Ecosia and The Rainforest Site

Trees are among our best allies against climate change: they absorb carbon dioxide and lock it up as wood fibre.  In the process, they produce the oxygen we inhale and purify the air we breathe.

Not everyone has the time or place to plant a tree – but you can support trees and forests every time you browse the internet:

  • Use org as your default internet search engine, because every search helps fund the planting of trees – over 7.5 million so far!
  • Set The Rainforest Site as your web browser default home page. With a simple click, you can preserve one square meter of rainforest each day – a small amount, but last year, enough people clicked to preserve 3600 hectares of rainforest!

And, if you do happen to have the time and space, May is the perfect time to plant or transplant a tree!

Bottled water? Just say no.

Oops… during a presentation to a high school audience last week, I let it slip that one of my greatest environmental frustrations is bottled water.

Why bottled water?  Because:

  • Most bottled water is not natural spring water, but merely filtered tap water.
  • Most bottled water is not local; it’s trucked long distances and has a huge transportation footprint.
  • The Maritimes have plenty of clean, clear water; surely it’s the last thing we should be sending our money out-of-province for!
  • Most empty water bottles are not recycled; instead, they end up in landfills, roadsides or waterways. A recent study warned that the world’s oceans may contain more plastic than fish by 2050.  Yuck!
  • The water bottles that are recycled don’t come back as bottles; they’re ‘downcycled’ into products like carpet, which eventually end up in a landfill anyway.

You can make a difference, with one simple choice: seek out a tap or fountain, and, whenever possible, just say no to bottled water. On the tree of environmental solutions, it’s hard to find lower hanging fruit.

The unsavory side of polyester

Polyester, once the object of fashion ridicule, is probably the most common synthetic material in clothing today.  It’s strong, wrinkle resistant and moisture resistant.

But polyester is a type of plastic, and in recent years a very significant problem has come to light: it sheds tiny fibres, especially during washing.  These microfibers are often too small to be filtered out by sewage treatment plants and thus end up in our waterways and oceans.  A 2016 study estimated that synthetic fleece jackets released 1.7 grams of microfibers every wash.  And now they’re showing up in fish and seafood too.  (Watch The Story of Microfibers here.)

What to do?

  • Where possible, avoid polyester and choose clothing made of natural fibers like cotton or wool
  • If it has to be polyester, choose high quality as it sheds less
  • Wash polyester clothing as little as possible and on as gentle a wash cycle as possible
  • If you’re up for it, contact manufacturers to express your concern and ask them to research and develop better products. Polyester shedding is a global issue, and all textile manufacturers will need to be part of the solution.

Our waterways and oceans are worth it.

A truly green thumb!

March 28, 2017

Use compostable or biodegradable pots for your spring plantings

If you’re like me, the longer days and warmer sun have you digging out seeds and potting soil.  When starting plants indoors, why not consider using compostable or biodegradable pots instead of plastic ones?  Here are a few options:

  • Peat pots: very common commercially
  • Cardboard: egg cartons work really well; so do empty paper towel or toilet paper rolls trimmed to size (picture here).
  • Newspaper: ever tried origami? With a bit of folding, you can easily make your own pots; here’s a nice video showing how.  (It’s a good idea to avoid coated or heavily coloured paper.)

Another advantage over plastic: no need to remove them or risk damaging roots when transplanting, because they’re completely biodegradable!

More and more commercial nurseries are moving away from plastic pots; so why not you and me too?

If you’re going to have green beer, why not make it local green beer?

If your community is like mine, you’re seeing an abundance of new microbreweries producing a full spectrum of traditional and not-so-traditional types of beverages. It’s an exciting time for anyone who enjoys sampling new takes on old favourites.

Here are two more reasons to enjoy local beverages: they employ people in your own community; and they have a small transportation footprint because the distance between points of production and consumption is short.

St. Patrick’s Day – one of the best excuses for celebrating life, whether or not you’re Irish – is this Friday.  So, if you’re planning to raise your glass with friends, why not make sure what’s inside it is not only refreshing, but local too?

Choose the most eco-friendly bathroom tissue

Not all bathroom tissue is created equal – in fact, there are huge differences between the most and least eco-friendly types.  Considering how much of it we use, it makes good sense to choose the most eco-friendly.  Here are four tips:

  1. Look for 100% recycled paper with as high a content of post-consumer waste as possible. Post-consumer waste is paper collected from recycling programs (newspapers, flyers, envelopes, etc.), so a high level really means that you are saving a tree.  Paper made from recycled pre-consumer waste (print overruchlorine-freens, trimmings, etc.) isn’t as good, but it’s still better than paper made from virgin fibre.
  2. Look for paper certified as ‘processed chlorine free’. If you can’t find the logo, look for a statement about low or no chlorine use.
  3. Choose large or double rolls over small ones: they mean fewer cardboard tubes and less plastic packaging.
  4. Look for paper wrapped in recyclable #4 plastic, and recycle it with your other soft plastic (IE grocery bags, bread bags, milk bags).

And, don’t forget that the first of the three Rs, Reduce, is by far the most important one!

(Below is a label I spotted on a package recently – not perfect, but pretty good!)

label

Blankets for your windows

February 14, 2017

Blinds and drapes really make a difference!

Sitting in my home office on a cold evening last week, I happened to look over at my window and the blind that was pulled down over it.  Out of curiousity, I reached over to check the temperature of the air behind the blind – and noticed right away how cold it was, even though my office was toasty warm.

It was proof of the difference curtains and even simple roll-up blinds can make in reducing the amount of heat that is lost through a window.

So – if you have drapes or blinds, be sure to pull them closed at night; they’re blankets for your windows, and they’ll help you save on your heating bill!

(You may want to keep blinds on the shady side of your home closed during the day too, especially if everyone’s away anyway.  On the southern, southeastern and southwestern sides of your home?  It’s probably best to leave blinds open on sunny days as you’ll likely gain a bit of heat from the sun.)

Together we are stronger

January 31, 2017

Virtually all of what I have learned about climate change over the past decade has led me to one key conclusion: if we humans are to meet the enormous challenge of climate change, we will need to overcome our differences and work together like never before.  That, plus this week’s news, makes this paragraph from The Better World Handbook, particularly timely:

“Misinformation, half-truths and stereotypes make us susceptible to religious intolerance.  Given the ongoing conflicts in the world, it seems especially essential that Christians and Muslims make a strong effort to learn about and from one another.  Both faiths share an emphasis on peace and tolerance that is not reflected in the wars and violence perpetrated by a few.  When we take the time to learn about other faiths in depth, we often find we have much in common, a basis for building understanding and cooperation towards our common goals.”

So, in the interests of working together for a better future, maybe learning about different faiths would be time well spent; here’s a pretty good place to begin.

Protect your assets from climate change threats

If you think climate change isn’t an issue for investors, think again.  Climate change will bring costly extreme weather events; new rules and regulations; disruptive technology; changed buying patterns and more.

A recent report by the world’s largest institutional fund management company, BlackRock Investment Institute, states, “We believe climate factors have been underappreciated and underpriced.”  The report concludes, “We see climate-proofing portfolios as a key consideration for all asset owners.”

Are your investments and pensions protected?  Here are a few strategies to help ensure they are.

If you’re in the market for a new kitchen stove, here are three simple guidelines to help you choose efficiency:

  • Stoves with self-cleaning ovens are better insulated so they use less energy. They may cost a little more but will save you money in the long run.
  • Convection ovens cook more quickly (because a fan moves heat around inside) so they use less energy.
  • Opening the oven door to check on progress allows 20% of the heat to escape, so choose a model with an oven window.

Here are three simple tips for operating any oven more efficiently:

  • Preheating an oven uses extra energy and is usually not necessary for good results – so don’t preheat unless a recipe specifically calls for it (like bread and pastries)
  • Turn off the elements a few minutes before cooking time is elapsed; cooking will continue thanks to the heat in the oven, the pot and the food itself.
  • Make sure oven door seals are tight; they should hold a slip of paper snugly. Clean or replace as necessary.

Read more tips here (California) or here (Canada; scroll or click to page 21). Happy – and efficient – cooking in 2017!