Green News

BIXI: Montreal’s Bicycle-Taxi service

Posted by Environment Smart on 09/23 at 11:40 AM

The city of Montreal has just unveiled its new self-service, bike-rental system on September 21st. BIXI, the bicycle-taxi rental program modelled after the successful Vélib program in Paris.

Montreal is starting the program with only 40 bicycle for rent at the moment. The plan is to grow to 2,400 BIXIs by next spring. Paris currently provides more than 10,000 bicycle in its Vélib program.

‘BIXIs will be available at 300 stations across the city and are intended for short trips within the city. “You ride it and you return it, and [for] the first half hour there’s no charge,” Mayor Gérald Tremblay said Sunday.

The service will cost $28 a month, or $78 for seven months. Users can buy a day pass for $5.

“We sincerely believe that a lot of citizens who are not presently commuting with a bicycle will use the bicycles,” Mayor Tremblay said.

In addition to being a program that encourages an environmentally friendly mode of transportation around the city, the BIXI bikes are also made of 100 per cent recyclable aluminum. The bike parking stations are powered by solar energy.

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Dr. Joe Schwartz on BPA

Posted by Environment Smart on 09/20 at 09:24 PM

It is certain that Bisphenol A and other chemicals leach out of some of the plastics we use for drinking and eating every day. Is the amount of chemicals leached, however, as serious a hazard to our health as many news articles report? And, does the hype over these risks warrant a government ban of Bisphenol A used in plastic food related containers?

In a recent CTV News interview, Joe Schwartz discussed his point of view on the Bisphenol A (BPA) debate. Dr. Schwartz is a doctor of chemistry and professor at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec. He is the director of McGill’s Office for Science & Society which is dedicated to demystifying science for the public.

According to Dr. Schwartz, it is difficult to predict the long term health effects of Bisphenol A. “Toxins by definition are poisonous substances, so certainly are worth worrying about.  But of course as toxicologists point out, “only the dose makes the poison.”

Some rodent studies and laboratory experiments have shown that trace amounts of BPA’s can cause problems ranging from birth defects and impaired blood sugar control to breast and prostate irregularities. Whereas these studies have used rodents as subjects, BPA has also been found in our blood and urine. Dr. Schwarrtz points out that “our ability to detect trace amounts of chemicals has surpassed our ability to interpret what the numbers mean.  Hence the debate about the risks of BPA exposure”.

Producers of BPA assure us that the amounts to which we are exposed is not worrisome, while some researchers claim that even minute levels of BPA in our bodies is potentially harmful. The argument continues with studies showing that “rodents employ a different detoxication mechanism than humans, and do have more circulating BPA after exposure than we would have.” There is also the issue of type of exposure to BPA.  “Many of the rodent studies have used injected or implanted BPA, which is a different type of exposure than ingestion.”  BPA critics retort with the argument that “injecting BPA into pregnant rodents is an appropriate way to study effects on the fetus.  And, as far as humans go, while indeed detoxification reactions do swing into action, these are much less efficient in children and babies, who are therefore at greater risk.” 

Dr. Schwartz continues to outline various other natural substances in our environment that expose us to higher estrogen levels that BPA. Alfalfa sprouts, soy beans, lavender oil and milk are among these. There is also Nonylphenol, an estrogenic ingredient in numerous detergents, along with the natural estrogens and birth control pill remnants that end up in our sewage.  These substances are not removed by sewage treatment and end up in our surface and ground water.

“In other words we are awash in a sea of both natural and synthetic hormone disrupting substances and it is unrealistic to accuse a specific one of being the devil incarnate.” 

Dr. Schwartz warns us, however, that “this does not mean that we should be cavalier about hormone-like substances in the environment.”  Even though there is no hard evidence that BPA levels encountered present a risk to humans, there are potential risks that we are not sure of. It is possible that babies do not excrete BPA as efficiently as adults. We also do not know what synergistic effect BPA has when combined with other endocrine disrupting substances. Dr. Schwartz suggests that there are glass baby bottles and containers of other plastics available. He also believes that it “seems a good idea to search for viable alternatives to the epoxy lining in canned foods”.

Dr. Schwartz’ final message is that: “panic over drinking from polycarbonate bottles is unwarranted, and talk of banning polycarbonate plastics is naive.”

Quotes are taken from Dr. Joe Schwartz’ article entitled: “Bisphenol A (BPA) – The Case for Polycarbonate Water Bottles”


About the author: Environment Smart

Safe Water Bottles

Posted by Environment Smart on 09/20 at 12:54 PM
Tips and How-to'sIn the housePermalink

In an effort to reduce waste, we turned to reusable water bottles several years ago. When it came to our attention, however, that the plastic bottles and drink boxes we were using could be leaching harmful chemicals, we were pretty alarmed. We immediately got rid of them and switched to aluminum bottles. There are quite a few varieties on the market now. They range in price from about $7.00 to $20.00. We bought ours at Le Baron Sport in Montreal. I know that Mountain Equipment Coop sells them, and I saw some at Walmart as well. We recommend purchasing a bottle that is entirely aluminum or stainless steel, rather than one with a plastic lining.

Since these aluminum bottles are considerably more expensive than the plastic ones, we were concerned about losing them. We took a few minutes to etch our names on the bottles. So far, so good. We still have all of our bottles.

About the author: Environment Smart

Leaching Plastic: Healthy Choices

Posted by Environment Smart on 09/20 at 11:52 AM

A few months ago we read an article in Scientific American on the hazards of some plastics leaching the harmful hormone-disrupting chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) after repeated uses. We found the article quite disturbing, since we were using quite a few plastic containers for drinks, snacks and lunches. After doing a bit of further research, we discovered that not all plastics contain BPA. We were under the incorrect understanding, however, that the higher the plastic number stamped in the container, the more risk of leaching there was. We went through all of our plastics and threw away any containers with a #5 to #7. Since then, we have learned a bit more. We may have over-reacted. An article in The Good Human online magazine outlines the different plastics and their safety level with regards to BPA. Plastics with #2, #4 and #5 stamped on them seem to be the safest to use. Plastics with #1, #3, #6 and #7 stamped on them all pose risks of leaching hormone-disrupting or carcinogenic chemical. Repeated use of these plastics should be avoided.

We continue to look into the issue of leaching plastic, because there is still some debate about the health concerns of plastics. In the meantime, however, we are not willing to take any chances.

Visit National Geographic’s “The Green Guide” for a comprehensive article on the Bisphenol A (BPA) debate.

About the author: Environment Smart

Idle-Free School Zone

Posted by Environment Smart on 09/19 at 09:53 PM

School has started and along with this comes the idling cars waiting in front of the school. In an effort to help reduce CO2 emissions, turning off your car when waiting to pick up your child from school is a very simple thing to do.

Active and Safe Routes to School is a program of Green Communities of Canada. The ASRTS program addresses “health and traffic safety issues while taking action on air pollution and climate change”. In the spring of 2000, the ASRTS launched a province-wide (Ontario) No Idling at School project. The project includes educational kits for schools, of which several reproducible inserts are available on the project web site.

Why not get your school involved in creating an idle-free school zone.


About the author: Environment Smart

Green Communities

Posted by Environment Smart on 09/19 at 12:29 PM
Tips and How-to'sGeneralPermalink

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!

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Clean Up the World weekend

Posted by Environment Smart on 09/18 at 06:30 PM
NewsGlobal WarmingPermalink

The weekend of September 19th to 21st is the 16th annual Clean Up the World Weekend. An estimated 35 million volunteers will come together in over 100 countries to do their part in cleaning up the environment. This is one of the largest community-based environmental campaigns in the world.

Clean Up the World was launched by Australian Ian Kiernan 16 years ago with the support of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). At the time, Kieran was shocked by the large amounts of plastic rubbish he saw during a round-the-world ocean race. It is estimated that there are currently more than 13,000 pieces of plastic in every square kilometre of ocean.

The theme of this year’s event is ‘Start Today… Save Tomorrow - Clean Up our Climate’.
Local communities will spend the weekend taking action on a number of environmental issues, including protecting water sources, saving energy and reducing waste.

Visit the Clean Up the World web site. “Getting involved is simple. Groups or organisations in any city, town or village across the globe can join Clean Up the World. Joining is free* for non corporate organisations and renewable annually.”

To see what communities around the world are doing, visit the Clean Up the World Activities Map.




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Pine Cone Turkey Craft

Posted by Environment Smart on 09/18 at 12:40 PM
Tips and How-to'sFor KidsPermalink

It is the time of year when your pine trees are dropping their cones all over your lawn. Why don’t you collect the cones and use them to make a simple pine cone turkey to add festivity to your Thanksgiving dinner table. This is a nice way to use the cones instead of bagging them for the garbage.

All you need are:
- round pine cones (you can cut the ends off of the long ones)
- a glue gun and glue sticks,
- small brown or black pompoms or acorns
- red and orange felt
- orange pipecleaner
- a selection of feather
- small googly eyes
- scissors (and wire cutter)



About the author: Environment Smart