Archive for the ‘green living’ Category

National Day of Unplugging March 4th to 5th

Sabbath Manifesto. Sounds intriguing doesn’t it?

Once upon a time people weren’t constantly plugged into electronics. There were no personal home computers, cell phones, ipads, tweeting, email or the thousands of other devices and gadgets that today seem like a necessity. In fact many people practised a day of rest, every week!  Before Sunday shopping became commonplace, back in the olden days known as the 1970′s.

The National Day of Unplugging this year is from sundown Friday March 4th until sundown Saturday March 5th.

A full 24 hours of not using electronics! It has been done! Last year was it’s inaugural year, and 2011 seems to be gaining steam.

The site Sabbath Manifesto gives a top ten list of what to do instead of plugging in. Some simple things like drink wine, eat bread, go outside, light candles, connect with loves ones, give back, and of course avoid technology. Along with some other virtuous things like find silence, nurture your health and avoid commerce.

What does unplugging have to do with the environment? Well everything really. When people are connected to nature, volunteer (give back) or practice better heath routines, de-stress and focus on simpler things the benefits will exponentially increase.

Earth Hour encourages people to unplug for one hour of the day. This challenge asks if you can unplug for a full day.  It  will no doubt have a huge effect, not only on our overall electricity use, but on our collective psyche.

Realise the simple necessities in life don’t require batteries, connect to an electric outlet or cost us money. These are the priceless treasures to be enjoyed and cherished.

Throw away culture

Late night I attended a local screening of a film called “The Clean Bin Project – documentary“  The movie follows a Vancouver couple over the coarse of one year, in a competition to buy nothing, and create no waste – or as little as possible.

Their story was funny, relevant and poignant. Topics like the Pacific Garbage Patch, and ethical recycling were touched on. The couple made a point of saying their intention was not to be preachy, but to show what their experience was.

The part of the movie that really struck me was that involving Midway Atoll, a remote  island nation in the centre of the pacific ocean. The movie relates the story of the albatrosses of this island. Sea birds that are consuming plastic instead of food and dying in unprecedented numbers.

This photo is alarming ,  disturbing and vital.

It is hard to look at, and not question where our own responsibility lies in this problem.

The participants in this challenge are not exceptional environmentalists. There are compassionate, conscious individuals who try and show what is possible. They readily admit that they have not continued to have a zero waste goal,  they have an intention to change small things and make a difference one step at a time.

The term Zero Waste can illicit contempt by some people. People argue that ZERO is not possible and at best we can only aim for a garbage diversion rate of 70%.  Metro Vancouver singed on to the ZERO WASTE CHALLENGE as a part of their plan to become The greenest city in the world by 2020. The question is why not aim for a Zero Waste? If that starts a dialogue then the value is proven.

Personally participating in a local Zero Waste Challenge the results were encouraging.  By the end of our four month experiment my family and neighbours were able to reduce our garbage by 50% We also doubled the amount of waste diverted through increased composting. We did not reach zero waste, in fact, our success was to increase our awareness of what we were throwing away, what we were buying, and what we could change.

The average person will probably look at this picture as I did, and feel that what we are doing is not enough.

Trash Talking

While reading the news this week, I came across an article on Madrid’s Beach Garbage Hotel

The hotel is made of garbage found on beaches around the world. It was created by artist Ha Schult, in an attempt to raise awareness about the state of the Oceans, the garbage that is dumped into the Oceans of the World and garbage that washes ashore on every beach across the planet.

Schult speaks about it ” “I created the Beach Garbage Hotel because the oceans of our planet are the biggest garbage dump,”

Most people are award of the Pacific Garbage Patch that exists and grows daily. The plight of the worlds Oceans are only one factor a long line of environmental destruction that is a result of our mass consumption and disposable lifestyle.

I was on The Story of Stuff website today and saw the newest instalment in their campaign The Story of Electronics.

The fact remains that we in North America use way more then our share of resources and create an exceptional amount of garbage per citizen.  Corporations are largely to blame, along with our governments that allow the production of mass amounts of “stuff” with no thoughts as to the end of life requirements of said stuff.

Some governments in Europe and even China are taking steps to force manufacturers to take responsibilty. The fact remains if we didn’t buy into the mass consumer culture in the first place we wouldn’t have these problems.

We need to make informed decisions when we make purchases.

Fairly traded products and closing the loop from the manufacturing all the way to the disposal of garbage needs to be on the agenda of every consumer, government and corporation in the world.

The problems that exist today are a direct result of our actions. We can change things by making sustainable choices and only buying things that can be disposed of ethically.

Things have to change and it has to start with each  of us.

what goes around comes around

Who would have thought there would be a day that promotes buying something used!

Well there is and it is tomorrow.

From the  reyouzd website the reasons for buying used helps the planet in many ways;

IT’S SIMPLE!

    Used goods require
    NO new agricultural or industrial practices
    NO new manufacturing processes,
    NO new packaging and
    NO transglobal transportation to marketplace.

The three R’s of Recycling are REDUCE, REUSE and RECYCLE. The Recycle part is last on the list because it is always greener to reduce the amount we consume and the waste we produce. Reusing is environmentally sustainable and easy.

If you are thinking of making a purchase this weekend try and see if you can buy it second hand. Craigslist is one place I use all the time. Our family has bought numerous items off of CL and continue to use it as an excellent resource for finding many items for a great price!

Smart consumerism dictates that we make purchases with the environment in mind. Buying second hand will help keep valuable items out of the landfill and more money in your pocket. Everyone wins!


Moving towards a greener community?

When I moved recently I wrote about Frogbox a local Vancouver company that provides reusable shipping containers that are dropped off and picked up in a timely manner. This helps create less waste and offers a green moving alternative. Before you get to the point of packing all of your belongings, there are a few things to consider when choosing a new neighbourhood.

Google maps has made it easy to check out the new place, and see how the neighbourhood compares to your current digs. I have a few other great resources to use as a guide for helping you to choose the greenest community to live in.

DSCN1833

I used the walk score software to look up my current address (scored at 67/100)  The verdict on my new place is Somewhat Walkable. This will no doubt improve when the construction on the grocery store at the bottom of my street is finished this fall. We are extremity close to transit, a hospital, coffee shops, cafes and restaurants, some boutiques and a thrift shop. Also nearby are a number of parks, access to the  river and a bike route. Being a car free family, we have found this area great for walkability. This may depend how far you would walk for such things as the library, major grocery store and community centre. For us, a stop or two on the Skytrain or eight minutes on the bus are acceptable travel distances for these resources.

This program maps out your neighbourhood and rates it’s walkability. It shows where the closest amenities are in kilometres, giving you an accurate picture of where you will be living and shopping.

Another thing to consider is the air and water quality of the place you are moving to.

Emitter.ca allows you to access statistics about what has been reported to the National Pollutant Release Inventory*. Emitter tells you the name, type of company and a sliding scale rating of the amount of pollution reported to be pumped into the air.  This resource has helped me to understand what these large factories I see in the distance are doing and how harmful the toxins they release may just be.

So if you are thinking of making a move in the near future, check out these sites. They may be a valuable new resource and a sense of pride for communities of the future!

China bans plastic bags

I just read a post on another blog about China’s voluntary ban on plastic bags.

It has been one year since China made giving bags away for free illiegal.  Stores are forced to sell bags at whatever price the market will allow.

A report published in Science Daily suggests that China has already reduced it’s plastic bag consumption by 50%!!

That is a reduction in the use of one time disposable plastic bags by half, without enforcement!  Still more can be done in the future to reduce the use of plastic bags.

China is leading the way, and showing what is possible.

Banning plastic bags raises awareness about the disastrous environmental impact plastic bags have on the environment.

This is proof that once motivated,  people will make better choices.

image from TreeHugger

image from TreeHugger

A truly green Christmas tree

Many people are turning away from the petroleum based artificial trees that, just a generation ago, seemed like the most environmentally friendly option available.

If you are looking for an Eco Friendly option for a Christmas tree this year I recommend checking out this local company. Evergrow Christmas Tree Company.

Evergrow Christmas Tree Co was started by two UBC forestry grads, and specialise in delivering live trees to people who want a greener option for the holiday season.

I first learned about this option in May when I was volunteering at EPIC, the sustainable living expo held annually in downtown Vancouver.  I was in the “kids zone” as usual, making Christmas decorations with the kids!

Evergrow offers trees for homes, business and events. They even offer cut trees if you desire one bigger then 7 feet. The trees are grown locally and the cut one are collected and converted into biofuel. They will even lend you a tree stand and set it up if you wish. No more needles dropping, worrying about the tree dying up or  what to do with it after the 26th.

If you order online you can save 10%  So shop local, save a tree, and go really  green this Christmas!

evergrow tree at EPIC 2010

evergrow tree at EPIC 2010

gifts that last

Metro Vancouver has a new campaign to curb excess garbage created over the holiday season.

This time of year is a retailers delight, with many businesses making the majority of their sales in the month of December. Our consumer culture reaches a crescendo at holiday time.  Increasingly we see “green” gift ideas, and while supporting local businesses, buying  ethically fairly traded products is a good choice, this new campaign has come along to remind us there is another option.

The website gives ideas for low waste gifts. Some idea’s include giving the gift of experiences; classes and memberships, a new soccer ball or a bike,  dinner out, tour local light displays, visit a historical site or experience a live presentation of some kind.

Be creative and have fun; make a wreath from things in your backyard, cut out paper snow flakes,  look through thrift shops for treasure, give a family heirloom to a loved one, or offer to fix a broken step or paint a room for a friend or family member who may not be able to do it themselves.

The gift of time is often the most welcome of all.  What is more valuable then memories we create with the people we love?

This holiday season if you find a way to give more of yourself you will be richer for it.

And No Message Could Have Been Any Clearer

If You Wanna Make The World
A Better Place
Take A Look At Yourself, And
Then Make A Change

Vancouver Earth dance 2009 photo credit: Katia Somerville

Vancouver Earth dance 2009 photo credit: Katia Somerville

Man in the mirror – Michael Jackson

Water planet

URBNgreen
URBNgreen is committed to education and environmental stewardship. Our objective is share information about what people are doing locally and around the world to create a sustainable future.
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delicate little plant in need of freedom. Einstein quote at DailyLearners.com