The special case of e-waste

Not long after the age of computers came the age of e-waste: unneeded, broken or obsolete electronics.  It’s noxious stuff, typically containing toxic materials like lead, mercury, arsenic and chromium.  And we generate an awful lot of it: as much as 50 million tonnes every year, according to the UN.  (In particular, the global transition to flat-screen monitors and televisions has produced a big bump in the amount of e-waste generated.)

It’s very important to keep e-waste out of our landfills where it can cause long-term contamination of the surrounding environment – so here are some options:

  1. Reduce, by buying less stuff and by using electronics until they wear out instead of upgrading frequently.
  2. Reuse, by donating your electronics for refurbishment or salvaging of useful parts; in Canada, check out Computers for Schools
  3. Recycle all electronics, to keep their toxins out of the environment.  Click here for programs in New Brunswick; here for programs elsewhere in Canada; and here for the US.

And – you can use Greenpeace’s annual Guide to Greener Electronics to help you choose greener electronics brands.

Insulate those pipes

April 16, 2013

Save money by putting foam insulation over your hot water pipes

Often our hot water taps are a long way from our hot water tanks, so we need to run the water for a while until hot water arrives.  But all that cold water ahead of the hot was once hot; it was left stranded in the pipe when the hot water tap was last turned off.  Parked in uninsulated pipes, hot water becomes cold very quickly, representing a loss of energy and a waste of money.  (Hot water heating represents about 20% of the average home’s energy bill.)

You can conserve energy and save money by installing foam pipe insulation over the pipes that carry hot water from your hot water tank to all the places it will be used.  It’s very cheap – $1 or less a meter.  And it’s very simple to install – here’s a 2 minute instructional video.

So – insulate those hot water pipes and save!

Just how much greenhouse gas does a litre of fuel generate?

We’re often told that our vehicles generate a lot of greenhouse gas emissions, but how are we to know just what that means?

Here’s a quick guideline: every litre of gasoline burned produces 2.4 kilograms of carbon dioxide.  That equals about 100 kilograms for a 40 litre fillup (typical for a compact car).

There’s more.  The above figure doesn’t include emissions from drilling, extracting, transporting and refining that fuel, and then trucking it to the service station where you buy it.  Factor those in, and it’s more like 3 kilograms CO2/litre for gas.  If you consume 40 litres per week, that equals over six tonnes of emissions per year.  Many Canadians consume a lot more than 40 litres a week.

Every litre of diesel fuel burned produces 2.7 KG carbon dioxide; a similar 25% premium can be factored in for refining and other upstream emissions.

The bottom line: vehicle emissions ARE a huge part of our carbon footprint.  Why not reduce yours by walking, biking, driving less, driving an efficient vehicle, carpooling and taking transit.