel has made a commitment to using only eco-friendly paper and inks. But here’s the big reason: one tree is planted for EVERY card purchased. In the battle against climate change, trees are among our greatest allies.
If you enjoy sending greeting cards to family and friends, show your commitment to our planet by going carbon neutral! Check out One Tree Per Card’s designs at http://www.carbonfreecards.com. (And they cost no more than brand name cards.)
December 29, 2008
Not long ago, I heard Craig Kielberger speak. He’s a 20-something Nobel nominee with a passion for children’s rights and youth empowerment. His most recent campaign, called “ME to WE“, is about shifting our thinking. It’s about realizing how much can be accomplished when we think less about “me” and more about “we”: the local, national and global communities we belong to.
When it comes to climate change, there are no exemptions: we’re all in it together. If global warming could be compared to a Category 5 rapid on a river, every one of us would be a passenger in a raft headed toward the rapid. Getting through it means paddling together – a job made much easier when we think less about “me” and more about “we”.
Christmastime shows us the potential for human hearts to help, share and work together. So may that same Christmas spirit that brings out our best stay with us every day, to help us meet the challenges we will be facing together.
PS at this time of year, it’s helpful to be reminded of the Story of Stuff: where things (like many Christmas gifts) come from and where they usually end up.
December 26, 2008
In stopped traffic, have you ever noticed that when one driver nudges ahead, everyone behind usually does the same thing? It seems we do that in any lineup, whether at the bank, grocery store or airport.
Does this ripple effect get anyone where they’re going any sooner? Well, no. But everyone does end up burning an extra shot of fuel each time they nudge forward.
So the next time you’re stopped traffic, be the ‘nudgebreaker’ and resist the urge to edge forward. You’ll save fuel for yourself and everyone in the line behind you.
December 26, 2008
Have you ever heard of a ‘chimney pillow’ or a ‘chimney balloon’? You might want to look into one if you have a chimney in your home. You see, if you have a chimney (especially one with a fireplace), there’s a good chance it’s running up your heating bill.
Fireplaces can be cozy and romantic, but they are not very efficient at heating a home – most of the heat they produce goes straight up the chimney. But what’s worse is this: long after the fire is out, a good bit of your precious home heat keeps going up the chimney. That’s because the dampers in chimneys are not very airtight, and they allow much warm air to escape up and out. They often create a noticeable draft indoors too.
To stop this heat loss, you can stuff a ‘chimney pillow’ or ‘chimney balloon’ up into the flue when there’s no fire on. Well installed, a pillow or balloon will stop drafts and save you significant heating dollars. You can buy one, or make your own with supplies from your hardware store. The internet has plenty of helpful information.
It’s easy to stop the draft from your flue or chimney – but remember to take it out before you start a fire!
December 26, 2008
It sits there quietly, always ready when you need it. But it accounts for 30% of the water used inside most homes. “It”, of course, is the toilet.
But not all toilets are equal. Years ago, toilets used 20 ltres/flush. But today’s efficient models use just 6 L. Some even have dual flush controls, so you can flush with 3 or 6 L, depending on the needs of the moment.
The good news: you can now get a federal EcoEnergy grant when you upgrade to an eligible low flow toilet (and, in NB, assistance from Efficiency NB too). A list of eligible models can be downloaded from here (beware: there are MANY more toilets out there than you might have thought!). But remember, to get a grant, you need to get an EcoEnergy home evaluation done first.
Replacing an inefficient old toilet is the water equivalent of trading a Hummer for a hybrid – a great way to save!
December 26, 2008
Bah humbug – these days, it seems even Christmas lights can’t escape scrutiny. How green are your outdoor lights?
If they’re the old-style lights with the big 7 cm long bulbs, yikes: a string of 25 takes 175 watts of power – equal to 13 compact fluorescent light bulbs.
But if they are the new outdoor LED lights, phew: a string of 75 lights uses 3 watts or less. That’s right – three times as many bulbs, a fraction of the power.
In dollars, that means using 75 LED lights 5 hours a night for 30 nights costs just 4.5 cents, compared to $7.95 for 75 old-style big bulbs. And many of us put up a lot more than 75 lights.
Make LEDs a part of your green Christmas. They use 99% less energy than old-style outdoor lights, so you can light up the neighborhood guilt-free for pennies!
December 26, 2008
For many of us, plugging in our car is a convenient way to ensure that it starts on cold mornings. But your vehicle’s block heater is an energy hog: most use 400-450 watts – as much as 30 compact fluorescent light bulbs. If you plug in your car for 14 hours a night, that’s costing you $17-19 per month.
Since it takes just 2 hours for a block heater to warm most engines, anything more is a waste of power. But you don’t need to get up extra early each morning – you can just get a timer (available at most hardware stores), and program it to turn your block heater on automatically while you’re still sleeping. You can save over 80%, and still be sure that your car will start in the morning.
Based on the above numbers, a $25 timer can pay for itself in about 2 months – an amazing investment! (Plus: a car that’s plugged in will warm up more quickly, and produce fewer emissions while warming up.)