Vote green with your green

October 30, 2012

Spend your dollars at planet-friendly businesses

One of the best ways to promote sustainability is to spend your dollars at businesses that are making sustainability a priority.  But how to know who’s really green and who’s not?

Newsweek Magazine has compiled its annual Green Rankings of the 500 largest publicly traded companies on the planet.  You’ll recognize some names near the top – like IBM (#4), Marks & Spencer (#10) and Bell Canada (#13) – and some near the bottom, like Exxon (#440), Halliburton (#421) and Suncor (#320).  The list is easily searchable by country or by industry sector.  Check it out here; read about Newsweek’s methodology here; and then strive to make sustainability part of your shopping decisions!

A second life for potato bags, sugar bags and more!

I love potatoes, but unfortunately the paper bags they come in are not recyclable: they’re made of a special kind of paper because regular paper is just not strong enough.  The same goes for the packaging of other products like sugar: paper, but not recyclable.  So how to keep them out of the trash stream?

If you have a wood stove, here’s an option to consider: rip the mesh window out of your potato bag (because it’s not made of paper and definitely shouldn’t be burned) and use the bag as a fire starter.  The same can be done for sugar bags.  And if you’re ‘hardcore’ about reducing the amount of trash you generate, you can also separate out other types of paper that are not recyclable but are good for burning (for example, the waxy paper under pizzas or around sub sandwiches; most cash register tapes), stuff them into your potato bag and voila: an easy way to get your wood stove started.  If you don’t have a wood stove, maybe you know someone who does.

Here are a few key points to remember:

  • Please use paper only for starting fires, not as a replacement for well-dried firewood.
  • Keep stove emissions low by proper burning practices; Natural Resources Canada’s Guide to Residential Wood Heating is a good resource
  • If you’re in the market for a stove, choose a model that is EPA-certified for cleaner burning
  • If you’re unsure about the recyclability of any type of paper, you can do a quick check on the internet or with local authorities.  (Or send me a note and I’ll do my best to help.)

It’s true that burning non-recyclable paper is not a perfect solution, but by most accounts it’s better than burying it in a landfill.  And – it’s a bit of free heat as the heating season nears.

Pause, just for a moment

October 2, 2012

In Thanksgiving

One of the highlights of my year has been meeting Jim Merkel and reading his book, “Radical Simplicity: Small footprints on a finite Earth”.  It’s a gentle, thought-provoking guide for living lightly on our fragile, limited planet.

Jim’s take on Radical Simplicity goes far beyond just living with less stuff.  It’s also about learning to clear our over-stimulated minds of much of the clutter and anxiety of today’s frantic lifestyles, and instead focussing our mental energy on our core values.  It’s about reconnecting with what truly sustains us: this planet and its beautiful, complex web of life.  Jim describes once being on a team retreat where everyone, regardless of their personal spirituality, paused for a moment of gratitude, silent or otherwise, before each meal.

On this Thanksgiving weekend in Canada, perhaps that’s one of the best things we can do: pause before we eat for just a moment to ponder the people, plants, animals and planet that make our existence and nourishment possible.  We live in a privileged part of the world, and it’s good to be conscious of that.  Happy Thanksgiving Day!