Thursday, December 07, 2006

A Mall-Free Directory for Green Gifts

I'm staying out of the malls this season for three reasons:

1) They are busy, hot and people sometimes get a little pushy under those conditions. And I especially don't enjoy seeing the rows and rows of a full parking lot surrounding every entrance.

2) Malls are designed to encourage spending. The amount of crap that is purchased to celebrate this time of year is unneeded and excessive. The money that is spent on the excess could be diverted to areas that really need the money.

3) I like to support local businesses (AKA the little guy), and/or spend my hard-earned cash on people and things that will truly benefit from my dollar. Making ethical purchases will bring joy to you, the person receiving the gift and others affected by your donation or business.

So here is a quick list of sites that you can check out to make your gift giving this year a little bit easier, and shows that you care. You can always do some research for specific organisation supporting the type of things you think they would like. Or, look up in the phone book or ask around where's a good place to buy sustainable gifts in your town.

Green Gift Lists:
Planet Friendly: This site talks more than just gifts, they also disuses ways to celebrate with sustainability in mind as well.

A Tyee Ethical Gift Guide: This paper puts always out really good articles. You should check this site out for a list of sites, there are also some good links in the comments so be sure to look over those.

MCC: Mennonite Central Committee - Anyone who knows me, knows that the MCC Thrift Shop is like a second home for me. I think that this is one of my most cherish charitable organizations. Send a child in need a school kit or they also have some really good books to purchase off this site as well.

WWF Products:
Support WWF by purchasing your holiday gift cards from them, or they even have yoga pants or baseball caps.

WorldVision: Instead of buying stuff for people who have a lot of stuff, send some stuff to a family who really needs stuff. For example, you can give a family in Africa two bunnies, from which 20 bunnies will come within a year! Or, for $32 you can give someone a insecticide mosquito net.

Environmental Gifts:

Reusable Bags: buy someone special on your list a heavy duty shopping bag that can easily be folded to fit in a purse or even a pocket. They also have reusable bottles and lunch bags. I think this site is reasonable, affordable and reliable.

You can order stuff from this site for your loved ones or just for people you have to give to. I think this site has a lot of interesting stuff which I have never seen before. Check this out for that unique person you're looking to buy for.

TreeHugger Book list

Sunday, December 03, 2006

This Holiday Season, Show that You Care, Without the Flare

I know this goes without saying, but alas the holiday season is back again.

There are decorations everywhere to remind us of this. They’re the first sign that this time of spending is here. I actually witnessed Christmas decorations being put up in a Zeller’s on the night of Halloween. Next comes the bi-weekly heavy pile of flyers in your mail box showing all the sales and opportunities for you to spend and buy. The TV commercials and radio ads play upon our joyful spirits, all the while enticing our consumerist appetite. More of pretty much everything happens over the next few weeks compared to the rest of the year. More money is spent, more automobile trips are made and more garbage is created.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love this time of year. But what I remember about the holidays are never the presents or decorations, I remember the good times spent with family and friends. The opportunity for merriment is very enjoyable. And believe it or not, this can all be just as wonderful for yourself, humanity and the environment without all the flare and excess.

When it comes to buying presents here are a few tips to help you show that you care. Avoid making purchases on “holiday junk” or items that will likely end up in the dump within a couple of years only to sit much longer than you’ll live. A prime example is all those dancing Santas that require four DD batteries. In fact, keep away from battery operated toys and gadgets wherever possible. Instead keep your eye open for ethical gifts, such as fair trade items or clothing made from sustainable clothing in socially just conditions. And don’t be self-conscious about getting someone a gift from a thrift or antique shop. Just because it’s used doesn’t mean it’s a bad gift. Reusing has been a fundamental aspect of the three R’s of environmentalism for as long as I can remember. Finally when you go shopping, don’t forget to bring your own bag, even for purchases other than groceries.

Or if you want to stay away from the craziness that is a shopping mall and save money, make the gifts yourself. It will show the person that you care. Last year I made sugar cookies and I decorated them with a stick drawing of the person I gave each cookie to. I have never been so surprised how a simple cookie can cause so many smiles.

Another idea for a good gift is to opt for service or material goods. Movie passes, theatre tickets, gift certificates for back massages, you get the idea. Services likely impact the earth much less than material goods and support the local economy. Or, consider donating money in someone’s name to a charity they would likely support. The great thing about this type of gift is that it can likely be taken care of via the internet; therefore no gas is wasted driving around.

So when it comes to unwrapping gifts, please make sure you divert all the excess paper from the landfill by recycling it. Or alternatively, don’t use any at all. Reuse those brightly coloured flyers, LCBO paper bags or old calendar pages. Or giving the wrapping a utilitarian purpose, such as a cloth lunch bag, pillow case, or picture box, is good too.

Paper can also be saved if you decide to send out e-cards instead of greeting cards. If you have to send some out, since grandma doesn’t know how to work a computer, buy cards made out of recycled paper or cards supporting various charity organisations. And when it comes to all the parties, go for cloths napkins, dish towels and china dishes instead of paper products. It will make for a way classier shindig anyway.

So this holiday season, maintain your sustainable lifestyle and strive to incorporate those values into your plans and purchases. This includes everything from decorating your potted tree that can be later planted outside, to your festive feast featuring local seasonal foods.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Manufactured Landscapes

I went to see this documentary at Princess Cinema here in Waterloo. In my movie review this movie gets a 9/10 (very high in my books). It was more than I expected to see. To be honest, there aren't many films which I can sit through, especially when in the theatre, but throughout this film I couldn't even blink.The impact humans have on this earth is immense. At some of the scenes I was close to vomiting... crying... and in most I was in complete awe at the force and ability we have to alter our surroundings and landscapes. As Jesse noted, even though the pictures were of such horrible things, the way in which Edward Burtynski shot them made them see so beautiful.

I was most excited about the Three Gorges Dam images. I learned about it in a geography course a couple years ago, but seeing pictures that displayed its true size was powerful. And of course all the labour that is going into building it. The amount of people who have been displaced due to the construction of the dam is six cities worth.

Edward Burtynski just presents the pictures of the impact the industrialisation has on China. Even though they he doesn't make any political statement or addresses our social conscience, the pictures do that themselves.

Manufactured Landscapes

Friday, November 24, 2006

Dont Feed Corporate Greed, Find Alternatives When you Bleed


I think it is fair to say that in this culture it is taboo to discuss a women’s monthly menstruation openly. After all, it’s sad but true but it would be inappropriate for me to write this article without providing a disclaimer to ward off squeamish males. But why does it have to be this way?

I blame the makers of maxi pads and tampons and their clever marketing ploys which began in the late 1940’s after the tampon was invented in 1936 ( They pushed the notion that a women’s period was meant to be kept as a secret and that the worst thing that she could ever face was a leak. Today, this is still the primary idea behind most Always or Tampax advertisements. Commercials show how girls can conceal their compact tampons as sugar packets so their guy friends will be none the wiser that it’s that time of the month. These ads and products also tell us that menstrual blood is something that is dirty and that we should never have to touch it or let anyone else smell it. Scented maxi pads are designed to leave us fresh and daisy smelling. These products are designed to leave us believing that white = sanitary, and that there isn’t any other clean option for us, when truly, it is often the alternative solutions which are healthier for our bodies and the environment.

In regards to our health, the way in which maxi pads and tampons are made is potentially very harmful to our bodies. According to a top selling natural personal care products company,, the plastic undercoating of pads, and the chlorine and bleach used to whiten the cotton are full of toxins. Using pads every month exposes women to low levels of dioxins, a carcinogen found in most plastics and paper pulp products. These dioxins build up in our bodies and leave us at an increased risk of cancer. Also, a previously mentioned, the fragrance used to mask the socially unacceptable odour our blood, leads to rashes and infections in some sensitive women, I know this from personal experience. Tampons are perhaps the deadliest way to deal with menstrual blood. Cotton and artificial fibres such as rayon are used to make them. Even the FDA writes about how these abrasive fibres cause tiny cuts/ulcerations in this vaginal wall and this has been traced at the likely cause of TTS (Toxic Shock Syndrome), which can be lethal if not properly dealt with immediately.

In regards to the environment, pads and tampons are absolutely terrible. Firstly, cotton, a very heavy pesticide and insecticide crop, is used to make these products. A US wide student driven campaign to raise awareness of menstrual sustainability,, claims that 25% of all insecticides in the US are used on cotton.

Secondly, the use of these paper products (cardboard applicator, tampon box etc.) place further stress on our endangered forests, wildlife habitats and leads to erosion of our landscapes. Also, the quantity of waste created by one woman alone is enough, but times that by all her family, and friends, and their family and friends and you have an incredible amount sanitary waste contaminating our waters. The National Women’s Health Network states every year over 12 billion, 7 million tampons are used once and disposed of to wait around for hundreds of years before biodegrading.

When I decided to take on a sustainable lifestyle, tampons were one of the first things to change. I researched alternatives and found that the menstrual cup (AKA Diva Cup or The Keeper) was what I needed. This isn’t a new invention; in fact these have been around since at least the 1930s in North America ( It’s a little cup made of surgical silicone which fits right inside me like a tampon does only I can use it for up to ten years. The cup collects the blood that you dump into the toilet and then clean it. It can be sterilized at the beginning and end of your cycle by boiling it. You can wear the cup for up to 12 hours, which means going an entire day without worrying about your period issues. There are tonnes of advantages. It’s economical - it has the one time cost of $40, but when you add up the price of disposables month after month it way cheaper to buy a cup. It’s environmental - by using this instead of pads you are reducing your contribution to landfills. It’s hygienic – the cup is made of smooth silicon, there is less opportunity for bacteria to grow on it, which means significantly less risk of TTS ( It’s convenient – no more running to the store in the middle of the night for more pads. And when travelling it so nice to always have the cup with you. Don’t be afraid of touching your own blood, or let societal taboos inhibit you from trying out the cup.

For more information about the cup, click here

When I don’t feel like using the Diva Cup, I rely on reusable organic cotton pads. I know what you’re thinking - “Ewww, that’s gross, and must be so unsanitary!” Well, wait for one minute, think about your underwear and tell me how that so much different? Its not, so relax and open your mind. Women used cloth rags for centuries before the “wonderful” invention of the convenient tampon came about. Being the blonde that I am, it wasn’t until recently that I finally made the connection of the term “being on the rag” and women actually using rags during menstruation. But then again, I was never exposed to any other options.

Click here for list of why cotton pads are ok!

When it comes to cleaning my cotton pads, I find it easiest to keep a small bowl under my bathroom sink to soak the used pads in cold water to help get the blood stains out. Thanks to a tip from a lovely Filipino family doctor, I now sometimes use that blood soaked water to water my plants. Again, the power of women! I am telling you! We have it in us to give nutrients which benefit a beautiful, air purifying house plant. It makes sense though. You can pay for high priced blood meal fertilizer in the garden centres, or use what nature provides us with every month.

There is also another alternative which uses a sea sponge in a similar manner to a tampon to catch the flow of blood. Although I have heard of sea sponges before, I didn’t really research them until I decided to write this column. I check out the Sea Pearls Company. There is concern that they are harvested from an already fragile ocean ecology, and since they are technically a animal by-product, they may not be suitable for vegans. But in many other ways, sea sponges are great. They are an affordable natural solution which comes form the earth and because of this they are much gentler to the vagina than bleached cotton tampons. They can be trimmed to fit your needs, and can last up to four months. After that the sponge can be composted. Isn’t that wonderful? What humanity needs nature answers with whispers. We have the solutions without the need for excess pollution and chemicals. But sadly it is our cultural barriers that are inhibiting us from using anything than products which reinforce our reliance on consumerism.

In the end if you’re still not comfortable with using anything else but tampons or pads, for yourself and Mother Earth, choose organic, chlorine free, unbleached products available in health food stores.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Electric Car Makes a Sexy Comeback

The Tesla Motor Company has recently "sold out" their 2007 stock of their new electric car. I went to see Who Killed the Electric Car a couple months ago, and it just made me realise how much actual power oil companies have. Every single electric car was destroyed in hopes that the world would forget the electric car and all its glory. Well, thankfully, this brave and innovative car company has revived the car. I'm not saying this this is our only alternative to the gas powered vehicle, but its nice to see a company bringing about ideas that go against the fossil fuel currents. Hopefully they get further than the other electric cars did.

Check it out... its sexy, sleek, albeit expensive, and emissions free.

Tesla Motors

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Upcoming Conference

If you're interested in studying or are already researching sustainable agriculture, consider entering an abstract for a presentation at this upcoming conference - Agriculture at the Metropolitan Edge: New Ruralism and other Strategies for Sustainable Development at Berkley, CA, April 5-6, 2007.

Abstracts are due DECEMBER 1, 2006.
check out the site!

I wrote a 250 word abstract about this time last year and got a trip to Vancouver out of the deal. Maybe you could go to California! Sustainable agriculture is a pertinent issue which demands attention. I learned so much from the Planners for Tomorrow Forum 2006, I could only imagine how informative this conference is going to be. Write the abstract - is more than worth a shot.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Find a Green Job!

Now that a lot of my university colleagues are graduating shortly, search this site for "good jobs". Don't give up your values just for the money. With all those brains in your head and feet in your shoes, you can go in whatever direction you choose (i think Dr. Seuss wrote that).


Sustainability Beyond Sterotypes

The current impact that the global population has on this earth is undoubtedly unsustainable. There are too many indicators telling us that this is true such as global warming, soil degradation, deforestation, war, species extinction, increasing number of forest fires, declining fisheries, massive economic polarization and social inequalities. The international drive to become “westernized” or a developed first world nation has led to environmentally and socially destructive patterns of development, extreme over-consumption, pollution and deepened the dependence on non-renewable resources.

It’s obvious that this mess the world is in right now is a complex issue. Complex issues generally require a complex answer. Because of these complexities many of us believe that we have no control in pushing for a sustainable tomorrow and that it is up to big business and government to solve the problems. But in reality, we all have the power to make change, and I personally believe that we all have the responsibility to do so.

Becoming more sustainable in everything that we do is very important and an imperative aspect to creating this needed change. The term itself - sustainability - is becoming such a buzz word in the media, in businesses and in academic literature, that in many cases it is losing its true meaning. So then what exactly does the term sustainability mean?

The more commonly used definition was put out in 1987 when the World Commission on Environment and Development formed the Brundtland Report which stated “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generation to meet their own needs”. This is a comprehensive definition, but doesn’t explain how to go about doing this.

So then there are other definitions that use the three legged stool analogy for explaining sustainability and the importance of balancing the triple bottom line. The three legs represent the 3 E’s of sustainability – the Environment, the Economy and social Equity, and the top of the stool is a governing body making sure all this balancing happens. These are only two quick examples of how to define this term, there are many other approaches.

But the fact is you can’t really define sustainability as anything more than a principle. What is a principle? A principle is just a point of departure, a place to start. Sustainability is a place for us to start examining our lives and trying to improving the vast problems our planet faces. Sustainable principles could be seen as the values your parents instilled in you growing up. These principles should guide you in your everyday life.

Also, I think it is important to note that sustainability shouldn’t be associated with stereotypes. Since writing this column I have run into many individuals who label me just because I advocate sustainability. I am not a hippy, or a vegan, or a communist, and I am especially not a tree hugger. All these labels carry a negative connotation for some people in society, making the principle of sustainability unattractive to them. Sustainability is more than just environmentalism; it’s about understanding that there are consequences to our actions which we will face together. Sustainability isn’t just simply shutting off the lights when you leave a room, or buying only organic food, it is about so much more, like promoting peace, living a healthy lifestyle, striving for an equilibrium, or avoiding consumerist urges.

As you can tell, there isn’t one answer or one set definition on what sustainability is, or how one goes about reaching it. It has to be defined and used within its context. I urge you to sit down and thoroughly think of how you would define sustainability and what it means for you and then act to incorporate these values and principles into your lifestyle.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Your Vote Against Climate Change

Last Saturday, 25,000 protestors took to the streets of London, England demanding firm action on climate change from all political leaders. The marchers included people of all ages, social groups, ethnical backgrounds and religions. This vast range in diversity is unlike the young hippy crowd of the 1960’s. Climate change is becoming more than just a green issue, it’s also a global peace and economic issue.

The Kyoto Protocol Conference currently underway in Nairobi, Kenya, has put out several reports stating Africa is most vulnerable to climate change. Global climate change is already impacting the very poor through increase floods, droughts and hurricanes. African governments and humanitarian organizations are screaming for international governments to take action to mitigate the effects of global warming. But not much is changing. The single-minded pursuit of economic growth is rendering the international community incapable of tackling climate change. However, according to economists, addressing climate change is the only way to preserve our ability for economic growth.

New studies are saying that we only have a 10-15 year window to take the action needed to avoid crossing a catastrophic turning point in regards to climate change. The students here at Waterloo understand how important it is to make changes in our everyday lives. Recently, the UW Sustainability Project held a Climate Change Fair to raise awareness here on campus. There were guest speakers, information booths and movie showings.

If you feel you would like to take greater action on climate change but can’t seem to find time to attend protests or organize events, or don’t think you have a loud enough voice in this global issue, well, you’re wrong. One way to make your voice heard is by partaking in a fundamental act of democracy – voting.

As some of you may know, the municipal elections are this Monday, November 13th. I urge you, plead with you, and am willing to peer pressure you into voting. It is crucial to vote for who you think is going to do the best job. In the past, voter turnout for the municipal elections in Ontario has been deplorable. In 2003, only 40.18% of Ontarians voted in the municipal election.

To change this – vote, and ask your friends, family and neighbours to vote as well. Investigate the people who want to be your mayor and local ward councillors. They make decisions that affect your roads, sewers services, by-laws and recreation services. Also, be sure to investigate those people who are running for your regional chair and regional councillor positions. These people want to be part of your municipal government responsible for things such as garbage, housing and development, public transit and public health. If you want to push for a much needed green agenda, vote for the candidates you think will take serious steps to achieve environmental sustainability. If we hope to be environmentally sustainable globally, we must act locally to stop climate change.

After voting in the elections, stay informed on local issues. Hold your newly elected representatives accountable. Participate in your local governments green initiatives. Write letters to your local government pushing for change. You can crank up the volume of your issue by writing an informative letter and mass emailing it out to others asking them to sign it and mail it to the appropriate representative. If your representative is sluggish in responding to your environmental concerns, tell your neighbours, flyer your neighbourhood or write to the editors of your local news sources. If they are still not listening to you, vote for someone else next election or better yet, make yourself a candidate.

This Monday, be sure to get out and vote. It’s as easy as visiting the SLC Great Room between 10am and 8pm.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

IMPRINT: Fill the Bag, Not the Environment... A new BYOB

There are anywhere between 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags consumed every year. And I believe it. I work in a health food store and I am shocked at how many people don’t remember their reusable bags. But then of course there are the customers that always remember and even re-use old bread bags for their bulk flour and oat purchases.

A person's use of a plastic check-out bag can sometimes be counted in minutes - however long it takes to get groceries from the shops to their homes. These bags, however, can last for hundreds of years in a landfill when not recycled. Overall, plastic bags are bad for the environment.

Most are made of polypropylene, a byproduct of oil refining. There is an emerging science of manufacturing “plastic bags” from corn starch and soy, but I have yet to come across any stores that carry them. Also, most plastic bags are also made in China and then shipped all over the world consuming even more fossil fuels.

In the marine environment, plastic bag litter is lethal, killing thousands of sea life every year. Sea turtles mistake plastic bags for jellyfish and then die of starvation because the plastic blocks their stomach. In 2002 a whale washed up on a beach at Normandy and was found to have 800 grams of plastic and other packaging in its stomach.

In cities, they litter the sides of highways, allow for stagnant water breeding grounds for mosquitoes to populate your neighbourhood and largely contribute to the city dump. Overall, in the urban environment they’re a pain in the ass. Just ask Bangladesh. In 2002 the city reduced the number of plastic bag use after drains blocked by bags contributed to widespread monsoon flooding in 1998.

At the grocery store you’re often offered the paper alternative to plastic. Although the paper bag is recyclable, and decomposes rather quickly, it’s still not good enough. Making paper bags uses even more trees and since they are heavier and larger than plastic, paper bags produce more carbon emissions from the added transport they require.

It’s obvious for an environmentalist to rant about the importance of using reusable bags, but they’re so much more. In addition to helping the environment, reusable bags are kinder to hands and fingers, can hold twice as many items as conventional plastic carrier bags and have handle straps that can go over the shoulder, leaving both our hands free. They can carry more and will not bust under the weight of heavy items. They’re inexpensive, can be washed and used for years. Furthermore, reusable bags can actually be quite fashionable.

I was visiting Sydney in fall 2004 and the most interesting fashion phenomenon was taking hold of the city and was shared by all classes of society - rich or poor, young or old. This bright green bag was seen everywhere. This reusable bag was the tangible product of the campaign to cut plastic bag use put on by the Australian Government in partnership Australia’s largest grocery chain, Woolworths. By the end of 2004, 5 million green bags were sold nation wide at $0.99 a piece. Although the store continued to provide free plastic bags, when you didn’t remember your green bag, you would get a look of disapproval from the clerk that was almost as scary as the judgmental girls in high school.

There was some controversy over the green bag campaign since they were made using woven plastic fibers and that it was just a scam for the grocery stores to make money. But environmentalists argued that they’re a better option because they can be reused for up to two years, after which they can be recycled. Mine is almost two years old and still going strong.
So the next time you go for groceries or errands, don’t forget to BYOB (Bring Your Own Bags). If you’re in a pinch, using the odd bag is alright just as long as you re-use or recycle it. And remember, when using a plastic bag as waste liner, make sure you fully fill the bag before throwing it away.

Friday, November 03, 2006

UW Climate Change Fair

Host: UW Sustainability Project
Tuesday, November 7, 2006 at 2:00pm
Wednesday, November 8, 2006 at 11:00pm
Venue: SLC Great Room - UW Campus


Fun games and prizes, speakers and movies to help you learn about climate change and what you can do about it.

Speakers and games run from 2-6pm each day with back-to-back

"An Inconvenient Truth" on Wednesday at 7 and 9pm.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

"Healthy Choices, Healthy Oceans"

Hungry for fish tonight? Check out this site before you eat! Your dinner tonight may be a result of damaging fishing practices or fish farming. Be a smart consumer and help push the fishing industry into higher envrionmental standards. I've only recently began to question where my seafood was actually coming from. I think its only fair. I mean we all know where our wine comes from, but not much else.

So go to the site and enjoy some free downloads. There is a handy index to help you make better choices when purchasing food in the grocery store, market or restaurant. I printed two off, one for my wallet and one for my organizer. And! They need your help to get the large grocerers to buy more sustainable fish due to YOUR demand. Print off a couple drop cards and let local managers know there is a market for a healthier fish selection. Also you can find lots of information about different fishing locations from their directory. Enjoy!

IMPRINT: Lose emissions and keep the flavour

We all know our cars pollute, but we often forget that our food travels long distances too. A lot of our fresh food is shipped in from all over the world. Some call this “eating oil” when you consider that 80% of our produce in Ontario is shipped in from outside the province on planes and trucks. Corporate agribusiness has made it more financially appealing to grocers to buy from subsidized Californian producers and cheap Mexican farms rather than local farmers.

For the small rural Ontario farmer, it is very difficult to supply a supermarket. They expect you to provide them with their broccoli 365 days of the year. That’s the challenge and what’s putting Canadian farmers out of business. Often the only option is to sell to the sprawling cities which are hungry to gobble up this yummy fertile agriculture land and develop single family monster homes.

But you, yes YOU, can do something to help our suffering farmers in Canada. You can finally do something about those tonnes and tonnes of carbon weighing down your meals by going on the 100 Mile Diet (or the 160 km diet). This is an easy way to think about eating locally and actually helps lose weight as the diet involves lots of fresh produce with less processed foods. I’m not saying that you should have to give up olives from the Mediterranean, or French red wine, but buying only local produce and meat can reduce climate change and help the local community.

Local or not, another healthy diet is the Familiar Ingredients Diet. If you don’t know what an ingredient are, or even how to pronounce it, find a more natural substitute or make it yourself.

So how go about shedding your food emissions? You can start today by actively noticing where your products are coming from when shopping at the grocery store. In large supermarkets, it can difficult to know exactly where you’re your potatoes or boneless, skinless chicken breasts are coming from, in this case only buy products from Ontario or Canada. If you are having difficulties doing this, complain to the manager that you would like an improvement in the local selection of fresh food. You can do this in person, over the phone, or write an email/letter.

Of course the market is always an excellent source of local foods. The great thing about the market is it’s fun, cheap, uses much less packaging than a supermarket, and often you get meet the farmers and their families directly and ask questions about your food.

Or, if you have a green thumb, use it, and grow your own vegetables. Encourage others to make use of green urban areas and organize a community garden, even if it’s just between you and your immediate neighbours.

But I think one of the best options for eating locally is Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). CSA is a relatively new socio-economic model of food production and sales, aimed at supporting local farmers. There are already over 200 CSAs in Canada, most close to big cities. CSA is a risk venture by the farmer and the consumer as people buy a share in the farm in the spring and then the farmers do their best to grow/raise the food for the CSA members. It’s about providing a direction connection between the farmer and the consumer. You’ll get a sense that there are “your” farmer, same as you have a doctor or a dentist.

Each week the farmer bundles up a variety of fresh food and makes a basket for the member. And the cost is actually comparable to what’s offered at Sobey’s. Some CSAs delivery directly, or bring to a general meeting place, or some small farms as people to come to the farm for pick-up. Buying local is more than just produce, and protecting the land, it’s about building community. Many CSA’s have several barbecue’s and get together to thank their members for their support. Children can come to the farms and help pick cherry tomatoes. You can ask for special orders, tips on preserving, recipes, and the list goes on.

Unfortunately it’s getting close to the end of the growing season in the area, so research a CSA now for next spring. This may involve actually talking to farmers and getting a sense of who they are, as many don’t even have webpages.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Waterloo Region Eating Local Directory

This blog is for everyone in Waterloo looking to eat LOCAL!!! YAY!

(For everyone else, please leave a comment and not where to find local food in your community, so that others will be informed. Also, if i have missed any in Waterloo Region, please let me know)


St. Jacob's Farmer Market:
From the official site:
When:Thursday & Saturday (year round) 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.,

Tuesday (summer market) June 20 to September 19, 2006
8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Sunday: April 2, 2006 until December.
Where: Weber Street and King Street North meet, just north of Waterloo.

"St. Jacobs Farmers' Markets continue to complement the strong agricultural activity of the area, and provide a unique and lively place to shop. At the markets, you will find aisle upon aisle of fresh produce from across Ontario and from local farm gardens. Plus, you will find meats, cheese, baking, crafts, home decor, furniture, clothes, tools and more. Local delicacies such as summer sausage and pure maple syrup are sold by Mennonite farmers who travel to market by horse and buggy. Indoors and outdoors, on the east and west side of Weber Street, you will find more than 600 vendors! Come and fill your market basket! Also, enjoy live performances by Buskers and year round special events!"

Kitchener Farmer's Market
When: Saturday 7am-2pm
Where: 300 King St. East Downtown Kitchener

ES Farm Market
When: (Will resume in Spring 2007) Wednesday mornings, 9:30am- 1:00 pm
Where: ES Courtyard in ES1 (by modern languages Tim Hortin's)


Foodlink Waterloo Region:

More to come...

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Quick Dance! Protect the Waterloo Moraine!

We really don't need to build over the moraine. We have to stop this development.

Get your tickets for dancing at the Starlight NOW. The Waterloo Moraine Dancers (WMD)and spokesperson (David Wellhauser) will attempt a 24 dance-athon to protect important groundwater rechagre areas of the Waterloo Moraine for future generations. Updates will be logged on the site throughout the day. Everyone is encouraged to pledge an hourly amount and when the results are in calculate the total (i.e. donation * hours danced) and donate online.

Donations to support their promotional campaign and level expenses associated with challenges to the Ontario Municipal Board can be made to:TD Canada Trust Branch #3659 Account #5208415.

Show your solidarity and bring the troops home NOW!

This is a message urging everyone to get downtown Toronto this Saturday for one of Ontario's largest marches supporting the Stop the War Coalition.

Billions and billions of dollars are diverted everyday to support the war effort when really we need to re-re-route that money and spend it on researching alternative energies and feeding out homeless, sick, and elderly here at home.

I went to the last one in March 2006 and it was amazing. The media claimed only 1000 people showed up, but truly there was likely five times as many. The communal feel and passion fostered when such a large group of people get together to fight for democracy is incredible.

"Out of Afghanistan, Out of Iraq, Bush and Harper bring the troops back!"

Please go to the following site for more information:
Rally and march
Saturday, October 28 at 1:00pm
United States Consulate, 360 University Avenue
(between Dundas and Queen; nearest subways: St. Patrick and Osgoode)

PS. There are lots of free signs to carry, bring noise makers, drums, your singing voices and dress for the weather!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Free Composters in Waterloo Region

Hey, I just wanted everyone living in Waterloo to know that you can get a FREE composter. Since the Region of Waterloo doesn't collect green composting bins like many other cities in Ontario, their answer is to give away free composters. The composters come with a free booklet on how to compost and what to compost. Its fun and you get free soil for your vegetable garden in the spring. PLUS! Reduce your landfill contribution.

You can pick yours up at the Erb St. dump in Waterloo from 9-5, Mon-Fri at Gate 1. I think they're just sitting outside the office, and you can grab one without talking to anyone.

Here's the link for addresses and locations:!OpenDocument

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

IMPRINT: Organic Roots

Avian flu; growth hormones; GMO’s; pesticides; use of human manure; antibiotic animal resistance; mad cow disease; water and air pollution; inhumane treatment of livestock- these are just a few of the buzz words often associated with large scale agriculture practices. The images of industrial farms and their unhealthy produce, diseased meat, environmentally degrading farming methods and the lack of equitable social values are generating such a fuss that the demand for an alternative is growing at a healthy pace. That alternative is organic foods.

This desire for organic is nothing new. In fact, organic farming has been around for almost 40 years in North America. When the hippies in the late 60’s learned that the same companies that produced napalm and Agent Orange also produced pesticides used in farming, they started up small farms offering a healthier substitute to the “plastic foods” found in the supermarkets. The principles of organic farming were simple - produce food in harmony with nature, using no chemicals, while treating the animals in a humane manner, thus reducing pollution and providing a socially sustainable farm.

The grassroots movement (and it was a movement) of organic foods has remained relatively small, only found in speciality health shops, direct from farms or at the local market, until recently that is.

In 1990 when organic food was officially recognised by the US government, the organic market has grown 20% every year since. In 2002, after 12 years of discussing what the standards for certifying an organic farm should be, there has been an explosion in the sales of organic foods. Today, organic food is a $14 billion/year industry in Canada, and there are no signs of slowing down. This is largely due to the fact that large corporations, such as Kellogs, bought smaller, already successful organic businesses, such as Kashi breakfast cereals. Where there is a market sell to, industrialists will find a way to make profit.

Something that started out as a distinctive alternative to mass produced foods, is now getting into bed with multi-national corporations. Is this a good thing? Should organic strawberry ice cream available in Wal-Mart be considered organic? Some say yes, some say no.

There are the organic purists who think that the idea of processed foods goes against the founding principles of what organic is. Processing food increases the number of middle men between the farmer and the consumer, and often adds additives to the food that take away from the pure state organic food is meant to be in. Also, organic farming is meant to be small scale.

Alternatively, there are those who state that bringing organics mainstream is a good thing. If you sell as much organic food as possible, in the supermarkets where Canadians shop at, you will protect as much land as possible. The reduction of pesticide use increases water quality and soil quality.

Should you buy the organic prewashed lettuce from the California valley, packed into plastic bags by underpaid Mexican immigrant workers and shipped in a carbon spewing truck which probably killed a couple deer on its way to Waterloo? Or is it better to buy the local, non certified organic lettuce from the Wednesday UW Farm Market in the ES Courtyard? I think the time has come redefine what organic is and most importantly to include the distance travelled to reach your table. I guess that’s an official segway into next week’s column. So stay tuned for a discussion on the importance of buying local.

Ten Reasons Why Organic Food Is Better - by Guy Dauncey

*I work at Eating Well Organically and this list is posted on the wall in the store. I've been researching organic foods and I think its a great list of reasons to eat the "organic way". This list is full of excellent facts and insightful knowledge from studies from all over the world. Please note that some of the data is a little old (latest 2002) so not all the figures are up-t0-date. Enjoy!

1. Organic farming is better for wildlife
A report by Britain's Soil Association shows that wildlife is substantially richer and more varied on organic than on conventional farms. A typical organic field has five times as many wild plants, 57% more species, and 44% more birds in cultivated areas than a regular farm . Two 1996 studies show that organic farms have twice as many skylarks, and twice as many butterflies . Every time we eat an organic lettuce or tomato, we help restore wildlife.

2. Organic farming is better for the soil
Studies show that organic fields have deeper vegetation, more weed cover, and contain 88% more 'epigeal arthropods' (squiggly soil creatures) . A new Swiss study demonstrates that organic soils have more soil microbes, more mycorrhizae - the fungi that attach themselves to the tips of plant roots and help plants absorb nutrients - and more earthworms . It found that soil insects are twice as abundant and more diverse in organic plots, including pest-eating spiders and beetles.

3. Organic food is better for animal reproduction
Out of 14 animal studies, ten showed that animals fare better when fed organic food. Three showed no difference, and one showed an improvement with conventional food. We are all mammals, so we share a lot in common. Female rabbits fed on organic food have twice the level of ovum production; chickens fed on organic food have a 28% higher rate of egg production. Rabbits that were fed conventional food saw a decline in fertility over three generations, compared to no decline for organically fed rabbits . Meanwhile, many human couples find it hard to have a baby...

4. Organic food helps fight cancer, stroke and heart problems
In a recent study, Scottish scientists found that organic vegetable soups contain almost six times as much salicylic acid as non-organic vegetable soups. Eleven brands of organic soup had 117 nanograms per gram, versus just 20 nanograms in 24 types of non-organic soup . Salicylic acid is the main ingredient in aspirin; it helps fight hardening of the arteries and bowel cancer, and is produced naturally in plants as a defence against stress and disease. If plants don't have to resist bugs because of pesticide-use, they generate less salicylic acid, and pass less on to us. The same scientists found significantly higher concentrations of salicylic acid in the blood of vegetarian Buddhist monks, compared with meat-eaters.

5. Organic food contains more nutrients
According to a recent study by the Canadian Globe and Mail and CTV News of the nutrient quality of fruit and vegetables, compared to 50 years ago, today's regular fruit and vegetables contain dramatically less vitamins and minerals . The average potato has lost 100% of its vitamin A, 57% of its vitamin C and iron, 28% of its calcium, 50% of its riboflavin, and 18% of its thiamin. Out of seven key nutrients studied, only niacin levels increased. Similar results applied to 24 other fruits and vegetables. For broccoli, all seven nutrients fell, including a 63% decrease in calcium and a 34% decrease in iron. No wonder we are gulping down the supplements.

In April 2001, however, a US study examined 41 comparisons of the nutrient levels in organic and regular foods. In every case, the organic crops had higher nutrient levels - 27% more vitamin C, 29% more iron, 14% more phosphorus . At the June 2001 meeting of the American Chemical Society, a chemistry professor reported that organic oranges contained up to 30% more vitamin C than regular oranges, even though they are half the size . (Conventional orange trees are fed nitrogen fertilizer, causing the fruit to absorb more water, which makes them bigger.) In a French study, a cancer specialist studying the nutrient qualities of food grown in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France showed that for the twelve foods where his study is complete, the organic foods showed increased quantities of vitamins A, C, E, and the B group, increased elements such as zinc, increased minerals such as calcium, and increased fibre.

6. Organic apples are just better!
From 1994 to 1999, a soil scientist at Washington State University ran a series of tests comparing apple orchards. The organic orchard had the best soil, held water better, and resisted soil damage better. It was more energy efficient, and required less labour and less water per apple. The organic apples were firmer, tasted sweeter and were less tart to a non-expert panel. The organic orchard also made more money, since the apples sold for a higher price.

7. Organic farming can feed the world
In a 2002 Greenpeace report, the authors found that organic and agro-ecological methods of growing in the Southern hemisphere produced a dramatic increase in yields, as well as reduced pests and diseases, greater crop diversity, and improved nutritional content. In the Tigray, Ethiopia, organic crops raised 3-5 times more food than chemically treated plots; in Brazil, maize yields increased by 20 - 250%; in Peru, uplands crop yields increased by 150% .

In 1998, the Rodale Institute in Kutztown, Pennsylvania, published the results of a 15-year study that compared 3 ways of growing maize and soybeans - a conventional chemical rotation method, an organic system involving crop rotation and legume crops, and an organic system using cow manure. The yields were similar for all three systems, debunking the myth that organic methods cannot feed the world . In Britain, an experiment run at Broadbalk by the Rothamsted Experimental Station for 150 years has shown that wheat yields on manured plots average 3.45 tonnes per hectare, compared to 3.40 tonnes on the chemically fertilized plots.

A recently completed 21-year Swiss study, on the other hand, showed that organic yields were 20% smaller than conventional yields. The organic plots required 34% to 53% less fertilizer and energy and 97% less pesticide, however, and produced more food per unit of energy and fertilizer. The soil microbes, flora, fauna and soil fertility also increased, leading the study's authors to conclude that the ecological benefits of organic farming make up for the reduced harvest.

8. Organic farming protects the climate
Organic soil is full of living creatures, which carry carbon. In the Rodale experiment, the organically managed plot stored much more carbon than the conventional plot. In the Broadbalk experiment, soil fertility increased by 120% in the manured plots, versus 20% in the chemical plots. The same results occurred in the Swiss experiment. A study in California's Central Valley showed that as well as producing similar yields and suffering similar pest damage, organically managed fields produced 28% more organic carbon. By storing more carbon in the soil, organic farmers help to counteract global climate change.

9. Organic farming produces higher yields in drought conditions
In a review of comparative studies of grain and soybean production in the US Midwest, organic growers produced higher yields in drier climates and during droughts (and similar yields in regular conditions) . The same results were found in the Rodale experiment. Organic matter makes the soil less compact and more moisture retentive, allowing the roots to penetrate more deeply to find water.

10. Organic food is safer
Organic farming generates more jobs, produces more profits, and doesn't pollute groundwater with nitrogen run-off. It also avoids all the risks associated with GM crops. But let's finish with the reason why many people start eating organic food - because they believe it is safer. Farmers in Canada, Kansas and Nebraska who use the pesticide 2,4-D suffer a higher rate of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (a cancer). The same applies to dogs which play on lawns that have been sprayed. In Sweden, exposure to phenoxy herbicides has been shown to increase the risk of contracting lymphomas six-fold . In the US, the death rates from myeloma (a cancer) are highest in rural farming areas . And so it goes on. Migrant farmworkers suffer an abnormally high rate of multiple myeloma, stomach, prostate and testicular cancer . Organic farming carries none of these risks.

There is a strong association between breast cancer and exposure to chemical pesticides. Atrazine, a common ingredient in pesticides, causes breast cancer in rats, chromosomal breakdown in the ovaries of hamsters , and hind-limb deformities in frogs. A Finnish study showed that women whose breasts stored the highest levels of a lindane-like residue were ten times more likely to have breast cancer than women with lower levels . (Lindane is a pesticide.)

We can end all this by shifting to organic food. We can be healthier. Our children can be healthier. Our farmers and farm workers can be healthier. Frogs, worms, butterflies, skylarks and the soil itself can be healthier. All that it takes is to turn away from chemically grown food, and embrace organic food.

Guy Dauncey is the author of Earthfuture: Stories from a Sustainable World (ecotopian short stories, summer reading!) and Stormy Weather: 101 Solutions to Global Climate Change, winner of a Nautilus Award at the New York Book Expo (New Society Publishers). He lives in Victoria, BC.

1 New Scientist, June 3, 2000.
2 Ecology and Farming Magazine, IFOAM, Sept/Dec 1996
3 Ecology and Farming Magazine, IFOAM, Sept/Dec 1996
4 BBC News, May 30 th 2002. Study by Paul Mader
5 'Effect of Agricultural Methods on Nutritional Quality' by Dr. Virginia Worthington, Alternative Therapies, 1998:4.
6 New Scientist, March 14 th , 2002
7 Globe and Mail, July 6 th , 2002
8 Nutritional Quality of Organic Versus Conventional Fruits, Vegetables and Grains. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, by Dr. Virginia Worthington. Vol 7, No 2, 2001.
9 Research by Professor Theo Clark, Truman State University, Kirksville, Mo. American Chemical Society, June 2, 2002
10 Reported in the newspaper 'Ouest-France', August 16 th 2001
11 New Scientist, April 18 th 2001
12 The Real Green Revolution' by N. Parrott and T. Marsden. Greenpeace, 2002.
13 Drinkwater, Wagoner and Sarronio, Nature 396, (1998).
14 "Can Organic Farming Feed the World?" by ChristosVasilikiotis, Ph.D.
15 See Note 5
16 See Note 13
17 'Living Downstream', by Sandra Steingraber, page 52.
18 Steingraber, page 64.
19 Steingraber, page 65.
20 Steingraber, page 162.
21 Steingraber, page 11.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Just because it's snowing in October doesn't mean global warming is a myth.

I've heard a couple people exclaiming that global warming can't be happening because it's snowing already. Well... global warming doesn't necessarily mean that the earth is going to get a lot warmer right away. Weather will become increasingly sporadic and drastic. This week, Tuesday here in Waterloo was 20 degrees outside, two days later it's snowing.

Global warming is happening and we all have have to come to terms that WE ARE going to see the impacts of this within our lifetime. So, instead of screaming "we should have listened!!!" like they did off the South Park episode about global warming, we should all act now.

I watched a really good documentary on CBC Newsworld a couple weeks ago called Can We Save Planet Earth?. It was about global warming and its impacts now and future impacts. Pretty scary. I went to their site and pulled off these facts. Check out the site for more information. I'm trying to find the documentary somewhere else so I can show it at school or something. I will keep everyone updated if I am able to make this happen. However! you should watch the Town Hall debate which was taped following the presentation of the documentary. Politicians among community activists and citizens debate how Canada has and will be dealing with climate change.


  • 9 out of the 10 hottest years on record have occurred since 1990.
  • 19 of the 20 hottest years on record have occurred since 1980.
  • 2005 was the hottest year on record according to the researchers at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
  • This past winter was the warmest Canadian winter on record.
  • France gets 80% of its power from nuclear and the U.S., Russia, Asia, Canada are all looking at renewing their nuclear programs.
  • Iceland presently gets 72% of its energy from renewable sources.
  • Canada's greenhouse gas emissions by the end of 2003 were up 24 per cent (from 1990 levels). Canada is ahead of the U.S. in the list of industrialized nations who have increased their emissions.
  • Alberta oil sands are officially the second-largest source of crude oil - 15% of world reserves - on the planet after Saudi Arabia.
  • Canada's oil industry recently surpassed Saudi Arabia to become the primary supplier of fossil fuels to the United States.
  • Each barrel of oil from the Alberta oil sands creates more greenhouse gas emissions than 4 cars in a day.
  • Article 605a of NAFTA says even if Canada experiences energy shortages, it cannot reduce the percentage it exports to the U.S. without also reducing our own consumption.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

IMPRINT: A Green Bathroom

We all do something in the bathroom that is rarely if ever the topic of discussion amongst friends, colleagues, family or even acquaintances. I am talking about consuming large amounts of fresh water on a daily basis and generating needless waste.

Conserving water is something of great importance. If all the water on the earth could be collected and condensed into a bucket, the fresh water available to people (from lakes, rivers and ground water) would only fill a teaspoon. Sadly, our fresh water reserves are not expandable and must be shared among an ever growing global population.

The bathroom, specifically the toilet and shower are the leading sources of water use in the average North American house. We all must take do our part to reduce our daily water consumption. If your landlord has yet to install a low flow or duel flushing toilet, you can make one yourself by filling a 2 litre plastic bottle with sand and placing it in the tank of the toilet. This will only allow the tank to fill up so much, saving water every time you flush. Also, to check if your toilet is leaking add a little food coloring to the tank. If you see colour in the bowl between flushes, you know there’s a leak. A worn tank ball or defective toilet tank valve can silently leak hundreds of litres of water per day.

Another way to save water is to not take baths, but to take short showers instead. A filled bathtub holds about 260 litres of water where a 5-minute shower only uses 45 to 95 litres of water depending on the shower head. Sharing your shower time with a partner is also an effective way to maximise water efficiency ;). And of course, turning off the tap while brushing your teeth is very important. According to global water use reports put out by UNESCO, this simple act can save almost 19 litres of water, that’s twice the amount the average person in rural Kenya uses (only 10 litres/day).

But leaky pipes aren’t the only environmental culprit in the bathroom. There is more garbage that is coming out of your bathroom than you may think. We all have to work together to cut down our waste levels throughout the entire house. The Al Gore endorsed site claims that you can save 1,200 pounds of carbon dioxide per year if you cut down your garbage by just 10%.

How can you do this? Be a smart consumer and buy products that generate less waste. Each year over 3 billion plastic disposable razors are added to the landfills in Canada. Gentlemen, please avoid the urge to give into the excellent Schick Quattro marketing and instead opts for a heavy duty, long lasting straight edge razor like our grandfathers did. Also using traditional shaving soap with a brush is much better than aerosol gel/cream cans. And ladies, there is one huge difference we could all make if we stopped using maxi pads and tampons, but I will save this discussion for another day. Purchase your shampoo, body wash, mouth wash, whatever, in the largest container you can find. You’ll save money buying in larger quantities and contribute fewer containers to the recycle/trash bin per week. Speaking of recycling, to ensure all house hold goods make it into the proper receptacle, it’s a good idea to have a small recycle bin right in the bathroom for toilet paper rolls, toothpaste boxes, recyclable plastic and empty aerosol cans.

Now, I hope after reading this you will finally make that complaint to your landlord about that leaky faucet. It’s really worth it. The American Water Works Association states that fixing the slow steady dripping tap could save 14 560 litres of water per year. But that still is not enough. The change needed requires more than physical modification and upgrades; it has to be a behavioural adjustment as well. We all must become more mindful of our daily habits our actions have on the earth. Examine your kitchen, your bedroom and office for excess waste and polluting sources. Despite what some people say, the smallest of actions do make a difference.

There are two posts on this blog with some links to some interesting and informative sites. Please check the posts out: Water Scarcity and How to reduce your impact in your home.

Reduce your impact in your home

Since the movie An Inconvenient Truth inspired me to write this blog/column, I am directing you to the website associated with the movie. There are lot of super easy tips for reducing your impact. But i do encourage you to look thoroughly through the whole page. There is a lot of really good information on global warming:

And here is the beloved Greenpeace site. They offer a good breakdown of tips in and around the home. Try out the green cleaning recipes. They really work and are quite economical:

This is David Suzuki's site. It's full of information about climate change and what we can do NOW to change things. This site is about how to reduce your impact in the home, but there are other pages on this site about the office and school:

This is a small site put out by the Environmental Action group in Barrie Ontario. It has some decent tips and the Green Links page is very helpful to other useful sites:

Water Scarcity

For a global perspective on water use and scarcity visit the World Water Council:

For a Canadian perspective on water use, visit the Canadian environmental Law Association:

To get a sense of the inequalities in our global water consumption visit the UNESCO page:

The following link is a good article on global water consumption and the looming water scarcity in coming years:

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

IMPRINT: Fair Trade Coffee

There are three line-ups at the University of Waterloo which are infamously long; the one outside the Book Store at the beginning of each term, the Wednesday night wait into the Bomber, and the line-up at any one of the Tim Horton’s on campus. I wouldn’t be surprised if over the course of a year the amount of coffee sold here at UW could fill the PAC swimming pool. But it doesn’t end with just us, people everywhere are addicted to coffee. Whether it is the taste, the caffeine buzz, the style or maybe the comfort a hot cup of java can provide for you on a lonesome walk to school. But have you ever stopped and asked where this delicious drink comes from?

After working as a barista in several different cafes I thought I knew a lot about coffee. But it wasn’t until I recently watched the documentary Black Gold that my perspective changed. The movie is about Ethiopian coffee bean farmers and their struggle with poverty in the thriving global coffee market. Check it out at
Here are a few quick statistics from the movie:
· 2 billion cups of coffee drank worldwide/day
· The coffee market is an $80 billion/year industry (which increased $50 billion over the last 16 years)
· An Ethiopian worker makes $0.50/ day. $0.57/day increase would significantly improve their lives.
· From the farmer the coffee goes through 5 different middle men – suppliers, collectors, roasters, sellers, and retailers. We buy the coffee at a price approximately 1000 times more than what the farmers sell it at.

Global trade policies controlled by the WTO have only worsened the conditions for the farmers in Africa in recent years.

Fair Trade is a movement battling to end this corporate domination over coffee and give farmers a louder voice over the price of their labour. Fair Trade skips over the middle men empowering the farmers to develop their business and gives them money for necessities such as education for children, clean water facilities and health programs. Child labour is strictly forbidden on certified farms. They must also meet high environmental standards which protect the farmer’s health and preserve the valuable land for future generations. There is so much information about the economic dealings of Fair Trade that I unfortunately can’t get into the details here. But I do ask that you indeed research Fair Trade on your own time.

So what can you do? For starters, support companies that provide Fair Trade coffee. This means taking an avid interest in investigating where you coffee comes from. With every warm, delicious sip, take a moment and think of those who spent many hours in the hot sun working to get you your coffee. I know it may cost a little more, but honestly coffee should.

Another thing to consider is the incredible amount of waste generated by your daily large Tim Horton’s “double double”. I know we all have travel mugs so let’s make a group effort to try really hard to use them every time we get coffee.

IMPRINT: Is Nalgene all that Green?

We see them everywhere. At one time they were chiefly associated with tree-hugging hippies, but now have become such a craze that is seems like everyone has a Nalgene. The marketers of these popular water bottles definitely are good. They have undoubtedly become a campus staple. For some they are an extension of their identity covered with stickers and political quotes. Some girls seem to have a different colored bottle for every outfit! But is this a trend that should continue? Just how environmentally friendly is your Nalgene bottle?

Firstly, the process in which they are manufactured is resource-intensive and yields various nasty emissions that contribute to global warming and degradation of water quality. Nalgene bottles are made from non-renewable resources, and for all intents and purposes, it never biodegrades.

Secondly, most Nalgene bottles are made of #7 polycarbonate plastics or "Lexan". Since polycarbonate bottles don’t impart a taste to fluids, many assume they are safer than bottles made out of other kinds of plastic. But new scientific research has cast doubt on their safety. Lexan polycarbonate plastics contain an ingredient called bisphenol-A (BPA). According to Patricia Hunt, a geneticist at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, BPA is an endocrine disruptor that mimics estrogen and causes hormone related problems such as premature puberty and obesity. It can also be related to breast cancer, miscarriages, birth defects, and enlarged prostate glands (to name a few).
According to reports BPA leeching is more likely to occur when washed at high temperatures (such in a dishwasher), with strong washing solutions, or when placed in the sun. However, general wear and tear will break down your plastic bottle. The older they are, the worse the leeching gets.

If some of you decide to stop using your once beloved Nalgene, before you recycle it, reuse it. Recycling still takes a toll on the environment and certainly an unbreakable, waterproof container will be useful somehow.

After knowing what was just said and are comfortable continuing to use your Nalgene bottle, it is still a better option than purchasing bottled water. In Canada we have the luxury of clean tap water that comes from energy efficient infrastructures. Sadly, billions of people are not as fortunate. Despite the tie with purity and cleanliness, the amount of oil needed to manufacture and ship water in plastic bottles should outweigh your decision to purchase yet another case of Aberfoil Springs.

In most situations, you do not even need a virtually indestructible plastic water container. If you're at a desk, or in the kitchen, or even at spinning class, glass or ceramic vessels are fine. Other options include aluminum canteens such as a Sigg bottle. To be most sustainable, biodegradable choices are always best. These include leather wine skins (to give you that romantic Italian flare), or even something as natural as a dried out gourde with a cork can work too.

IMPRINT: I Like to Ride My Bicycle.

Driving is something I never really liked for so many reasons. The fact that I’m naturally a nervous driver doesn’t help. I also truly despise sitting in traffic, amongst other individuals in their carbon spewing cars, watching the rising prices of gas at the corner station. My bank account balance doesn’t like that either.

So when my 1994 Dodge Spirit stopped running in April, I decided to not fix it or pay to insure it anymore. With the $800 I had saved for the insurance I went on a shopping spree at McPhail’s bike shop. I bought a white and silver Gary Fisher. She rides like a charm. I even had enough money to buy a matching a white helmet, cute blue biking gloves, a bell, lights, a rack and two decent side bags.

I haven’t had a bike since I was 12, so I was a little anxious about my bike riding ability. But within a couple days I had my courage back and another solid reason to avoid driving whenever possible. Biking is so much fun! It’s a carbon neutral alternative, I can stay in shape and actually get to work faster than I would if I was driving. Biking allows me to avoid red lights, construction sites and take short cuts. This was something I didn’t consider as a motorist. I have much more mobility within cities as a bicyclist. With city buses equipped with a bike rack, getting to places a little too far or inconvenient to bike isn’t an issue anymore.

There are lots of other benefits. The cost of biking is significantly less than driving. There’s no fuel from oil reserves required. There’re no engine fluids, just the fluid I need to drink. Fixing a broken bike is quicker and much cheaper than a car, and the tune ups I can do myself. Parking is always free and doesn’t necessitate vast amounts of asphalt and painted yellow lines. I also love the idea of the social neutrality of biking. When I see someone on a bike, I see a person. When I see someone in a car, I see a status symbol.

As the summer wore on I needed to get others on board to the idea of biking. One aspect of being an environmentally minded person is spreading the word and sparking conversations and thoughts regarding sustainability. This can be easily accomplished through the use of stickers. I went online and bought one to put on my helmet and it reads “One Less Car”. I have often noticed drivers in traffic straring at my head with a thoughtful gaze.

I must admit I do find enjoying driving down busy streets where cars have to go around me. As a cyclist I have just as much right to be on the road. We’re all trying to get somewhere, I’m just choosing a different mode. I love to show drivers how easy and stylish biking can be. The mentality that cyclists are dangerous or a nuisance has to change, because if nothing else, sweat doesn’t stink nearly as much as CO2.

Speak Your Mind, Even if Your Voice Shakes.

I daringly decided to write this column after three eye opening events took place in my life over the past summer. Firstly, I so fortunately got the chance to attend a planning student conference at UBC in Vancouver in June. At this conference I gave a presentation titled “Sustaining the Discussion of Sustainability”. I charged everyone who came to my presentation to go home to where ever they came from and do whatever they could to become more sustainable. To be honest, I wrote this presentation with little heart and it wasn’t until half way through actually presenting that I realised “Hey, this includes YOU Trish!”

Secondly, I went to see An Inconvenient Truth at the Princess Twin cinema here in Waterloo. I have been interested in the environment since I was a young child, and knew global warming was taking place prior to seeing this movie. However, it was the sobering images Al Gore used that really gave me a sense of the urgency with respect to the reality of the environmental crisis Earth currently faces. If you haven’t seen the movie, I suggest you do.

And the third event took place on a Wednesday morning in July. I was sitting at CafĂ© 1842 drinking my coffee when I looked up to see two stickers on a young man’s note book at the table next to me. One read “Think Globally, Act Locally” and the other, “Speak Your Mind, Even if YourVoice Shakes”. This was all I needed to drastically rethink the way I live my day-to-day life.
If I want to see change, I have to do more than just rant about it not being there (as I have done for so long prior to this summer). These two stickers helped pursue me to write this, as well as change certain aspects of my live which will reduce my personal impact on this planet.

So what is this column all about you ask? Simply put, I hope to offer everyday ways people can use to become more mindful of their actions and their impacts on Earth. For some of you readers, these may be things that you already do, and of which you are already aware. This column is ore directed at people who spend little time thinking about their impact. I’m going to try to make my suggestions as easy and painless as possible. With that said, I promise that I will not offer any sustainable steps unless I myself have made them in my life.
So at the risk of being labelled a tree hugger or a hippy, I’m going to hopefully make some people realise that acting with a heightened awareness of their impact on the environment doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Just taking your time out of your busy day to read this article is a sustainable step. I thank you for reading this and hope you stick around for next week’s column.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Defining Sustainability

For those of you who are not sure what exactly sustainability is, I have listed some well known definitions. I should note that there is no single concrete definition of the word and is open to interpretation depending on its application.

This is the most commonly quoted definition and it aims to be more comprehensive than most
Brundtland (1987): Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations to meet their own needs.

Sustainable Agriculture:
Harwood (1990):
Sustainable agriculture is a system that can evolve indefinitely toward greater human utility, greater efficiency of resource use and a balance with the environment which is which is favourable to humans and most other species.

Conway & Barbier (1990):
Agricultural sustainability is the ability to maintain productivity, whether as a field or farm or nation. Where productivity is the output of valued product per unit of resource input.

Sustainable Development:
Pearce, Makandia & Barbier (1989):
Sustainable development involves devising a social and economic system, which ensures that these goals are sustained, i.e. that real incomes rise, that educational standards increase, that the health of the nation improves, that the general quality of life is advanced.

IUCN, UNEP, WWF (1991):
Sustainable development, sustainable growth, and sustainable use have been used interchangeably, as if their meanings were the same. They are not. Sustainable growth is a contradiction in terms: nothing physical can grow indefinitely. Sustainable use, is only applicable to renewable resources. Sustainable development is used in this strategy to mean: improving the quality of human life whilst living within the carrying capacity of the ecosystems.

Holdgate (1993):
Development is about realising resource potential, Sustainable development of renewable natural resources implies respecting limits to the development process, even though these limits are adjustable by technology. The sustainability of technology may be judged by whether it increases production, but retains it other environmental and other limits.

Pearce (1993):
Sustainable development is concerned with the development of a society where the costs of development are not transferred to future generations, or at least an attempt is made to compensate for such costs.