Popcorn, beverages – and something to talk about

Have you seen Leonardo DiCaprio’s new National Geographic documentary, “Before the Flood”?  Released last month, the 95 minute movie offers a great overview of the causes of climate change (and other environmental challenges we face); and then bridges over to the solutions we need.  It features interviews with Barack Obama, Pope Francis, Elon Musk and more.

From the Obama interview, this prophetic exchange:

Dicaprio: “Somebody that comes into office that does not believe in the science of climate change – do they have the capacity and the power to dismantle everything that you’ve already worked for?”

Obama: “Even if somebody came in campaigning on denying climate science, reality has a way of… hitting you in the nose if you’re not paying attention.  And I think that the public is starting to realize the science – in part because it’s indisputable.”

Before the Flood is informative and thought-provoking – a perfect reason for a party-with-purpose.  Watch the entire documentary on YouTube here, and then get talking!

Post your own sign to help remind people not to idle

On the tree of emission reduction possibilities, perhaps there is no lower hanging fruit than reducing unnecessary idling.

Natural Resources Canada estimates that if every Canadian driver reduced their idling by just three minutes a day, we would reduce emissions by 1.4 million tonnes a year – the equivalent of taking 320,000 cars off the road.  We would save 630 million litres of gas a year – over half a billion dollars worth.  Just by reducing idling, a simple habit change!

Here’s what you can do:

  • Idle less: limit idling to 30 seconds for the first start of the day and 10 seconds for subsequent starts, with a little commonsense leeway in cold weather
  • Skip drive-thrus: sadly, coffee shops and fast food joints have become idling ‘centres of inexcellence’
  • Post a sign: you can find simple, non-confrontational sign designs on the internet to post at your workplace, school or business! We did at our home, and it works – visitors and customers for our free-range eggs {shameless plug} no longer idle!  Just email me if you’d like a copy of our sign..

noidling

 

Why not use alternatives to glow sticks?

In recent decades, glow sticks have become popular, especially at parties, dances, concerts – and Halloween, of course! It’s no wonder: they’re simple sources of short-term light, available in a range of fun colors.

But the post-glow reality is that they’re really not very eco-friendly:

  • They’re not recyclable: besides the color-producing chemicals, glow sticks contain chemicals to keep the plastic flexible, and those same chemicals make the plastic unsuitable for recycling.
  • We use an awful lot of them: 100 million a year, according to one website on the subject
  • Some end up in the ocean: where they may be eaten by marine life or float for a long, long time.

What to do?

  • Reduce, the first R: strive to go without when possible
  • Use alternatives: for safety, consider reflective strips; for visibility, use an LED flashlight or headlamp. (For bonus points: power them with rechargeable batteries!)

Have fun and be safe for Halloween or your next social event – but strive to do it without glow sticks!

Five tips for greener hair!

October 11, 2016

Simple ideas for more eco-friendly hair care

Hair care is part of most people’s daily routine, but it has more environmental implications than one might realize (for example, water consumption, energy consumption, undesirable chemicals and waste generation).  Here are five ways you can reduce the environmental impacts of your coiffure:

  • Resist your shampoo maker’s tease to ‘rinse and repeat’, and shampoo just once (because if you need to shampoo twice, you’ve got to wonder about the quality of the product in the first place!). Plus use as little shampoo as you can get away with.
  • Try washing your hair every second time you shower instead of every time
  • Use a leave-in conditioner to cut down on shower time
  • Let hair dry naturally if you can, or else use the coolest setting on your hair dryer
  • Bonus: make your own shampoo! Learn how here.

Happy greener hair care!

Vote wisely with your wallet

September 27, 2016

It’s easy to be a Better World Shopper

Most of us spend thousands of dollars a year on goods and services – and every dollar we spend is an implicit endorsement of the business we’re patronizing.  But even as some businesses are working hard to improve the world, others are doing more harm than good.  How is a conscientious shopper to know the difference?

The Better World Shopper can help.  It’s a well-researched guide that ranks companies from A to F based on their performance in five key areas: environment, human rights, animal protection, community involvement and social justice.  The guide has dozens of categories, from clothing brands to coffee to energy drinks to soap.  It even has a list of the Top 10 Categories where you can make the most difference.

Check out the Better World Shopping Guide – and vote wisely the next time you shop!

More ideas about less stuff

September 13, 2016

Simple strategies for buying less stuff

From the Better World Handbook: “Everything you own owns you.  Everything you buy, you must maintain, store, repair, clean and perhaps insure.  Our stuff quickly becomes a psychological burden.”

Phew!  And a financial burden too, requiring more money – which means more work and less time for family, friends and fun.

Here are a few more tips to help you buy less stuff:

  1. Fix broken things instead of discarding them: a challenge, I know, in a world where more and more things are designed to be thrown away and replaced. But at the very least, it will be a learning experience!
  2. Figure out ways to reuse stuff, even things designed to be used once. For example, plastic containers and milk bags are great for freezing food.
  3. Borrow things you’ll only need rarely, like tools, movies or trucks. Get to know your neighbours and your library.
  4. Ask yourself: do I really need it? The honest answer is often no.
  5. Take a shopping list, and stick to it; don’t fall prey to clever advertising, fancy displays or colourful packaging.
  6. Avoid impulse purchases because you’ll often regret them later. If you feel the urge, promise yourself you’ll buy it next week – if you still feel the urge.

Less stuff is good for our well-being, our wallets and the planet!

Have you hit Peak Stuff?

September 6, 2016

Simple questions to ask before you buy anything

Earlier this year, an executive of IKEA, the world’s largest furniture retailer, made headlines when he said, “If we look on a global basis, in the west we have probably hit Peak Stuff.”  I fear that may be true for me: the basement storage room is full and the garage is cluttered.

If you’ve hit Peak Stuff, here are 10 quick questions* you can ask yourself the next time you’re tempted to buy something:

  1. Can I find it used?
  2. Will it last a long time?
  3. Is it reusable or at least recyclable?
  4. What are the item and its packaging made from?
  5. How do I dispose of it?
  6. Is it toxic?
  7. What conditions do the workers who made it work under?
  8. How much will it cost to operate and maintain it?
  9. Will my buying it contribute to a better world?
  10. Will it really improve my life?

Consciously evaluating purchases can help us avoid Peak Stuff in our lives.  It’s good for our well-being, our wallets and the planet!

*From the Better World Handbook.

Have you hit Peak Stuff?

August 31, 2016

Simple questions to ask before you buy anything

Earlier this year, an executive of IKEA, the world’s largest furniture retailer, made headlines when he said, “If we look on a global basis, in the west we have probably hit Peak Stuff.”  (I’m wondering if that could be true for me: the basement storage room is full and the garage is cluttered…)

If you’ve hit Peak Stuff, here are 10 quick questions* you can ask yourself the next time you’re tempted to buy something:

  1. Can I find it used?
  2. Will it last a long time?
  3. Is it reusable or at least recyclable?
  4. What are the item and its packaging made from?
  5. How do I dispose of it?
  6. Is it toxic?
  7. What conditions do the workers who made it work under?
  8. How much will it cost to operate and maintain it?
  9. Will my buying it contribute to a better world?
  10. Will it really improve my life?

Consciously evaluating purchases can help us avoid Peak Stuff in our lives.  It’s good for our well-being, our wallets and the planet!

*From the Better World Handbook.

Buy your milk in bags

Milk is a staple of virtually every household, but what type of milk packaging is the most eco-friendly? All three types of milk packaging – jugs, cartons and bags – are recyclable. But unfortunately not all are accepted by all recycling programs.

As well, recycling isn’t a perfect solution: collecting and transporting recyclables costs time, money and fuel – especially when the end destination of those recyclables is half a world away.  Where I live, jugs and cartons are recycled, but in China.  Yep – sorted, baled, stuffed into a container and shipped thousands of kilometres.

So what’s a consumer’s greenest option for milk packaging?

  1. Check with your local solid waste authority to see what’s accepted for recycling, and then choose accordingly. In spite of its shortcomings, recycling is still better than trashing.
  2. Choose the biggest size available; one big jug or carton uses less material than two or more small ones.
  3. If all three types of packaging are recycled where you live, choose plastic bags:
  • they are lighter (less material and less weight to transport)
  • both the outer and inner bags are the same soft plastic as grocery bags so they can be mixed in with them (but inner bags must be well rinsed of residual milk)
  • they may be recycled locally (as they are here in NB) as opposed to being shipped to China; and
  • soft plastics (#4 LDPE) are one of those rare materials that can be perfectly recycled: that is, reprocessed back into the very same types of products over and over again.

Close your fridge door as quickly as possible

Particularly in this season of warmth, it’s worth being reminded of a common sense tip: you can save money and energy by opening your refrigerator as infrequently as possible, opening the door only as widely as necessary and closing it as quickly as possible.

To help remember, imagine your fridge as being full of water.  It comes gushing out each time you open the door.  The more frequently, the wider and the longer you open the door, the more water that ends up on your floor.

Cold air in your fridge is like that water: it’s heavier than warm air, so it comes tumbling out each time the fridge door opens.  And the more cold air that escapes, the more your fridge needs to work to replace it.  That costs energy and money.

So the next time you open your fridge, imagine that it’s full of water and act accordingly.  Your fridge will thank you by using less energy!