Green News

How to hang toilet paper

Posted by Environment Smart on 02/04 at 12:52 PM
NewsGlobal WarmingPermalink

It has always bothered me when someone hangs the toilet paper with the paper rolling off from underneath. I simply do not like having to search for the end of the paper. It seems the natural way of the roll to have the paper come over the top. Well, now I have found someone who has taken the time to explain in detail why my way of hanging the toilet paper is, in fact, the correct way. Not only that – it also reduced waste of toilet paper.

According to the article, Essential Life Lesson #1: Over is Right, Under is Wrong, "Toilet paper has a natural curve, a way of being that lends itself to certain orientations on the toilet paper spool."

Complete with diagrams, the article explains how the "over-hung" method allows for both "the most visible free sheetage and the least amount of sheetage free from the roll to do it." It continues with arguments in favour of the "over-hung" method when it comes to the "one-handed tear".

"The natural curve of the over-hung method allows the roll to stand fast after a one-handed tear, but the under-hung method creates a calamitous tendency in the roll." This often leads to wastage of paper as it runs off of the roll and bunches on the floor.

For those of you who would like to further impress other with your vast scientific know-how, there is available a Overhanging Public Service Hanger Brochure (PDF). 

About the author: Environment Smart

No need to warm up your car by idling

Posted by Environment Smart on 01/14 at 01:37 PM
Tips and How-to'sAutomotivePermalink

It is a bloody cold day in my neck of the woods. At 8:30am the temperature is -23.3C. The wind chill makes it even colder than that. 

This is the kind of weather that makes folks want to pre-warm their cars. But, whether you want to warm the engine or the car interior for comfort, it is not a good idea to idle your car. There are a number of reasons why warming your car by idling it is not recommended. Aside from the fact that it is a waste of fuel, pre-warming the car is not actually gentler on the engine, as many people believe.

Most of today's cars use electronic fuel injection. The cars are designed so that the computer tells the fuel injectors to stay open longer when the car engine is cold. This allows more fuel into the engine to help it run cold. When the engine warms up, the injectors let in less fuel. 

Letting your car sit and idle for 15 minutes is actually a slower way to bring it up to operating temperature. According to the Canadian Office of Energy Efficiency (OEE), the best way to warm up your engine is to drive it. Even if the outside temperature is -20°C, they recommend that you idle the engine for only 15-30 seconds before you pull out onto the road. 

Idling your car in cold weather can actually invite several problems. Richard Backus, editor in chief of Gas Engine magazine explains the following:

"Remember that modern cars are equipped with a multitude of devices to help them run clean, including a catalytic converter (sometimes three of them), a device in the exhaust system that works to burn off unburned hydrocarbons in the exhaust stream. A cold engine emits a far higher percentage of unburned hydrocarbons than a warm engine. Unfortunately, the average catalytic converter can’t process 100 percent of unburned hydrocarbons even in the best of times. Importantly, the catalytic converter needs high exhaust temperatures to work properly. Throw in a cold engine emitting a high percentage of unburned hydrocarbons, repeat several hundred times, and you can end up with what’s called a “plugged” converter. In a nutshell, the converter becomes overwhelmed and literally ceases to function. This won’t happen all at once but over time, the end effect is the same: poor mileage and significantly dirtier exhaust."

The Canadian OEE also adds that what is often forgotten is that "idling warms only the engine – not the wheel bearings, steering, suspension, transmission and tires. These parts also need to be warmed up, and the only way to do that is to drive the vehicle. Until the engine temperature begins to rise, it's a good idea to avoid high speeds and rapid acceleration."

Remember that it is also important to make sure that your car windows are free from snow and frost before you drive away!

I leave you with this from Natural Resources Canada idle-free zone campaign:

"As an individual, you can be instrumental in reducing environmental impacts. If every driver of a light duty vehicle avoided idling by three minutes a day, collectively over the year, we would save 630 million litres of fuel, over 1.4 million tonnes of GHGemissions, and $630 million annually in fuel costs (assuming fuel costs are $1.00/L)."



About the author: Environment Smart

Radical Recycling

Posted by Environment Smart on 01/08 at 02:18 PM

I like to think of myself as a creative person. I make my own art and crafts. I teach fine arts and craft arts. As a result, I am a collector of stuff to use for creative projects. Much of this stuff would otherwise have headed for the recycling bin. My projects are, however, small in comparison to what I came across recently. Here are 10 of the World’s Most Radical Recycling Projects

  • A Buddhist temple made of beer bottles
  • A bridge made of recycled paper tubes
  • An outdoor recycled art gallery
  • Shipping containers as sleek, modern homes
  • A jumbo jet hostel
  • Giant ‘Trash People’
  • Designer dresses made of maps and coffee filters
  • A scrap metal park
  • Dirty diapers transformed into diesel
  • An industrial waste rock garden



About the author: Environment Smart

Green Choices: Myths and Tips

Posted by Environment Smart on 01/08 at 01:35 PM
Tips and How-to'sIn the housePermalink

Every year we take another step forward towards making our home as energy efficient as we can. Just before the holidays, we tuned up our home heating system. I think that we have finally done all that we can in that department. We still have a number of other improvements to make, but some of these need to factor in the financial cost involved. There are, however, several things that we can do that do not cost a penny. In fact, they save more than a few pennies.

We are always looking for tips on how to increase our energy efficiency, and there are loads of web sites out there to help us. The Consumer Reports Greener Choices,, offers information and green ratings on a variety of consumer products. The site lists a number of energy-saving myths as well. One of these myths is that no matter how frugal you are with hand washing your dishes, it is better to use an efficient dish washer. We have always washed our dishes by hand, and I question if today's water-saving dish washers use less than the 2 x 3/4 sink full of water that we use a day. This is a myth that we may try to bust. But myth or not, the Consumer Reports Greener Choices site offers many other excellent tips on how to save energy.

About the author: Environment Smart

Ultra-violet health concerns over CFLs (Compact Fluorescent Lights).

Posted by TheGreen on 01/07 at 02:35 PM
NewsGeneralEnergy SavingPermalink

We caught wind that there are new potential health issues with CFL's. This time, it is the potential Ultra Violet light that is emitted from CFLs. Although, all CFL's emit this wave length of light, some emit it at higher amounts than others.

GE's website has this to say:

Do light bulbs (such as compact fluorescent bulbs) give off hazardous amounts of ultraviolet (UV) light?

Regular fluorescent light bulbs used in your home and office do not produce a hazardous amount of ultraviolet light (UV). Most light sources, including fluorescent bulbs, emit a small amount of UV, but the UV produced by fluorescent light bulbs is far less than the amount produced by natural daylight. (Ultraviolet light rays are the light wavelengths that can cause sunburn and skin damage.)

Your safety is important to us; that's why, for all of our light bulbs designed for general public use, we strive to minimize the amount of UV light emitted.

If you're looking for a low-UV bulb for an especially sensitive area (like a photography dark room), try our Saf-T-Gard® bulbs. They block most ultraviolet light emissions, and they're also shatter-resistant.

The wikipedia has some good technical information:

Some manufacturers make CFL bulbs with an external nano-particle coating of titanium dioxide.[33] The manufacturer claims that the titanium dioxide when exposed to UV light produced by the CFL can neutralize odors and kill bacteria, viruses, and mold spores.

A PDF from Liverpool Univeristy has a PDF online that gives a fair amount of technical information on UV radiation from CFL bulbs. Here is an except:

New research by the Health Protection Agency (HPA) has shown that some energy saving Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulbs can emit ultraviolet radiation which can lead to sunburn in some extreme circumstances. Precautionary advice is that open (single envelope) CFLs (Fig. 1) should not be used where people are in close proximity (i.e. closer than 30 cm or 1 ft) to the bare light bulb for over 1 hour a day. For such situations open CFLs should be replaced by the encapsulated (double envelope) type (Fig. 2). Alternatively, the lamp should be moved so that it is at least 30 cm or 1 ft away.

To give a little perspective to this train of thought, the Australia's Governmental agency for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety (ARPANSA) has weighed in with some good information from their online fact sheet "Ultraviolet Radiation Emissions from Compact Fluorescent Lights":

At the measurement distance of 10 cms, which was considered to be the closest distance that people would be to the lamps, even in desk top applications, 4 of the CFLs had allowed exposure times shorter than 8 hours, while a further 2 CFLs had times of approximately 10 hours. For comparison purposes, the allowed exposure limits will be exceeded in typical midday summer sunshine in approximately 6 mins in Brisbane and 7 mins in Melbourne.

My take is simple: Live life in moderation and all will be fine. Our house is mostly CFL bulbed out now--meaning that we have mostly CFL bulbs throughout the house. Our savings, being in Quebec are not what one in say Ontario might see, but we like the light, and feel good about the small contribution we are making. 

One caveat discovered this year, don't use CFL bulbs in out door unheated locations. They don't last very long and are a pain to use in the winter when it takes 15 minutes for them to warm up. Apart from that, until the LED gets is next round of improvements with Nano technology coatings, we will sit tight.

About the author: TheGreen

Trash filled water vortex is collecting our plastics

Posted by TheGreen on 01/07 at 02:17 PM

There are five major ocean gyres--areas of ocean where the currents swirl around in a large circle, some the size of Texas. The two most prominent ones are in the North Pacific. These gyres have been dubbed “the Asian Trash Trail” the “Trash Vortex” or the “Eastern Garbage Patch”. The most popular visitor to these trash vortex's in the ocean are plastics. A large quantity in the form of plastic bottles, which can break down into smaller parts and float around for ages. According to this Greenpeace article, "The plastics can act as a sort of 'chemical sponge'. They can concentrate many of the most damaging of the pollutants found in the worlds oceans: the persistent organic pollutants (POPs).  So any animal eating these pieces of plastic debris will also be taking in highly toxic pollutants."

The very thing that makes plastic items useful to consumers, their durability and stability, also makes them a problem in marine environments. Around 100 million tonnes of plastic are produced each year of which about 10 percent ends up in the sea. About 20 percent of this is from ships and platforms, the rest from land.

To help you visualize the vortex, Greenpeace has an animated picture showing how the current congregate all the plastics into a small area in the pacific ocean.


Click here for the full animated version of this map.

About the author: TheGreen

Check your return on investment

Posted by Environment Smart on 01/07 at 12:47 PM
NewsEnergy SavingPermalink

There are plenty of good reasons to go green. Your concern for the environment should be at the top of the list, but I would rank financial savings right up there as well. If you take a look at the big picture and do a bit of number crunching, you will see that going green does not necessitate having a lot of green. has a few tools that will help you to calculate how you can save the environment while saving some of your hard earned cash in the process.

“ is America’s leading free ‘Green’ home remodeling resource for anyone that wants to save money and the environment as well as create a healthier home and overall lifestyle,” says CEO Charlie Szoradi.

The GREENandSAVE website offers an RIO (return on investment) ranking system that helps you to calculate your long term savings for over 50 green home remodeling projects. When using this RIO calculator, you should keep in mind that the calculated savings are based on the difference between non-green and green options. For example, the RIO calculator shows that installing a programmable thermostat can innitially cost you $115 over a regular thermostat. The annual savings, however, could be as much as $180. Making this a savings of $1800 over a period of 10 years.

The GREENandSAVE website also offers a carbon counter and a 2009 family green guide with great tips for parents and children. Check how your home measures up and how you and your family can work as a team to make improvements for the sake of your health and the environment.


About the author: Environment Smart

Our Green Christmas

Posted by Environment Smart on 12/12 at 08:52 PM
Tips and How-to'sIn the housePermalink

Here are some of the things that we are doing to have a greener Christmas this year:

·       We use our reusable shopping bags for any Christmas shopping. I take whichever bag is handiest – usually entering into a store carrying a reusable shopping bag with another store’s advertising on it. I have only received positive feedback from store clerks when I decline their store bag. In the past, I would get a disgruntled look as I put items from one store into the bag of another store.

·       We plan our shopping route to minimize the driving around. This is something that I have always done in order to save time and my own energy. In this case, being efficient with my personal energy is good for the environment as well.

·       We reuse gift bags. This is again something that we have always done. The stigma of seeming “cheap”, however, no longer applies.

·       We have a real Christmas tree. We traditionally have a real Christmas tree each year. A number of years back, however, we looked into whether or not it was more environmentally friendly to get a reusable synthetic tree. We learned that, as long as we get our tree from a tree farm, we are actually helping the environment and our local economy by having a real Christmas tree.

·       We use LED and now solar-powered holiday lights. As soon as the LED holiday lights became available, we switched over to them. They are just as bright and colourful, will last longer and do not get as hot for in the tree. This year we also bought some new solar-powered lights. Unfortunately, they have not worked terribly well for us thus far. But … it has been quite overcast and snowy since we put them up, and they are also not hanging in the most effective area. Our problem is that we need to put the solar panels in a somewhat protected spot so that they will not get covered with snow. This means that they will not charge up as well. No worries though. If they do not work well for winter, then we can use them for little summer light around the deck.

·       We have been doing more thrift store and fare-trade purchases this year.  We have been finding unique and beautiful gifts at fare-trade stores like Dix Milles Villages (Ten Thousand Villages) for years, but lately we make a point of looking for fare-trade gifts first. The thrift store is something newer for us. I have found that one of our local charity stores has been the perfect place to find nice Christmas dishes for my baked goods gifts.

·       We save our Christmas wrapping paper for crafts. As an artsy-craftsy person, I have always done this. Now it is considered environmentally friendly.

·       We are cutting down on the wrapping paper we use. There are some gifts that we do not wrap and simply use a bow or ribbon to make them look festive. We also reuse gift bags. Many of the gifts that we give to friends and family are wrapped in something other than wrapping paper (ie. fabric, a basket, tin, etc.). For many of the gifts under the tree, however, we continue to use colourful wrapping. Using wrapping paper goes against the grain of what many green-minded people are advocating, but my children and the child in me still likes to see lots of colourful packages under the Christmas tree. But … we do make a point of reusing the wrapping in one capacity or another.

·       We make our own gift tags from old Christmas cards and wrapping. This is a lot of fun to do, and not much work at all. When the holidays are over and we take down the Christmas cards, we go through them and cut up the ones that can be used for nice tags the following year.

·       We do several Christmas crafts using recycled materials.

- This year we are starting a Christmas scrapbook. Each of us in the family will have our own section. The idea is that we can save our favourite cards and gift tags. We will add a list of the gifts we received and whom they came from. We can glue in our Christmas dinner menu. And, finally we can use a page to write down our best memories of the holidays and add a few photos. We can do this every year and develop a beautiful family memento.

- We have made Christmas wreaths using old Christmas wrapping. See previous posting

- We have made disco ball ornaments using old CD’s. See previous posting.

- We are currently making pompom elves and scrap paper Christmas trees. Stay tuned for a posting on how to make your own.

About the author: Environment Smart