January 25, 2012
Bullfrog Power, a green energy supplier, asked that question of its customers last month, and they answered in droves: from individuals to huge companies like Walmart; from non-profits to large municipalities; and more.
And what kinds of things are they pledging?
- “To reduce household trash to one bag per person per year”
- “To join a co-operative, to buy used goods and to ‘free-cycle’ what I don’t need”
- “To buy carbon offsets for all our air travel” (from a musical group)
- “To eliminate single-use boxes on most orders and save 76,000 boxes”
- “To be 100% supplied by renewable energy, and a zero-waste company” (from Walmart!!)
That’s just the start. Read more – and be inspired, as I was – at Bullfrog’s website. Then plan your 2012 environmental story!
December 27, 2011
A couple of years ago, I completed an on-line quiz about my footprint on the planet. It asked questions about how I live – house, vehicle, driving, food, waste and more – and then calculated how much land it takes to sustain my lifestyle. I was shocked when it told me that if everyone on the planet lived like me, we’d need four planets. I’ve worked really hard since then to reduce my footprint – but more recently I discovered that that ratio applies to all Canadians: if everyone on the planet lived like us, we’d need four planets.
Of course, there is only one: this fragile, beautiful, precious and irreplaceable planet.
So perhaps the best New Years resolution any of us can make is this: to strive to use less of everything, in whatever way we can.
December 28, 2010
At New Year’s, three straightforward resolutions for a better planet
At this time of new beginnings, here’s a challenge: three resolutions to make your 2011 the greenest, most sustainable ever!
1. Reduce: there are more of us than ever, consuming evermore, on a planet that’s not getting bigger. The single best thing we can do is pause before we drive, buy or consume, and ask ourselves two simple questions. Is this really necessary? Is there a better way?
2. Collaborate: mutual aid and sharing of resources are just two of the many good reasons to know your neighbours. But collaboration within our larger communities, real or on-line, can be a great way to address larger issues too. Consider that Wikipedia, one of the world’s most popular websites, is a collaboration of volunteers lending their individual expertise to a collective good. Now imagine the possibilities if that sort of approach were used to tackle our planet’s biggest challenges.
3. Get involved: pledge to make your views known to political leaders at all levels. They can do more with the stroke of a pen than most of us can hope to do in a lifetime.
For more on these three resolutions – and some further imaginings of a better world – please check out my New Year’s column in the New Brunswick Telegraph Journal.
November 16, 2010
It’s good to know your symbols
One of the symbols below means ‘recyclable’. The other means ‘recycled’ (IE containing recycled material).
Q: Do you know which is which?
A: The one on the left means ‘recyclable’: the material can be recycled. The one on the right, with the circle, means ‘contains recycled material’. (There are colour variations and the recycled logo sometimes indicates the percentage recycled content.)
The difference between the two might be subtle, but it REALLY MATTERS because:
1. if you specifically want to buy products that contain recycled materials, the logo on the left is meaningless; the logo on the right is the one to look for
2. the ‘recyclable’ logo on a product doesn’t automatically mean that it ends up getting recycled; that depends on your local program. For example, Styrofoam© (polystyrene) is recyclable but is not accepted by most recycling programs.
The bottom line: it’s always best to REDUCE, but when that’s not possible, look for products that contain a high percentage of recycled material and are themselves recyclable.
Every day, landfills across the country receive truckloads of things that are perfectly good but just not needed anymore. It’s an inglorious end for stuff that still has useful service to offer.
But there’s a better way. If you’re looking to get rid of perfectly good stuff that’s cluttering up your basement, garage or office, consider freecycling it. Freecycling is making it available (via the internet) it at no cost to someone in your community who could use it.
Check out www.freecycle.org; there’s a good chance you’ll find a local on-line group you can join. If there’s no Freecycle group in your community, you can ‘be the change’ and start one!
You won’t get rich freecycling, but you can unclutter your life and you’ll do a good thing by keeping stuff out of the landfill before its time. And maybe, you’ll discover that someone’s giving away something YOU want…
(If you prefer, there are plenty of charities across Canada that can use your used goods: http://www.charityvillage.com/cv/charityvillage/donate.asp)
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)
June 18, 2009
Most of us feel good about recycling, and for good reason: recycling helps us stretch more life out of resources and it can greatly extend the life of landfills.
But recycling isn’t truly recycling – it’s actually ‘downcycling’, because products sent for recycling are never remanufactured into the same product – they are turned into something of lesser quality, lower down the chain of products. Eventually, virtually everything ends up as trash.
So while recycling is much better than throwing something out, the best thing you can do for the environment by far is the first R: reduce.
You can read more about downcycling here: http://miramichileader.canadaeast.com/rss/article/701445 and an excellent book on the subject is “Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things” http://www.mcdonough.com/cradle_to_cradle.htm .
In the news
Yesterday, the Obama White House released a worrisome 196 page report projecting how climate change will affect Americans in the coming years. As one scientist put it, the report shows that climate change “affects the things people care about”. http://www.nytimes.com/cwire/2009/06/17/17climatewire-us-study-projects-how-unequivocal-warming-wi-29186.html
Energy independence in ten years? That’s the goal of Repower America – and here is their latest 30 second ad. http://www.repoweramerica.org/(Hmmm… if the US can set such a target for a power grid much, much larger than Canada’s, what’s holding us back?)
April 15, 2009
Have you ever heard of ‘precycling’? It’s way better for the environment than recycling.
Precycling is the practice of avoiding waste in the first place by making choices such as buying in bulk, choosing products with minimal packaging, using and reusing your own containers and avoiding throwaway items (such as paper cups, foam plates and plastic cutlery). How much precycling you can do is limited only by your imagination and how far you’re willing to go to protect our environment.
Recycling is better than trashing, but it is still an energy-intensive activity, because recycled materials need to be transported and reprocessed. Precycling is simply about thinking a few steps upstream, and making more eco-friendly choices. You could argue it’s a fancy name for Reducing, the most important of the three Rs!
In the news
What will they do next? The imaginative folks at Google are set to roll out new free software that will help people track their home energy use in real time so that they can find areas for improved efficiency. http://www.reuters.com/article/marketsNews/idUSLH73139520090317
Interested in solar home design? You’ll want to see the new Canadian Solar Home Design Manual, with up-to-date content, graphics, photographs and case studies. More info is here: http://bonmot.ca/booklaunch/index.html
March 12, 2009
Paper is part of everyday life at home and work, but it has a dollar and environmental cost. Here are a few ideas to save on both:
1. Use your photocopier’s double sided option. If it doesn’t have one, learn how to feed paper in so that you can manually copy one side, flip the paper and copy on the other. Big paper saving potential.
2. Use your printer’s double sided option. If you don’t know how it works, check with your IT support person or click Print – Properties and look for the options. Or learn how to feed paper so you can print one side, flip the paper and then print the other.
3. Minimize the font on your e-mail autosignature so that e-mails you send that need to be printed out don’t spill over onto another page.
4. Instead of discarding paper that’s been used on one side (including incoming paper), put it in a bin, file or slot near your printer or copier, so the other side can be used too.
5. Print only what really needs to be printed; e-file when possible.
6. Choose post-consumer (important words) recycled paper to save a tree.