Green News

Eco-friendly snow removal

Posted by Environment Smart on 12/10 at 01:14 PM
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We have just received our first real accumulation of snow (15cm to 20cm, with more coming). “It’s starting to feel a lot like Christmas ...”

We live in the West Island. A large number of homes in this suburban area of Montreal use a snow-removal service. Someone comes to clear the driveway with a snow plow. This is very convenient, as we can get a lot of snow around here. We initially employed this service because our driveway is so long. It is about 8 car-lengths long and and and a half car-widths wide (three wide at the top). We did not want to chance being caught trying to dig ourselves out of a snow storm in the early morning and end up late for work. After a few years of having our driveway plowed, we started rethinking our choice. First of all, on the days when the snow was really too deep to drive through, there was no hurry to get to work anyway due to cancellations. Secondly, we often ended up doing a fair bit of shoveling, because the plow was sometimes late and we still had to shovel around the car in the driveway. Thirdly, we were becoming more environmentally conscious and were feeling that a snow-removal service might be one area where we could reduce our carbon footprint.

So, last year we decided to do without our snow-removal service. What a winter to pick! We had close to a record snow fall. The first snow storm almost did us in, but we recovered in time for the second snow storm about a week later. All of our neighbours and passers by gave us sympathetic looks and comments. We, however, felt anything but pitiable. In fact, we felt very proud that we could maintain such a beautifully cleared driveway (as well as several paths). Yes, we would groan and grumble a bit whenever we faced yet another driveway full of wet and heavy snow, but a feeling of accomplishment always followed after our hard work.

This year, we are sticking to our commitment to shoveling our long driveway by hand. It seems like a no-brainer method of eco-friendly snow-removal. When we were out shoveling yesterday evening, we thought back to last year. If this winter turns out to be another doozy for snow fall, then we will be the fitter for it. No complaints. What is good for the environment, is good for us!

Tips for the inexperienced shoveler:

  • Always bend at the knees when shoveling. This will save you weeks of back pain.
  • Do not overload your shovel.
  • Pace yourself. If your are not in good physical fitness, then take your time. Shoveling snow is not a race.
  • We use a large scoop for clearing most of our long driveway. This helps take pressure off of your back, as you are pushing, rather than lifting the snow. We bought our snow scoop at Canadian Tire a few years ago.
  • Do not leave all of the snow shoveling to when the snowing has stopped. If you can, shovel a few times. The quality of the snow can change, and you do not want to end up shoveling a large amount of wet and heavy snow.
  • Wear layers so that you do not over-heat.
  • Do not forget to drink water at regular intervals. Shoveling snow is like any other exercise – you need to keep hydrated.

About the author: Environment Smart

Commit to sustainability: shop SMART

Posted by Environment Smart on 10/30 at 12:45 PM
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Supporting sustainable standards when we shop is a SMART way to go. There is an increasing number of companies that are providing a green alternative by manufacturing their products according to sustainable standards. These standards start with the raw materials used and end with the disposal or re-use of the product. Make sure to look for verification of the product's sustainable standard when you are shopping. A manufacturer may make a claim that their product is "eco-friendly" or "green", but are these claims backed by an independent or nonprofit organization that has investigated the claim. There are a number of labels from these organizations that you should look for. By choosing products that have been certified to meet sustainable standards, you can make a difference in reducing climate change, reduce air and water pollution , save natural resources and rain forests. Shop SMART.

 

 


About the author: Environment Smart

Take David Suzuki’s Nature Challenge

Posted by Environment Smart on 10/21 at 12:14 PM
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Love him or hate him, David Suzuki is without a doubt one of Canada's most outspoken environmentalists and activists. He rallies people across the country to get involved and make a difference in the direction our environment is taking.

If you haven't already done so, it is worth taking up the David Suzuki Nature Challenge. Find out how well you fare at reducing your negative impact on the environment, and what you can do to improve.

David Suzuki says that, "you can have a big impact on moving us all toward a greener future in the individual choices you make each day."

According to the science, it turns out you can make the biggest difference in:

The way you get around

The food you eat

The energy you use, and

The public action you take

About the author: Environment Smart

Check your plastic water bottle

Posted by Environment Smart on 10/15 at 11:41 AM
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Updated April 2nd 2012

Many of us are becoming aware that harmful chemicals, such as BPA (Bisphenol A), can leech out of the plastic water bottles we have been using, but not all plastic is equal. If you have a good plastic water bottle that you simply cannot part with, then just check the recycling number on the bottle to make sure that the plastic is a safe type.

The three plastics to avoid are:

  • #3 Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) commonly contains di-2-ehtylhexyl phthalate (DEHP), an endocrine disruptor and probable human carcinogen, as a softener. #3 plastic is frequently used in cling wraps for meat. The manufacture and incineration of PVC release dioxin,  a potent carcinogen and hormone disruptor. Vinyl chloride, the primary building block of PVC, is a known human carcinogen that also poses a threat to workers during manufacture.
  • #6 Polystyrene (PS) may leach styrene, a possible endocrine disruptor and human carcinogen, into water and food. Extruded polystyrene, commonly known as Styrofoam, is used in take-out containers and cups. Non-extruded PS is used in clear disposable takeout containers, disposable plastic cutlery and cups. Both forms of PS can leach styrene into food; styrene is considered a possible human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. It may also disrupt hormones or affect reproduction.
  • #7 Polycarbonate contains the hormone disruptor bisphenol-A (BPA), which can leach out as bottles age, are heated or exposed to acidic solutions. BPA has also been linked to a wide variety of problems such as cancer and obesity. #7 plastic is found in baby bottles, 5-gallon water bottles, water-cooler bottles and the epoxy linings of tin food cans. 

The safer plastics are:

#2HDPE, #4LDPE and #5PP: These three types of plastic seem to be the healthiest, as they transmit no known chemicals into your food and they are generally recyclable.

  • #1 polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE), the most common and easily recycled plastic for bottled water and soft drinks, has also been considered the most safe. However, one 2003 Italian study found that the amount of DEHP in bottled spring water increased after 9 months of storage in a PET bottle.  It's also best to avoid reusing #1 plastic bottles; water and soda bottles in particular are hard to clean, and because plastic is porous, these bottles absorb flavors and bacteria that you can't get rid of.
  • #2 High Density Polyethylene
  • #4 Low Density Polyethylene
  • #5 Polypropylene
  • PLA (polylactide) plastics are made from renewable resources such as corn, potatoes and sugar cane and anything else with a high starch content. The starch is converted into polylactide acid (PLA). Although you can't recycle these plant-based plastics, you can compost them in a municipal composter or in your backyard compost heap. Most decompose in about twelve days unlike conventional plastic, which can take up to 100 years.

Some things to consider when choosing a plastic water bottle:

  • If there's a hint of plastic when you sniff or taste your water, then don't drink it.
  • Heat promotes the leaching of chemicals, so keep your water bottle cool. 
  • Ask retailers how long water has been on their shelves. Don't buy if it's been months, as chemicals may migrate from plastic during storage.
  • Do not reuse bottles intended for single use. 
  • Hand-wash reusable containers gently with a nonabrasive soap. Dishwashers and harsh detergents can scratch plastic and invite bacteria.
  • Rigid reusable containers are a better first choice. Thermoses with stainless steel or ceramic interiors are a better choice for hot or acidic liquids.

Originally taken from The Green Guide at http://www.thegreenguide.com/products/Kitchen/Plastic_Containers (Site no longer exists). We have included the original content here as a reference:



What To Look For

Plastic is the most widely used material in the United States, and it crops up in everything from toys to clothes to food containers. But not all plastics are created equal, particularly in regards to food storage: Some plastics can transmit chemicals into your food, while others are perfectly safe.

Before you know which type of plastic container to buy the next time you hit the store, you first need to know how to tell them apart. Plastics are typically classified by a number from #1 to #7, each number representing a different type of resin. That number is usually imprinted on the bottom of your container; flip it upside down, and you'll see a recycling triangle with the number in the middle.

Here's a quick breakdown of plastic resin types:

  • #1 polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE)
    Product examples: Disposable soft drink and water bottles, cough-syrup bottles
  • #2 high density polyethylene (HDPE)
    Product examples: Milk jugs, toys, liquid detergent bottles, shampoo bottles
  • #3 polyvinyl chloride (V or PVC)
    Product examples: Meat wrap, cooking oil bottles, plumbing pipes
  • #4 low density polyethylene (LDPE)
    Product examples: Cling wrap, grocery bags, sandwich bags
  • #5 polypropylene (PP)
    Product examples: Syrup bottles, yogurt cups/tubs, diapers
  • #6 polystyrene (PS)
    Product examples: Disposable coffee cups, clam-shell take-out containers
  • #7 other (misc.; usually polycarbonate, or PC, but also polylactide, or PLA, plastics made from renewable resources)
    Product examples: Baby bottles, some reusable water bottles, stain-resistant food-storage containers, medical storage containers

Now that you know what each of the numbers represents, here are the kinds you should look for at the store:

Safer Plastics

#2HDPE, #4LDPE and #5PP

These three types of plastic are the healthiest. They transmit no known chemicals into your food and they're generally recyclable; #2 is very commonly accepted by municipal recycling programs, but you may have a more difficult time finding someone to recycle your #4 and #5 containers.

#1 PET

#1 bottles and containers are fine for single use and are widely accepted by municipal recyclers. You won't find many reusable containers made from #1, but they do exist. It's also best to avoid reusing #1 plastic bottles; water and soda bottles in particular are hard to clean, and because plastic is porous, these bottles absorb flavors and bacteria that you can't get rid of.

PLA

PLA (polylactide) plastics are made from renewable resources such as corn, potatoes and sugar cane and anything else with a high starch content. The starch is converted into polylactide acid (PLA). Although you can't recycle these plant-based plastics, you can compost them in a municipal composter or in your backyard compost heap. Most decompose in about twelve days unlike conventional plastic, which can take up to 100 years.

Plastics to Avoid

#3 PVC

#3 polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is often used frequently in cling wraps for meat. However, PVC contains softeners called phthalates that interfere with hormonal development, and its manufacture and incineration release dioxin, a potent carcinogen and hormone disruptor. Vinyl chloride, the primary building block of PVC, is a known human carcinogen that also poses a threat to workers during manufacture.

#6 PS

Extruded polystyrene (#6 PS; commonly known as Styrofoam) is used in take-out containers and cups, and non-extruded PS is used in clear disposable takeout containers, disposable plastic cutlery and cups. Both forms of PS can leach styrene into food; styrene is considered a possible human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. It may also disrupt hormones or affect reproduction.

#7 PC

#7 Polycarbonate (PC) is found in baby bottles, 5-gallon water bottles, water-cooler bottles and the epoxy linings of tin food cans. PC is composed of a hormone-disrupting chemical called bisphenol A, which has been linked to a wide variety of problems such as cancer and obesity.

About the author: Environment Smart

Calculate your carbon footprint

Posted by Environment Smart on 10/04 at 11:59 AM
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Here are two websites that will help you to calculate your carbon footprint.

Earth Lab offers a basic calculation. A simple profile is built as you answer a few questions. This determines your carbon footprint rating. I was a bit surprised to see that I still rate a bit above the Canadian average. This may be because there are several things that we do at home that there seemed to be no questions for (ie. our own vegetable garden, dual-flush toilets, general low water consumption, purchase of fewer packaged goods).

Eco Action is a government of Canada environment website that offers a variety of carbon calculators. Here you can calculate your fuel, water and energy consumption at home and as an organization. There are also several very useful and educational tools on this site that will help you to reduce your carbon footprint. I was impressed with the amount of information available through the Eco Action tools and calculators

 

About the author: Environment Smart

Green Communities

Posted by Environment Smart on 09/19 at 12:29 PM
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Do you want your community to take more affirmative action in becoming green. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency outlines a 5-step environmental planning framework that helps “lead you to a greener, sustainable future”. The Green Communities web site suggests a 5 step program to get you started on the right track. Be pro-active.

Step 1: Community Assessment
Where Are We Now?

Step 2: Trends Analysis
Where Are We Going?

Step 3: Vision Statement
Where Do We Want To Be?

Step 4: Sustainable Action Plans
How Do We Get There?

Step 5: Implementation
Let’s Go!

About the author: Environment Smart

Action and Learning with Environment Canada

Posted by Environment Smart on 09/16 at 12:56 PM
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“You CAN make a difference! There are many simple actions that you or your organization can take to reduce waste, save resources and prevent pollution.”
Environment Canada.

Environment Canada offers and excellent resource for what you can do to help the environment in various areas of your life. Visit What You Can Do for hints and tips to use at home, on the road, at work, at school, in your community, for parent and for youth and kids.

About the author: Environment Smart