Posted by Environment Smart on 01/14 at 08:37 AM
Tips and How-to's
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)."
Posted by Environment Smart on 01/08 at 08:35 AM
Tips and How-to's
In the house
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, www.greenerchoices.org, 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.
Our Green Christmas
Posted by Environment Smart on 12/12 at 03:52 PM
Tips and How-to's
In the house
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.
Eco-friendly snow removal
Posted by Environment Smart on 12/10 at 08:14 AM
Tips and How-to's
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.
Recycled Disco Ball
Posted by Environment Smart on 11/04 at 09:24 AM
Tips and How-to's
Recycled Disco Ball
: Make a cool disco ball using an old ball and CDs.
You will need:
- Several old CDs: the amount needed will depend on the size of the ball. Use software or music CDs and not recordable CDs as these will fleck.
- An old ball: we used a battered old soccer ball.
- Tacky glue or hot glue gun: we preferred the tacky glue as the pieces can still be shifted while the glue is wet.
- Wire for hanging: not too thick.
- Stong scissors or shears
- Make sure that your ball does not leak air. It is advisable to coat the ball with a layer or two of urethane to help prevent future leaking.
- Cut the CDs into irregular pieces. We cut 1cm to 2cm pieces for the soccer ball. Use smaller pieces for a smaller ball. Discard any splintered pieces. Wear safety glasses. Please note that it may be difficult to control the shape and size of the CD pieces you cut. Some CDs splinter very easily. Pieces that have a bit of a break in them can, however, still be used.
- Wrap wire around the ball in two directions. Bring lose wire ends together and form into a loop. The CD pieces will be glued on top of the wire, so make sure that the wire is not too thick, otherwise the CD pieces will not glue evenly.
- Glue the CD pieces all around the ball to completely cover it. This project require patience and fine motor skills. It is best suited to older children, teenagers and adults.
- Hang your disco ball from the protruding wire loop.
Note: This project can also be done with a styrofoam ball if you cannot find an old ball to recycle.
Posted by Environment Smart on 10/30 at 08:45 AM
Tips and How-to's
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.
- SMART Certified Sustainable Lighting, Furniture, Flooring, & Building Products
- SMART Certified Sustainable Apparel, Fabric & Textile
- Long Life, Low Mercury, Energy Efficient Lamps Including Compact Fluorescents (LEED EB)
- Energy Star Lamps, Lights, Appliances, & Electronics
- LEED, Energy Star & Climate Neutral Certified Homes
- FSC Certified Wood
- Green-e Power, Green Tags & White Tags
- Certified Organic Products
- Clean Vehicle Standard including high fuel efficient hybrids
Posted by Environment Smart on 10/21 at 08:14 AM
Tips and How-to's
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
Posted by Environment Smart on 10/15 at 07:41 AM
Tips and How-to's
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:
#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 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 (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 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.
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 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.
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